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April 5, 2017 Staff

Does it Make Financial Sense to Rent a Food Truck?

Depending on your needs, renting or leasing a food truck instead of buying can make sense from a financial perspective. In today’s article, we outline some of the situations where it makes sense to rent instead of buy so you can make the right decision based on your needs.

Generally speaking, if you plan to operate a food truck for any extended period of time it will be more affordable to buy the vehicle. Primarily because the cost renting a food truck on a monthly basis will be much higher than making a monthly loan payment. Renting a food truck on a monthly basis isn’t cheap. You can expect to pay between $3,000 – $6,000 monthly depending on the vehicle and who you’re renting from.

rib customer

Smokin’ Bull Shack

Additionally, when you rent, you aren’t “paying down” anything. The monthly expense for a lease will remain the same each month and never goes away. We find that proprietors that own a food truck can be paid off in full after a couple years of operation. We have many examples of folks that have fully paid off their food truck investment within the first year of operation. These individuals now have an asset they can quickly convert into cash if needed.

In addition to a high monthly cost, it can be difficult to find a food truck to rent depending on where you live. Full-time food truck vendors will make more revenue by operating their business than by renting out the vehicle longterm. Also, there’s a lot of trust that must be put into the renter from the ownership side. Will the renter take care of my kitchen? How will the renter drive the vehicle? There’s a lot of risk from the owner side is a reason this arrangement can be hard to find.

Finally, another challenge with renting a food truck is that it may not have the equipment you need to execute your menu idea. There are very different equipment needs if you plan to launch an ice cream versus a wood-fire pizza truck. If you plan to start something that’s frequently made on a truck like burgers or tacos the right leased vehicle will be easier to find.

When Does Renting a Food Truck Make Sense?

Sprinter Van built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

There are some scenarios where renting instead of buying is the smart move. Here are the situations we think you’d be better of leasing:

Short-Term or Special Event Marketing –  Do you only need a food truck for a few days all the way up to a month? In this case, renting is the way to go. You can use the food truck for a few days or weeks and then return it. You see this a lot for short-term events like music festivals or sporting events. You see this a lot with companies that may want to reach a targeted audience at an event to make the group aware of a product or service that’s out on the market. You can see how one of our customers uses vehicles built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks to provide major alcohol brands with a mobile presence here.

Test Run – If you’re not 100% sure you want to be a food vendor longterm renting can be a low-risk option. Not everyone is a good  fit for operating a mobile food business. If you’re not sure about whether you want to operate this type of business, testing it out for a month on a rented truck can be smart. This strategy could also be used if you have a innovative food product that you’re not sure if customers will pay for. At the end of the test month, if you decide you don’t want to operate a mobile food business longterm just return the vehicle and you might even break-even on the deal if you generated enough sales. If you do enjoy operating the business, you can begin making plans for your own food truck from there.

Where to Find Rentals

If you fit into a situation where you do want to rent there are a couple of good places to start the rental search process. First, you can contact the local food truck association in your town. Write them an email and let them know you want to rent a truck for a certain time period. Then the head of the association can reach out to their members to see what is available. You can also contact a company called offers high quality food truck rentals in select cities across the United States.

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