Food Truck for Sale: Ultimate Buying Guide 2024

by Brandon Boushy
Food Truck for Sale: Ultimate Buying Guide 2024

Buying a food truck is the single largest investment a food truck business owner will make. That’s why we offer this guide on buying a food truck for sale.

We’ve interviewed a lot of business owners and they’ve provided advice on how to buy a food truck. We’ve also added additional information from research to help you buy or lease a food truck.

How to buy a food truck for sale

Young man in front of new food truck with a giant question mark price tag attached

You’ll want to perform the following process while buying a food truck:

  1. Find creative food truck ideas
  2. Create a food truck mockup
  3. Find food trucks for sale
  4. Get food truck financing
  5. Get food truck equipment
  6. Build a food truck
  7. Start a food truck business

Find creative food truck ideas

Before you even think about buying a food truck for sale, you need to know how the food truck business will make you money. That means you must decide what food and drinks you’ll serve in the food truck. Some food truck ideas include a:

  • Pizza truck
  • Concession trailer
  • Mobile coffee shop
  • Ice cream truck
  • Breakfast food truck
  • Seafood truck
  • Taco truck
  • Lunch truck
  • Dinner truck
  • Food truck bar

Check out our interview with Saied Samaiel, who started Aybla Grill, which makes more than $50K a month.

Once you’ve decided what you’ll serve as a new food truck business owner, you’ll need to consider how to set up your food truck. If you don’t do it right, your food business success could be much slower.

Create a food truck mockup

It will be much easier for your new food truck to succeed if you plan before shopping for a food truck. You’ll want to create a concept design for your food truck, which means you’ll need to:

  1. Measure food truck dimensions
  2. Get a list of equipment you need (and all dimensions)
  3. Draw the food truck layout

Let’s look at each step to understand what you’ll need in a food truck for sale.

Measure food truck dimensions

Designer working on food truck blueprint in a modern office space

During the design stage, you’ll need to know the exterior and interior dimensions of food trucks. The outside dimensions of a food truck are useful to know so you can estimate how much it costs to wrap a food truck.

You’ll need the interior dimensions to know whether you can fit the equipment in the space. A food truck can be as small as a postal truck or up to 34 feet long. Most food trucks will be seven feet wide. You’ll also want to ensure the food truck is at least seven feet tall so people can stand comfortably.

Get a list of equipment you need (and all dimensions)

In addition to considering different truck dimensions, your food truck business will need additional equipment to operate effectively. You’ll need to know the types of equipment you need and the size to make sure you can fit all the cooking equipment in the food truck you purchase.

Depending on the type of food truck offerings you’ll provide, you’ll need a variety of mobile cooking equipment. Your mobile commercial kitchen will need:

  • Fire suppression system
  • Food truck menu board
  • Cash register/payment processor
  • Outdoor furniture for guests (optional)
  • Cooking equipment
  • Food truck exhaust fan (or food truck vent hood)
  • Refrigerator and freezer
  • Food truck sink
  • Storage for dry food
  • Food truck awning
  • Space for food truck supplies
  • Drink machine
  • Food truck oven
  • Ice machine
  • Trash can
  • Food truck window
  • Cooking utensils
  • Air conditioning and heater
  • Food truck water tank

As you can see, there are a lot of food truck appliances that need to fit into a fairly small cooking space. Fortunately, you have the option of buying food trucks fully equipped, which makes starting a food truck business much easier than designing your own storage setup and prep space from scratch.

Draw the food truck layout

Once you know the sizes of food trucks and the commercial equipment you need, you’ll need to map out the best way to fit it all in the vehicle.

A new business owner can choose three methods of planning the equipment layout.

  1. Do-it-yourself (DIY) design
  2. Look for fully equipped food trucks for sale
  3. Hire a mobile commercial kitchen design company

There are pros and cons to taking each approach when buying a food truck for sale. Keep reading to find out more.

