Top Questions About Buying a Hot Dog Cart

Of course you should have questions!  On this page, I break down the most common questions I hear about buying a hot dog cart and starting a hot dog vending business.

What types food can I sell on my cart?

Sure, it would be great to use your hot dog cart as a mobile kitchen and prepare all types of dishes.  Unfortunately, in most states what you can sell from a hot dog cart is very limited by the law.  So it’s important to ASK QUESTIONS BEFORE YOU BUY!  CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL FOOD INSPECTOR AND UNDERSTAND YOUR STATE AND COUNTY LAWS BEFORE YOU BUY A CART.  Most states allow you to sell only hot dogs and pre-cooked sausages.  In many states, you can offer chili, but it has to be vegetarian chili only.  Most other foods are off-limits.  But don’t worry – there are plenty of creative ideas to make your hot dog cart cuisine interesting.

What do I do to get licensed and legal?

Each state is different so check with your local laws.  Generally, you will need the following:

  • Your cart comes with a D.O.T. approved trailer.  Usually you will need to bring your trailer title to the DMV and get tags to make your cart street legal.
  • Business license.  Some states and/or counties require you to be registered with the state as a business.
  • Because you are selling food to the public, you will typically need to be licensed with the state.  Contact your state health department for details of obtaining the license.
  • County / city licenses.  You may be required to be licensed with your county or city.

What is a commissary?

Most states require hot dog carts to prepare food in a professional restaurant kitchen or commissary?  No, you can’t prepare and store food in your home!  You can make arrangements with a local restaurant, church, or there are dedicated commissary services you can use.