Buy or Build a New Vehicle for Your Mobile Food Business - dummies

Buy or Build a New Vehicle for Your Mobile Food Business

By Richard Myrick

Purchasing a new truck is how most start-up food truckers prefer to begin their mobile food business. The high prices of buying new ($75,000 to $300,000) are their only source of hesitation. Being able to set up your truck the way you want with all the right kitchen equipment and options is very desirable.

This scenario is similar to buying a new car: You don’t have to worry about how the last owner drove it or how they maintained the kitchen.

An additional advantage to buying new is the warranty. Be sure to ask salespeople about the warranties they offer and what each covers. Another question you should ask is whether the dealer supplies a loaner truck should issues arise that take your truck off the road. The longer you’re off the road, the longer you’ll need to rely on an alternative plan to sell your product.

Finally, if you decide to purchase from a dealer, be sure the asking price is fair. Research similarly equipped vehicles in similar condition. If you don’t have any skills in haggling, either learn how to haggle or take someone with you who can. In many cases, sellers are willing to accept offers as low as 15 percent off their asking price. Saving money on the front end can only help you in the long run.

You can also ask other food truck owners in your area for the names of reliable local vehicle dealers who provide follow-up after a purchase. Here are some websites of national truck manufacturers that give you the option of searching for dealers closest to you:

If you can’t find a new truck with the proper equipment configuration, customizing a vehicle is an option.

The main advantage, of course, is having the truck setup of your dreams (instead of having to deal with a poor kitchen layout or a kitchen that isn’t equipped for the style of cuisine you plan to sell), but this is by far the most expensive route and can take the most time before the truck is ready for delivery.

Although most timing quotes are from four to six weeks, be sure to talk with the shop’s previous customers to see whether the seller followed through on his promises or whether it took much longer.

Missing a proposed opening date because you received your truck one to three months late will make you look quite unprofessional. Reneging on timing can hurt any positive word of mouth you may have already received and can be very difficult to recover from.

If you decide to have your truck built from scratch, be sure to use a local truck builder who’s familiar with all the current local health code requirements. A knowledgeable builder can help speed up the health department’s review of your truck’s floor plans and your final inspection.

Here are a few companies that can help you build the truck of your dreams (or at least get you started with one that will deliver your concept and cuisine):