Best Answering Machines

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

17 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
155 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best answering machines

Last Updated July 2019

If you have a landline — and many people still do — there’s always a chance that you will miss an important call when you’re not at home. If you don’t have voicemail service through your phone provider, it’s definitely worth investing in a quality answering machine. Today’s answering machines use an internal memory chip to digitally record your voice messages rather than the old audiotapes of yesterday. A digital answering machine can timestamp your messages, and you rarely have to worry about running out of message space.

If you’re in the market for an answering machine, there are a few decisions you’ll need to make. Do you want a standalone or built-in model? How much storage space do you need? How much time should you give each caller to make a recording?

Our helpful shopping guide has the information you need to find the ideal answering machine for your landline.

Today’s digital answering machines provide audio quality many cuts above that of old-school, tape-based machines.

Standalone vs. built-in answering machines

Answering machines are available in two types: standalone models and those that are built into a telephone.

If you already have a telephone that you like, a standalone answering machine is your best bet. These machines usually have more storage space than built-in models, as well as more features. What’s more, you can listen to your messages without having the actual phone in hand.

If you’re shopping for a new answering machine and a new phone, however, it may be more convenient to choose a built-in option. You’ll likely save some money by buying the two items together, and you won’t need space for two different appliances in your home. Many phones with built-in answering machines include multiple handsets so you can have a phone for two or more rooms in your home.

High-quality complete phone and answering system

The AT&T Cordless Answering System makes managing your landline a breeze with two cordless handsets and a digital answering machine. The answering machine is easy to set up and use with up to 14 minutes of recording time. What really sets the system apart, though, is its sharp, clear audio quality. We also love the large, easy-to-read display that lets you know how many messages you have at a glance.

Answering machine features

Storage

One of the most important features of an answering machine is how much storage it offers. If you’re going to be away from home for a long while, you want to be sure that the machine has plenty of space for every call that comes in. Most digital answering machines offer 13 to 20 minutes of message storage space.

Message time

In addition to overall storage space, consider how much time an answering machine allows for each message. Shorter message times allow your answering machine to hold a greater number of messages, while longer message times allow callers to leave more detailed messages.

Some answering machines allow you to customize the length permitted for individual messages. This is convenient because you can shorten the time for each message if you know you’ll be gone for a very long time.

Display

Most answering machines have a digital display that allows you to see if you have any messages and how many. Choose a model with a large, illuminated display so you can easily read it, even from a distance.

Message timestamp

Many digital answering machines provide a timestamp for the messages you receive. When a caller leaves a message, the machine takes note of the time and date. During playback, an automated voice tells you exactly when the call occurred.

Amplified volume control

When you’re playing back your messages, you want to be sure you can hear what was said. Some answering machines offer amplified volume control, which allows you to adjust the volume through several different settings. In some cases, you can turn the volume all the way up to 40 decibels.

Playback speeds

If a caller speaks too quickly when leaving a message, it can be difficult to understand what was said. Some answering machines allow you to slow down the playback speed, so you’re able to more easily decipher everything in the message.

Remote access

Of course, you can always listen to your messages directly from your answering machine, but some models allow you to access messages remotely as well. Most involve calling your phone and entering a code or following voice prompts to access the messages.

Battery backup

Answering machines run on electricity, so if there’s a power outage, you won’t be able to record or play back messages. However, some answering machines have a battery backup that allows the machine to work even if your home doesn’t have power.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some answering machines have an SD memory card slot that allows you to expand the machine’s storage space.

DID YOU KNOW?

Many answering machines have standard pre-recorded greetings that you can use if you don’t want to record a personalized message.

DID YOU KNOW?

Most answering machines have an indicator light to alert you when you have messages waiting.

Answering machine prices

Answering machines vary in price based on type, storage space, and other features. Prices range from $17 to $245.

The most budget-friendly models are basic standalone answering machines with few special features. They usually only offer 13 to 15 minutes of storage space and cost between $17 and $28. This is a good option if you only need a machine to record occasional messages on your landline.

Standalone answering machines with some special features can cost a little more, and they usually offer up to 30 minutes of storage space. This might be what you need if you are often away for a day or two at a time. Expect to pay between $28 and $45 for a machine like this.

Built-in answering machines vary in price based on how many phone handsets are included. A single handset with 13 to 15 minutes of storage space may cost between $25 and $60, whereas a product with two handsets may cost $60 to $100. For three or more handsets, you may pay between $100 and $245. These models typically offer 13 to 15 minutes of storage space and a variety of special features, including remote access and message timestamps.

Effective and affordable

It might not have all the bells and whistles that higher-end models do, but this digital answering machine from Northwestern Bell can easily meet all of your call-answering needs. It provides 13 minutes of message recording time and a screening feature that allows you to pick up calls after the machine has answered. We also love its compact design, which can fit nearly anywhere.

Tips

  • Create a clear, concise outgoing message for your answering machine. Tell the caller exactly what information you expect so you can easily return the call. For example, you could say, “Please leave your name, number, and the time you called.”

  • If you live alone, it’s best not to advertise that fact in your outgoing message. If you do, you may leave yourself vulnerable to burglars, stalkers, and other criminals. Instead of saying, “I can’t come to the phone,” say, “No one can come to the phone.”

  • If you’re going to be out of town for a few days, don’t change your outgoing message to include this information, as it could alert callers that your home is empty and make it a target for break-ins.

  • Get in the habit of checking your answering machine daily, even if you don’t receive many messages. That way, you won’t miss any important calls.

Other products we considered

There are many answering machines to choose from, so you can easily find an option that suits your needs. The Panasonic KX-TGD532W Expandable Cordless Phone with Answering Machine is a good choice if you want a built-in machine. It includes two phone handsets and stores up to 17 minutes of messages to accommodate plenty of calls. We also love the VTech CS6729-5 DECT 6.0 Cordless Phone System with Digital Answering Machine because it includes five handsets, stores up to 14 minutes of messages, and allows you to remotely access your messages.

Want to save the information on your machine for a later time? Most answering machines allow you to preserve messages even after you’ve listened to them.

FAQ

Q. How do I connect a standalone answering machine to my phone?

A. The proper procedure for connecting an answering machine to your phone varies from model to model, so you should always read the instructions that come with your machine. In general, the answering machine usually has an AC adapter that must be plugged into an outlet. Next, connect the answering machine to your phone jack with a phone cord, and then use a second phone cord to connect the phone to the answering machine.

Q. Can I screen calls with an answering machine?

A. Most answering machines allow you to screen calls. If the machine answers a call and it’s someone you’d like to talk to, you can usually just pick up the phone to connect to the caller. Some basic models may not offer this feature, though, so read the product description carefully.

Q. Can I record my phone calls with an answering machine?

A. You usually can’t use an answering machine to record entire phone calls. That’s because once you pick up the phone, most models turn off the recording feature and simply connect you to the caller.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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