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The food truck industry has redefined the dining experience in recent years, bridging the gap between street food and gourmet dining. Considering the cost involved in starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant, it’s no surprise that many culinary entrepreneurs are attracted to this more flexible, and often less expensive, alternative. A successful food truck could cost significantly less than a traditional restaurant, both in terms of initial investment and ongoing operational expenses. However, aspiring food truck owners need to be aware of all the costs associated with starting and running this mobile business. This guide will delve into the world of food truck operators, examining the costs associated with renting versus buying, different food truck purchase options, and overall startup costs. We aim to provide a comprehensive insight to help aspiring food truck owners navigate this bustling industry.

Renting vs Buying A Food Truck

The decision to get a food truck often boils down to two primary options: renting or buying. Both have their own set of advantages and drawbacks.

Renting A Food Truck

If you’re starting and the idea of a colossal initial investment seems daunting, renting a food truck might be the way to start. With much lower upfront costs, you can test your business concept without the financial commitment of a purchase. Rentals usually come equipped with all the essentials needed for food service, which can further cut down initial setup costs. Renting is the best way to start a food truck business with little investment.

The typical cost of a food truck rental ranges from $2,000 to $3,000 per month, depending on the truck’s size and location. 

However, renting does come with its limitations. As with any rental, the equipment may not be the latest or most efficient, which could potentially hamper your operations. Moreover, since the truck isn’t yours, customization options may be limited, which might affect branding efforts.

Buying A Food Truck

On the flip side, buying a truck provides you with the liberty to customize the vehicle as per your business needs and aesthetic preferences. Whether you opt for a new truck or a used one, you’ll need to take into account costs such as maintenance, upgrades, and insurance.

If you’re considering buying a new food truck, expect to spend anywhere between $75,000 to $150,000 according to Restaurant MBA, depending on the truck’s size, equipment, and custom features. A used food truck can cost much lower, but it may come with higher costs in terms of maintenance and potentially used equipment.

The decision between renting and buying ultimately depends on your business goals, financial situation, and risk tolerance. While renting offers a lower-cost, lower-risk path for those starting, buying provides the freedom and potential long-term cost savings for those willing to invest more upfront.

For more detailed insights and guidance on starting a food truck business, you can check out this comprehensive guide on how to start a food truck.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Food Truck?

Buying a food truck is a major decision, and it’s crucial to remember that not all food trucks are created equal. 

Here’s a breakdown of different purchase options, each with its own pros, cons, and costs.

Buy a Used Food Truck

Buying a used food truck could be an economical way to enter the food truck industry.

Pros:

  • Lower cost: You can expect to spend less upfront. The cost of a used food truck ranges from $50,000 – $100,000.
  • Quick start: A used food truck often comes fully equipped, allowing for a faster start.

Cons:

  • Maintenance: Used trucks are usually older models and may require more frequent repairs and maintenance.
  • Limited customization: The layout and design of a used truck may not perfectly fit your needs.

Buy A New Kitchen on A Used Truck Chassis

This option involves purchasing a used truck chassis and fitting it with a brand new kitchen.

Pros:

  • Customization: You’ll have the chance to design the kitchen layout to fit your needs perfectly.
  • New equipment: A new kitchen means new equipment, which will likely last longer and perform better.

Cons:

  • Higher initial cost: You’ll have to pay more upfront. This option typically costs between $85,000 – $115,000.
  • Possibility of mechanical issues: Even with a new kitchen, an old chassis may present mechanical issues.

Buy a New Food Truck With A New Kitchen

This is the deluxe option. A brand new truck and a brand new kitchen often come with a hefty price tag, but also many advantages.

Pros:

  • Reliability: With a new truck and kitchen, the likelihood of the truck failing and leaving you stranded is significantly reduced.
  • Customizability: A new truck can be designed to your exact specifications, both inside and out.

Cons:

  • Costly: This is the most expensive option, ranging from $125,000 – $200,000.
  • Longer wait time: As you’re paying for customization, it may take longer to receive your truck.

