Food Trucks for Sale 101: An Introductory Guide

Buying and selling a new or used food truck can be a pretty intimidating experience and that is why we are putting together a resource for our readers so that they can find food trucks for sale. With the food truck industry still in its relative infancy, you may already be familiar with some of the difficulty that comes with searching for a food truck that is right for you and your prospective business model.

There are seemingly a never ending array of different ways to buy and sell food trucks. Let’s examine some of your options.

Food Trucks for Sale Online

Time is money and looking for a food truck for sale online should save you time, money and aggravation. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t cost you any time, any money or any aggravation!

Searching ads listing food trucks for sale can be an arduous task. There are many different websites featuring food trucks for sale. However, most do not cater to the food truck industry, specifically, meaning you have to weed through thousands of other ads for trucks, trailers and food carts.

We all know what a pain in the ass searching through Craigslist can be, right? Unfortunately, there are not a lot of food truck specific classified ad websites that list food trucks for sale. There are a few, but most food trucks will be listed in various places. FoodTrucksandMore.com features a classified ad section listing food trucks for sale, along with a free food truck directory. You should add your business to their free directory as it will help you with your online marketing and allow you to send a link back to your website.

If you live in a major metropolitan area, you probably have a healthy and thriving food truck community. I would highly recommend that you reach out to the trade association or organization representing your community. For example, food truck owners in New York rely on the NYC Food Truck Owners Association. Many large cities have one. These groups may feature a classified ad page on their site listing the local food trucks for sale.

The other place to search online is by going directly to the pages of food truck manufacturers and custom builders. Food truck manufacturers build food trucks en masse, and though you can customize your truck to some degree, you have to realize that their profit comes from mass production. If you want your food truck to be heavily customized, you are more likely than not going to want to contact a custom builder who makes their money on original designs and customization.

New Food Trucks vs. Used Food Trucks

Whether buying a home or your personal vehicle, we have all wrestled with the question of whether or not we should buy used or brand new from the manufacturer, builder or dealer. Food trucks are no different.

There are many factors a prospective food truck buyer must consider and weigh.

Used Food Trucks: Things to Consider

Food trucks, like any other vehicle, are depreciating assets with a finite lifespan. Obviously, when you buy a used vehicle some of its “life” has been used up and components and equipment on the vehicle, whether it be the engine, generator or stove, will also have fewer years of service available to you. Moreover, you have no idea how well or how poorly the previous owner cared for the vehicle. To compensate for this fact, used vehicle are often significantly cheaper than buying brand new.

There are additional concerns when purchasing a used food truck listed for sale. More often than not, the person selling the food truck most likely used it as an owner operator. Therefore, it is highly likely that the vehicle has already been branded inside and out with the markings, decals, paint job or specially designed vehicle wrap. Food truck operators are some of the most creative entrepreneurs and artists out there. Anything and everything could have been modified, tweaked, altered or personalized in some way. Do not forget to take into account the costs associated with returning the vehicle back to a blank canvas so that you can brand it to properly fit your business theme. It is very important that you calculate these costs accurately, so that you know with absolute certainty that it is more cost effective and a better value than buying used.

In nearly all instances, you can and will be able to remove the previous owner’s branding and business identity from the truck. So, even though it is one of the negatives of buying a used food truck, it pales in comparison to the following downside.

Food truck owners and businesses are unique. The type of food and the manner in which you want to operate will differ significantly from that of the person wishing to sell their truck. The single biggest factor you must evaluate when purchasing a used food truck for your potential business is whether or not its design and layout will work for your business type and individual or personal preferences. You are going to have to live with the design choices and options the original owner selected when they ordered their truck for THEIR business needs.

The good news is that there are independent builders and customizers in the food truck industry who, at a price, can convert and redesign your truck to suit your needs. The question then becomes whether or not the costs of the re-design make sense. It is quite possible that you may find it better suited to your needs and budget to buy directly from a manufacturer or custom food truck builder.

