Article contributed by John Mahlmeister, COO, Easy Ice
Most business owners don’t realize it, but the choice of how to source your ice equipment makes a huge impact on your time, money, and stress level the entire time it’s in use. To make the best decision, it’s helpful to compare ice machine sourcing methods by three key factors:
- Equipment options
Let’s dive into the four ways to get a commercial ice machine, and how each one ranks when it comes to our key factors.
The downside to buying and owning commercial ice equipment? It’s expensive!
It’s common for a commercial ice machine and bin to cost around $6000-$8000, and this price tag can easily cross the $10,000 mark for specialty ice machines. And that’s only the beginning of your spending. Thanks to maintenance and repairs, up to 80% of commercial ice machine expenses occur after purchase.
Expect to spend $300-$400 per visit on your ice machine’s maintenance, which should be performed at least twice a year. Breakdowns and repairs come up for even the most well-maintained machines, and the average repair cost in 2022 was over $700. Major part replacements, such as the compressor or evaporator, can run as high as over $1,600 and $700 respectively for machine that makes 600 pounds of ice.
Keep in mind, while a perfectly cared for ice machine can last up to 20 years, the industry average is 5-7. If you buy your equipment, expect to replace it that often.
If you own your machine, you’re solely responsible for its upkeep. You have to find a trustworthy ice machine service company in your area and remember to schedule professional maintenance at least twice a year. If you don’t, you’ll risk a dirty, contaminated ice supply and premature breakdowns.
When your ice machine does break down, you’ll have to buy bagged ice while you wait for repairs—eating up time, effort, and funds you’d probably rather spend on profit-generating areas of your business.
Equipment Options: Unlimited
If you want the best chance of getting the exact ice machine you’re looking for, purchasing will give it to you—particularly if you want specialty ice.
The caveat? Some business owners have limited equipment options based on what foodservice equipment dealer they work with. Bigger regional and national FSE dealers usually sell a wide range of popular brands, but smaller dealers often have exclusive partnerships with popular brands like Hoshizaki and Manitowoc. Additionally, smaller dealers often carry fewer models from the brands they do sell.
Traditional Renting & Leasing
If you don’t want toput up withthe massive expense and hassle of ice machine ownership, renting is the alternative. Traditionally, there are two ways to rent your ice equipment—let’s see how they compare.
Option 1: Local Lease/Rental
Rental options are cheaper than ownership, both up front and over time. Unlike buying, renting doesn’t require a large outlay of your working capital in one initial transaction. You probably won’t have to make a deposit, but there’s usually an installation fee. With the average ice machine rental rate falling between $100-$300, you’ll spend far less to get an ice machine through your door if you lease.
Most leasing and rental companies provide maintenance and repairs for your machine. The frequency, type of maintenance, and repair coverage can vary widely—but you’ll typically save money on ice machine care when you lease.
Convenience: Moderate to High
Renting ice equipment is also much more convenient than owning it. Your rental or leasing company usually handles your ice machine’s maintenance without much effort on your part. Find a company that keeps track of your maintenance schedule for you rather than waiting for you to make an appointment.
It’s common for local leasing and rental companies to provide you with backup ice when your ice machine breaks down. Different providers may have different rules for backup ice, but this is another key benefit to leasing.
Equipment Options: Limited
The downside? You may not have as much equipment to choose from. Depending on your location, ice machine rental companies may only carry one or two brands, may not have specialty ice machines, and may have fewer sizes available. Do your research on commercial ice machine brands if you don’t already have one you like and watch out for local leasing companies who only offer less popular brands.
Option 2: Lease to Own
This option is like local leasing, except at the end of your contract, you own the equipment.
Cost: Moderate to High
During your contract, you’ll pay a similar rate to what you would with a standard rental, and your leasing company should also cover maintenance and repairs. Once you pay off the machine, however, you’re in the same boat as business owners who purchase their equipment outright—financially responsible for the ice machine’s care (and backup ice anytime you need it) for as long as you use it.
If you choose to lease-to-own, however, you’ll likely have to pay for the ice machine’s delivery and installation in their entirety, unlike with standard leasing.
Convenience: Moderate to Low
Just like cost, the convenience of the lease-to-own option fluctuates. While you’ll enjoy more convenience for maintenance and repairs during the lease period, that convenience disappears once you officially own the ice machine. When you own it, you’re solely responsible for the machine’s care, so you’ll have to spend time and money finding a reliable service company and scheduling maintenance.
Important! Backup ice is usually not included with local and regional lease-to-own options.
Equipment Options: Limited
Lease-to-own ice machine companies, like traditional rental providers, often can’t give you the equipment options you’ll find when looking to buy.
Like traditional rental options, an ice machine subscription is more affordable than buying and owning, and getting started usually only requires an installation fee. You’ll never have to worry about paying for pricey repairs out-of-pocket, and the minimum amount of ice machine maintenance (twice a year) is also completely covered. Backup ice is free too!
With a subscription, you won’t have to worry about tracking your equipment’s maintenance, finding a reliable service company, or only being able to call for help during bank hours. Your subscription provider will manage the ice machine maintenance for you, and as a national company, their customer service team will answer the phone 7 days a week.
Equipment Options: Unlimited
A national subscription is the only rental method that can compete with buying when it comes to equipment options. Thanks to a wide network of foodservice equipment dealers and manufacturers, a national subscription provider can offer a wider range of ice machine models than most regional and local rental shops.
Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant, business consultant, or other business owners in the industry for advice when deciding which of these options is right for you. Your ice equipment will be a part of your life as long as you’re in business and it’s running. Make sure you’re comfortable with what it costs you!
John Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, and Denver. Since its founding in 2009, Easy Ice has rapidly grown the number of ice machines under management to over 30,000 units across 47 states. The Easy Ice commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, and backup ice. For more information, please visit EasyIce.com. Find them on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.