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Should You Rent or Buy Your Modem and Router?

Find out if it’s cheaper to pay upfront now or continue to pay monthly fees.

Rent a modem or router (or both) from your internet provider if you want upgrades, replacements, and technical support at no additional cost to you.

If you want to save money over the long run and have more control over your internet connection, buy your own equipment. Just know that you’ll be responsible for any upgrade or replacement costs.

Overall, the pros and cons of renting or buying your modem and router depend on your internet provider and the amount of money you want to spend. We’ll explain how to know what’s best for you.

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Is it cheaper to buy or rent your router and modem?

You don’t need to purchase a standalone modem if your internet provider supplies one at no extra charge. After all, you don’t own your internet connection, so why own the modem? Let your internet provider deal with that aspect of your service. You probably (hopefully) have the best modem for your connection anyway.

There may be cases when your provider’s supplied modem is of low quality, and you want one with better performance and stability. In this case, buying a standalone modem may save you money and lots of frustration.

However, your home network is yours, so owning devices on your side of the modem makes perfect sense—including the router. Purchasing a standalone router or mesh system is ideal if the equipment supplied by your internet provider is outdated and there’s no sign of an upgrade. Gamers may want specific features that aren’t included with their provider’s router.

But here’s the thing: many internet providers now supply you with wireless gateways (modem/router combos). You can still connect a standalone router to a gateway and use its Wi-Fi instead, but we only suggest doing so if the router you want has better Wi-Fi than the gateway.

Replacing the gateway entirely may be cheaper, depending on what you buy. They’re a hit or miss when it comes to saving money, and we’ll show you exactly why by using Xfinity as an example.

But first, let’s take a look at the annual rental fees from 14 internet providers.

Modem and router rental fees by provider

ProviderModem feeRouter feeAnnual fee (max)
CenturyLinkUp to $15.00/mo.Included$180.00/yr.
Google FiberNo chargeNo chargeN/A
SpectrumNo charge$5.00/mo.$60.00/yr.
Verizon FiosNo charge$15.00/mo.$180.00/yr.
WOW! Internet$14.00/mo.$10.00/mo.$288.00/yr.

In most cases, buying equipment isn’t cheaper than renting when you consider technical support, free replacements due to hardware failures, and free upgrades.

However, let’s see if purchasing a wireless gateway is cheaper than renting from one of the nation’s largest cable internet providers: Xfinity.

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Should you buy or rent your wireless gateway with Xfinity?

Xfinity customers spend roughly $180 per year renting the xFi Advanced Gateway (XB7). This device is based on Wi-Fi 6 and includes two phone jacks, three Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port—in other words, kapow! Right now, all that speed is overkill—you’re essentially riding the cutting edge of residential internet technology for $15 per month.

Xfinity offers a newer Wi-Fi 6E model, the XB8, but we couldn’t get a solid list of specifications for comparisons. So, let’s pit the XB7 model against two wireless gateways you can buy—one with similar specifications and one with a similar price—to see if you save any money:

Xfinity’s rental unitExample gateway
with comparable specs
Example gateway
with a comparable price
ModelxFi Gateway Gen 3ARRIS SURFboard G36Motorola MG7700
Wi-Fi standardWi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 6Wi-Fi 5
Wi-Fi classAX3500AX3000AC1900
Wi-Fi streams4×44×43×3
5 GHz max speed2,402Mbps2,402Mbps1,300Mbps
2.4 GHz max speed1,150Mbps574Mbps600Mbps
Max cable speed2,370Mbps2,370Mbps940Mbps
Modem channels32×8 (v3.0)
2×2 (v3.1)
32×8 (v3.0)
2×2 (v3.1)
24×8 (v3.0)
2.5 Gbps port?YesYesNo
View Plans View on AmazonView on Amazon

If you don’t want to rent, the compatible Motorola MG7700 wireless gateway costs $129.99, which is $50 less than what you’d pay to Xfinity in rental fees for an entire year. After your one-time purchase, the money stays in your pocket, right?

But look closer at the specs, and you’ll see that Motorola’s gateway is slower than Xfinity’s. It doesn’t even include the 2.5Gbps Ethernet port. Is it worth the downgrade? Absolutely not unless you have a slow internet connection and never plan to upgrade your plan.

Now here’s where price comparisons really get interesting. The ARRIS SURFboard G36 is almost on par with Xfinity’s gateway—only the maximum 2.4 GHz speed is slower than Xfinity’s.

