Running boards are useful (and sometimes necessary) in vehicles with high clearance. The best running boards not only offer a stepstool into your vehicle, but they can protect doors in the parking lot, increase seat longevity, and prevent passengers from falling when they attempt to enter or exit your vehicle.

But do you want a running board, a side step, or a nerf bar? And what makes for a good running board? This guide will walk you through the basics and suggest several popular brands. We’ll help you find the right fit for your needs, truck, and style.

5 Best Running Boards

Stock image of SUV running board, close up on the sand.

  1. Editor’s Pick: Amp Research Power Step
  2. Best Nerf Bars: Ionic Automotive Pro Series
  3. Best Side Steps: N-FAB RKR Step
  4. Best Grip: Westin SG6 Running Boards
  5. Also Consider: Go Rhino RB20 Running Boards

#1 Editor’s Pick: Amp Research Power Step

Our Rating: 5 out of 5

Material: Die-cast aluminum alloy

The Amp Research Power Step is the most expensive, but most advanced, running board on the market. What makes this running board different from typical running boards is that it is electronic and retractable, folding under your truck for improved ground clearance. The Power Step works automatically, extending when you open your door and retracting once closed. If the standard power step is not thick enough, Amp Research also offers a wider XL model.

These running boards include LED puddle lights and an anodized PTFE-coated finish for improved durability and corrosion resistance. The Power Step is also backed by a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty.

Because they require power, these running boards have a more involved installation process than your typical running boards. To install them yourself, you will need some wiring knowledge, though customer reports indicate the setup process is not especially difficult for the layperson.

Compatible Makes

What Customers Are Saying

Most reviews for the Amp Research Power Step are glowing. Drivers frequently mention Amp Research’s customer service and how diligent the company is. Customers state that the company will honor its warranty, though some forewarn others that not all parts are covered under warranty.

Reviewers say these running boards are very sturdy and they like that they extend lower than other running boards. Because it retracts when not in use, the Power Step is able to dip lower without hindering clearance while driving. Many swear these are the best running boards on the market and will use no other brand.

#2 Best Nerf Bars: Ionic Automotive Nerf Bar

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

Material: Carbon steel or stainless steel

The Ionic Automotive Nerf Bar comes in widths ranging from 3.0 to 5.0 inches. The bars are made of sturdy carbon or stainless steel tubing with welded end caps. The carbon steel variant has a different appearance and a slightly higher tensile strength.

The step pads are constructed from hard durable plastic. These bars run the length of your cab, offering a buffer in parking lots and a convenient rail for hosting yourself into the cab.

These nerf bars are available in polished silver or black. Depending on the specific set you purchase, the pro series bars may be backed by a three-year, five-year, or lifetime warranty. These high-quality nerf bars are exceptionally easy to install and require no drilling in most cases.

Ionic also sells polished aluminum running boards.

Compatible Makes

  • Chevrolet
  • Dodge
  • Ford
  • GM
  • Jeep
  • Nissan
  • Ram
  • Toyota

What Customers Are Saying

Many customers purchase Ionic nerf bars because of their appearance. They are easy to install and include custom brackets specifically for your vehicle. Reports on installation length vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours. A lot of reviewers think that for the price, it’s hard to beat Ionic products.

A few customers say that their bars began to rust after a couple of years. This will be common for most types of running boards, especially at the mounting brackets. Continued use can wear down the protective layer.

#3 Best Side Steps: n-FAB RKR Step

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

Material: Alloy steel

A side step is the simplest option for adding a step-up assistant. The n-FAB RKR Step is low-cost, very simple to install, and ruggedly built. The RKR step bars are compatible with n-FAB’s RKR-rails if you choose to add a nerf bar. They’re also backed by a five-year warranty.

N-FAB also offers nerf bars and running boards.

Compatible Makes

The n-FAB RKR Step has a universal design.

What Customers Are Saying

Virtually all reviewers say these steps are extremely simple to install. There are two bolts for each step, and most trucks have mounting locations pre-drilled. These steps are even compatible with trucks that already have bars or rails installed. The well-built, thick steel is appreciated.

A few customers note that n-FAB stamps its logo onto each product, and some don’t like the appearance. This stamp also somewhat impacts the durability of the product.

#4 Best Grip: Westin SG6 Running Boards

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

Material: Aluminum

The Westin SG6 Running Boards offer a wide 5.5-inch step surface that’s textured and slip-resistant. These stylish boards have injection-molded end caps and come with a polished aluminum or black-powder-coated aluminum finish.

If you want to upgrade beyond the basic running board, you can purchase an end cap LED light kit, though this will bump up the price a bit. These running boards are model specific and come in different lengths to match your cab. The bracket mounting system is sold separately.

Compatible Makes

  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • GMC
  • Nissan
  • Ram
  • Toyota

What Customers Are Saying

Reviewers on Amazon like Westin running boards because they offer excellent grip and a wide area for stepping into your cab. These are an excellent upgrade over cheap plastic factory running boards that don’t offer as high a weight capacity.

