Truck, Jeep and SUV running boards known as nerf bars or side steps run alongside your vehicle. 

Their main function is providing a step to enter and exit the vehicle easier. 

Made using a heavy-duty steel construction then topped with a non-slip pad for safety.

Truck running boards are one of few aftermarket accessories that add both a very practical use and a huge improvement to the aesthetic.

In This Article

There are many benefits to upgrading your pickup truck with a pair of aftermarket running boards, side steps or nerf bars.

Whether you’re an overlander or drive a lifted pickup truck. The addition of running boards makes entering and exit the vehicle a breeze. 

Aftermarket running boards provide a lower step to give you a boost into the driver’s seat. 

Also, because of the step halfway down it forces you to step out instead of slide-out saving your seats.

When off-roading or driving down rough roads. Rocks and other road debris tend to shoot up at the body paint causing rock ships. 

Aftermarket running boards prevent chips by blocking the rocks as they shoot up.

Nerf bars, sidesteps and running boards all offer varying levels of protection to road debris due to their unique differences.

Think of pickup truck running boards as being like the front door welcome mat at your house. 

Before entering your house you wipe your shoes off on the mat to get any dirt and mud off before going inside. 

Side steps have a non-slip grip on top that somewhat cleans off your boots before you enter the truck driver seat.

The addition of running boards to your truck or SUV completes the entire off-road or aggressive look. 

It’s one of the few aftermarket pickup truck accessories to cause such a huge appearance transformation.

When it comes to aftermarket running boards there are a few common options to consider. 

The three most common ones being running boards, nerf bars and side steps

Each style of pickup truck side step has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Jeep or truck running boards are wide, flat steps that secure under the doors. They provide a safe, non-slip boost into the vehicle.

Standard running boards vary between 3” to 6” wide. The wider the better for preventing rocks from your tires damaging your truck paint.

Find yourself in the dark a lot? Lighted aftermarket running boards have built-in LED lights on top and the bottom of the step. 

These lights wire right to the door ajar sensor providing a useful outer light when the door is open.

Retractable electric running boards are a luxury sidestep option for pickup trucks, Jeeps and SUVs. 

These running boards automatically fold out whenever the door opens then tuck away when closed.

Powered running boards have a control module under the hood called an OBD-II port. Wiring connects from the OBD-II to power motors on the step bracket ends.

Most aftermarket models have the option to include LED lights or upgraded trim.

Aftermarket nerf bars are circular or oval tubes that stretch below the doors to provide a step. 

Nerf bars have flat cutouts underneath the four doors with a non-slip grip for a safe and easy entrance.

Aftermarket truck side steps provide safe and easy access to your vehicle. 

Side steps are single stepping platforms that mount below the passengers and driver doorways.

For easy access into the bed of your truck, side steps can mount behind the rear axle.

An important question to ask yourself is what material is the side step made from? 

Aftermarket running boards are available in aluminum, stainless steel or ABS plastic materials.

Metal running boards such as aluminum and stainless steel offers higher strength, support more weight and are more scratch-resistant. 

Meanwhile, aftermarket side steps made from ABS plastics are prone to scratches and offer less strength.

Truck running boards are available in three main types: traditional running board, nerf bars and side steps. 

When choosing the perfect pair of running boards for your truck. You must ask yourself what style do you prefer and benefit you the most.

There are two main options for the stepping pad material: plastic and rubber. 

Plastic is the most common but, it gets slippery in colder climates and wears down with use. 

Rubber is a high-end long-lasting option that gives a great grip in all weather conditions.

An obvious one, be sure when you’re choosing a set of aftermarket running boards that you get the right length. 

There are side steps, nerf bars and running boards available for every pickup cab size.

What’s the max amount of weight that you need your aftermarket sidesteps to support? 

The amount of weight they hold varies on the model, but the total weight ranges between 300lbs – 550lbs.

Do you plan to DIY installing it in your garage or bring it to an auto body garage? 

There are aftermarket running boards easy to install for any DIYer. These ones bolt-on pre-drilled holes underneath the doorways. 

Meanwhile, other models of aftermarket steps need drilling into the rockers for installation.

Tyger Auto Star Armor nerf bars are high-quality running boards. They are available for most trucks and SUVs like Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Jeep Wranglers.

These bars are powder-coated matte black with stars and the Tyger logo cut into the step giving off a tough look. 

They have a strong one-piece design made from heavy-duty 2-inch steel. This allows gives them the strength to support up to 500lbs total weight.

Installing these running boards couldn’t be easier. They install by bolting onto the pre-cut mounting points near your rocker panels. 

But, this step is pretty heavy, it’s recommended to have a friend help you hold them in place while you bolt them on.

Tyger Auto Star Armor nerf bar running boards are a great choice for truck enthusiasts that want a strong step with a distinct look.

MaxMate oval nerf bars are eye-catching made using polished stainless steel construction. The appeal is long-lasting too because these steps include built-in UV protection. 

MaxMate nerf bar side steps are very safe. They feature a 4-inch wide non-slip stepping pad with deep grooves for added grip.

