Step Van Food Trucks
Why Step Vans are the most popular food truck build
Believe it or not, step vans were actually purpose built for delivery and not food trucks. The reason step van food trucks leave the competition in the dust in terms of numbers are straight forward – simple supply and demand as a result of their universal popularity for delivery flooded the market and food truck operators took it from there.
A step van’s basic features include a large internal surface area, high ceiling and overall decent engine reliability. This allows for fitting all the necessary food truck equipment and organizing it around an optimal workflow for the crew and product on virtually all foods and concepts.
If you are a new US based food truck entrepreneur these all-American units are one of your best bets. All the practicality above adds up, and don’t forget one of the hidden advantages is that THIS is what the consumer imagines in their mind when they hear the word food truck, not a trailer.
Karpatia Step Van Solutions
Retrofitted Step Van
Refurbished and retrofitted step vans using an older van as the base for your food truck conversion are by far the most popular and common food truck out there.
Step Van Trailer
Engineered for European customers turned off by the costs of importing a classic or new American step van is the Step Van Trailer.
90% of the classic look with only 2% tariffs.
Brand new Step Van
You want the quality and you have the budget? Go for it! Premium brand new vans using top of the line new equipment will satisfy the toughest demands your production output or a city’s food truck license make.
Step Van food truck conversions
You found a newly used vehicle or want us to source it for you – and do the conversion. Can do! We hunt the listings together so you always have a 100% transparent up front purchase price of the vehicle before conversion.
Not only that but having us tag along or source your vehicle takes some of the risk out of buying used. We then do a quote & cap or work in budgeted installments and can help you secure financing if necessary.
Yes, older vans have a risk of breaking down and missing your concession for a few days or worse – booked catering events. This is a real risk but then again so is a week of rain or any personal illness.
Preventing this particular risk has a price tag – new step vans are $65k for the most budget find we know how to source. That $65k figure is without any food truck conversion work, appliance, wrap – nothing.
Most food truck owners without a proven concept and the capital to go for a $175k+ fully kitted out new step van are going to have to weigh the opportunity cost and the higher resale value of a new van vs. lower capex for a used unit and find the balance comes up in favor of the used model.
Retrofit and refurbish exisiting food truck
As so many food trucks are step vans there is a decent chance of finding one out there pre-converted for your needs. You are after all not the first person to sell taco’s or ice cream from a food truck.
Buying a used food truck has very clear pro’s and cons. The biggest advantage of taking over a running food truck business or at least their already converted food truck is that it can get you started a lot faster.
Cost can be an advantage but not always. Not every builder does a top job and some solutions are hacked together in a way where undoing that work will be more cumbersome than converting a used van.
For this reason you should always (have us) check how recent the license and inspection of a given food truck are and whether anything has been modified since. Keep in mind also that one state or county health department is not the ultimate authority, with a frequent issue being things that fly in the Midwest requiring substantial and costly extra work to be up to code in a major coastal metro.
Equipment is not always maintained to standards and many sellers price their inventory unrealistically high. Bargains certainly exist though and being patient and persistent will pay off.
Lastly sourcing decent used food trucks is more challenging than sourcing decent used step vans as such. You are generally faced with a choice between overpaying a sizeable commission on UsedVending or slogging it out in various Facebook groups with irregular supply. Karpatia tries to remedy this by keeping a current inventory of quality used food trucks for you to choose from.
Step Van Trailer
The idea is as crazy as it sounds – why not make a trailer that looks like a step van? Our Citroen Type H vans and VW T1 Food Trucks are very popular models for export to the US as a vintage restoration, replica or European quality “new vintage” model as the originals are not widely available in the US.
On the flipside step van trailers are their cross-atlantic complementary counterpart. Widespread in the USA yet hard to come by and relatively expensive in the EU, customers looking for that American food truck style of a step van food truck could be well serviced by opting for the trailer instead.
Our step van trailer comes in any customizable color and size starting at 13ft (4m), has a CE certified trailer chassis and can be pulled with a regular license. Outfitting is possible to any standard trailer configuration.
Brand new step van food truck conversions
Made using a Morgan Olson Foundation Food Truck – our premium step van is a professional beast of a truck with Morgan Olson’s top of the line purpose built van as the base.