DIY food truck design
Blueprint of proposed food truck layout showing wash station, work table, refrigerator, hood with fire suppression system, and freezer placement

When you design your own food truck layout before buying a truck, you’ll want to look for a multipurpose food truck. You can choose to buy a new or used food truck that does not come with commercial equipment for cooking.

Designing the truck layout yourself comes with some challenges. For instance, you’re probably not trained to design and install a professional fire suppression system, work with gas appliances, or install HVAC equipment.

This may be the least expensive way of buying a new food truck for your dream food business, but if you can buy a used food truck for sale, you will probably find it much quicker and easier than building a food truck yourself.

Suggested layout for food trucks

A food truck owner will want to dispense the weight so it is as evenly distributed as possible to reduce the risk of fishtailing.

Whether you choose to have your food truck laid out clockwise (as pictured) or counterclockwise, you’ll want to consider the order in which you or your employees will perform your food prep and service processes.

For instance, a pizza truck might not have condiments and have a pizza-cutting station instead.

You’ll want dedicated spaces for the following, arranged in this order:

  • Processing sales
  • Cool storage
  • Prep area
  • Cooking equipment
  • Packaging or plating and finishing touches

Finally, you’ll serve your customers out of the second window.

If you serve drinks, you can have a self-service drink machine near the cashier or at the other end of the serving window. Either way, I suggest having it on the same side.

While the exact features of each food truck business will be different, the concepts are the same.

Look for fully equipped food trucks for sale
Concept of bearded man in a beanie and glasses looking at model food trucks with a magnifying glass

If you buy a fully equipped food truck, there’s no need to do design work. These will normally be more expensive than buying a truck without equipment, but you’ll know the food truck was designed by a professional.

There are plenty of places for a new owner to buy a food truck that is fully equipped with everything you need to start your mobile food truck business. Just search online for the type of food trucks you want to buy. Some common searches include:

  • Food trucks for sale
  • Used food trucks for sale
  • Coffee truck for sale
  • Food truck for sale near me
  • Used food trailers for sale
  • Food carts for sale
  • Taco truck for sale
  • Food truck trailers for sale
  • Lunch truck for sale
  • Food truck trailer for sale
  • New food truck for sale
  • Food trailer for sale
  • Used food truck for sale
  • Step van for sale
  • Food cart for sale

You might also want to add modifiers to your search like “Near me”, state name, city name, or state abbreviation. Some popular searches for local food trucks for sale include:

  1. Food truck for sale Texas
  2. Food truck sale California
  3. Food trucks for sale Los Angeles
  4. Food trucks for sale Dallas
  5. Food trucks for sale in Georgia
Hire a mobile commercial kitchen design company

You can buy custom food trucks if you need a unique system for your food business. That said, before you spend the extra time and money to have engineers design a pro fire suppression system and select the equipment for a custom-designed food truck, make sure you can’t find them premade.

UpFlip Cautionary Tale logo with small fox

You don’t want to request a custom design, then have the company you work with turn it into a commercially available option. This actually occurred when my dad had custom designs built. He commissioned someone to create a mold, then they started selling the design as a standard product.

While it was great for the company, it meant my dad fully paid for the product development process. Read your contracts when you commission custom work. To keep a product one of a kind, you’ll need to own all design work and any custom fabrications used to create the product.

Find food trucks for sale

The next step is looking at food trucks for sale. You’ll want to:

  • Choose the type of food truck for sale
  • Establish how much the food truck will cost
  • Decide where to buy the food truck

Choose the type of food truck for sale

Concession trailer, food truck, and step van parked side by side

You can choose from a variety of food trucks. Here are some of the options:

  • Food truck
  • Concession trailers
  • Food cart
  • Step vans

Let’s look at the benefits of each of these options when you decide to become a mobile food vendor.

Why should I buy a food truck?

When you look for a food truck for sale, you’ll get a vehicle that has the kitchen and the driving equipment all in one piece. This makes the vehicle safer and easier to drive because there is no trailer attached to the food truck.

