It can be difficult to decide between running boards and side steps for your car. The goal of both accessories is to make getting into and out of trucks, SUVs, and other high-clearance vehicles easier. However, a number of considerations, such as installation, vehicle requirements, aesthetics, and functionality, influence the decision. This blog will examine the distinctions between running boards and side steps and provide advice on which is best for your truck or car.

Understanding Side Steps

Side steps, also known as Nerf bars or step bars, are tubular devices that run along the side of a vehicle, typically mounted below the doors. They provide a stepping surface to assist with getting in and out of taller vehicles.

Pros of Side Steps:

  1. Versatility: Side steps come in various styles and sizes, allowing for more customization. You can choose from round, oval, or flat designs to match your vehicle’s aesthetic.
  2. Ground Clearance: Because side steps usually have a smaller profile compared to running boards, they do not reduce ground clearance as much. This is beneficial for off-road enthusiasts who need to maintain optimal ground clearance.
  3. Easy Installation: Many side steps are designed for easy bolt-on installation, making them a popular choice for DIY enthusiasts.

Cons of Side Steps:

  1. Limited Surface Area: The stepping surface on side steps is generally narrower than running boards, which can make them less comfortable to use, especially for larger individuals or those with mobility issues.
  2. Exposure: Side steps often leave a gap between the step and the vehicle body, which can expose users to more mud, debris, and road spray.

Understanding Running Boards

Running boards are flat, elongated steps that run along the length of the vehicle’s side. They offer a broader stepping surface compared to side steps.

Pros of Running Boards:

  1. Wide Surface Area: Running boards provide a wider stepping surface, making them more comfortable and safer for children, elderly passengers, and individuals with mobility issues.
  2. Protection: Running boards can act as a shield, protecting the lower side of your vehicle from road debris, mud, and other elements.
  3. Aesthetic Appeal: With their sleek and seamless appearance, running boards can enhance the visual appeal of a vehicle, giving it a more integrated and polished look.

Cons of Running Boards:

  1. Reduced Ground Clearance: Running boards can significantly reduce the ground clearance of a vehicle, which may not be ideal for off-road driving.
  2. Complex Installation: Installing running boards can be more challenging compared to side steps, often requiring professional installation.

Factors to Consider When Choosing

To determine whether side steps or running boards are better suited for your vehicle, consider the following factors:

1. Vehicle Usage

Think about how you primarily use your vehicle. If you often drive off-road or on rugged terrain, side steps may be the better option due to their minimal impact on ground clearance. For city driving or if your vehicle mainly serves as a family car, running boards may provide the added convenience and comfort you need.

2. Passenger Needs

Consider who will be using the vehicle regularly. If you frequently transport children, elderly passengers, or individuals with mobility issues, running boards offer a safer and more accessible option due to their wide and stable surface.

3. Aesthetic Preference

Your personal style and the look you want for your vehicle play a significant role. Side steps often provide a more rugged and sporty appearance, while running boards offer a sleek and integrated look.

4. Budget

Budget can be a determining factor. Side steps are generally more affordable and easier to install on your own, which can save on labor costs. Running boards, while potentially more expensive, offer additional features and benefits that may justify the higher price.

5. Installation

Consider your comfort level with vehicle modifications. Side steps usually have a simpler installation process, which can be a DIY project. Running boards often require more complex installation and may necessitate professional help.

Making Your Decision

After evaluating the factors above, you should have a clearer idea of which option suits your vehicle best. Here are some final tips to guide you:

  1. Research: Look up specific models of side steps and running boards for your vehicle make and model. Read customer reviews and ratings to get insights into real-world performance and satisfaction.
  2. Consult Professionals: Visit a reputable auto accessory shop or consult with professional step and running board installers in St. Louis. They can provide expert advice and recommend the best products based on your needs and vehicle specifications.
  3. Test Fit: If possible, test fit different options. Some dealers or auto shops may allow you to see how side steps or running boards look and feel on your vehicle before making a purchase.


Whether you choose side steps or running boards, both accessories offer significant benefits in terms of vehicle accessibility and protection. By considering your specific needs, usage, and preferences, you can make an informed decision that enhances both the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your vehicle. Remember, the right choice not only improves ease of access but also adds to the overall enjoyment of your driving experience.

Still confused about what to choose for your car or truck? Then reach out to Auto Trim Restyling today! With our 45 years of experience in the field, our steps and running bed installers in St. Louis can come up with the right solution that suits your car or truck and enhances the way you enter in and out of your truck.

Comments are closed.