Food trucks are advertised as a cheap way to start a business. But if you’re planning to get into the food truck business solely for the reason for low start-up costs think again. The initial investment and on-going monthly costs are significant. In this article, we’ll outline the basic costs starting a food truck and provide a spreadsheet you can use to estimate the price of getting in the game.
Food Truck Expense Breakdown – Download this spreadsheet and plug-in your own numbers to get an overall estimate of what it will cost to get the business up and rolling.
A couple reasons food trucks are considered a low-cost business is that you don’t need to sign a lease for single restaurant location and can get by with few employees if you plan to manage the day-to-day operations yourself. These advantages are true, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be overhead.
Depending on the regulations of your city, you may be required to use a commissary. Commissary costs can run from $400 – $800 per month depending on the services that are provided and location. You’ll also need to pay for insurance that can easily run from $2000 – $4000 per year depending on coverage levels and what percentage of the year you plan to operate the truck. There’s also permits and business license fees that are required just like any other business. Then there’s the truck.
The food truck or trailer is the biggest and most part of your investment. After all this is where you’ll be spending most of your time, cooking, and it also promotes the brand and vision of your vending. You’ve probably read that the cost of a food truck can vary greatly. Anywhere from $15,000 – $100,000 is the range that a food truck can cost, but most fall somewhere in the middle.
Reader Warning: Most experienced and successful long-term food truckers will tell you that opting for the cheapest vehicle and equipment isn’t the way to go. The vehicle truly is the heart and sole of your business and investing in better quality equipment can help reduce repair frequency and help ensure you’ve got more up-time.
Here are a few supplementary resources you can use to get a wider swath of perspectives on the costs of operating a food truck:
Food Truck Case Study – This is a case study with Anthony Salvagno that takes you through the full-process of starting a food truck in real time. There’s a full episode on how much was invested in the food truck. If you want a real-world example of how to start a food truck this series is it.
Are Food Truck Start Up Costs Low? – Eric Silverstein is the owner of The Peached Tortilla, an award winning food truck in Austin, Texas. In this article Silverstein shares his perspective on the topic of food trailers being a low-barrier to entry business.
Food Truck Economics – In-depth breakdown and analysis of the expenses of operating a food truck. Recommended reading.
How to use the Spreadsheet
We encourage you to download the food truck cost spreadsheet to estimate how much starting your vehicle would cost. Remember that every city / state will have different laws and requirements so your cost will vary. This spreadsheet is a great way to get you in the ball-park for a cost estimate.
|Food Truck Start-up Costs|
|Food Truck + Wrap & Equipment||$25,000 – $100,000||Feel free to add your personal notes here.|
|Initial Product Inventory||$1,000 – $2,000|
|Permits and Licenses||$100 – $500||Varies a lot depending on where you operate.|
|Website||Free – $5,000||Varies a lot depending on what you want.|
|Facebook / Twitter||Free|
|Register / POS||$200 – $1,000||Can also use an iPad and an app for credit transactions.|
|Uniforms / T-Shirts||$0 – $1,000|
|Paper Products (Plates / Napkins, etc.)||$200 – $300|
|Misc. Expenses (Like a Chalk Menu)||$500 – $2000||Plan for some unexpected expenses here and put it into the budget.|
|Smallwares: Pots, Pans, etc.||$1000 – $2000|
|Fire Extinguisher||$100 – $300|
|Total Low End||$28100|
|Total High End||$114100|
|Food Truck On-Going Costs|
|Item||Monthly Estimated Cost||Notes|
|Commissary||$400 – $1,200||Varies greatly depending on location and services provided by commissary.|
|Phone / Internet||$100 – $200|
|Fuel||$500||This will vary a lot.|
|Labor||???||$8 – $15 per hour is average rate.|
|Repairs||$1000||Better to budget for it.|
|Food / Beverage Restock||???||Depends on food cost and frequency of operation.|
|Paper Product Restock||???||Depends on food cost and frequency of operation.|
After you get the cost estimate figured out. The next thing you’ll want to do is estimate how many meals per month you’ll need to serve to turn a profit after expenses. But that’s a topic for a future blog post.