How Much Different Types of DVRs Cost

Buying a DVR can be cheaper than renting one from your cable company

Close-up of digital video recorder with red light
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While the cost of DVRs has dropped over the years, they can still range from less than $100 to over $1,000. Many cable and satellite companies let customers rent DVRs, but it's sometimes cheaper in the long run to purchase one upfront.

Information in this article applies broadly to different DVRs. Carefully research individual product specifications before making a purchase.

How Much Does Renting a DVR Cost?

Depending on your cable provider, you can count on paying anywhere from $5.99-$12.99 per month for the ability to record your favorite shows. Many providers also charge a DVR service fee, which further drives up the cost. For example, Spectrum TV charges a $12.99 service fee on top of the $11.99 rental fee each month for a total of $24.98 per month. Over the course of a two-year contract, these fees can exceed the actual price of the DVR.

Keep in mind that the DVR from your cable company has probably been passed around to several customers. It could be old and lack some of the features you really want. Unless you're looking at a Hopper DVR from Dish Network, you'll only get two tuners and very little hard drive space. While renting is the cheaper option in the short term, you may be better off buying your own DVR.

You don't need a cable or satellite subscription to use a DVR. Over-the-air DVRs allow you to record shows via antenna, but they cannot record streaming services like Netflix.

How Much Does a TiVo DVR Cost?

TiVo remains one of the most popular third-party DVR brands on the market. At the bottom of the pricing scheme you have the 500GB TiVo Bolt VOX, which starts at $199.99. This DVR provides 75 hours of HD recording and four tuners. The 1TB version of the TiVo Bolt VOX costs $299.99 and ups your recording time to 150 hours. At the top tier of the TiVo family is the 2TB TiVo Edge, which provides six tuners and up to 300 hours of HD recording for $399.99.

When you purchase a DVR, it becomes yours to keep even if you cancel your service. Where TiVo is similar to cable DVRs is that you'll also need to pay a monthly fee in order to record TV. As of 2019, the fee is $14.99 a month or $149.99 a year. If you paid the annual fee for two years, the cost would come out to $299.98. When added to the initial purchase, the overall cost of using each TiVo model for two years breaks down as follows:

  • 500GB TiVo Bolt VOX: $599.97
  • 1TB TiVo Bolt VOX: $699.97
  • 2TB TiVo Edge: $699.97

Keep in mind that TiVo devices come with more features than the typical cable DVR, so they could be worth the higher price tag. You can find older and used TiVo models, such as the TiVo Premiere, for much less expensive online; however, if you're going to spend a lot of money on a DVR, then you should buy directly from TiVo so that you get a warranty and free tech support.

How Much Do Other DVRs Cost?

Dozens of other companies offer DVRs at varying price points. For example, Amazon's 500GB Fire TV Recast retailed for $229.00 in early 2020. If you're on a budget, the 16GB LAVA DVR costs just $34.99, but it can only record one channel for a few hours at a time. There are more expensive DVRs available, but most of them are designed for recording live camera feeds as part of a security system.

How Much Does a Home Theater PC DVR Cost?

You can also turn your home theater PC (HTPC) into a DVR and record TV on your computer. Custom-built HTPCs can run over $1000, but it's entirely possible to build your own HTPC for around $500-$600. Once you add the cost of a CableCARD tuner ($150-$200), you end up with a total cost of around $700-$800. This is comparable to TiVo when you add up the cost of their monthly fees.

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