The Real Cost to Buy a Food Truck (2023 Edition) (2023)

If you’re looking to start a food truck business, you’re probably asking yourself, “How much does a food truck cost?” The cost of a food truck can range anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000. In this article, we’ll explain your 3 choices when looking to buy a food truck and all the costs and risks associated with each.

Through our decade of experience in the food truck industry, we know that the decisions you make when you buy a food truck will affect your business for as long as it exists.

So we decided to write down everything we’ve learned in this easy to understand guide. We cover the current prices in the food truck industry, the real and hidden costs and risks, and the pros and cons of each type of food truck.

Food Truck Prices (A Quick Overview)

If you’re looking to starta food truck business, or just tossing around the idea, your first question is probably focused on price. It’s a question that we get every single day from the many entrepreneurs that want to make their culinary and business dreams a reality.

Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect to pay when buying a food truck:

$50,000 – $100,000 for a used food truck. The risk of hidden costs of repairs to the engine and kitchen will be high for lower quality trucks in the $50,000 range.

$85,000 – $115,000 for a new kitchen on a used truck chassis. Building a new kitchen can help you down the line, but a used truck may have mechanical problems that keep you off the road.

$125,000 – $200,000 for a brand new truck with a new kitchen. When you buy a new kitchen on a new truck, you’ll have much fewer hidden costs down the line.

Next, we’ll cover what these prices actually mean in terms of the risk you’re taking on and some of the hidden costs you could face.

Buying a Used, As-Is Food Truck (Cheap But Risky)

The first choice you have is to buy a used, as-is food truck, which means that you get the truck and equipment in the condition that it’s in. It’s like buying a home that’s a fixer-upper.

The price for an older truck can be around $50,000, and at times you may find one on the Roaming Hunger Marketplace for as low as $35,000.

A newer custom built used truck can go for as much as $100,000 or more, depending on the specs.

The thing to remember when getting a used food truck is to be very careful about the condition of the truck because there’s no refunds. What you see, and sometimes what you don’t see, is what you get.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of this decision:


1. Affordability

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The cost of a used food truck is appealing. The sticker price on a used, as-is food truck is significantly less than a new food truck. If you’re financing a truck yourself and don’t want to take out a loan, the cost will play a major factor.

2. Possible permits

If the food truck was on the road recently, itmay already be permitted to work in the area. That’s a time-saver. For more permit tips, check out our Tips And Tricks To Make It In The Industry article.


1. Warranties are likely expired

If there were warranties in place for the vehicle or the kitchen equipment they will likely be expired. That means you’re on your own when something breaks.

2. Unexpected breakdowns and problems

When you buy a used truck and equipment, you aren’t 100% sure what works and what doesn’t. If an owner is ready to sell, the overall condition of the truck and kitchen may be hard to assess. The owner may have delayed maintenance to save money, which means you inherit more problems.

The risk is you could get hit with some big repairs. For instance, a water heater failure costs up to $3,000, a deep fryer failure costs up to $5,000, a refrigeration and freezer unit failure costs up to $6,000, and engine, transmission, and drivetrain failure can rack up expenses to the tune of $12,000.

One precaution you should take is to run a free vehicle history report; doing so can alert you to odometer tampering, prior damage, and other potentially costly red flags. It could also be a good idea to consider looking into food truck insurance in order to account for, and be prepared, for these unexpected problems.

The Real Cost to Buy a Food Truck (2023 Edition) (2)

3. Outside financing is tough to get

It’s almost impossible to get financing for a used, as-is food truck. Since the condition of the truck and equipment is questionable, it’s too risky for banks and financing brokers to provide a loan.

If you’re an entrepreneur with no existing small business to take out a loan against, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the entire used truck.

4. No flexibility in layout

When you buy used, you get stuck with the kitchen layout and equipment that it comes with, which may or may not work for your food concept (you can’t make pizza on a burger truck). Making changes is tough since plumbing, electrical, and gas lines are all installed.

If you do make major changes, you’ll likely need to re-submit new drawings for permit approval and then go through re-inspection by your local government agency before you can get on the road.

5. Permitting and inspection trouble

Just because the food truck was once on the road doesn’t mean it’s ready to go. Your food truck has to pass inspection, and be permitted before you start serving customers from it.

6. Aesthetic problems

Even if everything is totally functional and passes inspection, a used food truck might look a little rough. It might need significant cleaning or cosmetic repairs inside and out.

