Fax modem cheaper than Internet fax?

I read with interest your well-researched pages on sending/receiving faxes through the Internet.

I am a novice user of a laptop with Windows XP Home. After reading your pages, it seems to me that in terms of wise budgeting it would be best for me just to fork over ~$20 for a regular external fax-modem, or ~$50 for a small PC Card Type II fax-modem that would fit in my PC card slot in the side of my laptop; and, use the “Fax Console” application standard in Windows XP Home.

I say this, because with the exception of eFax (which is limited in its free services), every Internet faxing service seems to charge for their services or for pages faxed; and, after ~6 months to 1 year of paying for these services/pages-faxed, the amount I would spend would be close or over the amount I would spend in buying a fax-modem.

Can you tell if my novice reasoning above is correct or flawed?

There are advantages and disadvantages to using a fax modem instead of an Internet fax service. Cost isn’t the only factor.

Most importantly, a fax modem requires a phone line. If you’re going to be sending and receiving faxes frequently, you’ll probably need a second phone line, which obliterates your savings. If you’ll be sending faxes only occasionally, the fax modem can certainly share your regular phone line. Receiving faxes is trickier: if you leave the fax modem in auto-answer mode, you won’t be able to take voice calls or use an answering machine on that line. Also, you wouldn’t be able to receive faxes when the laptop was away from home.

I’ll assume that you primarily want to send faxes. Remember that you’ll be paying long distance charges for faxes sent out of your area. This could eat away at your cost savings fairly quickly, especially compared with the flat-rate sending packages available from many online faxing companies.

If you travel with the laptop, you’ll need a phone line whenever you want to send a fax. This might mean plugging into the hotel’s phone line and paying their per-call charges in addition to inflated long distance fees.

If you’ll be sending long-distance faxes only occasionally and receiving faxes rarely, you don’t need to pay for an Internet fax service: use your fax modem instead.