Owning vs Renting a Modem

Mon Dec 31 2018


Which is better? The internet has become a vital part of our daily lives. Approximately 85% of households in the US have either a laptop or desktop computer

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Which is better?

The internet has become a vital part of our daily lives.

Approximately 85% of households in the US have either a laptop or desktop computer. If you factor in smartphones, over 91% of households are connected to the internet. Home connections have now made it possible to use one subscription with multiple devices. For home internet connections to work, you will need two things:

Modem: It translates incoming internet signals into something your device can understand.

WiFi Router: connects to the router via an Ethernet and transmits the internet around your house as WiFi for use by other devices.

Most internet service providers (ISP) rent out routers and routers to their broadband clients as a combo unit. The charges by different providers for leasing a router and router range from $10 to $15. This would then translate to $120 to $180 in a year (this information might also be available in your internet service contract). Most experts advise users to choose separate units over a combo unit. This is due to the fact you can get better performing stand-alone units.

A modem and router combination costs between $50 and $150. It would cost you almost the same amount if you were to rent them for a year. Suppose you buy a modem and router: they would pay for themselves within two years. The savings you make from not paying the rental fee are cheaper in the long run. So why do some people keep paying the rental charges? Well, before you rush to buy them yourself, there are some things to consider.


Factors to consider when choosing between renting or buying

1. How long will you live in that coverage area?

Moving may sometimes force you to change your ISP if you move to an area outside your current coverage. Some routers may not be compatible with the new service provider you opt for later on. With some companies, using their approved modems is mandatory. It may be better to rent if you plan to move soon.


2. Do you have roommates?

If you do, purchasing may not be the best option. See if you can split the rental fee with your roommates. You will still get to enjoy similar services at a fraction of the cost.


3. Does your employer pay your internet bills?

Some people are lucky enough to work for companies that pay for their internet bills. If you are one of them, then the choice is easy. Choose one of the approved modems, and your employer will take care of the rest.


Pros and cons of renting


  • No setup hassles: Your ISP will deliver and install everything for you. All you have to do is enjoy your connection.
  • Free tech support: Your ISP will handle all issues concerning the router and your connectivity.
  • Free replacement: When your router becomes outdated or fails, you just have to request a replacement at no extra cost.


  • The rental fees will be more expensive than the upfront price of buying in the long run.
  • The quality of hardware installed may not be the best available in the market.
  • Your provider may increase the costs per month.


Pros and cons of buying


  • No more speed caps: Having your own router will allow you to access the full speeds of your internet subscriptions. Fast internet allows you to spend less time on tasks that would take longer with slower internet. If you compare the actual connection speed and the speed you pay for when renting models, you are likely to notice a big difference.
  • It is cheaper in the long run: In most cases, it takes a little over twelve months for a router to pay for itself. After that, you can save money. With your own, the ISP cannot throttle the connection speed or bandwidth.
  • High-performance routers are also an option.



  • High upfront cost ($50-$150).
  • Installation may be challenging for people who are not tech-savvy.
  • You might not get any tech support.
  • You might buy one that is not among the approved routers for a different service provider later on.


If you decide that owning a router is the better option, consider the following:

ISP requirements

Routers are not a “one size fits all” item. You have to find out which routers are compatible with your provider and the specs required. This information is available on their website. If not, just call their customer care line for clarification.

Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS)

DOCSIS is an international standard that allows high speed transfer of data on existing cable TV systems (CATVSs) that operators use to provide internet access to their customers via a cable router.

These specifications come in ratings such as DOCSIS 1.0, DOCSIS 2.0, etc., that range in speeds. What should concern you most is the speed each rating can handle. Be sure to pick a rating that can meet your internet needs and is compatible with your ISP.

Let’s take a look at some of the upload and download speeds that they come with:


DOCSIS 1.0/1.1 – 38Mbps down / 9Mbps up

DOCSIS 2.0 – 38Mbps down / 27Mbps up

DOCSIS 3.0 – 152Mbps down / 108Mbps up

DOCSIS 3.1 – 10,000Mbps down / 1,000Mbps up


A WiFi Router device will allow access to your internet connection to multiple gadgets. They are only necessary for connections with multiple users. Choose one that can handle the same speed as your router. If you have several devices, you might need a high-end router. 

Both buying and hiring a router have their pros and cons. For some people, the after-sale services that come with rented routers are worth the higher bills at the end of the month. Why burden yourself with dealing with technical issues when your provider has the experts? Fair enough. But for those of you who are the hands-on do it yourself type, buying presents an opportunity to access faster internet speed and save money over the long haul.

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