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If airbags deploy, is the car totaled?

Don’t Miss These Facts

  • Whether or not your car is totaled after an air bag deployment depends on the value of your vehicle
  • Your state determines when your vehicle is considered totaled
  • Car insurance pays to replace air bags if you have the correct coverages


If you were in an accident and the air bags deployed, you may expect your car to be totaled. However, that’s not always the case.

If air bags deploy, is the car totaled? That depends on your state and how much your vehicle is damaged. Your vehicle is considered totaled if repairing the damage costs more than a percentage of what the car is worth.

While each state determines when a vehicle is considered totaled, most newer cars won’t be totaled if the air bag is deployed. However, your car insurance company may consider older cars totaled if the damage is severe.

In addition, full coverage car insurance pays for replacing the air bag and repairing damages. While full coverage is more expensive, shop around to find the lowest rates for you.

Keep reading to learn more about how air bags can total your vehicle and when your car insurance pays to replace them.

Is a car totaled if air bags deploy?

Although most drivers think their car is totaled if their air bags are deployed, that’s not necessarily true. You don’t have to be in a major accident for air bags to deploy.

So, when do air bags deploy? If you’re wearing a seat belt, air bags will typically deploy if you are going about 15 miles per hour and get into an accident. On the other hand, air bags will deploy around 10 miles an hour if you aren’t wearing a seat belt.

Is my car totaled after an accident?

Your car insurance company and the state that you live in decide at what point a vehicle is totaled. Every state uses a different formula to figure out when repairs cost more than the car is worth.

For example, you are under the California total loss law if you have Los Angeles car insurance. California determines a car is totaled if the cost of repairs and the vehicle’s salvage value is more than the car’s actual value.

However, if you disagree with your car insurance company, you can get your own estimate for repairs and your car’s value.

You can also dispute your car insurance company’s settlement if you believe your vehicle is worth more. According to the Insurance Information Institute, you can argue that the undamaged parts of your vehicle are worth more than the car’s intact value.

While it might not stop your car from being totaled, you can receive a larger settlement.

Does car insurance pay to replace air bags?

Airbags can cost up to $2,000 to replace, and paying for a replacement yourself may not be possible.

Your air bags usually only deploy if you’ve been in an accident. Whether or not your car insurance pays to replace them depends on your coverage.

Most states require drivers carry a minimum amount of liability coverage. Although liability insurance covers property damage and bodily injury to others if you cause an accident, it doesn’t cover your vehicle at all.

If you only have liability coverage, you will be left paying for vehicle damage and new air bags yourself.

Experts encourage drivers to carry full coverage car insurance for the most protection. Full coverage combines liability and any other legally required coverage, collision, and comprehensive coverages.

Collision insurance pays for damages to your vehicle from an accident. For example, collision coverage kicks in if you hit another vehicle.

On the other hand, comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your vehicle unrelated to an accident, such as hitting a tree. In addition, damages from theft, vandalism, fire, falling debris, and acts of nature, including hail, tornados, and hurricanes, are also covered.

In order for your air bag replacement to be covered no matter what caused the accident, carry full coverage car insurance. While rates are higher, so is the coverage.

This table shows average annual rates based on coverage type from top car insurance companies. It will give you an idea of how much more you will pay for full coverage.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates Based on Coverage Type
CompanyAverage Annual Rate for Low CoverageAverage Annual Rate for Medium CoverageAverage Annual Rate for High Coverage
American Family$3,368.49$3,544.37$3,416.40
Liberty Mutual$5,805.75$6,058.57$6,356.04
State Farm$3,055.40$3,269.80$3,454.80
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While full coverage costs around $30 a month more than liability coverage, you won’t be left with substantial out-of-pocket costs to repair your vehicle and replace your air bags.

Regardless of if your car insurance covers replacing your air bag, it still needs to be done. Although it’s not illegal to drive without an air bag, air bags are an important safety feature and should be replaced immediately.

How does an accident affect car insurance rates?

Although many factors affect your car insurance rates, your driving history is one of the most significant. This is because car insurance companies use your driving record to indicate how risky you are to insure.

For example, multiple accidents show that your car insurance company may have to pay more claims in the future.

So, how much does insurance increase after an accident?

This table shows average car insurance rates after one accident from top companies. While some companies don’t increase rates very much, others raise rates considerably after just one accident.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates After An Accident
CompanyAverage Annual Rates with Clean RecordAverage Annual Rates with 1 Accident
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01
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On average, car insurance rates increase by $80 a month after one accident. Multiple accidents cause rates to skyrocket.

Do deployed air bags total a car?: The Bottom Line

Just because your air bags deploy, it doesn’t mean your car is totaled. It depends on how much your vehicle is worth and how much your vehicle is damaged in the accident.

Your car insurance company will declare your vehicle totaled if it is worth less than what it will cost to repair it plus the salvage value. Keep in mind that each state has different rules about totaling vehicles.

Full coverage car insurance pays for replacing your air bag. However, if you only have liability coverage, you may have to pay for a replacement yourself.

Now that you know if your car is totaled if the air bag deploys, shop around for full coverage car insurance so that damages and replacement air bags are covered.

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