The cost of buying a brand new food trailer can seem high. That’s why used food trailers have become an increasingly popular way to start a mobile food business. While buying that used food trailer for sale may seem like a great way to save money, it can actually cost you a lot more money if you’re not careful.
In this blog post, we will discuss some of the potential downsides of buying a used food trailer, including maintenance costs, safety concerns, and the possibility of failing inspection. But if your heart is set on buying a used food trailer, we’ve included must read tips to avoid getting scammed.
What to know before you buy that used food trailer for sale:
1. Used Food Trailers Have High Maintenance and Repair Costs
When you buy a used trailer, you inherit all of the wear and tear that both the vehicle and the kitchen has undergone over the years.
Let’s start with the kitchen. A huge benefit of buying new is receiving valuable equipment manufacturer warranties and food trailer builder warranties. Warranties cover repair or replacement when equipment breaks at no cost to you. Because a used food trailer won’t come with any warranties, plan to spend a lot more on mobile kitchen repairs.
For example, the vibration from driving food trailers is notoriously hard on kitchen equipment so things break more often. While equipment like fryers are money makers when they’re working, they tend to break often. Also, if the food trailer builder didn’t engineer the trailer with maintenance in mind, it may be hard to access plumbing, electrical or propane systems and find replacement parts when something breaks.
These factors will probably lead to more time spent on repairs. And even if you get lucky and the repairs aren’t expensive themselves, another day in the shop is another day that your business isn’t making any money.
BUY A NEW FOOD TRAILER FOR ONLY $57,000
Get a fully loaded concession trailer including all cooking, refrigeration, storage and safety equipment for only $57,000! The “Workhorse” food trailer is perfect for starting a taco trailer or other mobile food business on a budget. Plus it comes with Firefly’s industry-leading 2 year warranty.
2. Serious Safety Concerns Come with a Used Food Trailer
Another potential downside of buying a used food trailer is that the trailer itself could be dangerous — up to and including causing serious injury or death.
Food trailers are subject to a variety of safety regulations to ensure that the kitchen is safe for employees and food is safe for customers. However, older or poorly built food trailers may not meet these safety regulations.
For example, if the wrong propane hoses were used or propane tanks aren’t properly secured, the food trailer could explode. Similarly, if the trailer’s electrical system wasn’t wired correctly to support all of the equipment it powers, it could cause a fire or electrocution. And, if the water plumbing system is not properly installed, it could lead to food poisoning caused by bacterial contamination.
In addition, poorly built trailers may not be street legal, have a trailer breakaway system, or come equipped with axles rated to support the heavy kitchen equipment inside. These factors can create dangerous driving conditions that lead to serious accidents.
At Firefly, your safety is not optional.
3. It’s Likely to Fail Health Department Inspection
If you’re concerned about operating your food trailer legally, start by researching the food trailer permit (aka mobile food facility permit) requirements in your city.
Most places in America require a food trailer to pass one or more inspections to meet minimum food and safety standards. These standards ensure you don’t accidentally put yourself, your employees, or your customers at a higher risk of injury, illness or death. Having said that, each local government is allowed to set its own standards about what is or isn’t allowed.
This means it’s very common for someone starting a new mobile business to buy a used food trailer that looks like a great deal on paper…. Only to find out later that the food trailer won’t pass inspection from their local government.
So what happens if your food trailer fails inspection? Well, you’ll have the option to fix any problems the inspector identifies. Sometimes the fixes required to get a failed mobile food facility to pass on the second try are cheap. Sometimes they can cost $50,000. Sometimes the used food trailer is built in such a way that it will never be able to meet code requirements without being completely rebuilt from scratch.
Savvy used food trailer buyers will send pictures of the food trailer to a pro food trailer manufacturer before they buy to get a cost estimate for any expected repairs and modifications. And many choose to just build a new food trailer with a reputable food trailer manufacturer that guarantees it will pass inspection.
4. Limited Options to Upgrades and Customization
Another potential downside of buying a used food trailer is limited options for upgrades and customization. When you buy a brand new trailer, you have the option to customize it to your exact specifications and add any special features or equipment that you need. With a used trailer, you may not be able to get the best layout or equipment for your business. This could negatively impact what, where and how much you can serve.
For example, if the previous owner did not install a generator or other power source, you may not be able to serve your food in locations without access to electricity. Similarly, if the trailer’s layout or equipment does not meet your needs, you may have to go to a professional food trailer builder to modify it. Even something as simple as adding a menu board could be a problem is the trailer wall isn’t designed to hold the weight.
5. Used Food Trailers Can Be Really Gross
Not everyone takes pride in keeping a clean and sanitary kitchen. Many food trailer owners skimp on performing daily deep cleanings. And because many food trailers aren’t designed with cleanability in mind, it can be hard work (or it may be impossible) to fully sterilize surfaces and eradicate pests.
Maybe you could tolerate working in a filthy environment every day. But a dirty kitchen also means your business is more likely to give customers food poisoning or get shut down by the health department.
Here are some warning signs that a used food trailer is too gross to buy:
- Does the food trailer smell bad?
- Do you see evidence of pests like rat droppings or roaches?
- Is the countertop sealed with caulk to prevent spills dripping down the back walls?
- Are the interior surfaces made of hard-to-clean materials?
- Does it have gaps under or between heavy kitchen equipment where it’s impossible to clean without first moving the equipment?
Every new build comes with a Firefly Warranty
Your success is our success. We stand behind our work with an industry-leading, 2-year warranty on every new build so you can spend more time connecting with customers and less time in the shop.
6. Reputation Problems From Buying a Used Food Trailer For Sale
When you buy a used food trailer, you inherit not only the vehicle itself but also its reputation and branding.
If the previous owner had a negative reputation or served food that was not up to par, it could be difficult to overcome that reputation and establish your own brand.
In addition, if the trailer has a dated or unappealing design, it could be tougher to attract customers and stand out from the competition. This could make it harder to build a successful business and generate enough revenue to cover your operating costs.
Need to quickly and cheaply set yourself apart? The best fix is installing a new colorful vehicle wrap to create a distinctive brand separate from the previous owner.
So should you buy that used food trailer for sale?
Overall, while buying a used food trailer may seem like a cost-effective way to get started in the mobile food industry, there are a number of potential downsides to consider. From higher maintenance costs to serious safety concerns, purchasing a used food trailer comes with a number of risks and challenges.
That being said, there are ways to mitigate some of these risks. Before buying a used food trailer, make sure to talk to your city about meeting their mobile food facility (MFF) permit requirements. You should also consult with a professional food trailer manufacturer to get accurate costs for repairs and customizations before you invest in a used food trailer.
Ultimately, the decision to buy a used food trailer or a brand new one depends on your individual circumstances and goals. While buying a used trailer may save you money upfront, it could end up costing you a lot more in the long run. On the other hand, if you have the resources to invest in a new trailer, it could provide you with greater flexibility, safety, reliability, and branding opportunities to help you build a successful food trailer business.
Are you in the market for a food trailer? Check out Firefly’s fully-loaded, $57,000 Workhorse food trailer model or contact us today for a custom food trailer quote. We’re excited to make your business mobile!