Last Updated on July 10, 2023 by Victor A

Car accidents can be devastating, causing significant damage to vehicles and potentially resulting in serious injuries. 

One of the most crucial safety features in modern cars is the airbag system. When a collision occurs, the airbags deploy rapidly, providing a cushioning effect to protect the occupants. 

In this article, we will delve into this topic and explore the factors that determine whether a car is totaled if an airbag deploys.

Understanding Total Loss in Car Insurance

When it comes to car insurance, understanding the concept of total loss is crucial as it determines whether you can be repair your vehicle or if you have to consider it a total loss.

What is Total Loss?

When assessing a car involved in an accident, insurance companies evaluate the extent of the damage to determine whether it is repairable or a total loss.

Total loss, also known as a totaled car, refers to a vehicle that has sustained damage beyond a certain threshold.

If the cost of repairs exceeds a specific percentage of the car’s value, it is often considered a total loss.

Determining Total Loss

Insurance companies typically use a formula to calculate whether a car is a total loss. 

This formula varies between different insurance providers but generally involves comparing the cost of repairs to the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle. 

If the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage, typically ranging from 60% to 90% of the ACV, the car is declared a total loss.

Airbag deployment
Airbag deployment

Is a Car Totaled if an Airbag Deploys?

While airbag deployment is a significant event indicating a significant impact, insurance companies do not automatically deem a vehicle a total loss based solely on airbag deployment.

Insurance companies also take other factors into consideration, such as overall damage and repair costs, when determining whether a vehicle is a total loss.

Airbag Functionality

Manufacturers design airbags to deploy specifically in moderate to severe accidents.

Sensors detect the deceleration and impact forces associated with a collision, triggering the deployment of the airbags.

When the sensors detect a significant impact, the airbags inflate rapidly to protect the occupants from hitting the hard surfaces inside the vehicle.

Relationship Between Airbag Deployment and Total Loss

While the deployment of airbags indicates a significant accident, insurance companies do not rely solely on this factor to determine whether a car is a total loss.

The decision to declare a car as a total loss depends on the extent of overall damage and the repair cost compared to the car’s value. 

Airbag deployment alone does not automatically render a vehicle totaled.

Factors Affecting Total Loss Determination

The extent of structural damage, repair cost versus vehicle value, and the age and condition of the vehicle all contribute to insurance companies’ determination of whether to declare a car a total loss.

The Extent of Structural Damage

One of the key factors insurance companies consider when determining total loss is the extent of structural damage. 

If the collision severely compromises the vehicle’s structural integrity, insurance companies are more likely to declare the car a total loss, regardless of airbag deployment.

Repair Cost versus Vehicle Value

Insurance companies consider the repair cost as a crucial factor in deciding whether to declare a car totaled.

Insurance adjusters assess the cost of repairs, including both labor and parts and compare it to the car’s ACV. 

If the repair cost exceeds the predetermined percentage (e.g., 75% of the ACV), insurance companies may consider the car a total loss, irrespective of whether the airbags have deployed.

Age and Condition of the Vehicle

The age and overall condition of the car also factor into the total loss determination. 

Older vehicles or those with pre-existing damage may have a lower ACV, making it easier for the repair cost to exceed the threshold. 

In such cases, insurance companies may declare the car a total loss, even if the airbag deploys.

Salvage Titles and Rebuilding Options

When insurance companies declare a car a total loss, they may assign it a salvage title to indicate the significant damage it has sustained.

While individuals have the option to rebuild or repair salvage vehicles, ensuring their roadworthiness requires careful assessment and inspections.

Salvage Titles

When declaring a car a total loss, insurance companies often issue a salvage title, which indicates that the vehicle has sustained significant damage and the insurance company deemed it uneconomical to repair.

Buyers have the opportunity to purchase salvage vehicles at auctions and can subsequently rebuild or repair them. However, a thorough inspection is necessary to deem salvage vehicles roadworthy.

Rebuilding a Totaled Car

For those interested in rebuilding a totaled car, it is important to carefully assess the extent of the damage and the associated costs. 

While repairing a salvage vehicle can be a cost-effective option, it requires expertise and thorough inspections to ensure the car is safe to drive.


In summary, the deployment of airbags in a car accident is a strong indication of a significant impact, but it does not automatically mean the car is totaled if the airbag deploys.

Insurance companies actively assess the extent of damage, repair cost, and vehicle value to determine the state of the vehicle.

While airbag deployment contributes to the overall evaluation, it is not the sole factor in this determination. 

If the airbags deploy during an accident, it is advisable to consult with your insurance company to gain an understanding of the extent of the damage and the likelihood of your car getting a total loss status.



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