Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Food Truck

how to start a food truck

Every day when you go out at lunch looking for sustenance, you see those food trucks on the corner with long lines of hungry customers waiting. It looks like an easy way to make money, right? If you have always wanted to be your own boss, but the idea of owning and running your own restaurant seems to daunting, you have probably considered the idea of buying a food truck. While food trucks have become really popular and do good business when planned right, it is still a lot of work and it all starts with finding and buying the right food truck.

Check out this beginner’s guide to buying a food truck for tips to help your new business get off on the right foot.

Used truck vs. custom build

One of the first decisions you will have to make is whether to buy a used truck or have one custom built. A used food truck will be less expensive typically running anywhere between $50,000 and $80,000 for one in decent shape. If you find one for less then be careful that it is not a lemon. If your truck ends up needing a lot of repairs in the first year, you will eat up all the money you initially saved pretty quickly and may end up paying more in the end.

A custom build, of course, will be more of an investment, but this way you know the truck will have everything you need to your exact specifications. Make sure you can recoup the cost of your truck in your first year though. You don’t want to start out your new business with too much debt.

Whichever way you decide to go, make sure that the truck and all the equipment inside is of high quality and will not break down on you in the first couple of months. Since this is the foundation of your business, it is important not to cut corners.

What size should your truck be?

Food trucks come in different sizes so you need to really think about what size will suit your needs. Will you be selling mostly prepackaged food items or will you need a lot of space for cooking on site? What size will allow you to have the proper kitchen equipment and sanitation system? Specific things to look for are the size of the water tank and the generator, what type of air conditioning does it have? Without enough fresh water and electricity, you will have to shut down hours earlier than you want. Also consider, how many people will be working inside the truck at one time? Where do you plan on parking your truck? If you plan on running your food truck in a city with tight parking space sizes and a lot of regulations than smaller may be better.

Where to find trucks to buy?

If you are going for a used truck, avoid shopping on Ebay or Craigslist. With websites like this, you have no idea what you are really going to get and an important purchase like this shouldn’t be left to chance. Instead go straight to custom food truck builders and see if they are also selling used trucks, often they do. You may end up paying a little more, but you will have peace of mind that you are dealing with a reputable manufacturer.

If you are going for a custom build truck, check out the websites of different food truck builders to see examples of their work and what comes with the truck. You will want the outside of your truck to catch passerby’s attention and be welcoming and the inside to have all the right equipment for what you want to see and enough room to be able to work efficiently. Also, talk to current food truck owners about their experiences and ask for recommendations. You will learn some helpful tips on what to look for from people who are in the trenches.

One important thing to consider is the warranty on your purchase. It is a big investment so make sure your food truck comes with a good warranty from a company that you can trust.

Taking care of your truck

Because your business depends on your ability to get to good locations to sell your food, a broken down truck spells big trouble. To save time and money, prepare to become a part-time mechanic. The more you can fix on your own, the quicker and cheaper you will be able to get back on the road. From flat tires to faulty wiring, don’t let mechanical issues keep you stranded one the side of the road.

Figuring out the cost of starting a food truck

Besides the cost of buying your food truck, there are a lot of other expenses you will need to figure out as you create your business plan. There is the cost of ingredients and paper products, gas and repairs for the truck, salaries for any employees, cost of permits and licenses that you will need to park your vehicle legally. Running a food truck is so much more than just finding an empty corner and selling your wares. It is as intense as running a brick and mortar restaurant so make sure you know what it all entails before jumping in feet first.

Buying a Zac’s Burgers food truck

If you don’t have a unique dish that you want to sell, consider buying a food truck from an established franchise business like Zac’s Burgers in the Philadelphia area. You will be able to capitalize on the name power of a company with an already established customer base. Other benefits include having a preset menu and the support of a parent company.

If you are new to the restaurant business, then buying a food truck from an experienced franchisor might be a good way to initially get your feet wet.

Whichever way you decide to go though make sure you have honestly considered your financial picture and have researched and written a carefully laid out business plan for your food truck. Good Luck!

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Zacs Food Truck

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