Looking for a Side Hustle? How to Start a Vending Machine Business

If you're looking for a side hustle with low startup fees, minimal stress, and big rewards, you may want to start a vending machine business.


Mar. 23 2023, Published 9:23 a.m. ET

If you’re looking for a good side hustle that doesn’t require much work, has low startup costs, and big rewards, a vending machine may be perfect for you.

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With entrepreneurs touting their vending machines on TikTok and Instagram claiming they’ve made six and seven figures in sales, it’s no wonder the vending machine business is trending.

Whether you’re looking for extra income or you’d like to quit your job and try something new, the vending machine industry is a great option. Now, let’s explore how to start a vending machine business.

How profitable is owning a vending machine?

Owning a vending machine can be quite profitable, but profits depend on several factors such as the products you sell, the location of your vending machine, how many vending machines you operate, and how well you manage costs.

So, while vending machines are a good side hustle, there are some things you need to consider before you start your own vending machine business.

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Before you start a vending machine business, do plenty of research.

“Start by researching the vending machine industry, its market size, and potential profitability. You can do this by reading industry reports, attending trade shows, and networking with other vending machine business owners,” says Valay Patel, Chief Executive Officer, EnvCure.

The initial cost to start up a vending machine business varies based on the type of machine, its condition, where it’ll be located, and what you’ll sell, but you should expect to spend between $1,500 and $3,000.

Bags of chips in a vending machine
Source: Pexels
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According to TikTok’s Vending University, you should expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 to $2,500 on the machine, about $250 for products, about $100–$300 to move the machine and get $50 in cash and coins. Also set aside money to pay registration fees, set up an LLC, build a website and market your vending machine business.

But before you purchase a vending machine, it's important to cold call the business owners and building managers to find out if you can put a vending machine in there for free.

Searching for good vending machine locations is important.

You'll want to place your vending machine in an area that matches what you’re trying to sell. So, if you’ve decided to sell healthy snacks, put it near a fitness center or gym. Or if you’re offering electronics, maybe an airport or train station may be best. Also, research competition because you don’t want a vending machine in an area that already offers the same products.

Visit potential locations to make sure they’re close enough to where you live so you can easily stop by to restock and repair.

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You need to choose a vending machine that fits your market.

Focus on vending machines that fit your market and the products you plan to sell. “Purchase inventory to stock your vending machine. Choose products that are high in demand,” says Patal.

After you determine your products, you’ll need to find a supplier and choose a vending machine that fits whatever you’re going to sell. For example, if you plan to sell snacks and beverages, you may need a combination vending machine with refrigeration.

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Types of vending machines include:

  • Mechanical vending machines are the classic snack or soda vending machines commonly seen in office buildings and schools.
  • Electronic vending machines are the most expensive kind and stock items like bottled water and electronics. These machines can even brew coffee.
  • Bulk vending machines are designed to sell a single product in bulk like gumballs or toy vending machines.
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Stock and manage your vending machine to attract customers.

"Regularly maintain and service your vending machines to keep them running smoothly and ensure customer satisfaction," says Patal. To efficiently stock and manage your inventory, you’ll need to:

  • Research and identify the most popular products in your target market.
  • Offer a wide variety of products to cater to different tastes like a variety of snacks and beverages.
  • Choose products with different price points and offer both regular and premium products.
  • Monitor product expiration dates and remove any items that have expired or will expire soon.
  • Keep track of your inventory levels and restock your machines regularly but avoid overstocking.
  • Track your sales data to figure out which items are selling well or not selling at all.
  • Rotate your product offerings based on the season and don’t be afraid to introduce new products.
  • Always ensure your machines are clean and well organized to make them more attractive and maintain quality and safety of products.

Marketing your vending machine business will help increase sales.

You'll want to increase sales and traffic to your vending machines, and the best ways to do that include advertising, posting fliers, and offer free vends. You can also use social media to share trending hashtags, create giveaways, and highlight new offerings.

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