Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (2024)

What is a VPN?

‘VPN’ stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a digital security tool we can use to protect our privacy and anonymity. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel that bypasses online monitoring by ISPs, governments, and hackers. That gives us privacy. In addition, a VPN conceals IP addresses, giving us anonymity to some extent.

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That may sound like too much for everyday browsing, but believe us, it’s not. Data privacy is non-existent online; websites gather data, internet providers log browsing activity, and fraudsters are everywhere trying to gain access to our personally identifiable information. The key to staying safe is to lock up our data, and we can best do that by using a VPN.

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There is, however, an oversaturation of VPN options, from big names like ExpressVPN and NordVPN to relatively lesser-known brands like Atlas and UltraVPN. That can make choosing a VPN to use more of a challenge, especially since they cost money. To help you narrow down your options, here’s our roundup of the best VPNs personally tested, graded, and ranked by our cybersecurity experts.

Quick Glance: VPN Testing Statistics

Number of VPNs tested50
How long we test VPNs6 months
Maximum monthly cost$14.99
Available contract lengths1 month, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years

The Best VPN Services of 2024

  1. NordVPN - Best VPN for Privacy
  2. Surfshark - Best VPN for Security
  3. Private Internet Access VPN - Best VPN for Windows
  4. UltraVPN - Best for Day-to-day Use
  5. Norton Secure VPN - Best VPN With Dynamic IP Addresses
  6. Hotspot Shield - Best VPN for Netflix
  7. IPVanish - Best Customer Support
  8. ExpressVPN - Best Encryption
  9. CyberGhost - Best VPN for Mac
  10. Proton VPN - Best VPN for Work

What To Look For: The Three Traits of the Best VPNs

There are so many factors to consider when choosing a VPN. How many servers does it have? What type of encryption does it use? On which devices does it work? Does it log or record browsing history? Can it keep IP addresses hidden well? Those are all things we consider when rating and comparing VPNs, and we’ve devised a methodology that allows us to fairly assess VPNs based on those factors and more.

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When it comes to choosing the best VPNs, however, it all boils down to three crucial factors: privacy, speed, and security. All the best VPNs can provide adequate privacy, good speeds, and airtight security for your online traffic. Armed with that knowledge, let’s discuss the top VPNs. As we go through each option, we’ll give you an overview of how they did in those three areas and why we consider them top-notch options for digital privacy.

Comparison of the Best VPNs

System

NordVPN

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Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (5)

Surfshark

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Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (7)

Private Internet Access VPN

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (8)

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (9)

UltraVPN

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (10)

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (11)

Norton Secure VPN

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (12)

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (13)

Hotspot Shield

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Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (15)

IPVanish

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (16)

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (17)

ExpressVPN

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (18)

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (19)

CyberGhost

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Proton VPN

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Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (23)

Ranking 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
Ratings 9.7/10

Best for Privacy

9.5/10

Best Security

9.4/10

Best for Windows

9.2/10

Best for Day-to-day Use

8.4/10

Best VPN with Dynamic IP Addresses

8.9/10

Best for Netflix

9.3/10

Best Customer Support

9.1/10

Best Encryption

8.9/10

Best for Mac

8.8/10

Best VPN for Work

Best Monthly Price $3.99 $2.49 $2.19 $1.99 $1.67 Free $2.49 $8.32 $2.19 Free
Maximum Monthly Cost $12.99 $10.99 $11.99 $7.99 $4.99 $12.99 $12.99 $12.95 $12.99 $12.00
Encryption 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 128-bit to 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 256-bit AES 128-bit to 256-bit AES
Server locations 60 countries 100 countries 84 countries 125 countries 31 countries 35 countries 75+ countries 105 countries 91 countries 66 countries
Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes Member? No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Read Review NordVPN Review Surfshark Review Private Internet Access VPN Review UltraVPN Review Norton Secure VPN Review Hotspot Shield Review IPVanish Review ExpressVPN Review CyberGhost Review Proton VPN Review

Taking A Closer Look at the Best VPNs of 2024

  • 1. NordVPN - Best VPN for Privacy

    Editors Rating:

    9.7 /10

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multihop Yes
    Camouflage Mode Yes
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    NordVPN delivers privacy through a number of features, an automatic kill switch and Double VPN, which as the name implies, doubles the VPN encryption for extra privacy. NordVPN has also stayed true to its promise not to keep IP addresses and VPN usage logs.

