How much does it cost to start a food truck?

How much does it cost to start a food truck?

Costs, Licenses, permits and certificates for a food truckThe cost of starting a food truck can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the size of the truck, the type of cuisine you plan to serve, and the location where you plan to operate.

On average, the total cost to start a food truck can range from £30,000 to £200,000, with some trucks costing even more. This includes the cost of the truck itself, equipment, permits, licenses, insurance, and initial inventory.

While starting a food truck can be a significant investment, it can also be a profitable and fulfilling business venture for those who are passionate about food and entrepreneurship. The popularity and variety of food trucks have exploded over the past decade, making them one of the most successful small business ideas.

As a lower cost and lower risk alternative to opening a traditional restaurant, they have become increasingly popular among aspiring business owners in the food and drink industry. It doesn’t appear that this trend will slow down anytime soon.

It is a dream of many food truck owners to open their own brick-and-mortar restaurant one day. It is a smart move to use a mobile setup before committing to a permanent location, to test and tweak dishes, and to build a loyal following.

The price of mobile catering is often lower than the price of brick-and-mortar catering. However, what is the cost of starting a food truck and what factors should be considered?

Costs, Licenses, permits and certificates for a food truck

Food truck startup costs include a number of licenses and permits that businesses need to obtain before they can begin selling food. If you want to save yourself a lot of time and hassle in the future, find the right permits before starting a small business:

  • Food business registration.
    Before you start selling in any local authority’s area, you must register with the authority at least 28 days in advance.
  • Food premises approval.
    The council will inspect your food truck for safety and hygiene if it will handle meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products.
  • Street trading licence.
    Depending on the location you choose; you may need council approval to trade on the street. A 6-month license costs £54 in Haringey, London, compared to nothing in Margate. It is often possible to pay larger sums in monthly instalments.
  • Commercial gas safety certificate.
    You need this certificate if you plan to cook hot food with gas appliances. CE marking and flame failure devices should be included with all gas appliances.
  • Food hygiene certificate.
    It is a requirement under food safety regulations that anyone handling food or drink shows they are capable of doing so responsibly. Although one is not required by law, getting a food hygiene certificate is the best option.

Ensure your food truck is compliant with applicable laws and regulations by consulting a lawyer before getting a license.

The cost of renting vs buying a food truck

You probably wonder how much you should spend on the vehicle itself as part of your food truck startup costs. If you choose wisely and maintain it regularly, you could get the most out of this investment.


Do food trucks cost a lot to buy? A new food truck, complete with fittings and equipment, costs between £5,000 and £50,000, according to the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS). For a vintage VW camper kitted out with a full kitchen, Gumtree lists prices starting at about £30,000 for a vintage VW van that provides sandwiches and coffee.

It might be cheaper to buy a less expensive motor, but you don’t want to be stuck without a motor if it breaks down after a few months. Take your potential purchase for a test drive before starting your food truck, and make sure you research the lifespan of the models you’re considering


Do food trucks cost a lot to rent? A food truck’s rental cost is somewhat difficult to determine. In most cases, sites do not list prices, but instead provide quotes. You can find some options by searching for “food truck hire” followed by your location on Google.

When deciding whether to buy or rent, consider your long-term plans. In the case of a long-term business venture, do you want to be bound to the restrictions of others? Plus, you might end up saving money over time by buying outright rather than renting. Does it make sense to buy and outfit your own food truck if this is purely a short-term goal?

Kitchen and serving equipment

The food truck costs you need to take into account will depend on whether you’re updating existing kitchen appliances or equipping your truck from scratch. Most food trucks need the following equipment to get started:

  • Sinks for hygiene and dishwashing (with draining board)
  • Grills, fryers, a stove or electric oven
  • Catering urn (for boiling water)
  • Extractor fan
  • Waste disposal
  • Lighting
  • Fire safety equipment
  • Protective screen at the ordering window
  • Utensils and cookware
  • Fridge and/or freezer
  • Food preparation area
  • Disposable napkins, cups, and cutlery
  • Hygienic clothing, like aprons and plastic gloves
  • Storage

It is up to you to add the rest of the features to your food truck. Renting appliances while figuring out what equipment you need might make sense as you launch your food truck business and deal with lots of other startup costs.

Startup food inventory

Depending on your menu, your startup costs will vary. You probably already know what food you’ll sell and what menu items you’ll offer. You will learn many things as a business owner, including how to gauge demand, and therefore inventory, in your earliest days.

Consider these factors when planning your startup menu:

  • What is the amount needed to cover your other startup costs for your food truck?
  • Is there a time frame you intend to trade for (each day and long-term)?
  • At what time will food be cooked and served?
  • When it comes to storing ingredients and preparing food, how much space do you have?
  • Which potential locations will affect demand and therefore your service speed?

Based on your responses, you should have an idea of which menu items are suitable and how they should be priced in order to reach breakeven point, reach profit and eventually make a profit.

Starting small and scaling up is always the best approach to kitchen equipment. Identify only a small number of dishes, refine their recipes, research where the cheapest ingredients can be found, and practice preparing them without wasting any ingredients.

