Earlier this week, I signed up for Comcast’s Xfinity internet at a new apartment. If a subscriber doesn’t bring his or her own modem and router, Xfinity will rent a device for $13 per month. As far as I can tell, the majority of subscribers opt to rent. Renting is a terrible deal.
I purchased a modem and a router in 2017 for a total of about $70. While I don’t mind having a separate modem and router, there are plenty of options for simple devices that combine a router and a modem into a single unit. Amazon’s best-selling combination devices can be seen here. At the time of writing, several high-quality devices are available for between $80 and $130.
A $13 per month rental fee works out to $156 per year. A router can easily be used for 3 years, possibly much longer.
The table below shows the overall cost of renting a $13 per month router/modem for different lengths of time. I assume that rental fees will not increase over time. The assumption is generous. In the last decade, Comcast’s rental costs have risen by about 4X from $3 per month to $13 per month. The table also shows how much a subscriber could save by buying a high-end, $150 router/modem instead of renting.
|Years used||Rental cost||Savings by purchasing||Rental cost vs. purchase cost|
If you only use a $150 device for a single year, renting and buying are about equally cost-effective. In the off chance you use your service for less than a year, renting may make financial sense. That said, most Xfinity plans come with a one-year commitment. I doubt many customers subscribe for short enough periods to justify renting. If you keep your service for a few years or more, you can save a ton of money by buying your own modem and router.
Renting a modem/router may appeal to people since it’s simple. If you rent a device from Xfinity, you may not worry about compatibility and performance as much as you would when buying your own modem/router.
If the technical aspects of buying a modem or router concern you, here’s my advice for keeping things simple:
- Visit Amazon’s page listing its best-selling modem/router combination devices.
- Limit yourself to devices that are well-reviewed.
- Find a listing explicitly states that the device is (a) compatible with the service you will use (e.g., Comcast Xfinity) and (b) able to support service at the speed you want.1
Some people will struggle when deciding which device to purchase. A lot of consumers aren’t sure about the speeds they’ll want. They might find a cheap device that is probably good enough but wonder whether they should spend some extra cash to get a device they’re confident is good enough. Remember that even if you spend more than you need to on a router/modem, you’re probably still getting a way better deal than you would with a rented device.