Deciding to start a food truck business is exciting, but there are so many things to do before you hit the road. You need to figure out the business plan, think about permits and licenses, get kitchen equipment, decide on the name. But before all, there are two things that you need to make up your mind about: what kind of food you want to serve and what type of vehicle you would like to use.

Your business model is what determines the type of food truck you will buy.

Not all food businesses have the same needs, size requirements, and budgets. A bakery, a mobile food vendor, or an ice cream truck will each have different space and equipment needs. There is no need to look for a 24’ truck if a cargo van makes a better fit for your foodservice. If everything you need fits in a step van, going bigger will only increase your costs without bringing any extra benefits.

Food Truck Models

Cargo van

This is the smallest and cheapest option for a food truck. A cargo van can be converted into a food truck with a few modifications, like adding a kitchenette and storage areas. If you are running a small bakery delivery service, a cargo van will work just fine. Even if you plan to do any cooking on site, a van will probably not have enough space for all the equipment you need. On the other hand, if you need a full-sized oven, commercial fryers and griddles, these require quite a bit of space and ventilation, which most vans lack.

Food vans come in a range of sizes, but it’s what’s inside that counts. A regular cargo van can fit a lot of small appliances, like a convection oven, a fridge or refrigerated display cabinets, a food preparation counter, an independent water system, and a fryer or a grill/griddle combo.

Popular models used for serving food are Ford Transit, RAM Promaster, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

catering cargo van

Step vans

A step van is a larger option for a food truck. It is perfect for businesses that need more space to work in, like an ice cream truck or a mobile catering business. If you’ve ever noticed the vehicles driven by bread, linen, or parcel delivery services companies, you’ve likely seen a step van in action. Some courier delivery services have almost exclusively used step vans to deliver packages for more than 50 years. Food truck builders also enjoy using step vans and here’s why.

Converting a step van to a food truck means you get abundant space, including headspace, as step vans have much higher roofs than cargo or compact vans. You can configure a step van to meet your needs for workspace, storage space, ventilation, and any advanced cooking equipment you plan to use. Step vans range in length from 12 to 30 feet. As so many food trucks are step vans there is a decent chance of finding one out already converted that suits your needs.

The step vans that we usually see converted to food trucks are Freightliner P1000, Ford E450, and Chevrolet P30.

Box Truck

Box trucks are easily recognized by their ‘box’-shaped design. These trucks have a lot of space inside and are mostly used for businesses that need to transport large items or a lot of inventory. You can think of them as giant moving boxes on wheels. If you’re planning to do any cooking on-site, you will need a full kitchen set up with all the necessary equipment and appliances, which definitely won’t fit in a cargo van. A box truck, on the other hand, will give you plenty of space to work with.

u haul food truck conversion

When it comes to configuring a box truck into a food truck, the sky is the limit. You can add pretty much any type of cooking equipment, storage space, and all the other features you need. The only downside of a box truck is that it will be more expensive than a van or a step van.

Converting a U-Haul truck is a popular choice for many first-time food truck owners because of the low cost and wide availability. When a truck retires from the U-Haul fleet, it is put up for sale. The trucks are built to be used again and again so they can be a great, long-lasting investment for a food truck business.

Food Trailer

A food trailer is the most expensive option for a food truck, but it also offers the most possibilities. If you’re looking to start a mobile restaurant or café, a food trailer is the way to go. You can have any type of kitchen set-up you want, as well as storage space and all the amenities you need.

food trailer

The downside of a food trailer is that it’s very big and not as maneuverable as a van or truck, so you’ll need to find a spot to park it and leave it for the day. If you’re planning on serving food at events or festivals, a food trailer might not be the best option, as you’ll have to find a way to tow it there.

You can build your own food trailer from scratch if you have the time and skills. This option will obviously be the most expensive, but you’ll have complete control over the design and features of your trailer. Hiring a company to build the trailer for you is a more convenient option, it can even be more affordable, and will still give you a lot of options for customization.

Some popular food trailer brands are Concession Nation, All American Trailers, and Featherlite.

Cutaway or Pickup Truck

A cutaway or pickup truck is a truck with an enclosed cab and an open back. The back part of the truck can be used for transporting cargo, but it can also be converted into a food truck.

The main advantage of a cutaway truck is that it’s smaller than a box truck and easier to maneuver. It’s also more affordable than a box truck or food trailer. You can also find cutaway trucks in used condition, which will save you even more money.

When converting a cutaway truck into a food truck, you have to be creative with the space you have. There are no standard dimensions for this type of truck, so you can customize it to your needs. You can add a kitchen set-up, storage space, and all the other features you need.

Bus

Some would say a bus is an ultimate vehicle for a mobile food business. Buses are usually used for school transportation or tour groups, but they can also be converted into food trucks.

school bus converted into food truck

Buses offer a lot of space, so you can have a full kitchen set-up with all the necessary equipment. You can also add storage space, a seating area, and all the other features you need. The only downside of a bus is that it’s not very maneuverable, so you’ll need to find a spot to park it and leave it for the day.

You can find used buses for sale, but they can be quite expensive. If you’re planning to convert a bus into a food truck, it’s best to hire a professional company to do it for you. Some popular bus brands are Blue Bird, Chevrolet, and Ford.

Other Vehicle Types

There are other types of vehicles that can be converted into food trucks, such as RVs, planes, and even boats. These options are less common and more expensive, but they offer a unique way to start your food truck business and something you will surely stand out for.

Different Types of Mobile Catering Vehicles Around the World

Horse boxes, which are used to transport horses, are an interesting base for a food truck, popular in the UK. They offer a lot of space and can be easily converted into a mobile kitchen. Another interesting option is the Piaggio Ape, which is a three-wheeled vehicle that’s very popular in Europe. It doesn’t offer a lot of space, but it’s very affordable and easy to maneuver.

airstream trailer converted into restaurant on wheels

The food truck scene in Australia is very vibrant, with many different vehicle types being used. One of the attractions is the Airstream, which is a vintage trailer that’s been converted into a mobile kitchen.

Food carts are a common sight on the streets of Asian cities. These are small carts that can be easily moved around, and they usually sell street food.

A set of wheels is just the start

Now that you know about some of the different types of food trucks and mobile catering vehicles around the world, you can decide which one is right for you. Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to one type – you can mix and match depending on what you need. For example, you could start with a food cart in your hometown, and then add a bus or trailer for bigger events. Whatever option you choose, make sure it fits your needs and gives you the flexibility to grow your business.