Business Phone Number: Local Number, 800 Number or Vanity Number?



A business phone number keeps your company calls separate from your personal ones, giving your organization a more professional presence. Business phone numbers typically take minutes to set up and include options like a local number, 800 number, or a vanity number, and can range in price from free to more than $50 per month.

Business Phone Number Options

  Pros Cons Price (Approximately)
Local Phone Number Simple, often provided free with phone service Ties you to a single geographic area; not always memorable $0-$10/month
Toll-free/800 Number Indicates a more professional and/or nationwide business You have to pay for all calls; not always memorable $10/month
Vanity Phone Number Extremely memorable; great for advertising Can be expensive and hard to obtain $10-$50/month or higher

The main types of business phone numbers are local, toll-free, and vanity numbers. Each of these has their pros and cons and are ideal for different scenarios like budget, industry, and company size.

There are also virtual phone numbers, which are local, toll-free, or vanity numbers that forward to an existing phone line. While these aren’t exactly a type of phone number on their own, virtual numbers are another important option for new businesses that want to create a more professional image for their business without the cost of a more expensive system.

Below are more details on each type of business phone number, including where to get one.

Local Business Phone Number

A local phone number is the most common type of business number and are available for free but can go up to $39.99 or even more in some cases. The three-digit area code corresponds to your city or region. This makes it ideal for brick-and-mortar businesses who have mostly local callers or those that want their phone number to establish a connection with the community.

A local phone number is usually provided for free when you sign up for ongoing service with a small business phone provider, whether you choose a landline, VoIP system, or a virtual phone service provider. You can learn about some of the best options here on our guide on the best business phone systems.

Alternatively, you can get a free business phone number from Google Voice. With this, you can make and receive calls for free from your desktop or mobile phone and the app lets your search for a phone number with a business phone number lookup page. However, the main downside to Google Voice is that in some instances, local area codes are not available. The service also has a very dated interface compared to smoother platforms like RingCentral.

Toll-free Phone Number

If your business operates nationwide, a toll-free or 800 phone number is a way to separate yourself from a local area. These numbers, which typically start at $10 per month, give customers the ability to call your business without incurring long distance charges. Today, they’re generally sought-after to give your business a larger and more professional brand image.

Toll-free numbers can begin with 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. Most professional phone system providers like Nextiva or RingCentral include a toll-free number at no additional cost with your purchase. However, if you aren’t looking to replace your phone system, you can also buy a virtual toll-free number that forwards to your existing line. For more information on toll-free numbers as well as where to go to find one, visit our guide on 800 numbers.

Vanity Phone Number

Consumers are more likely to remember a vanity phone number vs a numeric phone number.

The reason is that a vanity phone number is communicated using easy-to-remember words. For example, 1-800-TELEPHONE is a vanity number that corresponds to 1-800-835-3746 on the phone’s keypad. Vanity numbers, which typically cost $10 to $50 a month, can also be used as a marketing tactic if you want to set up a unique number for a promotion or product.

The price of vanity numbers varies widely depending on demand. Most business phone number providers will let you pick a vanity number for free or for a small extra monthly charge, but you’ll likely need to use some numbers in combination with words, such as 1-800-824-TAXI. To get a full phrase like 1-800-TAXICAB you’ll likely need to use a specialized service like RingBoost and pay a larger sum of anywhere from $30 to $400 or more per month.

If you would like to add a vanity number to your business, Grasshopper is an effective virtual phone service provider that lets you choose a toll-free vanity number, making it an affordable alternative to purchasing a number through a larger business phone provider. Check out its website for more details.

Visit Grasshopper

Which Type of Number Is Best for Your Business?

The answer to this question can be tricky. This is because it ultimately depends on how you’ll be using the number in addition to making and receiving phone calls, such as those displayed on a billboard ad, posted on your website, and so on as well as the type of business you run. Below, we discuss which number might be best for your business.

Local Phone Numbers: Best for Local Businesses

While toll-free numbers communicate a sense of reputability, a 1-800 number isn’t always what customers want. Local phone numbers leave the impression of a smaller, more personable, and attentive local business. When your company is represented with a three-digit area code, it shows your customers that you are just as much of a part of the community as they are.

