Using a VPN in the United States is a total necessity for American citizens and visitors alike.
The country’s invasive privacy laws mean the government and your ISP can track your every move online.
And VPNs don’t stop at protecting your privacy; they unlock the world’s content, too. With a VPN you can access foreign websites and even watch geo-blocked sporting events.
Want to use a VPN without paying a cent?
Good news – you can!
While many free VPN services are unsafe and should be avoided, there are safe and reliable ones.
We’ve tested hundreds and listed the best free virtual private networks for the US below.
These VPNs provide fast, secure, and private internet access to those living in the country – and those on vacation hoping to catch up on their favorite shows from abroad.
Take a look at the best three free VPNs for the US before we dive into more detail:
The Most Important Factors When We Review a Free US VPN
- VPN servers in & around the US
- No logs and no IP & DNS leaks
- The biggest VPN data allowance possible
- No caps on download speeds
- Allows torrenting & P2P activity
- Easy to use apps on popular devices
Wondering why you should trust our reviews? Take a look at How We Test VPNs
Read More Information on the 5 Best Free VPN Services for the US
What’s the Best Free VPN for the USA?
The best free VPN for the USA is Windscribe – you can choose between eight VPN server locations within the country:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Washington DC
Above all, Windscribe is safe to use – unlike many other free VPNs on the market.
However, if you want the absolute best VPN for the USA you’ll have to pay for it. Most free VPN services come with restrictions including speed throttling and data caps.
If want unlimited data usage, loads of city-level VPN servers in the US, and the best speeds, we recommend ExpressVPN.
Do I Need a VPN in the US?
Yes, you absolutely do.
If you live in the US you have access to some of the best streaming content in the world, so why is it still necessary to use VPN?
In short, the US is well-known for being a total privacy nightmare, particularly in light of Edward Snowden’s leaks in 2013.
You need to use a VPN if you want to ensure your online activity remains private.
Not only does the US government (the CIA, FBI, and NSA especially) monitor web traffic constantly, ISPs also no longer need your permission to share your confidential data with third parties.
The US government is also part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, meaning that your personal information could cross borders, too.
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” you might say.
The websites you visit, the links you click on, and the things you buy online all build up a comprehensive online profile that could be used and abused by third parties.
You could be put under scrutiny simply for searching for one suspicious word.
“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
– Edward Snowden
Using a VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic and hides your original IP address, a piece of data that can be used to identify you online.
Without a VPN you also put yourself and your personal details at risk of hacking when using public WiFi hotspots in the US (and abroad, too).
Your entire online identity can be sold for around $1200 on the dark web. That’s scary stuff.
VPNs can also prevent advertisers from targeting you with tracked ads.
Aside from the wide array of online privacy and security issues associated with the US, Americans are also subject to sports blackouts.
This means that certain regional and national sporting events are unavailable on the streaming platforms that usually broadcast the games.
Sports blackouts affect the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA), among other sporting events like boxing.
Nobody wants to watch a blank screen when their favorite team is playing, so you’ll need a VPN to get past the blackouts.
While censorship isn’t as common on a government-level as, say, China, some institutions such as schools, colleges, and libraries often put restrictions on the content you can view while connect to their network.
A VPN can help you to evade institutional censorship and blocks, too.
All considered, using a VPN in the US is a no-brainer.
Are VPNs Legal in the US?
Yes, it is perfectly legal to use a VPN in the US.
There are no laws in the US that prohibit internet users from using a VPN.
A VPN’s main purpose is to protect your personal data and hide your true IP address, and this is perfectly legal.
In fact, a lot of major companies actually use VPN software to protect sensitive data from potential hackers, as well as to allow employees to access company files when working remotely.
One thing to remember when using a VPN, though, is that you’re not exempt from other laws, particularly those regarding copyright.
This means that you shouldn’t use a VPN to do anything that you wouldn’t do without one.
Is It Safe to Use a VPN in the US?
It’s safe to use a VPN in the US as long as you stick with a trusted provider – like the VPN services we’ve listed above.
