One-seventh scale direct models of single-cell and two-cell prestressed concrete box girder bridges, tested to destruction at McGill University, are analyzed by the nonlinear finite element technique. The nonlinear program NONLACS, utilized in the analysis, is described in detail together with the material models employed. The objective of the current study is to demonstrate the capabilities of the finite element program NONLACS in predicting the ultimate strength and complete response of prestressed concrete box girder bridges at all stages of loading up to the ultimate load. The load–deflection curves, concrete and steel stresses, and deflected shapes of the bridges at different load levels are compared with the corresponding experimental data. The results verify the applicability of the nonlinear finite element method as an economical and expedient alternative, in some cases, to expensive experimental work aimed at the investigation of the complete response of complex structures to applied loads. Key words: box girder bridges, concrete, concrete and steel strains, experimental data, finite element, load–deflection characteristics, nonlinear analysis, prestressing.