Best Running Boards For Ram 1500 – 2021 Guide

Running boards are the great equalizer for many driver and passengers with short stature. With just a small step, you can easily hoist yourself into the driver’s seat of your Ram 1500. But the benefits of running boards don’t end there.

These aftermarket parts also protect the sides of your truck from rocks and debris, while also acting like a doormat to keep your truck clean. They can also add a stylistic benefit if you choose wisely.

Thanks to this trifecta of benefits, running boards are a popular accessory that you should consider to boost the profile and functionality of your Ram 1500.

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Comparison of the Best Running Boards For Ram 1500

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What Are Running Boards on a Truck?

Running boards are narrow strips of material that attach to the frame of your truck via bolts. Common on tall vehicles or those with a high clearance, running boards are becoming a common aftermarket component to make entering and exiting the vehicle easier, as well as protecting the doors and side panels from damage.

What Are Fixed Running Boards?

Fixed running boards are a specific type of running board that runs from the front fender to the back of the truck cab. As the name suggests, these are fixed in place, meaning they don’t move. This is in contrast to power running boards, which go up and down with the flick of a switch. Oftentimes, fixed running boards are also confused with nerf bars and side steps, which we’ll discuss below.


Are All Running Boards The Same?

Running boards come in many different styles and materials. In most cases, the major decision for buyers revolves around whether they want a fixed running board or a power (electric) running board. Both have their advantages. But typically, it’s a matter of preference.

Running boards also come in a variety of materials to match the look of your Ram 1500. This list includes:

  • Stainless steel
  • Chrome
  • Plastic
  • Rubber
  • Fiberglass

In addition, running boards may come with additional specs to enhance functionality and aesthetics, including LED lighting or custom molding to fit the contours of certain types of trucks.

Review of the Best Running Boards For Ram 1500

A seemingly infinite amount of running boards exist on the market from dozens of manufacturers, making the buying process a taxing event.

So to help you pare down these options, here are reviews of the best running boards for the Ram 1500.

Best Overall:AMP Research Powerstep XL Electric

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  • Made in the USA
  • Electric running boards both expand and retract
  • Steps extend 3 inches for comfortable entering and exiting
  • Contains a heavy-duty electric motor that meets OEM specifications
  • When retracted, boards housed in marine-grade aluminum for ultimate protection


  • Installing the wire harness requires some knowledge of electronics
  • Some buyers report that the motor not being centrally located can cause the rear side of the running boards to sag

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers report that AMP Research Powerstep XL Electric Running Boards are the perfect addition to the Ram 1500. By using the onboard diagnostic port for power, there’s no need for an additional power source. However, installation takes some knowledge of proper wiring, which some buyers found cumbersome and frustrating.

Why it Stands Out to Us

With a plug-and-play mechanism, these running boards provide the luxury of electric running boards without any hassles. They’re also made of lightweight aluminum, making them both light and durable with a weight capacity of 600 pounds. To top it off, a five-year, 60,000-mile warranty puts buyers’ minds at ease.

Bottom Line

Although AMP research Powerstep XL Electric Running Boards are more expensive than fixed options, the convenience and opulence may be worth the price for some buyers. And with retractable running boards comes a bonus: additional ground clearance for off-road driving. However, those on a budget may want to stick with a fixed running board to lower costs.

Runner-up:Westin TRAXX 5 Oval Nerf Step-Bars

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  • Mounting kit included
  • 5-inch stepping area to reduce slipping
  • Affordable compared to OEM and other comparable options
  • Injection molded step pad and bracket covers for extra durability
  • 30-degree bends at each end of bars provide the style and meet OE contours


  • Requires specialized tools (die or wire wheel Dremel) to complete installation
  • Factory studs can break during installation if the buyer doesn’t remove paint (directions included, but an arduous task)

What Recent Buyers Report

West TRAXX 5 Oval Nerf Step-Bars receive stellar reviews from buyers thanks to sturdiness, sportiness, and ease of installation for people with minimal knowledge or first-time installers. Despite mostly good reviews, other buyers report rust near the welded seam after only a few months, as well as the need to buy specialized tools to complete the installation.

Why it Stands Out to Us

For the price, a few other nerf bars can deliver what the Westin TRAXX 5 Oval Nerf Step-Bars can. Bolt-on installation is another bonus, meaning that the buyer can use factory-drilled holes without the need for additional drilling.

Bottom Line

Economical and visually stunning, these nerf bars have a one-two punch of benefits that most buyers will enjoy. Despite the overall quality, the installation might deter novice handymen from purchasing these nerf bars. But if you have time, tools, and some hands-on skills, these nerf bars are a bargain.

