How To Start A Vending Machine Business In 13 Easy Steps

Khyati Hooda
By Khyati Hooda 24 Min Read

Curious about how to start a vending machine business? Wondering what it takes to launch a vending machine venture? You’re in the right place!

Starting a vending machine business is a straightforward venture with the potential for passive income and flexibility. In this guide, we’ll break down the essential steps to help you kickstart your journey into the world of automated retail.

Let’s dive in and explore the simple, practical approach to launching your own vending machine business. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or a beginner, we’ve got you covered with easy-to-follow steps and valuable insights to set you on the path to success.

Discover how to start a vending machine business and turn this innovative concept into a profitable reality.

What is the state of the vending machine industry?

Big players don’t control the industry. There are millions of small, independent owners in the vending machine industry. No company holds more than 5% of the market. This makes putting up a vending machine business the perfect option for those wishing to start small.

Vending machine owners saw a decline in revenue due to the pandemic, but the business has recovered and is currently growing at a CAGR of 16.7%.

Are Vending Machine Businesses Profitable?

The average weekly income for a vending machine hovers around $35. However, the key to unlocking higher profitability lies in understanding the dynamics of your machine’s location and the products it dispenses. Let’s see how to start a vending machine business and how strategic decisions impact your bottom line.

Operators, akin to shrewd merchants, procure goods in bulk, setting the stage to vend them at a premium within their machines. This practice results in impressive profit margins, soaring as high as 86%, particularly for high-demand items like water.

Yet, the harmony of profitability can be disrupted by the low hum of foot traffic. The location becomes a critical partner in the intricate dance of vending machine economics.

A vending machine strategically placed on a popular boardwalk becomes a beacon of commerce, drawing in customers and boosting sales. Conversely, a machine tucked away in a sparsely occupied office building may experience dwindling profits.

The choice of vending machines also plays a significant role in shaping profitability. Bulk vending machines, with their charmingly simple offerings of toys, gumballs, temporary tattoos, and other affordable trinkets, boast the highest profit margins and the lowest costs.

These machines are not only cost-effective to acquire but also offer products with relatively low purchase prices (e.g., $35 for 800 gumballs).

On the flip side, more sophisticated machines peddling high-end goods, like beauty supplies, present an opportunity for increased revenue. However, this allure comes at a cost – higher startup and maintenance expenses.

Navigating the landscape of “how to start a vending machine business” involves weighing the potential profits against the initial investment required for more advanced machines.

Understanding how to start a vending machine business involves carefully selecting the location, product selection, and machine type.

By making informed decisions and adapting to market dynamics, your vending machine business can hit the right notes of profitability in this ever-evolving industry.

How To Start A Vending Machine Business: 13 Steps

It is important to determine what machine your business will need when starting a vending business. There are numerous types of machines available, for example:

  • Soft Drink Vending Machines.
  • Snack Vending Machines.
  • Coffee Vending Machines. 
  • Cooked and Frozen Vending Machines.
  • Combo Vending Machines. 
  • Merchandiser.
  • Outdoor Vending Machines.

Suppliers can be found online or in local stores. So it’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs and budget and figure out how to start a vending machine business. You’ll need to find a supplier once you’ve decided on the type of machine. 

The next step is to decide how much inventory you’ll need and where you’ll put it. You should also consider whether or not you want automated dispensing or manual dispensing for your vending machines. 

To do so, follow these steps:

Step 1: Identify the products you wish to sell

When wondering how to start a vending machine business, it’s important to confirm a viable opportunity and determine what you want to sell in your vending machines. Some products can do well almost everywhere, while others may be appealing to people with particular interests or preferences.

Perishable items should be matched to the volume you are selling them to account for their expiration dates.

Additionally, you might want to think about non-food items like over-the-counter pain medications, which could be sold in the restrooms of buildings such as offices, malls, and shopping centers. The following are other non-food items available in vending machines.

