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10 Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Food Truck

Do you run a food truck business and want to buy a used food truck for sale by owner? If YES, here are 10 important questions to ask the food truck owner.

A food truck business can be very rewarding when done right. One of the very first decisions you have to make is the kind of trucks you will be using for your business. You’ll have to decide if you need to buy a brand new truck, lease a truck or even buy a used one.

One crucial thing you need to have in mind when getting a used food truck is to be very careful about the condition of the truck because there are no refunds. What you see, and sometimes what you don’t see, is what you get.

Why Buy a Used Food Truck?

There are many benefits associated with buying a used food truck. First and foremost, the cost of a used food truck is appealing. The price of a used food truck is significantly less than a new food truck. If you’re financing a truck yourself and don’t want to take out a loan, then cost will play a major factor.

Also if you’re buying a food truck that has been on the road recently, it may already be permitted to work in the area. That’s a time-saver.

Why Due Diligence is Important When Buying a Used Food Truck

Buying a used food truck also comes with its own challenges and problems. Just like our normal vehicles, if there were warranties in place for the vehicle or the kitchen equipment, they will likely be expired. That means you’re on your own when something breaks down.

Also if you acquire a used truck and equipment, you aren’t 100% sure what works and what doesn’t. If an owner is ready to sell, the overall condition of the truck and kitchen may be hard to assess. The owner may have delayed maintenance to save money, which means you inherit more problems.

Have it in mind that buying a used truck comes with the risk of getting hit with some big repairs. Also note that it’s practically impossible to get financing for a used food truck. Since the condition of the truck and equipment is questionable, it’s too risky for banks and financing brokers to provide a loan.

You also get stuck with the kitchen layout and equipment that it comes with, which may or may not work for your food concept (Making changes is tough since plumbing, electrical, and gas lines are all installed). If you do make major changes, you’ll likely need to re-submit new drawings for permit approval and then go through re-inspection by your local government agency before you can get on the road.

Don’t forget that because the food truck was once on the road doesn’t mean it’s ready to go. Your food truck has to pass inspection, and be permitted before you start serving customers from it. Also even if everything is totally functional and passes inspection, a used food truck might look a little rough. It might need significant cleaning or cosmetic repairs inside and out.

10 Important Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Food Truck for Sale by Owner

Buying or leasing a food truck is a crucial step on the path to achieving your food truck dream. Whether you choose a used truck, a new truck, or a leased truck, the most important thing is to select a vehicle that supports the goals you have for your food truck business and one that you also feel comfortable in. There are a million different questions you need to answer before you can become a food truck owner.

Leaving or quitting your day job and becoming a food truck owner is a big deal, and there are a ton of things that need to happen before you can start selling food at your new place of business, especially when you’re buying a used truck. Below are few questions you need to ask the seller before buying a used food truck.

  1. Why are you selling?

When looking to buy a used food truck, have it in mind that owners will have a reason for selling their truck. In most cases, asking this question will give you a better idea of the truck’s overall value. The seller might be ready for an upgrade or perhaps the truck’s size doesn’t suit their business anymore. It’s good to know the reasons behind the sale because you might run into the same issues down the line.

  1. What’s the condition of the truck and the current mileage?

This question gives the seller the opportunity to inform you about any known issues with the truck or flaws in the appearance. Mileage is more or less the prime indicator of the value of a vehicle, and it also gives you insight into the vehicle’s condition and potential maintenance costs.

High-mileage trucks are more likely to be worn out, or need maintenance work. The price you negotiate will almost certainly be based on mileage, and so will the truck’s resale value and insurance premiums.

  1. Can You Accomplish Everything You Want To Accomplish With This Truck?

This question is very important especially when you’re about to drop some serious cash on a used food truck. This is why you need to enquire and ensure that it meets all of your needs. Does it have the right food truck equipment in it? Is it placed where you want it to be so operations can run smoothly? Do you even like the setup of the truck? These are all very important things.

  1. Has it been in a crash? Has it been modified? Is it being offered for sale with a salvage title?

Note that a trucks history report will give you a better idea of the condition of the truck, as well as answer important questions about mileage, ownership history, and whether it has been in any crashes. To look into this, you’ll need the truck’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

This is usually stamped into plates located on the driver’s side of the dashboard, the engine bay, or door jambs. Meanwhile, a crash-damaged truck doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, as long as the damage was repaired properly.

The same goes for modified trucks — high-quality mods are fine, but poorly-executed jobs can be big trouble. Vehicles being sold with salvage titles are probably best avoided. They point to major problems with the truck in question, and registering a truck that was previously issued a salvage title can be complicated.

  1. Has anything on the truck been replaced or updated?

Note that new or recent updates could increase the value of the truck. From your perspective, these details will also let you know how much money you can expect to invest in the vehicle down the line.

