Vending machines are designed to provide convenience and accessibility, allowing you to purchase items without human assistance or a traditional retail environment. They are self-service devices that automatically dispense items after you insert the required payment.
A typical vending machine has three components:
- A cabinet or enclosure that houses the items,
- A payment mechanism that supports coins, bills, debit/credit cards, or mobile payments
- A delivery system that may use mechanical means to move the item to a retrieval area
These machines are mostly installed in office buildings, shopping centers, schools, hospitals, airports, train stations, and public spaces.
If you are looking to set up your own, you need to put your time and effort into making it a profitable business. It’s important to do proper research so you can be prepared for the challenges of operating a vending machine business.
In order to give you an overall idea and help you choose the right machine, we have listed different types of vending machines available in the market.
We have categorized them based on their functionality and the type of products they dispense.
Did you know?
The first modern coin-operated vending machine was invented by Percival Everitt in 1883. It soon became popular at railway stations and post offices in England.
Table of Contents
14. Newspaper Vending Machine
Newspaper vending machines in Munich, Germany | Credit: Wikimedia
Price range: $1,000-$3,000
Newspaper vending machines offer a selection of newspapers, from local to popular national printed publications. They are typically found in public places like train stations, airports, streets, and convenience stores.
The availability of newspapers may depend on the specific location and the agreement between the newspaper publishers and the vending machine operator.
These machines have been a common sight in many cities, but their prevalence has diminished in the recent decade due to the rise of digital media and online news consumption platforms.
13. Bait vending Machine
Price range: $1,500-$3,500 for small machines with a moderate capacity for bait and tackle
A bait machine dispenses live bait for fishing. They are typically found at fishing piers, marinas, boat ramps, campgrounds, and other areas where fishing is popular.
They offer multiple bait options, including live baits (minnows, worms, or crickets) and artificial baits (fishing lures, hooks, sinkers, or bobbers).
These machines are designed to cater to the needs of anglers who may require bait outside of regular store hours or in areas where conventional bait hops are not readily accessible. The specific inventory and bait options may vary depending on the target market and vending machine operator.
12. Ticket Machines
Machine for Metro-North Railroad | Credit: Wikimedia
Price range: $2,000-$4,000 for basic machines with a moderate capacity for ticket types
Ticket vending machines produce and dispense tickets, or recharge a stored-value card or smart card. They are commonly found in transportation systems, parking facilities, entertainment venues, and other locations where ticketed access is required.
These machines streamline the ticket purchase process, reduce queues, and offer convenience to people by providing a self-service option.
They offer different ticket types based on the specific context. This can include tickets for public transportation, parking tickets, event tickets, or attraction tickets (for museums or theme parks).
Parkeon and Wincor Nixdorf are the two leading manufacturers of ticket machines. Known for reliability, their machines offer all essential features and options, including user-friendly touchscreen displays and multilingual options to cater to a diverse range of customers.
11. Books and Stationery Vending Machines
Price range: $2,500-$5,000 for machines with a moderate capacity for books and stationery items
Books and stationery vending machines dispense a variety of books, notebooks, magazines, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, and other items. They provide a convenient way to purchase reading materials and stationery supplies without the need to visit a conventional bookstore or stationery shop.
Modern machines showcase available products in an organized and visually appealing manner. They may have compartments, shelves, or racks to display each product category neatly.
They are often found in schools, libraries, and offices. GoLibrary machine, for example, is widely used by libraries in the US state of California and Sweden. The Biblio-Mat is a random antiquarian book vending machine placed at The Monkey’s Paw bookstore in Toronto.
10. Change Machine
Price range: $1,000-$2,000 for basic machines with lower transaction volumes.
A change machine is a type of vending machine designed to exchange bills or larger denominations of currency for coins or smaller bills. It dispenses coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents, as well as dollar bills.