All Karpatia craftsmanship and materials are top notch – this is no different from our retrofitting where we use the same design teams and workcrew as new builds.
It’s just that all the materials on this unit are new – meaning we can use innovations like cast vinyl flooring in stead of doing up your diamond plate, put in that new automatic smoker or ventilation instead of performing maintenance on the old one, etc.. making an altogether epic build.
Not to mention that for top quality builds Karpatia offers at least 15% cost saving compared to other premium manufacturers.
We do this by prefabricating and subcontracting parts of the manufacturing out to our workshops in Europe and finalize the vinyl wrap and detailing in Mexico.
By assessing your dreams we come to a shared understanding of who we are building for and why
Exploring multiple design options lets us find the solution that best suits your business goals
We refine the concept and provide you with a detailed design that meets your needs
Close monitoring during production ensures we meet your standards. You can always fly- or drive in and take a look!
We offer a range of extra services to support your operation, so you can keep your focus.
Does it matter what brand I use for a step van food truck conversion?
With so many options to choose from – Freightliner, Workhorse, Ford, GMC, Chevrolet, Morgan Olson plus about half a dozen extra if you go vintage – it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. What do we advise or how do you decide?
In our professional opinion there is no great material effect of the brand and type or model of a step van food truck on the success chances, operating and maintenance costs or other key business drivers for a food truck entrepreneur. Older models break down and require maintenance at statistically similar rates.
Picking the right step van is therefore a pragmatic and practical decision of what is available, nearby and in good working condition. Refurbishing an older step van in Mexico is a lot cheaper if the original is for sale in Texas and not Seattle, even if you are going to operate it as a food truck in WA. Higher end intensive revisions are ideally done at our workshop in Europe so the logistics of being able to fit the truck into the exact right shipping slot work into the equation.
For new trucks, if cost is no concern, we recommend the Morgan Olson Foundation Food Truck as it is partially pre-configured for upfitting to a food truck allowing us to save time and costs on your build without the quality suffering for it.
For customers outside the US looking for a high quality step van base we advise a Mercedes Vario, older p30 Chevy van or step van trailer replica.
There are literally hundreds of food truck builders in the USA offering step van conversions.
SO Why KARPATIA?
We will provide you with the best kitchen equipment and customizations such as full body wrap or painting – fast and easy.
We also provide additional services to help you get started – from financing to food truck websites
Is a Step Van the right food truck for you?
Frequently Asked Step Van Food Truck related questions
Yes. For UK customers we also offer self pick-up at our production in Holland.
Yes, we ship to the USA. In fact, this page is solely aimed at US visitors.
Containers go everywhere, and all units can always be shipped to the nearest port. We might not have a local forwarder in your country (yet) though, in which case we will find one together with you.
Karpatia has no showroom – but of course, we are always happy to show the workshop. You can make an appointment through our contact form and try before you buy.
Only if the total combined gross vehicle weight is over 26,001 lbs.
Commercial Truck Trader, Craigslist, eBay – all of them offer a tonne of listings at any given point in time. You should 100% start your used search there.
“It depends” is a terrible answer but you’re getting it anyway.
Most commonly the works for converting a used step van or refurbishing a pre-owned food truck back to our standards will run in the $20-30k range for “standard” food trucks.
YMMV if you want an Italian handmade mosaic pizza oven, for instance, or your professional combi steamer oven needs a fix or you need a high-yield commercial deepfryer for Belgian fries.
Our mean (most commonly occuring time) conversion build is 3 weeks, the average time is 8 weeks.
Highly specialized customs and waiting on niche materials or equipment to be shipped take up the bulk of the mean vs. average difference.
Absolutely! Although our Karpatia Premium trucks are right up there with other high end food truck fabricators in the $100k+ price range, we also offer value options.
Are those bad trucks? No, not at all. Streetfood can be good without having a Michelin star, right? Our value options are just not the best food trucks we can make, analogous to Audi and Volkswagen or Chevy and Cadillac coming out the same factory despite having different kit, standards and price tags.
Our magic in delivering quality products for less lies in our international supply chain, the substitution of name brand restaurant kit with OEM equipment and substantial slack and excess capacity, meaning value options are produced at a more relaxed pace and we negotiate flexibility in delivery deadlines with you.