$6.67/mo over 15 Months
85Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
94 countries, 3,000+ servers
VPN services come with many benefits: anonymous web browsing and torrenting; unblocking Netflix and other geo-restricted streaming platforms; bypassing online censorship in countries like China; and, protecting your data on unsecured free public WiFi.
Unfortunately, not every VPN can actually do all of the above. If you don’t want to be left frustrated or disappointed, you’ll need to use one of the very best VPN services.
We’ve been testing VPNs since 2016, spending over 30,000 hours analyzing and reviewing hundreds of VPNs for PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android devices, and even Fire TV Sticks. You can trust our VPN reviews to be honest, impartial and comprehensive.
The five VPN services below are impressively fast, highly secure and trustworthy. They’ll hide your IP address quickly and effectively, keeping you safe and anonymous online. Currently, the best VPN for 2020 is ExpressVPN.
Top VPN Features We Review
- Privacy & security features
- Download (and upload) VPN speeds
- Logging policy, IP leak protection & jurisdiction
- Streaming (Netflix) & torrenting availability
- Device compatibility & ease-of-use
- Customer support & overall value for money
Wondering why you should trust our reviews?
See How We Review VPNs.
Best Fast & Safe VPNs
$3.49/mo over 36 Months
93Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
59 countries, 5,552 servers
$2.75/mo. over 3 years
87Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
90 countries, 6,400+ servers
$5.20 over 12 months
84Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
57 countries, 1,400+ servers
$1.89/mo over 2 years
86Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
59 countries, 150+ servers
More Info about VPNs
How We Test & Review VPNs
We thoroughly test each VPN and make sure our recommendations are up-to-date, so that you can make more informed buying decisions. Our VPN reviews and advice are honest and unbiased – we never accept compensation in exchange for positive reviews.
Our comprehensive VPN testing methodology follows the 10 steps below:
- We purchase the VPN subscription. We never accept ‘test accounts’ or freebies (unless the VPN itself is free).
- We download, install, and test the VPN on multiple platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and even Amazon Fire TV Stick.
- We see how easy (or hard) it is to use, for example, finding specific server locations.
- We examine the security features and level of encryption. Does the VPN service come with a kill switch? Does it use AES-256 encryption?
- We test for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks to see if the VPN truly hides your real IP address, and to understand how private the VPN really is.
- We run manual speed tests, as well as automated ones using our own speed testing tool, to give you the most accurate speed results.
- We check whether the VPN unlocks popular streaming services (like Netflix and BBC iPlayer), torrenting and other P2P activity.
- We check if the VPN can bypass the strictest web blocks in countries like China, UAE and Turkey.
- We put its privacy and logging policies under the microscope. We also investigate who really owns the VPN company, and where it’s based. By doing this, we can determine how private, safe, and trustworthy it is.
- Finally, we put the VPN’s customer support to the test. We ask its support agents a wide range of questions, via live chat and email, from the most simple to the most technical. This is to assess how knowledgeable and helpful they are.
To learn more about our testing methodology, read our dedicated ‘How We Review VPNs’ guide.
Why You Should Use a VPN
There are many reasons why you should use a VPN at home, at work or on the move. Here are the main ones:
1Hide your web activity from ISPs, governments & snoopers
Without a VPN, your internet service provider (ISP) is able to monitor and log everything you do online.
If that’s not unsettling enough, in certain countries, like Canada, ISPs are forced to track and store customers’ online activities and hand it over to the authorities if asked to.
In the United States, ISPs are also allowed to collect, share, and sell your personal data and information about your online habits to third parties, including advertisers.
They can do this without your explicit consent. We believe that’s a huge infringement of your privacy. If you want to prevent this from happening you need to use a trusted VPN service.
When you connect to a VPN server, your web traffic is rerouted through that secure server and your internet provider is unable to see beyond that server. Therefore, can’t track what you do online anymore.
You already know that the internet provides a wealth of information and content. However, did you know that not all of web and video content is accessible from where you live?
Every country applies geo-restrictions of some sort, and the only way to circumvent these geo-blocks is by using a reliable VPN.
When you connect to a VPN server, your real IP address is replaced with the IP address of the server. By connecting to a VPN server in the region where that content is available, you can unlock it as the website or application will think you’re in that specific region.
Just make sure the VPN service you choose comes with VPN servers in your desired countries or cities.
A very popular example of geo-restricted content is Netflix. Netflix libraries are different in every country, varying in size and content drastically from one to another.
Many people want to access the US Netflix catalogue, since it hosts the most video titles in the world. If you aren’t in the US but want to stream US Netflix, you’ll need to use a good streaming VPN.
3Protection against hackers on public WiFi
Free public WiFi hotspots in restaurants, coffee shops and hotels are dangerous. They often use unsecured connections, which are vulnerable to hackers who might try to steal your personal information.
