Written By Car Bibles Staff
Published Jul. 31, 2018

As far as potential vehicle upgrades go, Running Boards – and their close cousins Nerf Bars – are kind of special. They are part of a relatively small group of upgrade products that can bring both high-level aesthetic appeal and also real practical use to your car.

That’s why you need to invest in the best Running boards that you can. You need it’s going to be tough enough to stand up to whatever you put it through – including holding all of Uncle Gerry’s weight as he clambers awkwardly into your truck. At the same time, the running boards will become an integral part of the body work and, as such, a key part of the vehicle’s appearance.

In this guide we’ll take you through the best running boards and nerf bars on the market right now, and then in our buying guide and FAQ section we’ll give you all the knowledge you need to pick the right product for you.

Best Rated Running Boards in 2020:

These are some tough, tough Nerf Bars. They actually have a width of around 5 inches, and the stepping boards blend seamlessly due to the black powder finish applied all over. It means that these are actually kind of a best of both worlds style of design. On the one hand the width and strength of running boards, on the other the visual pop of the extended stepping points.  

High quality plugs that seal all the bar ends, keeping out dirt and water, compliment that black powder finish. Installation is extremely easy too, with a simple bolt on design that requires no drilling. A total weight capacity of around 500 pounds is the final piece of evidence of the toughness of these bars.

And you know what – they look good too. A lot of running bars in particular, when they are built for toughness and with a lean toward practical us, can look a little dull. These bad boys look great. That all over black gloss powder finish really helps make them pop against car paintwork, whilst the detailed laser etched designs on the stepping pads are the cherry on top of a very well considered design.

Key Features
  • Easy Installation
  • Welded 2 Inch heavy Duty Construction
  • 500-Pound Weight Capacity 
Specification
  • Brand Tyger Auto
  • Model TG-AM2D20078
  • Weight 91 Pounds

There are a few interesting features on this model that we’ll get to in due course, but first off all just take a moment to appreciate that shine! That beautiful gleam is generated by the polished stainless steel construction. When you use that kind of material on a 4-inch oval bar, it is really going to give an eye-catching finish. Just imagine them out in sunshine and you can see why this is a Nerf Bar designed to with looks first and foremost.

Looks are not all it has going for it though, as these bars boast some useful practical features too. Chief amongst them are the step pads. They are constructed in non-slip material and are deeply grooved too, making for a very safe surface in even the most adverse of weather conditions. They also have built in UV protection, meaning that the deep black coloring shouldn’t fade over time.

Installation is lovely and straightforward, and in most cases sees the product simply bolting directly into pre-cut drill holes on the vehicle body. All that and a price tag of under 150 bucks clearly explains why this is one of the most popular set of truck steps on the market today.

Key Features
  • Polished Stainless Steel Construction
  • Easy Install – No Drilling
  • UV Resistant, Non-Slip Step Pads
Specification
  • Brand MaxMate
  • Model WB2D41127
  • Weight 41.6 Pounds

If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional, full-length running or Nerf style bar designs, definitely take a look at this interesting little product from Bully.  The first thing to note is that they are as tough as they come, with an all aluminum construction and welded seams for a very tough product with a total weight capacity of 350 pounds.

They look great too, with that beautiful chrome plate finish however if you don’t like it, you can change it. The steps are fully customizable and can be easily painted/sprayed in any colors you like. The step surface is textured too, with raised nodules and an embossed Bully logo providing a safe stepping up point with plenty of grip.

It’s worth noting that they do come in a pair. So if you have a four-door truck cabin, you’ll need to buy two sets (or let your rear passengers fall out on their rearends – we won’t judge if you do that of course). They come with a price tag of around 30 bucks a set though, so even if you do have to buy a pair, they are still really great value.

Key Features
  • 350-Pound Weight Capacity
  • All Aluminum Construction with Welded Seams
  • Customizable – Can Be Painted
  • Excellent Value for Money
Specification
  • Brand Bully
  • Model BBS-1103
  • Weight 7.6 Pounds

Tyger Auto is back with another product that’s very much in the mold of the product we looked at above. What we have here is a product that mixes the best parts of a traditional running bar and a Nerf bar, just as we saw on the product that kicked off this list. This one though leans a little more toward the Nerf end of the scale however with clearly defined (though identically colored) stepping pads.