A new owner can buy a food truck fully equipped for a specific type of food sales, purchase a multipurpose food truck, or buy an empty food truck that can be fully customized.

Why should I consider concession trailers?
Young man business owner in glasses and jacket standing in front of a food cart parked in a parking lot

If you own a truck, you might save money buying a concession trailer. There’s also more space in a food trailer than in a food truck because there is no engine, transmission, or passenger space in the trailer.

A food trailer has the benefit of separating the food truck trailer from the engine and transmission. That means you can buy or sell the food truck trailer and the truck together or separately.

You can also leave the food trailer at a location if you’ll be working there for multiple days. This saves you money because you don’t have to tow the concession trailer with you everywhere.

What are the benefits of a food cart?

A food cart is less beneficial than a food truck because most are not motorized. These are a budget way of starting a mobile food business.

Food carts can make a great entry-level food business that is a stepping stone to eventually buying a food truck for sale. Some common food cart business ideas include:

  • Ice cream cart
  • Hot dog stand
  • Drink stand
  • Coffee shop

These machines will roll, but the owner must pull or push them to where they want to serve customers.

What are the benefits of a step van?
Concept of casually dressed man entrepreneur in front of a food truck with a giant orange arrow showing increasing profits

A step van is a type of food truck that allows you to access the cooking area from the cab.

This is advantageous because you can stop the truck and get to the cooking section without going outside, which is why many food truck business owners use them instead of box trucks.

How much is a food truck?

A food truck for sale can range anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars for a used food truck in poor condition to $200K for a brand-new, fully equipped food truck.

Saied explained:

A stationary food truck (one that stays at the same location each day) is more profitable than one you are driving to a different location each day.

We’ll talk more about choosing a location for your food truck later.

How much is a food truck to rent?
Man in an orange UpFlip apron standing in front of a food truck and holding cash

Food truck rentals cost between $1,000 and $5,000 per month, depending on the terms of the fully equipped food truck rental. You will want to consider terms like:

  • Equipment in the food truck
  • Duration of services
  • Licensing and health department inspections (included and excluded)

Consider renting a food truck so you can get your business started, earn revenue, and then qualify for food truck financing after you have proven your business model.

How much does a food truck cost to buy?

You can buy a food truck for as little as $6,000, but you can find less expensive alternatives.

  Food Trucks Food Trailers Food Carts Food Truck Businesses
New, Equipped $70K+ $9,395+ $2,000+ $200,000+
New, Not Equipped $20,000+ $3,000+ $539+ Not Applicable
Used, Equipped $8,000+ $8,500+ $1,000+ $22,500+
Used, Not Equipped $6,000+ $3,000+ $100+ Not Applicable
Note: Roaming Hunger was used for all sources of pricing without hyperlinks.
How much is a used food truck?

According to Roaming Hunger, used food trucks will cost at least $6,000 unequipped or $8,000 with equipment. The prices can go up from there depending on the age of the equipment and the truck and whether it includes a business.

Where to buy a food truck

Concept showing Prestige Food Trucks homepage and a business owner holding cash in the foreground

You can find a food truck for sale through companies like:

  • Roaming Hunger
  • Local food truck dealers
  • Online marketplaces
  • Food truck auction sites
  • Business brokers
  • Local food truck association
Food truck manufacturer

On the West Coast, Mobile Cuisine ranks Prime Design Food Trucks as their top manufacturer. The company builds, remodels, and repairs food trailers and trucks, so you can go to them to get all your equipment and your truck from one place.

On the East Coast, Mobile Cuisine suggests going to Mr. Trailers, which provides food trucks and mobile medical units.

Check out their blog for a list of manufacturers by state. Most food truck manufacturers are located in California, Texas, and Florida, but there are some in other states.

Now that you can answer “How much for a food truck?” and know where to buy them, let’s discuss getting food truck financing.

