A Guide to Starting a Vending Machine Business Successfully

A Guide to Starting a Vending Machine Business Successfully

Starting a Vending Machine Business

The vending machine business presents a lucrative and low-maintenance side hustle opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. Offering convenience and instant gratification to consumers, vending machines can yield a steady stream of passive income. This article will guide you through the process of starting a vending machine business, potential revenue, scaling, cold calling strategies, and procuring products at a discounted rate.

Key Takeaways:

  • Startup Costs: Starting a vending machine business involves the cost of machines, inventory, insurance, transportation, and licensing. The initial investment can range from $3,000 to $20,000.
  • Revenue Potential: Well-placed vending machines can generate an average revenue of $200 to $400 per month, depending on location, foot traffic, and product selection.
  • Scalability: Scaling a vending machine business involves replicating a profitable model with more machines in different locations. Data tracking is essential for informed scaling decisions.
  • Cold Calling for Machine Placement: Cold calling establishments with high foot traffic can secure profitable locations. Persistence and a compelling pitch are key to successful cold calling.
  • Bulk Buying: Purchasing products in bulk from wholesalers can significantly reduce costs and boost profits. Establish relationships with wholesalers for discounted rates.
  • Real-World Examples: Companies like Canteen and Vend Natural are examples of successful vending machine businesses, showcasing the potential for growth in this industry.

Startup Costs

The initial investment for a vending machine business primarily involves the cost of the machines and inventory. New vending machines can range from $3,000 to $5,000 for models that sell drinks and snacks. Used machines can be a more affordable option, with costs as low as $1,000 to $2,000.

Keep in mind other costs such as insurance, transportation for machine installation, and licensing fees if applicable in your area. Depending on the machine type and number, the startup cost can range from $3,000 to $20,000.

Different Types of Vending Machine Businesses

The vending machine industry extends far beyond just snacks and sodas. As you consider starting a vending machine business, explore these diverse options to determine which best fits your target market and location:

  1. Coffee Vending Machines: In today’s fast-paced world, people appreciate a quick caffeine boost. Coffee vending machines in office buildings, universities, or transport hubs can be a profitable venture.
  2. Food and Snack Machines: These traditional vending machines dispense a variety of packaged snacks and drinks. They work well in numerous settings, including schools, hospitals, and workplaces.
  3. Soda Machines: Specific to carbonated beverages, soda machines are popular in hot climates or high foot traffic areas such as malls, parks, and recreational facilities.
  4. Gumball and Candy Machines: Gumball and candy machines are generally low maintenance and easy to start with. These are perfect for locations with children, like supermarkets, arcades, and toy stores.
  5. Laundry Detergent Vending Machines: These machines dispense single-use laundry supplies and are ideal for laundromats, apartment buildings, or college dorms.
  6. Healthy Vending Machines: With the increasing focus on healthy eating, machines that offer nutritious snacks and drinks are gaining popularity. Gyms, schools, and offices are ideal locations for this type of vending machine.
  7. Specialty Vending Machines: There are also vending machines for more unusual products, such as electronics, beauty products, or even PPE (masks, sanitizers). The success of these machines is highly dependent on location and specific demand.

Each type of vending machine business has its own unique startup costs, maintenance needs, and profit margins. Some require more frequent restocking and cleaning, while others need less attention. Understanding your potential customer base and their needs will help you decide the type of vending machine business that would be most profitable for you.

Where to Buy Vending Machines and Financing Options

When starting a vending machine business, you need to source your machines. Here are some reliable options:

  1. Manufacturer Direct: Companies like Seaga, AMS, and Crane manufacture various vending machines. Buying directly from the manufacturer ensures you’re getting new, quality machines, often with warranties.
  2. Distributors: Distributors like Global Vending Group, Vendnet USA, and CandyMachines.com offer a wide range of vending machines from various manufacturers. They also often provide support services such as repairs and parts.
  3. Online Marketplaces: Websites like eBay, Alibaba, and Amazon also list new and used vending machines. Be sure to check the seller’s reputation and reviews before making a purchase.
  4. Local Sellers: Check local classifieds or business sale websites. You may find vending machine operators selling used machines at a discounted price.

Once you’ve found a source for your machines, it’s time to consider how you’ll finance your purchase:

Out-of-Pocket: If you have enough savings, you may choose to pay for your vending machines outright. This can be the most straightforward method, but it also requires a significant upfront investment.

Business Loans: Many financial institutions offer loans to small businesses. Banks, credit unions, or the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the United States can provide financing. You’ll need a solid business plan and potentially some collateral for this option.

Leasing: Some companies offer leasing options for vending machines. This means you pay a monthly fee to use the machines. While this can reduce your upfront costs, you’ll likely pay more over the long term.

Financing from Manufacturer or Distributor: Some manufacturers or distributors offer financing options. This can be a convenient way to finance your machines, especially if you’re buying in bulk.

Remember, it’s essential to do your due diligence before making a purchase or entering into a financing agreement. Understand all the terms and conditions, check for any hidden costs, and compare different options to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Average Revenue

The income from a vending machine can vary significantly based on the location, foot traffic, and the products you sell. On average, a well-placed machine can generate between $50 to $100 per week. Therefore, monthly earnings per machine could range from $200 to $400. It’s important to note that from this gross revenue, you’ll need to subtract costs for supplies, restocking, and machine maintenance to arrive at your net profit.


