Should you buy your own modem, or opt to rent one from your internet service provider?
ISPs such as Comcast make lots of money on their modem rental programs, so you can be certain that they’re going to encourage you to pursue that option. But does it actually make financial sense, and is it the best option for you and your family?
In this article, we’re going to cover the pros and cons of renting vs owning a third-party modem, and why you may want to choose one over the other.
Why Do ISPs Offer Modems For Rent?
The obvious answer is the insane amounts of money it makes them, but that’s not the only reason.
The other primary reason is that at the very least, you can be certain that the modem / router combo that your ISP rents to you is actually compatible with their service. Unfortunately, not all modems are compatible with all internet service providers and this can cause some people issues when they go to purchase modems themselves.
Due to the standardized nature of modem rental programs, this also saves ISPs time and money when it comes to customer support issues. Customer support representatives only need to be familiar with the modems that the company is offering, and therefore can help sort out problems more quickly with customers.
In other words, not only do they make money on the rentals themselves, they also save time and money when it comes to customer support.
However, internet service providers like Xfinity or CenturyLink are not your friend, and are only looking out for their own best interests. Therefore, anything told to you about their modem rental programs must be treated like a sales pitch – and carefully considered in order to make the best decision for yourselves.
Should You Buy Or Rent Your Modem?
In almost all cases, it makes far more sense to buy a third-party modem upfront, as this saves you a lot of money and grants you a host of other benefits as well. Let’s quickly look over the reasons why.
Pros To Buying Your Modem
It Saves You Money In The Long Run
Starting off with the most obvious one, buying your modem very quickly saves you money.
Yes, you will need to pay the price upfront (and purchase a router as well), but even a quality modem and router set can be purchased for under $100.
Meanwhile, renting a modem from Comcast for example will run you $14 a month (though it seems they periodically raise the price.) This means that after only 7 months, you have covered the cost of your router and modem with the money that you’ve saved. Not to mention, you could always resell them later.
Modems and routers rarely need to be upgraded, and over the course of 5 years this would save you $840 in modem rental fees.
Improved Coverage And Connectivity
Most modem rentals include a router built in.
In case you’re not familiar with the difference between a router and a modem, here’s a quick explanation. A modem is what actually connects to the internet, whereas a router broadcasts that signal out so you can connect your devices to it via Wi-Fi.
Including both as an all-in-one unit isn’t always ideal, because:
- You may wish to keep them in separate areas.
- You cannot upgrade an individual component.
- These combo solutions aren’t typically as high quality as buying a standalone modem and router.
The units that ISPs rent are far lower quality than what is actually available on the market. Third-party routers may be able to handle more web traffic more efficiently, deliver faster internet speeds, and send a much stronger signal throughout a larger area of your house.
Did you know that Comcast uses their rental modems as free public hotspots for customers?
It’s true – and kind of infuriating when you think about it!
Not only does this slow down your speed and cost you more money in electricity, but it also leaves you prone to potential security issues.
In 2018, a bug was discovered that allowed people to access the name and password of the modem, along with the home address where the internet service has been activated. This allowed hackers to connect to the family’s personal wi-fi network (not the public hotspot) and snoop on what they were doing on the internet, intercepting important information like form submissions and unencrypted passwords to other accounts.
Pros To Renting Your Modem
There may actually be some situations where it makes sense to rent your modem. Admittedly however, there aren’t many.
You’re Splitting Utilities With Roommates
If you’re in a short-term living situation and you’ll be splitting the bill among others, it may make sense to rent rather than buy.
For example, if you were splitting the rental fee across 3 people, that may be less than $5 a month. If you’re going to be moving before the cost will be covered, it may make sense to just pay the fee and purchase your own modem / router later.
You’re Shopping For Someone That Struggles With Tech
Though it will be more expensive, sometimes the hassles are not worth the savings.
If you’re buying for someone who struggles with technology, it may be easier to just let the ISP take care of everything for them. As mentioned earlier, renting a modem guarantees compatibility, and customer support should be able to help take care of any issues. They are used to providing support even for people who will be connecting to the internet for the first time, which may solve some frustration.
You Value Free Upgrades And Replacements
Internet modems and routers do not need to be upgraded often, and even buying new units shouldn’t be more expensive than the fees associated with renting.
That being said, one of the perks of renting is that ISPs will rent you new modems and routers if they become necessary, such as if you’re upgrading to a speed that isn’t supported by your old hardware.
Additionally, if the unit breaks, you can usually get a new one without being charged.
This is more of a convenience than anything else, as again – you can get better modems and routers for a cheaper price, and these things really don’t break that often to begin with.
Should you or rent your modem / router?
This is ultimately for you to decide. However, in the vast majority of cases, it makes more sense financially to just pay the money upfront, and own the thing outright.
Modem rental fees quickly add up, and the minor conveniences they offer do not make up for the lower quality devices, and the total amount of cash you’ll pay over years.
Do you have any questions? Is there anything we could clarify for you? Feel free to ask using the comment form below.
Ultimately, as long as you’re happy with what you’re paying, that’s all that matters!