Does anyone have any info about single-use cell phones? Like, if you really only wanted it in the car for an emergency? I've googled and found that they exist, but can't seem to locate the precise place to buy one....Any cell phone experts? You'll earn the right to make fun of me for buying one after all of my soapboxes!
How about one of the tracfones, pay for a year(i think its like 99 dollars?) and it comes with several hundred minutes. And I've been told, even after you run out of minutes- it will still let you call 911 or whatever emergency number.
The most frugal way is to get someone's old phone. Freecycle or ebay. All old phones are allowed to call 911. No service is necessary. You can also get a tracphone for ~15 for one of the prepay phones. I'm not sure if a new one will work for emergency services right away without the initial card. The cheapest card is $10 for 30 minutes. Once you use up the minutes, same deal with the emergency services.
You can get a pay as you go phone like Tracfone. Wal-mart, Target etc have them. Also many of the big name companies are getting into the pay as you go as well. There were 3 or 4 to choose from the last time I was in Target. Pay as you go is more expensive for calls but if you only need it for emergencies then it is the way to go. I have used Tracfone for 3 years now and it has been great.
I think you can ask a friend to give you a hand-me-down phone. Once the service expires, you can make phone calls on it using a credit card (like a pay phone), or you can call 911. When we changed our phones, I let the kids play with our old ones. I checked to see if they could accidentally charge lots to our account, and it seems they'd have to magically be able to type in our credit card number for that to happen. So I think a friend/relative should be able to feel comfortable passing one a long.
Verizon collects 'old' cell phones to donate to women's shelters so they can call 911 when needed.
We have a Net 10 phone. It's supposed to the the cheapest "pay as you go" plan (several friends also recomended it for being cheap). I use it for long distance and short calls to DH from work.
I don't know about single use phones. I personally wouldn't keep a nonservice phone as my 'emergency' phone unless financially I truly couldn't afford any other option. The reason why is my definition of 'emergency' is a little bit looser than 911s. I want a phone to call AAA (or someone!) because I ran out of gas for example, I would not feel comfortable calling 911, but I would not want to have two small children and no way to call for assistance.
I currently mooch a phone off my brother, who has me on some kind of family plan but doesn't care to charge me the $10 a month it costs to keep my phone on there. Before that though, I had a tracfone and that was the cheapest option I could find at the time, the one year of service deal let me keep a phone for $9/mo I think, it might have been cheaper with less minutes.