What Is a Running Board?

Running boards make it easier to climb into large cars, vans, SUVs and other high vehicles.
Early model cars typically featured running boards on both sides of the vehicles.
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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: n/a, Douglas Tomko
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2015
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A running board is a vehicle accessory part that is located beneath the doors on the side of a vehicle, extending from the front wheel well to the back wheel well, and can be used as a step by a person who is getting into or out of the vehicle. Running boards, which typically are made of chrome or fiberglass, are fashionable as well as practical. Many vintage cars feature running boards for their looks, even though they might not be needed as steps. Trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and full-size vans, however, often feature running boards that are intended to be used as steps yet also add to the vehicles' visual appeal. Sometimes called a footboard, a running board can be a factory feature or can be a custom feature added later.

History of Running Boards

Early model cars typically featured running boards on both sides of the vehicles. Vintage cars sat higher off the ground than modern cars, so the running board was necessary to provide sure footing for entrance. Later models of cars that sat lower to the ground no longer needed running boards, but some models had them for aesthetic reasons.


Custom cars became popular in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and they have maintained their popularity. A modern customization of any vehicle might include the addition of running boards. Full-size trucks are often seen with chrome running boards, but on a car with a custom paint job, the running boards usually are fiberglass and are painted to match. In addition to the various designs and finishes, a running board might even be lighted.

Some owners add running boards to their vehicles themselves. Others pay to have the work done at a body shop that customizes cars. Running boards can be purchased from a body shop, a car parts store or any number of catalog and online retailers.

Similar Vehicle Accessories

There are other accessory parts that serve one or both of the purposes that running boards serve. Nerf bars are pipes — usually chrome or steel — added to the sides of vehicles, with small footpads on the bars where they can be used as steps. Truck steps are much shorter that running boards, rather than extending from wheel to wheel, and they mostly serve a practical purpose rather than being known for their looks.



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Post 4

I drive an SUV and am glad this came with running boards. Even while stepping on the running board to get into the vehicle, I still grab the strap to help me.

Our SUV is built on a truck frame, so it sits up higher than some of the smaller sport utility vehicles. If these had not come with the vehicle when we bought it, I would have paid to have them installed.

I could get into the vehicle if I had to, but the running boards sure make it a lot easier. For someone like my mom who has a harder time getting around, she would not even be able to get inside my vehicle if I didn't have the running boards on it.

Post 3

I like looking at vintage cars and think the running boards really add to their unique look. If I drove around with running boards on my car today, I would probably get a lot of funny looks.

My car sits down so close to the ground, that it would not be much of an asset, and would probably make getting in and out of the car even more difficult than it already is.

Post 2

I would have a really hard time getting in and out of our truck if it didn't have running boards on it. My husband is the one who always drives the truck, but when I go with him someplace, it is nice to have the running boards to step on before getting in the truck.

I am not very tall, so this makes more of a difference for me than for my husband. They are also great for the kids. They are used to climbing on things though, so it wouldn't be as much of an issue for them.

I have seen some lighted running boards that look nice, but for me, they are much more a matter of being practical than anything else.

Post 1

While sometimes people use them to look cool, running boards are actually useful if you ever have to ride in a car that is really high off the ground and are, like me, less than average height.

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