In fact, hackers can carry out a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack on your device, which allows them to either eavesdrop, manipulate and steal your private communications. MITM attacks can also be used to carry out phishing scams.
Using a VPN can help stop hackers from carrying out these attacks, since a VPN adds a layer of encryption (often, AES 256-bit encryption) to any unsecured internet connection. This means you can use the internet in public places without the worry of being spied on, or having your personal data stolen.
4Beat online censorship imposed by governments, workplaces, or schools
Censorship it’s certainly no longer restricted to authoritarian regimes like China or the UAE. The owner of any internet network can impose blocks to specific websites and apps. The most common examples are governments blocking piracy websites and apps. Web blocks also occur in the workplace, schools, or libraries.
In China, for instance, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and thousands more websites are all blocked. The best and most effective way to get around these censorship blocks is to use a good VPN. However, only a few VPNs can beat China’s sophisticated censorship apparatus.
It’s easier to bypass website blocks in workplaces and schools, but you can’t always install VPN software on a workplace or school device. When that happens, you can install a VPN browser extension onto your web browser instead. Here are the best Chrome VPN extensions, and the best Firefox VPN add-ons.
Limitations of VPNs
We think that using a VPN is essential for your online security and privacy, and it allows you to unlock video content from all over the world. But even VPNs come with limits.
Here are some things that a VPN can’t do:
- Provide complete antivirus/malware protection. Always install trusted antivirus software, even if your VPN has a malware-blocking feature (like Hotspot Shield).
- Store all of your passwords together securely. You’ll need a password manager for this.
- Increase your maximum internet speed, unless your ISP is throttling your connection.
- Block ads. Some VPNs come with an ad-blocker, but if yours doesn’t then it’s definitely worth getting one.
Are VPNs Legal?
VPNs are clearly very useful tools, but are they legal? The answer is yes, VPN services are legal in almost every country except for a handful listed below.
|Country||VPN Status||Social Media Blocks||Censorship||Surveillance|
If you’re located outside of the above countries, you can download and use a VPN without any legal worries.
To know more about the legality of using VPNs, read our ‘Are VPNs Legal?’ guide.
Can You Trust Your VPN Service?
Whether you can trust your VPN service or not depends on a number of factors.
When you use a VPN, all your internet traffic flows through the VPN provider’s servers. That means it’s really important you use a VPN you can really trust. Therefore, the question is: how do you know if you can trust your VPN?
A good, trustworthy VPN doesn’t keep user activity logs, doesn’t leak your true IP address, it properly encrypts web traffic, refuses to hand over user data to those it doesn’t belong to, and is based in a safe jurisdiction (privacy-haven).
A bad VPN collects extensive user logs, mines and sells your data, manipulates your internet traffic, and can even share your browsing data with the government and any number of third parties.
Over the years, there have been several cases of VPN providers abusing their power. Here are some noteworthy VPN controversies:
Hotspot Shield has been embroiled in a few controversies over the years. In August 2017, it was alleged that Hotspot Shield had been injecting affiliate links into users’ traffic in order to monetize it.
In February 2018, a security researcher found a vulnerability that allowed hackers to see users’ true locations via their WiFi network name. Hotspot Shield addressed and fixed the issue.
This peer-to-peer proxy service that falsely brands itself as a VPN is bad news all around.
The free version doesn’t encrypt your traffic and it keeps logs of everything you do online.
The free version of Hola also uses personal IP sharing to create its network, meaning your IP address will be used by strangers to do whatever they want with it.
You should avoid using Hola at all costs.
In 2016, under previous management, IPVanish handed information (including user logs) over to US authorities as part of a court case. StackPath acquired IPVanish in 2017, and when the news broke this breach of privacy, it assured IPVanish users that it “does not, has not, and will not log or store logs of […] users’ activity as a StackPath company”.
We’ve done our due diligence with regards to IPVanish, and we’re happy to say that it’s now safe and private.
Pirate Chick VPN
Pirate Chick VPN posed as a legitimate VPN service but was in fact acting as a Trojan virus host, installing malicious payloads on its victims.
In October 2017, PureVPN handed over one user’s information to the FBI that included their IP address, despite its logging policy stating: “We do NOT keep any logs that can identify or help in monitoring a user’s activity.” You can read the court case file here.
PureVPN subsequently revamped its logging policy, which now clearly states that it does not log users’ originating IP addresses:
PureVPN recently commissioned an independent body to audit its logging policy.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
There are plenty of VPN services that have proven their trustworthiness and commitment to privacy:
In December 2017 the Turkish authorities seized and inspected one of ExpressVPN’s Turkish servers, but they couldn’t find any customer connection logs.
Private Internet Access
In addition to its regularly updated transparency reports, Private Internet Access’ no-logs claim has been proven to be true multiple times during court cases (one in 2016 and the other in 2018) where authorities requested user information and PIA couldn’t hand any over.
