The Best Answering Machines for Your Landline Phone

Once considered a 1980s novelty, the best answering machines for landline phones are still useful for both home and business needs.

By Glenda Taylor and KJ Callihan | Updated Feb 2, 2021 12:33 PM

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The Best Answering Machine


Answering machines were much more prevalent before the advent of smartphones and voicemail technology, yet they still serve a vital purpose today for recording messages from family, friends, and colleagues. Many homes—and nearly all brick-and-mortar businesses—still have landline phones, and the best way to keep from missing an important message is to have an answering machine on duty.

The best answering machine for a home or business will depend on whether the device is intended for personal or professional use, the number of individuals who will be receiving messages, and whether there’s a need to store multiple messages or access them remotely. A majority of today’s phone-answering systems have one or more corded or cordless phones integrated into the system.

The Best Answering Machine Options


Our Top Picks

To qualify as a top pick, an answering machine should be simple to set up, and messages should be easy to retrieve, store, and delete. A great answering machine will also record and play back messages in a clear, easy-to-understand quality. Each of the following answering machines are well suited to the various needs of individual users, all of whom have in common the need to track messages on a landline phone. Most of these answering machines include one or more corded or cordless handsets.

Best Overall

The Best Answering Machine Options: Motorola CD5012 DECT 6.0 Cordless Phone

Don’t miss another message with this cordless phone from Motorola that features an integrated answering machine built directly into its charging base. Although this pairing includes two standard cordless phones, options include up to four additional handsets. To use the answering machine, users record their own custom message. When a new message is available, the counter flashes the number of new messages; if there are no new messages, the message counter displays the number of old messages. Switch the answering system on and off as desired, and—when turned on—new messages appear on the base as bright LED numbers. Listening to new messages is as simple as pressing the Play button.
This answering machine stores up to 30 minutes of recorded messages for future retrieval.

Best Bang For The Buck

The Best Answering Machine Options: AT&T (1740WH) Digital AnsweSystem with Time and Day

For those looking for the convenience of an answering machine at an affordable price point, this AT&T digital answering system doesn’t disappoint. The system records messages on a microchip that can be accessed even if the power is out. The machine tracks each incoming message’s date and time, and users can access up to 60 minutes of messages either directly from the machine or remotely by calling their home number and entering a predetermined code from a touch-tone phone.
Unlike many answering machines, the system doesn’t include a phone. Instead, it connects between an existing landline phone and a home phone jack. Users can see how many new messages they have at a glance, scroll through messages quickly with a Skip feature, adjust listening volume, and record memos if desired, all without spending a lot of money.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Answering Machine Options: PANASONIC Amplified Cordless Phone with Answering

Fast-talkers have met their match with this digital answering machine from Panasonic, which allows users to slow down a message to hear it more clearly. In addition to reducing the message’s speed, this system provides the ability to reduce background noise and bring the speaker’s voice to the forefront. Two Ni-MH built-in rechargeable batteries power the answering machine for up to three hours if the power goes out (four hours on standby), so users can listen to messages and make and receive calls from the base unit. The number of new messages appears in bright red in the base’s LED readout, and users can turn off the phone ringer, directing calls to go straight to the answering machine, if desired.
Users may add up to five additional handsets to the system (sold separately), and messages can be retrieved at the base, from a handset, or remotely by calling their home number and entering a key code. This answering system will store up to 17 minutes of messages.

Best Ease Of Use

The Best Answering Machine Options: AT&T EL52113 Single Handset Expandable Cordless Phone

This AT&T answering system is designed for simplicity and ease of use. Users can opt for a preprogrammed outgoing message that greets callers or record their own unique message at the push of a button. The number of new messages appears in red on the base’s LED screen, and the messages are easy to access simply by pressing the Play button. The Repeat and Skip buttons enable users to listen to a message twice or skip a message and go to the next one. A Delete button offers the ability to erase messages while they’re playing. The large keys on the handset are conveniently backlit for easy viewing.
The answering machine may be turned on or off from the base unit, and the message volume is adjustable. This system is expandable to accommodate up to four additional handsets (sold separately). This answering machine will record up to 14 minutes of incoming messages, and it allows for remote access to listen to messages and change outgoing announcements.

Best For Business

The Best Answering Machine Options: VTech AM18447 Main Console 4-Line Expandable

The VTech expandable office phone system offers customizable message recording for small offices (or large families), and it accommodates up to four individual users. Keep phone calls and messages private with the base console that accommodates four separate landlines so each worker or family member can make calls and receive messages via a personal corded phone base. Each user may also have an additional handset that syncs to their base (phone bases and handsets sell separately).
This answering system can be configured to auto-answer calls and route them to individual phones via extension numbers. Each intended user can access private messages from their base or remotely, and the system will store up to 180 combined minutes of messages. Individual users may also record their own outgoing messages, and the system features enhanced protection against wiretapping for added privacy and message security.

Best For Seniors

The Best Answering Machine Options: AT&T CL4940 Corded Standard Phone with Answering

With a large backlit LED screen, simple outgoing message recording, and one-button message retrieval, this answering machine from AT&T is easy to see and easy to use. Straightforward operating features and a battery backup in case of no power make this answering machine well suited to seniors or anyone who may be vision- or tech-challenged. Setting up the answering machine is also simple, thanks to step-by-step prompts on the LED screen. When users press the On/Off button, the audible “Calls will be answered” or “Calls will not be answered” messages confirm whether they’ve turned the answering system on or off.
Users can select a desired number of rings before the answering machine picks up, and messages may be retrieved remotely by calling the home number and then entering a key code from a touch-tone phone. The machine will store up to 25 minutes of messages. No cordless handset is available with this model—all functions are on the base, which also features large numeric keys for easy dialing. The unit can be positioned on a countertop or table or mounted on a wall at eye level for easy access.

Best For Clarity

The Best Answering Machine Options: PANASONIC KX-TGF350N Corded _ Cordless Dect 1 Handset

Whether a call is coming from a crowded mall or near a roadside with rushing traffic, this answering system from Panasonic will damper background noise, ensuring the message comes through distinct and discernable. The system includes an integrated corded phone and an additional cordless handset, so users can retrieve messages and take phone calls from either the base or the handset. The base offers a large backlit LED screen that allows users to quickly notice new messages at a glance.
The base features a tip-up screen that makes it easier to see if it is sitting on a countertop, or the base can be mounted on the wall at eye level if desired. Users can listen to messages from the base, from the handset, or remotely by calling the home number and entering a key code from a dial-tone phone. The machine will store up to 17 minutes of messages, and if the power goes out, a built-in battery allows users to continue to retrieve messages and make calls for up to seven hours.