You won’t get punished for using a VPN in the US, but you may get into trouble if you do something illegal while using one.
How to Install, Set Up, and Use a Free VPN for the USA
It’s really easy to set up a free VPN for the US if your chosen service offers custom apps for your preferred devices.
Simply download and install the relevant VPN software on your device, and log in with your credentials.
If you can choose the VPN protocol, we recommend OpenVPN for the best balance between privacy and performance.
Now choose the VPN server you’d like to connect to – the closer to your actual location it is the better the performance will be.
Can I Watch US Netflix with a Free VPN?
Most free VPN services don’t work reliably with Netflix, including the VPNs we selected for this list.
You will, therefore, need to use a paid VPN provider if you want to use a VPN to stream Netflix.
When you use a VPN that doesn’t work with Netflix, you’ll see this annoying error message:
“Oops, something went wrong… You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy.”
Sometimes the error message will go away if you clear your cookies and try a different VPN server, but that’s not always the case.
We recommend using a VPN that comes with dedicated streaming servers like CyberGhost for quick and easy access to your favorite shows.
Remember that using a VPN won’t allow you to watch Netflix for free – you’ll still need a subscription to the service.
What’s the Best VPN for US Netflix?
Now that you know how tricky it is to watch Netflix using a free VPN you’d probably like to know which paid-for VPNs are best for streaming your favorite shows.
The best VPN we’ve tested for Netflix is ExpressVPN – it’s fast, it’s consistent, and it’s super easy to use.
Most of ExpressVPN’s US servers work with Netflix but if you get the dreaded proxy error message just re-connect to a different server and try again.
What’s the Best VPN for Torrenting in the USA?
You should definitely use a VPN for torrenting and other privacy-sensitive tasks in the USA.
There are some free VPNs that you can use for torrenting – such as Windscribe – but the data caps and speed limitations will be a huge hindrance.
If you’re a heavy torrenter take a look at the overall top VPN picks for P2P here.
Be sure to enable the VPN kill switch and IP/DNS leak protection before you start downloading files.
How to Get an American IP Address
Perhaps you’re an American on vacation and you want to watch your favorite local shows from abroad. How do you do that?
It’s easy with the right VPN subscription.
You can visit American sites and streaming services by connecting to a VPN server located in the US, as this will give you an American IP address.
If you want to watch US Netflix or Hulu be sure to check that your VPN service can get past the blocks that the streaming services impose on VPNs.
Not many free VPN services work with Netflix and Hulu, though, so you’ll have to buy a premium VPN subscription if streaming is a priority.
Once you’ve connected to a US VPN server, you’ll be able to access all the websites you usually visit at home.
Be sure to double check that you have an American IP by running a VPN leak test on browserleaks.com.
If you need a state-specific IP address – to get around sports blackouts, for example – you will need to use a VPN service that provides VPN servers in that particular state.
Once you have set up the VPN software, simply find the VPN server you need and click connect.
You’ll be watching your favorite baseball team play in no time.
Note that free VPN services rarely come with loads of US city or state-level VPN servers, so you may need to pay for a premium service if your state isn’t covered.
You can check that your city or state is covered by visiting the server locations page on the VPN provider’s website, or by getting in touch with the VPN’s customer support team.
Some Free VPNs to Avoid
Here are some free VPNs that you should avoid if you live in or are visiting the US:
- Free VPN by FreeVPN.org
- Turbo VPN
- Snap VPN
- VPN Proxy Master
These free VPNs don’t provide the levels of privacy and security required for staying safe online in the US.
The list is in no way comprehensive; there are loads of dangerous free VPNs available.
Which VPNs Are Based in the US?
Some VPN services are based in the US. Here are our reviews of some examples of American VPN companies:
- Hotspot Shield
- KeepSolid VPN Unlimited
- Private Internet Access
While the US is far from the ideal place for a VPN to set up shop due to the serious privacy issues associated with the country, it shouldn’t be an issue if the VPN service doesn’t log users’ connection data or personally identifiable information.
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