Bullbars aren’t just about making your 4×4 look good, here are six reasons why you need a bullbar.

Updated April 22 2020 by Editorial Staff

DESPITE THE NAME, a bullbar isn’t about bulls. Here are six advantages of a bullbar for your 4×4:

1. Animal collisions

If you hit an animal like a kangaroo then the impact can easily disable your car, leaving you stranded, or at least cause some major damage. A bullbar protects the front of the car so if you do collide with an animal then you’ve got a fair chance of driving on. I’ve hit roos at 100km/h but only on cars with bars and aside from the odd broken driving light the car was fine. Ideally, you don’t want to hit anything, but if you do then it’s a bullbar you need. Remember, minimise the chances of animal strikes by trying to travel at times other than dawn and dusk.

2. General protection

Driving off-road is a bit of a misnomer, as no driving is actually done off a road. Instead, what we refer to as ‘offroad’ is really very rough roads. These have all sorts of hazards such as rocks, ruts and sticks, and the latter in particular are a real problem. They can get caught up and jammed into odd places – like the time I had a new ute on test and ended up with a stick about 40mm diameter through the front underbody next to the foglight. And that was on a dirt road at night, not even a 4×4 track. Or the time when I was a passenger in a Pajero, and noticed a large log jutting out from the side of the road, pointing straight at us. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t notice the problem and impaled the car on the log, with the end of the log about three-quarters of the way into the engine bay. That was the end of our journey and nearly the end of the car. As part of the repair the driver bought a bullbar, and while we will never know for sure if the bar would have saved us, the fact is that steel or alloy is a lot harder to pierce than plastic.

3. Winch mounting point

There are ways to mount winches without bullbars, but a bar is the easiest. A tip; even if you don’t plan on buying a winch spend the extra for a winch-capable bar anyway just in case, and it’ll also help a bit with resale.

UHF antenna, driving lights and winch on a bullbar. It is a good idea to have two mount points on the top of the bar, one for a UHF antenna and the other for a sand flag. This bar has been colour-coded to match the rest of the vehicle, but other people prefer a contrast colour.

4. Accessory mount point

If you do any serious dune sand driving in the deserts or otherwise you’ll need a sand flag, and the very best place is as far forwards as you can manage, which means a bullbar. Without a bar it’s hard to create a strong enough mount. And then there’s driving light installation too, which also need a much stiffer base than many nudge bars can provide. The bullbar is also a good place to mount UHF antennas too.

5. Approach angle improvement

Always good to improve your approach angle so you don’t touch the terrain as much in hard going, and if you do, then you won’t damage a bar as much as the original plastic. Bars scuff, plastic breaks.

Sometimes bullbars don’t increase the overall approach angle by much, but they do help with the angle out to the sides.

6. Potential for recovery points

The days of vehicles with simple chassis rails extending out front are long gone, yet recovery loads are increasing. Some bullbars have recovery points built in, others as an option, and others help expose the chassis so points can be added. Without a bar it may be difficult to fit recovery points.


So, which bullbar to choose?

Updated: Read our How to choose the right bullbar story here.


Now the world isn’t perfect, so there are always disadvantages. Aside from the cost, the biggest disadvantage is the weight. Depending on the style of bar, you could be adding anywhere 30 to 80kg to the front of the vehicle depending on lots of factors such as vehicle size, bar design and the nature of the vehicle’s front end.

One thing to remember is that the actual weight added with a bullbar install is less than the weight of the bar as there’s always trim to remove, and some bars replace cross-members so the net weight gain needs to account for what comes off as well as what goes on. Still, if you run a bullbar it is a very good idea to upgrade the front suspension to handle the extra weight. I distinctly recall driving around Cape York in an LC200 with stock suspension and a bar/winch combo up front…the vehicle pogo-sticked over bumps, taking forever to damp out bouncing. Don’t make that same mistake of fitting a heavy bar without suspension to suit, as the handling inadequacies will not be apparent until too late.

Bullbar with brush rails connecting sidesteps to bar.

Another reason to be cautious about bullbars is the loss of advanced features such as the sensors needed for things like adaptive cruise control, although that’s less of a problem with bars from reputable manufacturers. In fact, the modern bullbar is new a complex engineering product; it has to be airbag compatible, be strong enough to handle animal impacts, be able to mount a winch and work with modern vehicles which pack a lot of equipment up front. And it also has to look good… but bullbars are more than about looks, they’re on 4x4s for very good reasons. 


