Some truckers keep their cold food on ice. For them, ice vending machines represent a less expensive way to obtain ice than by some other means on the road.
Other drivers also use this method of food preservation (such as the driver whose truck is shown here with an ice chest on the passenger seat).
We will share with you below options, costs and more.
Truck Stop Ice
You probably know that every truck stop sells ice. Sometimes it can be quite expensive.
Vicki keeps up with all of our expenses in a spreadsheet.
In November 2009 (which is a cooler month in the northern hemisphere), we needed enough ice for one ice chest and our two water jugs.
You wouldn’t think that we would need a lot of ice at the that time of year, but our ice expenses were over $60.
(Yes, we know, that’s a lot! But all of it was also purchased at truck stops.)
That’s when Vicki started looking for options.
But first, let us provide a little background…
Ice Purchases at Pilot
As of the time this page was written, at all of the Pilot Travel Center locations where we have purchased bagged ice, we have paid $1.99 for 10 pounds.
Other truck stops or convenience stores may charge more, especially if they are independent operations far from another location.
Some truck stops may sell ice in 7 pound or 8 pound bags.
There have been times when Mike walked out of a convenience store with up to 4 of the smaller bags in hand!
Ice Purchases at Grocery Stores
You can also find bagged ice at all grocery stores.
Sometimes the prices charged are even more expensive than what the truck stops are charging.
Sometimes, you will find a discount on larger bags of ice.
The photos below show just such a situation…
A 10-pound bag of pre-packaged Reddyice™ for sale at a grocery store for $1.99.
A 20-pound bag of pre-packaged ReddyiceTM for sale at the same grocery store for $3.59.
At the 10-pound rate, you would expect to pay $3.98 for 20 pounds.
That’s a difference, according to our favorite percentage increase/decrease calculator, of -9.8%. We have never seen a discount like this at a truck stop!
Accessibility and Parking
The biggest problem for professional drivers in getting any product is accessibility and parking.
So while many four-wheelers can whip into just about any store at any time, professional drivers are limited by the size of their rigs.
We suppose that’s why some truck stop chains feel justified in charging higher rates for things, because they know that have us over a barrel regarding parking. Anyway…
A Local Ice Vending Machine
Once when we came into our home area, we noticed an ice vending machine building on the edge of the property of a convenience store not far from the truck stop where Mike generally parked the rig he drove for his regional trucking company.
It was an “Ice House America.”
At the time, the cost for either 16 pounds bagged or 20 pounds bulk ice at this location was $1.25.
The price has since gone up to $1.50 for the same quantities of ice.
We did a little research and found that these kinds of ice vending machines are popping up all over America.
Although we are hopeful that more truck stops will eventually have them, the only truck stop we knew of that had one (as of September 2010) is the TA (TravelCenters of America) in Jacksonville, FL.
Bagged Ice vs. Bulk Ice vs. Block Ice
When we visited the TA there on September 14, 2010, we were prepared to buy bagged ice but the digital readout said that the only kind that was available was bulk.
Note: What these ice vending machines means by “bulk” is not the same thing as “block” ice.
It is simply a quantity of “chunked” ice that you can deliver directly into a cooler from under the spout or chute.
(It is possible that this location had run out of bags, and therefore the only option left was bulk ice.)
It was not convenient for Mike to roll a cooler to the location from where he had parked his truck at this location.
So, he went back to the truck to get two bags in which we had previously bought 20 pounds of ice. (Yes, it pays to keep some bags on hand.)
He dispensed the “bulk ice” into the bags and was very pleased!
How to Dispense Ice from Ice Vending Machines
Working these ice vending machines is very simple.
On this machine, instructions were written in both English and Spanish.
Here is a transcription of the instructions in English:
1. Read digital screen
2. Insert dollar bills or correct change (Insert coins first)
3. Push white button for bag or push blue button for bulk
Note: The instruction about reading the digital screen first helps prevent frustration, something we appreciate.
Ice Delivery from Vending Machines
The delivery of the ice from these vending machines depends on the kind you want to buy.
As the pictures here show, bulk ice is delivered through a chute with a covering at the bottom that is opened by swinging the pull handle.
This method of delivery is perfect for delivering ice directly into an ice chest.
It is awkward getting ice delivered this way into a bag unless the mouth of the bag is big enough to catch it all.
You will want to make sure when buying bulk ice to pull the handle all the way open so as to get all the ice you paid for.
Bagged ice is delivered in a bag down a chute too.
Wire ties are available to close the bags upon delivery.
Compare the cost of 16 pounds bagged or 20 pounds bulk for $1.50 with 10 pounds of bagged ice at a truck stop. This calls for a bit of calculation…
|Vendor||Cost||Quantity||Price per pound|
|Ice House America||$1.50||/||16 pounds ice (bagged)||=||$0.09375/pound|
|Ice House America||$1.50||/||20 pounds ice (bulk)||=||$0.075/pound|
|Truck Stop||$1.99||/||10 pounds ice (bagged)||=||$0.199/pound|
The price difference may sound trivial to you, but depending on how much ice you buy, it can really add up! Let’s get the difference in cost per pound of the truck stop bagged ice to the ice vending machine bagged ice: $0.199 – $0.09375 = $.10525.
|Pounds of ice per week||Cost difference per pound
(bagged vs. bagged)
|Weekly Cost||Yearly Cost|
The cost differential is even greater when comparing bulk ice from ice vending machines to the truck stop bagged ice: $0.199 – $0.075 = $0.124.
|Pounds of ice per week||Cost difference per pound
(bulk vs. bagged)
|Weekly Cost||Yearly Cost|
What could you do with money like this?
In case you’re wondering, there are other methods of keeping food cold that we describe on our meal preparation page.
But they haven’t worked for us, which is why keeping food on ice in any commercial motor vehicle we drive is our preferred method of food preservation.
Money saving tip: The only other way we know of to get ice cheaper than from ice vending machines is to make your own, which is a subject for another page.
Based on our experience with ice vending machines, we have found that in general the ice they deliver is a less expensive alternative to buying bagged ice from a truck stop.
Please be aware, however, that not all locations are truck-friendly.
In fact, some locations may not even be truck accessible.
Some may be accessible only by parking in the parking lot of a shopping center, strip mall or other commercial outlet.
You will want to make sure that there are no truck restrictions on any parking lot where you would want to park to buy ice (even if it is for a few minutes).
Don’t risk getting a ticket.
Not all stand-alone ice vending machines go by the Ice House America name.
We do not recommend getting “free” ice from hotel or motel ice machines unless you have first paid for a room.
Make sure, as the instruction at the bottom of the chute for bulk ice states, that you give attention — for your safety — to using a clean container for your ice.
If necessary, wash your ice chest thoroughly with soap and running water before getting ice from any source, especially an ice vending machine.