When you sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP), they usually send you a modem and a router. At first, it’s convenient that you don’t need to buy your own, but sticking with your ISP’s hardware does have its disadvantages.
So, why should you buy your own router, and what advantages do they bring?
1. Buying a Router Can Be Cheaper in the Long Run
When you sign up to an ISP’s service, they’ll often give you a router as part of the package. Sometimes this router comes as part of the package, and there’s not much you can do about it.
Sometimes, however, the ISP will ask you if you’d like to rent its approved router. This rental becomes an added cost on your monthly bill.
If you already have a router, you don’t need to rent out the ISP’s model. While the upfront cost of buying your own router is more, the long-term costs of an ISP router vs. your own router will save you money.
2. Your ISP’s Router May Have a Weak Wi-Fi Signal
Don’t get us wrong; some ISPs produce powerful routers with a Wi-Fi signal that covers the entire household. Some, however, have feeble Wi-Fi strengths or download speeds that make using the internet a chore.
Your best bet is to check the specs of the router that your ISP sent you, then compare it to the speed of your internet plan. If the router can’t move as much data, you’ll benefit from a better device.
You can also use Wi-Fi signal measuring tools to check how strong the signal is. If you’re getting a weak signal and moving the router around doesn’t fix it, you should try getting a more powerful router.
Some routers are also made to provide better Wi-Fi in difficult places. The Amplifi HD system, for example, uses high-density mesh points throughout your house to eliminate dead spots.
If you live in a house with lots of signal-stopping walls, something like this can provide a speed boost. Features like tri-band Wi-Fi can also keep speeds up when you’re using multiple devices.
3. Opt for Routers With Better Parental Controls
Storebought routers have great options for parental controls. While parental apps on a computer do work, parental controls on the router itself are more effective and harder to crack. While some ISP routers support parental controls, you’re not likely to get as many options as you are if you buy your own.
Netgear routers, for example, come with a free app that lets you adjust the control settings directly from your phone. You can also set up specific times where some sites are blocked, but others are allowed.
4. Storebought Routers Have Better Guest Network Tools
Most routers can create guest networks. With a click, you give Wi-Fi access to guests with a custom password, without giving away your private network’s one. This feature is useful for keeping people off of your network, where all your files and devices may be stored.
You can also turn the guest network off when it’s not in use, in case you’re worried about hackers. Guest networks don’t let users see what else is attached to the network, access other devices, and sometimes keep guests from even seeing each other.
Guest networks provide a lot of conveniences and added security, but not all ISP routers support them. As such, if you’re considering an ISP router vs. storebought routers, it’s best to go with the latter.
5. Storebought Routers Have Better Bandwidth Prioritization
Quality of service (QoS) lets you choose apps or devices that get priority bandwidth. You could use these settings to make sure that Netflix on your Roku gets priority for streaming, for example.
Some routers also give you more advanced capabilities related to QoS so you can customize how it treats different types of traffic. If you’re using several devices at the same time, you can ensure that your router is making the right decisions on data transmission.
You’ll probably need to do some research to find how to configure QoS best, but if you do it well, you can significantly improve the quality of your Wi-Fi.
6. Third-Party Firmware Works Better
You probably don’t give a lot of thought to your router’s firmware. However, if you want to get the best performance from your router, you can upgrade or even change the firmware. Installing DD-WRT, for example, can open up more options than your standard firmware.
Having freedom over your router’s settings allows you to fine-tune its performance. There are plenty of ways to improve the speed of your router, and having control of its firmware helps you get the best from your equipment.
You can’t choose a firmware on an ISP-provided router. Even upgrading your router to the latest firmware is hard when your ISP is slow with updates.
7. Storebought Routers Are More Secure and Stable
When you purchase a router directly from a manufacturer, they have control over the firmware and don’t have a specific affiliation toward a particular ISP. This means the company can keep your router secure via updates and should work on any ISP you choose.
This isn’t always true for an ISP’s router. For one, the ISP may not be the one producing the router in the first place; they may delegate that task to another company. If a flaw appears in your router’s security, the ISP has to get in touch with the router’s manufacturer to fix it.
Similarly, the router will be built to work with its ISP, but isn’t guaranteed to work well outside of its default settings. The Register reported on how Sky customers had their routers bricked after a firmware update. It only affected those that used a custom DNS server, which shows how users face problems if they stray off the ISP’s intended path.
Which Routers Are Better Than ISP Equipment?
We’ve made an excellent case for grabbing a new router instead of settling for what your ISP gives you. However, now the question remains: if your ISP’s router isn’t good enough, what is? There are plenty of routers out there, and not all of them are winners.
Before you hit the store to find something better, be sure to read our picks for the best modem/router combo for every budget.
Do I Have to Use the Router Provided by My ISP?
If you want to replace your ISP’s equipment, you may wonder if your ISP forces you to use their router. The answer is no, but sometimes sticking to your ISP’s router will make things easier. It’s up to you to weigh the benefits of buying a router with the ease of using the ISP’s tools.
These days, some ISPs will provide a modem/router combo when you sign up. All you need to do is plug in the router, and you’re set.
When replacing this kind of router, you also need a modem alongside it. Some ISP routers will allow their routers to be put in “modem mode,” so you can connect it to a router of your choice. Otherwise, you’ll need to get your own.
You can also opt for a modem/router combo of your own. Just be sure the router fits the requirements of your ISP, else it may not function as intended.
Getting the Best From Your Router
ISPs are keen to give you a router to set you up, but they’re not always your best option. Now you know the pros and cons of an ISP router vs. an aftermarket router and whether or not you should buy a router.
Don’t throw out your ISP’s router, though; there are ways to reuse an old router and give it a second life.