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  1. Some steel bars and winch combos have been known to exceed the front axle load limits of some very popular vehicles when passengers were included so much so that fleet operators stipulated the car couldn’t be operated with a passenger onboard. Not the best feeling.

    1. Very true Trackdaze. That is the sort of thing we will cover in a buyer’s guide. Some vehicles (ahem, Hilux N70) exceed their front axle limit even with nobody else in the car.

      Makes you wonder about some of those cow catchers with double siderails!

  2. 90% of 4wd spend 90% of their time on sealed roads in our cities. There these bullbars pose an unacceptable risk to other road users and serve no purpose other than styling. Manufacturers of modern 4wd generally do not recommend bullbars as it may affect the safety rating of the vehicle. I reckon that it would be best to introduce a permit system to mount a bullbar.

    1. Hello Chris. Please cite your source for your 90/90 statistic. You will need to define ‘4WD’ before you do so; some CR-Vs are all wheel drive, but I don’t think anyone makes a bullbar for them. Maybe restrict 4WD to vehicles that are MC-categorised.

      Then, please also cite sources for the ‘unacceptable risk’. Then, please read the article carefully so you understand there are reasons other than styling. Finally, please provide sources for manufacturers recommending bullbars not be fitted. Generally, I find manufacturers warn that the bar must be airbag-compatible and approved for the vehicle.

      1. Definitely not add to my car for styling reasons. It’s there for protection and better approach angle.

        1. Got any evidence that the protection will be greater?
          The only comparative test I’ve seen showed it was less. Done by Crashlabs for BHP with HiLuxes with and without bars in the ANCAP frontal offset collision.

          1. Plastic bumper versus obstacle on a track, are you really suggesting the bullbar doesn’t offer better protection for critical parts like the radiator?

          2. That test was focussed on occupant safety. For the driver it was worse with cp without.

            As for protecting the radiator and trans cooler, go and do an internet image search on 4WD crash bull bar, particularly in forums. A decent central impact will stove the bar in and trash either or both and probably set the airbags off.

            Driving off with blown airbags either isn’t possible or isn’t advisable. (Up to a 23 kmh collision with an immovable object, or around 45 kmh with a movable one, will fire the air bags acc to the NHTSA in the US).

          3. Ziggy, there comes a point when nothing will help. Thinking here of cattle collisions in FNQ. A bullbar mitigates risk, doesn’t eliminate it.

            Testing has been done with and without bullbars which shows the airbags still function. ARB did this a while back. However, bullbar manufacturers do not typically crash test their vehicles with bars fitted due to cost.

  3. Good luck asking a bar manufacturer either the weight of the bar or what force it’s been designed to resist before contacting the body. And whether they have the high speed collision airbag deployment specs from the vehicle manufacturer.

    Last time I searched only a couple of bars had passed ANCAP 5 – Smartbar and an ARB steel unit, both on Rangers. Any others out there? If untested, your swish 5 star rated wagon becomes unrated when the bar goes on.

    No, buying a bar is buying a pig in a poke for the most part. A lot of money and a lot of hopes.

  4. Nearest area where there are problems with roo strikes is unfortunately about 200 M from where I live. I agree that bull bars are not much help with heavy impacts.. But I have been driving vehicles that have had roo strikes where the well designed bull bar made the different between the vehicle being driveable and not being driveable. In the case i am thinking of hitting a adult male roo at 100 KM /hr

  5. The thing which annoys is that they drive them in city areas, making the already quite long vehicle even longer. They then park them so they overhang carparks, often both ends.

  6. The Vicroads site takes a sensible approach saying don’t fit a bar if you don’t need one. We agree with that.

    The site also says:

    “In rural areas, bullbars are used to protect vehicles in a collision with an animal (e.g. a kangaroo) or trees.

    A bullbar protects the cooling system of the vehicle and reduces the chances of a driver and any passengers being stranded.

    It also protects the vehicle from scrub and bushes when driven off-road or on overgrown tracks.

    A bullbar can be used with winches to recover other vehicles, animals or equipment.”

    which agrees with the six reasons above.

    1. I would say that a bull bar *may* protect the radiator and transmission cooler.
      A major impact in the bumper section centre will drive it into the radiator.
      The thing is that manufacturers don’t publish the impacts their bar will sustain without connecting with the vehicle, so we don’t know what we’re getting.
      Why don’t you write to a few asking them to Robert?
      The other thing is that airbag deployment has become much more complex. In 2004 Toyota said they didn’t release deployment specs and aftermarket bar makers were guessing about this in the case of high speed collisions. ARB for one wasn’t around that time doing high speed collision testing.
      Has anything changed? Why not add this query to the first Robert?
      Maybe you’ll carry more weight than I do – a mere consumer of a two grand product.

