An ice cream truck? Does anybody do that anymore?

icecreamtruckdesignYou bet! Tim has been making a living as an ice cream truck vendor for two years. Based in Boston, he remembers when the idea first occurred to him. He thought it was a crazy and expensive proposition at first, but the more he thought about it, the more the idea appealed to him. He did some research and found that he could purchase a used step van and repaint it. Voila: an instant ice cream truck for much cheaper than buying a truck built specifically for the purpose.

Ice Cream Truck In Action

An ice cream truck owner talks about his business.

Where to look?

Where to buy an ice cream truck

Where should you start? Ice cream trucks made specifically for the purpose can be expensive. Most savvy entrepreneurs will get creative and find a good used truck they can convert. Be sure to look for a good step van like the one on the right and decorate it with a new paint job and some decals. Places you can look include:

  • Craigslist and eBay Many people looking to sell their old trucks will often list on these two websites. You can find some awesome deals by searching in your area. It’s likely that you can find a truck for between $3000 and $5000 but don’t worry if the truck you’re considering is a tad out of your price range. You can make back that few hundred extra bucks by getting started earlier in the spring.
  • Your local classifieds. You might not believe it in this digital age, but many people who want to sell their old stuff still use newspaper classifieds.
  • Used car lots may have a good step van if all else fails.

Talk to the owners.

icecreamtruckdesignPrint out a list of the trucks you’re interested in and the information on each. Prioritize your time; be sure to visit the ones closest to what you’re looking for. Get directions on Google Maps.

While talking to the owners, ask as many questions as possible. The owners can be quite talkative when selling their trucks; this is a good time to pick up tips. And don’t forget to take the truck for a test drive; sometimes they do bend the truth and this is a good time to give it a shakedown.

Make a decision after you’ve looked at a few trucks. Don’t worry about spending an extra $500 if the truck is otherwise in good shape. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can earn that money back.

Questions To Ask

  1. Ask about previous owners. Get as many details as possible. Someone who used it professionally and/or as part of a fleet is more likely to keep it well-maintained.
  2. Get details on previous usage. Ice cream trucks have to stop and go a lot, which means they will likely have more wear and tear damage. Delivery trucks are typically kept in pretty good shape.
  3. If it comes with a freezer, how old is it? Newer freezers are generally in better condition and are less likely to need repairs or replacing.
  4. Get details on repair work. If expensive parts have been replaced recently, that means money you won’t have to spend on repairs right after you buy the truck.

Things To Check

  1. The engine and transmission should sound smooth with no choking or coughing noises, which can be a sign of misfiring pistons or burned spark plug wires. Try accelerating hard a few times, both in drive and in reverse. If you hear clunking noises, the tranny may have slipped.
  2. Check the oil and tranny fluid. The color of both can indicate problems. Oil should look like black coffee; if it looks sludgy or creamy, there may be a leak in the antifreeze system. Tranny fluid should be red and clear. If you detect a burned smell, there’s a problem.
  3. Check the freezer. Plug it in or call ahead and have the owner do it for you. Bring a quality thermometer with you and check the temperature. It should be between -15 and -20 degrees Celsius.

A Few Must-Have Ice Cream Truck Supplies


Be sure to have napkins on hand to pass out to customers. This will help in the hot summer sun when ice cream has an unfortunate tendency to melt.


Those little dinky wooden spoons that come with some ice cream products are annoying. So be sure to grab some plastic ones to pass out with the products that require them.


Always keep some clean towels handy to wipe up spills or clean up any messes that happen within your truck.


Set a couple bottles of hand sanitizer out on your counter whenever you make a stop. This says you care about cleanliness.


String a few of these lights on your truck if you are going to be working at night. Solar powered lights like these makes your truck more visible.

And, of course, the step van.

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