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At the minimum, plan to put in some serious elbow grease to make your kitchen chef-worthy. Or, expect to spend up to $500 for a deep clean plus $800 for a mandatory hood cleaning, if you hire a professional.

The Real Cost to Buy a Food Truck (2023 Edition) (3)

Cost to Buy a New Kitchen On a Used Truck Chassis

You can decide to buy a new kitchen and have it installed on a previously owned truck. Think of this like adding an addition onto an older home.

The price can vary greatly just like buying an as-is truck, but generally you can expect to spend between $85,000 to $115,000. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of this decision:


1. A new kitchen on wheels

Your new kitchen will be built from scratch and customized to fit your preferences and food concept.

Food truck kitchens are small spaces and you want every inch to be as functional as possible. A new kitchen creates an opportunity for every appliance and work surface to support your food concept and maximize sales.

Plan your kitchen very carefully, it could be the difference between a successful business and one destined to fail.

A recent survey of Roaming Hunger’s food truck building consultants shows 18’ kitchens built on 22’ truck chassis are by far the most requested size. Take a look at our article on food truck commissaries for more kitchen layout tips.


2. Financing is possible

You’ll have more financing options available when you buy a new kitchen on a used truck. That’s because both you and the bank understand the value of the two parts that make up the whole.

When you provide the bank with receipts from the builder, they will show the total cost and value of the kitchen. These receipts coupled with the fact that used commercial trucks are bought, sold, and financed every day means that banks are comfortable with this situation. For more financing options, check out Kiva, a company that offers loans to food truck entrepreneurs.

3. New kitchen appliances offer peace of mind

A new kitchen means new appliances, which usually come with a one year manufacturer warrantee. New appliances are less likely to need repair compared to used equipment and won’t require as much maintenance.

These lower long-term maintenance costs should factor into your decision to buy a used or new kitchen.

4. Finding a used truck chassis is fairly easy

You might be able to get used trucks at an auction or for sale locally. Of course, this can be a riskier investment since maintenance records or mechanical inspections often aren’t provided.

To make sure you’re reducing the risk of anything going wrong, you may want to completely over-haul the engine.

Your builder can help you find a truck chassis too and have you sign off on the deal before starting the build.


1. Truck reliability is questionable

With a used truck, it might not be as reliable as you’d like it to be. Fleet vehicles from big transportation companies like UPS or FedEx are one of the major sources of used truck chassis for the food truck building industry.

These companies typically drive them as part of their fleet for about seven years before reselling them, so it’s rare to find a newer truck chassis with less than 100,000 miles. While they are typically well maintained, their peak performance is likely behind them so reliability should be considered.

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2. Revenue lost due to a broken truck

If your truck won’t start or has maintenance problems, you might miss a catering job or the chance to sell to the lunch crowd downtown.

The repairs might not be a quick fix either. If your food truck is in the shop for a week or unexpectedly quits, you’re losing money and customers every day.

3. Current used trucks aren’t built for future regulations

Currently, popular vehicle models for food trucks include Ford F-59 step vans, Chevy P-30 step vans, and Freightliner MT55s.

While they are solid trucks, regulations and permitting requirements are constantly changing, which means entrepreneurs should buy a truck that meets the strictest of standards to avoid costs down the road.

In the food truck mecca of Los Angeles, for example, a regulation now requires 2009 or older diesel trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 14,000 pounds (most weigh anywhere from 12,000 pounds to 16,000 pounds) to either install a $10,000+ converter kit or replace their existing engine to comply with reduced emissions standards. This law will be phased in over the next six years, with the final phase ending in 2023.

Buying a truck that’s not up to the strictest standards could cost you a chunk of change as regulations evolve in years to come. To plan ahead, consider staying away from diesel-fuel models and look to build your kitchen on a fuel saving, low emission hybrid truck chassis like the Toyota Hino.

4. Long term truck repairs can add up

Putting a new kitchen on a used truck can save you money upfront, but you’ll still have to put money into the truck to keep it running. Expect to deal with some big-ticket problems on a used truck within the first three to five years. These costs should weigh into your decision to buy a used or a new truck.

The Real Cost to Buy a Food Truck (2023 Edition) (4)

Cost to Buy a New Truck With a New Kitchen

If you don’t have the cash in hand to pay for a food truck and need financing, then building a food truck is the best way to make your dream come true. Even if you have the choice, there are many reasons why building a truck makes more sense than buying used.

