For smaller-scale entrepreneurs on a tight budget but with a burning passion to enter the mobile food business, we can’t think of a better place to start, than with a quality shaved ice truck, trailer, or cart for sale by owner. We have inventory located across the United States, so you can find your ideal shaved ice concession truck, conveniently located near you, without having to deal with the hassle and wasted time of a visit to a high-pressure dealer.
Use the links below to browse our active listings for shaved ice / snowball trucks, concession trailers, or carts. 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 shaved ice concession business, you’ll find the right inventory here. Click here to view our full inventory of used concessions.
Active Shaved Ice And Snowball Truck And Trailer 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.
Shaved Ice Concession Buyer’s Guide
A delicious snow cone.
At Food Truck Empire, we love the shaved ice concession business. In fact, we’ve published an entire guide on this business model. 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 shaved concession vehicle that best suits your vision for the business.
The shaved ice concession business attracts many new foodservice entrepreneurs for a few simple reasons. First, your startup costs (what we refer to as the “barrier to entry”) are remarkably low.
All you truly need to get started is a block of ice, something to turn that ice into tongue-tickling snow, a few (dozen) bottles of inexpensive flavored syrups, and a tiny bit of time and manpower to start serving your frozen treats to the hot-and-sweaty 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.
Related Reading: What’s the Annual Profitability of a Shaved Ice or Snow Cone Stand?
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 shaved ice business, you probably don’t need to spend tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a full-blown food truck, since most shaved ice businesses require little in terms of equipment.
A typical tow-behind snowball trailer commonly features a hand wash sink and associated plumbing (since in most areas, you’ll need this to pass a health inspection), storage for large blocks of ice, a rack to arrange flavored syrup bottles, and a machine to grind those large blocks of ice into snow.
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 concession trailer or even a small cart can make good sense for most shaved ice startup entrepreneurs, especially if you have off-site storage available. Trailers and carts 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 shaved ice business takes off, will you want to start offering an assortment of ice cream, either scooped or pre-packaged? This would require a more sophisticated electrical system designed to handle the power load of multiple freezers. If your shaved ice 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:
Example of a basic snow cone trailer.
There are a few “standard features” for a shaved ice truck, trailer, cart, or wagon that we consider essential. Look for listings that already include the following:
- Interior/exterior lighting
- Power inverter system to support electrical appliances including on-board freezers or refrigeration, ice grinders, and a pump for your water supply, with room for expansion as your equipment needs change
- 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 display bottles of flavor syrups
- 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 shaved ice cart or truck.
Remember, though, that if you plan to expand to offer even basic food items in the future, these requirements will need to be met. Check with your local health inspector to discuss your plans for your shaved ice cart or truck, and to find out which of these additional systems may be necessary in your area.
For most shaved ice concession trucks or trailers, 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 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.
Depending on where and how you plan to set up your truck, cart, or trailer, you may be able to connect to an external power source, such as in some city parks or at large events, like local fairs or concerts. However, it probably makes sense to purchase a generator to go with your new concession unit, for those times when an external power source isn’t available.
We like the 25-30 kw generator models from Onac Cummings and PowerTech, for their combination of power, relatively low price, and quiet operating noise. Of course, if you plan to operate an air conditioning unit inside the truck or trailer (which is something of a must during the hot summer months), you may find you need to purchase a generator that can handle this type of high-load appliance.
Related Reading: How to Start a $1 Million Dollar Shaved Ice Business
How to Operate a Profitable Shaved Ice Truck or Cart
A variety of snow cone syrup flavors.
Because of the low overhead, extremely high margins, and low barrier to entry for a mobile shaved ice business, competition for this segment of the market can be fierce, particularly in hot climates.
However, there are a few different proven approaches to making money in the shaved ice 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 shaved ice concession businesses. Anywhere large groups of people are congregating outdoors under the blazing summer sun, can be a potential venue for your shaved ice business.
Look for events that either don’t have an existing shaved ice vendor, or which can support multiple shaved ice operations. 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.
If the sno-cone vendor a few stalls down from you is offering up the same old combinations of flavors, imagine how attention-grabbing your “Unicorn Galaxy Hibiscus Kombucha Tornados” will be!
Similarly, a shaved ice 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.
Consider What’s Around You:
If your potential customers never see your shaved ice business, they’re never going to try your product. For most customers, shaved ice is something of an “impulse” decision, meaning very few people leave the house in the morning with “finding a shaved ice truck” very high on their list of priorities.
Customers need to stumble upon you, preferably at a time when the heat and humidity is starting to get to them. For this reason, setting up in local parks or beaches, or piggybacking on other local businesses can be a big formula for success.
Many shaved ice businesses 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:
We haven’t covered every single aspect of getting your shaved ice business up and running, but we hope this brief guide will help spark some new ideas and give you an overall understanding of both how to evaluate a used shaved ice concession truck, cart, or trailer, as well as how to operate one for maximum return on your investment. Here are two more quick things to consider:
Have a friend or trusted mentor assist you with your inspection. Remember, even shaved ice 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. Now’s also the time to acknowledge potential gaps in your knowledge, and bring along a trusted mentor or mechanic to assist in your evaluation.
Before you start shopping for saved ice 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 shaved ice from a food truck, tow-behind trailer, or even from a pushcart or pop-up tent, the shaved ice 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 shaved ice unit, or click here to browse our complete inventory of food trucks for sale.