Take Your Italian Ice Cart to Events Easily!

Posted by Lilly on March 5, 2013 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (1)

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Little Jimmy's Vendor with Cargo Carrier

I've written before about transporting your Italian Ice pushcart around.  In that overview article, I  discussed one option that has a lot of interest.  It's the use of a cargo carrier (or scooter carrier) on the back of your truck or SUV.  For those of you with smaller and lighter pushcarts, this on-hitch cargo carrier may be a great solution! They are originally designed to transport mobility scooters, all terrain vehicles and other similarly sized and weighted objects as our Italian Ice carts.  So they are an ideal piece of equipment to make selling Italian Ice a breeze.

BUT!  You may need a whole mess of education before you just go out and buy one of these.  As I found out firsthand, there's a price to pay in the form of a steep learning curve to enjoy the ease of pushcart tranportation they'll provide. 

If you feel you're an Italian Ice vendor who wants to go this route, here's a general step-by-step checklist to determine if you and the cargo carrier would make an ideal business partnership.

1. How Much Can Your Vehicle Tow?

First, what type of vehicle do you currently own or intend to buy for the business?  Most car owners will not be able to use these carriers, due to the weight specifications that may exceed what most cars can tow safely.  However, trucks and SUVs usually have the necessary requirements.  Now... what's your vehicle's maximum towing capacity?  You can find this in your truck manual or by looking up specifications of your car/truck's model year online. Take that number and calculate 10% and 15% of that number.  This is your tongue weight range.  I know how that sounds, but just write that down.  It's the amount of weight your car's hitch can have sitting directly on it (as opposed to towing behind it).

2. Determine Your Pushcart's Weight (loaded & unloaded)

Next, you have to know the weight of your pushcart, two different ways  - 1) completely empty and 2) loaded with Italian Ice, in case you think you'll ever attempt to transport it that way.  If you'd prefer a lighter, empty cart for transportation, consider that you will have to load the Italian Ice into the pushcart after arriving at your selling destination, and you'll have to remove any Italian Ice out of the cart after you're done selling and ready to drive home.  Write these numbers down.

3. Hitch Class Selection (you may have options)

With the above numbers written down, you can now proceed to see which hitches (say THAT 10 times fast!) can be mounted to your vehicle.  You find that by visiting any hitch retailer's webpage and plugging in your vehicle's make/model/year.  That will generate your hitch options.  Next you'll select the right Class hitch.  Hitches are rated in Classes that categorize different towing weights, whether sitting on the hitch directly (tongue weight) or towing behind the vehicle on a trailer with its own wheels/axle.  Find a Class of hitch that corresponds with the weights from Step 2.  This narrows your choices or may leave you with the only one that will work.  At this point, make your hitch selection, and note the size of the hitch coupler opening - that square hole that hitch accessories get inserted into.  This size must match with the carrier that you choose (a male/female type joining - sorry to get so graphic!).

4.  Carrier Selection

Now you're ready to shop for the cargo carrier.  You'll find them at retailers who cater to handicap persons, mobility stores selling wheelchair and scooter carriers, and also at toy hauling websites (4 wheelers, motorcycles, etc.).  You can contact some manufacturers directly, such as VersaHaul. The carriers have their own set of considerations, which ranges from price, material, to options, length of ramp and size of platform. 


Cargo Carrier Folded Up and Open

Prices range from $250 to $900.  Materials range from powder-coated steel to aluminum.  And options include the ability to swing the unit away to get inside the back of your vehicle, as well as the ability to fold up the carrier when not in use.  You may also like a longer ramp, which allows your cart to roll up and down the ramp at an easy incline versus a steep one (as seen in the photos of my SUV and carrier above and below).