Once you insert the bill, the machine calculates the amount and dispenses the equivalent value in coins. It may have multiple coin hoppers or tubes containing different denominations for efficient dispensing. Also, all machines have a bill validation mechanism to verify the authenticity of the bills being inserted.
While most change machines charge a flat fee of $0.25 to $0.50 for each transaction, some charge a higher fee to exchange foreign currency or to dispense dollar bills.
Coinstar is the most popular company that operates coin-cashing machines in North America and Europe. It charges a 10% fee for each transaction. However, you can avoid the fee by depositing the change into your PayPal account or a charity of your choice.
9. Photo booth
Price range: $1,000-$3,000 for smaller booths with camera, printer, and basic lighting
Photos booths are small, semi-enclosed structures designed to capture and print photographs. You can step inside the booth, click a picture using a built-in camera, and receive printed copies within minutes.
These machines have been around for more than 100 years and have evolved over time.
While early photo booths used film, the new ones can capture multiple photos with digital cameras. They offer plenty of fun features, like props and filters, and have customizable backdrops and green screens to create different backgrounds and themed settings.
Photo booths are a fun way to capture photos with family and friends. They are popular at various events and locations, including parties, weddings, malls, amusement parks, and entertainment venues.
8. Stamp vending machine
Stamp vending machine at Stuttgart railway station, Germany | Credit: Wikimedia
Price range: $1,000-$4,000 for basic machines with lower stamp capacities
Stamp vending machines provide a convenient way to purchase stamps without having to visit a post office or deal with a postal clerk. They contain various postage stamps for different denominations and types, including standard domestic stamps, international stamps, seasonal stamps, and special commemorative stamps.
Some machines offer additional features or services, such as the ability to calculate postage for packages or provide postal supplies like postcards and envelopes.
They are usually found in post office lobbies and public buildings. However, their prevalence has decreased in recent years due to the emergence of online postage services and electronic postage printing.
Did you know?
The practical and successful stamp vending machine was invented by Percival Everitt, an English engineer, in 1883. He developed a coin-operated stamp dispensing machine that was installed in post offices across the United Kingdom.
7. Electronics Vending Machines
Vending machines at Madrid Barajas airport | Credit: Morepremium
Price range: $2,000-$5,000 for machines with medium storage capacities
Electronics vending machines dispense headphones, phone cases, chargers, memory cards, batteries, adapters, cables, and other accessories. They offer convenient and self-service options for buying electronics in airports, malls, train stations, and high-traffic areas.
Since these machines do not have the same overhead expenses as conventional retail stores, they can offer gadgets and accessories at a discounted price.
Some offer options for branding and customization — this includes displaying specific brands or partnering with manufacturers to offer exclusive products or promotions within the vending machines. In such cases, product selection depends on partnership agreements between electronics manufacturers or vending machine operators.
Furthermore, these machines are designed to ensure the security and safety of products. They come with in-built security features, such as surveillance systems, anti-theft measures, and robust locking mechanisms to prevent theft and damage to the electronics.
6. Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Vending Machines
Price range: $1,000-$3,000 for basic machines with a smaller selection of personal care items
Personal hygiene and toiletry vending machines offer essential personal care and hygiene products for purchase, including contraceptives, feminine wipes, hand sanitizer, mouthwash, razors, shaving creams, tampons and pads, and over-the-counter medications.
They offer a quick and easy way to obtain essential hygiene products when needed, especially when conventional stores aren’t accessible or during emergencies.
While the specific product selection and availability of these machines vary based on the location and vending machine providers, they are often placed in airports, train stations, gyms, hotels, restrooms, shopping malls, and other public areas where people may require immediate access to personal care items.
5. DVD and Video Game Rental Machines
The old Red Box video rental machine
Price range: $1,500-$5,000 for basic machines with limited storage capabilities
As the name suggests, these machines allow you to rent movies and video games for a specific duration. They offer a range of DVDs and video games across genres and categories.
