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Honda Accord airbags deployed; car totaled?


My mother in law (MIL) has around a 2004-05 Honda Accord, 4 doors, in seemingly great shape. Today, she unfortunately had an encounter with a metal pole in a parking lot. Apparently she hit the gas instead of the brake somehow and ran into the pole at low speed, yet enough to deploy both front air bags (she had a passenger). No one was hurt. I haven’t seen the car myself, but I believe the damage to the front was minimal. In fact, my MIL drove it home from the store where the accident occurred, no problem.

Here’s my question. The car had liability insurance only (car is paid for). My MIL is convinced the insurance company will total the car because of the airbag deployment. I believe she is mistaken since the car had liability only. Also, because the car is basically “self-insured”, it seems to me like she should just take the car to a body shop, have the airbags replaced, any cosmetic/mechanical damage repaired, and move on with life. Like I said, the car is in excellent shape otherwise, and I personally wouldn’t junk a car with minor damage just because the airbags had deployed.

What do you all think? Am I off base here? My father in law is not at all excited about the prospect of buying a new car. Thanks.

Seems like you are on the right track, with liability only she is on her own for repairs. Another option is duct tape the bag area and drive without it. Less safe but then 10 years ago half the cars didn’t have them. I am not sure if you are in a state that has inspection for these kind of stuff. If you decide to fix it you have to make sure it is done properly and documented as such.

Like galant said, forget the airbags, fix the front bumper and drive on…If you live in a state that requires a “safety inspection” the illuminated bag light may (or may not) cause the car to fail the inspection. A simple phone call will answer that question…

The airbag covers can be glued back in place. To be PC, you should attach a permanent warning plate to the dash “Air-bags not functional”…

My vote is to do the minimum and drive on. Unless the state requires it via an inspection the bags are something that could be left alone and a little footwork may turn up a front bumper in a matching color. That’s the easiest and cheapest way of fixing something like this to make it presentable.

Without knowing the vehicle history and mileage the point could be made to do the minimum and drive it to the end, with the end being defined as the point at which an aged timing belt gives up its life and trashes the engine. (Just in case that T-belt expense has never been addressed.)

Sounds like you’ve gotten some good advice.

Hitting the gas instead of the brake concerns me though.

Without knowing the vehicle history and mileage the point could be made to do the minimum and drive it to the end, with the end being defined as the point at which an aged timing belt gives up its life and trashes the engine.

Hopefully that’ll happen while the car is parked and not going 60 miles an hour. I want to die like my grandfather, in my sleep, not screaming like his passengers.

Sounds Like The Perfect Time To Have MIL Give Up Driving.

Making the poor decision not to have insurance is one thing. Choosing to drive a total would be yet another. Confusing the gas and brake (or whatever happened) is another, but it’s the big one.

Next time could be much worse and involve innocent people, including children, who aren’t even aware that this stuff is all going down. MIL needs to have this explained to her. I hope that she was shook up, for her sake. It’s a no-brainer, really.


You need to get the car to a good body shop for an assessment of the damage, the repair options, and prices. If the air bags deployed it was a significant pop into the pole. Just because she drove home, likely not a good idea, doesn’t mean minor damage. Not far behind the bumper is AC condenser, radiator, and steering gear.

It could be the airbags helped reduce injury. Driving without them might be an option but get the car looked at, evaluate the costs, then decide what to do. It is really all about the damage to the car at this point.

The most important issue here is that someone needs to evaluate if she should be on the road or not. There’s definitely cause to question that after this type of accident.

If she’s still capable of driving, I think there’s still a higher risk of another accident happening down the road, so I vote against the advice above to leave the airbags nonfunctional. She may need them next time.

She needs those airbags! I am surprised anyone would suggest she drive without them.

As far as telling her not to drive, depends upon her age. My first wife drove like that when she was 22. Even if she shouldn’t drive, it’s awfully hard to stop people from driving except the very elderly.

I agree with irlandes - here’s a case where airbags worked, may have helped, and the MIL has problems driving - she needs a car with airbags. As for the damage, you may be painfully surprised at how much damage a low-speed crash can do, only a body shop can answer that question. Not having collision coverage on such a new car is not a good idea.

Since MIL doesn’t have collision insurance then don’t even call the insurance company. The car is only 6 years old…why did she remove the collision insurance?? Only time I remove collision is when the value of the car is really really low.

Replacing the air-bags is going to be expensive…I wouldn’t be surprised at $3,000 or more.

Personally I’d either suggest buying a new car or getting this fixed (properly).

Replacing the airbags is not an option, they will not be able to sell/trade in the vehicle until they do.

The blue book value for a 2004 Honda Accord LX in fair condition w/ 105k miles is $6325. I think your inlaws should have considered this when they decided to drop full coverage on the vehicle, not base it on what is owed. Since you said that it was in great shape, it could easily have qualified it as good or even better which would add at least another $1000 to its value, before the accident. Worth even more if 2005 and/or less miles.
If you choose to drive with the air bag nonfunctional I strongly suggest making sure the seat belts are in good condition and are being used.

I won't fault a person for dropping collision insurance. If an automobile is paid off and a person has enough savings to replace a car or pay for the damage, over a number of years, it may be profitable to insure yourself. Liability insurance is, of course, an absolute necessity. If a car is a seven year old Honda in excellent shape, but gets totaled, one only gets the book value minus a deductible. The loss can often be written off one's taxes.

However, for safety reasons, the air bags should be replaced, and, as others have suggested, a body mechanic should check the car for hidden damage.

If the reason for not carrying full coverage is based on a tight financial situation instead of a purely why bother because of the age/mileage of the car thing then I'm having a hard time seeing someone pony up out of pocket to fix the bags.

I would agree with bags better than no bags but the financial questions are unknown and it's generally best left that way.

I left off part of what I was going to say. The vehicle was worth at least $6325, probably more. The airbags will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $3k plus and hidden damage to the vehicle. The comp and collision on our Honda (97 accord) is only around $38 semi annually with $50 and $250 deductible.

The point I was trying to make is that just because a vehicle is paid for, that alone is not a reason to drop full coverage. You have to look at the residual value of the vehicle. Honda’s really hold their value.