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Your modem and router have complimentary but different functionalities that are integral to connecting your home to the internet. As you set up a home network, you can choose between buying and renting a modem or router. Often internet service providers offer their customers a single device called a gateway, which is a modem and router combined in one. You can rent such a device from your ISP or buy ISP-compatible network equipment. So, which is the better option?

Renting or buying your network equipment is highly debatable as what works best is pretty subjective and relies on different circumstances. In this article, we explore the two options and break down their pros and cons so you can make the right choice.

Modem vs Router: What Is the Difference?

People often struggle in distinguishing between modems and routers and confuse them to serve the same purpose. This is not exactly right. If you cannot make the distinction between modem and router, let us break it down for you!    

Both a modem and a router are necessary to set up an internet connection. The two may come up combined in a single device called a Gateway, but have different underlying technologies and serve different purposes. A modem connects your home network to the ISP by converting digital signals from your provider to analog signals that local devices can use. A modem has two ports: one connects to your router and the other to your ISP. A router, on the other hand, creates a Wi-Fi network that connects your phones, tablets, and home devices to the internet.

Is Renting a Modem or Router Cheaper than Buying It?

The average cost of renting a router or modem is around $10 to $15 per month. If one takes into consideration the lifetime cost of renting equipment and compares it to the upfront cost of buying a router, the difference is drastic. Here is a quick breakdown:

On average, you can get a decent Wi-Fi router and modem combo for $100 - $150. The annual rental cost for an average router is within the same range or more. Over time, the rental cost can add up. If you have had the same router for two years under a rental contract, you are paying significantly more than the upfront cost of that router. Although this depends on the rental fee your specific provider charges, the monthly rental fees add up over time.

That said, renting equipment has some benefits too. You get to enjoy low-maintenance costs and free technical support. All regular software updates are covered in your monthly cost. And the biggest plus is you get free replacement for your malfunctioned equipment.

Rental Fees of Different Providers

Before you decide between renting or buying equipment from your provider, check the equipment rental fee of different providers to find the more economical option.

Internet Provider

Equipment Fee

Equipment Type

Kinetic by Windstream

$5.99 – $9.99/mo.          

Kinetic Gateway

Cox Communications

$13/mo.

Panoramic Wi-Fi gateway

CenturyLink

$15/mo.

Gateway

Xfinity

$14/mo.

xFi Gateway

Spectrum

$5/mo.

Router

(Modem free)

 

Renting Modem vs. Router: Pros and Cons

Internet service providers give you the option of renting equipment with your internet plan instead of buying it. Here are the pros and cons of this arrangement:

Pros

Cons

Tech Support: With rented equipment, you get access to tech support. From installation to your entire service period, you can reach out to customer support anytime you need help or have any questions/concerns.

 

High Rental Fee: Some providers can have hefty router rental fees and an additional fee for renting a modem, which can add up to significantly more than what buying a router will cost you.  

Regular Software Updates: Your devices will get regular software updates without any additional charges.

 

Price Changes: Your ISP could increase the rental cost of the devices at any point in time.

Maintenance and Replacement: Rental equipment is covered under your provider’s maintenance and replacement warranty. If your router breaks or gets outdated, your ISP will repair or replace it for you.

 

Equipment Cannot Be Reused: You cannot sell your equipment as you do not own it nor can you use it with another ISP if you switch providers.

Best for Short-Term Living Arrangements: If you are constantly moving places, renting saves you the hassle of traveling with your devices or being stuck with a device that might not be compatible with your new internet connection type or provider.   

 

Accessible by your Provider: Your ISP can throttle speeds to manage network congestion, which leads to inconsistent speed performance.

 

Buying Modem vs. Router: Pros and Cons

If renting equipment does not seem like your cup of tea, you can purchase ISP-compatible equipment. Here are the pros and cons of buying internet equipment instead of renting it.

Pros

Cons

Better Modem and Router Options: At times, ISPs offer outdated equipment to save money but when you are buying your own, you have access to better options that have more features.

