How Much Is a Modem and Should You Rent or Buy One?

Unless you have gigabit-speed internet, you can expect to pay around $60 to $90 for a modem, which means you'll save money in less than a year.

When it comes to setting up your home internet connection, you may have the option to rent a modem from your internet service provider (ISP) or to buy one yourself. While renting a modem may seem like the easier option, it can also be more expensive in the long run. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of renting versus buying, as well as what to consider when choosing a modem.

Why Do ISPs Rent Modems?

First, let’s address why ISPs rent modems in the first place. One reason is that the modem connects directly to your provider’s network, and the boxes that your ISP provides are validated for compatibility with that specific ISP signal. This helps the ISP to lower the risk of random equipment causing security issues or other problems that could affect the network for other users. Additionally, renting modems brings in a steady stream of revenue from customers who may not realize that buying and installing their own modem is an option.

Should You Rent or Buy a Modem?

The biggest reason to consider buying your own modem is to save money. While buying a modem upfront requires a larger initial investment than your monthly rental cost, it will inevitably pay for itself over time, particularly if you’re not sharing your modem rental with roommates. Aftermarket modems can also be of higher quality than what your ISP provides, especially if your ISP has given you a combo unit with an underperforming Wi-Fi router. Buying a separate modem and router means that you can pick something with more channels, which can carry more data per second. This can help future-proof your connection if you decide to upgrade your internet speed down the road.

What to Consider When Choosing a Modem

When choosing a modem, you’ll want to make sure that it’s compatible with your ISP’s network and that it can deliver the speed that you’re paying for. Most major ISPs allow you to buy your own modem, and they keep a list of tested and approved models on their website. If you buy something outside that list, there are no guarantees that it will work, and some ISPs might even refuse to provide service. Pay attention to the DOCSIS version of the modem as well, as this indicates the modem’s maximum speed. Most modems these days are DOCSIS 3.0, which can deliver speeds of over one gigabit per second, but make sure you aren’t buying a DOCSIS 2.0 modem, which can only get up to 40 megabits per second.

Future-Proofing with DOCSIS 3.1

You might be tempted to future-proof with a shiny new DOCSIS 3.1 modem, which should allow for speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second in each direction. However, it’s not clear how long it will be before cable companies can actually deliver a connection that fast.

In conclusion, while renting a modem may be the easier option, buying a modem can save you money in the long run and give you more control over your home network. Just be sure to choose a modem that’s compatible with your ISP’s network and can deliver the speed you need.


Can I just buy a Wi-Fi modem?
Most Internet providers allow you to purchase your own modem and router separately, or a device that contains both—it's up to you. Both options connect you to the Internet.
Do I need both a modem and a router?
The modem and router are essential in ensuring a stable and reliable connection. Without a modem, the router would not be able to connect to the internet, and without a router, devices on the network would not be able to communicate.
Is it cheaper to buy your own modem?
Modem and Router Provider Costs and Fees The up-front cost of purchasing a modem or router can be higher than renting one, but you will save money over time by owning your equipment. If you do the math, then you'll realize buying a modem-and-router combo is cheaper than renting from an ISP.
Does it cost money to replace a modem?
You should rent a modem or router (or both) from your internet provider if you want upgrades, replacements, and technical support at no additional cost to you. If you want to save money over the long run and have more control over your internet connection, buy your own router.