The price of a brand new food truck will be between $125,000 and $200,000, depending on your concept, the size of the kitchen, and the builder you’re working with.

Doing so does come with a price, but it’s like building a brand new home. You design it, build it, and rest assured knowing you won’t inherit any problems. In an industry where reliability is crucial to success, a new kitchen built on a new truck is your lowest risk option. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of this decision:


1. Warranty on the truck

Buying a new truck comes with warranties, usually a 5-year/100,000-250,000 mile warrantee depending on the truck model.

This warranty can save you thousands compared to the repairs you face with even a well-maintained used truck. The warranty on a new chassis can easily make up for the cost difference between a used truck and a new truck.

2. Save money with lower interest rates

You can save money on the interest rate when you finance a new kitchen and truck. Did you know that you can get separate loans for the new vehicle and kitchen?

According to some food truck-friendly banks, you can finance new kitchen builds for as low as 4.5% and a new truck for as low as 3%. The 1.5% difference in interest can add up to big savings on your monthly payments.

3. Reliability you can depend on

A new truck offers you the reliability you need to build a loyal customer base and solid reputation, which are two vital keys to success in the food truck world.

Building your kitchen on a new truck means you’re less likely to break down, less likely to cancel appointments and less likely to disappoint customers.

Reliability is crucial to your success and shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re making a decision to buy a food truck.

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4. Buy a truck that meets high standards

You’ll have the opportunity to build a truck that meets the strictest current and future regulations, not just for your local town, but for anywhere in the U.S.

This kind of foresight means that you’ll have the freedom to operate your business practically anywhere in the country for years to come.

5. Higher resale value

If you do choose to sell your food truck, your investment is going to get a higher return than an older truck.

Used, as-is trucks that were originally built as a new kitchen on a new chassis are highly sought after, retaining almost original MSRP at $99,000 – $110,000. Compare this to used food trucks that were built as new kitchens atop an old truck chassis, which might sell for $50,000-$85,000 depending on equipment and condition.

You can also expect to have a wider buyer pool when you resell thanks to the foresight of building your truck to stricter regulations that allow the truck to operate anywhere.


1. Higher upfront costs

The upfront costs of building a new kitchen on a new truck are higher than the other options listed, which may seem prohibitive for those looking to spend less initially.

The reason for these higher costs upfront is because you’re paying for an entirely new kitchen build out, custom made to fit your needs.

BONUS: Consider a Lease-To-Own Food Truck

An alternative to buying a food truck is leasing a food truck.

In our experience in talking to food truck owners, you may be able to find a food truck to lease from a local commissary. We don’t have a clear idea of how much monthly prices range, but we’ve heard of $4,500/mo in some cities.

If you’re interested in learning more about leasing a food truck, we’ve put together a lease-to-own program for entrepreneurs and existing brands.

Prices range from $3,600-$3,800 a month for a new fully built truck, plus a Roaming Hunger benefits package to help you build your brand and business once your truck is on the road. For more information go to our Food Truck Lease Page.

Renting a food truck: Short-term rentals of food trucks are usually very expensive, but certainly possible. How much does it cost to rent a food truck? It varies, but usually in the ballpark of $2,000 to $3,000 per month, the price depending on the type of truck and length of the lease. We’ve helped certain customers acquire food trucks for short-term rentals in the past. Go to our Food Truck Lease Page page to give us your information.

For long-term rentals, we don’t know of any low cost options. One company here in Los Angeles offers long-term rentals for prices in the range of $9,000/mo. While this is too much for most entrepreneurs, for existing business it might be worth looking into.

Some Final Thoughts to Keep in Mind

So how much does a food truck cost? We hope you now have the answers.

It’s clear the type of truck and kitchen you buy is an important decision.Each option comes with certain costs, some upfront and others hidden, and with certain risks. If you’re not sure what is right for you, continue to do research and work on your business plan.

But also trust your instincts. If you are looking at a truck and something doesn’t seem quite right, hold off on making a decision until you can do more research.

Also, don’t forget that we are available to talk to you at any time. The Roaming Hunger Marketplace is a valuable and free resource to food entrepreneurs that want to get into the food truck industry.

