580,000 Americans Still Rent Their Phone From The Phone Company

Phones can be purchased for around $20, but over half a million mostly older Americans still send the phone companies between $4.45 and $19.95 each month for a rented phone. Many senior citizens mistakenly believe that their rented phones are a great deal. From Bankrate:

Currently, the company’s most popular leased telephones are the Signature Series products, which “are much more robust than the average telephone, are available in a wide selection of colors and have special features, such as a real bell ringer, which we know our lease customers want.

“Many of our customers tell us they lease for the products, benefits and services that leasing provides,” Muldoon said in a prepared statement. “The No. 1 benefit they cite is unconditional product replacement.”

Rented phones aren’t easily identifiable on most monthly bills. The phones are often listed as “leased equipment,” and some companies hide the charges over three months. Of course, the ‘real bell ringer’ might be a dead giveaway.

If you think your parents or grandparents are renting their phone, buy them a new phone, and return the rented phone to the phone company.

Still renting your phone? Why? [Bankrate]
(Photo: Rev Dan Catt)


Edit Your Comment

  1. JuliusJefferson says:

    Same goes for rented broadband modems. While they’re more expensive and it takes longer to “recoup” the cost savings, eventually you’ll save money.

    This is yes another reason I’m glad I’m on Brighthouse and not Comcast – a free (temporary) modem.

  2. mopar_man says:

    I didn’t even know you could GET rented phones anymore. I just assumed since they were so cheap that companies stopped doing that.

  3. jamesdenver says:

    My great aunt had a party line for up until about 1990 or so. When I was a kid I’d pick it up, hear people on the other end talking until she walked in and said “Hang that up”

    Straight out of I Love Lucy.

  4. gibsonic says:

    bring back the party line!

    that sounds like a great title to a new song.

  5. endless says:

    @mopar_man: my fiancee leased a wireless router from the cable company. they charged 5 a month for a 802.11B. (emphasis on B)

    i am trying to reform her.

  6. Ickypoopy says:

    My mom “leases” her phone (and extended phone cord) from the phone company. I really do not understand why. She only leases ONE of the phones, but has at least two others in the house that she owns.

    Its actually kind of funny though. She was renting a rotary phone, and opted out of touchtone service. About a year ago, they removed the ability to use rotary service, and forced her to upgrade to a touchtone phone. It looks just like the old one, big black and ugly.

  7. ncboxer says:

    Eventually this will die out (literally) as the senior citizens who never opted to buy a phone will die and the phone leasing will be canceled.

    Incidentally the money mainly goes to Alcatel-Lucent (under license from AT&T) which is not a phone company. They provide the heavy equipment that the phone companies use to route stuff.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:


    WILL it be canceled if they die?

  9. miborovsky says:

    @TechnoDestructo: That’s actually a really good question. I can imagine people getting screwed over this.

  10. levenhopper says:

    Wait. The post says that the company may hide the charge over three months.

    But if it’s a monthly fee, how would that work?

  11. Nytmare says:

    @levenhopper: It means some phone leases are billed every 3 months.

  12. AcidReign says:

        My parents had two leased phones back in the 1980s. Then, when the Bells broke up, they had an option to continue leasing, to buy the phones (for something like $50 a piece), or return the phones. My dad opted to return the phones, but never received any information on where to ship them, and eventually Bellsouth simply gave him the phones. Returning the rotary wall phone would have been trouble, anyway. I think it was actually built into a wall stud, and the wires were soldered into the junction box.

  13. ncboxer says:

    Well it wouldn’t probably be automatically canceled, but I would think most cancellations are done by the children of the senior citizens. After their parents die, they should be looking at all the bills and settling them.

  14. jamesdenver says:

    I just realized reading these comments that being a cell phone only user, (no home phone,) and having a majority of friends that are the same – I haven’t touched a home phone in months. If I do use a phone in someone else’s house it’s my cell phone.

    The only time I use one is back at my mom’s house.

  15. vanilla-fro says:

    I only use house phones to find my cell phone after a bender.

  16. lestat730 says:

    This shouldn’t even be legal. Hell, these days phone companies should be giving a customer a complimentary phone just for choosing their service over the competition!

  17. tkozikow says:

    My mother-in-law has a party line and leased her rotary dial phone until about 10 years ago. We recently learned that she was renting a 50 gallon hot water heater for $15/month from the electric company, discovering this when the unit failed. They wanted to put in another 50 gallon unit (she lives alone on a fixed income), but we purchased a high efficiency 30 gallon unit at Home Depot for less than $300 and paid $150 to have it installed. With the lower usage cost we figure that the cost recovery to be about 15 months.

  18. tkozikow says:

    My bad…cost recovery is about two years.

  19. akalish says:

    Some of the phones that are leased are designed with special amplifying equipment for the hearing impaired. An older friend of mine use to have one. I know there are plenty of phones out there with great colume options, but the special ones from the phone company are insanely loud.

  20. swalve says:

    Now I know what to do if I want a decent phone.

    How many businesses still lease phone equipment? Plenty. Not as ridiculous as you hipsters might think.

  21. Sparkstalker says:

    I had a ten year crusade to get my mother to switch out her leased phones. Every time I would buy her a new one, she’d use it for a week and find something wrong with it, be it the sound quality (even though it was imperceptible to anyone else), the buttons, or the receiver was too light. Even after I finally got one she was agreeable to, she still swore it sounded bad up to the day she died.

    And the worst part? My father’s an accountant (read as: penny-pincher), but he still let her get away with the rented phones…

  22. lws1984 says:

    I grew up with a leased rotary phone (actually, 5) in our house. We bought them outright when the whole AT&T split happened (even though we’d probably already paid for the things at least thrice) because even without the guaranteed replacement you got from leasing, the old Western Electric Model 500 was one of the most well-built phones ever built. You could throw them at a wall and they wouldn’t break.

    New phones are too flimsy anyway.

  23. StevieD says:

    My parents are so cheap that they kept their party line until the babybell forced them to give up the party line sometime in the early 90’s.