No matter what you want to call them side steps and running boards are a necessity for your truck. Even if you are extremely tall or you might not need them, trust us when we say you will encounter someone that will need them. Plus, they also look pretty cool in our opinion. If you are looking into buying new side steps or running boards for your truck, then you have come to the right place.
While there are many companies and brands out that create and sell very good quality side steps and running boards, there is only a handful that truly stands out. Check out our picks and see if your favorite side steps or running board has made the list. Or if you are looking for new ideas, then we hope that you will give some of these brands a try.
Let’s get started!
What exactly is the difference between side steps and running boards?
Before we get started, we must note that although most people know their overall function, they still tend to get side steps and running boards confused. They both act as steps to help you get up and down your truck easily but they are not the same thing.
For example, sidebars have individual step pads that go with each door. They also have a narrower width than running boards.
Before we dive into the list, let’s take a look at the differences between side steps and running boards. That way you can decide which of the two you prefer; let’s get started!
What are side steps?
First on our list are side steps. Side steps have many nicknames, including but not limited to: step bars, side steps, and nerf bars. If you have ever heard anyone use these terms, then he or she is talking about side steps.
The main objective of a sidebar is to provide a “stair” or a “step” for you to get into your tall truck. Imagine getting into a super tall truck by simply jumping onto it, and hoping, by some miracle that you make it to the door. Most people do not want to take the risk of missing, landing wrong, or simply looking silly every time they step inside and outside of their truck. Hence, why side steps were invented.
With that said, side steps are normally used for bigger and taller vehicles such as SUVs and larger pickup trucks. They are more practical on larger vehicles for obvious reasons but so many people love the look of them that they also buy them for their smaller vehicles.
So do not be too surprised to find some side steps on compact SUVs and crossovers as well. Who says accessories can only be functional or decorative right? With the right side steps you will not only have a functional piece but it will also double as a decorative accessory.
Do keep in mind if you want to purchase sidebars that are made to mount with some space between the step and the body of the vehicle. How much space really depends on the model but the majority of side steps are only a few inches apart.
If your truck is on the lower side and you are afraid side steps will not work for you, then we have great news: side steps were designed to mount low on the car. This will allow for less ground clearance but it will also provide functional steps for lifted vehicles.
Lastly, it is important to note that sidebars normally have individual step pads to go with each door on the vehicle.
If you prefer a narrow step then you should stick with side steps since the majority of them are more narrow than typical running boards.
If all of that information was a lot to take in (we totally understand), then here is a short but sweet checklist to keep in mind:
- If you prefer a narrower width than consider side steps.
- Most side steps do offer custom step pads.
- With side steps, there is less extra space between the step and the vehicle. Some drivers must like this look and some might not. How good that looks is a matter of preference and also what kind of car you have.
- Side steps also offer less ground clearance so it will be easier to step on higher vehicles or lifted vehicles.
What are running boards?
Next on our list, are running boards. If you like the functionality and the practical side steps but there is something about the way they look that does not sit right with you, then you might want to consider looking into some running boards.
What are running boards you ask?
Well, running boards are similar to sidebars as they also provide a stepping step into the vehicle.
However, and here is the biggest difference, unlike sidebars, running boards mount against the vehicle’s rocker panel. They are also closer to the rocker panel than side steps would be, so there is no gap.
Running boards are a lot wider than sidebars as well so if you like the look of wider steps then you should consider running boards over side steps. Running boards have a flatter profile.
So what is the biggest difference between side steps and running boards? Instead of having singular “steps” placed on step pads, the stepping surface is the length of a board, hence the name.
Remember these tidbits about running boards:
- They are wider than side steps.
- Running boards can be found on larger pickup trucks and SUVs. However, smaller vehicles tend to have them installed because drivers like the look.
- Running boards offer more ground clearance than side steps.
What are the best side steps and running boards for your truck?
Now that we got the definitions and differences out of the way, let’s dive into the fun stuff. Here are the top 5 best side steps and running boards. No matter what option you go with, you will not be disappointed.
- First on the list are the Ionic Stainless Steel Curved Nerf Bars.
