Is A Car Totaled If Airbags Deploy? (All You Need To Know)

Airbags are lifesavers, but after an accident, it’s normal to worry about the way forward with regards to the future of and usability of your car.

Therefore, some vehicle owners may wonder if their car will be totaled after their airbag is used. If you’d like to find out, keep reading!

Is A Car Totaled If The Airbags Deploy?

A lot of people believe that your car becomes totaled automatically when the airbags deploy, but this is not true. Your car is totaled when the airbags deploy only if the cost of repair is more than the value of the car as determined by the insurance provider and generally varies depending on where you’re located.

If you’d like to learn more about what to do after your airbags get deployed, including which situations mean the car is totaled, repair options, and more, keep reading for more facts!

Is a Car a Write Off If Airbags Are Deployed?

The term ‘write-off’ is used primarily in insurance scenarios to define something that isn’t worth repairing. In this case, repairs would be more expensive than the value of the vehicle or it would not be safe to drive even if it does get repaired.

However, your car is only considered a write off when airbags are deployed if the damage is bad enough that the insurance company doesn’t want to cover repairs.

Therefore, airbags deploying does not automatically make the car totaled (used here to mean a total loss).

Is a Car Totaled If Side Airbags Deploy?

In everyday speech, saying something is “totaled” typically means that it is destroyed, usually beyond repair. This somewhat fits in with the insurance definition and is actually where the term is derived from, meaning that something is a total loss.

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However, like a write off, a total loss occurs when the damage to the vehicle would cost more to repair than the actual value of the vehicle.

Going by the requirements set out in the section above, whether or not a car becomes totaled if side airbags deploy depends on the amount of damage caused and how much it would cost to fix.

Side impact to a vehicle usually results in damage to the car doors on the affected side, the unibody frame and the wheels.

This means that, under most conditions, the kind of damage that deploys your side airbags is usually the kind that can be fixed, so it probably won’t leave your car totaled.

Is a Car Totaled If All Airbags Deploy?

Is a Car Totaled If All Airbags Deploy?

A situation that could cause all airbags to deploy is probably one that results in a greater amount of damage than the kind that causes airbags to deploy only in select areas.

Nevertheless, whether or not the car is totaled depends on the extent of repairs that have to be done.If the repairs are more than the value of the car, then it is considered to be totaled.

One important thing to note is that the value threshold that must be crossed for the car to be declared totaled usually isn’t the full figure, and how it’s determined varies between states.

For instance, if you’re in Iowa, state laws require insurers to declare a car is a total loss if the cost of repairs is more than 50% of its value before the crash.

Other states have higher figures, with 75% in DC, Wyoming and Kansas, and Texas and Colorado being the only states where it’s 100%.

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Do Airbags Total a Car?

Airbags deploy depending on the type of impact and the extent of the damage that results from it. If the cost of repairing the damage exceeds the cash value of the vehicle, then the car is considered a total loss by the insurance provider.

How the airbags themselves play into this depends on how much they would affect the cost of repairs when you go to get them replaced.

In a regular car, where you just have to replace the normal front airbags that deploy from the dashboard, they would not affect the figure by much.

In a more modern and costly vehicle, where you’re looking at special airbag types like side airbags, knee airbags and inflatable seat belts, then the cost of repair is significantly higher and this raises the chances that the car will be totaled.

What Happens When Airbags Total Your Car But It’s Still Drivable?

What Happens When Airbags Total Your Car But It’s Still Drivable?

There are certain situations where your car is still drivable after your airbags deploy and your insurance provider says that your car is totaled, i.e. that the cost of repairing it is higher than the car’s worth.

In a scenario like this, you have the same two options that are available to those whose cars are totaled and no longer drivable.

First, your insurer could offer you a cash offer (one that combines the car’s actual value before the crash and its value for salvage) where you sell it to them and they can strip it for parts.

Another option is where you’re given a cash settlement that’s equal to the value of the car before the crash, but you keep the car for yourself.

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If you opt for the latter, your car will get branded with a salvage title, which means that it’s only good for parts, meaning you can’t legally drive it on the road.

Until you get repairs after your car is declared a total loss by your insurer, whether or not you can still drive it, you’re not allowed to take it on the road.

To lift this restriction, you have to take your vehicle in for repairs and have someone from the DMV inspect it at a small fee to make sure it’s safe to bring back to public roads.

This means that when you’re doing repairs, you either have to leave your car at the shop throughout the duration, or have it towed there every time you need some work done.

Even if you get the repairs done, restore the vehicle to peak shape and have the DMV give it the stamp of approval, you still have to declare that your car held a salvage title at one point if you decide to sell it to someone else.

To learn more about airbags, you can also read our posts on how long do airbags last, if you can sell a car with deployed airbags, and if airbags can be replaced.


Your car does not automatically become totaled after airbags deploy, but rather depends on the extent of the damage.

After your airbags deploy and your insurer declares that your car is a total loss, you can either sell it to them for parts or keep it with a salvage tag and collect a settlement that’s worth the car’s value prior to the accident.

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