Not only will we give you honest advice and tell you what we’ve learned over the years, but we’ll help you connect with reliable food truck builders and plug you into our Roaming Hunger vendor network once your business is off the ground.

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What are the initial costs of a food truck? ›

In general, it costs between $28,000 and $114,000 to get a food truck business up and running, with the average food truck earning around $300,000 per year. Starting your own business is incredibly rewarding, especially if it's a success.

How much does it cost to buy a food truck in the US? ›

On average, most food truck entrepreneurs spend between $70,000 and $80,000 on their food truck. The total price of buying a food truck can amount anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 depending on how you acquire the truck, customize it for your needs, and your local permit and licensing requirements.

Is buying a food truck worth it? ›

Pros to Owning a Food Truck Business

There are several pros to owning a food truck. First, they are a relatively low-cost investment. Food trucks can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Second, they offer flexibility and freedom that you wouldn't have with a traditional restaurant.

What is the value of a food truck? ›

The cost of a food truck varies wildly across the United States, but Matt says in the Bay Area an owner should expect to spend about $50,000 on the cheapest end. That figure can range all the way up to $200,000 for a “totally customized, pimped-out, brand new construction vehicle.”

How much do food truck owners make a year? ›

As they can easily earn ₹35,000-40,000 per day. So, in an average month, a food truck can easily earn between ₹2-3 lakhs, and if you include events and college festivals, the revenue can be increased by another ₹2-3 lakhs.

What is the cheapest price for a food truck? ›

New food truck purchases typically cost between $50,000 to $175,000 and come with a lead time to build. Used food truck trucks typically cost between $30,000 and $70,000, and will be able to use immediately after any maintenance.

What is the total profit for your food truck? ›

The average food truck has expenses of between 91 and 94%. Unfortunately, you don't get to take home all of the revenue. Food trucks have significant expenses as well. We were able to determine our food truck expense estimate based on the fact that most food trucks generate a profit of between 6 and 9% of revenue.

Do food trucks pay for locations? ›

Other than normal operation fees, food trucks will need to pay “rent” for their spot at events. These fees range in price and depend on the area, event, number of other trucks at the event, and many other variables. At events, you can expect to see costs to claim your spot range from $75+.

Are food truck owners rich? ›

Nationally, food truck owners make between $24,000 and $153,000 per year. Typically, the owner's salary for a food truck is less than 50% of the profit. In a small food truck, your salary might be a higher percent of your profit, relative to how much labor you put into the business.

What foods sell best in food trucks? ›

Top 20 Food Truck Menus
  • Barbecue.
  • Amped-up Hamburgers.
  • Reinvented Hot dogs.
  • Coffee Trucks.
  • Smoothie / Healthy Drink Trucks.
  • “Grown-up” grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Beef Sliders (Variation on hamburgers.)
  • Cupcakes and desserts.
Nov 27, 2019

What is the most profitable food truck food? ›

Most Profitable Item #1: Barbecue

The most profitable food truck dishes strike the perfect balance between cost, labor, and sales. Nothing embodies that balance more than barbecue. Not only is it easy to toss some choice meats and veggies on the fire, but it's also quick and cheaper than other options.

How many food items should a food truck have? ›

A good rule of thumb is that most food trucks can handle five to 12 different menu items at any given time. The fewer the better to keep your quality top notch. Second, you want to make sure your menu is easy to prepare.

How many items should you sell on a food truck? ›

Getting that dream off the ground requires a one-of-a-kind menu. It serves as the central component of your restaurant on wheels, setting the tone and taste for your culinary identity. While it's tempting to flex your creativity with a lengthy menu, most food truck owners only serve 6 to 12 items.

What is the average daily sales for a food truck? ›

One source says that food trucks can make an average revenue of $250,000 to $500,000 annually. *** That breaks down to $20,000 to $42,000 per month, or $667 to $1,400 per day.

How successful can a food truck be? ›

The Average Success Rate for Food Trucks. Current statistics, taken from average restaurant figures, suggest 40 percent of food carts are still in business after three years. With an average revenue stream of $250,000-$500,000 a year, managing a successful mobile kitchen can be a lucrative endeavor!

Is a food truck a fixed cost? ›

fixed costs in the food truck business include purchasing the equipment and the licensing fees at the start of the business. The equipment you have to purchase includes; the ruck, a system wrap, and kitchen equipment for the truck.

