Imagine unleashing your culinary creativity on the world, one street corner at a time. The lure of crafting delicious eats while forging a personal path to entrepreneurship has led many to consider launching their own roving bistro.

But what really goes into the financial plan of a mobile food vendor? The food truck startup cost can be a recipe not just for delectable meals but for business success—or a budgetary misstep.

In this deep dive, we’ll peel back the aluminum siding of the industry, revealing the nitty-gritty of food truck investment breakdown and catering truck operational costs.

From navigating local health department regulations to selecting the perfect griddle, you’ll be equipped with knowledge as rich and satisfying as your signature dish.

By article’s end, expect clear insights into initial outlaymenu pricing strategy, and the marketing finesse needed to drive the hungry hordes to your service window.

This isn’t just street food; it’s your dream on wheels, budgeted and branded for success.

In this article, you’ll get a complete guide on starting a food truck business, including the food truck startup costs that include equipment, permits, and more.

Who among us hasn’t fantasized about leaving their 9 to 5 job for the culinary aspirations of opening his own food truck worthy of Instagram? 

It’s probably not a sign that it’s time for lunch if you just had stomach butterflies. Instead, it was probably simply your ardent enthusiasm getting the better of you. 

You should stop delaying your goals because you are worried about the startup expenditures to start a food truck. For you, we’ve done the investigation and contributed our labor

We created a helpful reference guide since no small business owner should enter the food truck market without knowing what to anticipate.

Over the past ten years, food trucks have become incredibly popular. With Americans embracing mobile restaurants, what was once a fad has become mainstream. 

As a result, ambitious chefs and restaurant business owners have started using food trucks as a less expensive and riskier option than starting up traditional eateries. 

However, before trying out to start a food truck, aspiring business owners must be aware of their possible expenditures.

If you have no past expertise in the food business, the amount of effort necessary to launch your own physical-and-mortar restaurant can seem overwhelming. A food truck, however, might be the ideal way to break into the catering industry. 

Food truck startup costs

ItemLower-End CostAverage CostHigher-End CostNotes
Food Truck Purchase$50,000$70,000$150,000Includes new or used truck and any necessary modifications/customization.
Initial Inventory & Supplies$1,000$3,000$5,000Cost of ingredients, packaging, utensils, and initial stock.
Permits & Licenses$500$1,000$3,000Varies by location, includes health department permits, parking permits, and business licenses.
Insurance$2,000 per year$3,500 per year$6,000 per yearIncludes vehicle, liability, and workers’ compensation insurance.
Marketing & Branding$500$2,000$5,000Cost can vary based on branding, website development, and initial marketing campaign.

It can be a good idea to start a food truck business today since there are numerous new food truck owners entering the market and the food truck industry as a whole is currently estimated to be worth $3.93 billion (at least that’s what it was in 2020).

The idea that launching your own food truck is a relative bargain compared to (or as a precursor to) opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant is perhaps the most alluring feature. However, the food truck startup costs may be higher than you anticipate, particularly dependent on where you live.

You might believe starting a food truck business and being a food truck owner will only cost you a small portion of what opening a regular brick-and-mortar full-service restaurant would. 

You’re somewhat right, I suppose. However, it does not imply that getting a cool business name and taking your new set of sparkling wheels for a lunchtime drive down Main Street will be inexpensive. 

Startup costs will vary (much like for any other restaurant) when beginning a mobile food truck business, but you should budget from $28,000 to $114,000 for this endeavor. 

When all is said and done, the number of variables will determine which end of the spectrum you fall on. Here are a few food truck startup costs to think about.

Cost of a food truck

The price of a food truck will vary depending on its age and the features it has. Your investment’s placement along that spectrum will rely on:

  • Condition (new or used)
  • Equipment included
  • Size

It goes without saying that a truck without many bells and whistles will cost you much less than one with them. Similarly to this, be ready to pay more if you live and intend to use your truck in a pricey area.

The most obvious startup cost for a food truck owner is this one. Nevertheless, you must think about the price of buying your own truck. 

Prices will vary, as with all automobiles. Of course, buying a used food truck can save you money. A food truck can cost anywhere between $50,000 to $200,000, depending on whether you buy a new one or a used one.