Scaling a vending machine business involves increasing the number of machines and expanding to new locations. After establishing a profitable model with a few machines, replicate the process in different venues. Keep track of the performance of each machine, as it can provide valuable data for scaling decisions.

Strategic Locations for Starting a Vending Machine Business

The profitability of your vending machine business hinges significantly on the strategic placement of your machines. Choosing high-traffic areas with the right demographic can substantially increase your sales. Here are some prime locations to consider:

  1. Office Buildings: Employees often seek quick snacks or a caffeine boost during breaks. Thus, offices are an excellent location for food, snack, coffee, and soda machines.
  2. Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities have high foot traffic and a constant demand for snacks, drinks, and even stationary items.
  3. Shopping Malls: With constant foot traffic, shopping malls are prime locations for various types of vending machines, from snacks and beverages to novelty items.
  4. Hotels: Travelers often need quick access to snacks, drinks, or travel-sized toiletries. Positioning your machines in lobbies or near elevators can increase visibility.
  5. Hospitals and Clinics: Visitors and staff at healthcare facilities often spend long hours on site. Vending machines offering snacks, coffee, or healthy food options can be a welcome convenience.
  6. Gyms and Fitness Centers: Vending machines that offer energy drinks, protein bars, and other health-focused snacks can be a great fit for fitness centers.
  7. Laundromats and Apartment Buildings: Laundry detergent vending machines work well in laundromats, while snack and drink machines can be a good fit in apartment building lobbies or common areas.
  8. Transport Hubs: Places like bus stations, airports, and train stations, where people often need to kill time, are good spots for vending machines.

Remember, the success of starting a vending machine business isn’t just about finding a location with a lot of people. It’s about finding the places where your specific product offerings align with the needs of the people frequenting that location. Balancing high traffic with targeted demographics can significantly boost your vending machine profits.

Cold Calling for Machine Placement

Cold calling can be an effective way to secure high-traffic locations for your vending machines. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Identify Targets: Look for establishments with high foot traffic such as offices, schools, malls, or transport hubs.
  2. Prepare a Pitch: Highlight the benefits for the establishment, such as providing a convenient service for employees or customers.
  3. Make Contact: Reach out to the decision-maker, which might be the owner, facilities manager, or another person in charge.
  4. Follow Up: If they express interest, arrange a face-to-face meeting or send a proposal outlining the benefits and logistics.

Remember, persistence is key. Cold calling is a numbers game, and rejection is part of the process.

Buying Products in Bulk

Purchasing products in bulk from wholesalers can significantly reduce your cost per item, thus boosting your profits. Establish relationships with local or online wholesalers who offer products at discounted rates for bulk purchases. Some popular online platforms for bulk purchases include Costco, Sam’s Club, and Amazon Business.

Real-World Examples

  1. Canteen: A part of Compass Group USA, Canteen started with vending services and has since grown into a nationwide company with a wide range of services.
  2. Vend Natural: This company has made a name for itself by providing healthy food options in vending machines, proving that strategic product choices can set a vending business apart.
  3. Chris Robertson of Planet Antares: Chris Robertson started a vending machine business using his savings and has since grown it into a multi-million dollar company. Planet Antares offers a wide variety of vending machines and has positioned itself as a leader in the industry.
  4. Jamie Baxter of Qualityvend: Jamie Baxter started Qualityvend, an Australian company that specializes in coffee vending machines for corporate offices. Jamie identified a gap in the market for high-quality, barista-style coffee in workplaces and filled it with Qualityvend, becoming one of the top vending machine companies in Australia.
  5. John Pinto of Pinto Brothers Vending: Starting with just a single gumball machine, John Pinto expanded his vending machine business to over 400 machines across several states in the USA. Pinto Brothers Vending has been successful due to its focus on exceptional customer service and maintaining a diverse selection of products.
  6. Aziz Hashim of National Vending: Aziz Hashim began his journey with a single vending machine and grew his venture into a large operation with machines in numerous locations. National Vending is now one of the leading vending machine businesses in the U.S., offering a wide range of products to customers across various sectors.
  7. Brian Binney of Excel Vending: Brian Binney started his vending machine business with 20 machines and has since grown it to over 5,000 machines across Scotland. Excel Vending is known for its focus on sustainability, offering a wide range of healthy options and utilizing environmentally friendly machines.

Selling a Vending Machine Business

The sale price of a vending machine business (or any business for that matter) can be determined using a multiple of the company’s earnings, usually referred to as a “multiple of EBITDA” (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization).

For vending machine businesses, this multiple typically ranges from 2x to 4x of EBITDA. This range can vary widely depending on various factors such as the number and type of machines, the locations of the machines, the financial health of the business, the business’s growth trends, and the overall condition of the market at the time of sale.

Keep in mind that these multiples are not hard-and-fast rules. Each vending machine business is unique, and the ultimate sale price will depend on negotiations between the buyer and seller. It’s always a good idea to consult with a business valuation expert or business broker to get an accurate estimate of a business’s worth.


Starting a vending machine business as a side hustle can be a profitable venture with relatively low startup costs, flexible working hours, and good income potential. By choosing the right locations, maintaining a variety of products, and scaling efficiently, you can build a successful vending machine empire. With persistence and strategic planning, you’ll be well on your way to vending machine success.

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