Air Bags....A Lot of Hot Air?

This is the first in an editorial series by Jim Wetzel of Hudson Valley Auto Appraisers.

I have been appraising collision damage to motor vehicles for over 20 years (I always used to hate when people bragged like that).

Although second nature to me, I would like to share my experience with the public to increase their understanding of automobiles, appraising, and the insurance industry.

The automobile has become a very sophisticated piece of equipment. For example, although airbags are considered "lifesavers", there is a flip side to the coin.

Today, on a double deployment of an air bag system (driver and passenger) the minimum cost to replace the components is $1,200.00-$1,500.00 . On some models, this cost can run as high as $3,000.00-$4,000.00! The typical airbag system consists of :

Some of the more sophisticated systems have airbags located on the sides of the driver and passenger seats. Also, there are systems that have cartridges that deploy and pull the seat belt harnesses tight during the impact.

In any event, if you are in an accident and your air bags deploy, all manufacturers have strict guidelines as to what should be replaced. Some components do not require replacement and can be tested to determine their usability. Many of the control modules cost in excess of $500.00 to $1,000.00. If part of your claim includes a repair to your SRS (Supplemental Repair System) ask to see the replaced parts.

Airbags are a wonderful extension of todays technology. However, they are adding significantly to the cost of repairing an automobile which will be reflected in increased premiums. Also, as these vehicles age, more vehicles will be deemed total losses due to the high costs of replacing the airbag components.

Jim Wetzel
Hudson Valley Auto Appraisers of Newburgh, NY

Next in the series..."You call that a bumper?"