Still, it is not quite going to stand out like a normal Nerf bar, and certainly not to the extent of a polished steel/chrome style model. That deep black styling will offer a pop of sorts against paintwork however, especially lighter shades. Construction is extremely solid, as you would expect from Tyger Auto, with the 4-inch bars pre treated to prevent imperfections, double coated inside and out and finished with gloss black powder.

The stepping pads are textured for sure footing, and also contain built in UV protection to prevent fading. All in then a very well designed, very well constructed Running/Nerf bar hybrid from the subtler end of the styling range.

Key Features
  • 4 Inch Heavy Duty Mild Steel Tubing
  • Easy Bolt on Installation
  • 5-Year Warranty
Specification
  • Brand Tyger Auto
  • Model TG-RS2D40078
  • Weight 36 Pounds

This product from APS is very much in the mold of your more traditional running board designs. At the same time, it is a modern take on an old classic, bringing a number of very interesting design features to the market.

First of there is the board itself. It is of 100% aircraft grade aluminum construction for a solid and stable step. Sat atop it is a raised surface made of weather proofed (and UV resistant) rubber. The solid metal construction combined with the rubber surface is therefore going to provide an extremely stable stepping surface with excellent grip – a safe surface you can trust in all sorts of inclement weather conditions.

Installation is straightforward, with the included install kit using brackets to fit into predrilled holes on most vehicles. It is not quite the aesthetic eye catcher of the more stylized Nerf bars. It is however an extremely practical product that will provide a safe stepping point into/out of your truck all year round.

To be fair it’s not exactly ugly either, and with a price tag of about 200 hundred bucks you are getting a lot of very well designed and well built running board for your money here.

Key Features
  • 100% Aluminum Construction
  • Corrugated Rubber Step Pad
  • No Drill Installation
Specification
  • Brand APS
  • Model IB-D5208A
  • Weight 48 Pounds

Probably the polar opposite of the running boards we just looked at above! This product is a Nerf bar that is definitely designed to catch the eye. A stainless steel construction has been polished to a high shine, whilst the stepping pads have been kept nice and slim line. By doing that, they don’t interrupt the flow of the design as much as accentuate it, really helping that high quality polished finish to pop. 

That’s not to say that these are not a practical option of truck steps however. That same all stainless steel construction, when combined with the very sturdy, high strength mounting brackets included in the kit, give a total weight capacity of up to 500 pounds. The stepping pads are made of slip resistant material and are nicely ridged, making for a safe and stable stepping in/out point.

The cherry on top of this very shiny ice cream has to be the price however. At the moment, they are available for less than a hundred bucks. That is simply phenomenal good value for an all-metal construction Nerf bar, never mind one that has been so well designed. If you want a really eye catching – but also usefully practical – set of truck side steps that won’t break the bank, check these out before Auto Dynasty come to their senses and hike the price.

Key Features
  • Eye Catching Design
  • Rust Resistant Stainless Steel Construction
  • High Weight Capacity
  • Excellent Value for Money
Specification
  • Brand Auto Dynasty
  • Model AD-STEPB-3-001-SS

This set of truck side steps from Max-Mate is very similar to the ones we saw above from Auto-Dynasty – even if they don’t quite seem to have the same high level of finish. By that we mean that on the surface, they are similar. Boasting 3-inch tubular stainless steel as the main construction material here too, and it has been polished up to an eye-catching shine.

The stepping pads are rugged and made of anti-slip material, again with the aim of providing a safe route into and out of the vehicle in all weather conditions. To our eyes – and we may be wrong, it’s happened before – the pads don’t quite sit as neatly in this design, with a little bit of an overhang.

Still, if you drive one of the range of Chevy vehicles this Nerf bar is designed for, you are still getting a very good product. It is something of basic design, and it does not quite bring the bells and whistles you may expect from a slightly more premium product. But it’s also solid, well built and has a very reasonable price tag.

