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How To Start a Vending Machine Business In 6 Simple Steps [2023 Update]

Vending machines allow people to choose a drink or snack without visiting a store.

The machine takes the money and distributes the product, so there’s no need to hire an employee to provide the service.

With this concept in mind, it’s easy to see how this can be considered an “unusual business” to generate passive income.

But if you want to know how to start a vending machine business, read on to ensure you understand what goes into the process.

You should know the startup costs, maintenance needs, and steps to run the business efficiently.

How Profitable Is Owning a Vending Machine Business?

People who take the time to do their homework and learn how to start a vending machine business can make a decent profit—even beginners.

Vending machines have low operating costs compared to other ventures and don’t require much time or financial investment from the owner.

If you stock them with products at reasonable prices and have them located in a high-traffic area, you can increase your profits exponentially.

Vending machines provide recurring revenue because clients continue to buy your products.

For example, stocking a vending machine in a shopping center ensures constant traffic, while owning one in an office lobby provides repeat customers.

You’ll pull in an impressive passive income if you can own a vending machine business with multiple locations.

What You’ll Need To Start a Vending Machine Business [& Associated Costs]

Starting a vending machine business seems straightforward, but you need more than the machine itself.

Read on to find out what to consider as you start your side hustle.

  • Vending Machines: You can buy or rent vending machines. Contact manufacturers for leasing options or check online marketplaces to buy them.
  • Features: You want an eye-catching vending machine that functions properly and accepts credit cards. Extra features like unique inventory dispensing and remote access software can simplify your operations.
  • Inventory: Most people think of vending machines for drinks and snacks, but you can sell books, electronics, beauty products, t-shirts, office supplies, or laundry powder. Prices vary depending on your merchandise.
  • Locations: Before you start your business, you need sites to install the machines. The costs involved with this feature include licenses from your local government. You might also need to rent space from corporations.
  • Business Insurance: Business insurance is necessary because vending machines can injure people, and you want to protect yourself from theft. The cost varies depending on the policies you choose and your provider.
  • Maintenance: Vending machines require little oversight, but regularly checking your machine guarantees you’ll catch issues before they cost you too much money.

Do I Need a License or Certificate To Start a Vending Machine Business?

Most states require a business to have a vending machine license before installing the machine.

If you sell drinks, you need a beverage license. If you sell snacks or food, you need a food service license.

For vending machines that sell laundry detergent, books, or other dry goods, you only need your federal employer ID number, sales tax number, and plan for the machine.

The government entity will come to inspect the location to ensure it matches your application before approval.

Why You Should Consider Starting a Vending Machine Business as a Side Hustle

If you want to make some money without investing much time, vending machines are the ideal industry.

  • Low Costs: You don’t need to invest in office space, furniture, and landscaping with a vending machine business. Your only costs are the machines, inventory, and licensing.
  • Passive Income: Vending machines don’t require staff, so you can install the device and make money while you do something else.
  • No Special Skills: Anyone can own a vending machine business. You don’t need an accounting degree, marketing certification, or experience as a salesperson. If you’re selling a necessary or in-demand product, they sell themselves.
  • Flexible Operation: You can check your vending machines on a schedule to ensure enough inventory; otherwise, there’s no need to work specific hours. You can have a day job and still manage vending machines in your free time.

How To Start a Vending Machine Business in 6 Simple Steps

Starting a vending machine business seems simple, but there are potential pitfalls, like in other industries.

Follow these six steps to ensure you know the basics of starting a business.

Step 1: Consider Your Options

Some of the most popular vending machines sell drinks and snacks, but other options exist.

You can sell electronics, charging cords, beauty supplies, books, and toys.

Think about possible locations and what other machines are available so you can offer something unique.

Step 2: Research the Competition

Before setting out as a sole proprietor, research the competition in your area.

In some cases, consider buying an existing vending machine business to lower your startup costs and prevent competition.

Otherwise, ensure you’re selling a product no other machines offer.

Step 3: Find Suppliers

You need inventory for your vending machine.

Finding the right supplier who sells the merchandise at an affordable cost can make the difference between turning a profit or drowning in debt.

