In earlier studies we found that the three-element windkessel, although an almost perfect load for isolated heart studies, does not lead to accurate estimates of total arterial compliance. To overcome this problem, we introduce an inertial term in parallel with the characteristic impedance. In seven dogs we found that ascending aortic pressure could be predicted better from aortic flow by using the four-element windkessel than by using the three-element windkessel: the root-mean-square errors and the Akaike information criterion and Schwarz criterion were smaller for the four-element windkessel. The three-element windkessel overestimated total arterial compliance compared with the values derived from the area and the pulse pressure method (P = 0.0047, paired t-test), whereas the four-element windkessel compliance estimates were not different (P = 0.81). The characteristic impedance was underestimated using the three-element windkessel, whereas the four-element windkessel estimation differed marginally from the averaged impedance modulus at high frequencies (P = 0.0017 and 0.031, respectively). When applied to the human, the four-element windkessel also was more accurate in these same aspects. Using a distributed model of the systemic arterial tree, we found that the inertial term results from the proper summation of all local inertial terms, and we call it total arterial inertance. We conclude that the fourelement windkessel, with all its elements having a hemodynamic meaning, is superior to the three-element windkessel as a lumped-parameter model of the entire systemic tree or as a model for parameter estimation of vascular properties.