Can you drive a car with airbags deployed?

Accidents happen, and often after a collision you’re left asking if you can drive a car with airbags deployed. It might be possible, but it isn’t always a great decision. If the vehicle is still operational, you can try to continue driving it with your airbags deployed.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: May 19, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • It is possible to drive a car with airbags deployed, but that does not mean it’s safe to do so
  • Your insurance company may decide to total the car if replacing the airbags will cost more than the car’s value
  • Most states don’t have airbag replacement laws, so you are not legally required to replace the airbags if they deploy

Airbags are lifesaving devices that can keep a driver and passenger safe when a crash happens. Having these and other safety features in a car also make your car insurance cheaper. After a collision, it can be overwhelming to manage all the things you have to think about. But one of the top questions you might have as a driver is, “Can you drive a car with airbags deployed?”

You may have other questions, like how legal it is to drive with deployed airbags. What about your insurance company? Will your insurer replace the airbags for you or is the car automatically totaled after airbags deploy? Does airbag deployment disable vehicle?

Knowing what is covered is a key part of understanding your car insurance policy. This guide will answer all these questions and more. You don’t have to wait to find quotes from car insurance companies that insure cars after the airbags deploy. With a quick comparison shopping, you can buy car insurance from companies near you that insure when airbags deploy.

Driving a Car With Airbags Deployed

So, can you drive a car with airbags deployed? The simple answer is yes, you can, as long as the car can start. However, the question you should be asking is if it is a good idea to continue to drive after an airbag deployment. After a collision where the airbags deploy, many newer cars will automatically shut off power for safety reasons. A battery cable may need to be reconnected if the car won’t start on its own.

In many cases though, it’s possible to drive the car after airbags deploy. A driver must still be able to access controls, like the wheel, and see the vehicle speedometer, though. The airbag will also need to deflate, which it usually does on its own. It’s possible to cut the airbag out completely.

Usually, though, a collision that’s strong enough to trigger the airbags results in other types of damage to the vehicle. It’s possible that you might not notice or be able to diagnose that damage on your own. The other main reason you probably don’t want to drive a car with airbags deployed is that if another collision happens, you and your passengers won’t be protected.

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Is a car totaled if airbags deploy?

So what happens after airbags deploy? This is an important question, especially as it relates to your car insurance coverage. The answer is no, your car is not automatically totaled. However, there’s a good reason why many people think this is true. In many cases, your insurance company will make a decision based on the cost of replacing airbags after an accident.

Can airbags be replaced? 

Airbags are single-use only, so, once deployed, the old ones must be taken out. The cost of replacement is usually a minimum of $1,000 and can be much more. So airbags are not cheap to replace. And when the car airbags are deployed, there’s usually additional damage to the vehicle too. So if your collision resulted in a broken windshield, severe dents in the body, and more, the conclusion is simple to an insurance company: it’s not worth it to repair.

This is especially true if your vehicle is older. The value of the vehicle goes down as the years go by, so putting new parts in an older car often just doesn’t make sense.

Is it legal to drive a car after airbags deploy?

While federal law says that new cars should be manufactured with airbags, it says nothing about replacing them or driving with them deployed. There are no airbag replacement laws that say you have to get new ones put in your vehicle after a deployment. This is most likely because making airbags mandatory in all vehicles would mean older models without airbags would not be able to be on the road.

Again, even though it may be legal, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. There is a high possibility that your car will not pass a state safety inspection if the airbags are not working. Non-functional airbags could also change the price of your insurance. Since airbags are a safety feature, your insurance company rewards you for having them installed in your vehicle. If your policy terms allow it, a missing airbag could actually make your insurance invalid.

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What are my options if my airbags deploy?

After an accident, your options are restricted if your insurer decides to total the vehicle. However, if your insurance company totals the car, you’ll get the cash value minus your deductible. You’ll still have to pay off any loans that you took to buy the car.

If your insurance company won’t insure the car in its current state, you’ll want to compare car insurance companies that insure cars with blown airbags.

Can You Drive a Car With Airbags Deployed: The Bottom Line

Hopefully, this guide has given you all of the info you need about driving a car with the airbags deployed. Getting a quote is the easiest way to find affordable car insurance companies after your airbags deploy.

Frequently Asked Questions: Can You Drive a Car With Airbags Deployed

If you have more questions about driving a car with airbags deployed, here are the answers to the most popular ones.

#1 – How do I start a car after airbags deploy?

Most newer cars will automatically shut off the engine after an airbag deployment for safety reasons. This sometimes means the battery cable is disconnected, and you should get a professional to reconnect it.

#2 – How to make airbags deploy?

Today’s vehicles are built with pressure and crash sensors that help to detect when a collision has happened. When the sensors detect a collision, they activate the deployment of the corresponding airbags (front, side or head curtain airbags). When the car airbags are deployed, they do it very quickly before passengers come into contact with them.

#3 – Will insurance cover my airbag replacement?

In most cases, your insurance company will cover the cost of replacing deployed airbags. However, there’s a chance that if the replacement is too expensive, the company will consider the vehicle totaled.

#4 – Can a car still be driven after airbags deploy?

Yes, it can, but there are risks. The chief one is that if you get into a collision, you will not have a working airbag to protect you or your passengers.

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