Benefits of Buying Used Food Trucks

There are many benefits to buying a used food truck, so do not let the negatives espoused above sway you, frustrate your or discourage you.

The food truck community is pretty tight knit and has a lot of great, stand-up people who work hard to make a living. If you are looking at used food trucks for sale, you might be able to buy one from someone in your area that is either upgrading their vehicle to meet the needs of their growing business. Unfortunately, others may be trying to liquidate their business and need to sell the truck because their model didn’t work. Either way, it is highly probably that you will be able to glean some vital information about the food truck scene in your community.

Moreover, they are going to be able to give your real data and cost figures for fees, permits, registration costs and insurance. A customer builder or food truck manufacturers will not know this information.

As alluded to above, the unfortunate fact is that some food truck businesses do not succeed for whatever reason. When a person or business needs to liquidate their business, they are going to be a motivated seller and it is quite possible that you can save thousands of dollars during such a distress sale.

Additionally, when a food truck operator lists their food truck for sale, it is possible that the truck is still being used commercially. This could be true of the food truck operator who is expanding and the one who is liquidating. If this is the case in your situation, you will probably be able to get to see, inspect and learn about the vehicle while it is being used in operations. You will literally be able to kick the tires, turn the knobs and so forth.

Buying new will probably prevent you from having such an intimate opportunity to research and judge the vehicle through your own personal experience. Even if your food truck builder gave you a personal tour, you probably wouldn’t be allowed to truly test everything out. And this is assuming your builder is near you, in the first place.

Another positive factor to consider when purchasing a used food truck. Assuming it was used by the previous owner to actually serve customers, you can probably go online and take a look at reviews that may have been submitted by users about their experience at the truck. Maybe you go out and read the owner’s twitter feed and social media pages to see if there are any warning signs you might want to consider about the truck or business before purchasing.

Finally, the ultimate benefit and advantage to buying a used truck should be cost savings. If you are a “wannabe” food truck entrepreneur, I am sure that you are on a budget and do not have unlimited funds and resources to make your business work. Therefore, many prospective entrepreneurs decide that they want to preserve as much capital as possible and reason that if the business does well, they can always buy a new, better truck later. It is a perfectly reasonable and rational mindset. However, just be aware of the fact that your used food truck might actually be more expensive than buying new from the beginning when you factor in costs to bring your new truck online and take your used truck offline.

Food Trucks Direct from Manufacturer: Is it right for you?

We have all taken a trip through a brand new model home and “oohhed” and “aahhed” at how beautiful it looked, imaging our family living in it. The same goes for the enticements surrounding the purchase of a new food truck.

Often, we find ourselves rationalizing the costly upgrades or stressing over other options offered by the builder.

Purchasing a new food truck from a builder can have the same stresses, excitements and emotional swings. It is quite easy to watch the “starting price” balloon into the stratosphere as you check off all the “must-have” features you “need” to have on your truck. It is tough to resist this temptation.

Time is money, right?

The benefit of buying new is that you are not subject to any choices, decisions or neglect on the part of the previous owner. You can build it the way you want to specifically suit your needs. You can paint it, wrap it and trick it out until your heart is content.

In fact, it might even be easier for you to get into a brand new food truck at a much lower cost due to expanded financing options and lower interest rate incentives.

A major drawback to buying used, aside from the higher upfront purchase price, is that it will lose significant value as soon as you take delivery. And if you customize it heavily with top of the line options and a unique floor plan or layout, you are going to take an even bigger hit if you need to sell in the future.

One significant point of consideration for those thinking of buying a new food truck. If you are a first time operator, you really do not know what you do not know. No matter how much due diligence and research your conduct, you will only learn some things by actually working the truck and getting your hands dirty. Some of the fancy upgrades you end up paying top dollar for may turn out to be useless, unnecessary and a waste of money.

A final note about purchasing from a manufacturer. You will be interacting with businesses and individuals who rely on having their finger on the pulse and trends facing the food truck industry. They can provide an invaluable resource and offer considerable insight about market trends so that you can use them in determining how to outfit your rig for the streets.