Remember that this does not include the price of decking out the truck, such as by designing and putting a truck wrap or by adding any extra burners, fryers, refrigerators, or other restaurant equipment that may be necessary to prepare your specialty food.

Therefore, if you’re worried about spending $200K on a vehicle, we suggest starting modest and then outfitting as necessary.

Costs associated with food truck licenses and permits

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Food Truck Index, an entrepreneur spends $28,276 on licenses, permits, and compliance with the law on average to establish a food truck and run it for a year.

Even though your food truck will be movable, you still need to obtain several licenses and permits before you can start doing the food truck business. These consist of:

  • Employer Identification Code
  • Food Truck Business Permit
  • Driver’s License
  • Selling Permit (some states only)
  • Food Handler’s Permit and Food Safety
  • Department of Health Permit
  • Fire Certificate

Costs vary depending on location, however, Portland (Oregon), Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis are the five cities that are most accommodating to food trucks

Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Seattle are the five hardest cities for food trucks to operate in.

The lowest fees are in Indianapolis at $590, while the highest expenses in Boston are $17,066 (Seattle has the next-highest fee at $6,211). 

If Boston is taken out of the equation and the average permit and license prices of the other top 19 food truck cities are calculated, you see that the average fees paid by food truck owners are approximately $1,864. Boston is an anomaly with its unusually high rates.

The price difference between renting and purchasing a food truck

A new, custom truck can cost anywhere between $75,000 and $150,000 and take months to create. Between $40,000 and $80,000 is the typical price range for used trucks, and you should be able to use them right away. 

The price to rent a food truck varies depending on how long the contract is, but if it’s longer than six months, it should be about $2,000 to $3,000 each month.

Selecting the appropriate payment method for your food truck business

Customers who patronize food trucks typically want their orders filled as soon as possible. The majority of customers will also value the choice of payment options.

You must therefore spend money on a point-of-sale system that can process transactions fast and effectively and that takes all widely used payment options. 

Your POS system’s price will change depending on the bundle you select. Some service providers charge a flat fee, while others tailor each transaction based on several variables.

Food and other necessities

A portion of your beginning money will also need to go toward purchasing the ingredients and the food truck equipment required to prepare and deliver your meals. 

According to restaurant industry experts, your food expenses should be between 28% and 35% of what you charge for the product. Therefore, if you sell a taco for $1, your cost of food for that taco should range from $0.28 to $0.35. Otherwise, you run the danger of future cash flow problems.

Required inventory to get started

In addition, to serveware like dishes, cups, lids, cutlery, and napkins, you also need ingredients for your menu items when starting a food truck. 

Depending on your menu, the initial expenses for ingredients may vary, but you should plan to spend between $1,000 and $2,000 when you factor in things like cooking oil, seasonings, and other things. The initial investment in serveware for a food truck is about $300.


Where does a food truck go at night when food preparation and service are finished for the day? To a safe, authorized site by the city.

Many communities have severe rules about where a food truck can park, both when they’re open for business and when they’re not.  That is undoubtedly an option if you have the room to store things at home on your own land. If not, however, a lot of commissaries charge an extra price for overnight food truck parking. 

When searching for a commercial kitchen location, be sure to keep this in mind. 


Gas is a regular expense that should also be considered. Fuel costs vary depending on several factors, including the size of your truck, how often you drive, where you fill up, and any other equipment you may employ, like generators.  To keep your new food truck business running and the money flowing in, budget between $250 and $500 every month.


Your marketing needs to be at the top of its game considering the amount of competition you’ll be up against. This means emphasizing a strong social media presence and smart email marketing for many other food trucks. 

Because the food sector relies heavily on visuals, Instagram marketing makes a lot of sense. Although creating and sharing beautiful photos of your cuisine should be your top focus, there are many other things you can do.

Use user-generated content, showcase your truck’s branding, snap pictures of customers swarming around it, and even post some behind-the-scenes images. 

One excellent approach to demonstrate the numerous steps involved in food preparation is through Instagram’s Stories feature.

Operational costs

The most expensive food truck expenses are unrelated to the food. When making a budget and determining how you’ll make a profit, it’s important to take into account expenses like gas, insurance (such as vehicle liability, general liability, workers’ compensation, etc.), licenses, permits, upkeep, equipment, and supplies.

Costs for fuel and maintenance can differ, but they often run $500 and $1,000, accordingly. 