The Bully Black aluminum side steps are individual steps that mount below the passengers and driver door. 

These aftermarket side steps are a universal fit for almost every truck, Jeep and SUV providing a rugged look to the vehicle.

Bully Black side steps made from high-quality aluminum. Then, polished with a black powder coat for added corrosion resistance. 

They have non-slip grips on the top for safer entry and rated to support 350lbs of weight per step.

But, if you’re a frequent off-road driver these side steps may hinder your travels. 

These sidesteps reduce ground clearance. This increases your chance of hitting rocks and other objects.

A family-owned company, APS believes in putting quality first and it shows in this product. 

The iBoard is available in either chrome or a powder-coated matte black. APS iBoard models range between 4 – 6.5” wide.

They get manufactured with a uni-body design using high-grade aluminum. 

The end caps get welded using robotic arms. This ensures the greatest seal from the environment. 

They have a rubber grip on top ensuring they are slip-resistant. Also, quality tested using many different methods.

The APS iBoard running boards are a great choice for truck owners looking for a minimal side step available at a very affordable price.

A high rated running board that has a very OEM feel to it at a fraction of the cost. Another high-quality product from Tyger Auto is its 4-Inch riser running board.

Constructed in two different materials. One model is heavy-duty steel tubing with UV resistant padding. The other is heavy-duty mild steel tubing with a black powder coat.

Easy to install bolting right onto pre-existing holes on your vehicle’s rocker panels. 

They have a 4-inch wide pad perfect for entering and exiting the vehicle. It features a formulated triangular design for an increased life span.

Long-lasting due to a 3-step process. First, they get pre-treated, an E – Coat then finally finished with a dual-stage powder coat.

To further improve on their lifetime. Tyger Auto offers a hassle-free lifetime warranty policy in the rare chance you have an issue.

AMP Research created a luxury running board that plugs into your OBD-II port. This gives them power and the function to extend and retract. 

Whenever you open your door with AMP powered running boards they open up. Then, when you close the door the steps retract tucking away to the side.

They are very high-quality with a sleek design that is sure to catch other drivers off guard. 

These powered running boards support up to 600lbs of weight without any flex to them.

AMP Research PowerStep running boards are high-quality and a great choice for truck enthusiasts that don’t mind spending extra for the electronic features.

Rock Sliders and Running Boards are very different.

The function of running boards is to provide a helpful boost to get in the truck. Also, it helps to prevent getting dents to the body from car doors.

Rock Sliders are for off-road extremists and need extra drilling and/or welding.

Their purpose is to provide body protection from rocks and trees, a recovery point and to assist returning the vehicle to its wheels after a rollover.

They are very high-quality with a sleek design that is sure to catch other drivers off guard. These powered running boards support up to 600lbs of weight without any flex to them.

AMP Research PowerStep running boards are high-quality and a great choice for truck enthusiasts that don’t mind spending extra for the electronic features.

It depends on which model and brand of aftermarket running board that you buy. 

A lot of running boards fit a wide variety of pickup trucks. But, some fit certain models or may need some extra drilling to install.

Yes, running boards are very easy to install on most models of pickup trucks, Jeep and SUVs. 

They bolt-on the pre-existing mounting holes drilled in the rocker panels. But, some aftermarket running boards may need some extra drilling to install.

No, running boards are not necessary. But, running boards provide many useful benefits. 

Such as added protection, safer entry and exit into your truck and completely enhance the appearance of your ride.

They are very high-quality with a sleek design that is sure to catch other drivers off guard. 

These powered running boards support up to 600lbs of weight without any flex to them.

AMP Research PowerStep running boards are high-quality and a great choice for truck enthusiasts that don’t mind spending extra for the electronic features.

The effect of lighter aftermarket running boards will be negligible on gas mileage. But, heavier side steps can decrease fuel economy by about 4% for every 100lbs.

The average total weight that aftermarket running boards can hold varies between 300lbs – 650lbs. 

The weight limit depends on the construction quality and brand.

While you can vinyl wrap and/or paint your aftermarket running boards, it usually doesn’t last. 

A better option is to completely Plasti Dip them, costing around 8$.

Aftermarket running boards can get Plasti Dipped at a very affordable price, roughly 8$ total. 

The addition of aftermarket side steps to your pickup truck won’t void the dealer warranty.

The only way an aftermarket part can void your warranty is if the dealer proves that it was the cause of the issue/failure.

There are 4 easy steps to installing running boards on a truck.

  • Take the running boards and hardware out of the package
  • Line up the mounting brackets with the holes on your truck and bolt them on (If your truck doesn’t have pre-drilled holes refer to the manufacturers instructions on where to drill)
  • Connect the running boards to the brackets after they are firmly secured 
  • If lights are included, connect the wiring harness and wire it into your vehicle’s electric system.

How much do truck running boards weigh?

The average weight of truck running boards is roughly 50lbs

Six of the best aftermarket running boards available for trucks, Jeeps and SUVs are:

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