11 Tips To Start A Food Truck Business With No Money

Cost-saving is the name of the game when starting a food truck business on a tight budget

How to start a food truck business with no money

I would love to tell you that you can start a food truck business with no money. But the reality is like any new venture, it’s going to take at least some money.

The good news, however, is a food truck or street food business is cheaper to start in comparison to other types of start-ups.

So here are 11 tips on how to start a food truck with no money.

1. Start with a food stall instead of a food truck

Street food stall - How to start a food truck business with no money

Buying a food truck can cost anything from $15,000 all the way up to $150,000 for the big concession food trailers you see at festivals.

On the other hand, you can start selling from a food stall, for under $1500. Most street food vendors use gazebos to sell their food from which you can get a decent brand for a few hundred pounds or dollars.

Remember at this stage of the game your product is not tried and tested so you really want to keep your costs to a minimum.

2. Buy second hand

I can’t emphasize this tip enough when starting out. You don’t need all the gadgets and shiny equipment when starting a food truck with no money. You can get perfectly good catering equipment for your needs second-hand.

Sites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree, and Preloved, for example, have a range of second-hand catering equipment.

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3. Rent equipment

If what you are thinking of selling takes more specialized and costly equipment to produce you may want to think about renting the equipment instead of trying to come up with the full amount upfront.

Equipment such as coffee machines, churros machines, and high-end juicers can cost thousands, which you may want to avoid starting out. It’s also a good way to test if the product sells without taking on all the risk.

4. Hire a van

Van Hire - How to start a food truck business with no money

If you are initially going with a street food stall as opposed to a food truck, then you will need transport for your equipment – preferably a van.

You will need something that is reliable, as the last thing you want to do is break down on the way to an event (something I have done a few times).

At the same time getting your hands on a brand-new van will set you back a pretty penny (you might as well just start with the food truck if that is the case).

The solution to this, therefore, is to rent a van. The longer you rent, the cheaper it becomes (in some cases about $50 per day).

This way you get to drive a nice shiny van, without forking out for the privilege to do so. And you can test if your product idea works without all the risk involved.

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5. Get a zero percent interest credit card

Zero Percent credit card - How to start a food truck with no money

It’s not ideal when starting any type of business to fund it with debt, but if you really don’t have any money to start your food truck or street food business I recommend a zero percent interest credit card.

If your credit rating is fair-good, It has never been so cheap to get credit these days. Make sure you go for a zero percent interest credit card on purchases for as long as possible. I usually try to find cards with zero interest for over 20 months.

But remember to borrow responsibly and only take on what you can afford to pay back.

6. Join Mobile Catering Facebook groups

Not only do you get a wealth of knowledge, contacts, and leads in these groups from people who have been in the game for years, but you can also come across food truck catering equipment at a discount.

If you are a bit cheeky you also might be able to get a caterer to lend you some equipment. It’s actually quite surprising how helpful some people can be when they know you are starting out.

7. Start with a minimum viable product (MVP)

This is a term known in business whereby you produce a product with the minimum amount of resources, that the consumer will pay for.

It would be nice to sell that tasty free-range, organic fried chicken burger locally sourced from the Golden Highlands. But the reality is it will eat into your profit significantly.

You can improve the product, as you progress and make sales, and then reinvest the profit into a more superior product.

I am not saying to compromise on taste or quality, but try to go for the best quality at the best price.

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8. Get food waste from local businesses and supermarkets

Food waste - How to start a food truck business with no money

Food waste is a massive issue across the food industry, especially in the Western world. However, the public, governments, and the food industry are now starting to wake up to this fact and do something about it.

From donating waste to local food banks to feeding the homeless in pop-up soup kitchens. There are also local businesses that give food away, so there may be an opportunity here to source some free stock to make your products.

What we are talking about here is food that is perfectly good for consumption. And I actually think a street food stall or food truck touting itself as a zero/minimum waste business is a strong selling point, provided it is legal where you operate.

9. Get a business partner

As the old saying goes, “A problem shared is a problem halved”. The point is with any new venture there is always an element of risk and for new start-ups, the risk is even higher.

With this in mind, it may be wise to have another person on board to help with the funding and running of the operation and share the risk. It’s also good to have two minds working on things.

10. Get family and friends involved

Following on in the same vein, try and get family and friends involved. If they can’t help with start-up costs you can at least try and get them to volunteer some of their time in the running of things.

Staffing costs are one of the biggest outgoings for any business so any way you can reduce this will help you will cash flow and be on your way to a successful street food venture.

11. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding seems to be pretty popular for people wanting to start a business with no money.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, basically these are digital platforms where you pitch an idea to the public for investment in exchange for a stake in the business or a free product.

If you have a unique idea you may just get the funding you need- hence the ability to start a food truck business with no money (or none of your own at least).

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So how much is it going to really cost to start a food truck business with no money?

You may be thinking about how much it will cost in total to start a food truck business from scratch when funds are tight.

It all depends on what you intend to sell and this is purely the start-up and not the ongoing running costs (staff, stock, pitch fee, etc).

The cost will also depend on if you buy brand new or second-hand (some equipment you may not be able to find second-hand).

In short, you can get a street food stall and all the equipment, for selling a wide range of foods for under $1500.

Price breakdown (approximate cost):

  • Gazebo – $300
  • Cool boxes – $150
  • Catering tables – $150
  • Signage – $100 approx
  • Stoves (cast iron) – $150 for 2
  • Cooking utensils – $50

Total = $900

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So if you are thinking about starting a street food business I hope this article was informative and helped you in some way. If it was don’t forget to have a look around the other business-related articles on the site.


  • Gavin D

    Gavin D is the founder of Street Food Central and Tru Foo Juice Bar Co. and has worked in the mobile catering industry for over 7 years.