1-800 numbers are often associated with larger brands and can come across as impersonal and unfeeling. This can bring to mind frustrating experiences with call centers, automated menus, and long on-hold times. Therefore, if you operate a retail shop or a catering hall and want to promote a sense of community or seem more customer service-centric, then a local phone number is the most appropriate option.

Toll-free/800 Numbers: Best for National Companies

Companies doing business outside of their local area will want to consider a toll-free number. If the scope of your business is national, you don’t want a phone number that suggests you only operate within a specific region. This may lead customers to believe you don’t operate outside your area.

A local number can also harm your business by making it seem like a smaller operation. This might not matter for a pet-care or shoe repair service, as these businesses do best by appearing to be part of the neighborhood, but for a larger consulting firm, for example, you want a phone number that says, “I’m large, reputable, and well-connected.” An 800 number leaves that impression.

Vanity Phone Numbers: Best for Advertising & Marketing

Vanity phone numbers are memorable and associated easily with your business, making them best for print, radio, and TV advertising as well as billboards. For example, a number like 1-800-AC-REPAIR is more likely to stay in people’s minds than a random sequence of numbers.

“About a year ago, I purchased 903-FOR-CASH for my real estate investing company from a vanity phone number company called RingBoost. I liked it so much I rebranded my entire company around it and purchased 903forcash.com,” said Thomas Mitchell of 903FORCASH.com. “Having a vanity number allows clients to remember your number in the .5 seconds of attention they give any advertising they see while they are going about their day.”

Vanity numbers aren’t that helpful for online advertising, which is a very important channel today. For online ads, memorability isn’t always as important since web and mobile users can click a button to dial your business, which is also true for Facebook, Google, and Yelp. In these cases, a local or 1-800 number might be best.

Bonus: Virtual Phone Numbers for New Businesses

A virtual phone number is any type of number that forwards to an existing line. Prices can range from free options like Google Voice or cost as much as $39.99 per month. It can be a local, toll-free, or vanity number and is useful for entrepreneurs who aren’t planning to set up a professional phone system but don’t want to give out their personal number either.

In the past, getting a new business phone number meant installing a new phone line in your home office or business. Today, virtual numbers make it possible to add business phone numbers to your existing personal line or device. This makes virtual numbers ideal for new businesses wanting to use a new phone number as opposed to a personal number, but don’t have the funds yet to set up a full-scale phone system.

A virtual phone system can be set up in a matter of minutes, is often for free if you’re only making calls in the United States and Canada and can scale with you. Nevertheless, most businesses will want to switch to a small business phone system so that they aren’t dependent on employees using their own smartphones or other personal devices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are There Free Business Phone Numbers?

Google Voice offers free local numbers that can be used for your small business. It lacks features like an auto attendant and extensions, but it serves its purposes if you are looking for a free business phone number.

How Can I Find out If My Desired Vanity Number Has Been Taken?

Most services will offer a vanity number lookup page on their website. RingCentral, for example, allows you to enter your desired prefix and any combination of letters and numbers. Their system will then search for that vanity number and tell you whether or not it’s available. The average vanity phone number provider works in a similar fashion.

What Makes up a Business Phone System?

Business phone systems support a network of landline or internet-based phone lines allowing your employees to make and receive calls. In addition to buying handsets, you’ll also probably need a private branch exchange (PBX) device that facilitates calls both within your local network and with the outside ― you can think of a PBX device as an automated switchboard operator of sorts. There are services for any size of business, from solo entrepreneurs to large call centers.

If I Switch Providers, Can I Bring My Phone Number With Me?

The majority of services allow you to transfer your number, either to or from their system. Some platforms allow you to do this yourself through your account settings while others make you go through the company’s customer support channels to have a representative do it for you.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing a professional business phone number, most small businesses can use a local phone number and, if you serve a local area, a local business phone number is best. However, if you advertise or offer products nationwide, consider exploring how to get an 800 number for your business. Many of the best small business VoIP systems include toll-free numbers at no additional cost and vanity numbers for a small additional fee.

If you are looking for a complete phone system that offers local, toll-free, and vanity numbers, you should consider RingCentral. It also offers additional features like an auto-attendant, voicemail-to-email, faxing, and instant messaging. Visit RingCentral’s website today to start a free trial.

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