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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Buying a Concession Trailer & Food Truck Online

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

*UPDATE Oct. 2021: DOT is now seizing all trailers coming from suppliers overseas on alibaba. Arete Food Trailers is one of the few companies in NHTSA compliance.

Its 2020, Maybe you've come into some money, lost your job, or are uncertain about the economy, and you've thought "Maybe I should start my own business..."

Deciding to start a mobile business is the perfect place for any new or experienced business owner, whether you want to start your own food truck, concession trailer, or vending cart, it allows a low investment cost, low overhead, and mobile businesses will always bring intrigue from local foot traffic who are looking to try something new.

When your buying Online or buying from manufacturers you don't know, there is always risk of not physically seeing the product beforehand.

We get contacted much too often from people who were duped by overseas manufacturers on alibaba or sometimes even US based distributors. Many manufacturers have taken patented designs & photos, and passed them off as their own, and when their clients get their custom food trailers, they soon realize they were not anywhere near what was shown in photos, and they were made with 2nd class materials.

See below some common emails we get from people who try purchasing a trailer on alibaba:

This is a common problem we hear about; potential clients are drawn into cheaper prices they see on Alibaba or Roaming Hunger, thinking these are all from the same factory, all the same type of build, but many people do not realize how much is really involved when it comes to making sure your trailer is DOT, EPA, FDA approved with proper licensing information, and how crucial it is to go with a licensed distributor based in the US.

Top 5 Questions to Ask your Food Trailer Builders;

  1. Is the builder a Licensed Distributor in the USA?

A license is needed in order to legally sell any newly built trailers or "Special Purpose Commercial Modulars" in the US. We are fortunate (DOT)Department of Transportation has certain regulations and standards in order to keep our roads safe, and if you purchase from an international builder, chances are they are not fully licensed in the USA, nor do they know of DOT standards. A simple way to tell is to ask "What DOT standards are met with your concession trailers?"

If they are licensed then they should explain beforehand, "DOT approved, EPA/FDA approved", but if they do not have knowledge about American Road laws, then chances are you will get your trailer seized by customs or find it impossible to get registered at the DMV.

DOT laws require specific chassis composition, gauges, towbar length and specs, specific tailights and license plate holders, newly generated Vin #, etc.

Each of our Concession trailers for sale come with a new Vin #, Bill of Sale, and Certificate of Origin to allow you to register with the DMV road ready.

2. Do they meet EPA & FDA Approval?

This is another set of regulatory agencies that will be required to appease before entering into or operating in the US. Most international builders may not know whether they meet approval for bringing into the US, its simply an after thought if their clients are operational. This is the second most common reason we see people get their trailer's seized by a government agency. The Environmental Protection Agency has certain standards to help enforce and prevent unethical practices that are harmful to our environment.

The Food & Drug Administration also has standards to help keep a general track of all Food related products that come into the US.

Ask your builders, "Do these vending trailers meet EPA regulations in my specific state? Do these food concession carts meet FDA approval?"

3. Is the Electrical System according to American Wire Gauge Standards?

Another common issue we continuously hear about, most people do not consider, is their electrical system.

Think of the electrical system as the Heart of your Food Vending Trailer. It powers all of the equipment inside, and a "Standardized" Electrical system is detrimental to running a safe operation. Just like everything else, the USA has unique electrical standards that value safety, which is why we have "American Wire Gauge Standards" to ensure that our 110v electrical system runs properly without any fire hazards. With the exception of Mexico & Canada, foreign Countries are not privy to these unique standards that operate on a 110 Volt system. Most other countries operate on 220v, which presents a problem with most foreign builders. Unless the foreign builder has a US approved electrician on premises, they will not understand the importance of meeting the Electrical standards for a US based business. We have heard people powering up a 110v appliance on one of these 220v systems, only to have it burned. You also run a big risk of fire when you do not operate with the correct wire gauges on your electrical system. Most of the foreign builders do not have any recourse if in fact your trailer burns down. If your builder is not aware of AWG, or they do not install a Breaker "Subpanel" then most likely you will need to hire out an electrician to install a completely new system which can range in the thousands of dollars.

4. Are you signing a Legally Binding Contract?

If your builder does not draft up a US legal contract that outlines all of your terms, conditions, warranties, and services, then you are at risk of fraud with no legal recourse. Arete Food Trailers is based in the USA, and all of our clients sign a legal contract before any building is started. This is detrimental to the security of your investment. We've heard stories of flat out fraud where builders go missing with clients money, or builders deliver a faulty concession trailer without any recourse. Make sure your builders also have a registered business in the state they are operating in. You can always go onto the state business registry online and search any business name to confirm they are an active registered business.

5. Beware of Hidden Fees.

Many vending trailer builders foreign or domestic will not give their full prices up front. This is an age old sales tactic to draw customers in 1st, and nail down the sale after customer is intrigued. Arete Food Trailers gives all pricing upfront with the exception of some minor shipping fees. If you are based in CA there is also an additional 7.75% tax, but everywhere else in the world we include taxes and the majority of shipping cost in our prices.

We've heard countless stories of folks thinking they are getting a better deal online from places like alibaba which list vending trailers under $5,000-$6,000 but make no mention of the many other fees like $2,000-$10,000 shipping charges, tariffs/taxes, Customs fees, Freight Forwarding fees, warehousing fees, Brokerage % fees, etc.

Especially if you plan on importing a trailer from a foreign builder, its important to speak to a customs and freight forwarding agent beforehand to get a good idea of the immense task at hand, along with a whole itemized list of potential fees.

With all of this said, we continue to stress the importance of educating clients on some of the less known factors involved in purchasing a new vending concession trailer or food truck.

For any additional questions we do encourage people to feel free and give us a call (909) 246 9972 or (909) 360 0110 or send an Email to

13,551 views2 comments


D. K.
D. K.
Jun 04

The 5th point is so true! I would also recommend being aware of hidden fees. They are called "hidden" for a reason. october scorpio vs november scorpio


James Brown
James Brown
Sep 13, 2022

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