With the new Time Warner modem rental fee, I’m debating between renting my current modem, or just buying one outright. But I’m not sure I’m willing to deal with a bought modem if something goes wrong. What do you think?
The pros and cons of renting versus owning are incredibly dependent on what your living situation is, how tech-savvy you are, and how long you expect to stay on your internet service providers contract. So, which you choose really depends on what your plans for the future are.
When It’s Best to Buy a Modem
As far as long term investments go, you’ll always save money when you purchase a modem provided you plan on staying with the same ISP for an extended period of time. Most ISP’s charge between $4 and $8 a month to rent a modem, and you can typically purchase a modem for about $50-$100. That means you’ll have paid for a modem within one to two years.
However, before you run out to buy a modem you should do your research. Most ISPs support a select number of modems, which you can usually find on their website (Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, AT&T) or by calling them directly. It’s also worth calling to see if your ISP plans on upgrading its services anytime soon, so you can purchase a modem that will last you a long time.
Once you figure that out, owning your own modem is the cheapest option in the long term provided you plan on staying with the same ISP. It also means they won’t be able to help you much with tech support though, so make sure you’re ready to troubleshoot problems on your own. Photo by Luis Ventura.
When It’s Best to Rent a Modem
While renting a modem isn’t going to save you money, it is a better option in a few different circumstances.
First off, renting a modem means you get full repair services directly from your ISP. This means that if you’re not very tech literate, or you simply don’t like to futz about fixing things, a rented modem is a better option.
Also, if you don’t plan on staying in your current house or apartment, renting a modem can be beneficial. Since not all homes are wired the same, and since not every ISP covers every district, renting means you don’t have to worry if you move and want to change providers. It also future-proofs you a little if you decide to upgrade to a higher speed when it’s offered in your area. Photo by Richard Masoner.
What About the Router?
A lot of times, an ISP will also want to throw in a wireless router, or a router/modem combination. This is almost always a bad idea. It’s true you’ll get tech support when you rent a router through your ISP, but it’s not usually worth the extra cost because the routers don’t have a lot of features. You also don’t get control over your network. If you choose your router yourself, you can do all sorts of amazing things with it, and it’s easy to do.
Most problems with a router are simple to troubleshoot, and many problems can be fixed with a simple reset (this is the case for a lot of modems too).
Additionally, it’s really easy to turn a cheap $60 router into a super-router. This gives it all types of bells and whistles like advanced settings, usage tracking, and more.
Routers are also pretty universal. If you buy one, it’s going to work with every service, no matter where you are. Unlike modems, they’re not tied down with compatibility issues. Photo by Tim Walker.
Of course, whichever you choose really depends on how much hassle you want to deal with. If you’d rather have the tech support, renting is a good option, but if don’t mind troubleshooting your router or modem—or better yet—hacking it to make it more awesome, buying is better in the long run.
Title photo remixed from Tom.
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