How to buy the best cordless home phone
By Jon Barrow
Our expert buying guide helps you choose the best cordless phone, pointing out the features you need and revealing how much you should spend.
The best cordless phones offer crystal-clear sound quality and a generous cordless range so that you can wander around your house without being cut off. Buy the wrong one and you’ll be left struggling to understand friends and family – that’s if you even hear them call.
We test everything from the built-in answering machine to its nuisance call-blocking capabilities, so you can be confident you'll find a phone that suits your needs.
Browse the best cordless phones from our tests to see which came out on top.
In this guide:
- Video: how to buy the best cordless home phone
- How much should I spend on a cordless home phone?
- Four home phone questions to ask before you buy
- How can I extend the range of my cordless phone?
- Useful extra features on cordless home phones
- Phones for those with sight or hearing impairment
- How to save money on your monthly phone bill
We've tested phones that cost around £15, but also multiple phone packages that run into the hundreds. Fortunately, you don't necessarily have to spend this much to get a phone that ticks the right boxes.
A number of single and multiple phone bundles costing under £50 are good enough to be rated as Best Buys in our tests. Some of these even include features more commonly found on advanced phones, such as a colour display, call-blocking options and a stylish design.
In short, spending more is no guarantee that a phone will perform its core functions well, so doing your research before you buy is a must.
Use our handy free tool, below, to help you choose the right home phone for you.
- Do I need a call-blocking cordless phone? If you’re sick of nuisance calls, it’s worth investing in a phone that offers call-blocking features. Basic models allow you to block some specific numbers or possibly to bar calls by type – for example, all international calls or those from withheld numbers. The most sophisticated call-blocking phones can even act as a sort of virtual secretary, asking anyone who calls you to leave their name before the phone will ask you whether you want to take the call. For any call-blocking phone to work you will need to activate your caller ID with your landline network provider – there may be a monthly fee for this. Discover which devices we’ve rated as the top rated call blocking phones.
- Do I need an answering machine? Most home phones now include an answering machine, although you can save a few pounds by choosing one without. If an answering machine is important to you, decide whether you want one with full controls built into the base, or just access through the handset. This base unit makes it easier to see and to access your messages, although it does add to the unit's size. Also consider how much recording time you need. Some models have as little as 11 minutes capacity, while the best will record an hour of messages. Finally, think about how you would like to be alerted to new message: most handsets and base stations have a flashing light, but some models will also emit a beep to make this extra clear.
- Do I need a single handset or a multipack? Cordless phones typically come in single, twin, triple and quad packs, although you can sometimes find packs with six handsets. A single-handset cordless phone costs from around £15, whereas packs with four handsets start from around £80. You can buy additional handsets at a later date – and these don’t need to be from the same brand as your base unit – but it’s normally better value to buy them as a multipack up front. Having multiple handsets throughout your house makes life easier and also offers options such as enabling you to use one as a baby monitor. Additional handsets don’t require their own phone sockets, although they do need a power supply.
- Do I need a wall-mountable phone? If space is at a premium, you can wall-mount some cordless phones. These are pretty rare, though. Most need to sit on a flat surface, and you’ll still need to run power and phone cables up the wall to the base unit.
Manufacturers claim that their phones will work over long distances, typically up to 50 metres indoors and up to 300 metres outdoors. However, in reality, obstructions will significantly reduce the range – thick walls especially so.
If you suffer from poor reception, it can be a good idea to buy a separate booster (also known as a repeater). Simply place this small box as far away as possible from your base unit, but still within range, and it will boost the signal back to the original level, in effect doubling the range. But not all phones are compatible with signal boosters. Check our phone reviews to find out if the model you’re interested in can be used with one.
Find out which models we rated as the best cordless phones for large houses.
Some of the latest cordless phones are more like mobiles than traditional phones. They come packed with features but can be trickier to use than basic handsets, so think carefully about which features you really need before you buy.
- A Sim-card reader – handy if you've got lots of friends or family members saved on your mobile phone. Simply pop the Sim card from your mobile phone into the reader and you can transfer all your stored numbers directly over to your cordless phone.
- Bluetooth connectivity – Bluetooth-enabled home phones can be easily synced to your smartphone, allowing you to share your contacts or to make and receive calls on a different device. You can even pair them with Bluetooth headsets so you don’t have to hold your phone while on a call.
- Phonebook sharing – if you plan to buy more than one handset, look for one that enables you to copy the phonebook. Otherwise, you’ll have to type it in on every one. Some phones have a shared phonebook. This means that any time you update the contact details on one handset the others are automatically updated as well.
- Night mode – if you don't want to be disturbed, you can set some phones so that they don't ring when there's an incoming call (although some may flash silently). You can usually assign VIP status to certain contacts so that they can get through even when this mode is activated.
- A corded handset – a very small number of models include both corded and cordless handsets. Having a corded option is useful if you suffer from power outages, as cordless phones are unlikely to work in this situation even if they are fully charged. That’s because cordless base stations require mains electricity, while corded models take their power from the phone network.
If you or a loved one struggles to use a standard home phone because of hearing or sight problems, look out for models that offer the following useful features.
- Hearing-aid compatibility – older analogue hearing aids can be affected by interference from cordless phones. To cut down on interference, look for a phone that’s compatible with hearing aids. This means that it has an inductive coupler, which works directly with a hearing aid to give a clearer sound. To use the inductive coupler, your hearing aid has to be switched to the ‘T’ (telecoil) setting.
- Visual call indicators – if you struggle to hear incoming calls, handsets with a visual call indicator, such as a flashing light, can be invaluable. These are not commonly found on standard cordless phones, so you may have to buy a specialist handset. You can get these from charities such as Action on Hearing Loss or dedicated retailers.
- Loud ringers and volume controls – most phones have a volume control that allows you to boost the sound of the ringtone and the incoming volume of the other caller. You can also get phones that make your own voice louder for the other person.
- Slow playback – some phones allow for slow playback of recorded messages, so that you can take down details more easily.
- Large buttons – specially designed, oversized keys with good contrast between the background colour and the number are easier to use for people with poor eyesight and those with reduced dexterity.
- Keypad with sounds – some phones play an audible beep when a button is pressed and may even have a different sound for each button, helping you dial more accurately. A small number also have talking caller ID options, announcing who’s calling you so you can decide whether to take the call.
Many of us pay little attention to our home phone bills, but you can save a decent amount by taking a few simple steps.
First of all, match your home phone deal to your needs. Check whether you’ve got the best call package by studying your last few bills to see what type of calls you make, and then confirm whether they’re included in your current contract. Many people opt for pure pay-as-you-go options, but it can be better value to add in a cheap bundle of monthly inclusive minutes. And if you pay your line rental upfront, your provider may offer you a discount, especially if you pay for a full year in advance.
If you’re struggling financially, you may qualify for a special low-cost tariff, such as BT Basic. These aren’t typically advertised and are not available to most people, but it can be worth contacting your provider to see if one is available.
Finally, if you use your home phone a lot – especially to make pricey international calls – then you might save money by embracing new technologies. Some cordless phones can wirelessly connect to your broadband using ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP) technology, enabling you to make free or very low-cost phone calls over the internet.
Alternatively, consider whether to use your mobile to make calls over wi-fi using downloadable free apps such as Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp.
Now find the perfect cordless phone for you by checking out our cordless phone reviews.