What Does Bumper-To-Bumper Mean?

Bumper-to-Bumper Definition

Definition: Very heavy traffic; things that are physically close together or happening one right after another.     

Origin of Bumper-to-Bumper

This expression comes from cars. A bumper is a part of a car that is meant to help reduce damage in car accidents.

If traffic is backed up, the cars tend to get very close to each other, almost to the point where the bumpers are touching.

This phrase can also refer to a comprehensive type of warranty on automobiles. A bumper-to-bumper warranty contrasts a powertrain warranty, which only guarantees things on the vehicle’s propulsion system. A bumper-to-bumper warranty is much more comprehensive.

Examples of Bumper-to-Bumper

Define bumper to bumper In the below example, two siblings are discussing the best route to the soccer game.

Jordan: Do you want to drive? I’ll navigate.

James: Sure, that’s fine.

Jordan: Okay. Let me check the GPS. It says that if we take the interstate, there’s bumper-to-bumper traffic.

James: Oh no. Okay. What’s the best detour?

Jordan: It’s a little tricky, but if we follow the GPS, we should still get there on time. Go straight for a mile, and then turn right. I’ll tell you
what else to do once you get that far. This way we’ll avoid all the traffic.

Meaning of bumper to bumper In the second dialogue, two coworkers are carpooling to work.

Herman: What is taking so long? We’re going to be late!

Alison: Do you think I don’t realize that? There’s nothing I can do about the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Herman: You could have avoided it in the first place.

Alison: I’m not psychic. The accident happened once we were already en route. Also, there are no exits, so we’re stuck here. You might as well just stop complaining about it because you aren’t helping.

Herman: Okay, fine. You’re right.

More Examples

In this excerpt, the expression describes a traffic jam.

  • Traffic moves bumper to bumper on west-bound Eisenhower Expressway due to an accident further west on Saturday April 9, 2016. –Chicago Tribune

The second excerpt discusses the perils of heavy traffic when dangerous chemicals are part of trucks’ cargo.

  • About 400 trucks a day loaded with tons of hazardous chemicals, such as chlorine, butadiene and formaldehyde, inch along 610 in bumper-to-bumper traffic and pass within a mile of NRG Stadium, Memorial Park and the Galleria shopping center. –Houston Chronicle


The phrase bumper-to-bumper is an expression that means somewhere is very crowded. It usually refers to traffic jams.