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5 Min. Read

How to Start a Vending Machine Business (4 Easy Steps)

How to Start a Vending Machine Business (4 Easy Steps)

We often take vending machines for granted.

They are often the silent saviors in office break rooms, hospital waiting rooms and many other places. They’re known as a fantastic, convenient way to grab a drink or a snack.

But if you immediately associate the vending industry with fizzy soda, chocolate and salty snacks you may have to think again. 

Many vending machines around the U.S. now give you the opportunity to buy healthier options. You can also buy gourmet and specialty items such as caviar and escargot. 

You can even buy tech items such as headphones and mobile phones. 

So we know that vending machines aren’t always what we picture, but have you ever thought about the business behind the machine? 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the vending machine industry in the United States reached over $8 billion. If we scale that out to the rest of the world then the revenue goes as high as $23 billion.

Of course, you could argue that the majority of those profits are for the large vending machine businesses. This would be a correct assumption as it was reported that the major companies took home 65.2% of the industry’s revenue in 2018. 

Yet, the report also showed that smaller vending companies enjoyed higher profits. This could be because as a small business owner, you have far fewer overhead costs such as staff, technology and repair costs. 

COVID-19 predictably hit the vending business due to the lack of travel. But it’s fully expected to continue its pattern of growth once things start opening up again.

So if you’re thinking of getting in on a vending machine business, now would be a good time to start. Here are 4 easy steps on how to start a vending machine business to help you on your way.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

1. Research, Research, Research

2. Pick Your Inventory and Location

3. Source Your Machines

4. Sort Out the Legalities 

Key Takeaways

1. Research, Research, Research

As with any business, it’s vitally important to make sure you do your market research. 

You can have the best idea in the world. But if it's not aimed at the correct target market then you'll struggle to create a successful vending machine business. 

Through research and planning, you’re far more likely to spot gaps in the market that you can fill and create a successful business. 

2. Pick Your Inventory and Location

It’s important to have the right type of product selection and vending machine locations. Especially if you want to have a profitable vending machine business service.

Vending items such as water, snacks and hot beverages are popular choices and will sell almost anywhere.

Having an inventory of sandwiches, salads and hot food may get you a higher income, but it comes at the expense of having to be more careful with your location. For example, these items would do well in an office space and colleges, but perhaps not so well in a shopping mall. 

You also have to take into consideration that fresh food has an expiration date. This increases the chances you would lose profits due to throwing away food. 

That’s why some companies prefer to sell non-food items such as tech, skincare products, or even day-to-day items such as fabric softener. 

As a vending machine business, it’s important to match your inventory to your location. If you’re selling candy and soda, it wouldn’t be the best option to put your machine in a doctor’s waiting room.

If you manage to perfectly match your product to your placement, then you can happily earn a reliable stream of passive income.

3. Source Your Machines

There are a number of ways to source vending machines. 

One option is to head to a manufacturer and buy however many you need. But to reduce your investment costs, you could consider buying used or refurbished machines or even lease machines at a lower rate. 

Keep in mind that the better shape your machines are in, the less likely they are to break down. This will incur further costs due to having to service the machines, and the loss of income while they are out of action.

4. Sort Out the Legalities 

Once you have everything else sorted, you’ll need to register your new vending machine company with the state. You’ll also have to work out a deal with the businesses or property owners where you want to place your machines. 

To register with the state, you’ll have to fill out the paperwork necessary to form an LLC or incorporate a vending machine business. You’ll have to check your local state laws for the specifics as they can change from state to state. 

Key Takeaways

It’s a good time to start a vending machine business. There are few roadblocks to getting started and it’s a nice way to make a relatively passive, steady income. 

For more business advice on everything from starting a new business, to latest business practices, check out FreshBooks


FreshBooks is accounting software that provides accounting solutions for small business owners. It gives you a way to keep all your business needs in one place and allows you to cut out the hassle.


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