Choosing Your Hot Dog Cart – Don’t Be Fooled!

Owning a hot dog vending business is a dream come true for many people.  Success can range from total financial independence to some extra spending money.  It’s hard work, but you get to be your own boss.  Before you start your dream business, you need to buy a hot dog cart.  Unfortunately, the hot dog cart manufacturing business is filled with sharks looking to take advantage of your enthusiasm.


Sure, you can buy a hot dog cart loaded with built in deep fryers, griddles, and grills dreaming you’ll serve all kinds of culinary masterpieces cooked on the spot.  The problem is: most states only allow you to sell hot dogs – and only hot dogs – from your cart.  The “other guys” may be perfectly happy to take your hard earned money and build a cart with features you’ll never be able to use.

Here’s the bottom line – food inspector and vending laws are very different in each state. BEFORE YOU BUY A CART YOU MUST UNDERSTAND EXACTLY FOOD INSPECTOR REQUIREMENTS AND WHAT YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SELL IN YOUR STATE.  You must be an educated consumer before you think about spending a penny to buy your hot dog cart.

WARNING SIGNS – a dizzying selection of cart designs might mean a hot dog cart manufacturer is trying to pull a fast one on you.  In most states, you’re allowed to sell only hot dogs and pre-cooked sausages.  For most states, you are required to have fresh running water, water waste containment, and 3 sinks for sanitation.  Add some storage, a cooler, a smart work area, and that’s all you need.  If a hot dog cart manufacturer designs their cart right, you don’t need a dozen extra options.


Your hot dog cart investment should last you a lifetime.  Your work area should be quality stainless steel – not cheap aluminum or other material.  The carts should be built sturdy with quality materials.  One important thing to look at is the hot dog cart framing – does it even have a frame?  Does the frame support the entire length and width of the body?  Or did the hot dog cart manufacturer skimp and just frame the “bare minimum” to save on costs.


When you talk with the company, are they being honest or do hidden prices and costs suddenly start popping up?  Does your cart have the water system features your state requires or is that “too good to be true” deal a bait and switch tactic?  Did they add made up handling fees?  Shipping price change?  Be wary of these types of sales tactics.

Here are a few dishonest practices we have seen first hand

  • The Bait and Switch.  Bait and switch is a hot dog shark guy’s favorite game.  They’ll offer a cart for, say, a thousand dollars less than every other cart on the market.  You think you’re getting a steal – until you read the fine print.
  • The Shipping Cost Hokey Pokey.  Shipping costs are a money making game for some manufacturers.  We’ve seen unscrupulous hot dog cart salesmen make up fees and tack on costs using any excuse they can find.  Smokey Hot Dog Carts has a single flat shipping rate for the Continental US.  No frills, no games.
  • Cutting Corners – Structural.  I guess the other guys decided “if you can’t see it, save a few bucks.”  Many hot dog carts on the market have no support underneath the stainless sheet!  You can see this

Don’t imagine you can out-negotiate a hot dog cart shark.  They are professional fast-talking con artists and they hold all the cards, you will lose if you splash into their waters.  If you get a “used car salesman” feel from a dealer, run, don’t walk, away from the situation.

If you want to deal with an honest, straight talking hot dog cart fabricator, give Andy Stepson a call here at Smokey Hot Dog Carts at 904-310-6018 and let us help make your dreams become a reality.