Where to Buy Ice? A Guide to Purchasing Ice

Whether you’re stocking up for a big party or just need some cold drinks on a hot day, ice is a summertime staple. But where can you easily and affordably get ice? This guide covers convenient options for purchasing bagged ice and reliable spots to find ice vending machines.

Ice Vending Machines

Ice vending machines provide a quick, 24/7 way to purchase ice directly using cash or credit cards. These ice dispensers are large standalone units that produce and store ice onsite, then vend it on demand.

How Do Ice Vending Machines Work?

Ice vending machines use integrated ice makers to continuously produce and store ice. Customers simply select their desired ice type and quantity using the touchpad. The ice is then bagged and dispensed in the requested amount. Most accept credit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay or cash.

Where Are Ice Vending Machines Located?

Popular locations for ice vending machines include:

  • Gas stations – Offer convenience when filling up
  • Retail centers – Near grocery stores and restaurants
  • Hotels and motels – Provide guest access
  • Public parks – Useful for sports teams, events
  • Marinas and boat launches – Cater to boating/fishing needs

Look for ice vending machines at busy areas with summertime traffic. Installers aim for convenient, high-visibility spots.

Top Ice Vending Machine Manufacturers

Leading ice vending machine companies include:

  • Arctic Refresh – Texas-based company offering affordable ice vending units.
  • Locally Run Companies – Search for smaller regional businesses supplying machines.

Look for reputable manufacturers that produce commercial-grade, reliable ice vending units.

Cost to Buy Ice from Vending Machines

Ice vending machines sell bagged ice for around $2-$4 for 10 lbs. Some accept dollar bills, while others require $5+ minimum cards purchases.

Pros of Ice Vending Machines

  • 24/7 availability – Purchase ice anytime
  • Convenience – Easy curbside access without entering a store
  • Consistency – Count on ice being stocked and ready
  • Speed – Get ice in under a minute with quick touchpad purchase
  • Value – Can be cheaper than bagged ice from retailers
  • Purity – Ice is freshly produced onsite for each purchase

For quickly grabbing ice anytime without detouring your route, on-demand vending units excel.

Bagged Ice at Grocery Stores

Grocery stores sell a variety of bagged ice options at affordable prices. Take advantage of grocery ice for events and top-ups between vending purchases.

Where to Buy Bagged Ice at Grocery Stores

Common spots to find bagged ice within grocery stores include:

  • Near the Entrance – First things customers see when entering stores. High-traffic area.
  • Water/Beverage Aisles – Alongside bottled beverages for seasonal displays.
  • Freezer Sections – Among frozen foods for easy in-and-out access.
  • Near Registers – Impulse purchase displays before checkout.
  • Adjacent to Ice Cream – Cross-merchandising ice alongside ice cream freezers.

Seek out the bagged ice freezers in these high-visibility areas when grocery shopping.

Types of Ice Sold at Grocery Stores

Grocery stores stock a range of bagged ice types:

  • Regular Cube Ice – Versatile for most uses like coolers and drinks. Melts slowly.
  • Crushed/Shaved Ice – Ideal for chilling food platters without diluting taste.
  • Party Ice – Decorative, color-changing ice cubes for ambient effect.
  • Dry Ice – For effects and keeping items extra cold. Requires handling precautions.
  • Flavored Ice – Fun for snow cones and popsicles. Usually brightly colored.
  • Natural Ice – From frozen lakes and rivers. Sold in specialty grocery stores.

Buy the format fitting your particular ice needs, whether cubes for chilling or crushed ice to keep shrimp cocktail cold.

Cost of Bagged Ice at Grocery Stores

A 10 lb. bag of regular cubed or crushed grocery store ice usually costs between $1.99 and $3.99 depending on promotions. Specialty ice averages $1-$2 more per bag. Price match and look for deals.

Buying multiple bags brings down per-unit pricing. Stock up on a cooler-full for large gatherings and events where ice needs will be high.

Pros of Buying Ice at Grocery Stores

  • Wide selection of ice styles and packaging
  • Can buy as few or as many bags as needed
  • Get ice while completing routine shopping
  • Earn grocery rewards and coupons on ice bags
  • Can inspect ice quality and avoid breakage
  • Sensible option for small/medium ice needs

For flexibility plus everyday convenience, grocery store ice hits the sweet spot for many shoppers.

Bagged Ice at Convenience Stores

Convenience stores offer another quick, affordable ice buying option to fill routine chilling needs.

Where to Find Bagged Ice at Convenience Stores

At convenience stores, bagged ice is commonly situated:

  • In Ice Chests Outside – Quick grab-and-go access without entering.
  • Near the Front Door – High-visibility impulse purchase spot.
  • Alongside Coolers – Placed near chilled beverages for cross-shopping.
  • By Registers – Last-minute ice can be added to purchases.
  • Adjacent to Snacks – Positioned near picnic and party supplies.

