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I Really Don't Like Running Boards, and This Is Why

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2017

Over the years, I've really come to despise running boards. I despise them with the same fervor that some people despise, for example, screaming children on airplanes, or lumpy pillows at hotels, or insects in your bathtub. And today I'm going to tell you why.

But first, for those of you who don't know what running boards are, allow me to teach you about this unfortunate phenomenon that is attaching itself to our nation's trucks and SUVs. An anachronism from a time when automobiles were something you drove while wearing a stovepipe hat and discussing the Hoover administration, running boards stick out from beneath a vehicle's doors to help you gain access. Or so they say.

Which brings us to the primary reason I don't like running boards: They don't actually help you get into most cars. You see, running boards can't stick out too far, or else drivers would be constantly smashing them into curbs, and light poles, and roadside pets. So they only stick out about 3 inches, which is nowhere near wide enough to actually hold any human being's feet. As a result, running boards went from being a useful idea to something you have to step over as you climb into a vehicle that's high off the ground.

The next reason I hate running boards: They look stupid. Have you seen these things on cars?! You have this handsome, bulky, brawny SUV or pickup truck, and then you have these idiotic running boards drooping down the side of them like extra skin. I have no idea why someone would desire a feature that so dramatically alters the overall look of a vehicle.

And this ties into the next reason I despise running boards: They rob you of your ground clearance. Nothing makes me wince more than seeing someone who lifts their pickup truck (with, presumably, the sole goal of gaining more ground clearance) and then adds running boards to help people climb inside. Remember, your vehicle's ground clearance is only as high as its lowest point -- and if you're going to install running boards at the normal step-in height, why did you bother to lift your truck in the first place?

Finally, running boards are annoying because -- despite all these excellent reasons why they're awful -- automakers and accessories companies have the nerve to charge extra money for them! "Oh, do you want something that nobody can step on, something that looks stupid, and something that robs you of your ground clearance? That'll be $1,000, please!"

Admittedly, I believe there is one good type of running boards: the retractable type, which extend when you open your door. Since these running boards aren't fixed in place, they can extend far enough outside the car to provide an actual step for people trying to climb in -- and they retract when you close the door so they don't rob you of any ground clearance. Most importantly, they don't look stupid, since you don't see them when the doors are closed.

But, folks, please, trust me on this one: When it comes to fixed running boards, just say no.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Really Don't Like Running Boards, and This Is Why - Autotrader