Router with Lights Glowing and a Person On a Computer in the background

Renting vs. Buying a Modem/Router

Surprisingly a lot of people are unaware that in order to have the Internet working, they do not need to rent the modem from their Internet Service Providers (ISP). Some of them do not know that the modem and the router perform different functions. The modem connects to the network of your Internet Service Provider using a coaxial cable connection or a DSL wall socket.

Comcast is renting their modem for around $10 per month. At the end of the year they pay close to $120 just to rent a piece of equipment. Is it worth it? Let’s find out why not and why it's a good idea to get your own router for Comcast!

When it’s best to buy your own modem?

White TP-Link Modem Router Backside

If you do not care much about the speed, keep in mind that you can buy an older model of cable modem for less than $20. If high speed is your main concern, there are plenty of models on the high end that can satisfy your needs. With a NetGear cable modem, within four months you will already cover the price.

Top Rated Modem Router Combo Units

The following models are rated within the first top ten best modem router combo available on the market: Zoom N600 Dual-band Wireless DOCSIS, NETGEAR AC1200 WiFi DSL Modem Router, Arris Surfboard SBG 7580.

Moreover, besides the rental charges, you will pay sales tax and telecommunication taxes.

Given that modems cost around $100 each, you can recoup the cost of owning within eighteen months. And if you own your cable modem, you do not have to pay for the installation fee.

As for upgrades, let’s be honest, people upgrade computers much more often than they upgrade modems.

It does not really matter if you switch from DSL to fiber optic cable. If you want to save even more money, you could opt for a refurbished modem. In case it breaks, call up the cable company and ask them to replace it!

Another reason for buying is the need for a better performance modem than the one offered by the cable company. If you worry that the ISP will not give the admin information to install it or set it up for a better performance, remember that owning your equipment provides you control and privacy. You know your modem and network passwords, not a tech guy who can use it to your disadvantage. You can set up your own network the way you want, so that the plugged in router does not slow down because it is trying to send NAT and wireless routing.

The main factor to consider is the cost. A typically cable modem can run from $60 -$130 depending on its features set. A wireless router will cost an additional $50 on the low end, all the way up to $170 on the high end depending on its feature set.

If you average out the cost of these two different devices, your title upfront cash requirement is around $200. Compare this to the customary $8 to $10 per month cost from your cable company to rent or lease you the gateway. In case you do not know what that is, rest assured that is nothing more than a fancy word meant to describe a box that combines a two devices into one, in this case, both the cable modem and the router.

When it’s best to rent a modem from your ISP?

Using average cost again, you should be able to rent your equipment from your cable company for 20 or 24 months roughly two years, before you began paying out more money than it would have cost to buy the equipment in the first place.

A second decision factor is the compatibility. Internet standards are constantly evolving which means that your cable company has to adapt to the new standards. Often this requires newer equipment on the customer’s end to keep up with the new standards. If you own your own equipment this means you may periodically need to purchase a new cable modem.

On the other hand if you rent the equipment from your cable company, then they will likely swap up your equipment for a newer one without having you pay an extra charge (at no extra charge).

A third decision factor and probably the most important is the support. And by that I mean literally what happens when you experience an “Internet problem”. When you place a support call to your cable company they will likely run a few tests to make sure everything's running smoothly between their end towards your equipment. If something is wrong on their end, it is up to them to fix it. They are responsible for it.

If they determine the problem is with equipment, then it gets tricky. If you own the equipment, is up to you to fix the problem (either tinkering with your equipment or purchasing a new one) to see if it fixes the problem. It can be money and time consuming. If you have faulty equipment form the cable company, they will send you a replacement without extra charge.

If you are more tech savvy and love taking the chance and risk of owning your equipment, go for it. But for the rest of us, the non-techy, it would probably be wiser to rent than buy.

Yes, you might end up paying a bit more in time, but consider that the pay off comes back to you in hands of support. Think of your rental fee in terms of insurance. You pay a bit each month, but if something big goes wrong, you know you are covered.

When your provider announces you that they are moving towards the latest standard cable modem, you would have to upgrade your modem. Before purchasing one, please ensure that you are considering a model that has DOCSIS 3 which are considerably faster.

Do the math! If your monthly rental charge is around $7 or more, you would end up paying a $ 84 bill per year, which means you would cover the price within the first year after owning your own modem.

Shall you opt for a Wi-Fi built-in model? That depends on your needs and how tech savvy or geeky you are. You could get a separate cable model and a separate Wi-Fi router. Having two different devices might make your life easier if you need to troubleshoot or upgrade. It is highly unlikely that you will have to upgrade your cable modem for a while, but you may upgrade wireless one more often. The Wi-Fi router you want to be able to upgrade it and also reboot it.

If you think that you will have it for a long time, then go ahead and purchase it. You should definitely ask your provider what models are compatible with their requirements. They should provide you a long list. Make sure it is DOCSIS 3.