The price of installing a point-of-sale system at a restaurant is another factor. You can always get the help of other food truck operators if you need it.

There are some operational expenditures, such as permits and licenses, that you cannot control, but there are ways to reduce your costs. For instance, you could save money on supplies if you choose to use secondhand equipment rather than brand-new equipment or if you keep your menu simple.

FAQ On Food Truck Startup Cost

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Food Truck?

Starting a food truck? You’re looking at a ballpark figure that can range from $50,000 to over $100,000. This includes your fully-equipped kitchen on wheels, permits, initial food supplies, and those make-or-break marketing efforts.

It’s a combo of one-time purchases and the dough you’ll need to keep rolling in the early days.

What Are the Biggest Expenses When Opening a Food Truck?

Your rig and the gear inside it are your meat and potatoes—your biggest expenses. That shiny new truck, griddles, fryers, and fridges don’t come cheap.

Let’s not forget local compliance—licenses and permits—can eat up funds faster than a crowd at a food festival.

Are There Hidden Costs I Should Be Aware Of?

Sure thing. Think the unexpected, like a breakdown or equipment playing up, and insurance premiums that can give you a fright.

Then there’s always that fun thing called waste—food doesn’t last forever. And marketing—is it hidden? Maybe. But man, it is crucial.

Can I Get Financing for a Food Truck?

Absolutely! Food truck financing options come in various flavors—small business loans, leasing, personal savings, or even crowdsourcing.

Lenders love a solid business plan, so serve them up something that shows your finger-licking potential, and they just might bite.

How Can I Reduce My Food Truck Startup Costs?

Get inventive—buy a used truck or lease equipment to keep the upfront costs down. Source local, seasonal ingredients to shave off food expenses.

Plus, doing a bit of DIY on the marketing front can cut corners without skimping on the buzz.

What Should I Budget for Ongoing Food Truck Expenses?

Every month, fuel up your budget for fresh ingredients, staff wages, and gas to keep those wheels turning.

Slot in maintenance for your truck and kitchen wizards, plus regular marketing pushes to keep the masses coming. It’s a monthly munch of funds, but plan well, and you’ll feast on profits.

Do I Need Insurance for a Food Truck?

Insurance is like a good marinade—it’s essential. Coverage for property damage, employee liabilities, and let’s not forget a policy for your mobile moneymaker itself.

Accidents happen! A solid insurance plan makes sure they don’t burn your business to a crisp.

What Licenses Will I Need for My Food Truck?

Depends on your locale, amigo. Generally, you’ll need a food service license, a health department permit, and possibly more—think fire certificates or parking permits.

Each city has its own spice blend of bureaucracy. Check local resources and make sure you’ve ticked all those boxes.

How Profitable Is a Food Truck?

Turns out, food trucks can make serious cheddar. Profit margins hover between 6-9%, with many trucks pulling in upwards of $250k annually.

But hey, profits are like soufflés—they can fall if you’re not careful. Manage expenses, and you might just bank enough to start a fleet.

What’s the Best Way to Break Down the Costs for a Food Truck?

Picture this: A spreadsheet with every cost category—vehicle, equipment, inventory. You’ll factor in monthly overhead like labor, supplies, and those dratted unforeseen expenses.

Get granular—know where every cent’s going. Track it like your life depends on it, because, in business, it sorta does.


We’ve been on quite the journey, haven’t we? Together, navigating the winding roads of food truck startup cost with its myriad of turns—equipment costs, permit fees, and the unforeseen bumps along the way.

Here’s the takeaway:

  • Understanding the financial and legal intricacies makes a world of difference.
  • Budgeting wisely doesn’t just prevent surprises—it sets the stage for profit.
  • Yes, the initial investment might make you gulp, but remember, a well-oiled, well-marketed food truck can be a robust revenue machine.
  • Strategy is key; your business plan is the map, and your budget, the compass.

To cap it off, entering the world of mobile eateries is both an exciting adventure and a serious endeavor. Eyes wide open to the costs involved, and with your passion as fuel, you’re now better equipped to turn this dream into delicious, rolling reality. Bon appétit and bon voyage on your food truck voyage!

If you liked this article about food truck startup costs, you should also check out this article about the cheapest states to form an LLC.

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I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.