Cargo Carrier Ramp

The next part is critical.  There are two very important considerations when shopping.  First, the carriers will list their maximum weight capacities, how much they can hold.  However!  The carriers themselves have their own weights!  You need to find what the carrier weight is by itself.  They run around 100 lbs.  So this means, if you find a carrier that can support your cart's weight (as you intend to haul it - loaded or unloaded), you will need to add the pushcart weight to the carrier weight.  Then determine, does that number fall under or exceed your vehicle's hitch tongue weight maximum?  Super important!  The tongue weight capacity is the maximum vertical weight that the hitch can support, and typically ranges from 100 lbs to 750 lbs, or 10% 15% of your vehicle's towing capacity.  Staying in the safe range of tongue/vehicle towing weights can mean the difference between a great selling season and a summer in the hospital.  But get all this right, and there's nothing to be afraid of.  Lastly, be sure the carrier you want has platform dimensions that can fit your cart.  Measure from the outside of the wheels, both lengthwise and widthwise.

5. Hitch Install

Now that you've checked and double checked your numbers, you're ready to buy that hitch and get it installed on your SUV/truck.  Get this step done before you order your carrier, in case there are any surprises. 

6. Order & Install Your Carrier

This is the best part.  Once the carrier arrived pre-assembled, I was able to install it fairly easily with the help of my 13-year-old daughter.  I bought the largest one on the market because of my slightly oversized custom cart.  It would have been hard for me to put it on my car alone, but a smaller carrier would not have been a problem (like the one used in the Little Jimmy's video above).  Then, once on for Summer, it doesn't need to come off again till Fall. 

7.  Additional Gear

One final thing to buy in advance of your scooter carrier's arrival is a locking hitch pin.  This is inserted into your carrier and hitch receiver to keep the unit from falling off.  But the pin provided in the enclosed hardware won't keep people from stealing the expensive carrier from off the back of your vehicle!  So this accessory is mandatory.  You will also need a minimum of two 2-inch ratchet tie-downs.  I found some great ones inexpensively at Walmart.   Then you're ready to lock and load! 


Locking Hitch Pins

I could only have written this informative step-by-step article because I went through all of it and lived to tell the tale.  It was a two-month process of education, calculations and frustration, calling companies, verifying and re-verifying... only to have it all fail miserably when I went to pick up my cart at the manufacturer in Jersey. I was just a few pounds over, but it was clear my SUV was sagging enough to endanger my trip home with the cart.  I would hate for that to happen to anyone!  But, please don't be deterred.  If this is a viable option for you, go for it!  It's a super convenient way to tote a cart around that also leaves the interior of your truck empty to transport extra Italian Ice, umbrella, other merchandise, etc., which would be problematic if your pushcart were inside your truck.

Note:  Alternatively you could find the scooter carrier that fits your cart's dimensions and weight and work your way backward, instead.  You'd then select your car's hitch/class according to what hitch your scooter carrier will work with.  But there are far more choices in carriers than hitches, so the way I've laid it out makes the most sense to me.  And it's time wasting to find a carrier that's perfect only to find that your hitch or vehicle can't support it plus your Italian Ice cart.

Learn about Carriers, HItches, Tongue Weight and more HERE


Transporting Your Italian Ice Pushcart

Transporting Your Italian Ice Cart

Posted by Lilly on July 9, 2012 at 2:35 PM Comments comments (2)

From the beginning of this Italian Ice business idea, I knew I would need a custom cart.  Unlike those few lucky people whose Health Departments don't require a handsink, mine did.  Additionally, they insisted it be an onboard sink.  So it dawned on me that I would not be able to buy anything quickly, as it would have to be built, but also that I'd have to figure out some way to get this cart around from venue to venue that was different than the Little Jimmy's videos had shown me how to do. 

My cart doesn't fit in my SUV.  I don't own a pickup.  I can't have a trailer in my parking lot - it's against the rules, and I have no garage.  Needless to say, I've run almost the entire gamut on ideas for how to get this cart not only home from my manufacturer, but around town in general as I sell.  If you've been contemplating the same things, let me share what I've learned and some of the options for toting a 300 - 500 lb pushcart.

