Is My Car Totaled if the Airbags Deploy?

When it comes to car insurance, there is a lot of incorrect information out there. From misunderstandings about how policy terms work to differences in state coverage options, many drivers aren’t clear about what is and is not true.

Here’s one of the most common confusion points drivers have: is my car totaled if the airbags deploy?

Airbag deployment does not always cause a car to be fully totaled, but that certainly can happen in some cases. The exact line where this happens is complicated. Today, learn more about what leads to a car being totaled when the airbags deploy.

Does Airbag Deployment Cause a Total Loss?

When the airbags deploy in your car because of an accident, you might be worried that the car will be considered a total loss. While that is possible, the simple fact is that airbag deployment, on its own, does not cause enough for totaling a car.

Car Airbag Deployed

Cost of Repair

One reason cars are considered a total loss by insurance companies and inspectors is whenever the cost of repairing the car is higher than the vehicle’s estimated value right before the accident. For example, a car worth $5,000 would be considered totaled if it would need $7,000 in repairs to be driveable.

On average, repairing and resetting airbags in modern vehicles costs between $1,000 and $1,500 depending on the exact vehicle and deployment type. This means that the airbags deploying usually will not be cause for a car to be totaled.


Another reason cars are considered a total loss by insurance companies is because the car is too damaged to be repaired. This can happen in severe accidents. If airbags deploy in this scenario, it is a negligible factor because the car would be considered a loss even if they had not deployed. For that reason, the airbags shouldn’t be what you are worrying about.

Note: Check Your State Total Loss Threshold

Another thing that will affect whether or not your car is considered a total loss is the total loss threshold in your state. In Iowa, for example, damage that equals 50% or more of the car’s value is considered just cause for a total loss situation. Your insurance company is likely to follow the state guidance on this matter, so you should be aware of the number in your area.

More Than Just Airbags: The Car’s Condition Matters

As you can see, the decision to total a car is about far more than just airbags. The primary thing that insurance companies care about is whether the damage is repairable and whether those repairs would cost more or less than the car’s value.

What does this mean in real-world scenarios? Let’s consider a few examples.

Example #1:

You slam on your breaks to avoid hitting another car and end up hitting a barrier instead. While the barrier didn’t do much damage to your car and your car’s frame is completely fine, the airbags deployed on impact.

Your car is valued at around $17,000 at the time of the incident. Repairs for the exterior damage as well as replacing the airbags are estimated to be around $3,000. Your insurance company does not declare the car a loss and instead covers your claim for the cost of repairs.

Example #2:

You are involved in a serious car accident. There is substantial damage to the exterior of your car, and the frame itself is seriously bent. The airbags were deployed during this incident.

When reviewing the car, your insurance company finds that the repairs would cost more than $8,000. Your car’s current market value is around $7,500. Due to this difference, the insurance company offers you a total loss settlement instead of paying out for repairs.

Example #3:

You were involved in a very minor accident, but your airbags were deployed. While there isn’t much actual damage to your vehicle, your insurance company is considering it a total loss due to your car’s low actual cash value. Since you drive a car that is more than 15 years old, the cost of replacing the deployed airbags is very high, and the insurance company instead chooses to pay out a settlement.

Not all situations are as clear as these examples. However, these examples should help you better understand that airbags are just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Whether or not they deploy may or may not be a determining factor in what happens to your car after an accident.

Airbag Deployment & Insurance: What’s Next?

When it comes to airbag deployment, many people assume that insurance companies will total their car no matter what. However, that’s not true! Some cases of airbag deployment will not lead to the car being totaled, but there are a lot of specifics to consider.

As explained in today’s article, there isn’t a cut-and-dry answer to whether or not airbag deployment will contribute to a total loss decision by your insurance company. The overall condition of your vehicle after an incident as well as the potential cost of repairs come together to determine if your car is salvageable or not.

Read More: What is Double-Dipping a Car Insurance Accident Claim?

Tip: Consider Gap Insurance

Gap insurance, also known as guaranteed asset protection insurance, is a prevalent type of insurance to have whenever you are still paying off your car loan. Find out where to buy gap insurance most affordably whenever you have a car loan as this will protect your finances in case you ever total your car.

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