How can ice cream trucks be profitable?

It would almost seem impossible to sell enough ice cream bars to make up the cost of purchasing the truck, maintenance of the truck, paying today’s gas prices and driving around so much. How many ice cream bars does a typical ice cream truck guy sell per day? What’s the profit margin?

I dunno, but I have never known an ice cream truck person do that as his only job. I’ve often wondered it, too. But seriously, how much do you pay to maintain your car regularly? I’m thinking:

You buy the car, initial cost. Maybe you get it used.
You drive it from one neighborhood to the next, never taking it to highway speed. Then you drive very slowly through the neighborhood.
Inspection and registration when needed.

How much wear-and-tear could that put on the car? So I presume you don’t need to repair it too often.

I still have a hard time seeing it as profitable, though. At least nowadays. I don’t think it’s that expensive but neither do I think you can sell that much ice cream!

A friend of mine drives an ice cream truck on weekends. The truck and ice cream are provided by the ice cream wholesaler and he makes a commision off every sale. His main job is to find good areas to cruise around. It’s fairly good money, according to him. He offered to set me up with a job as well today, but I declined. I might give it a try if my other employment prospects fall through, it looks pretty interesting.

Don’t know.
I would expect the ice cream to be higher than you could buy it at Baskin Robins!

Alot of this stuff probably runs 15-20% of typical retail price. So if you sell an ice cream sandwich for $1.00 the company paid about 20 cents for it. Find a good neighborhood with lots of kids playing outside and you can do $20-30 in sales on every block. Driver probably gets another 20-30 cents on the dollar in sales. A good area could probably easily bring in $40 in commissions in a couple hours.

Those trucks also don’t have very large engines and are probably quite fuel efficent even mosying around the neighborhoods.

I grew up in the city and the ice cream truck guy also sold us fireworks (the good stuff… you know the ones that are illegal to sell in most states, especially to 8 year olds). So… I guess there are ways to earn a few extra bucks.

Yeah, thats where my little brother got those stink bombs a few years back… I hope that ice cream man has a special circle of hell for that one.

I believe this would put a fair amount of wear and tear on the engine and other parts. Nobody ever sells a car with an ad that says, “Mostly city driving!” True, you are going slow, but you’re using the brakes all the time and you’re constantly shifting in low gears (but they undoubtedly have automatic transmissions).


Not to mention all the drug dealers.

“Hey Big Perm…I mean, Big Worm…”

I often wish I had a sister to annoy with stuff like this :slight_smile:

Yeah, I’m pretty sure he would have sold me crack had I asked. Definatley ain’t just batman ice cream pops in those coolers.

My friends owned an ice cream store (the divorce wrecked it.) I forget the direct numbers but the profit margin on soft serve is huge.

Back in the 70s, they sold more than ice cream. At least my ice cream truck driver did…

So to answer your question, ice cream drivers don’t make money selling ice cream. They sell other things. Ice cream is probably break-even.

The guy who used to own the soft serve shop near where I work once told me that he made more profit out of his truck on weekends than he did from the shop. The way he explained it the overheads in driving a truck around are chickenfeed compared to renting and staffing a shop.

The real answer is that the profit margin on the crap they sell out of those trucks is huge. I had a friend who drove a truck in the 80’s. The set-up was much like kawaiitentaclebeast described. The owners had something like 20 trucks. They also wholesaled their products to liquor stores and such.

I went down to the lot with my friend one time and it was quite an education. This was in San Diego. Ice cream men are quite the characters. Even with all of the theft, you could tell that the owners were making a killing while the drivers were barely scraping by. At least one guy was selling pot out of his truck. One guy stole one of the trucks full of product and drove it to Arizona before he was caught. I thought that was hilarious. Those trucks topped out 35 miles per hour. Another guy got really high one day and as a lark drove his truck around a cemetary on a Sunday with the music blaring. If I had kids I wouldn’t let them within ten feet of one of those fucking trucks.

Former Ice Cream Truck driver here. I did this one summer. Hours were long, and pay was low. The way it worked where I was, I was an independent contractor. I “bought” the product from the owner, and marked it up 50 percent over what I sold it for. “Bought” is in quotes because everything was tallied up at the end of the day, I didn’t really give him money at the start of the day. I paid for my own gas. I think I may have rented the truck also, for some nominal amount. I worked it out, and (since I wasn’t selling drugs on the side) I only made about $2.50 an hour for the time I was in the truck, which was under minimum wage at the time (1982). The only upsides were I was outside, rather than in some greasy fast-food kitchen.

The owner apparently did pretty well. I remember he drove a corvette or porsche or some such car.

That should be “… marked it up 50 percent over what I bought it for…”

And for you Steve Buscemi fans out there: The Trees Lounge Wherein Steve is an icecream truck driver.

Kids Schmids. I’m 45 and I bought a Popsicle brand snow cone from the ice cream dude not 45 minutes ago. I’ve noticed that there are alot more adults around here (read: middle aged men mowing their lawn) buying than kids. (hey, we gots more money than kids :smiley: ).

What I see the ice cream trucks do is park in a stationary place, like a park, at a strategic time of day, instead of driving around blaring that obnoxiously loud music.
I figure that cuts fuel consumption a bit.