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Best Running Boards (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

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BY/ LAST UPDATED ON November 15, 2021

Running boards are an integral part of vehicle safety, providing a wider stepping surface to step in and out of your vehicle with a steady foot. They may also protect your undercarriage and rocker panels from getting blasted by road debris kicked up by your wheels or when you go off-roading. Today, running boards are generally made using molded plastic, steel, or aluminum, with the choice of wheel-to-wheel or compact (hoop step) styles. With the sheer number of running boards on the market, we've cluttered through the mess and produced an in-depth buying guide with our top recommendations.

Best Overall

AMP Research Powerstep XL Electric Running Boards

Summary

Automatic, electric running boards with a heavy-duty, die-cast aluminum construction and anti-pinch technology.

Pros
  • Automatically extends and retracts in one second
  • Durable die-cast aluminum construction
  • Monstrous 600-pound weight capacity
  • Solid five-year, 60,000-mile warranty
Cons
  • Very heavy (104 pounds)
  • Higher than average cost
Best Value

Tac Side Steps

Summary

Alloy steel running boards with a minimalist design  and rubberized non-slip poly wide step pads for traction.

Pros
  • Minimalist design with no distinguishable markings
  • Rubberized non-slip and wide step pads for traction
  • UV and rust-resistant, powder-coated finish
  • Generous three-year warranty
Cons
  • Poorly written installation instructions
  • Limited protection for underside and rocker panel
Honorable Mention

Tyger Auto Running Boards

Summary

Heavy-duty, wheel-to-wheel, 2-inch metal tubing with an interesting design consisting of star cutouts.

Pros
  • E-coated and sealed end caps for rust resistance
  • Wheel-to-wheel coverage protects underside and rocker panels
  • Intriguing, star cutout design
  • Excellent limited lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Extremely heavy; harder to install due to weight
  • E-coating not chip-resistant
Best Running Boards (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Our Methodology

For this review, we researched more than 40 different running boards, grading them in four key categories: construction, design, surface, and size/weight capacity. All different styles of running boards were paired up against one another, including nerf bars, side steps, and full cab-length options. Of the 40 different running boards, we narrowed our selection to seven. To learn more about how we research products and the methodology used to select the best, please visit About Guides & Gear, And The Drive’s Product Reviews Department.

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Best Running Boards Reviews & Recommendations

For a super heavy-duty, electric-powered pair of running boards, the AMP Research Powerstep XL Electric Running Boards are an excellent choice. These cab-length running boards automatically extend and retract when opening and closing your door in one second, maximizing side clearance. Don’t worry about erratic motion, as the built-in, anti-pinch technology helps prevent that. Both running boards also hang low, making them very useful with lifted trucks.


We like the AMP Research Powerstep XL Electric Running Boards' rugged construction, holding up well with a textured and powder coated die-cast aluminum construction. Each running board also has a 600-pound weight capacity. It even carries built-in LED lighting—great for finding your way in the dark when puddle lights aren’t enough.


Product Specs

  • Type: Electric running boards
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Dimensions: 93 x 13 x 12 inches

Pros

  • Automatically extends and retracts in one second
  • Durable die-cast aluminum construction
  • Monstrous 600-pound weight capacity
  • Solid five-year, 60,000-mile warranty

Cons

  • Very heavy (104 pounds)
  • Higher than average cost

The Tac Side Steps are as bare-bones a pair of running boards as it gets. Although not offering much in the way of style points, they are constructed using sturdy and durable alloy steel, capped with a powder-coated finish for rust and abrasion resistance. Two rubberized non-slip poly wide step pads sit flush on each side step, providing lots of traction and confidence when stepping in and out.


Another important distinction with the Tac Side Steps is its straightforward installation. Although its installation manual leaves a lot to be desired, no drilling, cutting, or other types of modification is required. Simply attach each side step to your vehicle with bolts and you are good to go. Bonus points for a generous three-year warranty that covers the product against manufacturer defects.


