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How Much Can You Earn from Your Ice Cream Truck Business

Published November 27, 2023 Restaurant
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“Quick summary” Ice-cream food truck business. In recent times, you have probably heard about it. Starting your own ice cream truck business is increasing in popularity and is among the most profitable and promising business ideas. Among the reasons for its growing popularity are: High flexibility and lower start-up costs.

Whether parked near parks, at festivals, or outside popular gathering spots, the flexibility to cater to diverse customer bases contributes significantly to its growing appeal. Moreover, the comparatively lower startup costs also make it an accessible option for those looking to enter the entrepreneurial arena without breaking the bank. 

But, still, no business is inexpensive or too easy. It requires strategic planning regarding the costs, requirements, revenue, and other things around. 

If you are interested in starting your own Ice cream truck business and are wondering how much does ice cream truck costs, how much do they earn earns, and how much profit margin will you earn from the ice cream truck business, then this blog is all you need. 

Let’s dig down to find out everything!

Ice Cream Truck Business Essentials

Starting an ice cream truck business is a lucrative enterprise because it is a mobile business with a big consumer base. But, to launch this kind of business, preparation, and capital are necessary. It's critical to understand the initial costs before entering this industry.

  • The Truck's Price: Acquiring a new ice cream truck may entail an investment ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, contingent on the chosen model and brand. Alternatively, opting for a used ice cream truck can be more economical, typically falling between $20,000 and $40,000.
  • Inventory and Equipment: You will need to acquire goods such as ice cream, cones, cups, and spoons. The price range for this is between $2,000 and $5,000. Ice cream machines, cash registers, and other equipment are required and can range in price from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Permits and Licenses: It can cost anywhere between $500 and $5,000, depending on the state. Additionally, getting insurance for your ice cream truck business might incur annual costs ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. 

You can make more educated decisions regarding the investment required for this firm by investigating the local competitors and market demand. Opting for a used or reconditioned truck, along with secondhand equipment and inventory, presents an opportunity to reduce your startup costs significantly.

In total, the initial outlay for launching an ice cream truck business can span from $20,000 to $100,000. When initiating your enterprise, it's imperative to meticulously consider all costs, ensuring you have ample financial reserves. Plan properly and make informed decisions to maximize your revenues and build a profitable ice cream truck business.

Cost Analysis

The initial investment required to launch an ice cream truck enterprise can vary from $50,000 to $150,000 or more, depending upon the scale of your enterprise and the quantity of necessary equipment and materials.

The following are some typical expenses associated with launching an ice cream truck business: 

  • Registration fees for business: $750.
  • Truck: $50,000-$100,000
  • Equipment (ice cream makers, freezers): $3000–$10,000
  • Initial inventory (cones, toppings, towels, and additional materials): $3,000-$10,000
  • Licenses and permits: $500–2,000
  • Insurance costs between $500 and $1,000.
  • Branding and advertising (logo design, website, social media): $500-$2,000.

However, these are just general estimates and the exact amount will vary based on different factors. The following are some of the variables that affect how much does an ice cream truck costs: 

  • Location
  • The brand and the quality of the ice cream maker, freezers, truck, etc.
  • The quality of the initial stock, which includes napkins, cones, toppings, and additional supplies
  • The cost to get necessary permits and licenses required to operate the business as per location and business needs. 
  • The cost of insurance and amount of coverage needed.
  • The cost of marketing and branding efforts, such as logo design, website development, and social media marketing
  • The cost of labor 
  • Other factors 

Pricing and Menu Selection

Starting an ice cream truck business requires a strategic blend of competitive pricing and a diverse, customer-centric menu. Finding the sweet spot where cost considerations meet the preferences of your target audience is pivotal for covering expenses and even ensuring the success and sustainability of your ice cream truck business. 

Setting the Right Prices:

  • Reasonable Profitability: Prices must factor in all costs—ingredients, fuel, permits, and labor-ensuring cost recovery along with a reasonable profit margin. Striking this balance is essential for the long-term viability of your business.
  • Choose Suitable Pricing: The prices you set should align with the perceived value of your ice cream. Emphasize the quality of ingredients, the uniqueness of your offerings, and the overall experience to set the right prices for your products.
  • Competitive Pricing: Research competitors' pricing to ensure your prices are competitive while still offering value. Consider factors such as portion size, quality, and the overall customer experience.
  • Seasonal Adjustments and Flexibility: Adjust prices seasonally based on changes in demand and customer preferences. Be flexible during events, offering bundle deals or special promotions to maximize sales volume and customer satisfaction.