Some don’t like that the mounting brackets are sold separately, which increases the total cost of this running board.

#5 Also Consider: Go Rhino RB20 Running Boards

Our Rating: 4 out of 5

Material: Alloy steel

If you’re looking for running boards with a slightly different look, the RB20 running boards may suit your fancy. According to Go Rhino, these running boards are visually inspired by the Ford Raptor. The perforated design prevents snow and ice buildup, making these ideal for areas that get a lot of precipitation.

These running boards are sold in lengths from 48.0 to 87.0 inches. There are options for a 7.5-inch or 5.5-inch extension, and they come in two finishes: protective bedliner coating or textured black powder coat.

Compatible Makes

  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Jeep
  • Ram
  • Toyota

What Customers Are Saying

Most agree that these sturdy running boards are easy to install and work well. The fitment with most vehicles is excellent, leaving no gap between the running boards and the edge of the truck. A few reviewers noted that Go Rhino contacted them upon ordering to confirm the fitment, which offers a nice bit of assurance.

These running boards have a tapered design and are a little wider in the front than in the back. Some dislike this design because of the appearance and the slightly reduced functionality for backseat passengers.

Running Board Buyers Guide

Running boards come in several styles. Every type of running board can help you step into your cab, but the look of each is very different. Which type you prefer is partially a matter of taste, but may also depend on how you plan to use your running board.

Types Of Running Boards

Generally speaking, there are three styles of running boards: plank, nerf bar, and side step.

  • Plank running boards are long flat pieces of metal that run the length of your cab. Because they are wide and long, plank running boards are also good for protecting your trim from road debris. These are also useful for helping passengers to enter your car.
  • Nerf bars are typically cylindrical. They won’t provide protection from debris, but can be used as a step. This type of bar is also helpful as a buffer against parking lot mishaps. Some prefer the more aggressive look of nerf bars to standard plank running boards.
  • Side steps are small steps for helping you into the cab. These don’t run the entire cab length and so offer little parking lot protection. They do add less weight to your vehicle than the other types of running boards.

There are also running boards that blend some of these styles. Some nerf bars include side steps that jut out near the doors.

Running Board Materials

Running boards can be made from any number of materials, but the most common are stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum. You can also find running boards made of hard plastic. These can last some time but typically are less durable than metal running boards.

  • Stainless steel running boards are heavy, but corrosion-resistant and very sturdy. Running boards made from this material are typically backed by long warranties.
  • Mild steel is less durable than stainless steel. Running boards made with this material are typically galvanized with a rust-resistant coating. Mild steel running boards are often less expensive than stainless steel alternatives.
  • Aluminum is extremely lightweight and rustproof.

Regardless of what material you purchase, most running boards will corrode over time, typically at the bracket where it mounts to your vehicle. Keeping the brackets clean and well cared for can increase the lifespan of your running boards.

Vehicle Fit

Running boards must be compatible with your vehicle. Many manufacturers make versions of their products for several brands and models. Be sure that whatever running board you purchase is intended for your vehicle.

Do You Need Running Boards?

While one of the most common truck accessories, running boards are not a necessary feature for a pickup truck. However, they can be a good idea, and not only for short people. The most obvious function of a running board is that it can help you get up into your cab or truck bed, but they have other uses as well.

Passenger Assistance

Even if you are tall enough to hop right into your truck, your passengers may not be. It can be especially difficult for older people to swing into a massive cab. Running boards offer a helpful step area.

Roof Access

If you have a roof rack or rooftop storage, running boards can help you access the top of your car much easier, turning a difficult hassle into a simple operation.

Trim Protection

Plank running boards (as opposed to nerf bars or side steps) offer some protection to the body of your vehicle. These can block rocks and other debris from shooting up from the road, and are especially useful if you take your truck off-roading.

Running boards can also act as a buffer to your car’s body, protecting it from parking lot dings. If a person parks next to your car and is too cavalier opening their door, they’ll hit your running board before your body.

Seat Preservation

Even if you can get into your cab without running boards, this likely means sliding sideways into your seat. Repeatedly entering your seat this way can deform it over time, damaging the appearance and reducing comfort. Running boards help you get over the edge of your seat and sit in it directly.

Installing Running Boards

Many trucks and SUVs include running board holes as a standard feature. This makes installing aftermarket running something that many can accomplish themselves without the help of a professional mechanic. Simply follow any included installation instructions.

However, if your truck does not have pre-drilled holes for running boards, it’s best not to drill these yourself. In this case, you’ll want to take your car to a body shop to make sure the necessary holes are drilled correctly and you don’t damage your vehicle body.

In most cases, installing a running board will not void your vehicle’s warranty.

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Best Running Boards: FAQ

*Data accurate at time of publication.