However, the cost of the ARRIS unit is roughly $64 cheaper than renting the Xfinity gateway over two years. You won’t save money until the third year, and by then, Xfinity will probably offer something even better than its current gateway at no additional cost (excluding inflation).

With both retail models, you’ll be responsible for upgrades and hardware replacements if the gateways fail. Plus, the only technical support will be through Motorola or ARRIS—maybe from Xfinity, too, if you’re lucky.

In summary, here are the reasons why you would buy or rent from Xfinity:

Reasons to rentReasons to buy
Free upgrades
Free replacements
Technical support
The best compatibility
Features you want
Private network management
Cheaper overall cost (depending on the model)
Reasons to rentFree upgrades
Free replacements
Technical support
The best compatibility
Reasons to buyFeatures you want
Private network management
Cheaper overall cost (depending on the model)

The best cheap routers you can buy

The saying that “you get what you pay for” is generally true when it comes to electronics: buy a cheap device, and you get cheap performance. You’re not going to pay $60 for a router and see performance that zooms faster than the Flash.

Still, if you’re shopping for an inexpensive router, here are a few suggestions for the best budget routers you can buy based on our tests. Given that many internet connections are 1,000Mbps or less in download speed anyway (unless you have one of the fastest internet plans from AT&T or Google), these four routers should do the trick.

@ 40 ft.†
Price*Get it
Best for gamersNETGEAR R6700AXAX1800434Mbps$89.99View on Amazon
Best for rangeReyee RG-E5AX3200636Mbps$119.99View on Amazon
Best for under $100TP-Link Archer AX20AX1800470Mbps$92.98View on Amazon
Best for meshTP-Link Deco X55AX3000339Mbps$79.99View on Amazon

Understanding the home networking equipment you have

Your home or small office typically has one of two setups:

  • 1x modem or fiber ONT + 1x router or mesh system
  • 1x wireless gateway

Here’s a brief explanation of each device used:

Modem — Your cable or DSL internet connection plugs into this standalone device. You cannot access the internet without it, as it translates your provider’s radio signals into data your devices can use.

Optical Network Terminal (ONT) — Your fiber internet connection plugs into this standalone device. You cannot access the internet without it, as it translates your provider’s light signals into data your devices can use.

Router — This standalone device physically connects to your modem or ONT using a cable. It creates and manages your home or office network by broadcasting your Wi-Fi connection and providing ports for wired devices. With mesh systems, the first unit wired to your modem or ONT serves as your router.

Wireless gateway — This device combines a modem or ONT and a router into one unit. Your internet connection plugs into this device, as do all wired devices via Ethernet cables. It broadcasts Wi-Fi, so you can access the internet without the annoying cables or a standalone router.

Renting vs. buying your router or modem

Pros and cons of renting a modem and router


  • Free tech support
  • Free replacements
  • Free upgrades


  • Monthly lease
  • Possibly older hardware than what you could buy
  • Higher overall expense over time
  • Accessible by your provider (router)

The big takeaway with renting is getting free upgrades or a free replacement if the device fails. Plus, your internet provider can diagnose and possibly resolve issues remotely. Renting is also a good idea for roommates because the device isn’t one person’s property.

The drawback to renting is that you won’t see automatic hardware upgrades. For example, you may rent a Wi-Fi 5 router from your provider but may never see a Wi-Fi 6 upgrade unless you request one (or when your Wi-Fi 5 router eventually fails).

Plus, your provider can log in to its supplied router remotely, see all your connected devices, and possibly see who uses them. While remote network management is seemingly in good faith, many customers may feel uncomfortable having a stranger observing devices used by children.

In a nutshell, renting is ideal for the following:

  • Free upgrades and replacements
  • Easy compatibility
  • Remote troubleshooting
  • Roommates
  • Small businesses
  • Employer-paid work-at-home internet

Pros and cons of buying a modem and router


  • Yours to keep
  • Managed by you
  • Chosen by you


  • Not upgradable for free
  • Not replaced for free
  • Not supported by your provider for free

The pros are straightforward: you can select and keep the device you want so long as it’s compatible with your internet provider’s connection. You can upgrade as needed and manage your devices—not your internet provider. You save a little money each month too.

If you choose to purchase a router, you may find one that has a better range or better parental controls than the unit supplied by your internet provider. You can get high-quality products from brands like NETGEAR, Linksys, TP-Link, and ASUS. Better yet, you could install a mesh networking kit that spreads Wi-Fi across your home or small office like a web.