Choosing Diverse Menu Options:

  • Broad Appeal and Variety: A diverse menu appeals to a broader customer base. Include classic flavors, innovative creations, and options for dietary preferences or restrictions to cater to diverse tastes.
  • Offer Different Pricing Tiers: Create pricing tiers for different menu items to accommodate various budgets. Offering a variety of price points encourages customers to explore different items on your menu.
  • Introduce Seasonal Specials: Introduce seasonal flavors or specials to keep your menu fresh and exciting. Align these offerings with local preferences and events to generate buzz and attract customers toward your truck.
  • Customer Feedback Integration and Adaptability: Actively seek customer feedback and adapt your menu based on the feedback and suggestions of customers. This engagement fosters a sense of ownership among customers while also ensuring your offerings stay relevant and desirable among your customers.
  • Check the Accessibility and Adaptability: Regularly assess market trends, gather customer feedback, and remain adaptable to ensure your menu continues to delight customers and drive the success of your mobile venture.

Sales and Revenue Generation

Understanding the seasonal variations in ice cream sales is crucial for anticipating the sales revenue fluctuations in the street vending business. 

  • Winter Time: During mid-week winter days, sales may range below $200, reflecting the decreased demand in colder weather. On winter weekends, sales could see a moderate uptick, falling within the $200-$300 range as people seek occasional treats during the weekends.
  • Summertime: In mid-week summer, the warmer weather tends to boost sales, ranging from $300-$500 per day as customers are more inclined to indulge in refreshing ice cream. The weekend summer days exhibit the highest sales potential, reaching up to $700 per day, reflecting heightened demand for cool treats during leisurely weekends.
  • Catering Events: Private catering events showcase a considerable revenue potential, with sales fluctuating between $300 and $3.5k per event. These events, often catering to specific occasions or gatherings, provide an opportunity for larger sales volumes.
  • Public Events: Public events, while potentially variable, present a broad sales spectrum ranging from $200 to $2.5k per event. The diversity of attendees and the scale of public gatherings contribute to the wide range of sales figures.

Understanding these sales dynamics and revenue generation helps in effective business planning, allowing ice cream truck operators to optimize their schedules, adjust inventory levels, and capitalize on the seasonally-driven flow of customer demand.

Calculating Gross Profit Margin

The typical gross profit margin you will earn from an ice cream truck business is between 67% and 75%. Ice cream has a high-profit margin, especially if there is a high demand in your city and rivalry is low. 

There is a straightforward distinction between profit margin and markup. The markup on a product is the difference between the price you charge and the cost of production. When calculating ice cream markup, you should begin with the cost of manufacturing the product and work your way up. 

In this regard, the gross profit margin is backward. It is determined by subtracting your costs from the final sale price to see how much money you are making.

Let’s find out how to calculate the gross profit margin: 

To calculate the Gross Profit Margin (GPM) for an ice cream truck business, one must deduct the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) from the generated revenue and divide the result by the revenue. 

Let's walk through an example of calculating the Gross Profit Margin (GPM) for an ice cream truck business:

  • Let's say the ice cream truck generated $1,000 in sales during a specific period. Then, you need to find out the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS). 
  • The COGS includes the cost of ice cream, cones, toppings, and other items sold.

Let's assume the total cost of these items is $400.

  • Subtract the COGS from the Revenue to find the Gross Profit.
    $1000 - $400 = $600.
  • To find the GPM as a percentage, divide the Gross Profit by the Revenue and multiply by 100.
    $600/$1000 * 100 = 60%

So, the gross profit margin for the ice cream truck business is around 60%. 

This formula yields the GPM, a crucial metric for assessing profitability. The average annual profit for an ice cream truck can range from $4,000 to $20,000, which is based on factors like location and operational frequency. So, based on general revenue and Profit margins, an ice cream truck can earn around $2400 to $12000.