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    Speed

    Our speed with NordVPN varied, but overall, NordVPN was reliably fast. Our speed test readings averaged 225 Mbps and 218 Mbps for downloads and uploads, which was about 90-percent of our 250 Mbps fiber-optic internet network. Thanks to its consistency, we consider NordVPN one of the fastest VPNs we tested. It never once let us down when it comes to bandwidth-heavy activities like streaming and downloading torrent.

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    >> See More: Download Torrent Privately with The Top VPNs

    Security

    NordVPN’s encryption is beyond reproach. It offers military-grade encryption, a.k.a. 256-bit AES, the highest encryption standard there is. There are additional safety and security measures in place as well. Whenever we connected to NordVPN, for example, it gave us access to a private DNS server, making sure we were not using our internet provider’s public DNS which could lead to IP address leakage.

    Why We Picked It

    With a NordVPN subscription, we ramped up our online privacy with its advanced features, 256-bit AES encryption, and top-notch VPN protocols, namely OpenVPN and NordLynx. We personally enjoyed using NordLynx on our Android, as we found that it’s about five-percent faster than OpenVPN. We also enjoyed lots of useful extras, like Threat Protection, which kept us out of malicious websites and kept ads out of our browsing experience. NordVPN, in our opinion, is more than just a VPN; it’s a multi-purpose tool for online privacy.

    What We Like
    • Non-member to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes
    • Multi-hop option in Double VPN feature
    • Top-of-the-line encryption and VPN protocols
    • Netflix access
    • Strict logging policy
    • High app ratings
    What We Don’t Like
    • Steeper prices than the competition
    • Hard to reach customer support
    • Limited torrenting support
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    OpenVPN and NordLynx

    The VPN protocol is everything for a VPN, which is why it’s great that NordVPN offers two of the fastest, most reliable, and most secure VPN protocols: OpenVPN and WireGuard in the form of NordLynx. Here’s a quick comparison, and for a more in-depth look, here’s our comparison of the top VPN protocols.

    OpenVPNNordLynx (based on WireGuard)
    Up to 400 MbpsUp to 1,200 Mbps
    Flexible encryption via OpenSSLNon-flexible (ChaCha 20 only)
    Adds up to 20% overhead data usageAdds up to 4% overhead data usage

    NordVPN worked well with OpenVPN and NordLynx, but we found the latter more suitable for mobile devices because it’s lightweight, it adds less overhead data (useful for those in a data plan), and it’s faster. Our average Android download speed was 225 Mbps with NordLynx and 216 Mbps with OpenVPN. OpenVPn was still our top choice for privacy though, because it was more flexible and robust in terms of encryption.

    Good Price-to-Feature Ratio

    Although not exactly a cheap VPN, we got more than our money’s worth from NordVPN thanks to its impressive feature-set. It protected us from malicious websites and trackers, gave us rare VPN features like Double VPN, and we found no fault in its performance. We’d happily pay the $1 per month extra cost of NordVPN compared to its competitors. Take a look at its pricing:

    Features and PriceStandardPlusComplete
    Monthly plan$12.99$13.99$14.99
    One-year plan$59.88$71.88$83.88
    Two-year plan$95.76$119.76$143.76
    Included featuresAccess to NordVPNAccess to NordVPN and NordPass (password manager)Access to NordVPN, NordPass, and NordLocker (secure cloud backup)

    FYI: NordVPN occasionally includes free months with its one-year and two-year subscriptions. Check out our page on NordVPN deals to learn about any on-going deals and upcoming sales.

    So, which NordVPN plan is best for you? It depends on you. The Plus and Complete plans include extra digital security tools like a password manager and secure cloud backup, but even the cheapest Standard plan gives all the features we mentioned above.

    Who It’s Best For:

    NordVPN offers best-in-class digital security, making it the ideal option for those who are ultra-concerned about their privacy. That said, even novice and casual VPN users can benefit from NordVPN’s impressive suite of extra features.

