Anyone who is interested in setting up a soda machine is wise to first test the waters by investing in a used soda machine.. Even though there is little overhead involved in owning and managing a soda machine, the startup (which includes the equipment itself) can be costly. Purchasing a brand-new drink machine and setting it in a location where there is little demand for cold soft drinks can be a frustrating and expensive mistake. A used machine allows an enterprising person to sell sodas and assess the market without laying out quite so much cash initially.
Anyone who is interested in buying a used soda machine should first set a budget and decide between selling cans or bottles of soda. The buyer should then know exactly which functions to check before confirming that the machine is in fact in optimum working condition. Following these guidelines increases the chances of making a wise purchase and setting up a successful beverage vending business.
Set a Budget
Purchasing and setting up a vending machine is actually the same as starting a small business. As with any business, the owner should establish an initial budget and an ongoing budget in order to minimize expenses and maximize income. Because of the initial investment of funds in the cost of the machine and the first supply of beverages, it may be a while before the owner begins to turn a profit. Profitability depends on the location of the machine and the amount of traffic going to the machine, as well as the demand for the specific drinks sold. Setting a budget increases the potential to recover the initial startup costs more quickly.
Cans Vs. Bottles
When buying a used soda machine, the buyer needs to decide between selling cans and bottles. Each container has its advantages and disadvantages, both to the vendor and the customer.
Cans hold less beverage (about 12 oz.) and are therefore less expensive for both parties. Aluminum cans also chill well and are recyclable. However, some consumers do not like cans because they cannot close the top once the drink has been opened.
Bottles of soda are larger (about 16 or 20 oz.) and have the potential to generate more revenue. Many people prefer bottled sodas because they can be recapped and drunk later. On the other hand, plastic bottles are heavier, simply because they contain more liquid.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Used Soda Machine
There are several functional tests that should be performed before determining the condition of a used soda machine. Buyers who are shopping online or looking to make a purchase from a distance should get some sort of guarantee of the machine's function, whether it be a return policy or a physical check.
Check Electrical Connections
Frayed and damaged electrical cords are, first and foremost, a serious safety hazard. Cords that are in bad condition can cause electrocutions and fires for which the owner of the machine may be liable. A buyer should be sure that cords are in good condition before purchasing a used soda machine. Many soda machines require heavy-duty outlets, so the buyer should check the prospective location to be sure that the machine in question works at that spot.
Check the Refrigeration Mechanism
Even if the electrical connections function properly, a used soda machine is useless if it cannot chill the drinks that it holds. There is nothing refreshing about an unrefrigerated soft drink. Warm sodas can be purchased off the shelf of a convenience store for less than the cost of an individual can or bottle, so a customer who receives a warm drink is likely to go elsewhere next time, and the machine can lose business.
On the other hand, if a machine is set too cold (especially in the winter), the drinks are likely to freeze. This presents a problem not only for the customer but also for the machine owner, since frozen drinks not only jam the machine but also have the potential to burst. Once a sticky soda has exploded inside a vending machine, it can be a real mess to clean up. The buyer should also keep in mind that diet drinks freeze more quickly than sugared drinks.
Sometimes, temperature issues are a matter of a faulty thermostat; in other cases, the refrigeration system itself needs maintenance or repair.
Check the Beverage Dispensing System
There are many people who have witnessed somebody trying to shake a soda machine or reach their hand up the dispensing chute to pull out a soda that did not fully drop down. The buyer should test this function before buying, and, if it does not work correctly, ask the seller to have it repaired first or negotiate a lower purchase price (provided that the problem is indeed fixable).
Check the Money Changer
Another soda machine frustration that just about everyone has experienced is inserting money into a soda machine only to have it rejected or, worse, accepted without receiving a drink in exchange. Because the machine owner is not always available on site, a customer who deserves a refund must sometimes make a phone call and wait or set up a time to meet somebody at another location to get their money back. A buyer should make sure that the money handling system in a used soda machine works smoothly. The mechanism can be tested daily each time the machine is refilled with drinks. If the machine accepts paper currency, be sure that the mechanism (called a validator) is not overly sensitive to wrinkled bills. Confirm that the machine makes the right amount of change. The coin return button should work correctly as well.
Know How to Adjust Settings
Aside from true mechanical function, the owner of a vending machine (or at least the person who does the regular servicing) should know how to change the prices. More than just a matter of switching out signage, a price change involves resetting the internal money changer. Most analog machines feature a set of switches, often on a base-eight system, for indicating prices. Electronic machines require some simple programming. If the previous owner is well-organized, he or she should be able to supply a manual for owners and operators. If a manual is not available, ask for written instructions of some sort if necessary. If possible, the seller may be able to demonstrate how to change the settings in person or videotape a brief instructional video if there is an issue of distance.
Where to Find Used Soda Machines
Used soda machines are not the type of item that you can find at a general retailer, but you have many options for buying them. Some possible sources are
- Business liquidation sales
- Soda and beverage companies or dealers
- Live auctions
- Classified advertisements
You might also check online at classified ad sites and Internet auction sites.
How to Buy a Used Soda Machine on eBay
There are many used soda machines listed for sale every day on eBay. Soda machines are easy to find by performing either a directory or keyword search. Each method has its benefits, depending on the intentions of the buyer.
To do the directory search, you can start at the homepage and navigate to all categories. From here, continue to move through sequentially narrower categories until you arrive at the general soda machines category. Then you can use the category filters for item condition to specify used or refurbished machines.
The keyword search is particularly helpful for quickly navigating to a very specific set of items. If you know particulars about the type of machine you are looking for, you can enter these variables into the Search field on the homepage. For example, "vintage Coke machine" would return a very specific set of items, possibly listed in different categories depending on the seller's logic and what group of buyers he or she is targeting.
For a person who has access to a good location, setting up a soda machine can be an easy way to make money with a small investment of time. However, an investment of money is required, particularly in the beginning when setting up business. The primary expense is the purchase of the soda machine itself. Because the demand for cold sodas in a certain area may be an unknown in the beginning, buying a used soda machine is a great way to test out the market.
Buying used items is not without some risk, so buyers should be cautious. Any machine that has moving parts can break or wear out, even as a result of regular and correct use. The main things to check on a used soda machine are the electrical system, the refrigeration system, the dispensing system, and the money exchange system. A buyer should also set a budget before spending money on a machine and should decide between offering canned or bottled sodas. By creating a checklist for these things and taking care of all variables, the potential vendor should be able to purchase a well-functioning machine, recoup the initial investment, and begin making a profit shortly thereafter.