Food Trucks vs. Food Trailers: 5 Differences You Need to Know

blue and pink ice cream food trailer parked in an urban area

When you’re walking down the street with a rumbling tummy, there’s no sight more welcome than a food truck parked near you. After all, mobile food services sell all kinds of delicious cuisines. From tacos to pasta to kebabs to Asian fusion, food trucks and trailers let you sample a variety of free smells… and affordable food.

In the US, there are currently at least 4,000 operating food trucks and food trailers. If you’re interested in joining their ranks, you’ve probably heard of both of these kinds of mobile food services. You can probably tell them apart from the visual differences, but do you know some of the practical differences?

Here, we’re going to answer address some of these practical differences, and what they mean for you as a potential owner. Read on for five of the most important differences between food trucks and trailers so you can make an informed decision about which is best for you!

1. Size and Unit Type

The main difference between food trucks and food trailers is their size and the type of unit that they occupy. The compartment itself is sized quite differently. The average food truck kitchen is 7-feet wide, while a food trailer kitchen can be wider at 7-feet or 8.5-feet.

The length of your truck is more so what will determine the amount of kitchen space you have to work with. Food trucks can be as short as 10-feet, or as long as 26-feet. Food trailers on the other hand, have a much wider span of sizes, ranging all the way from 8-feet to 53-feet!

One advantage of food trucks on the size front is that they’ll be able to fit and park in a wider range of venues than a food trailer. 

On the other hand, if you have a larger-sized food trailer it can bring a lot of benefits with it. For one thing, it allows room for more kinds of appliances, and it lets the cook work differently than they would in a smaller space.

2. Storage Space

With a larger area to work in comes more storage space. Food trailers have a lot more places to put ingredients, cleaners, ovens, grills, and other cooking utensils than food trucks do. This means a few things for your business.

First, larger food trailers are usually easier to keep clean and sanitary. There’s a lot more room to work as well as a lot more area to store cleaning supplies. Staying up to code will ensure that your business thrives and isn’t shut down. On the other hand, the smaller kitchen area of a food truck means less to clean and fewer appliances to maintain.

3. Price

Generally, food trailers are cheaper than food trucks. The reason for this is that food trailers can’t move through the streets on their own and need to be towed by another vehicle that has that capability. This means you will either have to purchase or rent a towing vehicle in addition to the price of the trailer. 

The main takeaway is that a food truck costs more if you’re going to be remaining stationary all the time, but that isn’t usually the reality of mobile food businesses. If you plan to move frequently to various locations, it is probably worthwhile to invest in a food truck rather than a trailer.

Along with the upfront price, another facet of the financial side to think about is the depreciation of your asset over time. Generally, food trucks retain their value at a higher rate per year than food trailers do. So, if you want to upgrade your food truck or trailer in a few years, your food truck will likely have better resale value.

4. Professionalism

Another thing to consider is how your food trailer or truck is going to look to customers. Food trucks generally look nicer and more professional than food trailers, especially when they have extra bells and whistles, like a full graphics wrap, a TV shadow box to display your menu or other content, and rooftop signboards to give your truck a taller, sleeker look while partially hiding the rooftop A/C unit.

Either way, with a food truck or trailer, having a good branding strategy is going to make your truck look more professional. Make sure your logo is easily recognizable on the side of your truck, and try to stick to a theme for your truck. 

5. Portability & Paperwork

While food trailers can possibly have more space, nothing beats the food truck in terms of portability. Plus, food trailers require more paperwork than food trucks do. This makes sense—after all you’re parking two vehicles at any given venue rather than just one.

Since you only have one unit when driving around a food truck, it’s easier to operate. You don’t have to worry about hooking up a trailer and making sure all the connections are working properly. You don’t have to have experience maneuvering a bulky vehicle with two segments. Basically, you can just get in and go.

Additionally, you’ll be able to transport a food truck to many more places than a food trailer. There are roads and parking spots that a food trailer’s bulky size can’t handle. On the other hand, a food truck can easily move around and park pretty much anywhere to set up shop.

Chow Down!

So, you’re probably wondering, is a food truck better or a food trailer better? Well, that depends on what kind of food business you want to run, and what you’re aiming to get out of the experience.

A food truck and a food trailer may sound like the same thing, but in reality, they couldn’t be more different. As someone thinking about starting up in the mobile food business, it’s important to weigh the differences between these options before making a decision.

Now that you know five key differences between food trucks and food trailers, click here to visit our mobile kitchen page. We’re here to help you get into this competitive business.

Bon appétit!