It’s a common argument between outdoors and adventure lovers on which accessories are better for your off-road rig. Nudge bar vs bull bar is a frequently raised question, but we believe that the choice really depends on your situation and the use of which you want the accessory to apply.
Our job is to bring you the most up to date and easy to decipher information on the best 4×4 accessories and their recommended usage for your needs! We have created this information packed article outlining the difference between Nudge Bars and Bull Bars, as well as their advantages, disadvantages, and their effectiveness.
Whichever you choose, we recommend ensuring that, like all vehicle related parts and accessories, your product complies with the Australian Standard for Motor Vehicle Frontal Protection Systems (VFPS).
In this article we’ll also share some research findings from the Centre of Automotive Safety at the University of Adelaide, backing up some key points on nudge bar and bull bar safety.
We guarantee you will walk away feeling confident and more knowledgeable on the right product for your vehicle, and we highly recommend you bookmark this blog article after reading as we are certain you will want to refer back to it again at a later stage when it comes time to choosing and purchasing your desired accessory.
Read on for the ultimate nudge bar vs bull bar comparison guide!
What is a Bull Bar?
A bull bar is a tough steel bar, often large in shape with parallel tube bars joined together both horizontally and vertically and attached to the front end of a vehicle in order to protect the front of the vehicle from the impact of a collision.
Bull Bars are designed to receive the impact from a variety of forces including large animals and other vehicles. A Bull Bar is most often constructed from steel and aluminium welded at the corners, some Bull Bars can be made from polycarbonate and polyethylene materials but are considered less structurally sound than their Steel counterparts.
In Australia, where beef cattle are a common sight on rural roads, bull bars are a popular accessory for 4WDs. But are they really worth the investment? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros of a Bull Bar
There are several advantages to installing a bull bar on your 4WD. Pros include:
- Driver & Passenger Safety – Having a Bull Bar attached to your vehicle can prevent the excessive impact from collision, instead of the passengers of the vehicle taking the force from the impact, the vehicle and the Bull Bar spread the force throughout the front of the vehicle.
- General Vehicle Protection – In the event that your vehicle is involved in either a minor or major collision with another vehicle or object, the Bull Bar will prevent the front of your vehicle from excessive damage, if any. A well-designed bull bar can help deflect some of the impact and protect your vehicle’s engine bay, radiator, and headlights from being damaged.
- Mounting Accessories – A Bull Bar provides a good mounting point for utilisation with items such as antennas, fishing-rod holders, and LED spotlights.
- Towing – A strong Bull Bar is useful for winching an object, such as a large log, out of a tight spot or a deep body of mud, water, scrub etc.
- Engine Bay Protection – In any collision event, a Bull Bar will protect the engine bay as well as things located within such as the radiator, and the engine itself.
Cons of a Bull Bar
Disadvantages of installing a bull bar include:
- Decreased Fuel Efficiency – Fitting a Bull bar to your vehicle increases the vehicle load weight, in turn making the vehicle to work a little harder and using additional fuel in the process.
- Human Danger – Whilst a Bull Bar is a great object involved in saving someone from injury or death in a collision, it can be risky for the occupants of vehicles who are the other party in a collision.
- Pedestrian & Cyclist Risk – Bull Bars pose a serious risk to pedestrians and cyclists with the possibility of causing permanent injury, or even death if struck by a vehicle fitted with a Bull Bar. According to VicRoads, bull bars can reduce pedestrian survival by up to 50%. However, choosing the right type of bull bar can help mitigate this.
- Airbag Obstruction – According to research, vehicles fitted with bull bars are more likely to lose the full working ability of the Airbags fitted to the vehicle. This risk can be minimised by choosing a bull bar brand that is fully crash tested such as ARB.
- Price – There are a wide range of costs associated with fitting a Bull Bar to your vehicle. Like all things, the better-quality the product, the higher the price will be. This means you’ll need to make a larger investment for a safe and good-quality bull bar, and have it installed correctly by a professional.
What is a Nudge Bar?
A Nudge Bar is a lightweight bar, often a lot smaller in shape than a Bull Bar and generally only runs along the middle to bottom half of the vehicle front end. Nudge Bars are generally constructed from low-profile and lightweight metal or plastic and mounts a lot simpler onto the front of a vehicle.
Whilst a Nudge Bar can still take the impact of a collision, it is generally designed to fit smaller cars and take smaller impacts, unlike that of a Bull Bar. Many Nudge Bars are purely for aesthetic and design purposes rather than protection responsibilities.
Pros of a Nudge Bar
The advantages of installing a nudge bar include:
- Airbag Function – The full working ability of an Airbag will remain the same upon impact when a Nudge Bar is fitted to a vehicle. The safety of the passenger increases when the Airbag is effectively deployed on impact.