  • Laundry supplies (detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets).
  • Electronics accessories (phone chargers, earbuds, headphones).
  • Skincare products.
  • Hair products (shampoo, conditioner, styling products).
  • Toiletries and hygiene products (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, feminine hygiene products).
  • T-shirts.
  • CBD products (oils and lotions).
  • Fitness merchandise (supplements, towels, gloves, hair ties, earbuds).
  • Dog treats.
  • Beach supplies (sunscreen, goggles, toys).
  • Nail polish.
  • Pens and pencils.

The number of vending machines that offer good deals on inventory may surprise you. However, it’s important to remember that these machines have higher overhead costs (per-unit cost, dispensed from machines with advanced features, etc.).

You’ll want to analyze your options when looking for a reliable source of products before making any decisions.

A $75 bulk vending machine from a grocery store may be more profitable than a high-end computerized machine selling stickers for 50 cents. The sticker machine will likely provide more passive income over time, even if it does not deliver immediate results.

Step 2: Identify the features of your vending machine

Determine which features will be necessary and desired in your vending machines once you have decided what you will sell. Some of the special features and capabilities available include:

  • Acceptance of credit and debit cards.
  • Voice-activated or touch-activated interactive screens.
  • Lighting powered by LEDs.
  • They are dispensing food and drinks at the same time.
  • Monitoring software for machines that monitor stock levels remotely. Visually appealing and visually appealing graphics and brands wrap around the machine.

If you are thinking of how to start a vending machine business, this is definitely something you need to consider to help you streamline the process.

Step 3: Selecting a vending machine vendor & supplier

The significant expenditure you’ll make in your vending machine business is purchasing one or more machines. You can buy it new or secondhand, finance it or lease it, much like many other pricey things. 

Vending machines have evolved to become smarter and more specialized, allowing retailers to choose from various alternatives based on the products. When wondering how to start a vending machine business – the main question is always, where can I buy the vending machines from?

Depending on the features, a new vending machine might cost anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000.

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Depending on how many machines you have, there are a few methods for safeguarding initial and ongoing inventory. When it comes to vending machines, it’s a one-and-done situation.

When it comes to inventory, though, it’s all about building a long-term relationship with your supplier, so choose wisely and do your homework. Consider the following criteria when selecting a supplier for your product:

  • Financial: Look for suppliers in your price range who offer financial incentives like loyalty programs, rebates, and bonuses, as well as speedy delivery and flexible payment arrangements.
  • Product: Look for suppliers who can provide consistent supply, fresh products, and the features and attributes you’re looking for in your inventory. Check if your suppliers offer a warranty and stand behind their products.
  • Relationship: If you’re dealing with sales or delivery employees, consider how the company treats its customers and its credibility and customer service.

The type, characteristics, and quality of the inventory you wish to stock your vending machines with will influence your supplier decision. Consider leasing or buying used vending machines to reduce your capital investment costs.

Step 4: Decide where to place your machines

Another main point you need to consider when considering how to start a vending machine business is location. Vending machines are successful when they’re located in areas with a lot of foot traffic. 

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This is because people want to buy things from vending machines, and it’s easier for them to do so here than anywhere else. Locations should also be a good fit for the type of products your machines sell, as this will determine how well your business does.

Among the places where vending machines often succeed are:

  • Stores that sell groceries.
  • Shopping malls and shopping centers.
  • Condominiums.
  • Motels and hotels.
  • Schools.
  • Colleges and universities.
  • Health centers and hospitals.
  • Laundries.
  • Airports.
  • A train station.
  • Bus stops.
  • Factories.

There may be ADA compliance standards when placing vending machines in certain locations.  Additionally, consider how safe your machines and products are – if they are not compliant with ADA requirements, you will have to spend time and money fixing them. 

Locations that tend to be vandalized or robbed will also cost you more in terms of lost revenue.

Step 5. Create a business plan to get funding

A business plan is a legally binding document that you should use to secure funding for your company.

