Choosing a Modem: Should I Buy or Rent?

When you sign up for cable Internet, you’re going to need a modem and router to get online. You can either buy or rent this equipment, but you need to do your research to decide which option is right for you. That’s why we put together this simple guide to help you determine if renting or purchasing a modem is right for you.

Should I Buy My Modem?

The first thing you want to consider is who your Internet service provider (ISP) is and what they offer. It’s important to figure out how much their modem and router rental fees are and whether or not you want to own your equipment outright.

Rental fees vary between ISPs, with some being as low as $4.99 per month and others as high as $10 per month. While those numbers might not seem high, remember they’ll add up over the duration of your service. A $10 per month rental fee for a year will cost you $120 in fees, whereas you might be able to purchase a decent modem or router for less than $70.

Be sure to check the fees for each ISP in your area before making a decision.

If you intend to stay with your ISP for an extended period of time, generally more than two years, it probably makes sense to purchase a moderately priced modem and router of your own. It’ll end up paying for itself in the long run, whereas you can lose money paying for a modem you’ll eventually return when your contract is over.

Should I rent a modem from XFINITY?

Renting a modem from XFINITY is one of the most expensive options available. They recently increased their rental fee to $10 per month, up 25 percent from the $8 they’d previously been charging.

A modem from XFINITY will come fully equipped with all the necessary features required to work on their system, and you might run into issues if trying to purchase a modem that will also work with XFINITY phone service. However, some people may feel the money saved is worth it.

XFINITY provides a list of compatible modems for their service on their website.

Should I rent a modem from Time Warner Cable?

Time Warner Cable has also increased their rental prices for modem rentals. The increase is the second in the span of one year, this time from $5.99 to $8 per month. The total cost for renting a modem through TWC is now at $96 per year.

If choosing to buy your own modem for your TWC service, take extra care in selecting the right one. TWC provides a guide on their website for compatible devices but not nearly as many as other ISPs. Take special care to ensure you’re choosing a modem that will work with their system.

Should I rent a modem from Cox?

Cox currently has two different options for modem rental. A single band Wi-Fi modem will cost you $6.99 per month whereas a dual band modem costs $9.99 per month. They also offer the option to purchase the modems outright for $129.99 and $149.99, respectively.

The better option depends on how long you intend to use your modem in this instance. If you expect to use it for at least two years you’ll save money if you opt to purchase the modem directly from them rather than rent.

They also have a list of recommended modems if you elect to look elsewhere.

Should I rent a modem from AT&T?

AT&T charges $7 per month for their cable modem and currently requires customers to use their modem and router for their U-verse service. As one of the lower monthly fees for modem rental at this time, renting from them isn’t the worst option available.

You can still save money by purchasing your own but, like with the others, be sure to check that your desired modem and router would be compatible with AT&T’s service.

Things to Keep in Mind

The above is a snapshot of what some of the top ISPs are currently charging for their modem rental fee. Always make sure to do your homework on your desired ISP as they set their own prices and can vary greatly from those above.

Also, when purchasing a modem/router combo make sure it’s Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 3.0 (DOCSIS 3.0) compliant. DOCSIS is the standard in which ISPs are required to use in order to send Internet traffic over cable wires and most of them provide a handy compatibility chart on their website.

Finally, if a purchased modem breaks, you’ll have to rely entirely on the warranty on your device to have it fixed or replaced. Most ISPs won’t come in and repair a modem they don’t own. In some instances, this might make renting a better choice.

Choosing to buy or rent a modem comes down to your preference on how you spend your money. You’ll typically save more by purchasing, unless you only plan on sticking with your ISP for a short period of time. On the other hand, renting a modem ensures maximum compatibility and repairs in case something goes wrong. Always be sure to do your research and choose the option that suits your needs before making a final decision.

Photo Credit: Matt Newman/Flikr

Author -

Ben Kerns is a fan of all things related to technology and the Internet, especially when it comes to discovering new ways to further merge the two together. When he's not plugged in, he enjoys the great outdoors, healthy living, and singing off-tune to cheesy country songs.

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