Can You Turn a U-Haul Into a Food Truck?

Food trucks have become increasingly popular in recent years. One of the most significant expenses for any entrepreneur looking to break into the restaurant business is a facility to prepare food. The solution for many comes in the form of retired U-Haul trucks. The beauty of this solution is three-fold: it’s cheap, requires little maintenance, and it is recycling a vehicle that might otherwise find its way to a junk or landfill. It also allows the owner to keep their business mobile to relocate to a different area if business is slow, something a stick and bricks business couldn’t easily do. 

U-Haul food truck conversions

A U-Haul Truck parked in Clayton, California
A U-Haul Truck | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

U-Haul trucks can be used in several ways. Van dwellers have converted them into a place to live on wheels. Not only are they roomy and essentially a blank canvas to build on, but they are also made to haul loads so they can take the extra weight added when outfitting them for living. 

Similarly, a U-Haul can also be retrofitted to accommodate a food truck. Thanks to the rugged design of U-Haul vehicles, they can handle lots of heavy use. The main types of U-Haul trucks used for these conversions are the box vans that U-Haul offers and not the pickup trucks. Depending on the types of food you want to sell, it will dictate what kind of equipment you need, determining how much or how little conversion needs to be done.

Buying a used U-Haul

A U-Haul vehicle can cost as little as $5,195 for a 17-foot box truck. This will likely be the most considerable expense you will incur because you want a car to fulfill your needs and be dependable. With the convenience of having a mobile restaurant comes the added maintenance and upkeep, as with any motor vehicle. Also, since your restaurant is portable, you have the added headache of items shifting while driving, so you will want to consider this when designing storage.

Additionally, there are licensing costs to consider, as with any motor vehicle. Lastly, you will need to purchase a business license to operate as you would with any new business.

The cost to convert a U-Haul truck

Once you have decided what kind of food or drinks you want to sell from your U-Haul food truck, you can start to get down to the nuts and bolts and get a good idea of your cost. For example, if you wanted to have a food truck that made and sold cold sandwiches only, the only equipment you would need would be a refrigerator, a prep area, a washbasin, freshwater storage, wastewater storage, etc. You would also need a mobile electricity solution such as a solar power convertor or a generator.

However, if you wanted to have a full-service food truck that serves hot food, you would need to have a grill, and you would also need to have electric propane connections, depending on what type of grill you go with. 

Some money-saving tips

One way to save money could be to rent a food truck instead of buying it. One of the main drawbacks of this method is that you can’t customize the truck for your specific needs. Buying used equipment will help lower build-out costs as well.

Food trucks have become a unique and cost-saving solution for restaurant entrepreneurs as their popularity has risen. They are gaining popularity for several reasons, including cost-saving and the ability to try out different neighborhoods to see where a brick-and-mortar restaurant may do well. It looks like they are here to stay, and as long as U-haul keeps retiring vehicles, there will always be a fresh supply of potential food trucks waiting to hit the streets.

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