Building a Food Truck from Scratch

For those with mechanical know-how and a clear vision, building a food truck from scratch can be an option.

Pros:

  • Total control: You’ll have absolute control over every aspect of the design, layout, and equipment.
  • Potential cost-saving: If you can do much of the work yourself, you’ll save on labor costs.

Cons:

  • Time-consuming: Building a food truck from scratch can take a significant amount of time.
  • Technical expertise required: If you don’t have the skills, you’ll likely need to hire professionals, increasing the cost.

The cost of this option can vary widely, but expect to spend at least $50,000.

No matter which option you choose, it’s essential to remember that a food truck is an investment. While the upfront cost may be high, the potential to turn a profit and make a mark in the restaurant industry can be worth the expenditure. Check out this article for more information on how much do food trucks normally make.

How Much Does It Cost To Start A Food Truck Business? / Food Truck startup costs

The cost to start a food truck business is significantly less than that of the cost of starting traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant, bakerybar, or cafe.  

Starting a food truck business isn’t just about buying or leasing a truck. There are several additional costs to consider, from obtaining necessary permits and licenses to hiring staff and setting up order technology. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the various expenses you need to account for in your food truck business plan.

1. Licenses and Permits

A mobile operation like a food truck requires numerous licenses and permits to legally operate. These include:

  • Health Permit: This permit ensures your food preparation and handling meet health department standards.
  • Food Service License: This license permits you to cook and sell food.
  • Parking Permit: In many cities, food trucks need special permits to park in specific zones.
  • Seller’s Permit: This permits the sale of items at the retail level.
  • Hawkers and Peddlers License: This license allows you to sell food in public spaces.

Costs for these permits vary from state to state; check in with your local authorities for accurate cost estimation

2. Professional Services

You might need to hire a business attorney to navigate contracts and licenses and an accountant to handle your finances. Expect these services to cost from $50 to $500 per hour – depend on which services you need

3. Commercial Kitchen

Most food trucks operate out of a commercial kitchen, which is a shared space to prepare and store food. Costs vary widely based on the services provided and the length of the lease.

The estimated cost for Commercial kitchen rent is $20 to $30 per person per hour

4. Truck Commissary Fees

A commissary is a location where you can safely park your truck, dispose of waste, and access amenities like electricity and water. 

The estimated cost is $500 to $1500 per truck per month (depending on services and locations)

7. Consumables

This category includes ingredients, gasoline and propane for cooking, and supplies such as takeout bags, napkins, and utensils.

The cost of ingredients can vary widely depending on your menu and where you source from. You could spend $1,000 or more on raw materials every week. 

Gasoline and propane costs will also depend on how often and where you move your truck, as well as how much cooking you do on board. The cost of fuel is about $600 per month.

8. Staff

Labor costs can be a significant part of operating expenses. These costs depend on how many employees you have, their hourly wages, and any benefits you provide.

The cost varies by region, but generally about $15 per hour for line staff and $22 per hour for managers.

8. Insurance and Maintenance

Every food truck needs insurance to protect against liability and property damage. Costs can vary, but expect to spend a minimum of $1,000 annually. As for maintenance, older trucks will have higher costs, and new trucks may come with a warranty.

9. Marketing


Building a brand is crucial in the food truck business. You’ll need a budget for things like website development, social media advertising, and printed materials like menus and signage. Consider exploring Food Truck Marketing strategies to best utilize your budget.

You might want to spend from 10% to 20% of your revenue on marketing. 

10. Order Technology


Investing in a good POS system and an online ordering system is critical for tracking sales, inventory, and attract more customers. 

An online ordering system, like Menubly, can transform your food truck business. Customers can browse your menu from home, place orders for pickup or delivery, and make payments right from their smartphones. It also comes with a QR code menu which allows your customers to scan to access your menu. This not only offers convenience but also speeds up service, as you can prepare your food ahead of time based on incoming orders. At an affordable cost of just $5.99 per month, it is indeed a worthwhile investment for your business.

