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Question from Mike: I have cable Internet through Comcast/Xfinity and I pay $14 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 $168 I pay Comcast every year for a rental would actually 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, let’s discuss the pros of buying a cable modem instead of renting:
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 sell a wide variety of popular cable modems for around around what you’re paying in yearly rental fees. In fact, quite a few that cost much less.
Since you’re paying $168 per year in rental fees to Comcast the purchase of a new modem would pay for itself in a year or less.
That means if your modem lasted at least a year it would essentially be 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 every year on average you’d still be paying roughly the same amount overall (or even less) while receiving the benefits of always having a modem that was no more than a year old and always equipped with the latest technology.
As you can see, 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And the last part of that statement is a big deal since the cable companies tend to dole out used (and often outdated) modems to their customers, especially when replacing a modem that has gone bad.
As I explain in this post, used and outdated modems can and do affect the quality and speed of your Internet service.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 when 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 at no extra charge every time it gets damaged by a lightning strike or power surge.
However, if you own your modem you’ll be responsible for replacing it yourself every time it goes belly-up.
While it’s true that cable modems come with warranties, lightning strikes and power surges usually aren’t covered under the warranty. I know from personal experience that this could end up costing you a bundle in a relatively short period of time.
Like you, I’m also a Comcast customer as well and I can remember having my cable modem go out three times in a single summer (but admittedly, that was an unusual year for my area).
The above being said, you can greatly reduce the risk of your modem being damaged by a power surge simply by keeping it plugged into a battery backup device.
3 – Depending on which Comcast/Xfinity services you subscribe to and the download and upload speeds you’re paying for, you might need a special modem or gateway (if you use their home phone service, for example).
Before you purchase a new modem be sure to check with Comcast to make sure it will work with all of your services and that it can handle the download and upload speeds allotted for your service plan.
Bottom line: 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. You, and only you can answer this question for yourself based upon where you live and your own personal preferences regarding risk vs. reward.