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Best VPN of 2018

Callum Tennent
Callum TennentUpdated

Over the years we’ve put the most popular VPNs on the market to the test. With more than 60 unbiased reviews under our belt, we’ve seen everything the VPN market has to offer, and understand just what it it takes for a provider to be worthy of your hard-earned cash.

The five VPNs below are the best of the best. They’ve made it through our in-depth, rigorous test program and come out shining: lightning fast speeds, advanced encryption, watertight privacy and logging policies, and supremely easy to use apps.

The 5 Best VPN Services of 2018
  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. CyberGhost
  4. IPVanish
  5. PrivateVPN
Read on for our detailed analysis of each VPN.
Our pick for 2018
ExpressVPN

Incredibly fast and ultra secure. HD streaming. 24/7 live chat support.

Best price
$6.67 per month
Special deal
49% off 15-month plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
94 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
3
Pros
  1. Very fast speeds, average of 65Mbps globally
  2. Reliable access to Netflix & iPlayer
  3. No restrictions on P2P traffic
  4. Very easy to use. Instant setup on all devices
  5. Connect securely to 94 countries
  6. Chrome, Firefox and Safari browser extensions
Cons
  1. Price could be lower on shorter plans
  2. Three simultaneous connections only
Bottom Line

ExpressVPN is simply our best all-round VPN. Its biggest strength is reliability, with no other VPN offering such consistently fast speeds across its entire network, even on distant connections. Nor do many match its uninterrupted access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other big streaming services.

The apps are always user-friendly and easy-to-use, whatever the device, and the list of supported devices has few rivals for length. The three connection limit is our only gripe, but that can be looked past – particularly with router-level installation an option.

ExpressVPN performs just as well as on privacy. The VPN kill switch is a must-have feature while its logging policy is one of the best we’ve seen, collecting the absolute bare minimum of connection statistics needed to maintain performance on the huge global network.

Customer care is best-in-class with 24/7 live support and friendly, helpful agents. ExpressVPN also still works well in China, which says a lot about how good it is.

It’s not the cheapest option but you can bring the monthly fee right down to $6.67 on a 15-month plan, which is great value for what we feel is the best VPN around.


Read our full ExpressVPN review

2
NordVPN

Very fast zero-logs VPN. HD streaming & extra privacy features.

Best price
$2.99 per month
Special deal
75% off with 3-year plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
62 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
Pros
  1. Fast speeds - 71Mbps global average
  2. High speed access to Netflix, iPlayer and more
  3. P2P and torrenting permitted on lots of servers
  4. Easy-to-use apps, simple setup on all devices
  5. Connect securely to 62 countries
  6. Specialty servers optimized for individual needs
Cons
  1. Slow email support
  2. Browser extensions are proxies
  3. Extra protocols require manual configuration
Bottom Line

NordVPN does the basics incredibly well – even if it just lacks the full package offered by ExpressVPN. It’s very fast, secure and one of the precious few services to reliably work with both Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Downloads on local connections peak at 296Mbps while uploads top 181Mbps, making it one of the most blisteringly fastest VPNs on the market.

The apps are slick and user-friendly, but are limited to only the most popular platforms. You can protect up to a generous six devices at once, though. Manual VPN protocol selection is a little unfriendly for beginners, but we do love its extra privacy features like the VPN kill switch and its strict zero-logs policy.

The quality of customer support may be excellent but responses can be slow, and it’s not our top pick for China either. While NordVPN falls a little short of ExpressVPN overall, on a three-year subscription it works out a lot cheaper at $2.99 per month.

If you want to keep monthly costs down and speeds running high, NordVPN is the choice for you.


Read our full NordVPN review

3
CyberGhost

Fast zero-logs VPN with great privacy features. Good choice for streaming fans.

Best price
$2.75 per month
Special deal
77% off with 18-month plan
Money-back guarantee
45 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
60 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
7
Pros
  1. Fast download speeds - 59Mbps global average
  2. Quick, easy access to Netflix
  3. Optimized servers for torrenting and P2P use
  4. Simple setup on most popular devices
  5. Connect securely to 60 countries
  6. Strict zero-logs policy
Cons
  1. Some restrictions on torrenting
  2. Server network could be bigger
Bottom Line

Cyberghost is the best budget VPN on the market. Not only is it incredibly cheap, but it also competes with its more premium rivals on several key fronts – especially streaming and privacy.