Seek ice chests and freezers near high-traffic areas for convenient in-and-out purchasing.

Types of Ice Sold at Convenience Stores

Popular ice types sold at convenience stores include:

  • Smaller bags of cubed and crushed ice – For individual use rather than big events.
  • Single-use pound or half-pound bags – Grabbable for cooler top-offs.
  • Flavored ice – For snow cones and slushies sold onsite. Pairs well with snacks.
  • Dry ice – Offered seasonally for fog effects and deep freezing. Use carefully.

Convenience store ice selections cater to individual shoppers rather than party planners.

Cost of Ice at Convenience Stores

You’ll typically pay $2.99-$5.99 for a 7-10 lb. bag of ice at convenience stores. Value sizes and multipacks with extra savings are less common. Prices tend to be slightly higher than grocery stores.

Pros of Buying Ice at Convenience Stores

  • Extended hours beyond groceries
  • Quick in-and-out purchase process
  • Found nearly everywhere, even when traveling
  • Satisfies immediate, small-scale ice needs
  • Tap into loyalty programs for potential ice discounts
  • Gain points on purchases for future redemption

When you need just a bag or two urgently, convenience store ice delivers.

Bagged Ice at Warehouse Clubs

For large-scale ice needs, warehouse clubs offer bulk value pricing on bagged ice.

Where to Find Bagged Ice at Warehouse Clubs

Club stores usually stock bagged ice:

  • In large freezer cases near the entrance – Highly visible with ample stock.
  • Alongside bottled and canned beverages – Cross-merchandised as drink complements.
  • Near picnic supplies – Positioned alongside seasonal barbecue and tailgating items.
  • By holiday goods – Featured as summer season essentials.
  • Scattered in multiple areas – Ice merchandised heavily throughout warehouses.

Seek pallet displays and oversized freezer cases filled with value-sized ice options.

Bulk Ice Options at Warehouse Clubs

Club stores sell ice in jumbo formats perfect for big events, businesses, and organizations:

  • 20-30 lb. extra large bags
  • 50+ lb. oversized party bags
  • Multipacks with 10-30 lb. bags
  • “Ice by the pallet” for massive purchases

For summer camp outs, huge family reunions, or community events, bulk club ice delivers.

Pros of Warehouse Club Ice

  • Huge bulk and value sizes
  • Discounted pricing for buying more
  • Constantly stocked for seasonal demand
  • Place pallets on flatbeds to easily move ice
  • Split costs by sharing purchases with others
  • Keep ice stockpiled for impromptu events

When hosting crowds or planning repeat usage, warehouse club ice grants savings in scale.

Bagged Ice at Fast Food Restaurants

In a pinch, bags of ice can be purchased affordably at quick service restaurant drive-thrus.

Where to Buy Ice at Fast Food Chains

Popular fast food ice options include:

  • Sonic Drive-In – Sells 2 lb. and 5 lb. bags of cube and crushed ice.
  • McDonalds – Offers 2 lb. bags of cube ice at select locations.
  • Chick-fil-A – Provides complimentary cup ice and sells 8 lb. cube bags.
  • Checkers/Rally’s – Sells 7-10 lb. bags of ice at many outlets.
  • Hardee’s – Available seasonally; call locations to check ice stock.
  • Regional Chains – Many other chains like Stewart’s and Krystal sell ice seasonally.

Don’t overlook the drive-thru when you need ice in a hurry and stores are closed.

FAQs About Purchasing Ice

How should I store and handle ice?

Use insulated coolers, keep ice dry and bagged, limit direct sunlight exposure, and wash hands before handling to avoid contamination. Don’t eat ice intended for chilling foods.

How much ice do I need for a party?

Plan for around 8-12 lbs of ice per 10-15 guests. Allow more for warm weather, beverages in coolers, and parties over several hours. Having extra ice avoids running out.

Can you return uneaten ice?

Most retailers don’t accept open or used bagged ice returns due to health considerations. An exception is dry ice, which can be returned if unused.

Does ice expire or go bad?

Ice doesn’t have an expiration date, but can absorb odors and flavors over time. Old ice with off-colors or bad smells should be discarded. Eat or use ice promptly for best quality.

Should I buy cubed or crushed ice?

Buy cubed for general chilling needs. Get crushed or shaved ice for keeping foods cold without dilution. Flavored specialty ice works well in warm drinks like lemonade.


Whether hosting a big backyard bash or just trying to beat the heat, ample ice is a warm weather must-have. Keep coolers stocked affordably all summer by sourcing ice from grocery and convenience stores, fast food drive-thrus, or warehouse club bulk discounts. For anytime access, locate a nearby ice vending machine dispensing round the clock. With so many purchase points, there’s no reason to be left high and dry without ice when the temperature rises. Stay chill while keeping food and beverages frosty.