An equivalent orthotropic representation (EOR) of the nonlinear elastic behavior of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) was developed based on a nested shell structural representation of MWCNTs. The EOR model was used together with the finite element method to simulate the large deformation of MWCNTs under bending, axial compression and radial compression. Results were compared with those of the nested shell model for four-, eight-, nine-, 14-, and 19-walled carbon nanotubes. The EOR model provides a dramatic improvement in computational efficiency and successfully quantitatively replicates the overall deformation behavior including the initial linear elastic behavior, the onset of local buckling, and the post-buckling compliance. The proposed EOR model together with the finite element method offers a computationally efficient method for simulating large and complex systems of MWCNTs.