Key Features
  • Stainless Steel Rounded Tubing
  • No Drill Installation
  • Basic But Effective Model
Specification
  • Brand MaxMate
  • Model WB2C35007
  • Weight 45 Pounds

This next set of truck steps on the other hand is something entirely different! Yes, in essence at least they are the same as the two Nerf bar style products we looked at above. But that is like putting a t-Bone steak next to a Cheeseburger and saying they are in essence the same because they both came from a cow.

This is a set of Nerf bars with some bite. The big standout is of course that chunky 5-inch construction. That gives these bars the impression of go anywhere, do anything toughness – though in reality the total weight capacity is slightly lower (by about 50 pounds) compared with the products we looked at above.

Construction is similar too, with polished stainless steel employed here to provide an eye catching set of truck steps with built in anti-rust properties. That extra width has also been well utilized to provide a pair of very impressive footpads. They have deeply etched (and very wide) surface areas to provide safe vehicle access points. The price of this set is toward the upper end of the range, but they are certainly a very eye catching design.

Key Features
  • Stainless Steel
  • 5-Inch Curved Design
  • 450-Pound Weight Capacity
Specification
  • Brand Mifeier
  • Model MF37S0823B

These five-inch, stainless steel curved bars are similar to the previous option and are designed for 2007-2018 Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierra Crew Cabs.  They are also available in an oval shape and in black, so you have some options when it comes to style.

The nerf bars are made with 304 marine-grade stainless steel and come with all the brackets and hardware required for installation. Drilling is typically not necessary on most applications.

The non-slip step pads are reinforced for durability and safety. They are perfectly sized to provide a wide and safe step for people getting in and out of the  truck. The bars are also corrosion resistant, so they can withstand wet conditions, and they can support up to 350 pounds. They’re even backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

Key Features
  • 5-Inch Curved Design
  • Non-Slip Plastic Pads
  • Stainless Steel
  • Corrosion Resistant
Specification
  • Brand Ionic Automotive
  • Model Ionic 5
  • Weight 54.6 pounds

We finish up our list of the best running boards with another returning manufacturer, Auto Dynasty. This set of running boards has one big stand out feature, and that is the incredible 6-inch width. They are a very chunky design, and if you are looking for max width out of your running boards, it’s doubtful you’ll find much wider.

All that extra surface area allows for two things. One, you see a lot of polished, chrome finished stainless steel – so these side steps are nice and shiny and very eye catching. It also allows Auto Dynasty to include plastic foot pads (of ABS plastic construction) that are both long and wide. That provides a good mixture of aesthetic appeal and practical use that is always good to see in truck steps.

The price is pretty much mid-range. All in all ita ‘s very interesting design that is a good mixture of looks and use.

Key Features
  • 6-Inch Width
  • Stainless Steel Construction
  • 350-Pound Weight Capacity
  • ABS Plastic Foots Pads
Specification
  • Brand Auto Dynasty
  • Model AD-STEPB-ZTL-8017

Best Running Boards Buying Guide & FAQ

Those are the best running boards and Nerf bars on the market today then. In the next section, we’ll take a deep dive into the features to look out for, consider some of the advantages of using these products and also answer some of the questions a lot of people seem to have about them.

Read on, in short, for top quality Running Board knowledge!

What to Consider when Buying a Running Board

  • Step Construction Material. One of the big questions you should ask yourself is what is the board or bar actually made off? In our list, we have only included boards that are made of metal – aluminum or stainless steel. To our minds, metal boards and bars provide the bets strength whilst also keeping weight down. If you look elsewhere you may see products constructed mainly of plastic. Yes, they can look good and yes, they can be cheaper. But they are also much weaker, can’t take anywhere near as much weight and are also more vulnerable to bumps and scrapes.
  • Stepping Pad Material. Just as important as the base material is what the stepping area above is made off. Plastic is the usual material, and it is usually a very had wearing grade. Rubber can also be found, often on more high-end products. A rubber stepping pad will give lots of grip, making it the best option for truck and SUV drivers who live in areas with poor weather
  • Width can have two benefits. It can provide more protection for the vehicle paintwork (see below) and will also generally provide a wider footpad area for stepping. The negative is that a wide board or bar can restrict your access to the underneath of the vehicle, and you’ll probably need to invest in a good jack and car ramps to get the elevation you need to work under the car.

