Years ago, before the Internet really took off, I used to think that owning vending machines was the ultimate no-hassle business. If I could just chalk up the cash to buy the machines, all I had to do was find places to put them, then collect buckets of cash every week.
I never quite took the plunge and invested my own money in a vending business, and I'm glad I didn't, because I found other ways to make money that seem easier to me.
There are indeed many successful vending businesses out there. But I believe there is one gigantic hurdle. That hurdle is to find good locations to place the machines. The vending business has been around for such a long time that every good location has already pretty much been spotted by somebody else. The way I see it, you would need to concentrate on new locations, like new malls, new grocery stores, new fitness centers, etc, and it is likely the competition will be fierce.
I do think vending is a legitimate business, but it is probably way more difficult to succeed than most people think. If you want to run your own vending business, the easiest way would be to buy an existing vending route. Bizbuysell.com is a terrific site that lists businesses for sale in every state. You will see that there is a category for vending machines. As I write this, I see that for California, there are many vending routes for sale. A lot of them make $60 - $70,000 per year, and these successful routes usually sell for around $150,000. If you want to bypass the years of work that it may take to establish your own profitable vending route, buying an existing route may be a good alternative (assuming you have the money to invest).
In summary, I think the vending business does have potential, but in my opinion, there are easier businesses that you can start for less money.