Food Truck or Food Trailer – Which is Best?

The mobile food business is growing faster than ever.  The market is expected to be around $1.5 billion this year.  One of the most common questions for those who are considering getting into this business is if they should start with a food truck or food trailer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so this is definitely a subject worth some exploring.

Food Trucks: The Pros and Cons

The main pro of a food truck is its all-inclusiveness. Basically, it does not require a tow vehicle.

This is great because it makes your business extremely mobile. You can pull up to an event, hop out of the driver’s seat and into the kitchen and start your prep in a matter of minutes. Because there is no tow vehicle, a food truck can be easier to park, especially in tight spaces along a curb.

While efficiency is a great benefit, there are some drawbacks as well. Cost is one. A new food truck often costs two to three times that of an equivalent new food trailer. There are used options, but they are still typically more expensive than a food trailer, and the condition of the mechanical systems becomes crucially important. Once a food truck is five years old, the average repair costs are $1,500/mth. This is because this is a heavy-duty commercial vehicle that requires specialized mechanics and parts.

Another con is that if your truck breaks down, you are out of commission until it is repaired. Down time can be one of the most costly expenses a food truck operator can experience, so minimizing this is crucial.

The last con that is worth mentioning is kitchen space. If a food truck is 20’ long total, that means the kitchen is probably only 14’. With a door at the front of the truck (going into the cab area) and an exit door on the rear, this means that both the front and rear wall are not useable for kitchen design, and this can have a big impact on your overall workflow. So, a considerably larger truck is needed to accomplish a similar workflow as a food trailer.

How About Food Trailers?…

Similar to a food truck, food trailers have pros and cons.  The pros of purchasing a food trailer are lower cost, lower maintenance, more kitchen space, and greater flexibility.

As mentioned previously, a new food trailer can cost half or a third as much as a new food truck. Ongoing maintenance will be needed for either type of vehicle, but in general the cost of upkeeping a food trailer is substantially lower. When determining your start-up costs as well as your ongoing operating budget, this should be a major consideration.

Kitchen design is also an important distinction between food trucks and trailers. When partnering with a quality food trailer provider, the trailer can be designed and built for your exact needs, and on a trailer, the entirety of the trailer is dedicated to the kitchen. So, you can get a lot more bang for your buck when it comes to kitchen design and workflow.

100% of the interior is dedicated as a kitchen.

Another pro is that you don’t have to worry about the engine of the trailer breaking down because there is no engine! If your tow vehicle breaks down, you can get a different vehicle to pull the trailer and still get to where you need to be.

And the last pro we’ll mention here is that you’ll have more flexibility with a trailer. If you find a permanent location, or simple want to use the trailer is an additional mobile kitchen attached to a brick and mortar, you won’t have to have any money tied up in the truck portion. A food trailer can be the least expensive way to set up a commercial kitchen, and it can even be permanently connected to electrical and water making it a great low-cost option compared to building a new building or adding to an existing one.

It isn’t only upside for a trailer though. Pulling a trailer behind a truck can present some challenges. You’ll take up more overall space, so maneuvering into a tight spot can be difficult. And if space is limited, you’ll have to park the trailer, detach your tow vehicle, and park it somewhere else. This means that your overall setup time will often take longer with a trailer.

So What Should I Do?

Both food trucks and trailers have drawbacks and advantages.  How you decide what you choose will come down to your overall need.  Think low maintenance, flexibility, and workflow when considering a food trailer.  If you prefer to stay all-inclusive and mobile, then a food truck may be the way for you. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you.

For more information, check out our blog on How to Start a Food Truck.

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