Benefits of Using Running Board  

There are a number of useful advantages to suing truck running boards and Nerf bars. These advantages include:

  • Step Up Assistance. Probably the primary reason to install truck steps is, literally, to help people to step up into the vehicle. That can be especially helpful if you have a very raised cab and/or if your passengers are elderly or very young or have decreased mobility for any reason.
  • A big pro of running boards is that they can offer protection to the side bodywork and paint from road debris. Larger cars, especially trucks, often have deeply grooved tires, and those tires can kick a lot of road surface debris like stones up at the vehicle. Running boards – especially wider boards – can protect the car by blocking a lot of that debris.
  • Don’t underestimate what a positive impact running boards and Nerf bars can have on the appearance of your car. After all, if they had no impact no one would bother making them of eye catching designs and materials – they would probably just be lumps of wood nailed onto the side of trucks. As it is you can get a wide variety of styles and materials, some designed to pop and catch attention, some designed with subtler styling to accentuate the vehicle’s own design or paintwork.

Running Board or a Nerf Bar

Pepsi vs. Coke. Nike vs. Adidas. Ronald vs. the Colonel. Now, a new battle emerges, two seasoned warriors are stepping onto the blood soaked sand of the Coliseum. It is the battle to end all battles, the fight that every truck, Jeep and SUV owner has wrestled with since time immemorial:

Running Boards vs. Nerf Bars.

Finally, after decades of bloody conflict, Car Bibles can reveal that the answer to this question that has long plagued mankind is:

Both are great options.

That’s it, that’s your answer folk. They are both great options. A running board is usually a little wider, which can provide a more solid base that could be useful if you regularly carry children and/or the elderly in your car. A nerf bar on the other hand by only having smaller step points can really show off the base construction material, making them maybe a little more pleasing to the eye.

Best Running Boards FAQ:

Got yourself a question about truck running boards or Nerf bars, sir? Step right up and get them answered here.

Q: How do I install a running board?

Broadly speaking, installation is pretty simple. Most running boards and Nerf bars come with bracket style installation. The bracket holes line up perfectly with holes that are already pre-drilled in the bodywork by the vehicle manufacturer. You merely locate the holes and clear them up (either remove the tape or plastic plugs the vehicle manufacturer fitted), line up the holes with the brackets and bolt them on – use your impact wrench for the tightest seal. In the rare instances where the running board brackets don’t match up – or if you are trying to install a product not specifically designed for your vehicle, you may need to drill holes in your car bodywork first.

Q: How much weight can a running board support?

It will differ from product to product, but expect a running board to have a weight capacity of between 350 to 500 pounds.

Q: What is a running board made off?

The lower part – the board or the bar – is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. The upper part, the footpad section, is usually plastic, sometimes rubber.

Q: Will installing running boards void any part of my vehicle’s warranty?

As always, read the warranty thoroughly before making any upgrades or amendments to your vehicle. That being said, as we mentioned above, many boards and bars are designed to attach to the vehicle via the pre-existing holes the manufacturer themselves put there. So if you use them, you are not altering anything and your warranty should be fine.  If you have to start drilling holes or otherwise amending the preexisting drill holes however, they count as alterations that could void the warranty.

Our Top Pick 

You don’t have to put a tiger in your tank, but you definitely should put a Tyger on the side of your vehicle. Our selection for top pick is the Tyger Auto textured Nerf Bar. As we mentioned in our review, it was such a cool design that sat in the middle between a traditional running board and a Nerf Bar. By straddling that line, it was able to bring the best of both worlds – the practicality and toughness of running boards, the eye caching visuals of a Nerf Bar.

It was also easy to install, had a reasonable price tag and was clearly constructed to a tough, long lasting finish. For all of those reasons (and also so we could make the Tiger/Tyger joke), this is our Top Pick.

Sources:

  1. Drilling Holes in Bodywork, HowCarsWork.com
  2. Car Warranty Guide, DMV.org
 

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