How Much It Typically Costs To Start A Food Truck

Food trucks blew up in the late 2000s and early 2010s, surely spurred on by the recession as would-be operators looked for ways to cut costs instead of taking the financial plunge that accompanies brick-and-mortar businesses. And, though probably past their peak, they are still going strong: According to market research firm IBISWorld, food trucks in the United States raked in $1 billion in income in 2019 via nearly 24,000 mobile businesses, and the industry enjoyed an average of 6.8 percent annual growth from 2014 to 2019. True, by now, they are "no longer a novelty," and certain roadblocks make the food truck business a trickier one today, such as evolving consumer demands, oversaturation in certain markets, and intensified regulations by city governments (via The New York Times). Can these meals-on-wheels wonders still prove successful in the face of so much adversity?

Up-front costs to start a food truck

Naturally, notes Food Truck Empire, the most significant cost for operators is the food truck itself, which can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000; then factor in insurance at $2,000 to $4,000 per year, product inventory, permits and licenses, kitchen equipment, a point-of-sale system or some method of processing payments, marketing costs, and any other miscellaneous items needed, like chalkboard menus. The total startup costs, Food Truck Empire estimates, can run from more than $28,000 on the low end to nearly $115,000 on the high end. Sure, food trucks might seem to offer less financial risk, but they can still cost a pretty penny. 

Food trucks have unique ongoing costs

Besides needing fuel to run, food trucks may also require, according to local regulations, renting a commercial kitchen space, parking or space rental costs, plus money set aside for any necessary maintenance or repairs, as these vehicles tend to take a beating on the road and are exposed to the elements (via Entrepreneur). And, on that note, Entrepreneur adds that food trucks may need to work seasonally in certain areas of the country, due to weather conditions, and operators will need to account for the salaries of any employees, as well as food costs, which vary greatly according to what's on the menu. If an owner can get past all of the many hurdles of food trucking, however, hopefully the enterprise will turn a profit: According to CardConnect, the average food truck makes about $300,000 per year.