Get food truck financing

UpFlip’s Food Truck Financing blog entry on a laptop

You can get food truck financing using seven different loan strategies.

  1. Business line of credit
  2. Business term loan
  3. Equipment financing
  4. Merchant cash advance
  5. Small Business Administration loan
  6. Vendor leasing programs
  7. Working capital loan

Check out our blog about food truck financing, then head over to National Business Capital to apply for food truck loans from the number one provider of online business loans.

Get food truck equipment

This step will vary depending on whether you buy a fully equipped food truck or an empty step van, trailer, or box truck. If you bought a fully equipped vehicle, skip to the section about starting a food truck business. If you didn’t, make sure to read this and the next section.

What food truck equipment do I need?

Concept of a young man in a chambray button-down considering food truck equipment including a refrigerator, POS machine, and gas range

When you enter the food truck industry, you’ll need:

  • An enticing menu
  • A refrigerator and freezer
  • Prep area
  • Cooking equipment
  • Exhaust fans
  • Huge exterior lightboxes
  • Fire suppression system
  • Storage space
  • Cash register or point-of-sale (POS) machine

Don’t forget to get any specialized equipment based on your food truck needs.

Where to buy food truck equipment

Next, you’ll need to buy the equipment for your step van or trailer. You can purchase these products from some of the following places.

Restaurant supply house

A restaurant supply house is a place that sells food items to serve customers as well as equipment. Most are equipped to help you establish what you need to prep, cook, and serve food. You can go to your local store or shop online. Some popular restaurant supply houses include:

  • RestaurantSupply.com: They carry equipment including Manitowac refrigeration machines, cooking equipment, and other products, but not food. They are a supplier for employee-owned Winco grocery stores. Check out Restaurant Supply.
  • Web Restaurant Store: Check out Web Restaurant Store’s page for food truck tabletop equipment. They advertise having more than 400K products for sale.
  • Amazon: Like every industry, you can get your storage and food prep products from Amazon Business.

Keep reading for other solutions a food truck owner could pursue.

Customization shop
Close-up of custom wrap being applied to the front of a food truck

A food truck business owner can also go to auto repair shops that focus on upgrading work vehicles. These companies should be located near you and offer services like:

  • Food Truck Wraps: Help people see what you’re serving in your food truck van.
  • Huge Exterior Light Boxes: At night, these will help people see the food truck name, menu, and price.
  • Food Truck Logos: Nothing builds food truck brand awareness like a logo.
  • Equipment Mounting: A mobile kitchen must have the equipment mounted to the food truck interior so it doesn’t fly around.

You might look for people who specialize in car wraps, mobile HVAC, and other features. Check out some food truck wrap ideas below.

How to build a food truck

Building a food truck requires the following steps.

  1. Create a drawing of the food truck layout
  2. Strip the food truck
  3. Gather all the equipment
  4. Install concession window
  5. Install flooring
  6. Install electrical
  7. Install gas lines
  8. Install plumbing in your food truck
  9. Install a three-compartment sink
  10. Install cooking equipment
  11. Install fire suppression system

The following subsections are a summary of the step-by-step tutorials from Mobile Cuisine combined with my experience in construction management.

Keep reading for more information on how to build a food truck.

Create a drawing of the food truck layout

You want to have your step van or food trailer design mapped out before you begin. Otherwise, you might not be able to fit everything in the food truck. We discussed how to do this earlier in the blog. Revisit the section on creating a food truck mockup and measuring for equipment (above) for a refresher.

Gather all the equipment

Next, you’ll want to gather all your storage, equipment, and tools so it is easy to start working on the food truck. I suggest laying out the equipment you want in the truck in the same relative position it will go into the step van so you can visualize it before installing it.

Strip the truck

Mechanic working the back of a food truck

When you buy a multipurpose food truck or trailer, you’ll need to strip out anything that could hinder you from doing business. This includes seats, trim, and anything else you don’t need.

