what are legal aspects of selling from truck/car?

I know of at least one kind of mobile “store” / retail establishment - the ice cream truck. Well, what are the legal aspects of this kind of commerce? Can anybody outfit his truck/bus and start selling groceries or clothes or whatever in parking lots or in neighborhood streets? Are there licenses to deal with, either specifically geared to mobile vehicles or more generally for retail establishments? Are there street or parking lot regulations dealing with this issue?

You need to check with your city or county for the regulations because they vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next.

Here, a permit is required from the city. The permit for ice cream trucks requires a background check because they deal with children so much. Selling outside city limits would require a permit from the county. Selling in other cities would require permits from those cities.

If you sell something else, a different “street vendor” license would be required to sell from public property, and my particular city makes it virtually impossible to get that permit.

If you get the permission of a private landowner, you could sell from their property (perhaps a parking lot) without anything but a standard business license.

That’s assuming, that other issues like zoning don’t prevent it. For example, I own my driveway, but my neighborhood CC&Rs prevent me from letting you park your van there to sell product. You can see just how many layers of laws are involved.

That may well be correct where you live, but it’s within the power of the government to require a special license for these types of outlets, even if you’re not selling from public property.


As you’ve heard, the rules vary greatly from town to town, county to county, and even state to state. There’s no single answer to your question except “call City hall.”

You’d really have to talk to the code people in the cities where you work. I sell tools from a truck but I am running a route and going to the customers, not having them come to me parked on the street.

Don’t forget insurance, for your vehicle as well as your personal liability.

In the summer, I’ve often seen a couple of guys selling bushels of crabs from their truck. I figure as long as the buyer carefully checks to make sure the crabs are still fresh and knows the value of the crabs, a good buy can be made. Are these sales legal?

I once had a guy try to sell me speakers out of his back seat – while we were both doing 60 on the freeway through LA.

Without parsing every layer of law from Alexandria, VA (or whichever town you saw them parked in), all the way up to the Federal EPA & fisheries law on the particular species of crab and the date they were taken, it’s impossible to know if their attempt to sell them is legal. But unless their truck had “So and So’s Seafood” painted on the side, it’s a good bet they skipped at least one layer of law.

OTOH, your attempt to buy is probably legal, unless some fisheries or environmental law makes owning those particular crabs illegal. This is certainly true for endangered species or certain non-endangered bird feathers.

Any better answer takes a lot more facts and a lot more research.