Along with cable television and Internet, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is likely charging you for your cable modem on your monthly bill. While it may be convenient to pay your cable provider a modem rental fee, you could save nearly by purchasing your own.
When you rent a cable modem, your ISP will set it up along with any other equipment your cable and Internet package requires. Renting your modem is beneficial in the event that it breaks — as long as your contract states your ISP will replace it at no cost. Any issues you have with a third-party cable modem won’t be covered by your ISP, but it can provide the same fast speed and save you money each month.
What to Know Before Purchasing a Cable Modem
Aside from saving money, another benefit to purchasing your own modem is that you may be able to keep it even if you switch providers — you have to return the modem you rent from your ISP when you cancel your contract, and it likely isn’t compatible with a different company anyway. You will need to make sure that your modem is compatible with your new ISP, which you can verify by simply checking with them. Keep in mind that you do not want to purchase a modem advertised as being from a specific ISP because it may have been stolen. Here are a few other things to know before purchasing a modem.
- DOCSIS 3.0 – Your cable modem should support , which is the current standard that cable TV systems use to transfer data. It provides a minimum 152 Mbps download speed and 108 Mbps upload speed, and has no maximum speed. While DOCSIS 3.1 was launched in 2013 with 10 Gbps download and 1 Gbps upload speeds, it is not worth spending the extra money unless your ISP also offers speeds that fast. When you purchase a DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem, you guarantee a high return on your investment: it will work for years as your ISP continues to offer faster Internet speeds.
- Compatibility – Cable modems are compatible only with cable providers, not fiber or DSL. Also, if your ISP bundles telephone services with your Internet, there is a possibility these modems will not work. If this is the case, contact your ISP to verify whether or not you can purchase your own modem.
- Routers – A modem is like a translator that the Internet and your devices, and cable routers make it possible to access Wi-Fi on multiple devices. Without a cable router, you can access the Internet on one device by connecting the device directly to your modem with an Ethernet cable. The modems we list do not come with routers, but many offer them as well. Any router will work with your modem and ISP — you do not need to worry about compatibility issues. Your ISP may offer a router with no rental fee, so you should check with them before purchasing a router.
Top-Rated Cable Modems
While the modems below provide high download and upload speeds, your provider ultimately determines your Internet speed. Before you make a final decision, contact your ISP to verify that they can support the modem you intend to purchase.
- The Arris SURFboard SB6141 is Amazon’s #1 best seller. At only $70, you could break even in just six months and see over $200 in savings in the first two years. The SURFboard is a DOCSIS 3.0 modem that is compatible with the major U.S. cable Internet providers. This modem boasts eight download channels at 343 Mbps and four upload channels at 131 Mbps, which means it will work well for video games, music and movie downloads, and video conferences.
- At just $54, the TP-LINK TC-7610 is also a great choice. It is DOCSIS 3.0 and also compatible with the major cable providers. The TP-LINK provides eight download channels at 343 Mbps and four upload channels at 143 Mbps. With a two-year warranty and 24/7 technical support, this is a great device for anyone new to owning a modem.
- Though slightly more expensive than the others, NETGEAR’s CM500 modem is also a popular choice for high-speed Internet. At $85, the CM500 is DOCSIS 3.0 and certified for the major cable providers. This modem offers 16 download channels at 680 Mbps and four upload channels at 132 Mbps. Small and sleek, you can put the CM500 behind other items on a shelf and set it up without calling your ISP.
The Bottom Line: Purchasing your own modem may seem like a big investment at first, but by allowing you to take control of your equipment and saving you money on your cable bill, this is one investment that can really pay off.
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