Using a catering van or food truck is one of the most accessible ways to jump into the restaurant industry. You don't have the large overhead of a restaurant space and the business model is easily scalable. Start small renting a catering van for a wedding or two at a minor cost and expand to buying a full-on food truck that's always on the prowl once you get a solid customer base. Renting a catering van does have a couple of caveats: how you rent depends on how much you're willing to spend and how long you actually need the rental.
Should I Rent Or Buy A Catering Van?
You have two options when it comes to catering vans and food trucks: rent or buy. It really depends on just what kind of business you want to run. If you’re not someone who often does catering, but finds themselves doing a couple of one-off gigs every few months, it makes the most sense to rent instead of buy. If you plan to build your entire business out of catering parties and events, it’s probably a good idea to buy your own truck.
Renting every weekend can get pretty costly, but there are actually online services like foodtruckrental.com that make renting catering vans and food trucks pretty seamless. On the other hand, buying a truck or van has some significant overhead (although much less than an actual restaurant).
How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Catering Van?
You can go one of two routes when buying a catering van or food truck. A used vehicle with an engine and kitchen costs around $50,000 to $100,000, but there are often hidden costs in the repairs. If you’re not really moving your truck around very much, a cheaper $50,000 option is probably okay. The more mileage, the nicer the model you want to get. You wouldn’t want to break down on the way to a gig.
Kitchens in catering vans and food trucks are often just as costly as the vehicle itself. If you wanted to install a new kitchen in a used truck, you’re looking at spending between $75,000 and $100,000. For this reason, a brand new truck with a new kitchen might actually be a wiser investment long-term. You can typically expect to spend between $100,000 and $175,000, but you’ll have much fewer hidden costs and costly mechanical issues. New vehicles often come with a five-year, 100,000- to 200,000-mile warranty which covers the first few years of your business.
How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Catering Van?
Cost is the thing that makes or breaks a new business. Without enough guaranteed sales, your catering endeavor is absolutely doomed. This is why testing the waters with a rental could be a good option, but rentals are not cheap. Renting a catering van or food truck can cost around $9,000 per month, which makes it a little expensive for a brand new entrepreneur with little capital but a good option for an existing restaurant business to expand their offerings.
At the same time, services like Roaming Hunger offer leasing plans similar to the way you’d lease your home car. These startup costs range from $20,000 to $38,000 with monthly payments at a much more affordable $3,500 to $3,800 range. You get a three-year lease as is common at most car dealerships. This is a great option for those looking to minimize their investment during the most crucial and unstable first three years of business.
If you happen to be a business who’s only looking to rent a catering van or food truck for a specific event (think: food festival, charity 5K or company party), you can absolutely find truck rentals in the $100 per day to $1,000 per day range (though, it’s hard to tell just how bare bones a $100 per day van rental would be).
How To Rent A Catering Van
Renting a catering van isn't that difficult once you know what to want. There are a number of websites online that offer both short- and long-term rentals. You also have the option of calling up businesses that already offer catering and own catering vans to ask if you could rent out their vehicle for a weekend or event. Your path really just depends on how long you actually need the rental for. If it's months on end, you're best going to a food truck dealer and getting a years-long lease or buying something used.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.