As one of the vital assets that keeps a mobile food business running, literally, choosing the right type of food truck is extremely important. Picking a food truck to invest in for your business is not just dependent on whether it is big enough to hold a full-sized kitchen or looks cool enough to

attract the attention of customers. For entrepreneurs with no background on automobiles or trucks, one should consider what is also under the hood of your potential investment because it can affect the business in profound ways.

Truck engines are available in many variants today. They can be powered by petrol (gasoline), diesel, propane, natural gas, and even expensive bleeding edge technologies like plug-in hybrids, using fuel cells, or fully electric automotive. Two of the most popular, affordable, and reliable types of trucks today are those that feature gasoline and diesel powered engines.

Here are some factors that mobile food entrepreneurs can mull over when choosing a new truck to reap the most benefits out of an important investment.

acquisitioncostAdvantage: Gasoline

Though both engine types are very similar, gasoline-powered food trucks are substantially cheaper than their diesel counterparts when bought brand new. For Class 3-4 trucks, the price of gasoline models can be $5,000 to $8,000 less than a diesel types. Also, a gasoline engine can be a good low-cost option if the truck will be driven annually at or below 30,000 miles, which is a general rule of thumb for a mileage break point.engine2

Take into account how you will be using the vehicle like the route of your mobile food business (will you be servicing multiple cities?), or the duration and distance you will be driving (how often will you be vending for special events on far locations?). Doing a comparative analysis of your fuel-cost based on the utilization of the food truck can help you assess if the lower cost of a gasoline engine is the best choice for your business.


Advantage: Gasoline

Regular grade gasoline has been cheaper than on-highway diesel fuel since 2004. This is due to higher taxes and environmental restrictions put on diesel. The following is the retail price breakdown and comparison of gasoline and diesel fuels, according to the US Energy Information Administration:

December 2015
Gasoline Retail Price: $2.04/gallon
Taxes: 22%
Distribution and Marketing: 17%
Refining: 19%
Crude Oil: 42%
Diesel Retail Price: $2.31/gallon
Taxes: 22%
Distribution and Marketing: 30%
Refining: 11%
Crude Oil: 37%

Historically, tax for diesel fuel has been higher than the gasoline tax. Production and distribution of diesel fuel has also been affected by the transition to less-polluting, lower-sulfur diesel fuels in the United States. In addition, demand for diesel fuel has been relatively high around the world, especially in Europe, China, India, and the United States.


Advantage: Diesel

Though more expensive, diesel engines generally achieve greater fuel efficiency than gasoline engines. Typically, diesel engines can deliver 25 to 30 percent energy efficiency compared to the typical 20 percent of gasoline engines. Diesel fuel is also one of the most energy dense fuels currently available, containing 10% to 15% more energy per unit volume than gasoline. This means less diesel fuel is required to generate the same amount of power than petrol. Depending on usage of the food truck, this fuel efficiency can lead to savings in the long run.


Advantage: Gasoline

It will still need regular maintenance but diesel engine requires it less frequently. But when needed, maintenance for a diesel engine will cost more than the upkeep of gasoline engine variants. There are parts of a diesel engine that is not found in gasoline types and neglecting to take
care of them can lead to an expensive bill from a mechanic.
Also, the oil reservoir of diesel engines are larger and changing the oil needs to be done regularly. If diesel and gasoline engines have the same interval in changing oil but the first type requires a higher amount to run, this makes it more expensive to have a diesel engine. Also, a diesel engine has more parts to be serviced including air, oil, and fuel filters, water separators (for most vehicles), and elaborate emission control systems, among others.


Advantage: Diesel

engine1If towing capacity is a vital application for your business operations, a diesel engine food truck is a great choice. Diesel fueled trucks can out-tow gasoline-powered trucks without sacrificing fuel economy. Diesel fuel has relatively high-compression ratio necessary to ignite the fuel enabling it to produce all its torque and power at lower revolutions per minute (rpm). Gasoline engine trucks when used for heavy towing in most applications can greatly reduce the engine’s life and increase fuel consumption.


Advantage: Diesel

As a business owner, you want to benefit from an asset as long as possible or until the return of investment (ROI) has been achieved. High pressure is the mechanism behind diesel engines, which is why they are built to be rugged and require having tougher components. Due to the higher temperature and compression attained by diesel engines, its parts need to be sturdy enough to dissipate these combustion factors.

Besides being made of tough stuff, diesel engines have better fuel exhaust properties that do not damage the vehicle’s system. Compared to gasoline engine exhaust, diesel fuel exhaust is less corrosive that can help the engine last longer. In addition, diesel can generate higher torque with less speed (rpm), meaning the valves and pistons of the engine (pistons and valves) will need to move fewer times and getting less wear that can translate to better overall engine life.


Advantage: Diesel

If you choose to invest on a diesel-powered food truck and decide to resell it in the future, you will get a better deal because of the demand for used diesel vehicles. The market perceive diesel trucks to have more value than gasoline-powered counterparts because they have tougher builds, longer usable life, and better fuel economy even when utilized for towing, which gasoline engines cannot compete on. The torque advantage of diesel engines make them very attractive to businesses and industries that need towing and high payload application. Even used diesel vehicles will still be on demand for such buyers and despite having a relatively cheaper resale price, you can still get higher premiums compared to reselling a gasoline truck.


In the end, choosing what type of engine your food truck will have must be based on the nature of your business. The decision should not be based on generalizations (a diesel engine is more high tech or gasoline fuel is cheaper) but must be anchored on analysis of how this investment will impact your food truck operation, finances, short to long term business goals, among others.

Thank you for reading!

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