In this blog post, I attempt to cover the main expenses of the cost of starting a profitable mobile coffee truck. I cannot tell you enough, that I have seen countless business owners go out of business because of failure to make their loan payments. I believe the coffee truckers hold true to this a bit more the others, so please, please, please tread lightly. Do your research. Understand what you need vs what you want. Ask yourself, is this purchase going to help sell coffee. I know you want those leopard print seat covers and pink fuzzy dice blinging in the shine of your disco lights, but Is It Going to Help You Sell Coffee?
Step 1: Truck vs Trailers
Trailer can be found as cheap as $500, but look for rust. Last thing you need is your frame to break en route to an event. Your little cute coffee truck will split so bad, Humpty Dumpty will be jealous. Horse trailers are cute and affordable. So mull that over. I have a whole section on how to pick trailers and trucks in the ebook...expect to pay at least 2k for a decent trailer.
Trucks are much more pricey. I price them around 10k, for a decent one. You may be able to shop around and find something cheaper. Right now I have my eye on a Ford Transit. I'm seeing them in my local 500 mile radius sell for about 15k for 50-75k on the engine. I would try to keep this below 20k if you can...
Espresso machines have a wide variety of prices. The problem with buying one online is you cannot test it. So that cuts down your options real quick. Used espresso machines go for about $1k-1500. Refurbished $3k and up. New $7k and up. Personally, I get refurbished. You can always buy new and refurbish yourself if your handy...
Grinder is $500.
Electric, plan on $1k. Conduit, sockets, installation, lights, yada...unless you're an electrician, get this done professionally. Risk vs. Reward. You don't want your truck to burn down.
Plumbing $1k material and $1k labor. You can shave some cash off here by getting an apprentice from your local community college to install or you can give it a shot yourself.
Flooring, insulation, walls add up to $1k-$1.5k. Check out your local lumbar store to see if they have sales on vinyl floors or laminate. You can get some good deals there.
Service windows depending on the code can range from $200 to $1000.
Paint jobs can get pricey. A DIY job cost around $500-800. A professional is $1500 to 2k. And a wrap is 3k+. Side note, I'm not a big fan of wraps. At my altitude and humidity I see them fall apart and I'm yet to justify the cost. If you have a design that you cannot part with, consider getting a partial wrap instead.
Coffee makers...can range. Pourover and French Press are a cheap way to get started but cannot brew much at a time. Cold brew can serve large audiences when done right (see ebook for recipes). Commercial coffee makers run around $400. Airpots are $40 each and you need 5. So somewhere around $500.
Fridge can be bought used. $800+ Check craigslist and such. Make sure the compressor is commercial though...a lot of slick talkers will swap a commercial compressor with a residential compressor and sell it at commercial cost...
Supplies will cost you about $400 for your first month. Cups, straws, sugars, syrups. I have a full list of supplies in the ebook. Now, if you are setting up a route or a drive thru, consider adding an extra $500 of free coffee here. In my humble opinion, if you give away your first month coffee, you have a great chance of starting a following. If you can't afford this, consider steeply discounting your first month. Everytime I started a new route, it significantly jump started my business. My 2 cents.
Permits, commissary kitchen, licenses are around $400. Give or take...
All in all, in my humble opinion, a smart trucker can get a trailer started for less than $10k. If you get a good deal on a trailer and espresso machine, you can probably get started with close to $5k-6k.
A truck is a bit more. I think setting aside $20k is about right. My last truck cost me just over $15k to start, but I refurbished my own espresso machine.