Price does not always indicate better VPN security, speed, or streaming capabilities.
In fact, we have given low ratings to some of the most expensive VPNs on the market.
On the flip side, just because a VPN is cheap doesn’t stop it from being fast and safe.
To select the best cheap VPNs, we test each VPN’s performance in a number of key areas related to affordability, value for your money, and overall capabilities.
We reward the VPNs that offer the highest quality service for the lowest price.
We give every VPN a rating out of ten in each of the key areas, and then combine those ratings to generate an overall ‘cheapness’ rating.
For cheap VPNs, we test for:
- A monthly subscription price of under $3.00 per month.
- Affordable short-term subscription prices (12 months or less).
- Exceptional long-term cost saving, like a lifetime subscription.
- A money-back guarantee, free trial period, or free version.
- AES-256 encryption, leak protection, and the OpenVPN protocol.
- Fast local and international connection speeds.
- A diverse server network in global locations.
Here’s a more detailed look at our key decision-making areas, what goes into them, and how they’re weighted:
1. Price: 30%
Minimum Requirement: A monthly price of $3.00 or less.
We Recommend: $2.50 a month or less.
The most important data point for a cheap VPN is the lowest price per month you can buy it for.
We work out the monthly price based on the VPNs best deal, which most often come with longer-term subscriptions.
Some VPNs charge as much as $10 a month for a subscription, even on multi-year deals. When it comes to our cheap VPN recommendations, we’re looking for a maximum of $3.00 per month on its best price deal.
The very cheapest VPNs on the market get the highest rating, irrespective of quality. The more expensive the VPN, the lower the rating.
We’ve researched the prices of all the major VPN services and our team works hard to keep this information up to date.
Alongside the VPNs cheapest monthly cost, we also factor in the length of the subscription, the other available pricing plans, whether there are cost-effective alternate plans like a lifetime offer, and whether the VPN has a money-back guarantee or free trial option.
2. Value for Your Money: 20%
Minimum Requirement: Performance and features that justify the VPN’s cost.
We Recommend: Performance capabilities that exceed what you’d typically get from a VPN at that price.
Low cost isn’t the only important thing. It’s important to ask whether the buyer is getting their money’s worth.
When we assess if a VPN service represents great value or not, we’re looking at the trade-off between performance and cost.
We rate a cheap VPN that doesn’t perform well lowly, while a more expensive VPN that justifies its price tag can have a higher rating.
We’ve been testing VPNs for a long time, so we have a good idea of what to expect from a service in any given price range. We know when VPNs are providing bang for your buck.
We consider a range of factors, such as streaming ability, the number of simultaneous connections allowed, investment in security, and any additional features (e.g. kill switch, port forwarding, split tunneling, etc.).
3. Logging Policy: 20%
Minimum Requirement: A plain-language policy with anonymized connection logs only.
We Recommend: A zero-logs policy with strictly no activity or connection logs.
While cost is important, when we recommend the best cheap VPNs we take into account how well it protects your privacy.
The best VPNs don’t keep any connection logs that could be used to identify you. Ideally, the VPN should have a zero-logs policy which has also been verified by an independent third-party audit.
4. Encryption & Security: 20%
Minimum Requirement: AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN protocol, IP & DNS leak protection.
We Recommend: AES-256 encryption, multiple protocols, leak protection, VPN kill switch.
Any VPN we recommend needs to be secure and safe to use. There’s no point using a VPN just because it’s cheap if it’s going to leak your IP and fail to encrypt your traffic.
We look for secure encryption ciphers like AES-256 and a safe protocol like OpenVPN, WireGuard, or IKEv2. We run regular packet-inspection tests to ensure the VPN isn’t exposing your activity to ISPs, hackers, or other eavesdroppers.
We also conduct IPv4, IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leak tests to ensure that absolutely no personal information is on show.
The best VPNs should also include a VPN kill switch. This protects your identity by stopping your internet connections if the VPN connection ever drops, even for a moment.
5. Speed: 10%
Minimum Requirement: Local download speeds above 60Mbps and respectable international speeds.
We Recommend: Local download speeds above 80Mbps and fast international connection speeds.
Even cheap VPNs can be fast. All VPNs slow down your connection speed to some degree. But with the best cheap VPNs the speed loss is barely noticeable.
We conduct regular manual speed tests, alongside our automated VPN speed test tool. Taken together, these tests provide us with an accurate picture of how fast the VPN is.
For cheap VPNs, we’re interested in local connection speeds (good for regular browsing and torrenting downloads) and longer-distance speeds (good for unblocking Netflix libraries).
The fastest VPNs will cause your internet speed to drop by just a few percentage points when connecting to nearby servers. You should be able to establish international connections with enough bandwidth to stream Netflix in Ultra HD quality.
Additional research by David Hughes