A Guide To The Best Nerf Bars

If you own a truck or SUV and it didn’t come with a nerf bar or running board, I bet you’ve been thinking about buying the right one for your vehicle.

Personally, I don’t think any truck or SUV is really “complete” without a nerf bar. If you’ve ever watched a five-foot person try to get into their three-quarter ton pickup truck without a good step, you’ll understand what I mean.

Everyone loves the look. Not to mention the incredible convenience that a nerf bar can offer any model truck or SUV.

Sometimes called running boards, these two aren’t exactly the same. Running boards are flat. Nerf bars are often round or tube-shaped and stick out further from the vehicle.

Some may disagree with me and say that nerf bars and running boards are the same, but that’s my opinion.

I also think that there are mundane nerf bars and great nerf bars.

A truly great nerf bar will have a flat spot to place your foot where the doors are located. But if the bar is only knurled at the footrest, that’s fine, it’s still considered a nerf bar.

If you’re looking into a new or replacement nerf bar for your ride, you may be wondering if there is a real difference. You may also be wondering which would be the best for your truck or SUV.

Best Nerf Bar For a Toyota Tundra

APS iBoard Nerf Bar Side Step Running Boards

For all of the Toyota Tundra owners who are looking for just the right nerf bar or running board for your truck, this is the one you want.

This is a black matte nerf bar with a 5-inch wide design. I like that these all-aluminum boards won’t rust.

There is a rubber step pad that runs the entire length of the board. This not only is a major plus for safety and traction, but it makes the entire length of the board look congruent.

This fits 2007-2020 Toyota Tundra Crew Max pickups with 4-doors. Remember that a Crew Max and double cab are different models. Double check the application before you purchase to ensure that these will fit your truck!

The APS iBoard comes in three different widths and two different lengths. It comes in black or brushed chrome colors.

You might not think that aluminum is very strong, but these nerf bars are rated for 300 pounds! Also, it’s good to note that the brackets are pure steel, so they can take a real beating.

Do you live in a climate with snow or long periods of rain? You might want to coat the brackets with some paint to prevent them from rusting.

These are great nerf bars to prevent you from pulling on the seats when getting in and out of the truck, as well as making your Toyota look great.

The APS iBoard is super easy to install. As far as I’m concerned, no truck should be without them. Imagine no more jumping into the seat or balancing on a tire or chair to tie down a load.

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Best Nerf Bar For a Dodge Ram

MaxMate Oval Stainless Steel Nerf Bars

Dodge Ram owners know how tough their trucks are. They want a set of nerf bars that look good, but really hold up to some honest work.

These MaxMate nerf bars come in a 4-inch wide straight bar design or a 3-inch curved design. Take your pick. Both are beautiful, shiny chrome bars with rubber-look side steps for gripping power.

These fit the 2009-2018 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab trucks including the 2019-2020 classic model. It also fits the Dodge Ram 2500-3500 Crew Cab models. Again, check the make and model of your truck before purchasing to ensure they will fit.

Many nerf bar reviews say that most people put these on their trucks in less than an hour and do they ever look sharp!

Some users felt that the side steps should have been actual rubber, not plastic. With time, the plastic no longer seals tightly allowing the nerf bars to fill with water.

It’s also important to note that there have been a few complaints about the rubber-like steps. They either crack or break apart within 5 years. These can be replaced, but it’s still good to know.

Compare these to the dealer’s price for nerf bars and I think that you will find that these are the best step bars possible for your Dodge Ram truck.

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Best Nerf Bar For a Ford F-150

APS iBoard Silver Nerf Bars

I’m an old Ford truck guy myself, so I know that Ford tough owners expect the nerf bars (or should we call them running boards?) for their trucks to be just as tough.

The APS iBoard is a superb looking running board (or nerf bar if you will) for your truck. This fits the 2015-2020 F150 SuperCrew Cab 4-door models, the 2017-2020 F-250, and F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab.

You should always double-check your year and model before purchasing to ensure that this will fit. It’s so annoying to have to send something back because it doesn’t fit.

These are a cool looking stainless steel flat design that features slip-proof aluminum pads on the top. I love the way this finish looks a truck. But then again, I like a clean, sleek, minimalist look.