    2. Which leads back to the original question – what are they doing on city-based vehicles? My family are 3rd/4th gen farmers and we’ve never had a bullbar on any of our vehicles.

  7. Bullbars only belong on ladder-frame chassis vehicles, and even then, only if needed for winches. On monocoques (Pajero, Kia Sorento, Forester), they are merely a way to bugger up the car and pedestrians more completely in the event of a collision.
    The risk of injuring and killing a pedestrian because you fitted a bulbar and hence ruin any pedestrian protection rating your vehicle had is not worth the risk – or the years of regret.

  8. seriously, the TJM “test” involved a ford ranger with a bull bar, a LC200 with a bull bar and an old Excel with no bull bar, hardly a fair comparison is it. Note all vehicles incurred damage, so its only the towing cost that will be the difference.
    I’ll take my chances without a bull bar cause I rarely drive on country roads at night.

    How about pedestrian safety? I rather get hit by a car without a bar, especially if it has those rod holder things bolted to it, sometimes called sausage makers.

  9. I thought it was great how you said that a steel bull bar is a lot harder to pierce than the plastic that is normally on the front of your car. My brother is planning on taking his family off-roading during the summer, but he feels like his vehicle is not ready for that type of driving. It sounds like it might be a good idea for him to install a bull bar to add some protection.

  10. Several years ago, I had a sales rep run off the road into a ditch in a brand new Mitsubishi wagon with a Bull bar fitted.
    There was minimal apparent panel damage, thanks to the bull bar, but here is the rub, as the station wagon was of typical monocoque construction ( ie no chassis) it seriously twisted the body, and the repairs to reset the vehicle structure in proper alignment. cost a mere $17,000. The only reason the vehicle was not an Insurance write off was that because the vehicle was only months old, the cost of repairs didn’t hit the point for an economic write off.

    Modern vehicles are built with crumple zones to protect the occupants in an accident, Bull bars may well frustrate the crumple zone performing as designed.

  11. I hit a roo in a Nissan Tiida at 100kmh . Not pretty , but drove home with a bit of tape from a garage up the road to hold bits in place . Front left quarter of car was pretty much missing , but drive wise , all engine and steering showed no problems. Just took it at no more than 80kmh for safety . Long trip south of Sydney to Central Coast . Roo was somewhat taller than car. Happy with outcome without bull bar but car was a write off due to repair cost on an 11 year old car. A bull bar would psychologically help and can be useful in many situations but genuinely superfluous for me. I don’t bag people for having them but I do wonder at many who do as to why .

  12. I have needed bull bar mostly to attach accessory brackets. Carrying 6 metre kayaks, surf skis and also long lengths of timber and corrugated iron sheets all require some appropriately secure fixing points for highway speeds. Also to attach extra lighting for rural and remote regions for wildlife spotting. Driving lights on modern vehicles in more populated areas not so useful. I would definitely prefer less intense mounting points than bull bars. Nudge bars really don’t cut it though..

  13. No bull bar & end up like my in law. Written off vehicle & in hospital lucky to survive kangaroo impact crashing through windscreen.

  14. I have a VZ Commodore with a genuine GMH bull bar. I have replaced it due to animal strikes and need to replace it again. GMH no longer carry it and cannot (or will not) tell me who made it.
    It’s light, strong and engineered for the car. Without it, long distance rural driving becomes more dangerous and costly.
    Is there anyone or anywhere who can tell me how to get in touch with the original manufacturer?

  15. Any thoughts on vehicles like the new Navara Warrior which comes with winch compatible Bullaring built in. Is it worth replacing this with a hooped Bullaring?

  16. Damn. You need to consider the most important factor….crumple zones. Bull bars or roo bars where it sounds like you are based are a safety factor for those in rural areas…but for everyone else (both in the car and outside of it) they are a huge force multiplier. A very bad idea to put them on a vehicle. They do look awesome tho, and do provide a great winch and recovery point…but not worth it. Reconsider. It may save you or someone else.

  17. If your driving in the nt and hit a cow/horse/pig/roo at 130km/h, i’d rather have a 5 poster than a 4 poster. And for sure rather have a 4 poster than a no poster.

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