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> Chrome Versus Polished Wheels and Accessories

Chrome Versus Polished Wheels and Accessories

Many of the accessories we carry are available in a variety of finishes. One of the most common questions we get from customers shopping for items such as wheels and nerf bars is “What’s the difference between all these finishes?”. In this guide, we’ll answer that question in detail so you can choose the best finish for your tastes.

Image of a chrome XD Series wheel
An XD series wheel with a chrome finish.


Chrome refers to any finish created by applying chromium plating to the surface of a material. Common chrome-plated materials include metals such as steel and aluminum, as well as ABS plastic. The brilliant finish produced by chrome plating is highly sought after by many customers due to its eye-catching shine. Since chrome is a plating rather than a solid material, it is important to clean and polish it regularly to protect it from corrosion and cracking.

Polished Aluminum

Image of a Carr polished aluminum hoop step
A polished aluminum Carr hoop step.

Aircraft grade T6 aluminum is one of the most common materials used in the construction of automotive accessories. Combining high strength, light weight, and corrosion resistance, aluminum is used for everything from running boards to tonneau covers, and even wheels.
Manufacturers create a polished finish on aluminum by using a series of abrasive compounds to gradually smooth the metal’s surface. While not as lustrous as chrome, polished aluminum still produces a striking appearance that won’t rust with exposure to road salt or sea air.

Polished Stainless Steel

Image of an Ionic 5 inch polished stainless steel oval nerf bar
A polished stainless steel oval nerf bar.

Stainless steel is an alloy made by adding chromium and nickel to steel. Many grades of stainless steel are available, but on vehicles the most common formulation is 304 marine grade. Heavier than aluminum, the advantages of stainless steel are its increased strength and resistance to impact damage, while providing excellent corrosion resistance.
Stainless steel that has been polished achieves a mirror-like luster which is almost indistinguishable from chrome. This, combined with its relatively low price, makes it one of the most popular alternatives to chrome for
accessories such as nerf bars and bed rails, particularly in regions subject to corrosive factors such as road salt.