With a 300-pound weight tolerance, these should be able to handle whatever you are trying to load in the bed. It’ll give you an easy step up into the cab without pulling on the seat or hurting your back.

There are a few complaints from users. Over time, the chrome finish flaked off or that there was rust on the mounting brackets after the first winter.

The steel and chrome are not powder coated, so you need to protect these with a coating spray of some sort. A clear undercoat would work well if you live where there is snow or a lot of rain in the winter.

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Best Nerf Bar For a Toyota Tacoma

Tyger Auto Side Step Nerf Bar

Hello Tacoma Lovers!

You might feel as if your truck gets lost among the crowd. But with the Tyger Auto Star nerf bar, your truck will really stand head and shoulders above the rest!

This kit fits 2005-2020 Tacoma Double Cabs. This only fits the double cab with 4-full sized doors, not the suicide doors. Always double-check the application to be sure this will fit before you buy them.

If what you want are super heavy-duty running boards, these fit the bill. They have a weight capacity of 500 pounds, which is nearly double what other nerf bars can handle.

Zero drilling is required as these easily bolt-on to your truck. The Tyger brand also has a patented star step pad that provides traction. The two-inch diameter tubes have a powder-coated textured black matte finish. I feel it makes them beautifully understated.

Besides the fact that these are distinctly unique looking, I also love that Tyger offers an unlimited 5-year warranty against manufacturer defects.

The major benefits of this set of nerf bars are:

  • Powder-coating prevents rust
  • Unique design
  • 500-pound weight capacity
  • 5-year unlimited warranty against defects

A few of the drawbacks would be:

  • A few user complaints about misaligned bolt holes on the product
  • Some feel that they are too small to be truly functional
  • A few users don’t like the embossed star on the side steps

For those of you who want your vehicle to stand out with something a bit out of the ordinary, or if you want nerf bars that have a heavy-duty application, these are best nerf bars for your Toyota Tacoma.

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Best Nerf Bar For a Chevy Silverado

Tyger Auto Black Riser Nerf Bar

If you ever met my father, you would know that he hated the fact that I worked for and owned Fords. He was a Chevy man all the way.

I can’t remember a time when he didn’t own a Chevy Silverado. I’m sure that this is exactly the type of running board he would love.

This Tyger model fits 2007-2018 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierrra 1500 and the 2007-2019 models 2500 & 3500HD extended and double cabs. Always double check before you buy to ensure you get the right fit.

You can choose from the 4-inch model or 5-inch model. These are OEM-style, rectangle design step bars that are made from a heavy-duty steel tubing in a powder-coated black color to prevent rust.

The non-slip step pads are UV resistant, which is a nice feature you don’t find on many of these products.

That’s great to know that it’s good quality.

I love this type of classic styling for a Chevy Silverado. These are great looking running boards with a low-key look. They’re easy to install, are made from quality steel, and have a powder-coated finish to protect them from rust. Don’t forget that 5-year warranty!

There are a few drawbacks that I want to mention. Many users don’t find the instructions as clear as they should be. But most of the time you can figure out for yourself what goes where.

Also, be sure that you coat the brackets with a good undercoat if you live in very rainy or snowy areas since they are not coated and those can rust.

Otherwise, these are an outstanding running board for the money and I love the way they look on a Silverado.

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What is the best brand of nerf bars?

This is difficult to answer when you consider how many brands of nerf bars there are and how many different brands and styles of trucks and SUVs there are.

Ask 100 people and you will probably get 100 different answers. Some folks are simply stuck on OEM brands and won’t use something that isn’t OEM.

Others won’t buy OEM believing they are higher-priced than other products, but nearly everyone has a favorite.

This is like asking which shoe brand is best.

I believe it’s best to choose a brand that suits your likes and needs. The best product in the world won’t be of much use to you if you can’t afford it or if they don’t make a design to fit your truck or SUV.

Consider the price, styling, and always read nerf bar reviews to see what other users have said about the product. Some look nice on the vehicle but they don’t last, they are easily damaged, or they rust.

Choose what works best for you. If you love a black finish, don’t choose a nerf bar that is chrome. If you love a thin, simple design, don’t choose a big 6-inch monster with lots of bling.

The best nerf bar is the one you love when it’s on your vehicle.

Which is better nerf bars or running boards?

Nerf bars and running boards are often interchangeable terms, but they are functionally different.