Overhead and Operational Expenses

Considering all the overhead and operating expenses is crucial for the success and sustainability of an ice cream truck business. These expenses encompass a wide range of costs, from fuel and maintenance to permits, marketing, and employee wages. Understanding and meticulously budgeting for these expenses is vital to ensure the long-term profitability of businesses. 

Here are some of the common overhead and operational expenses for ice cream truck businesses: 

Expenses Estimated Cost
Vehicle Purchase/Lease $10,000 - $50,000
Vehicle Wrap/Decals $1,000 - $5,000
Refrigeration Equipment $2,000 - $5,000
Generator/Power Source $500 - $2,000
GPS System $200 - $500
Cleaning Supplies $50 - $100 per month
Uniforms $100 - $300
Accounting Software $20 - $50 per month
Business Insurance $500 - $1,500 per year
Legal and Professional Fees Varies based on needs
Wi-Fi/Internet Access $30 - $50 per month
Vehicle Registration $100 - $200 per year
Mobile Payment Processing $20 - $50 per month
Bookkeeping Services $50 - $150 per month
Loan Repayment (if applicable) Varies based on terms
Sundry/Contingency 5% of total expenses

Note: These estimates are general approximations, and actual costs may vary based on factors such as location, business scale, and specific operational decisions. It's essential to conduct detailed research and budgeting for accurate expense projections tailored to the specific circumstances of the ice cream truck business.

Net Profit and Income

According to estimates, an ice cream truck can make between $200 and $300 per day selling ice cream from a truck throughout the season's heat. If you worked an average of 20 days per month, your net profit would be $5,000.

  • Average Daily Earnings: $200-300
  • Average monthly income: $5,000
  • Average yearly salary: $60,000.

Keeping in mind that this is your net profit means that you still need to account for your costs to get your actual annual earnings from your business.

  • Monthly Average Expenses: $2,500
  • The average annual expense is $30,000.

Consequently, your projected average annual income is now $30,000. 

Furthermore, utilizing a scooper with large ice cream tubs may result in a substantial marginal increase. Consider purchasing large dumpsters and stocking your ice cream truck business with the newest and most in-demand flavors to reduce waste.

On an average summer day, the sales for your ice cream truck can fluctuate between $200 and $500. If you halve the gross, your daily net profit hovers around the average.

You can earn a weekly net profit of $750 or a gross profit of $1,500 if you can sell $300 worth of goods five days a week. Multiply your annual revenue by the number of weeks your business is open each year.

Significant celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Christmas week, Memorial Day weekend, and the Fourth of July present lucrative opportunities for your ice cream truck business. During these festivities, it's possible to surpass $1,000 in daily sales, potentially elevating your overall revenue significantly. 

Seasonal Considerations

Seasonal considerations are crucial for the success of an ice cream truck business due to the distinct and predictable patterns of customer demand influenced by changing weather, local events, and cultural preferences. 

Understanding and adapting to seasonal variations is key to the success of an ice cream food truck business. By strategically planning your offerings, schedule, and marketing efforts, you can maximize profits throughout the year and build a loyal customer base

Here's why seasonal considerations are essential:

1. Weather Conditions:

  • Warm Months (Spring/Summer): Expect increased demand during warmer months, as people naturally crave ice cream in hot weather. Plan to operate more frequently during this time, and consider offering a variety of refreshing and fruity flavors.
  • Cold Months (Fall/Winter): Prepare for a potential decrease in sales during colder months. Consider diversifying your menu to include warm treats like hot chocolate, seasonal flavors (e.g., pumpkin spice), or warm desserts to attract customers in colder weather.

2. Local Events and Festivals:

  • Summer Festivals and Outdoor Events: Summer is prime time for festivals, fairs, and outdoor events. Align your schedule to participate in these gatherings, as they attract large crowds seeking cool treats.
  • Holiday Markets and Winter Festivals: Explore opportunities to participate in holiday markets and winter festivals during colder months. These events can provide alternative revenue streams.

3. Regional Climate: Adapt your menu and operating schedule based on regional climate patterns. For example, in areas with extended periods of hot weather, you may be able to operate year-round.