 

No Tech Support: ISPs do not offer technical assistance or support for third-party equipment. Therefore, you have to troubleshoot any equipment-related problem on your own.

 

One Time Purchase: You do not have to keep paying an additional charge every month. Buying a router and modem is a one-time investment.

 

Upfront Cost

Depending on the router, modem—or gateway—you get, you have to pay a hefty upfront cost.

Better Control: Your ISP cannot throttle your Wi-Fi speeds as it can on a rented device. Furthermore, you have the option to upgrade or replace your router when you please. You do not have to wait for your ISP to offer an upgrade.

 

 

Better Value: Buying modems and routers offer a better value for your buck than renting them. You only have to pay for the upfront cost while buying equipment whereas rental fees can add up over time.

 

 

How to Buy a Modem or Router

If you have decided to buy a modem and router instead of renting it from your ISP, keep a couple of things in mind. Buying a router that only has a handful of features and/or is incapable of matching the performance of your internet connection will hurt the speed and performance of your internet connection. To avoid this, here are a few things you should consider while purchasing your router:

Compatibility

The modem and router you buy should be compatible with your ISP and internet connection. Modems are specific to internet connection type—not all modems will work for all connection types. For instance, you cannot make a cable modem work with a DSL internet connection. Similarly, the router you purchase should be compatible with your ISP, or else it would not work.

This shows how critical provider compatibility is to your equipment. Internet service providers publish the list of compatible equipment on their official websites. You can visit the website to ensure equipment compatibility before making the purchase.  

Speed and Bands

Get a router that offers higher speeds than your download speed. This way you have a better chance of getting the best Wi-Fi speeds when multiple devices are connected to the internet. However, if your router cannot support the speeds advertised in your internet plan, the money you pay for the higher speeds will go to waste.  

Ports and Antennas

A wired connection to the router is necessary for some devices. In general, internet performance is better on devices connected to the router via an Ethernet cable. If you are an online gamer or like to stream videos in 4K you can leverage a more stable cable and faster speeds by connecting your PC or smart TV to the router with an Ethernet cable.

For this reason, look for a router with enough ports to support multiple devices at once. And it goes without saying that you would want a router with a good enough range to cover your entire home. A router with more antennas can improve signal strength and directionality—enhancing your internet’s overall performance.

Quality of Service

A rather underappreciated feature that is worth looking into when purchasing a router is the Quality of Service. If yours is a smart home equipped with smart devices or one with multiple users, the QoS feature will help you prioritize devices. For example, if you want to stream movies on your phone or smart TV, you can prioritize your device over others to get better speeds and a more stable connection on it.

In Conclusion

If you find yourself constantly moving places, renting a router and modem from your ISP would be beneficial. This way you do not have to carry an additional device every time you travel or pay a hefty upfront cost for a device that might not be compatible with the next ISP. However, if you want a more economical option or you prefer more control over your internet equipment, buy a router instead of renting one.   

We recommend investing in a good internet plan along with the right router and modem to maximize your home network’s performance. To get the best internet deals near you call 855-349-9328.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to buy or rent a router?

There are pros and cons to both options. If you want timely updates, replacements, and technical support without any additional charges, rent a router from your ISP. However, if want to save money in the long run and can afford the upfront cost, buying a router is the better option.

Should I buy a router and modem separately?

Modem vs router combos is the more convenient option as it is more economical and saves space. However, getting modem and router devices separately is the better option if you want enhanced internet performance and internet connectivity.

Can I save money by buying my router?

The average cost of renting a router from an ISP is $10 - $15 per mo. whereas you can buy a decent modem/router combo for a one-time payment of $100 to $150. The upfront cost of buying a router is more than renting one. However, the numbers clearly tell that buying a router is more cost-effective in the long run.

What is the difference between a modem and a router?

A modem is a device that connects your home to an internet connection whereas a router distributes the internet throughout your home and allows your devices to communicate with the internet.