As you can see, the total cost to start serving food from a truck, trailer, or cart is more than just the cost of the vehicle itself. However, each expenditure represents an opportunity to optimize your business and increase your chances of success. If you’re looking for inspiration and ideas to start a food truck, check out these Food Truck concepts and name ideas that could provide some helpful insights.

Remember, the costs outlined above are ballpark figures, and actual costs can be higher or lower depending on various factors. But with careful planning and budgeting, you can lay a strong foundation for your food truck business and be well-prepared for the exciting journey ahead.

How To Minimize The Cost To Start Your Food Truck

A careful approach to planning your food truck business can help minimize costs and increase profitability. Here are some strategies to get you started:

1. Research and Negotiate

An essential part of cost-cutting is knowing how much a food truck should cost and not being afraid to negotiate. When buying used, ensure the truck comes with a recent inspection report to avoid unexpected repairs.

2. Leverage Local Resources

Many cities have resources to support small businesses. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Administration office for information about grants, loans, or local programs that could help offset startup costs.

3. Diversify Your Menu

Offer different menu items that cater to various price points. This approach can attract a wider customer base and increase your overall sales volume.

4. Be Strategic About Equipment

Ensure the equipment in your truck matches your menu needs. Avoid purchasing expensive equipment that isn’t necessary for your menu. For instance, if you aren’t selling fried foods, you won’t need a costly fryer.

5. Optimize Operations

Plan your routes and schedule to maximize revenue and minimize expenses like fuel and parking fees. For example, operating in high-traffic areas during peak hours can help increase sales.

Starting a food truck business can be a significant investment, but with strategic planning and cost-saving measures, it’s entirely possible to minimize the financial burden and maximize profitability. Remember, every dollar saved is a dollar that can go back into growing and improving your food truck business.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Much Does It Cost To Start A Food Truck Business?

Starting a food truck business can cost anywhere from $30,000 to over $200,000, depending on factors like the type of truck, equipment, and the nature of the kitchen you’re investing in. There are also operational costs such as licenses and permits, professional services, commercial kitchen rent, truck commissary fees, utilities, consumables, staff wages, insurance, maintenance costs, and marketing to consider.

2. Is it cheaper to rent or buy a food truck?

Renting can be a more affordable option upfront as you won’t need a large sum to purchase a food truck. However, you’ll also need to pay rent monthly, which can add up over time. Owning a truck can lead to higher initial costs but could save money in the long run.

3. How much is a used food truck cost?

A used food truck can cost anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000. The cost depends on the truck’s condition, the quality of the equipment installed, and whether any maintenance is required for the truck to operate effectively.

4. How much do food trucks cost to rent?

Renting a food truck can vary depending on the location, condition of the truck, and length of the rental agreement. Generally, you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000 per month.

5. How much does a food truck cost to buy?

Buying a food truck cost can vary greatly based on whether you’re buying new or used, and the quality of the truck and its kitchen. Generally, a used food truck costs between $50,000 – $100,000, a new kitchen on a used truck costs between $85,000 – $115,000, and a new food truck costs between $125,000 – $200,000.

6. How much does it cost to run a food truck monthly?

Monthly operational costs for a food truck can range from $1,500 to $4,500, depending on factors like rent, utilities, maintenance costs, staff wages, and the cost of food and supplies.

7. How much can you earn from a food truck business?

A successful food truck can generate anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per month in revenue. Deduct your expenses from this total to estimate your net income.

Conclusion

Understanding how much a food truck costs to start and operate is an essential step towards launching a successful food truck business. We’ve put together this guide to help you comprehend the financial aspects of this exciting venture. While initial costs may seem daunting, remember that with careful planning and strategic decisions, you’re making a significant investment towards your entrepreneurial dream. So don’t be discouraged if the engine of your food truck business doesn’t start immediately; patience and persistence are key. We wish you all the best as you embark on your food truck journey.