4. Local Holidays and Celebrations: Holidays often coincide with outdoor events and celebrations. So, you can leverage the local holidays and celebrations to your advantage by planning your schedule and marketing efforts around these occasions to maximize sales.

5. Tourist Seasons: Identify peak tourist seasons in your area and adjust your schedule to cater to tourists seeking local treats.

Quick Tip: Develop marketing campaigns around seasons, holidays, or special events to create buzz regarding your seasonal flavors, discounts, and other things around. 

Challenges and Risks

Every business comes with its own set of challenges and risks and ice cream food truck businesses are no exception. However, with careful planning and proactive solutions, many obstacles can be overcome. Staying adaptable, informed, and responsive to market changes will contribute to the long-term success of your ice cream food truck business.

Keep reading to find out more about the common challenges and their solutions: 

1. Seasonal Variability

Challenge: The ice cream business is often affected by seasonal changes, with demand being higher in warm months and lower during colder seasons.

Solution: Diversify your product offerings to include warm treats like hot chocolate or seasonal flavors during the colder months. Additionally, focus on events and catering opportunities year-round to offset the impact of seasonal fluctuations.

2. Operational Costs and Margins

Challenge: Managing operational costs such as fuel, maintenance, and ingredients, while maintaining profitable margins can be challenging.

Solution: Implement a well-thought-out pricing strategy that factors in all costs, including overheads. Purchase ingredients in bulk to take advantage of discounts, and regularly review and optimize your menu to ensure profitability.

3. Regulatory Compliance:

Challenge: Navigating through local health and safety regulations, permits, and licenses can be complex and time-consuming, especially for mobile businesses and varying locations.

Solution: Research and understand all the local regulations and requirements for operating a food truck in your area. Consult with local health departments and authorities to ensure that your business complies with all necessary standards. Also, don’t forget to keep up-to-date records and renew permits on time.

4. Location and Competition:

Challenge: Finding optimal locations with high foot traffic and minimal competition can be a constant challenge, as the popularity of certain areas may change.

Solution: Conduct thorough market research to identify potential locations and monitor local events and trends. Build relationships with event organizers, local businesses, and communities to secure prime spots. Stay adaptable and be willing to explore new areas to maximize your reach.

5. Weather Dependency:

Challenge: Adverse weather conditions, such as rain or extreme heat, can significantly impact customer turnout and sales.

Solution: Monitor weather forecasts and plan accordingly. Consider investing in protective equipment like awnings or umbrellas to shield customers from the elements. Develop a strategy for rainy days, such as offering discounts or promotions to encourage business.

6. Customer Retention:

Challenge: Building a loyal customer base can be challenging in a mobile business, as customers may not visit the same location frequently.

Solution: Implement a customer loyalty program with rewards or discounts for repeat purchases. Collect customer feedback to understand preferences and make adjustments to your offerings. Utilize social media to engage with customers, share updates, and encourage them to follow your truck's movements.

Expansion and Growth

Getting the answer for how to start an Ice cream truck business is not enough. You also need to consider the expansion and growth as well. But, that doesn’t come easy. You need to leverage the right strategies to grow and expand your business. To know more about it, keep reading below. Our listed detailed strategies aim to provide a solid foundation for expanding and growing your ice cream food truck business. Also, don’t forget to tailor them to fit the unique characteristics of your business and local market conditions.

Let’s dig down: 

