Difference Between Nerf Bars & Running Boards

Originally published on Sep 1, 2021 | Updated on Aug 10, 2023

Written by
 RealTruck Expert Team

Running boards and nerf bars both make it easier to get in and out of your truck or SUV. The key difference between these two truck steps is that running boards provide a wide, flat step while nerf bars are round or oval in shape with diameters starting at 3 inches. We go into more depth about the similarities and differences between truck running boards and nerf bars below.

Nerf Bars vs Running Boards

Nerf Bars

Nerf bars are almost always made of stainless or carbon steel, though there are a few aluminum models as well. Most nerf bars have a step pad on top of the bar at each entrance to the cab, but some manufacturers, such as N-Fab, also offer bars with hoop steps that drop down to provide a step closer to the ground.

On most vehicles, nerf bars are attached to the vehicle's rocker panel area using bolts and brackets that require no drilling. Cab length nerf bars are the most common, but there are also wheel-to-wheel version that provide a convenient step into the side of your bed for accessing cargo or a tool box. Whichever bar you choose, multiple finishes are available including polished, chrome, gloss black, and textured black.

Running Boards

A running board is a flat step, usually four inches or wider, that runs either the length of your cab or full length to provide a step going into the bed. They can be made of aluminum, steel, composite plastic, fiberglass, or a combination of materials. Running boards for trucks drop down about three inches from your vehicle's pinch weld, making it easier for you to enter and exit the cab.

Some brands, such as AMP and Aries, even offer electric running boards that deploy when you open one of your truck's doors and retract when not in use. These boards come down as low as 10 inches, making them a great choice for customers who need maximum drop distance.

When you purchase nerf bars or running boards from RealTruck.com, hardware and brackets are always included, ensuring you'll have all the parts you need to get the job done. If you have questions about nerf bars, running boards, or any other truck accessories, chat or call our product experts.

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