Running costs of a food truck

When starting a food truck business, you must cover more than just license fees. Among them are:

  • Gas and electricity: depending on how you set up and what appliances you use, these costs will vary.
  • Fuel: Keeping this cost down is easier if you run a local business.
  • Wages: Besides paying your staff the minimum wage, you’ll also need to figure out what you’ll be paid yourself.
  • Vehicle insurance: The Motor Insurance Database may already list your food truck.
  • Business insurance: From personal liability to stock insurance, there are many types of business insurance. Some types of insurance are mandatory, such as Employer’s Liability Insurance (if you employ others in this case).
  • Vehicle tax: (also known as road tax) must be paid on your food truck annually.
  • Marketing costs: No matter how big or small your marketing campaign is, you’ll probably have to spend money on marketing one way or the other.
  • Maintenance: Food trucks’ equipment ages quickly, so replacements and repairs should be considered in your budget.
  • Payment system: As more people pay with cards, it’s crucial to have a card reader or Square Terminal to prevent sales from being lost. Food truck operators can also use Square’s free restaurant point-of-sale software to manage their business.
  • Website: An integral part of your business strategy is having a strong web presence. Having an easy-to-use online site is the first step to starting an online business, where customers can access your menu, discover your locations, and learn about upcoming events. As well as selling T-shirts and hats, bottled sauces, and more, the site can also be used for e-commerce. It may feel overwhelming to set up an online store, but Square Online Store is free and easy to use.

How to cut costs for your food truck business

A food truck business offers so many advantages: no office work, new connections, cooking in the open air and cooking to your heart’s content.

It can be discouraging to worry about how much it costs to start a small business. You don’t have to rely on your savings to get your small business off the ground — many small businesses receive some type of funding to get started. Moreover, if you drive down those costs over time, you’ll be able to reach break-even more easily.

Use versatile, seasonal ingredients.

Consider fewer dishes that use similar, seasonal, long-life ingredients instead of many items that require different ingredients. There are many variations of one idea used by food truck businesses. As a bonus, you’ll be able to reduce your costs and become a more environmentally friendly company.

Don’t go overboard.

Buying ingredients is a risky business when you’re just starting out – err on the side of caution rather than losing money. You can even build buzz by selling out.

Keep it in the family.

Families and friends may be able to help. Obviously, this isn’t a permanent arrangement, but it will help you when it comes to creating a long-term staffing plan and keeping startup costs down for your new food truck. In addition to helping you with word-of-mouth marketing, they will receive free food.

Choose your location wisely.

There are differences between councils when it comes to the cost of street trading licenses, so you might find that driving a few miles out of town will make a big difference. Before applying, do your research.

Buy in bulk with other food trucks.

Together with your fellow mobile restaurateurs, you can purchase certain ingredients and supplies in larger quantities, which lowers your costs.

Embrace social media marketing.

A website, online advertising, brochure, or advertorial doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but there are costs involved. While small businesses can run social media entirely for free and manage it easily during quiet times, large companies can’t.


It is highly likely that you know someone with design skills if you don’t have any yourself. Design flyers, paint signs, and embellish your truck with their help (for free).

Take care of your truck.

In spite of the fact that regular deep cleanings and maintenance checks may sound simple, they help prevent major, expensive issues in the future.

Compare suppliers.

Be on the lookout for better deals, whether it’s with your energy provider or wholesale food supplier. Making sure you’re never overpaying is as simple as switching providers or asking for a price match.

Manage inventory with care.

UK businesses are expected to spend £0.97 per meal on avoidable food waste, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme. In the case of a small business, that’s a big deal. Square’s inventory management system allows you to keep track of what’s in stock and when it needs to be replenished so that you don’t have to guess how much you need.

COVID-19 tips and best practices

An outbreak of a global pandemic can cause even the brightest small business ideas to falter. If your business is locked down, here are some tips to keep it safe and prosperous:

  • Contactless payment: you may be wondering what contactless payment is. With the use of a contactless card reader, this method of payment provides no contact between the customer and the seller. Prepaid orders can also be paid online through your site.
  • Takeaway: Food trucks make it easy to offer takeout and delivery. You should read up on any changes to procedure that may have been made to COVID-19, however.
  • Safety: It is crucial to work safely during COVID-19, and there are important guidelines to follow. To practice safety, it is important to establish cleaning and hygiene procedures.
  • Support: Small businesses have access to online resources and information, as well as Coronavirus support from the government.

Getting started with a food truck isn’t easy, but this article is here to help you research the costs. Despite being able to lower costs and start one of the best UK businesses, few ventures are cheap to get started.

Frequently asked questions

What are some of the major expenses involved in starting a food truck?

Some of the major expenses involved in starting a food truck include the cost of the truck itself, equipment and supplies, permits and licenses, insurance, and initial inventory. Other expenses may include marketing and advertising costs, vehicle maintenance and repairs, and staff wages.

How much does it cost to purchase a food truck?

The cost of purchasing a food truck can vary widely depending on the size, age, and condition of the truck, as well as the features and equipment included. On average, a new food truck can cost between £50,000 to £100,000 or more, while a used food truck can range from £15,000 to £50,000 or more.

Are there any additional costs associated with operating a food truck?

Yes, there are several ongoing expenses associated with operating a food truck, including the cost of food and supplies, fuel or electricity to power the truck, cleaning and maintenance costs, and fees for parking or renting space at events or festivals. In addition, operators may need to hire staff, pay for marketing and advertising, and invest in new equipment or upgrades to stay competitive.


The cost of starting a food truck in the UK can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the type of cuisine you plan to serve and the location where you plan to operate. On average, it can cost between £20,000 to £100,000 to start a food truck business in the UK. This includes the cost of the truck itself, equipment, permits, licenses, insurance, and initial inventory.

Additionally, food truck operators in the UK may need to invest in a vehicle that meets the specific regulations and safety standards set by the government. Despite the initial investment, starting a food truck business in the UK can be a profitable and rewarding venture for those who are passionate about food and have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

Business Finance Expert at PDQ Funding | + posts

Lee Jones is a seasoned Business Finance Specialist with over two decades of invaluable experience in the financial sector. With a keen eye for market trends and a passion for helping businesses thrive, Lee has become a trusted advisor to countless organizations seeking to navigate the complexities of finance.