  • Diversify Your Menu: To stay competitive and attract a diverse customer base, it's crucial to continuously innovate your ice cream offerings. Conduct thorough market research to identify emerging flavor trends and unique combinations that resonate with your target audience. By diversifying your menu, you can create a sense of excitement and anticipation among your customers, encouraging them to return regularly to try your latest creations.
  • Collaborate and Partner: Collaborating with local businesses and forming strategic partnerships can significantly boost your ice cream food truck's visibility and reach. Forge relationships with coffee shops, event venues, or even other food trucks to cross-promote each other. Participating in food truck festivals or collaborating on joint events allows you to tap into new business opportunities. 
  • Social Media Marketing: A strong social media presence is essential in today’s competitive times. Add a range of high-quality photos, engaging videos, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of your operations. Also, social media contests, giveaways, and promotions can help create buzz and further amplify your brand's reach.
  • Catering Services: Expanding your services to include catering opens up new revenue streams and allows you to bring your ice cream experience to a variety of events. Effectively market your catering services through your website, social media, and local event planning networks to attract clients looking for a unique and delightful dessert experience.
  • Online Presence: Establishing a robust online presence is crucial for modern businesses. Develop a professional website that showcases your menu, schedule, and any special promotions. Consider incorporating an online ordering system or pre-order option to enhance customer convenience. Leverage search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve your online visibility and attract customers.
  • Community Engagement: Actively engaging with the local community helps build a positive brand image and fosters customer loyalty. Sponsor local events, sports teams, or community festivals to increase your visibility and show support for the community. Building strong ties with the community not only generates goodwill but can also lead to valuable word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Seasonal Offerings: Embrace the changing seasons by introducing special and seasonal offerings. Create unique ice cream flavors or promotions that align with holidays, seasons, or local festivities. Consider collaborating with local farmers or artisans to source seasonal ingredients for a fresh and locally inspired menu. It excites your customers and appeals to them to keep coming back.


We hope this comprehensive guide has helped you get the answer to your question “How much profit margin will you earn from the ice cream truck business”. 

Starting an ice cream truck business presents an appealing business idea for entrepreneurs seeking a venture with a modest initial capital requirement. Considering the industry's promising facts and figures, it's safe to say that the ice cream truck business is a thriving industry with lots of potential. 

Success in this entrepreneurial journey is based on meticulous planning, adept management, excellent customer service, creativity, and unwavering diligence. 

However, starting is not enough. To establish a successful ice cream truck business, you must put in consistent work. It also entails paying particular attention to key performance indicators (KPIs).

You can get insights into the success of your company and make data-driven decisions to enhance it by concentrating on measures like market share, revenue expansion, and customer satisfaction.

To get these crucial data insights, you can get your hands on a feature-rich POS system for food trucks. If you are looking for one, reach out to OVVI. Our experts will assist you in getting the best one for you.

Schedule a Demo

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Ice cream truck sales vary according to season, location, and events. During the summer, its projected average daily sales range between $200 and $500. Based on the same calculations, your business's approximate weekly revenue is approximately $2,500, assuming that it is open five days a week. Using the 50% profit margin approach, splitting your $2,500 gross weekly sales in half results in a $1,250 weekly net profit. The number appears to be fairly promising. Isn't it?

With its large potential revenue, the ice cream truck industry satisfies the US Chamber of Commerce's criteria for a good business. 

What's the best part, do you know? 

With the ice cream truck business, you have the freedom and authority to go wherever your target market is.

Having a mobile business gives you the advantage of increasing sales even in slow times. You can park close to playgrounds, public parks, beaches, shopping centers, and major events to draw large crowds of people and earn a respectable living. 

Another way to increase sales for your company is to participate in festivals and large public events. During major events, some ice cream truck businesses can make some decent figures. Park at high-volume locations and large-scale public festivities to unlock these sales goals for yourself as well. All you have to do is take advantage of people's natural appetites, the lovely summer weather, and your business mobility.

The monthly earnings of an ice cream truck can fluctuate significantly, based on factors like location, weather, seasonality, competition, pricing strategies, and the quality of products and services provided. 

Due to this variability, providing an exact figure is challenging. However, industry estimates hint at the potential for a thriving ice cream truck business to generate upwards of $10,000 or more during peak seasons. The success of the enterprise is intricately tied to its ability to navigate these diverse elements and deliver an enticing experience that captivates customers. 

It may differ depending on elements including the market's size and location, the demand for the products being sold, and the approach taken to set prices. Some seasoned ice cream truck entrepreneurs have reported even better income during the busy summer months or at popular occasions such as fairs or festivals.

Finally, the amount of money an ice cream truck can generate per month is determined by a multitude of criteria specific to each firm.

Prospective business owners must carry out in-depth study and draft a comprehensive business plan to precisely project their profits and costs.

