Predator steps and running boards are two common exterior accessories providing easier access to high-ground clearance pickups and SUVs. However, each has advantages and disadvantages when compared to one another. So which one suits you better? We've done the research to help you decide.
If you want a larger stepping area, a higher ground clearance, and some protection from road debris, then you should get running boards. Alternatively, you can install the more modern-looking Predator steps if you want a lower stepping point for kids or other shorter passengers.
Would you like to know more about the pros and cons of Predator steps and running boards? Do read on because we've prepared a comparison between these two. We've also included some information about other products with similar functions.
Are Side Steps The Same As Running Boards?
Automotive brands as well as aftermarket manufacturers have developed different types of accessories to help truck and SUV owners get in and out of their vehicles more easily.
Often mounted on the vehicle body near the bottom of the doors, these accessories provide passengers with that extra stepping point for easier vehicle access. Collectively, these accessories are often called "side steps."
Some types of side steps are as follows:
- Hoop steps
- Running boards
- Drop steps
- Nerf bars/Nerf steps/Nerf tubes
- Automatic running boards
Different types and designs of side steps cater to varying practical and aesthetic tastes. Some side steps focus only on passenger comfort, while others also provide some degree of vehicle protection.
Some accessories are meant for vehicle protection, but also serve as side steps to a minimal degree. Rock sliders fall into this last category, for example.
Now that we've clarified the different types of side steps, we can get to the main point of this article. Do you go with Predator steps or with running boards? In order to help you decide, we'll discuss their pros and cons in the following sections.
What Is A Predator Step?
Predator steps belong to the classification of drop steps. Compared to other types of stationary side steps, Predator steps provide a lower stepping point for passengers. This drop-down step design was patented by N-Fab, a company that specializes in aftermarket vehicle accessories.
Predator steps offer a wider and lower foot platform for every door compared to less expensive hoop steps. Furthermore, Predator steps come in a one-piece, fully-welded design for each side of the vehicle. The design includes a nerf bar that runs the whole length of the vehicle's rocker panels.
Check out these N-Fab Predator steps for the Toyota 4Runner on Amazon.
Predator steps are available for some truck and SUV brands, including Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge.
Many truck and SUV owners like the Predator steps' lower stepping point because kids and other vertically-challenged adults can climb onto taller vehicles more easily. Moreover, these steps offer a more modern and rugged look compared to many traditional running boards and nerf bars.
On the other hand, Predator steps also have critics. Because the steps do not run the length of the cabin, they offer minimal protection against small dents from loose gravel, tar, and road salts.
Furthermore, to prevent slips, clothing snags, and even injuries, passengers will have to be extra-conscious of where the steps actually are.
Finally, many off-roading enthusiasts claim Predator bars are inconvenient and even dangerous in very challenging terrain. Because the steps themselves protrude sharply from the vehicle, they can snag against boulders and other off-road obstacles and even cause serious damage to the vehicle's body.
What Is The Purpose Of A Running Board?
Running boards are long, narrow footboards mounted beneath the vehicle doors and run from the back of the front wheel well to the front of the rear wheel well. Like all side steps, their main function is to aid in the entry and exit of passengers to and from the vehicle.
Check out these Tacoma-compatible aluminum running boards on Amazon.
Because of the larger and longer board surface, running boards also provide a larger shield against road debris, especially at cruising speeds.
Depending on the brand and design, running boards may have corrugated, dimpled, or perforated metal planks. Running boards provide a larger stepping surface compared to most of the other types of side steps, thus making these boards much easier to step on - if you can reach them.
Compared to Predator steps, most stationary running boards offer a higher stepping point. This is good for better ground clearance. However, some running boards are so close to the vehicle's floor that they may not make that much of a difference compared to having no running boards installed at all.
Predator Steps Vs. Running Boards - Our Verdict
We cannot presume to know which type of side step is better based on aesthetic appeal. After all, some people may like the running boards' more traditional look, while others prefer the more aggressive design of the Predator steps.
However, it is clear to us that both types of side steps have their own pros and cons. The best way to know which side step is right for you is to evaluate two things:
- Your vehicle's height.
- Your passengers' needs.
If your vehicle is not that high (e.g. a stock compact/mid-size truck or SUV) and you don't have to worry about vertically-challenged passengers, then running boards may be your best option.
However, if you have a higher-slung vehicle (e.g. lifted full-size trucks/SUVs with larger tires) and you need to bring kids or other shorter passengers along, then you might be better off with drop step options like the Predator steps.
If you intend to tackle some challenging off-road trails, however, we do not recommend either product. Neither of these will provide your truck or SUV with the necessary protection and utility that it needs.
Other Types Of Side Steps
Aside from Predator steps and running boards, you might want to consider other types of side steps for your vehicle.
Hoop steps are the smallest as well as least-expensive accessories you would consider for the extra boost you need to get in your truck or SUV. These hoops also attach to the lower part of the vehicle's body and provide just enough stepping room for a shoe right underneath each door.
Check out these hoop steps on Amazon.
Nerf bars hail from race track roots, as they were used to minimize damage between racing cars that aggressively jockey for position.
Nowadays, nerf bars still provide some degree of protection against minor underside impacts and door dings, but they mainly act as stepping platforms like running boards do.
From cylindrical or angular tube designs, some nerf bars evolved into flatter oval tubes called nerf steps. These nerf steps can serve as impact-dampening (nerfing) barriers as well as flatter, broader stepping boards for passengers. Many nerf steps have mounting levels similar to running boards.
Check out these popular Tacoma-compatible 4-inch oval nerf step bars on Amazon.
Automatic Running Boards
If you don't mind forking out close to $1,500 for your beloved truck or SUV, then you may want to get electric-powered automatic running boards. When not in use, these boards stay in their elevated or retracted position.
When the doors open, these steps automatically drop down to provide the stepping board functionality.
Because of their variable position, stepping boards provide most of the practical benefits of other types of side steps without any of their drawbacks.
- Automatic running boards can be as wide and as long as traditional static running boards.
- When deployed, some automatic running board models can provide an even lower stepping point compared to Predator steps.
- When retracted, automatic running boards give you back most of your original ground clearance, if not all.
Check out these best-selling automatic running boards on Amazon.
Because rock sliders primarily serve as heavy-duty protection for trucks and SUVs, these accessories cannot be called "side steps" technically.
Compared to side steps, rock sliders have a much more durable construction. They need to support the entire vehicle's weight during tight off-roading situations.
However, aside from helping the off-roading vehicle "slide" against boulders, stumps, and ridges, rock sliders also provide a wide albeit high stepping area. These steps do not provide ease of access, but they can still help you access the vehicle's roof.
Choosing between Predator steps and running boards is a matter of practicality and functionality for your passengers and your specific vehicle. For a lower stepping point and a more modern design, you should go with Predator steps.
However, for a broader and longer platform and a little extra protection from road debris, you should go for running boards.
Thank you very much for reading. We hope we were able to help you decide between running boards and Predator steps. We also hope that you learned more about other accessories that can widen your product choices.
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