There are three ways you can go. Cold Plate Freezer, Chest Freezer, and Dry Ice Freezer. Each has its pros and cons and while most guys will recommend the first option I’ll let you in on some tips for how you can save a lot of money by improvising.
Dry Ice Freezer
Dry ice is the solid form of Carbon Dioxide gas, or CO2, and unlike regular ice it can get a lot colder (109 degrees below zero Fahrenheit) and stay cold for an entire day. These freezers are basically insulated containers that you fill with dry ice to cool your freezer. This is the best option if you are low on startup money, as it will only cost you a few hundred dollars to get going. However you will have to buy dry ice daily (unless you keep it in a second freezer at home, which I suggest), and that will run you 1-2 dollars a pound. You will also have to be more careful around dry ice because it can hurt you as well as your ice cream. If you don’t pack things right you will have to throw out a bunch of freezer burnt ice cream each night when you check your inventory.
Advantage: Price ($300 will get you going)
Disadvantage: Illegal in some places (some towns and most cities require mechanical freezing)
These freezers look similar to what you would use for a dry ice freezer but they plug into an outlet and keep your ice cream cold by being constantly on. Technically, you could use a chest freezer like a cold plate freezer by plugging it in at home and then only going out for a couple hours but you are taking a big chance that you will melt all your ice cream and furthermore it will melt faster because you have to open the entire freezer door every time you get out an ice cream. Cold plate freezers fix this problem by having multiple doors. But that is not your biggest concern, because in reality nobody uses a Chest Freezer without a power source. You can use a generator or a couple large batteries for power. Either way you are going to have to spend a few hundred dollars to set that up. A third option is to power the freezer using your truck’s engine, but this involves a indepth understanding of how to set up an electrical system so that you don’t drain your starter battery and have to get your truck towed.
Advantage: Price ($1,000 for a good setup)
Disadvantage: A pain to set up
These freezers are nice and simple. They are what all the professionals use but they are a bigger up front investment that many guys can’t afford. I rented my ice cream truck so I got to start off with one but if you have the money and are serious about your business this is what you should get. They plug in over night and are cold for the whole day. You won’t have to worry about anything because it doesn’t use any power during the day, and these freezers are also overbuilt with additional insulation and designed to take the bumps and bruises that come with being on the road, which chest freezers are not designed for. One flaw though, they are expensive to fix if they break so pray that doesn’t happen to you.
Advantage: Ease of use, set it and forget it
Disadvantage: Price ($2,500 for a small used one or a larger used one)