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August 16, 2017 Staff

Three Essential Tips When Buying a Food Truck at Auction

Thinking about trying to save money on a food truck by attending an upcoming auction? Be sure to read our three essential tips before making your first bid. These tips will not only help save you money, but they will help you avoid investing in a vehicle that you won’t ever be able to use.

As a general rule of thumb, food trucks aren’t easy to find at auction sales either online or offline. Food trucks aren’t like cars, tractors, or antiques that have a niche audience of regulars that attend all the local events looking for deal. If you are able to find truck up for auction there will likely only be a single unit for sale at any given event. Most of the time there won’t be any mobile kitchens up for sale so be sure to check with the auctioneer in advance if possible to see if they have any coming up for sale.  Before we get into what to look for in a food truck at auction, let’s outline the different types of auction sales you’ll encounter on your quest.

There are four basic categories of auction sales: 

Public auction sales: These are open to the public and you may see them advertised online, in your community, or a local newspaper. Often public auction sales will fit a certain theme. Some focus on used farm equipment and attract farmers. Others primarily sell antiques and attract collectors. Your best bet to find a food truck at public auction is to find an event that is selling a wide variety of trucks / trailers or selling restaurant equipment. Although it’s unlikely, there could be a food truck that gets thrown into the mix. You may need to pay a small fee to attend these events, but other than that anyone is welcome. Don’t feel obligated to make a purchase just because you decide to attend an auction like this. In fact, it’s a great idea to attend and observe an auction sale to see how these events work if you’ve never been before.

Police auction sales: Vehicles you acquire at a police auction come as is and sales are usually final. If you discover later that something is broken, you’re out of luck and it’s your responsibility. Most police auctions will have preview inspection hours (PIH) at a certain time so be sure to take advantage of those to inspect inventory before making a bid. Police take property including cars and trucks under their control in situations where the car was owned by a drug dealer or other felon or a used police vehicle. There are hundreds of other reasons that these vehicles could be sold though. If your intent is to find a food truck this is not the best case to find one. You would need to get extremely lucky. Here is an example of the police auction website for Los Angeles. Google your city name + police auction to find opportunities near you.

Charity Actions: Sometimes charity auctions are held to help raise money for a certain cause or individual in need. With charity events you will typically see a list of items up for auction well in advance of the event. Feel free to steer clear of these events if acquiring a food truck is your goal.

Estate Sales: Estate sales are usually held when an individual passes and their family decides to sell the property for cash. Unless the individual family operated a food truck or concession business, you won’t find a vehicle here either. If the family owned a few restaurants it’s also possible they owned a food truck too and it could be worth attending in that instance.

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Built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Food Truck at Auction

Come Prepared. Making an investment in a food truck is a major expense, even if it’s at an auction. You’ll want to make sure to take advantage of the auctions preview hours to inspect the vehicle before it goes up for sale. We recommend that you bring someone with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing experience to the event so that you can get their feedback on those aspects of the build. Just about anywhere you decide to operate within the United States will have strict build requirements so even if you get a “good deal” right away you may discover that you need to invest thousands in getting the vehicle up to health code requirements for your area.

It’s also recommended that you bring some basic gear like a flash light so that you can get underneath the vehicle and inspect everything and the inside cab of the vehicle. The lighting may not be the best at the auction location so bringing along a flash light can make things easier.

Understand The Lingo. There is a bit of specialized language that can be intimidating if you’ve never been to an auction before. Here is a great list of auction terminology that you should print off or save on your phone before the event to use as a reference. Remember that in most auctions all sales are final after the “sold” announcement is made. You are generally able to withdraw your bid at any time before this happens without penalty, however.

Don’t Let Your Emotions Get The Best of You. It can be easy to get caught up in the competitiveness and excitement of an auction only to discover a few short hours later that you have buyer’s remorse. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you make sure you establish limits on the maximum amount of money you plan to spend on a food truck. You also need to understand what your needs are with a food unit. If you plan to serve Italian coffee, purchasing a food truck that was used to sell burgers may not make sense.

If you’re in the market for a food truck, don’t hesitate to view some of our past builds at M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks. Unlike an auction, we provide support after the sale and make sure you get a custom built vehicle designed to your exact specifications. Contact us for a no obligation quote. 

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