3 Best Generators for a Food Truck [2021 Reviews]

There was a time when food trucks were generally seen at fairs and outdoor events.  Today, however, food trucks are a popular means of dining across America.  They can be found at parks, in business districts, or any place people gather.  Food trucks are portable and can go where the action is!  Their fares range from coffee to tacos and burgers to gourmet dishes.  The pandemic and quarantine made them accessible when dining-in was not an option.

The food truck dining option is popular for chefs and entrepreneurs due to the relatively low cost of getting started.  Compared to establishing a restaurant in a building, an initial food truck business investment can be as low as $55,000, and according to government statistics can gross upwards of $250,000 in annual receipts.  Additional statistics can be found at here.

The type of food items the truck specializes in will determine what type of equipment and appliances the truck will need for operation.  Since the food truck can move from location to location as needed, a primary focus should be on the power to operate when shore power is not accessible.  That is where a generator comes to in to play.

Best Food Truck Generators

Preview
Editor's Choice
WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator with Fuel Shut-Off and Electric Start
Champion Power Equipment 100302 4000-Watt RV Ready Open Frame Inverter, Yellow
Westinghouse iGen4500 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator 3700 Rated & 4500 Peak Watts, Gas Powered, Blue/Black
Brand
WEN
Champion Power Equipment
Westinghouse
Watts
3800
4000
4500
Customer Rating
-
Editor's Choice
Preview
WEN 56380i Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator with Fuel Shut-Off and Electric Start
Brand
WEN
Model
Watts
3800
Customer Rating
More Info
Preview
Champion Power Equipment 100302 4000-Watt RV Ready Open Frame Inverter, Yellow
Brand
Champion Power Equipment
Model
Watts
4000
Customer Rating
More Info
Preview
Westinghouse iGen4500 Super Quiet Portable Inverter Generator 3700 Rated & 4500 Peak Watts, Gas Powered, Blue/Black
Brand
Westinghouse
Model
Watts
4500
Customer Rating
-
More Info

A generator can power the elements within the food truck all day and help ensure that hot food stays hot and cold food stays cold. It can also power the ventilation systems, heating, or air conditioning.

One thing to consider when purchasing a generator for a food truck is the amount of wattage required to run all the appliances.  As this is a commercial venture, your equipment must meet certain health department guidelines. 

The basic equipment and appliances needed in a food truck may include:

  • Fryers, ranges, or griddles
  • Microwave or convection oven
  • Ventilation, heating, and air-conditioning
  • Refrigeration and cooling units
  • Icemaker
  • Drink fountains
  • Sinks and prep/cleaning area
  • Lighting

To determine the size generator, you will need will require knowing the watts needed by each appliance.  Check the nameplate on the appliance to determine the actual wattage required.

Minimally, a 4000-watt generator would be needed to maintain constant power efficiently and effectively to all these appliances if operating at full load.  The other consideration would be ensuring that your generator can operate at full load for several hours.  If you are busy with customers, you will not want to stop to refuel every couple of hours. 

The most effective way of maintaining power is to have the generator’s fuel supply hooked directly into the food truck’s fuel tank

The design of your food truck should have an option to have your generator professionally installed in a compartment with proper ventilation for exhaust.  There is mechanical and electrical work that requires a bit of experience.

Some generators tend to get hot working at peak output so be sure the installation area is heat resistant and non-flammable

It is vitally important to provide ample air flow to and from the generator, as well as to install a proper exhaust system for the generator. Ventilation and exhaust are important for two major reasons.

The first reason, of course, is safety. You don’t want exhaust seeping into the food truck through the windows and subjecting occupants to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The second is overheating. Proper air flow will keep the generator cool enough to operate safely.  If the compartment is not vented for air circulation, leave the compartment door open and let it vent.

Aside from having enough power, installed food truck generators don’t require extension cords. Having a portable generator running your truck means there will be a safety issue for customers and staff with power cords for people to trip over.

If you’re planning to install a generator in your food truck that will pull fuel from the on-board fuel tank, you can use a standard gas-fueled generator.  If installing a generator that will have its own dedicated fuel tank (such as a trailer or diesel vehicle utilizing a gasoline generator), you must install an EVAP generator to meet new standards.

[Note] According to new emissions standards, if an EVAP generator is required, and an audit reveals a standard generator is installed, the fines can begin as high as $39,000.

Even if you have an old trailer that requires a new generator with a dedicated fuel tank, it must be converted (along with all its components) to meet the EVAP standards.

The adage, “measure twice, cut once” is a fit in this situation, as well.  Make sure the dimensions of your generator fit within the space allocated.  “That looks about right,” will cause frustration and expense if the generator is too big for the compartment.

Depending on the area where your food truck may be parked, you will want to investigate the noise codes.  Certain business and residential areas may require quiet generators that operate at lower decibel levels. 

The following are three generators we recommend.

Best Generators for a Food Truck

FAQ

What size generator does a food truck need?

Depending on the appliances and equipment being used in the food truck, a 4000-watt generator should be the minimal size to consider for optimum efficiency and effectiveness.  This should allow for all appliances to run at full load without peaking the generator’s output. It is suggested you get a generator with a bit more power, of between 4000-7000 watts, if you intend to run multiple appliances, to give you that extra bit of capacity.

How many watts do I need for a food truck?

Minimally, 4000 watts of power are required.  The total wattage will depend on the type of appliances installed.  Ranges, griddles, and ovens require higher watts for use, as well as air-conditioning or heating units.  You will want to make sure that the total usage watts when running all appliances do not exceed the generator’s maximum output. It is suggested you get a generator with a bit more power, of between 4000-7000 watts, if you intend to run multiple appliances, to give you that extra bit of capacity.

How do I power my food truck?

How do food trucks get electricity? Since the food truck is a portable venue, having access to shore power (an electrical outlet) is not easy.  Most outdoor venues where food trucks can park may only offer a 120v hook-up, which will not supply enough power for the commercial appliances in the truck.  So, the best options are from gas or diesel-powered generators, solar panels, or propane tanks

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