How to build a vending cart

Updated April 17, 2017

For entrepreneurs looking to start a small business with a small amount of investment, a vending cart is a relatively low-risk option. Vending carts are mobile shops from which various merchandise can be sold, anything from food items such as hot dogs, ice cream and coffee to dry goods such as souvenirs and jewellery. Available in different sizes and weights, these carts are available with storage space and sinks for sanitation purposes. Research the right business for your area, build a vending cart that is customised for that business and soon you can start reaping a return on your investment.

Decide what you want to sell and decide on the primary location for your cart. These decisions will affect many of the other decisions you make regarding the project. Check with local and state governments to see what permits or licenses are required for the products you are selling and the locations where you plan to place your cart. Also ask about regulations or requirements regarding the construction of vending carts in your area.

Set a budget for your project, including the construction and customisation of your vending cart, then purchase vending-cart building plans or download them from the Internet for the specific product that you plan on selling (see Resources). Purchase a tow cart that is designed to go well with the product you will be selling and that can be easily moved. Check the wheels to make sure they are properly aligned and can move the cart without difficulty.

Customise your vending cart by adding paint, your company's logo and other personal flair, such as a colourful umbrella with the name of your business on it.

Add a grill or burner to your cart if selling food items. Make sure the grill or burner can be easily connected to a movable propane tank or a generator. This will enable you to cook food wherever you set up your cart.

Place two or more coolers in the cart. These will act as storage space for your raw material and keep food items from spoiling.

Install a lockbox or cash register so that you can safely store cash and change.


A festival, a busy downtown street or a large business area with many workers might be good locations for your cart, depending on the product you are selling. Keep a calculator handy to help you calculate your revenues and payments.


Always keep a fire extinguisher near the cart in case of fire. Also have some baking soda handy to put out small cooking fires.

Things You'll Need

  • Tow cart
  • Grill or burner
  • Propane tank or generator
  • Two or more coolers
  • Cash register
  • Fire extinguisher
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About the Author

Sheharyar Khan has been writing professionally since 2004 with articles appearing in various print and online sources, including Empowered Doctor and Disney's "Family Fun." Khan holds a Bachelor of Science in engineering with a major in textiles from Philadelphia University.