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Is it Better to Rent or Buy a Modem and Router?

Date Published:  June 24th, 2021Date Updated:  February 20, 2024

Summary: If you’re trying to save money on your internet bill, chances are you’ve wondered if it’s better to buy or rent your equipment (such as a modem and router). We’re here to explain what you need to consider when making that decision plus what we recommend.

If you’re looking for ways to save with your internet service provider, you’ve probably heard this debate: do you rent or buy your modem? Like most things related to your high-speed internet connection, it will depend on your situation. But we can help! We’ll explain exactly what your modem and router do plus the benefits and potential pitfalls of renting or buying your hardware.

How a Router and Modem Work

If you’re not totally sure how your router and modem work, you’re not alone. (According to PC Mag, 43% of people think they don’t need a modem.) Your modem connects you to the internet but if you want to use WiFi you’ll need a router. A router takes that internet connection and translates it into WiFi that your devices can connect to. So if you enjoy wireless internet, you’ll need a router. (Psst — if you have WiFi but just one device, that’s called a gateway. It’s basically a modem-router hybrid and is particularly popular if you rent equipment from your internet service provider.)

Clearly, both a modem and router are important pieces of equipment, and essential to using high-speed internet in everyday life. And yes, unfortunately, you do need both. But should you buy your own equipment? Or is it a better idea to rent through your provider?

Benefits of Buying a Modem and Router

Depending on who you listen to, the buying vs. renting a router debate starts to sound a lot like buying vs. renting your home. Both have their merits, and a substantial portion of it comes down to what works best for your lifestyle.

If you want to buy the equipment, you’ll first need to do some research. Your internet service provider, internet speed, and even internet usage will affect the type of equipment you’ll want to get. If you tend to move around a lot, or even just frequently change ISPs, look for a modem and router that are compatible with multiple providers. That way, you can (hopefully) avoid purchasing brand-new equipment every year.

You’ll also want to be confident in your troubleshooting capabilities — or at least in your ability to follow the instructions on a YouTube video (assuming you can get there if your equipment goes down). Owning your own hardware means that most of the troubleshooting will fall to you since your internet service provider can’t remotely diagnose the problem.

So what are the benefits of buying a router?

  • Potential to save money: if you stick with your ISP and don’t need to upgrade your equipment, you could save money in the long run by owning instead of renting
  • Easier to customize settings: this includes things like enabling firewalls and choosing the appliances that best suit your needs

If you’re looking to save money and individualize your internet while sticking with the same provider for a while, buying might be a good option. Just make sure to do your research first — and you understand what your ISP requires.

Benefits of Renting a Router

Not sold on researching, picking out, and buying your modem and router? Most internet service providers offer equipment rental for their customers for a small monthly fee, typically between $5 and $15, depending on the ISP.

And renting hardware can help you skip a lot of headaches: no more worrying about troubleshooting, knowing when to upgrade equipment, or even having to decide what equipment works best with your service. For a few extra dollars a month, renting your equipment can help you avoid aggravation and hassles when your hardware isn’t working correctly.

Here are our favorite benefits of renting:

  • Easy troubleshooting: when your device is through your ISP, they can help resolve the problem for you or, at a minimum, have a better idea of how to walk you through the process — or send out a professional tech to solve it in person for you
  • Equipment is always compatible: you never have to worry about your equipment working with your plan when you rent it. If it’s time for an upgrade or a replacement, your ISP will provide it
  • Easy to share with roommates: if you live with other people, renting your equipment prevents the tricky conversation of who gets the equipment when someone moves out
  • Built-in software updates: no more having to remember to install updates. Instead, you can take advantage of automated, built-in updates. This means your equipment is always working at its best and most secure

For most people, we recommend renting your equipment — especially as the average American moves more than 11 times in their life! It streamlines the troubleshooting and upgrade process. But, if you enjoy a hands-on approach to your high-speed internet connection, purchasing your modem and router could be right for you. Still curious? Get in touch with one of our Internet Experts today.

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker is the Content Marketing Manager for EarthLink. She's an internet expert who loves to break down why connectivity topics are relevant to everyday life. With more than five years of writing experience, she thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She graduated with her M.A. from the University of Cincinnati but currently lives and works in Atlanta.

See all posts from Michelle Ricker.