You can browse available titles displayed on the machine’s interface or screen. Select an item and follow the instruction to complete the rental process, which involves inserting payment (credit/debit cards or bills) and selecting the rental duration.
When returning, you use the dedicated slot on the machine. It may charge an additional fee for late return, which is automatically deducted from the payment method used during the initial rental transaction.
However, these vending machines are not prevalent anymore due to the rise of digital streaming, the decline in physical media, and increased competition from online rental platforms. A few rental vending machines may still exist in certain locations, but they are not as widespread as they were in the early 2000s.
4. Ice Cream Vending Machines
Price range: $2,000-$5,000 for basic machines with a limited selection of ice cream flavors
These are automated machines designed to dispense frozen treats, such as ice creams, gelato, yogurt, and other frozen desserts. Modern machines include many flavors, types (like ice cream bars or scoops), and dietary options (like low-sugar or dairy-free alternatives).
They have built-in freezing and storage systems to maintain frozen desserts at optimal temperatures. Some are equipped with additional features such as touchscreens and built-in self-cleaning mechanisms.
The interface is simple and easy to understand, so customers can conveniently purchase and customize what they need without needing a staffed ice cream parlor or shop.
Ice cream vending machines are primarily installed in amusement parks, shopping centers, schools, office buildings, tourist attractions, airports, and outdoor events.
3. Fresh Food Vending Machines
Price range: $3,000-$5,000 for mid-range machines with refrigeration and heating systems
Fresh food vending machines dispense fresh, healthy food items, such as salads, sandwiches, vegetables, fruits, yogurt, and ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat meals. They are becoming increasingly popular as people prefer healthier options these days when they are on the go.
While some store foods in a refrigerated compartment, some are designed to dispense hot food items like soup and chili. This feature provides added convenience and enhances customers’ experience.
The items are typically restocked and maintained by vending machine operators or companies. They regularly stock these machines with fresh, high-quality food items. They are also responsible for maintaining/repairing machines and ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations.
2. Coffee Vending Machines
A Nespresso coffee vending machine
Price range: $1,000-$5,000 for machines with basic beverage options
Coffee vending machines dispense coffee drinks, such as cappuccino, mocha, latte, and espresso. They are a popular source of revenue for businesses that place them in their facilities.
Modern machines come with a user interface, like a digital display or buttons, that allows customers to choose the type of coffee they want. It may also give options to adjust the strength of the coffee and add milk or sugar.
Once the selection is made and the payment is processed, the machine starts the brewing process. It has internal components for heating water, grinding coffee beans, brewing coffee, and frothing milk. It then dispenses the prepared coffee into a cup.
Crane, Royal Vendors, and N & W Vending are some of the most popular brands of coffee vending machines.
Did you know?
The first commercially successful coffee vending machine, named Kwik Kafe, was developed by the Rudd-Melikian company in 1946. It was a fully automated self-service machine designed to dispense hot coffee.
1. Snacks and Beverages Vending Machines
Price range: $1,000-$3,000 for basic small-capacity machines
Snacks and Beverages are the most common types of vending machines. They offer a broad range of options, including cookies, chips, pastries, candy bars, water bottles, carbonated soft drinks, and energy drinks.
They often feature popular brands and have different compartments for storing bottles, chips, and other products. Some machines store chips and snacks only, while some provide juices and sports drinks.
They are accessible 24/7, allowing people to grab a snack and satisfy their cravings when traditional food service options aren’t available or convenient.
In short, they provide a quick and accessible solution for on-the-go snacking and hydration.
Individual operators or companies monitor inventory levels to timely stock these vending machines. They also handle maintenance and repairs, ensuring these machines function properly around the clock.
Did you know?
The first beverage vending machine in the US was invented by the Thomas Adams Gum Company in 1888. It dispensed Tutti Frutti flavored gum on New York City train platforms.
A) Burger vending machine
Burger vending machines can dispense a range of burgers, from cheeseburgers and hamburgers to specialty burgers.