Product Specs

  • Type: Side rails
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Dimensions: 85 x 5 x 17 inches

Pros

  • Minimalist design with no distinguishable markings
  • Rubberized non-slip and wide step pads for traction
  • UV and rust-resistant, powder-coated finish
  • Generous three-year warranty

Cons

  • Poorly written installation instructions
  • Limited protection for underside and rocker panel

The Tyger Auto Running Boards is a deeply imposing set of running boards as each running board is made using heavy-duty, 2-inch metal tubing, each extending wheel-to-wheel to absorb underside and rocker panel impact. A textured e-coating and sealed end caps offer rust, moisture, and dirt resistance, designed to hold up very well in extreme weather conditions.


Another plus with the Tyger Auto Running Boards is its quirky design. Each running board has two metal plates with four star cutouts apiece, capped off by the stamped Tyger logo for extra ruggedness. Add a 500-pound weight capacity for each running board and you have yourself a true monster. They are, however, extremely heavy and hard to install due to their weight. And the e-coating isn’t chip resistant.


Product Specs

  • Type: Running boards
  • Material: Metal
  • Dimensions: 76 x 12.6 x 19 inches

Pros

  • E-coated and sealed end caps for rust resistance
  • Wheel-to-wheel coverage protects underside and rocker panels
  • Intriguing, star cutout design
  • Excellent limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Extremely heavy; harder to install due to weight
  • E-coating not chip resistant

For one of the most rugged pairs of running boards in the business, look no further than the Go Rhino Dominator D6 Running Boards. These running boards offer a heavy-duty steel construction and super-wide 6-inch stepping surface with a busy-looking, raised hexagonal pattern that is designed to offer excellent traction in dry and wet weather. It’s definitely one of the busier patterns we’ve researched, though.


Even better, this pair of running boards come with a five-year limited warranty, which is nice to have, considering these products generally see two- and three-year warranties. One downside, however, is its weight. At 109.1 pounds, these running boards are one of the heaviest options we've researched, so be sure to have a second person help with installation.


Product Specs

  • Type: Running boards
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Dimensions: 91 x 7.5 x 9.5 inches

Pros

  • Made of durable alloy steel
  • Extra-wide, 6-inch stepping surface for stability
  • Raised hexagonal pattern for traction
  • Textured powder-coated finish for rust resistance

Cons

  • Higher than the average cost
  • Very heavy (109.1 pounds)

The Bully BBS-1103 Side Steps offer the ultimate space-saving solution as rather than longer, wheel-to-wheel running boards, each step resembles a horse stirrup or horseshoe, and is constructed using cast aluminum with a 3.5-inch, textured non-slip side step to enter and exit your vehicle safely. A 350-pound weight limit also gives it plenty of holding power.


One of our favorite features with the Bully BBS-1103 Side Steps is that it offers a universal fit for many models from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, Toyota, and any other vehicle with a flat and square mounting surface. It's a welcome change from running boards, which may require specific adapters and are generally reserved for select makes and models. Plus, it is far easier to install using the provided hardware with only one person needed.


Product Specs

  • Type: Side steps
  • Material: Aluminum and chrome
  • Dimensions: 11 x 12.2 x 6 inches

Pros

  • Lightweight and durable cast aluminum construction
  • 3.5-inch textured step pad for stability
  • Offers a universal fit and is super easy to install
  • Solid 350-pound weight limit

Cons

  • Not the most durable hardware
  • Heavy wear and tear may chip and expose bare metal

The Westin 56-24135 HDX Xtreme Nerf Step Bars does a little bit of everything well. They extend the length of the cab, constructed using durable powder-coated alloy steel. What we appreciate the most are its oversized injection molded step pads, sitting off-center off of the running board's frame to help people step safely.


Another thing we like about the Westin 56-24135 HDX Xtreme Nerf Step Bars is how easy they are to install. Simply remove the running boards, locate your rocker panel's mounting locations, and secure all brackets to the panel using the provided hardware. Although heavy, it is not as heavy as some of the 100+ pound monsters on our list. They are, however, only compatible with Chevrolet models, so be aware of such limitations.