Free vs Paid: The Dangers of Free VPNs
Often, when you have the choice between a free product and a paid product, the free one will be worse. Sadly, this is definitely the case with VPNs. Many free VPNs are limited by:
- Limited data allowances
- Slower (capped) speeds
- Limited server locations
- No Netflix support
- Intrusive advertising
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. A worryingly high number of free VPNs pose serious security risks to whoever uses them. We recently examined the 150 most popular free Android VPN apps and uncovered that over 85% were potentially unsafe.
What's the Best Free VPN?
Despite the many limitations and risks of using free VPNs, there are a handful of VPNs that you can use safely, without spending a dime.
At the moment, the best free VPN services are:
These free VPNs do come with some restrictions and they won’t compare that well with many paid VPN services, but they are safe to use. Find out why we chose these five free VPNs in our dedicated guide to free VPNs.
Tip: Using Paid VPNs for Free
All of the free VPNs that we recommend above are ‘freemium’ VPNs. This means that, while free, they are essentially stripped-back versions of the premium product.
Here’s a table showing the difference between the premium and freemium versions of our top five free VPNs:
Not all premium VPNs have a ‘freemium’ option, however you can still use some premium VPNs for free – at least for a period of time. In fact, many VPNs offer free trials or money-back guarantees, so that you can test the VPN before you commit to buying it.
Here are three guides on how to use three of the best VPNs for free:
How Much You Should Pay for a VPN
How much you should pay for a VPN really depends on your budget, and whether you’re ok paying a larger upfront sum of money to make longer-term savings.
Most VPN services offer a range of subscription plans of varying lengths, usually from one month up to three years. Some even offer lifetime subscriptions.
The longer the plan the greater the savings you’ll make on a monthly basis, but you’ll have to pay for the whole subscription up front. In other words, if you buy a two-year VPN plan for $2.99 a month, you’ll have to pay $71.76 when you sign up.
If you can’t afford to pay for yearly subscriptions, it’s also possible to pay month-by-month (on a rolling basis), but it’ll be much more expensive in the long run. We’ve seen month-long subscriptions for as cheap as $8.00, all the way up to as much as $16.00.
Overall, we don’t recommend paying more than $12.00 per month for a top VPN.
Importantly, one thing to remember is that the quality of a VPN doesn’t necessarily increase with the price. Make sure you read our detailed VPN provider reviews to find out whether a VPN is worth buying or not.
Are VPNs Easy to Use?
When we test a VPN service, we really download, set up, and use it. We test every VPN app on every platform it to make sure it’s as easy as possible to use.
Whether you’re a VPN beginner or a tech expert, our best VPN recommendations are intuitive and quick to set up, with lots of advanced features that are clearly labeled, accompanied by in-depth online support.
Take a look at the ExpressVPN Windows app, for instance:
As you can see, ExpressVPN’s custom app is clean, intuitive, and simple. Just select the VPN server location and hit the big connect button – you’re good to go.
But not all VPNs are as easy to use. Here’s AirVPN’s interface, an example of a more complicated VPN app:
AirVPN is a great VPN for experienced users, but its custom apps are unintuitive and user-unfriendly.
They’re cluttered, confusing, and even frustrating at times. But AirVPN’s apps do come with loads of configurable options that some simpler apps lack.
If you’re a VPN beginner, we recommend using a VPN service with simple custom apps before moving onto more complicated ones like those of AirVPN.
VPN Device Compatibility
You can use the very best VPN services on almost any internet-connected device. The VPNs we recommend in this guide all have native apps for a wide range of devices, and you can even set them on up on your router to protect all devices in your house.
Additionally, you can sometimes manually configure VPNs to work on devices or platforms that lack a custom app. This is a little trickier than downloading an app, though.
Take a look at the following guides to find out the best VPNs for specific platforms, operating systems and devices:
You can also install VPN add-ons on your web browser, although these are proxy extensions rather than full VPNs (unless they run alongside your VPN client).
How to Set Up a VPN
It’s very easy to install and set up a VPN, as long as it comes with custom apps for your devices. Here are five very simple steps to install a VPN:
1Download the VPN
Download the VPN client from your VPN provider’s official website, or download the application from an official app store.
2Install the VPN
If you’re on a PC or Mac, click on the VPN installation file and follow the online prompts. If you’re using a smartphone, and you downloaded the VPN from an app store, the VPN is already installed. Once a VPN is installed on your device, click/tap on it to open it.
When you first run a VPN, sometimes you’ll have to log into it using your login credentials or your activation code, and sometimes you won’t. This depends on the VPN service you chose.