- The Ionic Stainless Steel Curved Nerf Bars have the classic look that many drivers like because these nerf bars get the job done without being too flashy.
- The Ionic Stainless Steel Curved Nerf Bars also has tough stainless steel construction so you can ensure that you are getting quality products.
- A con to the Ionic Stainless Steel Curved Nerf Bars is that they are difficult to install and some say that the mounting brackets that come with the Ionic Stainless Steel Curved Nerf Bars are not that great.
- The Tyger Auto Star Armor Kit is known for its tough, nerf-style look that many truck owners love.
- The Tyger Auto Star Armor Kit has a unique look that is distinguishable from the rest. So if you are someone that does not want to have the same side steps or running boards as most truck owners out there, then be sure to look into the Tyger Auto Star Armor Kit.
- The Tyger Auto Star Armor Kit is not the most inexpensive out there so if you want this kit then know that it will not come cheap.
- Another con for the Tyger Auto Star Armor Kit is that despite having heavy, quality material, those same materials make it hard to install.
- Westin Brite Aluminum Step Board has made a name for themselves by stating that their product is “universal.” This means that they do not believe in the whole “one-size-fits-all” mentality. You will find the Westin Brite Aluminum Step Board sold in different lengths, this way you do not have to hope it will fit your truck, you will know.
- Whether you have a crew cab, a long box, a short box, a diesel, or just a regular cab, the Westin Brite Aluminum Step Board is worth checking out.
- One con some users have reported is that the Westin Brite Aluminum Step Board running boards are difficult to install. They also have the issue where they are not as wide as some of the other steps out there on the market.
- However, users do admit that once the Westin Brite Aluminum Step Board is on your truck, they are not going anywhere. So despite being a bit difficult to install, they are very sturdy.
- If you are someone that does not ask for anything more than a simple design then we will do you one better: how about we give you some side steps that are simple but also affordable?
- We are talking about the TAC Side Steps.
- TAC Side Steps are an affordable set of running boards that come in a variety of different diameters.
- The TAC Side Steps comes in bright and black finishes and they all feature rubberized step sections for added grip and security.
- TAC Side Steps are also easy to install and they mount to your truck very easily as well.
- The company is so confident in their product that they offer a 3-year warranty.
- Despite great reviews when they are on the truck, some customers have complained that the instructions that come with the side steps are vague and a bit confusing. If you decide to go with the TAC Side Steps, then we would suggest looking online for some extra guidance and information from past installers.
- Now we are saying that we saved the best for last but we will say that the APS iBoard Running Boards do have some great reviews.
- The APS iBoard Running Boards are attractive looking and super easy to install, sounds like a win-win right?
- The APS iBoard Running Boards are also available in a simple chrome or a powder-coated matte black finish. They come in a variety of diameters and lengths which will give you many choices when you look into them.
- Price-wise, the APS iBoard Running Boards comes in a little under $200 for a 5-inch set. So the APS iBoard Running Boards are not super expensive but they are also not the cheapest running boards out there.
- The APS iBoard Running Boards are also very durable, having been made of full metal construction and all.
- They also include a low-profile design so they will not stand in your way when they are not needed.
- However, with so many pros there also comes a few cons. Some buyers have complained that boards do scratch easily.
In Conclusion| Do you need side steps and running boards? Or should you just save your money?
Most people may not know this, since the terms are used interchangeably so often, but running boards and side steps are not the same things. Yes, if you have read through the entire article you would know that. However, did you know that tube steps and nerf bars are also common names for these configurations?
Most people do not bother to learn the difference between these terms because all they need to know is that they “lift” you up into the truck more securely by acting as a step. This is needed and very helpful if you have a tall truck or a lifted 4-wheeler.
Side steps, running boards, or whatever you want to call them are not super cheap either so we can understand why you might want to skip on them.
However, when it comes to truck accessories, we believe that side steps and running boards are more practical than they are decorative.
Ask any of your passengers whether getting side steps or installing running boards would offend them and the answers will most likely be no.
These “boosters” for your trucks are also extremely helpful during the colder months with rain and snow. Or if you have young children or elderly family members, then these side steps and running boards will be much needed.