Posted on: April 28, 2020 |

If you want to own your own business, a vending machine—or several—can be a good place to start. There are many different types of vending machine business opportunities, and it is easy to choose one that is right for your business management style and plans. Let’s go through the different types of vending machine business opportunities, and what you’ll need to know to get started on yours. 

6 Different Types of Vending Machine Business Opportunities 

Vending machines are extremely convenient, and they provide fast, affordable goods and services to billions of people all over the world. The types of vending machine business opportunities available to you will vary depending on your location, investment, and time. For this post, we’ll cover only the vending machine business opportunities commonly seen in North America, though there are many other types of vending machines throughout the world

When choosing what type of vending machine is right for you, it’s important to consider the following. We’ll talk more about these later in the post. 

  • Maintenance: How much time and expertise do you have to maintain and repair your machine? How much will the machine require?  
  • Inventory: How much inventory can the machine hold? How long will the items last or how long will they stay stay fresh for? You’ll have to restock when items run out.  
  • Upfront investment: More complicated machines, such as those with refrigeration or digital touch screens, will be more expensive up front, while simpler machines will be more affordable. 
  • Expected revenue: With a few approximations, you can estimate how much you can make from your vending machine business. 

Water and Ice

Water and ice vending machines are some of the simplest types of vending machine businesses, requiring minimal maintenance and no inventory stocking. This is an ideal arrangement for business owners looking for a hands-off approach. There is a moderate upfront investment, which may be higher or lower depending on the features you add, such as credit card reading and remote monitoring. 

Since there is no cost of inventory as there is with other vending machines, the revenue potential is very high, depending on the location you choose. Water and ice vending machines perform best in areas with high commuter traffic, allowing workers to fill up lunch boxes and coolers with ice for the day. With no need for inventory, it’s easy to get started once you’ve selected the right location. You also won’t need to worry about purchase orders or supply chain management, storage, inventory taxation, and many other aspects of managing your products. 

  • Maintenance: Low
  • Inventory: None
  • Investment: Moderate
  • Revenue: Moderate to high 

Explore water and ice vending machine opportunities » 


Snack vending machines are common all over the world. Some of these use very simple mechanics which are easy to repair and maintain, while others are more complicated. If your snack vending machine accepts credit cards, uses a touchscreen, or uses other mechanisms, it may require more maintenance. Snack vending machines will also need to be frequently refilled. With a simple snack vending machine, maintenance includes cleaning the slides and glass, emptying the cash box, refilling change, and refilling inventory. You’ll need to know how to make simple repairs, like fixing a faulty dispensing coil. Some more complex electronics, like a credit card reader, will require additional expertise. 

You’ll see these machines everywhere; in office lobbies, train stations, hotels, airports, hospitals, gyms, schools and many other places. While this shows that snack machines tend to perform well, the competition is also high, and it can be difficult to find a good location. 

  • Maintenance: moderate 
  • Inventory: moderate 
  • Investment: moderate 
  • Revenue: low to moderate 


Soda and snack vending machines are often placed in the same locations, for obvious reasons. All total, cold beverages are the most common vending machine item, making up 31% of sales. Cold beverage and snack sales together make up almost 50% of all vending sales. Soda vending machines operate similar to snack vending machines, using many of the same mechanisms. These types of vending machines might be refrigerated to keep the drinks cold, especially when using perishable drinks like milk or fruit juices. This will add to the complexity and maintenance to the machine, but it may also improve revenue, especially in hot, dry locations. 

  • Maintenance: moderate 
  • Inventory: moderate 
  • Investment: moderate 
  • Revenue: low to moderate 


This type of vending machine opportunity is a good starting place if you have low upfront investment. Many candy machines are purely mechanical, so they don’t require electricity to run. This not only opens the field of possible locations, but also makes maintenance very easy. Most of these machines are coin-operated, which might put limits on revenue in an increasingly credit card-operated world. These machines also hold a relatively small amount of candy, so they’ll have to be refilled frequently. 

As you’d probably expect, candy machines are ideal in locations where there will be children and families. Malls, play areas, parks, recreation centers, arcades, grocery stores and similar locations are all good candidates.  

  • Maintenance: very low
  • Inventory: moderate 
  • Investment: very low 
  • Revenue: low 

Healthy Foods 

As consumers become more calorie-conscious and more aware of the dangers of excess sugars and fats, healthy foods have gained popularity in vending machines. While the majority of vending machines are still stocked with soda, chocolates, chips and similar items, healthy foods give vending machine business owners a way to stand out from the crowd. 

Some vending machines are dedicated only to healthy foods, and they’re placed in areas that attract health-conscious consumers looking for a convenient snack, such as gyms, spas, some workplaces, universities, health clubs, hotels and more. Other vending machines use a mix of snack foods and healthy foods to appeal to a larger audience. Regardless, your healthy food vending machine will have very similar maintenance, upkeep, inventory and upfront investment requirements as a snack vending machine. 

  • Maintenance: moderate 
  • Inventory: moderate 
  • Investment: moderate 
  • Revenue: low to moderate 


Around 64% of Americans drink coffee daily. With the amount of coffee shops, Keurigs and home brewing systems out there, you might assume that there isn’t enough room for coffee vending machines. However, the number of coffee vending machines is expanding

Since there are heating elements, cup dispensers, cream, and other mechanisms at work, coffee vending machines require more maintenance than other machines. There is still a need to refill inventory, including coffee grounds or beans, cups, creamer, and other additives. However, since these items are relatively affordable and many consumers don’t mind paying a bit more for a fast, convenient, hot cup of coffee on-the-go, there’s more revenue potential in the right location. 

  • Maintenance: moderate to high 
  • Inventory: moderate 
  • Investment: moderate to high
  • Revenue: moderate to high  

There are many other types of vending machines, including frozen foods, change dispensers, toys, even vending machines for electronics, movies, and music. Since many of these use similar mechanics and electronics, their upkeep and maintenance will also be similar. Consider your available locations, the amount of time you want to spend maintaining and refilling your machine, and the upfront investment you can get. This will help you select a vending machine business that works best for you.