4Check your settings
Once you’re logged in, make sure your VPN settings are optimised. This means enabling the VPN kill switch and any DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leak protection, if there’s an option to do so. The best VPNs default to very secure VPN protocols, but quickly check that is the case in the app’s settings.
5Connect to a VPN server
You’re now ready to connect to a VPN server. Select your preferred server location, click/tap connect, and in a matter of seconds your IP address will have changed to a new one assigned by your VPN server.
To help you get set up on a VPN without any issues, we’ve created several step-by-step guides on how to install a VPN on the below devices and platforms:
How to Unlock Netflix with a VPN
A VPN is a great tool to unlock Netflix’s regional video libraries. Did you know that US Netflix has twice the number of titles as UK Netflix?
However, not every VPN works with Netflix. That’s because Netflix actively blocks many VPN connections, so if you ever see the error message you know that Netflix has detected your VPN (or a proxy).
If you don’t want to see the above message, you’ll need to use one these VPNs that still work with Netflix. Some, like PrivateVPN and Surfshark, can unlock more than 15 Netflix libraries around the world, including US, UK, Korea, Japan and France. Others, like CyberGhost, have dedicated Netflix servers for even smoother streaming.
To unlock Netflix, particularly the American library, here’s what to do:
Choose a working Netflix VPN
Select one of the VPNs that we’ve verified to unlock Netflix in the US, and in other countries too.
Install the VPN
Download the VPN onto your preferred device(s) and set it up follow the installation steps we covered above.
Connect to a Netflix server
Once the VPN is set up, launch it and select a server from the list of locations. To stream US Netflix, select a US server or, if available, select a dedicated US Netflix server.
Clear your web cookies
Clear your web cookies from your browser so that any trace of previous visits from your device to the Netflix website are wiped. Sometimes cookies from previous non-VPN visits to Netflix can affect how well the VPN unlocks the service.
Visit the Netflix website or launch the Netflix app. As long as you’re using one of our recommended Netflix VPNs, start streaming all that new video content you couldn’t access before!
If for whatever reason the VPN isn’t working with Netflix, contact the VPN service’s support agents on live chat. In our experience, they quickly fix any Netflix-related issues.
Why You Need a VPN for Torrenting
We strongly recommend that torrent files using an anonymous VPN, tested to hide your IP address effectively.
If you don’t use a VPN and download (or upload) files, you’re immediately exposing your real IP location to a whole range of third-parties.
Internet Service Providers (ISP)
Your ISP uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to monitor and store your web traffic, including your downloads and uploads. If you don’t hide your torrent IP address, your ISP will see that you’re torrenting, which can lead to three things: blocking or throttling your P2P, sending you warnings about breaking copyright laws, and sharing your details with content licensors.
Peers, Seeders & Snoopers
Unless you use a VPN, your real IP address will be visible to all other devices downloading (peers) or uploading (seeders) a torrent file, known as the ‘torrent swarm.’ The problem is you just don’t know who’s hiding in this swarm. Copyright enforcement agencies are known to lurk in them, and sometimes even seed files as bait!
For your peace of mind, use of one of these torrent VPNs to download safely and anonymously.
Does a VPN Slow Down Internet Speed?
VPNs do slow down your internet speed, but not by much if you choose the right VPN.
The reason why this happens is because VPNs encrypt your internet connection using advanced encryption ciphers like AES 256-bit. The stronger the encryption, the slower the speed, but the best VPNs are able to limit the impact significantly.
In fact, the VPN providers we recommend on this page will only slow your internet down by 10% or less (if you connect to nearby servers). A speed loss of 10% or less is barely noticeable. You’ll be able to stream, torrent, and browse the web like you normally do without a VPN.
We care a lot about VPN speed, and spend a lot of time testing how fast each VPN service is. Head over to our fastest VPNs of 2020 guide to see which VPNs are currently the quickest.
Tips to increase your VPN speed:
- Connect to the nearest VPN server to your physical location (if possible). Generally, the farther away the VPN server is, the slower the speeds.
- If your VPN shows individual server loads within the app, choose the server with the lowest server load.
- Some VPN protocols are quicker than others. Changing protocol can improve speeds, but that can sometimes comes at a price. See the difference between VPN protocols in our VPN encryption guide.
Can a VPN increase your internet speed?
Using a VPN can increase your internet speed if your ISP is throttling your traffic when you stream or download large files.
Can You Be Tracked if You Use a VPN?
Before you start using a VPN, it’s important to set your expectations: a VPN does not make you 100% untraceable.
If a government agency wants to track you down online, they will eventually be able to. But, it’s also true that tracking someone who uses a VPN is significantly harder than tracking someone who doesn’t.
The best VPN services will: disable logging on its VPN servers, change your IP address and DNS servers with its own, and thoroughly encrypt your web traffic usually with the AES-256 cipher. All of this secures your almost complete anonymity.
You can further reduce the chances of being tracked online by: