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How Do I Choose the Best Home Answering Machine?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the best home answering machine. One thing to consider is whether to buy an answering machine that is a stand-alone device or one that is built into a telephone. Another is whether to purchase one that digitally records messages or one that records them on analog tapes. Additionally, there are many supplementary features that can be found on some types of answering machines, such as a backup power supply or additional storage capacity.

Deciding whether to buy a digital or analog home answering machine is often the first step in selecting an answering machine. Most answering machines made today record messages and store the information digitally on small hard drives located inside the machines. Digital recordings are often superior to analog ones in terms of quality, and the messages recorded through this medium are usually clearer and have less background noise than those recorded on analog tapes. Space is limited on a digital answering machine, however, and messages need to be periodically erased to make room for new ones. A person who wishes to save messages indefinitely may consider an analog machine despite the drop in sound quality because analog tapes can be removed from the machine, stored and then replaced with blank ones as needed.

A digital answering machine allows callers to record messages for people when they are not answering the phone.
A digital answering machine allows callers to record messages for people when they are not answering the phone.

Another factor to consider when determining which home answering machine is the best is whether the answering machine is built into the phone or is a separate device. Purchasing a device that combines a phone with an answering machine can often save both space and money. The answering machine is usually located on the phone's charging dock, making it convenient to listen to messages and make calls at the same time. A stand-alone answering machine is a good choice for a person who already owns a phone.

Some answering machines utilize cassette tapes.
Some answering machines utilize cassette tapes.

In order to find the best home answering machine, the usefulness of each of the machine's optional features should be considered. One common feature on an answering machine is a backup power supply that takes over if the power goes out so that the machine can still be used and so that the messages are not lost. Another is a large hard drive, which makes it possible to save more messages on a digital home answering machine without running out of space. Some answering machines also allow people to call in from a remote location and listen to the messages, a feature that is useful for people who travel frequently.

Discussion Comments


Since we still have a land line phone we also have a home answering machine. We live outside of town a ways and don't always get the best cell phone reception, so still rely on our land line.

I remember using the answering machine that used the tapes, but have a digital one now for several years.

When I was looking at a new phone the other day, all of them were digital, and I am surprised at how cheap they were. Almost of all of the phones had answering machines built in to them.

The most important I look for is the ability to be able to check my messages when I am out of town. This has been helpful many times, and I wouldn't want to be without this feature.


@indemnifyme - I see what you're saying about digital answering machines. These days, everyone seems to think digital technology is the best.

However, I have to admit I have a soft spot for my old analog answering machine. I've had it for years and it still works fine. Also, I've never had a problem getting replacement tapes for it.

If they stop making replacement tapes for my answering machine in the future, I'll just purchase a new one. They're not that expensive, so it's really not that big of a deal.


I feel like a digital answering machine would probably be a smarter choice. I know you can't save as many messages on it, but who cares? I can't think of any reason that I'd need to save my voice messages for longer than a few days, if at all!

I think cassette tapes are pretty much disappearing. I wouldn't personally invest in a machine that uses them. Even though answering machines aren't that expensive, I still think it's a bad idea. I feel like in a few years, you might not be able to buy a replacement cassette tape if you need to.


@MrSmirnov - If you have a home business I would suggest getting two lines into your home, and answering machines on both of them. Also, unless you are really busy or never check your messages your box shouldn't fill up that quickly.

We have had a packaged answering service with our home phone for years and we have never had a problem with it. Now, if you don't clean your messages out though, stuff may get deleted. That really depends on your phone company's policy though.

Our answering service deletes things more than 90 days old, or when the box gets full, whichever comes first. If you are really worried about messages, an at home answering machine is probably best.


Do you think it is a good idea to pay for a answering machine as part of a bundle from your phone company?

We are currently shopping around for a good home telephone service that includes call display, conference calling, and an answering service. Some of our friends have told us though, that because we have a small home business that an actual answering machine might be better.

Apparently our friends have had messages deleted from their accounts with the phone company, and while they weren't important it was still frustrating for them. They said their box also filled up fast too, which was an issue.


We ended up buying a cheap digital answering machine to attach to our home phone. It does a great job of recording messages, and I like that it allows us to call screen.

We were originally going to go with a pay answering service through our phone company, but we decided it just wasn't worth the extra money every month. The amount we would have paid in just three months for the extra service paid off our cheap answering machine.

I think the only reason you would really need a phone company provided answering machine is if you needed to check your messages while you're out. Which is something we can't do.

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    • A digital answering machine allows callers to record messages for people when they are not answering the phone.
      By: Carsten Reisinger
      A digital answering machine allows callers to record messages for people when they are not answering the phone.
    • Some answering machines utilize cassette tapes.
      By: Oleksiy Mark
      Some answering machines utilize cassette tapes.