The drawback to buying your equipment is the overall expense. If your modem, router, or gateway fails, the replacement comes out of your wallet. The burden of cost is also yours when you want to upgrade. Free technical support from your internet provider may or may not be available.

In a nutshell, buying is ideal for the following:

  • Upgrading when you want
  • Using the devices you want
  • Managing your devices privately
  • Troubleshooting experts
  • Gamers who want the latest
  • Better features

How to buy a new modem

If you’re set on purchasing a modem, there are a few factors to consider.

First and foremost, you can’t purchase just any modem. A cable modem doesn’t work with a DSL connection, for example. Second, the modem should line up with your internet plan’s speed. Unless you switch to a faster plan, there’s no reason to purchase a VDSL2 modem if your maximum speed will be only 50Mbps.

Cable modems

Cable modems are based on the data over cable service interface specifications (DOCSIS). It’s a standard that dictates how internet providers send and receive data using coaxial lines originally installed for cable TV.

Here are the six DOCSIS versions:

VersionYearMaximum downloadMaximum upload

So, if you’re shopping for a new cable modem and your plan supports up to 1,000Mbps, you need a DOCSIS 3.0 modem at the very least.

DSL modems

Buying a DSL modem isn’t quite like purchasing a cable modem. You just need to know the type of DSL service you already have before you invest. Here are the many different types of DSL technology in use:

VersionMax download speedMax upload speed
ADSL G.Lite1Mbps0.512Mbps

Be sure that the DSL modem has a telephone jack (RJ11). Like the jack on a dial-up modem, it’s smaller than the Ethernet port (RJ45) used to connect the modem to your router (or other wired devices).

What about buying a modem for fiber internet?

Many fiber internet providers use the term “modem” to describe the device connected to the fiber line coming into your home or office. But it’s actually called an optical network terminal (ONT), and your best solution is to acquire an ONT from them.

If you have a fiber connection that stops at the street, you need a cable modem or a DSL modem, depending on the connection entering your home. You can ask your internet provider more about what type of fiber connection you have.

More resources for buying a modem

How to buy a new router

Buying a router can be complicated. You need to pay attention to the specification, the number of streams it supports, and how many streams your devices support.

First, here are the different specifications:

SpecificationWi-Fi nameMax speed (per stream)Maximum # of streamsFrequency bands
802.11aN/A54Mbps15 GHz
802.11bN/A11Mbps12.4 GHz
802.11gN/A54Mbps12.4 GHz
802.11nWi-Fi 4150Mbps42.4 GHz
802.11ac Wave 1Wi-Fi 5433Mbps85 GHz
802.11ac Wave 2Wi-Fi 5866Mbps85 GHz
802.11axWi-Fi 61,200Mbps82.4 GHz
5 GHz
802.11axeWi-Fi 6E1,200Mbps86 GHz
802.11beWi-Fi 72,400Mbps162.4 GHz
5 GHz
6 GHz

Most product listings for routers combine the speeds of all available bands to display one big, impressive number. These listings may also list a class, like AX5400, which combines the specification (802.11ax) and the maximum combined throughput (5,400Mbps).

For example, the TP-Link Archer AX5400 Pro is a Wi-Fi 6 router with a total throughput of 5,400Mbps. It’s an AX5400-class router, meaning it has a maximum speed of 4,804Mbps on the 5 GHz band and a maximum speed of 574Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band.

Keep in mind that your wireless device must have radios using the same specification and the same number of streams to get the maximum speed from each band. Anything less will result in slower speeds.

More resources for buying a router

Our verdict: Don’t buy a modem and router if you don’t have to

Don’t buy a standalone modem if your internet provider supplies you with one free of charge. Chances are, you have the best modem for your connection, so there’s no need to make the investment. Even if you do pay a monthly fee, you’re investing in free replacements, free upgrades, and technical support.

Don’t buy a standalone router unless you’re unhappy with the one supplied by your internet provider. Generally, you won’t see automatic upgrades when a new Wi-Fi standard goes live, so while all your friends are speeding along on Wi-Fi 6, you may still suffer through Wi-Fi 4. You can probably request an upgrade, which is covered for free because you pay a monthly fee.

However, buy a router if you want features your internet provider doesn’t support—like mesh networking or gaming-specific controls—or to keep your provider out of your private network.

Wireless gateways are a different story. An upgrade request may not be ideal in this situation, but instead, a new gateway or router that includes the features and performance you want. You may or may not save money in the long run—it just depends on what you settle on.


Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. [Site] utilizes paid Amazon links.


Author -

Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At, he focuses on network equipment testing and review.

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.

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