Anyone who has ever set up at-home internet knows the importance of a modem and router. You may not know how many options you have when shopping for these gadgets, though. Many folks just rent a modem/router combo from their internet service provider since the costs of buying one can seem too high.
In reality, buying a modem is a good investment since it saves you cash in the long run. Renting may be convenient, but that comes with a monthly equipment fee. Add those up and you’ll realize you’ve spent more money renting than you would have spent buying a modem in the first place.
Buying your modem also gives you more control over your internet usage. Tap or click here to find out how important modems are and how they differ from routers. Before you start shopping, you’ll want to understand what you need to look for.
First, let’s talk about prices
If you’re currently renting and aren’t sure if you should buy yet, check your monthly internet bill and look for the rental fee. Most ISPs charge around $5 or $10 a month.
That means you could easily pay $120 a year just for renting a modem. If you shop for a device, you’ll find modems that sell for as little as $100 a pop. The numbers make it clear as day: You’ll save money by buying a device.
If you want to make sure, though, look for a modem fee on your monthly bill. Don’t see it? That’s probably because you’re on a plan that gives a free modem but charges extra for the router. Rent the two as a bundle and you’ll pay this much each month:
- AT&T: $10 a month
- CenturyLink: $15 a month
- Comcast Xfinity: $14 a month
- Cox: $12 a month
- Optimum/Suddenlink: $10 a month
Charter Spectrum and Frontier offer free modems, but they charge extra for the router. Rise Broadband lets you rent a modem alone for $11 per month. T-Mobile doesn’t have an equipment fee; it provides a modem/router gateway for free.
Now that you know how expensive renting can be, you’re probably ready to upgrade and buy your own. If you’re still not sure, here’s another reason why you should buy your modem instead of renting.
If you plan to switch internet providers, it’s best to buy your modem ahead of time. Otherwise, you may have to turn in the modem you rented and start again. By owning the device, you have more freedom and save yourself time.
Everything you need to know about buying your modem
If you’re wondering how to choose a modem, there’s a lot to keep in mind while you’re shopping. From speed to budget, you have to juggle many factors to get the best modem for your needs. Here’s a quick breakdown of everything you should look for:
- Brand: Some of the top modem manufacturers are Arris, Netgear, Motorola, Netgear, Cisco-Linksys, TP-Link and Belkin. They each have their own warranty limits, so pick the one that works best for you.
- Budget: Some modems sell for as little as $50. Others, which offer more features, may sell for $100 or more. Don’t be blown away by the fancy, expensive gizmos — buy one you can afford.
- Channels: This refers to how many channels a modem has for downloading or uploading. For example, 32×8 means your modem has 32 channels devoted to “downstream,” or downloading and eight channels for “upstream,” or uploading.
- Compatibility: Make sure the device you’re about to buy is compatible with your current ISP … as well as any ISP you may want to switch to in the future.
- DOCSIS: If you want cable internet, you need a DOCSIS modem. This acronym stands for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification. It’s a cable your ISP uses to provide your internet service.
- Speed: The speeds you see listed refer to download speeds, specifically. You need to consider your data limits and pick a modem with speed limits that work within the range. Buying a high-speed modem may not do much if your plan limits how much you can download.
Now that you have an overview, let’s touch back on some of the biggest takeaways.
Two tips before you buy
First, make sure you’re buying a DOCSIS 3.0 or 3.1 modem. These are the most modern modems available; older versions are prehistoric and as slow as snails in comparison. For fast internet speeds, you need one of these two modems.
Second, don’t feel like you have to buy a combination modem/router unit. Going separately means more flexibility in your setup.
If you buy them together, you’re dealing with one bulky hardware device. Separate them and you can place your router in the optimal spot for your needs. Tap or click here to find out the best places to put your router for optimal speed.
Feeling overwhelmed? We’ve got you covered. Here are some recommendations from Ben, our local tech review expert:
These three are a great place to start. Ben’s the resident expert when it comes to finding the best picks. Here are some reviews he’s written for the Kim Komando Show.