Access to Netflix and other streaming services is ever-dependable thanks to dedicated streaming servers. Torrenting and Kodi performance is equally good, even if it is only permitted on optimized servers – of which there are none in the US or Australia. Download speeds on local connections are typically over 153Mbps, and while they drop off on international servers it’s always enough for Full-HD streaming.

A watertight zero-logs policy and first-party DNS servers make CyberGhost a perfect pick for privacy fanatics, along with its automatic kill switch and other useful extras. It recently updated the look of its apps, and they’re still as simple and user-friendly as ever. At just $2.75 on an 18-month plan it takes little effort to overlook its niggling flaws.


Read our full CyberGhost review

4
IPVanish

Super fast zero-logs VPN. Great for P2P. Lots of extra privacy features.

Best price
$6.49 per month
Special deal
46% off with 12-month plan
Money-back guarantee
7 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
61 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
10
Pros
  1. Fast download speeds - 51Mbps global average
  2. Currently working with Netflix
  3. Strict zero-logs policy
  4. P2P and torrenting permitted on all servers
  5. Simple setup on popular devices
  6. Connect securely to 61 countries
Cons
  1. Apps could be a little more user-friendly
  2. Short refund period (7 days)
Bottom Line

IPVanish is a top pick for Kodi-watchers and torrent-lovers thanks to excellent speeds, zero logs and and extensive selection of privacy tools. It’s ultra fast on local connections but less consistent internationally across a network that’s mid-sized for locations but super-sized for servers and IP addresses. Netflix is working but BBC iPlayer is currently blocked, the only black mark against what is otherwise a superb selection for streaming services.

The desktop apps could be more user-friendly, but make up for it with powerful privacy features that include IPv6 leak protection and a kill switch. The Amazon Fire TV Stick native app is a great addition, although IPVanish lacks browser extensions and support for any other streaming device.

It can be made to work at a push in China but we’ve tested more dependable options, and its unimpressive customer support is improving. IPVanish isn’t cheap but it only requires a two-year commitment to slash the monthly price by 72% to a much more reasonable $3.33.


Read our full IPVanish review

5
PrivateVPN

Incredibly fast zero-logs VPN. Easy access to major streaming services.

Best price
$3.60 per month
Special deal
67% off with 17-month plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
Live chat Support
No. of Server Locations
57 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
Pros
  1. Fast, reliable download speeds - 65Mbps global average
  2. Quick, easy access to Netflix, iPlayer and more
  3. P2P and torrenting permitted on all servers
  4. Simple setup on a range of devices
  5. Connect securely to 57 countries
  6. Advanced privacy features such as Tor over VPN
Cons
  1. No browser extensions available
  2. Live chat availability is inconsistent
  3. Small number of individual servers
  4. No advanced privacy options on mobile
Bottom Line

PrivateVPN is one of our top picks thanks to its robust privacy features and excellent global performance. It is also one of the cheapest options on the current market if you opt for the annual plan. Fantastic upload speeds on local connections combined with low latency make it a great option for torrenters, keen Kodi users and gamers alike.

On privacy, PrivateVPN couldn’t get much more secure. Loads of advanced privacy features and a strict zero-logs policy more than make up for the fact it’s based in privacy-unfriendly Sweden: even if a third-party requested your details there would be nothing to show them.

We really like PrivateVPN’s user-friendly desktop client but the mobile apps leave a lot to be desired when it comes to configurable options, although you only need to worry about that if you’re an advanced user. It can be made to work in China at a push, but there are much more reliable options available for that. When it comes to striking a balance between privacy and performance, PrivateVPN does a brilliant job.


Read our full PrivateVPN review

How We Picked the Best VPN of 2018

We are constantly testing every VPN on our site to make sure our reviews and recommendations are as up-to-date as possible. We regularly retake our speed tests to assess VPN performance in the moment. We test access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer and other top streaming services so you can be sure you’ll get access when you need it. We try out every feature of every app. We even evaluate customer support by reaching out with real questions and queries.

