Q&A: Should I buy my own cable modem or rent one from Comcast?

cable-modemQuestion from Mike T:  I have cable Internet through Comcast and pay $7 a month to rent a cable modem from them. While shopping for a router on Amazon I noticed that they also sell cable modems.

Would you recommend buying my own cable modem since the $84 I pay Comcast every year for a rental would buy one outright? I look forward to hearing your opinion because I don’t want to end up making a big mistake either way.

Rick’s Answer:  Mike, as with everything in life there are pros and cons associated with owning your own cable modem vs. renting from your ISP. First, the pros: 

1 – Buying your own modem will save you money in the long run provided that it lasts longer than the time it would take for the rental savings to pay for the purchase of the modem.

A quick check on Amazon shows they’re currently offering the Motorola SURFboard SB6121 (a great modem by the way) for less than $70 with free shipping.

Since you’re paying $84 per year in rental fees to Comcast the purchase would pay for itself in slightly less than a year. If your modem lasted at least a year it would be essentially free for as long as it lasts since you would have paid for it with money that would have went to Comcast anyway.

2 – Even if you ended up having to buy a new modem once a year on average you’d still be paying roughly the same amount overall while receiving the benefits of always having a modem that was less than a year old and equipped with the latest technology.

And the last part of that statement is a big deal since the cable companies tend to dole out used (and often outdated) modems to their customers, especially when replacing a modem that has gone bad. Used and outdated modems can and do affect the quality and speed of your Internet service.

And now the cons:

1 – If you own your own cable modem instead of renting one from your ISP, they are much more likely to try to blame the modem whenever service outages or flaky connections crop up (and they will on occasion).

2 – If you live in a part of the country that has lots of thunderstorms and/or flaky power grids your ISP will replace your rented modem every time it gets damaged by a lightning strike or power surge. But if you own your modem you’ll be responsible for replacing it yourself every time it takes a hit.

Cable modems come with warranties but lightning strikes and power surges usually aren’t covered. I know from personal experience that this could end up costing you a bundle in a relatively short period of time. I’m also a Comcast customer and I can remember having my cable modem go out three times in a single summer. I sure was glad I was renting!


As you can see, there is a lot to consider before deciding whether to keep renting a cable modem from your ISP or buy your own, therefore you, and only you can answer this question for yourself based upon where you live and your own personal preferences regarding risk vs. reward.

If you do decide to purchase your own modem, Amazon has an excellent selection of cable modems at very competitive prices.

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links.

Do you have a tech question of your own? If so, simply click on the “Ask Rick A Tech Question” link at the top of this page.