What is the top 3 most popular food truck foods? ›

Barbeque, sliders, and tacos are the most popular foods you'll find at a food truck. However, trucks are known to offer endless options, such as wood-fired pizza, sushi, ramen, hawaiian, filipino, and more.

Where is the best place to run a food truck? ›

9 Places to Park Your Food Truck This Summer
  • Food Truck Festivals.
  • Food and Drink Festivals.
  • Financial Districts & Business Buildings.
  • Tourist Attractions.
  • City Parks.
  • Shopping Centres.
  • Sports Stadiums & Concert Venues.
  • Outdoor Music Festivals.

Why are food trucks Cash only? ›

Why don't some food trucks accept credit cards? Many businesses in addition to food trucks are hesitant to accept card payments because of the added fees. Payment processors typically charge a certain percentage per transaction. For example, a business might pay 2.5% to the payment processor on any purchase.

Where are food trucks most successful? ›

🌮 Food Truck Statistics 🌮
  • Portland, Oregon, is America's best city for food trucks, while Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the worst. ...
  • The top 15 cities have an average of nine food trucks per 100,000 residents. ...
  • Los Angeles has the most food trucks (715), while Virginia Beach has the fewest (28).
Aug 17, 2022

What makes a food truck successful? ›

Offering a unique, differentiated menu:

You're not just competing against all other mobile food vendors, yet your competing with every other food option on the market. First impressions by your customers is crucial, your menu has the ability to stay with a customer long after they've ordered from it.

What food sells the most? ›

The Number 1 Most Popular Foods in America are Hamburgers!
  • Ice Cream.
  • Chicken Tenders.
  • Soft Drinks/Soda.
  • Pizza.
  • Oreo Cookies.
  • French Fries.
  • Hot Dogs.
  • Hamburgers.
Sep 7, 2021

What is the most popular type of food truck? ›

Street food truck

At the core of the food truck movement is a love of street food – tacos, kebabs, and sandwiches are some of the most common food truck fare.

Who eats most from food trucks? ›

Middle-class millennials are the target market of the billion-dollar food truck industry. According to an IBISWorld Inc. report, 43% of food truck spending each month is made by 25- to 44-year-olds, with an additional 20% coming from those under the age of 25.

What do you need to have a food truck in NC? ›

N.C. Department of Agriculture Food Permit (if applicable) Copy of vehicle or trailer registration (required for new and renewal) Location of approved grease disposal facility (required for new and renewal) May require the approval of a Home Occupation Permit.

What are variable costs for a food truck? ›

Variable costs:

Variable costs in the food truck business include the expenses you incur while running the business. The cost depends on the business you transact in a day. They include expenditures such as commissary, fuel, labor, restocking your food and beverages, paper products, and truck maintenance.

How much is a food truck permit in NC? ›

A fee of $26.00 is required per permit. Per the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Sec- tion 5.4.

What supplies do you need for a food truck? ›

Ultimate Food Truck Equipment Checklist
  • Ovens. While not all kitchens use ovens, quality commercial ovens are crucial for many restaurant business models. ...
  • Ranges, Grills, and Ventilation. ...
  • Microwaves. ...
  • Freezers and refrigerators. ...
  • Food prep surfaces. ...
  • Food prep equipment. ...
  • Safety equipment. ...
  • Sinks.

Can a food truck sell alcohol in NC? ›

Liquor License in North Carolina

In most states, food trucks cannot obtain a full liquor license. The best they can do is to get short-term liquor licenses for special events, but selling alcohol regularly should not be part of your North Carolina food truck business plan.

What are the fixed costs for a food truck? ›

Fixed expenses are those you'll pay every month, such as: Vehicle payments, unless you've purchased your vehicle outright. Vehicle rental.
These include:
  • Food and/or ingredients.
  • Parking permits, such as for special events.
  • Delivery or shipping.
  • Gas and oil.
  • Vehicle repairs.
  • Packaging, labels, etc.
  • Marketing and promotion.
May 22, 2015

What are fixed costs for a food truck business? ›

Fixed costs: Truck loans, employee salaries/payroll, loan payments, license fees, insurance premiums, and more. Fixed costs are typically easier to plan for.

What is the average revenue earned by a food truck in a month? ›

Average Food Truck Revenue

The national average of food truck revenue – the total sales before expenses – is $20,000-$42,000 monthly. Once you forecast your sales, you can get a more accurate number for your food truck.


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