- Price – Nudge Bars are less costly than Bull Bars and still provide a level of safety for smaller vehicles.
- Pedestrian & Cyclist Safety – Nudge Bars are more Pedestrian and Cyclist friendly and, in a collision, the Pedestrian or Cyclist is less likely to sustain extensive injuries.
- Installation & Removal – A Nudge Bar is far easier to both install and remove; this can be done very quickly compared to a Bull Bar.
- Fuel Efficiency – A Nudge Bar will not decrease the Fuel Efficiency of your Vehicle. Due to the lightweight material and structure of the Nudge Bar, your vehicle is not forced to work harder to carry the additional weight.
Cons of a Nudge Bar
Disadvantages of installing a nudge bar include:
- Not Suitable for Towing – A Nudge Bar is not recommended to be used as a towing option and may potentially give way or disfigure if excessive force is applied to tow a large object or other vehicle.
- Engine Bay Protection – Your vehicle’s engine bay and its contents may not be as protected by a Nudge Bar in the event of a collision. The vehicle’s engine and radiator may take some of the force from the hit and could sustain minor to major damage.
- Driver & Passenger Safety – A Nudge Bar provides less protection to the vehicle passengers from the excessive impact from collision.
- General Vehicle Protection – In the event that your vehicle is involved in either a minor or major collision with another vehicle or object, the Nudge Bar won’t protect your vehicle front end entirely.
What is the Difference Between a Bull Bar & Nudge Bar?
Whilst Bull Bars and Nudge Bars are both designed to protect the front end of a vehicle, there are also differences between them.
A Nudge Bar usually consists of lightweight aluminium tubing fixed to the middle half of the front end of the vehicle. Whereas a Bull Bar is a heavier and thicker metal bar mounted right across the entire width of the front end of the vehicle.
The biggest difference between a bull bar and a nudge bar is the size and weight: a Nudge Bar is always around half the size of a Bull Bar and tends to take on a less aggressive and strong shape structure. A nudge bar is also made of lighter materials.
This difference impacts the safety, weight, fuel efficiency, and price of bull bars vs nudge bars. Learn more about these differences below.
Weight of Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar
On average a Bull Bar weighs approximately 80kg on its own, whereas a Nudge Bar weighs a lot less at around 35kg depending on the quality and brand. Bull Bars are heavier and less fuel efficient than Nudge Bars.
Being thicker and heavier, a Bull Bar offers more collision protection than its lightweight smaller counterpart that is the Nudge Bar.
The 45kg difference is why the factors surrounding fuel efficiency and collision safety are important to consider as you would find a Bull Bar far less suitable for a smaller car that would potentially struggle if an additional 80kg was added unnecessarily.
Cost of Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar
A quality Bull Bar will mean an investment of $1500 to $2500; a Nudge Bar will set you back around $800 to $1000 and both of these depend on the quality of materials and structural engineering.
When choosing 4WD accessories, you’re going to need to know the affordability and investment costs before you make your decision. There is a price difference between the two, along with a few important factors you should consider before parting with your hard-earned money.
In recent times, the lack of material availability for many products means that an influx of lower quality, cheaper products and materials are being imported at a high rate. We recommend you take additional time to research each product thoroughly to ensure that your investment is being put on a good quality product that meets Australian standards and does not skimp on safety.
However, considering the above mentioned, if you’re looking at either of these products for a purely aesthetic touch to your vehicle, then these important factors don’t matter so much.
Effectiveness of Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar
Bull Bars are proven to be more effective than Nudge Bars for both passenger and driver safety, as well as for use in rugged environments. The Bull Bar was designed to receive the impact from a variety of forces including large animals and to protect the front of the vehicle from a high impact collision.
Whilst a Nudge Bar can still take the impact of a collision, it is generally designed to fit smaller cars and take smaller impacts, unlike that of a Bull Bar. Many Nudge Bars are purely for aesthetic and design purposes rather than life saving responsibilities.
However, it does depend on the performance you’re looking for. Nudge bars cause less injury to pedestrians in a collision, so if safety of the other parties in an accident is a priority, nudge bars or lightweight polymer bull bars are the better option. However, this trade-off comes at the cost of greater driver and passenger protection in the car, particularly if colliding with an animal.
Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar: Do They Affect Airbags?
There is common discussion between Automotive experts that debate whether Bull Bars and Nudge Bars affect the performance of a vehicle’s airbags.
Some suggest that a Bull Bar can lower the performance of the airbag in a collision, and a nudge bar is a safer option for airbags. However, extensive crash testing shows a compatible and high-quality bull bar which meets Australian Standards shouldn’t prevent airbag deployment.
