Browse our active listings for used hot dog carts and stands for sale. Each listing contains photos, equipment lists, the location of the unit, the asking price, and other important details. Whether you’re looking for a blank slate you can customize to your own needs, or a turnkey hot dog concession business, you’ll find the right inventory here. View our full used concession inventory here.

ACTIVE HOT DOG CART, TRAILER AND TRUCK LISTINGS

Check this page often to view new and updated listings, and remember to use your common sense when transacting business on the internet: Never purchase a unit that you haven’t had an opportunity to inspect in person, and never send money via US Mail, wire, or internet transfer for equipment you haven’t seen.

Hot Dog Concession Buyer’s Guide

DB's Hotdog and Sausage Emporium

For most independent entrepreneurs with some combination of a tight budget, a limited amount of experience, but a passion for food vending, there aren’t many better places to get started than with a quality used hot dog cart or stand for sale by owner. We have inventory located across the United States, so you can find your ideal hot dog cart or stand, conveniently located near you, without having to deal with the hassle and wasted time of a visit to a high-pressure dealer, or an online order from a new equipment vendor you may not know or trust.

At Food Truck Empire, we love the hot dog concession business. But if you’re just starting your research into this lucrative segment of the mobile food business, and you’re not sure exactly what kind of equipment you need, we’ve written a brief guide that can help you determine the type of hot dog cart or stand that best suits your vision for the business.

Hot dog vending attracts many new foodservice entrepreneurs for a few simple reasons. Your startup costs (what we refer to as the “barrier to entry”) are remarkably low, and staffing needs are minimal. All you truly need is a way to convert hot dogs from “cold” to “ready to serve,” whether that’s on a grill or in a steam table, a few buns and condiments, and a tiny bit of time and manpower to start serving your cased meats to the masses. The low cost of initial inventory and the minimal amount of equipment needed makes this an ideal segment of the business for first-time food concessionaires.

The first question you’ll need to address, is exactly how much equipment you need. You may be surprised how little you need to get started, and of course, if the business succeeds, you can always upgrade to bigger and fancier vehicles in the future. In the hot dog business, you probably don’t need to spend tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a full-blown food truck, since most hot dog businesses require little in terms of equipment.

A standard and typical hot dog wagon or stand commonly features either a steam table to keep hot dogs and buns warm, and may also include a hand wash sink and associated plumbing (since in most areas, you’ll need this to pass a health inspection), storage for condiments (both bottled, such as ketchup and mustard, or semi-prepared, such as onions, chili, or sauerkraut).

gourmet hotdog

A classic gourmet hotdog.

Most “outdoor” style carts also feature some type of awning or pop-up umbrella, to protect you and your customers from the scorching sun, and to satisfy some health department regulations which may require food service prep areas to be shielded from the elements.

For most small operations, a small concession cart or stand can make good sense for most hot dog startup entrepreneurs, especially if you have off-site storage available. Carts and stands are typically much less expensive than a large step van or food truck, but do have some limits, in terms of your opportunities for expansion.

For example, if your hot dog business takes off, will you want to start offering an assortment of additional warm toppings, such as chili or cheese, or even other types of “eat-on-the-go” convenience food, such as sandwiches? Will you eventually want the ability to store additional types of sausages, such as bratwurst or Polish sausages?

This would require a more sophisticated electrical or propane system designed to handle the power load of multiple refrigerators and steam tables. If your hot dog cart dreams include eventually growing and expanding into other offerings, a larger investment in a larger vehicle with room to handle this expansion may make good sense.

Standard Equipment List:

sanora hotdog

The Sanora Style Hotdog

There are a few “standard features” for a hot dog cart or stand that we consider essential. Look for listings that already include the following:

  • A way to cook hot dogs. This can be accomplished in several ways: Steam tables, roller grills, charbroilers, or even deep fryers can all be used to cook hot dogs, which will vary in cost and may require additional needs with regard to electricity or propane.
  • A way to keep perishables chilled. This can be as simple as a bucket with ice, or more sophisticated combinations of refrigerated compartments or small refrigerators.
  • Interior/exterior lighting
  • Some means of water service to supply your hand wash sink, including on-board tanks or storage, or a connection to an external water source
  • Lots of interior storage, including tables and shelving, to accommodate disposables and condiments
  • Opportunities for branding and advertising, including logos and custom vinyl wraps

In some municipalities, much of the additional equipment you might need for traditional foodservice, including a 3-bay sink, may not be necessary for a hot dog cart or stand. Remember, though, that if you plan to expand to offer additional food items in the future, these requirements will need to be met. Check with your local health inspector to discuss your plans for your hot dog cart or stand, and to find out which of these additional systems may be necessary in your area.

