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 $10 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 $120 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 you can get the Motorola SURFboard SB6121 (a great modem by the way) for around $60.

Since you’re paying $120 per year in rental fees to Comcast the purchase would pay for itself in just a few months. That means 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 twice 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 well less than a year old and always equipped with the latest technology. But since cable modems typically last for years instead of months you would almost certainly come out far, far ahead.

And the last part of that statement is a big deal since the cable companies tend to dole out used (and often outdated) modems to their customers, especially when replacing a modem that has gone bad. Used and outdated modems can and do affect the quality and speed of your Internet service.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


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.

If you like this post you can get my latest tips in my weekly RicksDailyTips Email Newsletter. Sign up for free at the bottom of this page!

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.

      Check out these Featured Posts...

             • How to automatically save an extra 3% on everything you buy from Amazon

             • 8 tips for building and maintaining a super-fast WordPress blog

             • Should you completely drain your laptop’s battery before recharging it?

             • How to convert a spare internal hard drive into an external USB drive

             • Step-by-step guide to completely ridding your PC of viruses and spyware

Like my tech tips? Subscribe to my free newsletter!

Get more great tips via email plus a chance to win some awesome prizes in my monthly tech gear giveaways!

Not sure? Click here to check out the Newsletter archives.