Best for the Money:Tyger Auto 4 inch Black

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  • Five-year warranty
  • Powder-coated to prevent corrosion
  • Mounting hardware and instructions included
  • Made with 4-inch-wide steel tubes for enhanced durability
  • Non-slip step pads to reduce the risk of injury in adverse weather conditions


  • Requires some drilling as part of the installation process
  • Pre-drilled holes on brackets don’t always line up with rails

What Recent Buyers Report

At a fraction of the cost of more well-known brands, Tyger Auto 4-Inch Black Running Boards are an excellent value. Most buyers report that the look and strength of the product are every bit as good as more expensive options. Moreover, the way the rails and boards fit, ground clearance isn’t affected all that much, making them an excellent choice for off-roading. However, some buyers report problems with the holes and brackets lining up, causing them to either drill their holes or return for a complete replacement.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Perhaps one of the most affordable options for functional running boards, this product will make your Ram 1500 appear more aggressive while also allowing you to get into the cab with ease. With a 400-pound weight capacity, they are also sturdy, allowing people to get into the cab on the same side without any problems. 

Bottom Line

Utilitarian and subtle, Tyger Auto 4-Inch Black Running Boards are a conspicuous choice for your Ram 1500 that still give you all the benefits of premium fixed running boards. Buyers who want something more sporty or electric should shop for something different.

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Best Mopar Running Boards Ram 1500:Mopar Stainless Steel Wheel-to-Wheel Tubular


  • Slip-preventive black composite step pads
  • Made of stainless steel for improved durability and longevity
  • Molded end caps perfectly match the look of the OE-style running boards
  • Mopar brand is one of the most trusted names for aftermarket parts for the Ram 1500
  • Wheel-to-wheel construction allows users to easily enter the cab and access the bed from the side


  • Pricey for fixed running boards
  • May not be compatible with some front splash guards

What Recent Buyers Report

With a name like Mopar, buyers expect the best, and these Mopar Stainless Steel Wheel-to-Wheel Tubular Fixed Running Boards don’t disappoint. Made to OE specifications, these are easy to install and look just like a customized option from the factory. However, other buyers report that these running boards are rather expensive compared to other similar offerings with less familiar brand names.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Mopar brand products are made to look just like an option that a buyer would get when they purchase the truck off the lot. As a result, these running boards blend seamlessly into the contours and style of the Ram 1500. Mopar also has several warranties and extended warranty options to help protect a buyer’s investment.

Bottom Line

Perfectly contoured to the body lines of the Ram 1500, Mopar Stainless Steel Wheel-to-Wheel Tubular Fixed Running Boards provide safety, full access to the cab and bed, and unparalleled style. However, those looking for a more affordable alternative should look elsewhere.

Best Running Boards for Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab:MaxMate 4 inch Oval Stainless Steel

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  • No-drill installation
  • Excellent value for the money
  • Grooved step pads prevent slippage
  • Nerf bar construction provides an appealing aesthetic
  • UV-resistant stepping pads prevent chalking or fading


  • Steel is thin which causes durability concerns
  • Even with grooves, step pads can be slippery when wet

What Recent Buyers Report

For the price, few other products can compete with the MaxMate 4-inch Oval Stainless Steel Nerf Bars. Installation is a breeze thanks to detailed directions and sturdy hardware. Plus, the stainless steel provides a stylish sheen that complements the chrome and steel of the Ram 1500. But like some other types of running boards, installation may also require a special die or Dremel with a wire brush to remove the bolts (which are already included on the underside of newer Ram 1500 models).

Why it Stands Out to Us

At the low end of the fixed nerf bar price spectrum, this product is affordable without sacrificing quality. Due to the styling, the nerf bars also appear as they came with the truck, giving hardcore Ram 1500 buyers another reason to celebrate.

Bottom Line

Although the installation process is a bit more involved than other bolt-on nerf bars, the aesthetic and price point are more than enough to keep buyers happy. Those concerned more about safety or access to the bed from the side may want to consider wheel-to-wheel running boards instead.

Best Running Boards for Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab:APS Drop Step – Crew Cab 09-18

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  • Powder-coated to prevent corrosion
  • Supports up to 300 pounds of weight
  • Made from high-quality, durable aluminum
  • Includes directions and all necessary hardware
  • Drop steps provide easy cab access for children, elderly, and shorter individuals


  • Reduced ground clearance due to drop steps
  • Drilling may be required for some trims of the Ram 1500

What Recent Buyers Report

On a positive note, the APS Drop Step – Crew Cab 09-18 Running Boards have perhaps the most functionality, providing an easy step up into the cabin. And with excellent directions, the installation process is a breeze for first-time buyers of running boards. But even with these benefits, the downside is that—while the drop steps make it easy to enter the cab—they’re too low to comfortably exit the vehicle, even for tall individuals.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Few other running boards offer dedicated drop steps that are specifically designed to improve safety and surface area for the feet. Overall, these running boards are surprisingly sturdy with little to no flex even when pushed to the max of its 300-pound weight limit. Add in a five-year warranty, and most buyers should feel confident when purchasing this product.