Landscape Trailer or Cargo Trailer


Photo Credit: Lowe's                                           Photo Credit:  Stoll Trailers, Inc.

The tried-and-true method for getting a pushcart around.  Almost every vendor has gone this route at one time or another.  Purchase a trailer, hook it to your car/truck's hitch, load your trailer, tie it down and off you go.  This option likely requires registering the trailer with your DOT/DMV and insuring it, not to mention storage requirements of the trailer during the off season, if applicable to your region.  The enclosed unit has the added benefit of protecting your cart from road dirt, debris and damage while moving.

Car Hitch Carrier


Photo Credit: Versahaul                                               Photo Credit: Little Jimmy's

For those who don't want to tow a trailer for one reason or another, there's this option.  A carrier with ramp gets attached to your truck's or heavy duty SUV's hitch (must be able to hold 350-500 lb. tongue weight).  Use the ramp to load your pushcart.  Secure the ramp and the cart.  And, again, off you go.  The carrier, though you need to check with your DOT/DMV, usually does not require registering or insuring as its an extension of your car or truck.  And the unit can be folded up when not in use, or removed.  This was my favorite choice, until I learned my SUV couldn't carry the weight of my pushcart.  The ramp and hitch were fine to transport it, but my car's suspension would have needed to be raised. 

Pickup Truck Bed

For those of you who have a large enough pickup, all you need is a ramp, and off you go.  If you're working alone and would like to maintain your spine in useable condition, I would add a winch to the end of the pickup that can be connected to a tie-down mechanism on the underside of your cart.  The winch, whether connected to your car battery, run off a 12-volt battery, or a cordless unit (see Cool Products page), will pull the cart up the ramp for you.

Inside Dedicated Cargo Truck

This has become my newest favorite idea, but I just can't justify the cost of it so late in the season when I'm still not operational.  But it's looking like the best choice for next year.  A dedicated cargo van for your pushcart relieves so many problems and offers a vast array of options for selling your Italian Ice - think delivery, conversion to mobile scooping unit, and a respite from hot and/or wet weather, to name a few.  A really cool choice is the new Ford Transit Connect, which holds a surprising amount of payload.  But I'm looking at buying Nissan's new NV2500 with a high roof, that like the Ford, lets me stand up completely while loading and working inside the van and gives me tons of storage for Italian Ice vending accessories (tent, coolers, umbrella).  But the Nissan, being larger, can accomodate my cart and can have seats added for my kids or future employees. Even better, this option allows for me to wrap the truck in my business graphics and advertise 24/7 in one of the best-touted advertising methods available.  Currently, Nissan is offering FREE partial vehicle wrapping if you buy one of these!


Photo Credit: Ford                                                     Photo Credit: Nissan

Tow Behind Unit

One of the most innovative ideas I encountered too late is the convenient pushcart/trailer combo.  Allow me to explain the amazing feature of this cart.  It is a pushcart that rides on its own trailer.  But the trailer hitch connection can be removed, so that without it, it works and looks like a pushcart easily moved by the push bar.  When selling's over, simply reconnect the hitch accessory to the cart and the cart to your vehicle, and you're good to go.  No ramp, no tie downs, no large trailer, no new truck.  All you need is a hitch receiver.  This is the BEST of all options, in my opinion, and the ideal solution to transporting your cart.  Until you grow and have more than one cart, of course.  ;)  But that's a great problem for another day.  And yes, it will need to be registered and insured, but at least the insurance is something you'd probably carry on the cart anyway.  Sold by All Star Carts.  I'm sure other manufacturers can create this design for you, as well as customize it to suit your needs.

                                               Photo Credit: All Star Carts

Recently, a site member told me yet another idea that I will likely go with this year, for the few remaining months I can sell. Get a towing light kit added to my car and rent a UHaul trailer as needed.  The cost of the trailer rental is only $16 per day!  That's a price that can't be beat and can easily be covered by a day's sales. 

So what's your ideal solution?  And if you have an idea not listed, I'd love to hear it!