Product Specs

  • Type: Side step bars
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Dimensions: 90 x 9 x 8 inches

Pros

  • Very easy to install
  • Excellent traction from injection molded step pads
  • Long than average warranty length (three years)

Cons

  • Only compatible with select Chevrolet models

The Steelcraft STX100 Running Boards offers one of the more minimalist designs we've researched. They offer a sturdy aluminum construction extending from wheel to wheel with a 6-inch stepping surface with a rubber step pad for nice traction when climbing in and out of your vehicle.


We appreciate the Steelcraft STX100 Running Boards design, which doesn't call out too much attention. If there is one word to describe it, it is sleek. Its tread pattern is very basic with no raised step pads, capped off by stainless steel protective side trim to give it plenty of pop, regardless of your vehicle's color. Like many of our recommendations, the Steelcraft STX100 Running Boards also come with a limited lifetime warranty.


Product Specs

  • Type: Running boards
  • Material: Alloy steel
  • Dimensions: 73 x 12 x 8 inches

Pros

  • Extra-wide 6-inch stepping surface
  • Sleek stainless steel protective side trim
  • Durable aluminum construction
  • Excellent limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Only compatible with select Nissan Rogues
  • Not the greatest ground clearance

Our Verdict on Running Boards

Our pick for the best running boards goes to the AMP Research Powerstep XL Electric Running Boards. These automatic, electric running boards are as rugged as they come, complete with a die-cast aluminum construction, 600-pound weight capacity, and automatic extension and retraction when opening and closing your car door. We appreciate its streamlined design and anti-pinch technology to keep your step in place without moving.

What to Consider When Buying Running Boards

Types of Running Boards

Running Boards

Traditional running boards usually extend wheel to wheel, sitting flush against your vehicle's body, and are constructed using aluminum or stainless steel and include full-length, textured strips or evenly spaced out pads for secure footing. Stepping surface width usually ranges anywhere from 4-6 inches. Tread can also range from the shockingly simple (thin, raised ridges) to more complex, perforated grate patterns, good for scrubbing dirt off soles before entering your vehicle.

Side/Hoop Step

A hoop step sounds just as the name implies. It’s a stirrup-shaped step with a textured, rubberized surface, diamond tread, or other textured patterns for slip-resistance. Plus, unlike cab-length running boards, its space-saving dimensions allow it to be mounted in multiple locations, such as underneath doors or behind the rear axle for easy cargo bed access.

We appreciate hoop steps for their ease of installation, as they generally weigh no more than 10 pounds each and are easily mounted using provided hardware without needing a second person.

Running Boards Key Features

Type

There are two different styles of running boards: traditional running boards and side steps (hoop, rounded, oval). Each offers key advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.

Cab-length or wheel-to-wheel running boards offer a flatter and wider step area, offering better ground clearance for lower vehicles. Usually, no gap is kept between the running board and your vehicle's rocker panel. They may also come with a single full-length step pad, multiple smaller individual pads, or tread that extends the entire length of the board.

Another advantage of running boards is extra undercarriage and rocker panel protection due to their greater coverage area and flush position against your rocker panels, a nice-to-have on the off-road.

In turn, side steps (hoop, rounded, or oval) offer a tubular—not flat—construction. They are popular for taking up little space, mounting low, and creating more separation between your vehicle's body. If you don't mind a narrower width and less weight capacity, then side steps are a formidable option.

Construction

Running boards are generally made out of one of three types of material: aluminum, stainless steel, or molded plastic. Go with aluminum for lighter weight and stainless steel for strength, durability, and a higher weight capacity. Avoid molded plastic at all costs, as it tends to produce little to no traction, carry a lower weight capacity, and miss baseboards for stability.

Note that both aluminum and stainless steel may be treated using powder or e-coating for extra rust, abrasion, and impact resistance.