The primary job of a Bull Bar is to protect the front of the vehicle in a collision and prevent the vehicle from receiving much of the impact. However, the sensors installed in the front of the vehicle that trigger the Airbag in an accident are relying on the high force from a crash to allow the Airbag to be triggered.
Without the high level of force needed to allow the Airbag to perform correctly, the Airbags may either work at a reduced performance, or they may not even work at all due to the Bull Bar taking much of the force. Brands such as ARB extensively crash test their bull bars to demonstrate the low level of risk, but if you’re concerned, a nudge bar may be a less worrying option.
Nudge Bars can also be considered a hindrance to the Airbag sensor, but only by a small percentage. As most Nudge Bars are constructed of plastic or other lightweight materials, they don’t hold a strong structure like that of the Bull Bar.
Due to this, the Nudge Bar does not receive the same level of force and will not protect the front of the vehicle as well as a Bull Bar, which ultimately allows for the force of the impact from a crash to reach the airbag sensors as it should, triggering them correctly.
Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar: Can You Use Them For Recovery?
We definitely do not recommend using a Bull Bar or Nudge Bar for recovery purposes. Despite being able to withstand certain levels of force, these accessories are not built for the purpose of recovery and are likely buckled under the force, or even separate from your vehicle chassis.
Off-road vehicles are specifically built with under chassis snatch points that can be used with a 4WD recovery kit and most off-road owners and automotive experts will tell you these should be used in every situation to avoid damaging your Bull Bar or Nudge Bar.
However, a Bull Bar is also more inclined to have general attachments such as Ariels, LED Lights, and Fishing Rod Holders. While they can have those same attachments, Nudge Bars generally don’t get used for that purpose.
Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar: Are They Legal in Australia?
Bull Bars and Nudge Bars are both legal in Australia, however, they are required to meet specific Australian Safety Standards, as well as your specific state road regulations to ensure they are both safe and not a risk to other road users or pedestrians.
Most acceptable Bull Bars and Nudge Bars are required to sit close to the front body of the vehicle and follow the same shape of the vehicle front end.
There are many unacceptable and non compliant aspects of these vehicle accessories, for example; if the Bull Bar or Nudge Bar sits too far out from the front of the vehicle and has an outward protrusion or sharp edge, it is deemed non compliant and could potentially be classed as non-roadworthy.
How to Choose Between a Bull Bar or Nudge Bar
So you’ve decided to take the leap and accessorise your off-road vehicle but you’re still confused on Bull Bar vs Nudge Bar?
We know that if you are a car fanatic, especially for those outdoorsy, off-road individuals, then we know you know the difference between both of these accessories, as well as their special features that differentiate them from one another.
However, if you are new to the 4WD game, then you’ve come to the right spot as we’re about to break it down for you. After reading this article, you will no longer look at these two as the same thing ever again!
To begin with, whilst their size is the obvious main difference, Bull Bars being larger and bulkier than their smaller buddies, the weight, material, usage, and safety aspects are all important factors in deciding which is right for you and your vehicle.
A nudge bar might be right for you if your goals are:
- Basic protection for the front of your vehicle
- Adding aesthetic appeal
- Mounting an aerial or LED lights
- Keeping the budget low
If you use your vehicle for some regular 4WD camping or fishing trips, nothing too crazy, and do a lot of urban or suburban driving, then we recommend opting for a good quality Nudge Bar. You won’t need to pay a fortune, but you will add that little extra layer of style and safety to your vehicle.
A bull bar might be right for you if your goals are:
- Safer driving in remote and rural areas
- Heavy-duty collision protection for your 4WD
- Intensive off-road driving
- Mounting heavier accessories
We also recommend, regardless of whether you go for the Bull Bar or the Nudge Bar, it is very important to have them properly fitted by a qualified automotive expert. You definitely do not want to compromise on your safety or airbag performance.
What Are The Different Types of Bull Bars?
If you have opted to go for a Bull Bar, we’re assuming your next question might be something like ‘what are the different types of Bull Bars?’ and we’re here to break that down for you too!
Steel Bull Bars
A Steel Bull Bar, whilst being one of the heavier options, still packs a punch with its multiple benefits, including being one of the strongest options on the market. Steel Bull Bars also require less maintenance and are more cost effective than the Aluminium Alloy Bars.
Steel bull bars can also provide for more accessories to be fitted unlike the Polymer Plastic Bars.
However, a study from the Centre for Automotive Research at the University of Adelaide found that steel bull bars were most dangerous in a pedestrian collision. If you do most of your driving in urban and suburban areas, that’s something to keep in mind.
