If airbags deploy, is the car automatically totaled? (Accidents + Rates)

When the airbags in your car deploy it doesn't always mean that your is beyond repair. The cash value of the car and estimated repair amounts will determine if a vehicle with deployed airbags is totaled.

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2022Fact Checked

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Written by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
Licensed Agent Cynthia Lanctot

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2022

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A Concise Overview

  • Airbags are one of the most common safety devices in vehicles
  • Airbags are also expensive to replace, so if they deploy it often results in a total loss
  • When airbags deploy, they must be replaced

When a vehicle with installed airbags is involved in an accident and the airbags deploy, many drivers are left wondering if this means their car is now automatically totaled. How do airbags deploy? When your airbags deploy is your car totaled? Why is a car totaled if the airbags deploy? Read on to learn whether or not your car will automatically be declared totaled if your airbags deploy, as well as whether you have any say in the process.

Do deployed airbags mean a total loss?

Airbags have been around since the 1970s and when combined with wearing a seat belt, they have helped to save a significant number of lives.  So if airbags deploy is your car totaled? Fortunately, airbag deployment does not automatically mean your car has been totaled. Nor does having blown airbags mean you won’t be able to get auto insurance on your vehicle. There are auto insurance companies out there who will insure cars with blown airbags. It all depends on a few deciding factors.

Will insurance total a car if the airbags deploy? This all depends on the vehicle itself. The value of your car and the total amount of damage are what will determine if your vehicle has been totaled. If your car is on the newer side and/or quite expensive, chances are better that your vehicle will be able to be fixed. However, if you have an older vehicle valued at $4,000 with $3,500 in damage, your car insurance company may decide that your vehicle is totaled.

If you want to know what to do after airbags deploy in your vehicle, first assess the severity of the incident which caused them to deploy in the first place. After you’ve ensured no one is in danger and you’ve followed proper after-accident protocol, that’s when you should contact your insurance company to see what they have to say about airbags. 

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How much does an airbag cost to replace?

Like many parts of your car, the cost of airbag replacements is not exactly on the cheap side. In general, they can cost about $1,000 each. If your accident caused two or more of them to deploy, you are already looking at $2000 worth of damages, with installation charges on top of that. Front airbags, which are in the front dashboard of the vehicle, are the most common, but side airbags which help reduce the risk of driver-side impact injuries, are also common. 

Depending on the type and severity of the accident you might have numerous airbags deployed. Can airbags be replaced? Yes, airbags are a “one time only” type of part; meaning that once they deploy, they have to be replaced. Add additional body shop repairs to the list and you can see how there is a likely chance that deployed airbags do lead to a car being totaled. Airbags deploying doesn’t immediately mean that your car will be totaled, which is why you want to ask first before jumping to conclusions. Is a car drivable after the airbags deploy? Not so much. 

How will my insurance company determine how much my car is worth?

To figure out the actual cash value of your car, the insurance company will start by finding out its replacement cost and then subtracting a depreciation amount.  The former amount is based on how much it would cost to replace your car. Your car insurance company will often use the current sales figures in your region to come up with this amount. Then the latter figure is based on the number of miles you’ve driven, wear and tear, and things like door dings and faded paint.

Can I appeal my car insurance company’s decision?

After you determine how to file a car insurance claim and get the ball rolling on the process, your insurance company will do its best to come up with correct figures for your vehicle’s cash value and the depreciation amount. In addition, you are definitely welcome to make your own estimates based on your own research and/or an online totaled car value calculator. The insurance company’s determined amount is usually thought of as final, but you could technically ask them to reconsider if you feel that their decision about your car being totaled, or not totaled, is incorrect. 

As you do your research, keep careful notes as proof, this way you will have your facts and figures ready to present as evidence to your insurance company. As a side note, you may be wondering if your auto insurance rates will go up after an accident. In general, the more claims you file and the more “risky” a driver you are will determine if you will need to buy high-risk auto insurance. However, you may qualify for car insurance discounts with airbags and other safety features, so it is worth talking about this with your agent.

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Bottom Line on Totaling a Car With Deployed Airbags

Yes, airbags are expensive to replace, and it is quite possible that the cost to replace deployed airbags will mean your damaged car will be written off as totaled. While this can be a stressful situation, please remember that the airbags helped to keep you safe during the accident. In fact, according to the IIHS, front airbags alone have been found to reduce driver fatalities by 29% in frontal crashes, and the fact that they deploy during accidents can definitely help prevent serious injuries, including to you and your loved ones.

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