They have mechanisms and compartments to store pre-cooked and partially-cooked burger patties. Some machines are equipped with a heating element or microwave-like functionality to cook or heat the burger before dispensing it to the customers.
Since these machines require a complex cooking and assembly system, they are relatively expensive to purchase and operate. A good example would be RoboBurger’s machine that can cook and vend a fresh hamburger.
B) Pizza vending machine
Pizza vending machines can dispense freshly made pizzas in minutes. They offer different pizza flavors and varieties, including classic options like margherita, cheese, or pepperoni, as well as specialty flavors like vegetarian, Hawaiian, or barbecue chicken.
The pizza options may vary depending on the specific machine and the agreement between the pizza provider and the vending machine operator.
The options are usually limited as machines are designed to quickly handle a small number of pizzas. Also, these machines are ineffective in replacing the same cooking methods and ingredients used in restaurants.
C) French fry vending machine
These machines dispense freshly made French fries within minutes. They are equipped with a deep fryer or heating mechanism to cook the frozen French fries (which is stored within the machine).
Some machines offer various seasonings and sauces to accompany the fries. This includes salt, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, cheese sauce, and ketchup. They may have separate compartments or dispensers for these sauces.
These machines are usually installed at malls, airports, train stations, offices, and entertainment venues where people may crave a quick snack.
D) Automobile vending machine
These machines provide a unique way for customers to purchase a vehicle without interacting with traditional car dealers or salespeople. They are primarily designed to showcase the available vehicles in an interactive and visible manner.
They have a multi-story structure with transparent walls and rotating platforms to display car models. Although they are not common as conventional car dealerships or online car purchasing platforms, they have gained attention in certain regions.
For example, Carvana opened the first car vending machine in Atlanta in 2013. It allowed people to browse, select, and purchase a used vehicle. In 2016, Autobahn Motors opened a 15-story-tall luxury car vending machine in Singapore, dispensing Lamborghini and Ferrari models.
More to Know
What are some innovative features and technologies found in modern vending machines?
Modern vending machines often incorporate new technologies and advanced features to improve operational efficiency and user experience. This includes
- Touchscreen interface to easily navigate product options
- Large displays to showcase product information, nutritional details, or promotions
- Cashless or contactless payment systems
- Intelligent inventory management to monitor inventory levels in real-time
- Data analytics to generate valuable insights into customer preferences and sales patterns
- Energy-efficient and eco-friendly designs
What type of vending machines makes the most money?
While the profitability of vending machines varies depending on several factors like location, consumer demand, and operating costs, certain types of vending machines have been known to produce higher revenues. For example,
- Snack and Beverage vending machines generate a profit margin of nearly 40%.
- Fresh Food machines cater to customers seeking healthier and on-the-go meal alternatives. They have a profit margin of about 20%.
To maximize your profits, choose high-traffic areas, sell high-margin items, and keep your machines clean and well-maintained. You should also offer discounts and promotions to attract new customers and encourage repeat business.
What do you need to do to set up a vending machine?
Once you have done proper research, you need to consult with local authorities and legal professionals to ensure compliance with applicable regulations. Different states have different regulations for setting up and operating specific types of vending machines.
For example, most states require obtaining a general business license to operate a vending machine. Additional permits and certification may be required depending on the type of products you plan to sell.
You must also comply with the accessibility standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and adhere to consumer protection laws regarding product labeling, pricing transparency, and customer rights.
How many vending machines are there in the world?
There are over 15 million vending machines across the world, of which nearly 30% are connected to the Internet or a local network. This connectivity allows the machine to communicate and exchange data with external systems, such as the operator’s central management system, payment processing services, or inventory management system.
Market size of Retail vending machines
The global retail vending machine market size is expected to exceed $129.4 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 10.7% from 2023 to 2030.
The growth can be attributed to the ability of these machines to deliver a wide range of products quickly without the need for human interaction or traditional retail settings.