Stop Being a Sucker - Why You Should Buy Your Modem Instead of Renting

Are you paying  your Internet Service Provider (ISP) a monthly modem rental fee? Most ISPs will charge you an $8 to $10 monthly fee for renting one of their modems although they provide you an option to opt out of having to pay these fees if you have your own modem. According to this article on Forbes, modem rentals is big business for ISPs. An estimated 90% of Comcast subscribers rent a modem and modem rentals generated more revenue for Comcast than the Sochi Olympics in 2014. In our opinion, unless you have a phobia of technology or are constantly moving house, you should buy a modem instead of renting.

What is a modem?

Before we go on with our reasons on why you should buy a modem, here's a bit of background on what a modem actually is and does. Short for modulator-demodulator. A modem is a device or program that enables a computer to transmit data over, for example, telephone or cable lines.

Basically, a modem will allow you to connect to the Internet. If you want to connect multiple devices and wireless access as well, then you will need to get a router in addition to your modem. Alternatively, there are modems that are built-in together with a router.

Best reasons to switch

1. It makes financial sense

A stand-alone modem would cost around $50 on Amazon while one that comes with a router would cost you between $90 - $120. Assuming you pay $10 per month to rent a modem, within 12 months, you would have paid off your investment. Given that modems would usually last you anywhere from 3 - 5 years, that is between $240 to $480 saved.  

2. Bypass limits set by your ISP

Rental modems have many of their web-control interfaces locked by your ISP. This will prevent you from troubleshooting, checking your logs or even tweaking your settings with 3rd party software.

3. Get the latest technology and faster speeds

Your rental modem may be an old model that doesn't support the new technology that your Internet subscription is capable of. Most ISPs should upgrade you to a newer modem if that's the case but it's hard to say when. Getting a good modem can mean faster Internet speeds if you're subscribed to a high-speed service.

Why Keep Renting?

To be fair, there are some instances where renting may make more sense than buying your own modem:

  1. You're not good with technology and don't want the hassle of doing any setup.  
  2. You're moving house often and therefore changing your ISP.
  3. You value the tech support and don't want to troublsehoot. The extra you're paying is effectively for the additional support.

How to buy the right modem

While there are many things you could consider when buying your modem such as the DOCSIS standard or DSL version, the most important thing to consider is whether it is compatible with your service provider. Service providers will usually provide a list of recommended or compatible modems on their website. We've extracted the relevant pages for the following providers:

We recommend calling your ISP just to confirm that the modems you're looking at continue to be supported. Check out Amazon to see what the prices are like and compare with your local tech shop. From our experience, the prices at Amazon have been lower but again, the main cost saving when buying a modem is versus what you'd pay for in rental fees.

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