Which is better? It depends.
If you're outfitting your vehicle for off-road adventures, one of the first aftermarket upgrades you're likely to consider is new bumpers. And, when you start shopping for new bumpers, your first big decision is going to be between steel or aluminum models. Both materials offer great style, enhanced durability, assistance with towing and winching, and extra protection for your 4x4 while exploring. Still, critical differences between the two materials are worth careful consideration.
Comparing Steel and Aluminum
Let's look at the differences between steel and aluminum bumpers and what that means for performance.
Steel is heavier than aluminum, a lot heavier. In fact, a steel bumper will be about three times the weight of a comparable aluminum bumper. This increased weight has the following effects:
- Shocks and springs may need to be modified to accommodate the heavier weight.
- Braking and overall maneuverability are impacted because of the change in weight distribution across the vehicle, often requiring additional aftermarket mods to compensate and get the performance you want.
- Fuel economy goes down significantly.
- Overloading. Once you pile up your steel-bumpered vehicle with camping gear, tents, racks, passengers, and other overlanding mods, chances are high the total load will exceed the vehicle's weight rating, which causes considerable wear and tear. If you opt for steel bumpers, you'll likely need to sacrifice gear to stay within your weight limits.
Steel rusts; aluminum doesn't. While both bumpers will last a long time and powder-coated steel will resist corrosion, steel will eventually rust. If you drill through a steel bumper to add mods, the holes must be filled with rust-resistant paint to prevent rust; with aluminum, you can add your mods without worry.
Aluminum costs more than steel. Why? First, aluminum is harder to source than steel; there simply aren't as many suppliers. Second, crafting aluminum bumpers is more complex, time-consuming, and requires more specialized skills than making steel bumpers. And third, aluminum bumpers take more material than steel. If you're looking for a budget-friendly option, steel is the way to go.
This is strictly a matter of preference; both materials look great. Aluminum and steel bumpers come in a variety of colors, shapes, and styles and can be custom-built to give you a look you want.
Steel is heavier, so it should be no surprise that it offers more protection during a collision. But for defense against everyday stuff, both materials get the job done.
The Backwoods Solution
So, we ask again: which is better: steel or aluminum? At Backwoods Adventure Mods, we like both. A Backwoods outfit takes advantage of both materials' best properties to maximize performance. We recommend the following:
Aluminum—or a Steel/Aluminum Hybrid—in the Front
A strong, lightweight aluminum front bumper gives you the added protection and reinforcement you need without adding excess weight and the corrosion-resistant metal makes it simple to add winches, lights, and other mods free from the worry of exposing the bumper to the risk of rust. Strategically adding a bit of steel for additional strength is what sets Backwoods' bumpers apart from the rest.
Outfit your truck or van with Backwoods Adventure Mods' Nomad Series aluminum front bumper. This bumper has a low-profile, angular appearance designed to reduce wind noise and look tough. It features a shell constructed out of 3/16" 5052 aluminum, an internal 3/16-inch rib system, and ¼ inch thick steel mounting brackets and winch cradle. The combination of aluminum bumper and steel mounting brackets gives the Nomad bumper a hybrid design that's lightweight and strong.
The Nomad series from Backwoods takes weight reduction seriously. For example, the Nomad Mercedes Sprinter front bumper weighs just 153 pounds. It's heavy-duty protection without the heavy.
Hi-Lite bumpers feature a full aluminum shell and a steel winch cradle that, combined, weigh in at a mere 80 pounds. Backwoods designed this bumper to offer strength exactly where you need it and save weight everywhere else. This ultra-lightweight bumper has aggressive high clearance, complete protection, and the tough, rugged appearance you're looking for. You won't find a bumper like this for your 3rd gen Toyota Tacoma anywhere else.
Steel in the Back
The rear is where you need the vigor of solid steel, and nothing protects your vehicle as effectively as a robust steel rear bumper from Backwoods Adventure Mods.
Your 3rd gen Toyota Tacoma can survive all the trail abuse you can give it and still look good with the help of a solid steel Hi-Lite bumper. This bumper features one-piece steel construction handmade in the USA at our factory in Arkansas. The Hi-Lite replaces the weak sheet metal in the long rear end of the Tacoma with solid steel all around the perimeter. You get strength, increased ground clearance, and an improved departure angle.
The Backwoods Nomad series Rear Swing Out Bumper gives your Mercedes Sprinter van a rear bumper made from carbon and swing-out panels made from aluminum. This hybrid design is both lightweight and strong.
Ford Brute Series
The Backwoods Ford Brute Series Rear Bumper features all steel construction, functional design, and sleek styling.
Which Bumper is Better? A Backwoods Bumper.
A Backwoods Adventure Mods bumper is always the best option, whether you choose steel or aluminum. We design and build our bumpers using the latest technology, robotics, tooling, and other equipment. This means our customers get the very best product on the market every single time. We use steel for strength and aluminum whenever and wherever we can to save on weight. If you're looking for strong, lightweight bumpers, you'll find them at Backwoods.
To learn more about our incredible selection of front and rear bumpers, check out our front bumper and rear bumper collections.