One of the biggest keys to success with a vending machine business is getting good products at a low price.
See this page within our Business Hub for statistics on which items sell best within each product category.
The focus of this article is where you can purchase products at as low of a price as possible. In general, you'll save money on a price-per-unit basis when you buy in bigger bulk. But keep expiration dates in mind so you don't buy more than you can sell before the product expires. Otherwise, you'll either have to lower the price for those products to get rid of them or risk having to throw them away.
Local Brick & Mortar Stores
If you're selling heavy product like soda pop and other beverages, you'll usually want to buy locally due to high shipping costs.
Membership clubs like Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's are usually your best bet for buying products locally (unless you own several vending machines and are buying in serious bulk).
Keep in mind that prices can vary quite a bit among various membership clubs, even ignoring the possibility of one or more of the clubs running a sale. We recently checked the prices of a 35-pack case of 12-ounce Coca-Cola at all thee of these membership clubs in our area. None of the clubs seemed to be running a sale on this product, and we still found that the price ranged from $10.99 (which is $0.31 per 12-ounce can) to $13.21 (which is $0.38 per can). That's a 23% price difference, which is pretty significant. The moral of the story is this: if you live in an area that has multiple membership clubs, it's worth taking the time to price out each product.
Vending machine supply companies and food distributors can also be a great local sourcing option, but smaller cities oftentimes don't have any nearby. If you live in a big city or metropolitan area, you should definitely look into this option.
Grocery outlet stores can also be a good option for buying locally, but pay close attention to expiration dates since grocery outlet stores oftentimes sell products that are nearing (or even past) their expiration date.
You'll usually be better off buying lightweight products (i.e. snacks, candy and non-edible products) through an online wholesaler or distributor.
Amazon Business has become a very good source for vending machine owners in over the past few years.
Vistar is a huge wholesale distributor that specializes in vending machine products, including cold beverages, snacks, candy, healthy food, ice cream, frozen foods, coffee and more.
If you search Google, there are dozens of other online wholesale suppliers and distributors that sell vending machine products in bulk.