If you plan on buying a fax, you should know that the most popular are those that sit on a desk and plug into a phone. You'll pay "under $500 for a basic machine that's now twice as fast," according to David Day, executive director of the International Facsimile Association in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
If you're not planning high-volume use for the fax, experts recommend a no-frills machine that sends and receives over your phone line. If you plan to send more than a few sheets a day, you'll be better off with a model that has more capabilities such as using paper wider than the standard 8 1/2 inch or sending faxes to a network of different machines. For high-volume use, you probably will need a dedicated phone line, which costs about $11 a month after a $35 installation charge.
Regardless of the type of machine you buy, make sure it is standard Group 3 compatible. That allows the machine to communicate with other current faxes on regular phone lines.
If you already have a home computer, you might want to consider a fax modem or fax board that can be attached to your PC with special software. These, however, seem more complicated than a standalone machine, and cost from $250 to $1,095.
If you don't want to buy your own fax machine and prefer using public faxes, here are some tips:
* Ask whether the quoted price includes phone charges. If the phone call is extra for a domestic fax, try another copying place for a cheaper rate. You will pay $2 to $5 a page. To send international faxes, most copy stores charge for the phone call in addition to the fax.
* Be sure the price of sending the fax is a flat rate, not based on time used, which is usually more expensive.
* If you're sending 25 pages or more, ask if there is a store discount for volume. Some stores will give you 10 percent to 25 percent off if you are sending a large number.
* Use black ink (it transmits better); make sure copy is legible.
* On the cover sheet, include receiver's name, company and phone number. List how many pages are being sent.
* Most fax machines transmit only 8 1/2 - by 11-inch paper. If yours is wider, be sure to reduce the original.
* If you are sending urgent information, call to alert the person after you have sent the fax.