It may come as surprise, but you can actually make money with vending machines. Weird, right? Well, maybe for you and me, but the vending machine industry is actually very lucrative with reports establishing that its worth will reach over $7.4 billion by 2026. (Yeah, that's a whole lot of quarters).
Once you realize the money-making potential of vending machines, though, you start to really take notice of them. Where they are, what they sell, and just how many are taking up real estate in shopping malls, residence complexes, office parks, public transport locations, and more.
Whether you want to take on a new side hustle to pay off debt or want to start a full-fledged business, here is how you can make money with vending machines.
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How To Make Money With A Vending Machine Business
We have all been customers of vending machines. Convenience rules our lives and so we pop 25 cents in and out comes our favorite candy bar or snack. Sometimes we may even slip an entire dollar in just to sip on our preferred sugary beverage while on the go.
Whatever reason, you and I have used vending machines before and likely without ever thinking of the owner (and how much profit they're making).
The trick to making money with vending machines is therefore catering to your ideal customer. There are many different types of people out there to sell to. Not everyone is going to buy from a candy vending machine.
That's why starting a vending machine business requires several steps:
- Pick the type of vending machine you want to make money with (coincides with your target customer).
- Decide on a location for your vending machine(s), where there's ideally lots of foot traffic but low cost.
- Choose whether you want to start your own vending machine business, buy a used/existing vending machine in a particular location, or buy into a franchise where you can benefit from an established brand.
Types of Vending Machines
So the first step of starting such a business would be to find out who you want to attract to your money-making machine. There are several types of vending machine businesses to pursue.
For example, you could start a vending machine business selling healthy snacks, drinks, and pre-packaged energy-boosting meals for those who prefer wholesome food and are conscious about their diet.
Some other ideas for types of vending machines are:
- Candy bars and sweets
- Salty snacks
- Energy drinks
- Water and soda
- Protein bars and shakes
Food and beverage vending machines aren't the only possibility, even though they are the most popular and profitable choice. You could also invest in specialty vending machines that sell things such as:
- Electronics (i.e. phones, tablets, travel adapters)
- Accessories (i.e. earplugs, bags, cases, travel pillows)
- Office supplies (i.e. ink cartridges, staplers, pens/pencils, notebooks)
- Hygiene and beauty items (i.e. feminine products, makeup)
- Laundry essentials (i.e. detergent, powder, softener, bleach)
- Toys and prizes (i.e. plush animals, capsules, games)
Whatever you decide, in order to make the most profit from your machine, you should make sure that your ideal customer aligns with the installation location. In many cases, the right vending machine just sits in the wrong place. To be profitable, you need to nail both location and target audience.
Best Locations To Place A Vending Machine
If you've never noticed how many vending machines there were across the US, that'll soon change. There are literally millions of vending machines located across thousands of places. Some locations might surprise you.
Like any good business, if money is what you want to make then you need lots of eyeballs on your product. To get more views of your vending machine, you'll need to put it somewhere relevant – somewhere that makes sense for your audience and is convenient for them to access.
Popular vending machine locations are:
- Shopping malls
- Nearby parking lots
- Inside retail stores
- College campus'
- Hospitals and waiting rooms
- Apartment complexes
- Office buildings
- Train or bus stations
- Hotels & motels
- Hair salons
Basically, locations where people visit frequently. If you wish to sell healthy snacks, a gymnasium or yoga studio would be ideal spots to cater to your customer.
For junk food and beverages, hotels and places of temporary residency (like a university campus) would be sweet spots to sell such stuff. College students are notorious for spending $.50 here and $1 buck there, all to satisfy a short-term craving in between classes.
Once you have decided on a location, the next step is to consider whether you are going to go at this on your own or find an existing vending machine to buy (if it's for sale) or buy into a franchise and go down that route.
Should You Start Your Own Vending Machine Business?
If you are skilled at negotiating and have decent judgment regarding business, contracts, etc, then starting your own vending machine business will prove most profitable. That's because,
- It requires less capital to start
- You decide on the location and inventory
This would require that you train yourself, source the perfect vending machine retailer, source your own stock, and negotiate with business owners to work out a contract so that you can, indeed, install a vending machine on their turf.
So yes, while starting a vending machine biz on your own is profitable, there are some risks, and even disadvantages, when going at it solo. It involves:
- Higher risk
- Finding a quality machine
- Negotiating and contracts (you also must pay tax to the land/business proprietor)
- Scouting locations and taking charge of inventory
- General upkeep
- Working within state laws (only ADA complaint machines can be placed in public locations such as schools, state buildings, and hospitals).
Should you decide to buy an existing vending machine, and aren't aware of the business model just yet, you may be entering into an unprofitable deal in which the machine is outdated or has a questionable existing contract.
Cost To Buy A Vending Machine
New vending machines will cost around $3,000 up to $5,000 USD. Used or refurbished machines might cost half that. The price varies based on technology features (such as payment processing) and the type of machine – food/beverage or specialty.
Cost To Operate & Maintain A Vending Machine?
This amount may vary, based on the state in which you install your machine. Vending machine owners must pay rent to the land/business owner as well as pay sales tax which varies per state. Don't forget to factor in the cost for inventory and maintenance.
How Much Money Can You Make With Vending Machines?
The average vending machine can generate around $500 per month. However, highly profitable vending machines can generate up to $300 per week or more, depending on the location and the item(s) they dispense.
If you have a vending machine selling coffee for $1.25 per cup, but it only costs you 50 cents to source, and you sell 50 cups per day in an office building, then your daily net profit would be $37.50 (before other costs like rental space, taxes, etc).
That's not bad for a single machine. But again, it all depends on your business strategy.
It is also hard to track profits of individual or privately-owned vending machines. We can “guesstimate” however, that some vending machine owners can earn only $10 a week while others make $100 per day.
Examples Of Vending Machine Businesses
Example 1: Nature2Go (Franchise)
Naturals2Go is one of the leading healthy vending machine companies in the US, offering over 10,000 products. They say they're not a franchise, but they technically are, seeing as you can own your own Naturals2Go vending machine with their support, and for zero royalties or fees.
Example 2: Kashief Edwards (Individual)
Kashief Edwards of @the_vending_bizz is considered the “king” of selling vending machines. In the below video, YouTubers Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings interview Kashief Edwards, who makes over $15,000 per month from vending machines.
Starting a vending machine business is highly lucrative when executed with the right strategy. When you combine quality foot traffic, limited competition, machine visibility, and demand, you will land a decent and profitable location which can lead to numerous sales in any given day (with the right product, of course).
Investing in vending machines requires a fairly low start-up cost as well. You could start a vending machine business for a couple of thousand dollars or less. But if you don't have $2,000, you could even go smaller and more niche to test the waters – think gumball machines.
There is no direct path to success when it comes to making money with vending machines. To be successful will require lots of skill, time, and trial and error. If you want to learn more, there are role models like Kashief Edwards who even offering in-depth training, books, and online courses on how to succeed in the business of vending machines.
Since the vending machine industry will only continue to expand in the years to come and is already estimated to be worth a multi-billion dollar market, it would be wise to begin your efforts today; get involved and see how you can start profiting from this lucrative business model.