Our top picks are proven to work with streaming apps and sites, reliably clock the fastest speeds and have the securest set of privacy features. Their logging policies are the most transparent, fair and privacy-focused. Their apps are well-designed, quick to install and, above all, easy to use. The best services also offer friendly customer support you can rely on to help you quickly should you get stuck.

Free VPN vs Paid VPN: Should You Pay for One?

There are hundreds of free VPNs out there, and the allure is undeniably tempting – why would you pay for something you can get for free, right? Unfortunately there’s a ton of limitations and risks with using a free VPN. Most offer tiny bandwidth allowances, limited server locations and even capped speeds as they want to convert you into a paid customer to unlock the full product.

What’s worse, free VPN providers may try to profit from you and your data in other ways. There have been reports of selling usage history to advertisers, secretly redirecting users via sponsored links to earn commissions, and even adding devices to a massive botnet.

One of our biggest independent investigations ever unearthed some shocking facts about free VPNs, including non-existent privacy policies and seedy links to China. You can read the full free VPN report here.

A good, premium VPN will heavily invest in privacy and security measures. It will also have to compete to deliver the best possible service in order to attract and retain your business.

If you’re really still keen on using a free VPN, don’t take any risks. Take a look at the top options out there with our comprehensive round-up of the Best Free VPNs of 2018.

How to Choose the Best VPN: 8 Tips

  • Does it have servers in every location you need?

    The closer the VPN server to your real-world physical location the better the performance. More servers will generally mean less congestion and improved speeds. Look for the speed test results in our reviews to get the best idea. Watch out, though free plans almost always limit the number of available server locations. The very best premium providers will have options on every continent.

  • Will it work with your computer, smartphone or streaming device?

    Almost all VPN software will work on Microsoft Windows, MacOS and Linux machines, along with iOS and Android mobile devices. However, some are also compatible with other connected devices, like routers, games consoles and streaming devices. If, for example, you game on an Xbox One or watch TV on an Amazon Fire TV Stick then youll definitely want to look out for a VPN that can protect them, too.

  • How many connections does it allow at once?

    Just covering your smartphone or desktop computer can sometimes be enough, but do you want to protect every device on your network? Look for a VPN that allows as many connections as you are likely to use at any one time. A cheap VPN can become poor value very quickly if it turns out it wil only protect one device. The very best options will allow upwards of 10 simultaneous connections, with some not even limiting it at all.

  • Will it work with your favorite websites and apps?

    Do you watch Netflix or BBC iPlayer? Not every VPN will work with these apps. We continuously test whether each VPN is working with Netflix and other apps and share the results in our VPN reviews.

  • Check connection, encryption and security features

    The sheer amount of VPN jargon can be overwhelming, even if you are pretty tech-savvy. Do look out for OpenVPN though, as this connection protocol offers the best overall blend of speed and security. Ignore talk of military or bank-grade encryption and just look for AES-256, as that’s the gold standard. Unless you know your DNS from your IPv6, a VPN killswitch is the main thing to look out for among security features as it will protect you from exposing your real IP address should your connection drop unexpectedly.

  • What is its logging policy?

    Every VPN will tell you it is doesnt track your internet activity, often throwing around the term zero logs when describing itself. In reality, delivering high performance across an extensive global network is all but impossible unless at least some user connection details are being monitored. You could waste hours reading through reams of privacy policies and terms of service to find out exactly what’s collected and for how long it’s stored or you could let us do the boring stuff for you. Just check the logging policy section of our review to have it all explained in plain language. You should aim for a VPN that does not log your IP address at all and limits timestamp logging to just the date of your connection.

  • Are its apps and programs easy to use on every device?

    No-one likes a clunky, confusing app. Look for a VPN with software that’s well-designed youll be much more likely to use it all the time. We share the results of our hands-on testing of each VPN app in the the Ease of Use part of its review. We spend all day testing VPN apps, so we know just how good (and bad) they can be.

  • Finally, check the price and money-back guarantee

    Even the most expensive VPN plans can be made affordable by taking out a longer subscription. Dont bother with a one-month plan 12-month plans typically offer the best value and you can reduce the risk of buyer’s remorse by choosing one with a long refund period. Wed advise a 30-day no-questions-asked guarantee they essentially act as a free trial period. Make the right choice, though, and you hopefully wont be thinking about a refund at all.