Both running boards and nerf bars allow you to step up and into the vehicle. They both also provide a place for you to stand and load items if you wish. But this is technically where the similarities end.

Running boards, as the name implies, run the entire length of the vehicle, from the front fender or rocker to the rear rocker panel. They allow you to step anywhere on that length, either to enter/exit the cabin or for loading purposes.

Nerf bars were originally designed to prevent other vehicles from bumping them. You can have a product that functions both as a step and as a vehicle protector. But the bar must stick out from the vehicle far enough so that other car doors won’t hit the body of your truck or SUV.

Some running boards are wide enough to accomplish both. Some products marked as “nerf bars” are actually nothing more than a step for entry into the cabin.

Running boards allow you to enter the vehicle and can be used as a step for loading. If they extend far enough, they can operate as nerf bars.

Nerf bars can also be used for easier access to the cabin and for loading purposes.

If a running board does not extend far enough to prevent another vehicle from hitting yours with their door, it is simply a running board and not a nerf bar.

So, which is better? It really depends on what you want out of the product.

Are Ionic Nerf bars good?

Ionic nerf bars are perhaps one of the biggest, if not the biggest, brand of nerf bars/running boards on the market today.

Ionic nerf bars must have something going for them to be one of the biggest sellers, right?

You might notice that I have not recommended any Ionic brand bars. One reason for this is that I’m not a big fan of brand names. Sometimes, products deserve to be the number one product, and other times they don’t. I hate paying for nothing more than a name.

Ionic Nerf Bars seem to have the same benefits and issues that other nerf bars have, only they have a bigger price tag. It’s hard for me to recommend based on that issue.

Similar to other brands, Ionic has issues with mounting brackets not being clearly marked. They are also plain steel, which means they will rust if you don’t apply a protective coat. The washers are also steel and not Teflon. Imagine trying to get these off after several winters. Ugh.

You should also note that for some models of Ionic nerf bars, you need to pay extra for the “Pro” model if you want the Ionic name on the step.

This isn’t to say that you can’t find some models at a great sale price and Ionic does have a wide variety of styles to choose from. If you don’t like one style, you are sure to find another that suits you.

This is mostly my opinion and the opinions of other reviews that I have read. If you think this is the best brand ever, then you should continue to purchase this brand.

For my money, however, there are many other nerf bar manufacturers that make a comparable product for less money.

Why do they call them Nerf Bars?

A Nerf Bar On a Go-Cart

The word nerf bar is a funny one and you might wonder where this came from. In professional racing, when one driver bumps another car, it’s called nerfing. Nerf bars were invented for racing to prevent other drivers from “nerfing” one another.

Nerf bars may have gotten their start in racing. But there is no doubt about it, today it feels as if every truck and SUV on the road has some type of nerf bar.

Remember that not all products labeled as nerf bars actually operate as a nerf bar. If the product doesn’t stick out far enough to prevent, say, a car door from dinging your vehicle, it isn’t a nerf bar. It is a running board.

Curved or Straight Nerf bars?

Like the color or the brand, choosing between a curved or straight nerf bar is mostly a matter of preference.

If a nerf bar curves far enough (and these are sometimes referred to as bent bars) it can add just an extra inch or two to the overall length. Then you can use it as an additional step.

This is what you will want to choose if you often need to load items on the roof or if you need to tie down items and you want an extra place to put your feet.

Bent and curved nerf bars also stick out farther from the vehicle. If it sticks out far enough from your vehicle, it would prevent others from hitting your truck with their doors or shopping carts.

This isn’t to say that straight nerf bars can’t accomplish this, but curved or bent nerf bars generally stick out further from the rocker panels.

There is plenty to be said about straight nerf bars. They look great. For those who love a sleek, uncomplicated design, you can’t beat a straight nerf bar with an oval step.

There is no actual weight difference between the two. It simply comes down to your preferences and what you usually use your vehicle for.

The Bottom Line

Having a big truck or oversized SUV is great, except for times when shorter people need to get in and out of them. Running boards and nerf bars will help you solve this problem.

Maybe you are looking for a nerf bar for protection from other vehicles. Or you want the good looks that nerf bars will add to your truck. The best nerf bar is the one that fits your vehicle and that you love.

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Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell

Car Fanatic. Performance Geek. Flathead lover.

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