Previously Owned Food Trucks vs. Custom Built Food Trucks (Which one is right for you?)

Financing

This is a guest post from Ian Smith over at Prestige Food Trucks, one of our recommended food truck vendors, who shares some thoughts about buying a truck that’s been previously owned, or going custom brand new.

The food truck scene has been a growing industry over the past few years, and rightfully so. Both already existing restaurants and first time entrepreneurs will see great benefit from opening up a food truck, but at a much lower barrier to entry than that of building out a restaurant. Not only are the initial and operating costs typically going to be much lower for a food truck, but you also have the huge added benefit of the ability to take your concept mobile. It’s not difficult to see the great opportunity of operating a food truck, but it may sometimes not be clear exactly how to get into the industry. One of the main questions that upcoming food truck owners may have when entering the industry is: what are the differences between purchasing a previously owned food truck and buying a custom built food truck?

The Main Differences to Understand

There are many distinctions that can be made when looking at a previously owned food truck versus a custom built one. Here are the major variations between the two that you’ll want to factor in when making your purchasing decision.

  1. Price

One of the main differences that has to be kept in mind, is the price. First, analyze your budget and see what kind of capitol that you have allocated to purchase a food truck. If you’ve set aside or have been approved for financing on $20,000-$40,000, than that’s roughly how much a previously owned food truck will cost. But, if you have a slightly higher budget, then you can afford to go with a custom built food truck. A custom built food truck typically starts at around $80,000 and goes up from there depending on many factors: year of the vehicle, gas or diesel, how many miles are on the vehicle, size of the cooking line, size of the generator, etc. It’s key to keep in mind that when you are purchasing a previously owned food truck, though the cost is initially lower, it is highly likely that shortly after purchasing the used food truck you will have to put money into the mechanical work required to fix the vehicle or trying to customize the food truck to fit your business’ needs. And these fixes aren’t cheap, the price of a previously owned food truck can easily be more than double the initial price tag, after you factor in all of the money that may be necessary to repair or customize it.

  1. Equipment and Layout
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Having a food truck customized with the proper equipment suited to efficiently operate your specific cuisine is essential. When purchasing a previously owned food truck, essentially what you see is what you get. The used food trucks will have cooking equipment installed that you may not need and the equipment could be in a layout that you don’t like, which can cause major problems when trying to efficiently cook food or even having the right tools to cook your food at all. And it’s not typically going to be an easy or cheap process to remove the cooking equipment that is already installed and place new equipment in the used food truck. When you go with a custom built food truck, the type of commercial equipment and layout is completely up to the customer. Also, when going custom built, you can go with the brand of commercial cooking equipment that you’d prefer as opposed to a different or even cheap brand that you might find on a previously owned food truck.

  1. Quality of the Vehicle

Picking out a reliable vehicle that you can safely operate your business in is one of the most important variables to look at when purchasing a food truck. If the vehicle breaks down, then you simply can’t operate your food truck. So not only will there be missed profits, but there will also be mechanical costs involved to fix the vehicle. And this is a common situation that people who purchase previously owned food trucks run into. Not being able to operate your business for two weeks and having to fork over thousands of dollars, can be a business killer for some. When purchasing a custom built food truck, you’ll have the peace of mind because you and/or the manufacturer can pick out a reliable vehicle. And if you have a larger budget, then you can opt-in to purchase a brand new vehicle so that there will be very minimal to no issues at all.

  1. Warranties
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Knowing that you have back up plans is important for your food truck business, and this is where warranties can really shine. When purchasing a previously owned food truck, it is highly unlikely that you’ll have any warranties at all and if anything happens to the food truck, then you are out of luck and have to pay a lot of money. But, when purchasing a custom built food truck you’ll typically find many warranties, which include:

  • 3 year warranty on all of your refrigeration equipment.
  • 2 year warranty on your generator.
  • 1 year warranty on cooking equipment.
  • If you can afford to purchase a brand new vehicle you’ll find your usual 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty on the vehicle itself.
  • With some builders, like Prestige Food Trucks, you can even get a warranty on the custom manufacturing work that was done to build out your food truck, currently Prestige Food Trucks offers a one year warranty on all of the work that they’ve done on your food truck.
  1. Health Codes

A key difference between purchasing a previously owned food truck and a custom built food truck is the health codes that they both have to meet. If you purchase a previously owned food truck in a different location than you’ll be operating in, you may find that the food truck is not up to code and you cannot use that food truck in your city. This is because health codes vary by location. You don’t want to run into the issue where you purchase a used food truck and then you can’t even use it at all. And that’s where the custom builders come into play. Custom food truck builders should do their due diligence to ensure that your food truck is guaranteed to operate wherever it is that you intend to run your food truck.

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Which Option is the Right One for you?

There are many factors that come into play when you are trying to decide between purchasing a previously owned food truck and a custom built one. And if you are serious about entering the food truck industry, than it is important that you select a food truck that will be able to meet your business’ needs and last you for years to come. If you want a food truck that will be able to do that, then your better option would usually be to go with a custom builder.

Be sure to check out Prestige Food Trucks for more info!

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About the Author

Pat Flynn is the founder and CEO of FoodTruckr. He’s a regular ol’ Joe and happy family man who happens to be a successful online entrepreneur. When he’s not building companies, engaging fans, or (most likely) chasing his kids around the house wearing something ridiculous, he’s tracking down a buffalo chicken grilled cheese sandwich from the Urban Eats truck in San Diego. Twitter is his favorite hangout—say hi to Pat @PatFlynn.

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  • Ken Holik

    Love the post, Pat. As the owner of a van and truck wrap company in Elk Grove IL , I know plenty of food truck guys and plenty of them own used trucks and say they do just fine. It all depends on the quality of truck you buy and what work you’re willing to put into it.

  • nikita1310

    This is an Awesome Article. – Hanuman Chalisa

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