You can also look into getting a loan to have extra stock on hand, which will prevent losing sales due to a lack of product.

Step 4: Establish Locations

High-traffic areas are best for vending machine profits, but you want to meet your audience where they are.

Providing necessary goods where someone will need them most guarantees a sale.

Look for the right area to sell your inventory and ensure you can plug the machine into an outlet.

Step 5: Maintain Vending Machines

You want to visit your machines regularly to ensure they’re working correctly and have enough products.

You can monitor each location for a few weeks to notice patterns and set your maintenance schedule around that information.

Step 6: Document Finances

Owning a vending machine is a legitimate business, so you need to keep track of your finances for tax season.

Save inventory and maintenance receipts and document your profits to ensure things run smoothly at tax time.

Things To Consider When Building a Vending Machine Business

You’ve learned a lot about how to start a vending machine business.

Before you jump in, consider these significant factors.


You want to sell a product that’s in demand.

The food and beverage vending market had a value of over $51 billion in 2021, so you know you can make sales in that industry.

Location and Traffic

Location is as important as your merchandise.

If you want to install a sandwich machine near the mall food court, you might make less than you would selling candy or earbuds.

You also need to consider traffic in that location.

For example, an airport has considerable traffic, so think of items travelers might forget.

You can sell travel-size toiletries or charging cables in your vending machine.

Can You Run a Vending Machine Business by Yourself?

Yes, you can run a vending machine business by yourself, depending on how many locations you manage.

If you have a few machines in a central area, you can restock inventory once a week.

However, if you have dozens of machines across the city, you might want employees to help you.

Also, if you can’t carry the inventory yourself, you’ll want someone who can lift the weight.

INSPIRATION: Vending Machine Business Ideas

Some business owners need help brainstorming merchandise they can sell in a vending machine.

These concepts will give you inspiration for your income stream.

  • Book Vending Machine: The potential of a book vending machine is endless. Install them in an airport for people who forgot reading material. Put them outside gyms and community centers so patrons can keep their children occupied while they work out.
  • Toy Vending Machines: You can install toy vending machines in big box store lobbies to ensure kids see them and ask their parents for money. You can also use claw vending machines in this location to increase the fun factor.
  • Travel Size Vending Machine: Many travelers get to the airport and realize they forgot to pack lotion or a toothbrush. They might have a bottle of shampoo that’s too large for security. Selling travel-size goods in an airport can maximize your profits.
  • Beauty Supply Vending Machine: Selling beauty supplies from a machine gives you tons of potential. You can sell makeup brushes, fake eyelashes, accessories, or makeup in malls, airports, or shopping centers.

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve learned how to start a vending machine business.

If you need more information, check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.

Can I put a vending machine anywhere?

Yes, you can install vending machines in any location if you have permission from the property owner.

Some states also require vending machine licenses.

However, you can only install a vending machine in a place with electricity.

What type of vending machine makes the most money?

Food and beverage vending machines are the most popular and make a significant profit, but you can make a lot of money depending on your location and target audience.

Selling charging cords and travel-size items in an airport is a great way to make passive income.

What is the best place to put a vending machine?

Depending on what you sell, highly-trafficked areas like airports and malls can be great vending machine locations.

If you want to stick with food and drinks, consider office buildings, hospitals, and school campuses.

People spend a lot of time here and often need to purchase snacks from machines.

Similar Businesses To Consider Starting

If the ease of vending machine passive income appeals to you, consider these similar businesses.

  • How To Start a Rental Property Business: Rent rooms, your home, office space, or vacation destinations as a side hustle. Find out how to start a rental property business and bring in income from unoccupied properties.
  • How To Start a Laundromat Business: Many people in apartments or low-income areas don’t have a washer and dryer. You can start a laundromat business to provide this necessary service.
  • How To Start a Food Business: Delivery options are popular, and people are willing to pay for good food. You can make money from this venture if you have a knack for cooking.

Wrapping Up

Owning a vending machine business is a great way to make passive income without putting too much time and effort into the work.

Leave a comment if you own a vending machine so others can learn from your experience.

Share this article with anyone who wants to feel empowered and work for themselves.

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