Aluminium Alloy Bull Bars
Aluminium Alloy Bars are beneficial when it comes to fuel consumption and weight ratios, they are a lot lighter on the Vehicle, in turn allowing for you to utilise additional weight elsewhere and not require a suspension upgrade.
The other great aspect in regard to Aluminium Alloy is that although they are very lightweight, they are not weaker than that of a Steel Bull Bar, they provide the same structural strength and durability whilst also providing a better option for beach and sea water environments as they do not rust as easily as a Steel Bar.
Polymer Plastic Bull Bars
Polymer Plastic Bull Bars are such a great option due to their lightweight and hollow construction; they also make for easy repair. They, like the Steel Bull Bar, are more cost effective than Alloy but also provide a longer lifespan for tyres and suspension as they are non-straining.
Polymer Plastic also has a great fuel consumption rating when paired with large vehicles unlike its counterparts.
The Center for Automotive Research also found that polymer bull bars caused least injury to pedestrians in crash testing. In fact, the polymer bull bar tested was less damaging than the unmodified vehicle front. This makes the polymer plastic bull bar a safer option for a 4WD which is also your daily driver.
What Are The Best Bull Bar Brands in Australia?
Choosing the right accessories for your vehicle often means facing a wide variety of options. From various sizes, colours, models, strengths, uses, and prices, the world of bull bars can become very confusing very quickly!
To get you started, here are some of Australia’s most well-known and trusted bull bar brands:
- ARB Bull Bars – Established in 1975, ARB is the number 1 4×4 Parts and Accessories manufacturer in Australia. ARB was the product of Founder, Tony Brown’s Top End travels, and the need to address car parts, accessory defects, and safety issues.
- TJM Bull Bars – Established in 1973, TJM was founded by three friends who began crafting their own parts and accessories to allow them to travel outside the boundaries. Today, TJM is alongside ARB as the leading parts and accessories manufacturers in Australia.
- East Coast Bullbars – The oldest Australian Bull Bar manufacturer in Australia, ECB began their operations in 1971. ECB was and is still the only Bull Bar manufacturer in Australia that is 100% Australian owned and made.
Are Bull Bars & Nudge Bars Worth It?
That depends on how you plan to use your vehicle and what your priorities are. Both Bull Bars and Nudge Bars can be worth the investment for safety or aesthetic reasons. If you are someone who’s regularly camping or off-roading, there are many perks to installing them.
Ultimately, it all depends on how and where you use your vehicle. Bull bars can give you some extra peace of mind when driving in rural areas where large animals are common. If you know that your vehicle is better protected in the event of an accident, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the drive more.
Of course, bull bars can be an aesthetic enhancement for your vehicle. Many people think they look tough and rugged, which can be a selling point if you’re looking to trade up to a newer model at some point down the road.
However, there are also some disadvantages to having a bull bar or nudge bar installed on your 4WD. One is that they can actually decrease your visibility when driving. This is because most bull bars extend out past the width of your headlights, which can create blind spots at night or in low-light conditions.
If you live in a rural area where large animals are common, but you frequently drive at night or in low-light conditions, then you’ll have to carefully weigh the pros and cons. If you like the way they look and feel confident it’s the best choice for your vehicle, then go ahead and add one!
Another con is that bull bars or nudge bars can make it more difficult (and costly) to repair damage to your vehicle’s front end after an accident—even if it wasn’t caused by hitting an animal. This is because the way that most bull bars attach to vehicles requires that they be removed completely in order to gain access to certain parts, such as the radiator or headlights.
Of course, if you choose to install a bull bar or nudge bar, make sure it meets Australian Standards and is fully compatible with your vehicle for the safest choice possible.
Will a nudge bar stop a kangaroo?
A Nudge Bar may stop a small to medium sized kangaroo – in saying that, it truly depends on your speed at which your vehicle may make contact with the Kangaroo. You would expect some slight to moderate cosmetic damage to your Nudge Bar and the front of your vehicle if you are doing above 50km.
What’s the difference between a push bar and a bull bar?
A Bull Bar generally only covers the front area of your vehicle’s bumper. A Push Bar often goes higher up than the Bull Bar, covering more of the grille and top front section of the bonnet. Push Bars are primarily used to push medium to large items at a very slow speed. They would not be a good option to use in place of a Bull Bar when driving at high speeds or off-road.
What’s the difference between a bull bar and a roo bar?
A Roo Bar is specifically designed in such a way that it covers the grille and headlights. This ensures that no matter what angle the vehicle and the kangaroo collide, the kangaroo will not break the headlights. A Bull Bar, whilst great to protect from collisions with kangaroos, offers less extensive protection.
This article is published in good faith and for general informational purposes only. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website is strictly at your own risk. Let’s Get Away will not be liable for any losses and/or damages connected with the content of this article.