Design

We appreciate running boards for thoughtful designs that incorporate textured, slip-resistant, and rubberized step pads for steady footing when climbing in and out of your vehicle. Other designs focus on diamond-style tread or indented tubing over the step pads.

Weight Capacity

All of our recommended running boards have a minimum weight capacity of 300 pounds. Some reach as high as 500 pounds. With running boards, nerf bars, and side steps carrying nothing more than bodyweight, a 300-pound weight capacity is more than enough for most vehicles.

Brands to Know 

Westin

Based in San Dimas, Calif., Westin Automotive is one of the most popular automotive aftermarket manufacturers in the country, covering everything from nerf step bars to grille guards and winch mounts. It has several running board lines in premium and value categories from the minimalist yet imposing Thrasher line to the high-grade Platinum 4 series. All products are proudly made in the USA.

Tyger

Founded in 2013 in California, Tyger's product line is well-diversified, with a focus on running boards, bumpers, guards, and fender flares. The company’s mission is to bring innovative, high-quality products to the market, with a focus on durability, and style.

TAC

An acronym for "Truck Accessories Company," TAC has been in business for more than 20 years. It manufactures aftermarket car and truck accessories. Two of its most popular products are the I4 running boards, Rattler Hitch Step, and 3-inch side steps.

Bully

Founded in 1995, Bully Truck Accessories focuses on aftermarket truck parts. It focuses heavily on aluminum side steps and running boards for different models from Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge.

Go Rhino

In business since 1975, the family-owned Go Rhino has several product lines. Inventors of the original modular grille guard, it manufactures modular grille/brush guards, sidebars, and universal steps. All products adhere to ISO9001 certification which speaks to the highest level manufacturing standards, meaning countless hours spent into product development and testing.

Amp Research

Amp Research is a popular manufacturer of power running boards and truck bed steps. It offers four major product categories: the SMT Series, Powerstep, Powerstep XL, and the Xtreme, each meeting a specific need (e.g. extra-rugged options and lifted truck designs) It does all of its magic at a Tustin, Calif.-based 55,000 square foot facility.

Steelcraft

Also based in California, Steelcraft is a manufacturer of truck and SUV accessories not exclusive to running boards and side steps. It offers a healthy range of bull bars, grille guards, bed rails, tonneau covers, and other accessories designed to make life easier on the road.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and running boards. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Avoid molded plastic running boards. Although affordable, they may miss key stability pieces, such as baseboards, and offer a poor grip in cold weather.
  • Weight capacity for most running boards is generally between 300 and 600 pounds.
  • In addition to serving as a step, running boards also provide some protection against road debris shot up by wheels. Expect your undercarriage and rocker panels to see a lot less punishment.
  • If you like clean vehicle lines, go for retractable hoop steps or electric running boards. They are designed to extend/swing out and retract with a quick push or upon opening and closing a door.
  • Some running boards include built-in LED lights to illuminate the stepping surface, making it safer to climb in and out of your vehicle in the dark.
  • For maximum ground clearance, while off-roading, we recommend retractable power running boards or retractable hoop steps.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: Are aluminum running boards better than steel?

A: It depends on what you are looking for. In general, steel offers greater strength, a higher weight capacity, and greater wear resistance than aluminum running boards. Aluminum running boards are especially known for being lighter weight. By all means, never invest in ABS plastic running boards. They are scratch magnets and do not offer the same durability as aluminum and steel.

Q: Are powered running boards worth it?

A: Powered (electric) running boards are a great option for those who want max ground clearance, especially with lowered vehicles. When doors are closed, they retract and partially hide/fully hide underneath your truck. Additionally, some drivers consider them cosmetic upgrades, preferring not to have bulky running boards extending from the sides.

Q: Do trucks look better with running boards?

A: It depends on the individual. Many people prefer running boards because they may give the illusion of less ground clearance. Others give trucks a more streamlined appearance. Remember, running boards may also help with deflecting road debris, protecting your paintwork.

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