Inside an Ice Cream Truck: Equipment Requirements and Costs

Video inside an ice cream truck

So, you’re ready to start your own ice cream truck and turn it into a delightful ice cream serving machine. But what equipment do you need to make this dream a reality? In this article, I’ll guide you through the equipment requirements for different types of ice cream trucks, including pre-packaged, scooping, and soft serve. I’ll also provide an estimate of the potential costs for each item. Let’s dive in and explore the essentials of an ice cream truck!

What Equipment Do I Need for My Ice Cream Truck?

As a general rule, here are the main equipment items you’ll need for your ice cream truck:

  • Freezers
  • Soft serve machines (if selling soft serve)
  • Generator
  • Water pump and heater
  • Point of sale system
  • Sinks

It’s important to note that the specific equipment required may vary depending on the type of ice cream truck and the health department regulations in your local county.

What Type of Ice Cream Truck Are You Starting?

Before we delve into the equipment details, let’s determine the type of ice cream truck you’ll be starting. There are three main types to consider:
A. Pre-Packaged Ice Cream Truck
B. Scooping Truck
C. Soft Serve Truck

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Each type requires different equipment, so let’s take a closer look at the requirements for each.

A. Equipment Needed for Pre-Packaged Ice Cream Truck

A pre-packaged ice cream truck focuses solely on serving pre-packaged and sealed ice creams and/or popsicles. The process is simple: a server grabs the desired ice cream from the freezer and hands it over to the customer. If you’re starting a pre-packaged ice cream-only truck, your equipment needs will be minimal. The primary requirement is to keep the ice cream frozen, so regular chest freezers that maintain a temperature of 0oF or below will suffice.

The total cost for a chest freezer typically ranges from approximately $500 to $1000. Health department requirements for a pre-packaged ice cream truck are generally minimal, with a possible need for a hand wash sink. Consult your local health department to determine the specific requirements for your pre-packaged truck.

B. Equipment Needed for a Scooping Ice Cream Truck

A scooping ice cream truck offers scoops of ice cream in cones or cups, with the option of adding toppings upon request. If you’re planning to start a scooping ice cream truck, the equipment requirements will be slightly higher and more expensive than those for a pre-packaged truck. Scooping involves a higher-risk food-related activity, necessitating compliance with stricter food safety standards.

For a scooping ice cream truck, specialized gelato and scooping ice cream display counters are ideal, but they can be costly. An alternative option is a dual temperature freezer that allows you to adjust the temperature based on your needs. These freezers offer the flexibility of maintaining a temperature suitable for serving scoops of ice cream.

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Expect to pay approximately $800 or more for an Excellence Dual Temperature Chest Freezer for a scooping ice cream truck. Health department requirements for a scooping truck usually include a three-compartment sink, hand wash sink, utensil drawer, prep space, and storage shelves. Visit your local health department to understand the specific regulations in your county.

C. Equipment Needed for a Soft Serve Ice Cream Truck

A soft-serve ice cream truck specializes in serving soft-serve ice cream made from soft serve machines. This type of truck requires the most equipment and incurs higher power demands. In addition to the equipment needed for a scooping truck, a soft serve ice cream truck requires additional sinks, water pumps, water tanks, and more.

Soft serve machines are essential for serving this type of ice cream. Expect to invest around $10,000 in a soft-serve machine with a decent serving capacity. A commercial refrigerator may also be needed to store the soft-serve mix.

The generator for a soft-serve truck must be heavy-duty and capable of generating 10,000 watts or more. Soft-serve machines draw a significant amount of power during startup, making a robust generator necessary. Commercial-grade generators can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 or more.

Equipment That All Ice Cream Trucks Should Have

Regardless of the type of ice cream truck, some equipment is essential. Let’s explore these items:


To power your freezers, sink pump, interior lights, water heater, and more, you’ll need a generator. Gas generators are the most common and cost-effective choice. Inverter generators, which are the quietest option, are preferred due to noise regulations in most cities. Ensure you calculate the total maximum watt load of all appliances on your truck to determine the appropriate generator size. The Predator line of generators from Harbor Freight is a reliable and cost-effective choice, with prices ranging from $400 to $900.

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Water Heater

If your truck has sinks, a water heater is necessary. Tankless on-demand or traditional tank options are available, with costs ranging from $150 to $200+. Examples include the Bosch 7 Gallon Water Heater and Eco-Smart 2.5 Gallon Water Heater.

Water Pump

A water pump is required if you have sinks in your truck. Look for a pump that can deliver at least 3 gallons per minute at 55 psi. The Shurflo Water Pump model 2088-422-444 is a reliable choice.

Other Essential Equipment

Other essential equipment for your ice cream truck includes a point-of-sale system, cash box, trash cans (inside and outside the truck), menu boards, an A sign for advertising, and air conditioning (optional but highly recommended for hot locations). Costs for these items may vary, so choose options that suit your budget and requirements.

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Time to Learn More

If you want to deepen your knowledge on the path to ice cream entrepreneurship, check out some of my other articles:

  • What Are the Challenges in an Ice Cream Business
  • How Do I Start My Own Ice Cream Business
  • Ice Cream Shop Profits: How to Run a Profitable Ice Cream Shop
  • How Much Does It Cost to Start an Ice Cream Truck
  • How Much Does It Cost to Start an Ice Cream Shop
  • Ice Cream Shop Accounting: Everything You Need to Know
  • Can I Make Ice Cream at Home and Sell It
  • What Are the Different Types of Frozen Desserts
  • Is Vegan Ice Cream Profitable
  • How to Pick a Generator for Your Ice Cream Truck
  • How Profitable Is an Ice Cream Truck
  • Everything You Need to Know About Working in an Ice Cream Shop
  • Everything You Need to Know About Writing an Ice Cream Business Plan
  • Everything You Need to Know About Rolled Ice Cream
  • Everything You Need to Know About Soft Serve Ice Cream
  • Vegan “Ice Cream”
  • Everything You Need to Know About Batch Freezers
  • What Equipment Do You Need for an Ice Cream Shop
  • What Supplies Do You Need for an Ice Cream Shop
  • What Is the Best Location for an Ice Cream Shop
  • How to Open an Ice Cream Shop
  • How to Start an Ice Cream Truck
  • Do Ice Cream Shops Make Money in the Winter
  • How to Make an Ice Cream Shop Stand Out
  • How Do You Become an Ice Cream Distributor
  • Everything You Need to Know About Ice Cream Delivery Apps
  • Everything You Need to Know About Gluten-Free Ice Cream and Toppings
  • What Is the Markup on Ice Cream
  • What Scoopers Do Ice Cream Shops Use
  • What Are the Best Toppings and Sauces for Ice Cream
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