  1. Can I see maintenance records, receipts, and title?

Maintenance records will tell that normal routine things like oil changes have been taken care of, and also shed light on things like crash repairs and recalls. The receipts will serve as evidence that it was actually done, and give you an idea of how much the car will cost to maintain.

Note that regular maintenance needs vary for individual models, so do a little research to know what to look for. Have it in mind that the less documentation an owner can provide, the more unknown the car is.

Deferred maintenance can lead to problems down the line, and there may be items that need replacing, which will burden you if you take ownership. Another key issue, however, is the title. If the person you’re buying from doesn’t have one, actually purchasing the car will be difficult. They may not even have the right to sell it to you.

  1. Who did you buy the food truck from and when?

This is very important when looking to buy a used truck. By asking this question, you should be able to get more information about how the truck was driven, who the previous owners were and what’s happened over the lifespan of the truck.

This information will also tell you if the truck was purchased from a dealership or a private seller, and if the truck was purchased in a different province or country.

  1. Ask to have the vehicle inspected by a licensed personal mechanic

This is really a question you need to ask to ascertain personally the condition of the truck. A licensed mechanic will help identify any problem areas within the food truck, and let you know what you’re potentially getting into. If the owner won’t allow the car to be inspected by your mechanic, do not buy it.

Having the truck inspected by a mechanic will surely provide some information you will need. These information may include;

  • Interior: A licensed mechanic will help you see if electrically-operated items like windows and air conditioning work, and look out for any strange noises. The mechanic will also check the trunk, spare tire compartment, and front foot wells for rust, moisture, or a mildew smell, as these areas tend to trap water.
  • Body damage or repairs: Note that body panels that have different colours, or have paint finishes that don’t match, may have been repaired or replaced. Bring a magnet and check that it adheres to the metal panels. If it doesn’t, there’s a thick layer of body filler underneath. Check for rust as well.
  • Under the hood: Check for exposed wires and fluid leaks. Check the belts for cracks and to see if the hoses are stiff or brittle (both are signs that the parts need to be replaced). Check the oil for metallic particles, a sign of serious engine problems.
  • Exterior and interior trim: If any of it is missing or damaged, make sure that is reflected in the final price.
  1. Request for a test drive

If the owner refuses your request to test drive the food truck, then it’s really obvious that there’s some major problem with the truck.

You should never buy without test driving. It’s also best to bring a friend to help with some of this. It’s during the course of test driving the truck that you will find out how best the used truck suits the business you plan to start. Things to look out for include;

  • Right before you move, cycle the headlights and have your friend check that they are working. Also have them check for excess smoke from the exhaust.
  • Also check to see if the steering wheel feels loose, or if the truck veers to one side while driving straight or under braking.
  • Be attentive and keep your ears open for unusual squeaks and rattles. At higher speeds, check for vibrations.
  • A transmission that feels clunky or jerks while shifting is a bad sign. Put a manual transmission in top gear at 30 mph and floor the throttle. Revs building up very quickly is a sign of clutch slippage.
  • Ensure acceleration is smooth and consistent, not jerky.
  • Listen for squeaky brakes, and make sure the pedal feels firm over multiple stops.
  • Drive in tight circles in a parking lot. Check for rubbing or clunking in the steering.
  1. Does It Come With Warranties and have the truck been in extreme weather?

Have it in mind that the weather conditions a truck spends its time in factors into its overall condition. Trucks from snowy climates tend to be more prone to rust from driving on roads that get salted every winter. Also flood-damaged cars can outwardly appear to be in good condition, but can hide significant damage from being immersed in water.

Also note that if your food truck (and the kitchen equipment) does not come with warranties, then you will, of course, have to pay the price when — and if — the truck breaks down. This is a risk that you do not want to add to the table. After all, entering the food truck industry/being a business owner is enough risk for one venture.


Just like buying a used car, buying a used food truck can be risky and daunting. Agreeably, its wonderful to cut costs on the upfront purchase of your truck, but note that this route comes with a higher risk of repair costs and maintenance work than someone who opted for a new truck.

It’s advisable you have a trusted mechanic check over any used food truck you’re thinking about buying before you put down any money—and if you’re able to, request a full vehicle history report to make sure you’re fully informed about the truck you’re buying.

As someone new in the industry, you don’t want to start missing scheduled truck stops right after you’ve opened for business because your vehicle keeps breaking down unexpectedly.

Note that you can find used food truck listings on a number of popular auction and sale sites, including eBay and Craigslist, and your local food truck association can also have a place for food truck owners to sell their vehicles and equipment.

Consider checking sites like Road Stoves and Commercial Truck Trader or your local truck dealership for listings of used food trucks for sale. It’s also necessary that you ask your favorite local food truck owners where they got their trucks.

Although most food truckers lead very busy lives, a lot of them would be happy to answer a simple question or two about where they bought their trucks to help out another aspiring food truck owner.