Even though the vending machine industry has a lower entry barrier than other industries, you will still require a few thousand dollars to get started. Other financing solutions are available if you don’t want to dip into your savings or don’t have enough money.

Begin by figuring out how much money you’ll need to buy the machines and accessories you want. Other costs, such as trucks for moving machines, should be considered.

Then pick if you want to apply for short-term or long-term loans and whether you want to finance the equipment.

Short-term loans have a smaller payback period and higher interest rates than long-term ones, but they are more easily qualified.

On the other hand, equipment finance loans have a fixed interest rate and use the equipment itself as collateral in the event of default. However, getting this loan will be difficult if your credit score and business tax returns aren’t in good shape.

A business plan is a set of objectives for running your company. Here’s a list of things to include:

  • A summary of your company’s operations
  • All of the goods and services you’re promoting
  • How will you make money with your company?
  • All of your employees, as well as your executive team
  • Where do you acquire your money?
  • Your sales model

When you have the funds, purchase your vending machines and supplies.

Step 6: Decide on a business name

One of your most valuable brand assets is your company’s name. When thinking of how to start a vending machine business we’re sure you have already considered some brand names to fit your business. It’s how your clients will tell you apart from the rest of the pack. 

Here are some pointers to help you choose a name for your company:

  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Be imaginative.
  • Be unique and original.
  • Make it simple to remember.

Furthermore, no other company should be using your proposed business name. Run a search with the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure.   

Step 7: Market Your Business

Marketing is an essential component of any organization. After all, marketing informs clients about who you are and what you have to offer. But you might be confused and wonder how marketing ties into when thinking of how to start a vending machine business and we are here to tell you that you need to advertise to make your presence known. 

Every company should have an online presence. There’s no excuse for not having a website that looks professional, is easy to navigate, and provides valuable content to visitors. You can easily create your website with a no-code web builder like Webflow.

Social networking is undeniably one of the most effective marketing platforms ever devised. Every day, billions of eyes are hooked to various prominent sites on social media.

Social media allows you to get your advertisements in front of potential customers and allows you to interact with them. Many businesses have discovered the value of just engaging with customers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to create relationships with them.

A solid email list is still hard to surpass when promoting your vending machine business. With email, you get direct communication with your customers from the business world and the folks enjoying your treats. 

This allows you to communicate with customers about news, specials directly and other forms of information, and tools like Active Campaign can help you streamline and automate the process. 

ActiveCampaign provides email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM solutions you need to create exceptional customer experiences.

Step 8: Choose the type of entity for your business

The legal and tax implications of setting up a company structure will be complex and depend on the specific business model you choose. Additionally, your decision about compliance with state laws will impact the time and costs involved in keeping your company licensed, registered, and compliant.

The following are common structures for small businesses:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • S Corporation
  • C Corporation

A business and its owner(s) are considered the same tax-paying and legal entity when operating as a sole proprietorship or partnership. The business owner is held personally responsible if the company gets sued or runs into financial issues. 

That means the entrepreneur’s assets may be at risk of being taken to satisfy debts owed by the business. However, separate entities are provided for both business owners and businesses to provide personal liability protection with other structures. 

This degree of protection is beneficial for entrepreneurs who need to consult an attorney and accountant or tax advisor for guidance on which type of structure will work best for their situation.

Step 9: Register with the state of your new business & obtain permits

Before starting your vending machine business, federal, state, and local laws and regulations must be researched. This is important because the law can determine whether you can operate in a certain location or not. For example, federal laws may regulate vending machines. 

Your attorney can help identify any requirements for getting a business license from various government agencies. CorpNet’s business license services can also help prepare and submit required forms to obtain licenses and permits at an affordable price.

It is essential to register paperwork for an LLC or corporation with the state to form one. This includes articles of organization, and incorporation must take place for a vending machine business to use its legal name, not the owner’s first and last names. 

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A vending machine business that intends to use a different legal name than what is included on its registration forms (e.g., DBA) will need to submit a DBA as well (known as a “fictitious name”). The purpose of this document is so that people are aware of who is running things during the startup stages.

