Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more; there are dozens of streaming services to choose from, and each one comes with thousands of shows and movies to enjoy.
But did you know that using a VPN can make your streaming experience even better (and safer)?
No ISP throttling, no geo-blocks, and no censorship – basically, with a good VPN you can watch more TV shows and films in HD/4K quality.
So, what is the best VPN for streaming?
We tested 99 VPNs to find which VPNs unblock popular services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO and many more, no matter where you are in the world.
These VPNs are very fast, easy to use, and will work on all popular devices, from iPhones to PCs to streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick.
Read on to find out why these are the best VPN services for streaming.
The Things We Looked out for in Our Streaming Tests
- Does the VPN unlock Netflix, BBC iPlayer & more?
- How fast is it? And is it consistent?
- Are the VPN apps easy to install & use?
- Does it work with streaming devices (e.g. Firestick)?
- How private is it? Does it truly hide your IP address?
- Is customer support helpful with troubleshooting?
Wondering why you should trust our reviews? Take a look at How We Test VPNs
Read More on the Best VPN Services for Streaming
What’s the Best VPN for Streaming?
The best VPN for streaming is ExpressVPN.
It’s fast, private, safe to use, and unlocks all the popular streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu.
There are loads of VPNs out there that unlock Netflix and other streaming services but not all of them prioritize privacy.
In this guide we’ve only included safe VPNs so that you don’t have to compromise your online privacy in order to watch your favorite shows.
We’ll talk more about the dangerous side of some VPNs bring below.
Do You Need a VPN for Streaming?
If you use the internet, you need a VPN. It’s as simple as that.
Keeping your online activities private is one of the main reasons for using a VPN, but the benefits don’t stop there, particularly when it comes to streaming.
Using a VPN can greatly improve your streaming experience. Here’s how:
1Accessing geo-restricted content.
Did you know that there are different Netflix libraries, and the number of shows and movies available to you depends on your geographical location?
For example, US Netflix has over 5,500 titles whereas Australia only has 2,000.
You can use a VPN to unlock the world’s content.
If you’re a US sports fan you’ll know all about blackouts, and it can be frustrating when you can’t see your team playing because of where you live.
You can use a VPN to get around those blocks. Just make sure to connect to a server in the state or location where the stream is available to watch.
Some countries (or institutions like schools) block access to certain streaming content and platforms.
Using a VPN is the best and safest way to beat government and institutional censorship.
If you need a VPN for a particularly strict regime take a look at the following guides:
3Preventing ISP throttling.
In some countries ISPs can deliberately slow down your internet speeds when you try to perform certain tasks like streaming and torrenting. This is called throttling.
The way ISPs know what you’re doing online is by inspecting your data, but when you use a VPN they can’t tell what you’re doing as the software encrypts all of your internet traffic.
This means less buffering and faster speeds next time you go to watch your favorite show.
Of course, the most important reason for using a VPN is still to protect your online privacy from snooping ISPs and government bodies, and stop third parties or hackers from stealing your personal data.
What to Do if Your VPN Doesn’t Work for Streaming
Streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer have ways of blocking content for users connecting through a VPN.
The way the streaming services do this is by blocking IP addresses that they believe belong to VPN servers.
This may happen when large numbers of users are trying to access the service using the same IP address, which raises suspicion.
The crackdowns come in waves, and sometimes it’s near impossible to watch your favorite shows while using a VPN, but all the VPN services on our list of recommendations work hard to get around the blocks, even if it is like a game of cat and mouse.
You’ll know when content has been blocked because you’re using an IP when you she the annoying proxy error message:
“Oops, something went wrong…”
Here are some ways you can troubleshoot this issue:
- Run a leak test to see if your VPN is leaking your IP address or DNS requests. If it is, get in touch with the customer support to resolve the issue or change providers. You should enable leak protection from within the VPN app if it comes with those settings.
- Clear your cache and cookies, flush your DNS cache, and then relaunch Netflix (or the relevant streaming service).
- Try connecting to a different VPN server and repeat solution #2. If there are no dedicated streaming servers, you should contact your VPN provider’s customer support team to find out which VPN servers are currently working with your chosen streaming service.
- Try accessing the streaming service using a different browser. Sometimes you can access a certain service through Mozilla Firefox even if it’s not working on Google Chrome, for instance.
- Disable GPS and location services on your computer, smartphone, or browser.
- Disable IPv6 at a device-level.
- If you’ve been trying to access your chosen service through an app, try again via web browser.
If all of these solutions fail you’ll likely need to try a different VPN service.
The VPN providers recommended in this guide are the most reliable VPNs for streaming that we’ve tested.