Electrical Considerations:

For most hot dog carts and stands, power and fuel considerations will be minimal, since quite simply, you don’t have a ton of equipment you need to keep running. This means that in most cases, you can skip complicated propane installations (unless your cooking method requires it) and high-load electrical installations, but again, keep future expansion in mind. If you add an ice maker, a large refrigerator unit, or commercial-grade appliances, you may find yourself quickly outgrowing your electrical needs, which can be a costly upgrade down the road.

How to Operate a Profitable Hot Dog Cart or Stand

Because of the low overhead, extremely high margins, and low barrier to entry for a mobile hot dog business, competition for this segment of the market can be fierce. However, there are a few different proven approaches to making money in the hot dog business, even in a field already crowded by potentially dozens of similar businesses. Here are a few strategies to consider:

Catering and Special Events:

Local festivals, food fairs, carnivals, and farmer’s markets are probably the bread and butter of most small-scale hot dog businesses. Anywhere large groups of people are congregating outdoors under the blazing summer sun, can be a potential venue for your hot dogs. At these types of events, your success or failure is hinged on both the attractiveness and attention-getting qualities of your equipment and branding, as well as the quality and uniqueness of your offerings.

Similarly, a hot dog cart can be a great addition to a corporate event, or to big functions like weddings, receptions, birthday parties, or anywhere else people gather in large numbers and may need a quick, on-the-go snack.

Consider What’s Around You:

If your potential customers never see your hot dog business, they’re never going to try your product. For most customers, hot dogs are something of an “impulse” decision, meaning very few people leave the house in the morning with “finding a hot dog cart” very high on their list of priorities. Customers need to stumble upon you, preferably at a time when they need a quick snack or meal, without spending a lot of time or money at a local restaurant or fast food place. For this reason, setting up in local parks or beaches, or piggybacking on other local businesses can be a big formula for success. Many hot dog carts and stands find that by partnering with other, established businesses such as zoos, movie theatres, food truck parks, home improvement store parking lots, or outdoor shopping plazas, they can attract the kind of casual, walk-by traffic that feeds this specific type of concessionaire.

Other Things to Consider:

While we haven’t managed to outline every single aspect of the hot dog business, we hope this brief guide will help spark some new ideas and give you an overall understanding of both how to evaluate a used hot dog cart or stand, as well as how to operate one for maximum return on your investment. If you want more information operating this type of business, read our ultimate guide on starting a hot dog business.

Here are two more quick things to consider:

Have a friend or trusted mentor assist you with your inspection. Remember, even the simplest, most straightforward hot dog selling units are prone to breakdowns, mistreatment, or abuse, and many of the problems associated with some of these pieces of equipment may go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Just as you would never purchase a car without taking it for a test drive, make sure you have a chance to inspect your new equipment before any money changes hands.

Before you start shopping for hot dog vending equipment, schedule a friendly chat with the health inspector and code enforcement officer in your area. This doesn’t have to be scary. Both the health inspector and the city planning office want to help make your business a success, while ensuring that you are operating legally and safely. Because every municipality is different, discuss your ideas openly with them, to find out about specific laws or compliance requirements in your area, before you spend a dime on purchasing equipment.

Whether you’re planning to sling your hot dogs from a pushcart or pop-up tent, the business continues to attract new entrepreneurs for two reasons: The margins are incredible, and the equipment needed to get started is minimal. If you want to learn more about operating a mobile food business, check out our business plan section to see how you can create a custom plan for your hot dog unit, or click here to browse our complete inventory of food trucks for sale.

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