Should you stop renting the cable company’s Wi-Fi router?

TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Wireless Wi-Fi Router (Archer C1200)

Should you stop renting the cable company’s Wi-Fi router?

The first question you must ask your ISP is if you can replace their modem/router with your own. While it is almost always possible to add your own router to the mix, some ISPs require you to use their hardware. Thus even if you attempt to replace it, you're still going to be stuck paying their rental fee. So make sure you call their customer service and find out before you spend any money.

Routers vs. modems

The Internet Service Provider (ISP) that I have provides a combination router/modem, which is one device that does double duty or you could have two different devices. The modem is the device that provides access to the Internet, while the router shares that Internet access between devices all over the house.

The router may be wired with an Ethernet cable or wirelessly, sometimes both. If you decide to buy your own modem and it doesn't include a router, there is a chance that you may still end up paying the monthly rental fee to your ISP. Make sure the device you purchase offers all of the features that you need. 

Check for compatibility

Likewise, you need to ensure that any router or modem device that you buy works with your ISP's equipment. Most ISP providers have a compatibility list on their website, so take a look and make sure you're investing in compatible hardware. 

What will a new router cost?

Technology doesn't last forever, and you shouldn't expect your modem/router to, either. However you can expect them to last quite a few years. So when calculating the price of renting as opposed to buying your own, be slightly conservative and factor in 24 to 36 months’ worth of payments.

Now that you understand that, the math is pretty straightforward. Typically your cable company will charge you around $5/month for a router rental fee. You can buy your own high quality router for under $100. Here is a nice one that you can get for around $60: TP-Link AC1200 Gigabit Wireless Wi-Fi Router (Archer C1200).

If you conservatively accept that this router will last for at least 3 years, that's $60/36 month = $1.67/month. That's more than half the price of our hypothetical rental fee. The is a good chance that the router will probably last more than 3 years, and there’s a good chance that it's a better quality model than the one that your cable company provides you.

Wireless networking can sometimes be confusing. To help make things more clear for consumers, wireless standards are given names that start with a series of numbers like 802.11 and followed by a letter. You've probably seen 802.11b or 802.11g before, while today's cutting-edge devicess are 802.11ac. The letter indicates a different technology that can reach a higher speed.

Devices are backwards-compatible, however their speed is limited by the slowest device trying to connect. So if you have a brand-new 802.11ac laptop with an older 802.11n router, your laptop will not reach its full potential. If speed really matters to you, investing in your own equipment is certainly worth the extra hassle. Remember, though, that your speed isn't limited only by your equipment, it's also tied to your Internet service plan. If you don’t have your provider's high-speed service, there's really no point in investing in high-speed equipment.

Look at reviews, ratings and prices

This is a lot to take in, but don't let it scare you away from purchasing your own modem and router. You certainly can save a lot of money, as well as end up with better service to boot. Before you invest, though do your homework by reading reviews and ratings. 

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