What’s the Best Free VPN for Streaming?
In general, free VPNs aren’t good for streaming.
They rarely work to unlock Netflix and other streaming services, and often come with restrictive data and speed caps.
Sometimes that means you can only watch a couple of hours of shows in standard definition before your data allowance runs out.
We’ve tested loads of free VPNs, and some of the unsafe VPNs work with Netflix, but it’s not worth risking your online security and privacy just to watch a show.
There’s only one safe free VPN we’ve found that works with Netflix (sometimes) and that’s Avira Phantom.
However, even this free VPN comes with a stingy 1GB monthly data cap, which you’ll burn through very quickly, and access to Netflix is unreliable at best.
You can try out some premium VPNs risk-free before you commit to a lengthy subscription. Follow the links to read our guides on how to try out some of the best VPNs for free:
Are Free VPNs Safe?
There are loads of free VPNs available, but not all of them are safe to use.
In fact, some free VPNs are dangerous.
We’ve investigated what actually goes on behind the scenes at free VPN companies, and the results are concerning.
Over half of the most popular free VPN apps we looked into have links to China, and many feature excessive permissions or functions with potential for privacy abuses.
If you aren’t ready to purchase a VPN yet take a look at our list of the best free VPNs here, which are all safe to use.
Is it Illegal to Stream with a VPN?
With the exception of a few countries, it’s perfectly legal to use a VPN when streaming in order to protect your online privacy.
Local and state laws still apply, though.
In other words, if you do something illegal while using a VPN you could still be punished if caught.
If you’re not breaking the law and you opt for a quality VPN service it’s safe to use a VPN for streaming.
You should also be aware that streaming platforms tend to state in their terms of service that users shouldn’t try to access content restricted in their geographical region.
Bad VPNs for Streaming
Like all things, there are good and bad VPNs for streaming.
Here are some good VPNs that are bad for streaming:
Most free VPNs aren’t good choices for streaming either. This is partly due to data and speed restrictions, and partly because free VPN services generally don’t make the effort to get past Netflix (and BBC iPlayer) blocks.
There are loads of other VPNs available that aren’t ideal for avid streaming fans.
If you’re not sure which VPN to choose, it’s best to go for one of the VPN services we’ve recommended in this guide.
Most of the top VPNs also come with money-back guarantees, so you can test out the service and request a refund if it’s not to your liking.
How to Use a VPN for Streaming
Before you can protect your streaming traffic you need to set up your VPN software.
We have step-by-step installation guides available for the following platforms (follow the links to read each one):
If your VPN service comes with custom apps then the installation process is very simple.
Just download the VPN software and follow the installation prompts. Once installed, you should log into the app using your credentials.
Before you do anything else on the internet you should ensure that the VPN security settings are enabled. Switch on the VPN kill switch and any leak protection that comes with it.
Once you’ve set up the software, it’s easy to use a VPN for streaming.
Simply connect to a VPN server and start streaming videos.
It’s a little more complicated for certain services, though.
Firstly, if you want to watch Netflix, Hulu, or similar streaming services you’ll have to buy a subscription.
While using a VPN can unlock a host of different Netflix libraries, you can’t get Netflix for free with a VPN.
Once you’ve purchased your subscription, you can use a VPN to protect the streaming traffic.
Make sure to connect to streaming-friendly servers if your VPN service provides them.
Due to streaming service crackdowns on VPNs you may run into some issues, so read on to find out how to solve them.
What’s the Best VPN for Kodi?
If you are using Kodi, particularly for P2P streaming, it’s essential to use a quality VPN service to protect your privacy.
The best VPN for Kodi is IPVanish. It comes with a no-logs policy, no restrictions on P2P traffic, and all the security features you need to stay private while streaming on Kodi.
You can read our guide to the best VPNs for Kodi here.
Does a VPN Slow Down Your Internet?
Yes and no.
If your ISP throttles your speed (i.e. deliberately slows it down) while you are streaming or torrenting, using a VPN can prevent that, which will effectively speed up your internet connection.
However, in the majority of cases using a VPN will slow down your internet speeds. But if you use a good VPN it won’t be noticeable.
In order to experience the best speeds you should connect to the nearest server to your physical location.
The VPNs recommended in this guide only slow down your download speeds by around 10Mbps on same-country connections.
That means that you’ll be able to stream smoothly, with little interruption. But that depends on how quick your connection is before you use a VPN.
Some VPN protocols are faster than others, too, but sometimes improved performance can mean decreased security.
We generally recommend OpenVPN, which offers the best balance between privacy and performance, but IKEv2 may produce faster speeds and it’s also considered very secure.
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