The ice cream business is a profitable business idea. To make the most out of it, you can put the right tactics into practice while also evaluating your company's performance on a day-to-day basis. To know more about it, here are seven strategies to increase the profitability of your ice cream truck business:

  • Select the Ideal Location: To draw in more clients, locate your truck in prominent and easily accessible areas, such as parks, beaches, or events, which are known to have significant foot traffic.
  • Provide a Range of Goods: To satisfy a variety of tastes and boost sales, think about providing items other than ice cream, including drinks, snacks, or novelty items.
  • Create an Impressive Online Presence: Use social media platforms to market your business, provide photographs of your items, and keep clients up to speed on your location or forthcoming events.
  • Establish a Loyalty Scheme: Reward loyal consumers with special offers, complimentary gifts, or other inducements to keep them coming back.
  • Maintain High-Quality Goods and Services: To guarantee client happiness and loyalty, keep your ice cream truck spotless, well-maintained, and well-supplied with high-quality products.
  • Employ the Right Pricing Techniques: To boost sales and entice customers to buy more, try experimenting with various pricing methods like bundling, volume discounts, or seasonal specials.
  • Work Together With Other Businesses: To reach a wider audience, build your network, and boost sales, collaborate with nearby companies like event planners or neighborhood associations.
  • Strategically Market Your Truck: Pick venues that are certain to attract customers, including parks, beaches, festivals, or other busy places.
  • Take Into Account Your Client Preferences: Take into account client desires By speaking with consumers, looking at blogs or websites, or monitoring social media, you can learn about consumer trends. Understanding the most popular ice cream flavors, confections, or products can help predict consumer demand and customize the right offerings.
  • Consider Upselling: Serve more than just ice cream; provide additional unusual and decadent delicacies. It includes things like creative smoothies, sultry sweets, or freshly prepared meals. Customers are eager to pay more for premium things, therefore upselling will boost revenues.

We are aware that operating a seasonal business like an ice cream truck might provide some problems. There are varied tips for starting a successful ice cream truck business and to continue generating profits during the off-season or severe weather.

  • Expand the Range of Products Offered: Increasing the diversity of offers with accompanying drinks, snacks, and baked items that may be offered with ice cream is one approach to keep the business afloat. Rather than focusing just on the summer market, a business can increase its customer base and boost its reputation throughout the other months by providing a diverse range of items.
  • Enhanced Online Awareness: One profitable way to cope with off-season outdoor sales is to move high-demand items online and provide clients with home delivery options. You can move to an online marketplace and store that operates via social media, online forums, or websites.
  • Boost Catering and Event Reservations: The off-season is a great time to create alliances with private or corporate event planners, birthday parties, and other events. The ice cream truck industry shouldn't be restricted to serving outside customers. Offering catering services during these times helps the company grow its clientele rapidly and maintains a steady flow of new business throughout the specified time frame.

So, even in off-seasons or adverse conditions, one can successfully turn around a seasonal business like an ice cream truck and reap large profits by following these suggestions.

Well, this is not a difficult one to answer, but still, it is! Choosing the right mix of ice creams and managing it effectively decides the success of your mobile ice cream truck business. 

Traditional ice cream trucks mostly offer novelty items(aka, pre-packaged ice creams), but some also perform well in serving hard or soft-serve ice cream.  This is one of the things you should consider carefully before launching an ice cream truck business. Think carefully about all the options as they will affect your branding, the type of people you attract, and most significantly, your bottom line.

  • Pre-Packaged Ice-Creams: The simplest option is to go with novelty items because all you need is enough freezer space. Because the ice cream is pre-packaged, it also lessens some of the food handling issues associated with operating an ice cream truck business. It will also be simpler to maintain and track your inventory. 
  • Hard-Serve & Soft-Serve Ice Creams: Though pre-packaged ice cream may be easier to maintain, a truck selling soft-serve or hard ice cream is likely to be more profitable. With this kind of product, the options are practically endless. Price variations based on the scoop, ice cream flavor combinations, toppings, and other factors increase the attraction of your products to potential clients. Additionally, you still have the choice to add novelties to your inventory even if you sell hard or soft-serve ice cream.

That being said, you will need to budget extra for manpower and equipment if you decide to provide hard or soft-serve ice cream, which will increase your start-up costs. 

In between so many options available, you need to decide your interest, what your target market wants, how you can stand out from the competition, and cost as well to come to the conclusion.