It is possible to register a business at various costs, depending on the state. Corporate Net can help you prepare and submit business registration, S Corp, and DBA paperwork in all 50 states. States’ government websites provide detailed information, so it’s important to consult with them before filing anything. 

It’s also important to be familiar with the different forms needed for startup businesses- S Corp and DBA paperwork in particular- to avoid delays.

Step 10: Apply for an EIN

To be registered as an LLC (or corporation) in the U.S. or U.S. Territories, a business must obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

You may hear this number referred to as a Federal Tax ID Number by analogy with your social security number or license number. To ensure your application form is accurate and processed quickly, ask CorpNet to handle the EIN paperwork.

Step 11: Open a bank account for your business

The corporate veil between business owners and their companies must be maintained with a business bank account. This means that businesses and their owners can be separate legal entities. 

Still, when finances start to mix, it might mean that the corporate veil has been pierced- this would allow entrepreneurs to lose their liability protection (i.e., they may put personal assets at risk). 

There are other reasons for having a dedicated business bank account- like increased efficiency as you can manage your finances from one place.

Step 12: Work out vending contracts with owners and managers of businesses or properties

Businesses and property owners will demand payment to allow you to put vending machines on their property. You’ll have to pay a commission based on a proportion of your entire sales, which is why it’s critical to spell out the terms, rates, and conditions in writing.

Try to come up with a decent commission % that pleases the person who provided you with the place while allowing you to make a profit. So, before agreeing to a number and signing the contract, remember to do the math.

The typical vending machine agreement covers the following points:

  • Agreement between the parties.
  • Duration of the agreement.
  • Types of machines and products sold.
  • The location(s) of the machine(s).
  • Compensation.
  • Damage, maintenance, and service responsibilities of parties.
  • Failure notification for the machine.
  • Provisions relating to exclusivity (if applicable).
  • Machines may be added, removed, or replaced.
  • Termination clause (for voiding the contract in case the contract is breached or the location turns out to be unprofitable).

A vending machine contract is a legal document that can protect you and your business from potential problems. This document includes important information such as the rights and responsibilities of both parties and the terms of services. 

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It’s always ideal to have a legal expert at your side while writing a contract, and reviewing it to ensure it fits your requirements, as it is with any legal document.

Step 13: Ensure compliance with all business regulations

To stay in good standing with the state, local municipalities, and the IRS, a vending machine company must be up to date on all of its tax filings, reports, licenses, and other compliance requirements. 

Failing to take care of compliance obligations can result in fines, penalties, loss of liability protection, and even administrative dissolution of the business. 

Attorney and tax professionals can advise on what specific obligations are required and when they should be filed by using CorpNet B.I.Z a free online portal where you can track your deadlines and submit supplements for review (which our attorneys will help prepare). You’ll remain compliant with all applicable laws while running your business smoothly.


Embark on your entrepreneurial journey today with these straightforward tips and witness the positive outcomes firsthand. Initiating a vending machine business can yield impressive financial results by adhering to these uncomplicated suggestions.

As you peruse this article, rest assured that your question on how to start a vending machine business is effectively addressed. For additional guidance on commencing your vending machine business journey, feel free to explore the valuable resources available on this website dedicated to helping you understand how to start a vending machine business.

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Khyati is an entrepreneur, marketing consultant, and a personal finance expert.Building on her achievements, Khyati wrote two acclaimed books: "Failure's Gold," exploring success through hardship, and "Tomorrow's Wallet" on the future of money management.Her work has also been featured by LinkedIn, PPC Hero, Social Pilot, and Training Mag.Khyati has managed over $50M in marketing budgets across various industries including technology, finance, education, retail, consumer goods and more - successfully delivering over 15x ROI for her clients.Khyati has managed over $50M in marketing budgets across various industries including technology, finance, education, retail, consumer goods and more – successfully delivering over 15x ROI for her clients.
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