Install concession window

Many people include this step later in the steps for building a food truck, but you need to at least cut out the hole before you do anything else.

Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to install something and then have to redo it because it doesn’t line up with the windows?

Install flooring

Food truck owner cutting nonslip mat for food truck floor

Once you have the window cut out for the step van, it’s time to install the floors. You’ll want to make sure you have slip-resistant materials that will not be damaged by heat, cold, or spills (meaning no carpet!).

Make sure the floor is level before installing the flooring materials onto the multipurpose food truck. You might also get slip-resistant kitchen mats like the ones pictured below. You’ll put them in once your food truck is complete.

Install electrical

You’ll need to install a breaker panel, electrical wiring, and lighting fixtures. You’ll probably want to hire or consult with an electrician to make sure you size them right.

If you decide to install the electrical yourself, please refrain from turning it on until after you install safety devices to prevent fires. It would be devastating if your food truck caught fire before you even used it.

Install fire suppression system

Bearded man holding an UpFlip branded fire extinguisher in front of an empty food truck

A fire prevention system may be required for a food truck. Related equipment may include:

  • Exhaust fans
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Splash guards
  • Gas monitors
  • Properly secured appliances
  • Flexible gas hoses
  • Shut-off valves
  • Other requirements depending on the business location

Once your multipurpose food truck is equipped with the proper security features, it’s time to install gas lines.

Install gas lines

Gas lines will be used in many food truck applications to cook the food. Installing them is not hard, but you need to know what you’re doing.

Most states have laws holding people criminally liable for improper gas line installation.

For this reason, we won’t be providing step-by-step information. Please hire or at least consult a professional. Most HVAC providers are happy to help with work like this for a reasonable cost.

Install plumbing

Plumber completing food truck installation

You’ll need a freshwater reservoir, a waste water reservoir, and a pump in addition to piping and fittings. Check with your local health department about any special rules they’ll require you to follow.

Install a three-compartment sink

Local health departments normally require a three-compartment sink in every food truck. The sink wells are for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing and make it possible to keep clean and dirty utensils separate.

Install cooking equipment

Gas stove installation food truck

Next, you’ll want to install the appliances to cook food. Secure them to the food truck wall and connect them to the electrical or gas power source.

At this point, you’ll likely need to get a fire inspection or health audit to make sure the unit meets all local requirements. We discuss this process in detail in the portion about how to start a food truck business below.

How to start a food truck business

Buying a food truck for sale is only a portion of starting a food truck business. There are 11 steps to follow when you start and expand your food truck business.

  1. Learn about the food truck industry
  2. Generate food truck ideas
  3. Know how much it costs to start a food truck business
  4. Figure business operating costs
  5. Write a food truck business plan
  6. Determine financing options
  7. Obtain licenses and permits
  8. Buy your truck
  9. Secure your suppliers
  10. Streamline the process
  11. Build your food truck business and brand

Read our blog about starting a food truck for more details on the full process.

Find a food truck to buy

Food truck and food van parked in front of a food truck supply store

Now that you know how to find a food truck for sale, it’s up to you to find a seller, contact them, and buy your food truck. Sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know when we release our food truck business course. We’ll be sure to make room for you.

What else would you like to know about buying a food truck for sale?


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Author

Brandon Boushy

Our lead writer, Brandon Boushy, has been a business consultant, business owner, and marketer since 2017. Brandon is committed to the pursuit of knowledge and continuous improvement. He measures his success based on how many business owners he helps succeed. Brandon started Raising Daisy Photography in 2017 with Stephanie MacIver. His role was focused on marketing, estimating, and managing customer interactions. He is also a freelance business researcher and has provided over 3,800 hours of business research for more than 50 clients. His blogs are read by over 2 million people every year. Brandon told us: "My motto is never quit learning. I bring this motto to everything I do, and find writing the best way to help share the data I obtain to assist business professionals pursue their dreams." He empowers companies to improve their communication and brand awareness through creative content strategies and blog writing.

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