Bottom Line

With convenient drop steps, sturdy construction, and a rugged aesthetic, APS Drop Step – Crew Cab 09-18 Running Boards hit all the nails on the head. However, shorter people may find the steps too low to comfortably exit the vehicle while off-road enthusiasts may find the reduced ground clearance a deterrent to buy.

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What Size of Running Boards Do I Need?

When it comes to installing running boards on your Ram 1500, preference is the greatest determinant, as well as the length of the bed. Some running boards span only the length of the truck cab, which is probably all you need if you use the running boards as a step to get into the vehicle.

You can also purchase running boards that have wheel-to-wheel coverage. Instead of running just the length of the cab, these types of running boards have a second piece (or one longer piece) that extends from the front wheel to the rear wheel. Some brands offer a second piece to fit the size of your Ram 1500’s bed, whether it’s 5-feet, 7-inches, or the extended 6-feet, four-inches.


Pros and Cons of Running Boards 

Although running boards add a touch of style and practicality to your Ram 1500, they aren’t without a few drawbacks. By weighing the pros and cons of each, you can decide whether running boards are the right decision for your needs and tastes.


  1. Useful as a doormat to help keep your vehicle clean
  2. Protection to the fenders, wheel wells, doors, and side panels against rocks and other harmful debris
  3. Enables short persons, the elderly, and children to enter the truck without problems
  4. Stylish aftermarket addition that can add to the rugged or sporty appearance of the Ram 1500
  5. Prevents wear and tear on seats, as you’re less prone to slide across the seat when entering and exiting the vehicle


  1. Lowers overall ground clearance, which may affect performance or off-road or bottoming-out over speed bumps
  2. Can become a slipping hazard if wet; may also become clogged with snow or ice in the winter

Nerf Bars vs Running Boards – Comparison Overview

Nerf bars are similar to running boards in many ways, but with some key differences. Here is a quick comparison of the two products to help you recognize which one might work better for your Ram 1500.

Running Boards

As mentioned above, running boards are one or two pieces that bolt to the factory holes underneath the frame of the truck. They come in both power and fixed variants, allowing more options for various types of drivers. In addition, they come in smaller sections that span the length of the cab or from wheel to wheel and are wider (4 to 7 inches) than nerf bars to provide more room for your feet.

Nerf Bars

Nerf bars are similar to running boards in that they can span the length of the cab or run from wheel to wheel. But unlike running boards, these aftermarket components are a tube-shaped piece of metal (or pipe) that doesn’t provide full traction along the edge of the cab.

Instead, it has a rubber or plastic foot grips placed near the doors. Often, these are narrower (2 to 4 inches) than running boards and don’t have as much surface areas for you to step on


From a durability perspective, nerf bars offer about 300 pounds of weight capacity compared to about 500 pounds for most running boards. The main advantage of nerf bars is that they offer a sportier aesthetic than running boards.

Don’t Misstep; Buy a Running Board

Running boards boost the appearance of your Ram 1500. But don’t forget the top reason why you’re investing. With improved safety for drivers and passengers, as well as protecting the body of the vehicle, running boards have numerous positive traits that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

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People Also Ask

Running boards come in numerous shapes, sizes, and materials. So it’s no surprise that first-time buyers and even veteran buyers have some questions regarding the product. Here are some of the most popular questions that people also ask about running boards.

Do Running Boards Prevent Rust?

The debate is out on whether running boards prevent rust. Some truck enthusiasts claim that running boards do nothing to prevent rust. However, others believe that running boards prevent debris from hitting the body or chipping the paint. By maintaining the integrity of the paint job, can effectively prevent rust. That said, metal running boards themselves can rust over time, especially in areas where the local transportation department uses salt to melt snow.

Are Running Boards Necessary?

Running boards aren’t necessary. But they do provide protection for the body of your vehicle, as well as allow you to get into the cab of a Ram 1500 that sits high or uses a lift kit.

Do Running Boards Reduce Ground Clearance?

Running boards can reduce ground clearance, yet oftentimes, the amount is unnoticeable. On the other hand, power/electric running boards can retract at the touch of the button, effectively eliminating any concerns about reduced ground clearance.

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