Buying vs Renting A Food Truck

Should you buy or rent a food truck?

What are the costs of running a food truck? That’s one of the first questions people ask when they get the idea of starting a mobile food business. By far, the biggest expense you’re going to incur is the truck itself. It is the lifeblood of this business and you need to find a good, reliable truck you can afford. A large portion of your startup capital will be spent on this one item and here are some practical guidelines to keep in mind when you’re in the market for a truck.

Buying vs. Renting

Depending on cooking equipment and the size of the kitchen, you could easily spend $100,000 or more on a new food truck depending on the size and equipment onboard. A popular option that could save you some money is to retrofit an old truck with a brand new kitchen. But if that still seems out of your budget, you can rent a food truck for around 2,000 a month. Now this is a very rough number because the price can depend on the condition of the truck and how it is equipped. The great thing about renting is that you’ll have lower risk and need less start-up capital. Renting a food truck allows you to enter into this industry “temporarily” and gives you a chance to find out if you will really enjoy this type of work.

Used Food Trucks

A used truck is another great way to save money on startup costs. But you’re going to have to closely examine the condition of the truck. What year was it made? How does the frame and body look? Buying a used food truck is a bit like buying a used car. You will want to get a thorough inspection by a qualified mechanic. Then you’ll want to see if it has enough space for the type of cooking you want to do. In some states, you will still need to get a used truck up to current health codes even if it was permitted for use by the previous owners. The codes change all the time so you’ll have to comply with current standards. Sometimes that may mean some expensive rennovations to get it approved. Even with renovations, buying a used truck is still a more affordable option than buying new.

Custom Built Food Trucks

If a used truck is out of the question then you’ll have to build a new one. This means buying a new truck and outfitting it with exactly the type of equipment, specifications, layout, etc to make it work for you! This can take a long time but if you have special needs that only a custom truck can deliver, then this your best choice. Often, builders can give you a timeframe of when they think the truck will be completed, but as with any type of “construction” work, there will often be delays and you might not launch your truck on your scheduled date. A good estimate for completion is about 6 months. Using local builders is a good way to make the process go faster because they’ll be familiar with local codes and health requirements. The inspection process will also go a bit faster using a local builder. For some, there may not be a local truck builder so you’ll have to look in other parts of your state or even another state to find a good food truck builder.

How To Choose Your Truck

Only you can choose the right truck for your business! There are so many options and a lot of the design work depends on your menu and what you’re going to serve. The best thing to do is to write down a list of dishes and equipment you think you’ll need. Share that list with a builder or find a used truck that already has some of the equipment you need in it. Each truck is a different size and has a different layout so definitely do a walk-through like you’re buying a house. Try it on for size. Kick the tires around! Oh, and one more important thing, you should definitely take the truck out for a test drive… especially if you’re just starting your food truck business and have never driven large trucks!

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3 Responses to “Buying vs Renting A Food Truck”

  • Laura Burrell on June 10, 2012

    $35,000, Includes


    3FT GRILL with 4ft hood system
    40lb Fryer
    3 Bay Steam Table
    Full size Refrigerator/Freezer
    4 gallon hot water heater
    40 gallon fresh water holding tank
    50 gallon waste tank
    4 sinks/with great counter space
    6 or 7 foot serving window with sliding doors on the window
    2000 CFM Exhaust hood
    Air Conditioner
    Beautiful Paint Job with your choice of Colors


    Laura Burrell – Mobile Food Consultant
    267-738-1656 or email

    • Andrew on June 11, 2012

      Laura, thanks for posting that information. I’m sure our readers will find it useful!

  • Robert Warner on April 5, 2013

    I am looking for a food truck to rent in Illinois for at least six months to start a food vending business. I am searching for an 18 ft. with Chargrill, stand up fridg/freeze, three basin sink w/hand wash sink. I can not seem to find anything out there to rent. Can someone please help me in my quest ?