Updated May 2022
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Buying guide for best running boards

Most people who add running boards to their truck or SUV have one or more important reasons for doing so. First, because some vehicles are especially tall, it can be difficult to climb inside the cab without a little boost. A running board provides an extra step between the ground and the interior of the vehicle.

Second, running boards can serve as a shield for your vehicle side panels. As your truck or SUV drives along, it’s bound to kick up road debris that could damage the finish of your ride. Running boards help minimize this.

Finally, many truck and SUV owners feel that running boards just plain look good. If you’re looking to add a sense of “bulk” or a more finished appearance to your ride, running boards might be the answer.

At BestReviews, we work hard to narrow down your shopping options so you can find what you’re looking for with ease. Please see our recommendations to learn about our favorite running board choices. If you’d like to find out more about running boards before making a purchase, just keep reading.

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What is the purpose of running boards? That depends on who you are. Some people are primarily concerned with stepping safely into the vehicle. Others are looking to beautify the vehicle. And some people have both of these purposes in mind when they buy running boards.

Running board options

Dozens of different running board styles are available. Most styles fit into one of the following four categories listed below.

Notably, each running board model will fit only certain makes and models of vehicles. Make sure the running boards you purchase are compatible with your vehicle.

Traditional running boards

The traditional running board is a flat step that mounts to the side of the vehicle. This board can be anywhere from a few inches to several inches wide. Sometimes called step boards, these traditional boards may have textured strips to provide a sure grip for your foot.

Rocker bars

A rocker bar is a metal tube that mounts to the side of the vehicle. Some rocker bars are wide enough and set far enough away from the vehicle to serve primarily as a step. Others are set tightly to the vehicle; the primary function of these bars is to protect the vehicle’s side panels from rocks and other debris that may bounce off the road.

Side steps

A side step, also called a nerf bar, is round or oval rather than flat. The side step mounts to the vehicle, but there is usually a slight gap between it and the edge of the vehicle. This step often has an indention to match foot shape and/or grip pads for the feet.

Hoop steps

A small hoop step is only several inches wide. It mounts to the side of the vehicle, providing a simple means of stepping into the cab. However, because of its small size, a hoop step doesn’t add much style to the vehicle.

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Did you know?
Running boards are typically sold as one- or two-piece constructions that fit between wheel wells on varying vehicle lengths. You have to get the right length for your vehicle.

Pros and cons of running boards

Most people who drive a large truck or SUV appreciate having a running board installed on the side. However, not everyone is a fan of running boards. Here’s a look at the pros and cons.

Running board advantages

  • Running boards are helpful for young kids and some folks with limited mobility. If you commonly have passengers like these in your vehicle, a running board could prove quite helpful. Notably, some running boards only measure three or four inches across; your entire foot may not fit. For an able-bodied person, this might not be a big deal, but for someone with balance or strength issues, a wider running board may be a better choice.

  • A running board with a rough surface can help keep your vehicle’s interior cleaner. The reason: you can use the running board to scrape mud or dirt off your feet before climbing into the vehicle. Your passengers can do this, too.

  • A running board can help protect your vehicle’s paint job. This is especially true if you drive a lot of dirt or gravel roads. As the tires kick up rocks and debris, the side panel paint becomes vulnerable to scratches and dings. In many cases, running boards will block the debris from reaching the side panels.

  • Running boards make a style statement. You could go with traditional running boards that are somewhat unobtrusive. Or, if you choose to play it up, you could opt for running boards with a fun color, design, or even lights that are built right into the boards.

Running board disadvantages

  • Climbing under your vehicle can be difficult with running boards. If you need to work on the underside of your vehicle but don’t enjoy tight spaces, the presence of the running board could make you feel especially uncomfortable.

  • Running boards can be expensive. An average set costs at least $150; a high-end set may cost $1,000 or more. We explore running board prices in more detail below.

  • Some people simply don’t like the look of running boards. If you’re unsure on this count, we suggest looking at pictures of vehicles like yours with and without running boards to help determine your preference.

Running board prices

Running board prices can vary based on looks, power, durability, and other features.

  • Simple running boards typically cost at least $100, and that’s for the most basic and shortest running boards. You’ll spend between $150 and $300 for an average set of sturdy running boards that extend from wheel well to wheel well.

  • Heavy-duty running boards that can support extra weight call for higher-quality materials. As such, you could pay anywhere from $200 to $500 for this type of running board set.

  • Power-enabled running boards cost even more. Retractable running boards loom in the $750 to $1,500 range. These running boards are powered by a motor that moves them beneath the car and out of sight when they’re not needed.

If you choose to have your running boards installed professionally, expect to pay somewhere between $50 and $150 for labor. If any wiring must be done, such as for lighted boards, this cost could be higher.

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Running boards were commonly seen on the first cars manufactured in the early 1900s, as the vehicle bodies were too tall to climb into from the ground. Today, few sedans carry running boards; they’re mostly found on trucks and SUVs.


Q. Do I have any options for hiding my running boards from view when they aren’t in use?

A. Although most styles of running boards mount permanently to the lower frame of the vehicle, there are some power running boards that are retractable. These boards fold out of sight beneath the car frame until they’re needed. As you open the vehicle door, a small motor extends the running board outward so you can step on it. As mentioned above, this type of motor-powered running board tends to cost a lot more than a basic product.

Q. Do running boards have a weight limit?

A. Yes. Most running boards have maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds. However, there are some models made of reinforced materials that bump up the weight capacity to 500 or 600 pounds. You’ll need to check the manufacturer specs of your running boards to find the exact weight capacity.

Q. Can I install my own running boards, or will I have to hire a professional?

A. As long as you’ve purchased running boards that are designed to be compatible with your vehicle model and make, you should be able to install them yourself. You will need to have access to some basic tools to do the installation, including a socket set, wrenches, and pliers. Some kits require that you drill into the frame of the vehicle. Additionally, some running boards may require connecting to the vehicle’s electrical system, which can be tricky as a DIY project. In this case especially, you may wish to hire a professional.

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