Cheap Fax Machines

Q: Is there any point in buying a single-purpose cheap fax machine?

You can buy a cheap fax machine for about $30 plus shipping on eBay. It will probably be a refurbished, thermal paper fax machine with a phone handset, a wire paper tray, and not much else. Inkjet plain paper fax machines start at about $60-$70. That’s cheap.
Multifunction devices that do fax, copying, scanning, and printing start at about $90. That’s pretty cheap, too. Why not buy something that does four things for only a few bucks more than something that does only one thing?

Well, a cheap fax machines does more than one thing. In order to fax a paper document, the fax machine has to scan it; so there’s a scanner in there. It’s a printer, too, albeit a black-and-white, low-resolution printer that won’t do your four-color corporate brochure. If you scan a document and fax it to yourself, you’ve just made a copy. So yes, there is a point in buying a cheap fax machine. It can be good enough for in-house “rough” work, and it can be an emergency backup when the expensive high-quality equipment fails.

Perhaps all you want is a fax machine. Why spend more money for functions you don’t need?

When shopping for a cheap fax machine, do not skimp on the transmission speed. Long-distance phone calls are still priced by the minute, in most cases, so you want to minimize the time of each fax transmission. The top speed of fax machines is 33.6 Kbps; you want that in even the cheapest fax machine.

The scanning speed of a cheap fax machine may not matter much to you. If you fax just one or two pages at a time, occasionally, there is no need for a machine that scans 30-50 pages per minute.

A cheap fax machine may not have storage memory. That means it can’t scan multiple pages and store them until it can transmit them. You may have to stand at the fax machine feeding one page at a time, waiting for it to transmit that page before feeding the next. Again, if you fax just one or two pages at a time, this may not be a problem for you.

The point of buying a cheap fax machine is to save money and get the job of faxing done. If you don’t fax much, don’t spend much.

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.