  • 2. Surfshark - Best VPN for Security

    Editors Rating:

    9.5 /10

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    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (29) Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (30)

    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multi-hop Yes
    Camouflage Mode Yes
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    Surfshark’s recent move to the Netherlands might raise some eyebrows since the country is a known member of the Nine Eyes, a government alliance with laws that could undermine the confidentiality of VPNs. However, we didn’t bat an eye because Surfshark is known for its privacy practices. Just as we were wrapping up our Surfshark tests, Cure53 released a positive audit report on the privacy of the VPN’s server infrastructure.

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    Speed

    The speed we got from Surfshark was a mixed bag. We got excellent download speed readings that averaged 228 Mbps, but in some instances, the upload speed dropped to as low as 91 Mbps – less than half of our internet speed. The average upload speed, however, was 167 Mbps.

    Security

    Surfshark more than just kept our online traffic private; it also made sure to keep our VPN use a secret through Camouflage Mode. Enabled automatically in our Windows Surfshark app, this mode made our encrypted traffic seem like normal traffic, which is handy if you’re in a country or network that restricts VPN usage. A colleague traveled to China recently and used Surfshark with no issues, despite it not being a government-approved VPN. We should mention that thanks to Camouflage Mode, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs that work in China.

    >> Learn More: Must-Have VPNs for Traveling

    Why We Picked It

    Surfshark is a feature-rich VPN that offers beyond what most VPNs provide. In addition to the standard functionalities of VPNs, such as encryption and tunneling, Surfshark delivers a host of useful extras, such as the Camouflage Mode we previously discussed. It’s also one of our favorite VPNs for Firestick, making it easy to stream content from all over the world.

    On top of that, Surfshark can be your all-in-one digital security solution with its new Surfshark One offering, which combines malware protection, data leak detection, a secure search engine, and webcam protection for desktops. Head over to our page on Surfshark pricing to see all your payment options and see us take the antivirus software for a spin in our Surfshark One antivirus review.

    What We Like
    • Camouflage mode
    • Unlimited devices per subscription
    • Low costs with one or two-year subscriptions
    • 30-day trial period
    What We Don’t Like
    • No phone support
    • Have to set up kill switch manually on Windows
    • Dedicated IP address costs extra
    • Not the fastest
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (32)

    Camouflage Mode

    Surfshark’s Camouflage Mode, also known as obfuscation, hides your browsing activity and the fact that you’re using a VPN. This comes in handy in places where simply using a VPN can get you in trouble, like in restrictive countries like China and Russia. If you ever need to use a VPN in a restrictive country, use Surfshark’s Camouflage Mode for extra protection; our colleague did and he came home unscathed.

    Pro Tip: While obfuscation is a proven VPN method for hiding VPN activity, it’s not guaranteed to work all the time. Avoid using VPNs where they are illegal as much as possible.

    Streaming Services

    A nice little side-effect of using a VPN is gaining access to streaming content available outside your country. You can use it to unblock Hulu, for example, if you’re outside the U.S., or access Disney+ shows that are not available in your country.

    And it’s not just for Disney’s streaming service — although yes, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for Disney+. Surfshark works quite well with any streaming service, including Netflix, HBO Max, Spotify, and even YouTube. It was also one of the most reliable VPN for Prime Video. So the next time you’re shopping for the best Hulu VPN – or any streaming service, for that matter – for your travels abroad, consider taking a look at Surfshark.

    FYI: Learn more about the best VPNs for Youtube TV. Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for Apple TV, as well.

    Who It’s Best For:

    Surfshark’s Camouflage Mode is a solid stealth-mode VPN feature for users worried about government restrictions. If you think you might get into trouble if you connect to a VPN — in school, at the office, or countries that are not VPN-friendly, Surfshark is for you.

  • 3. Private Internet Access VPN - Best VPN for Windows

    Product Specs

    Multihop Yes
    Camouflage Mode No
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    Based in the U.S., a member of the Five Eyes alliance, we had reservations about Private Internet Access, but it was immediately cleared after reading its privacy policy and seeing how they operate. We especially liked that users can opt out of providing usage metrics – even though they are anonymous – like device identifiers and connection events. Most VPNs, even our top-picks NordVPN and Surfshark, collect that data automatically.

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    Speed

    Private Internet Access’ Windows speeds were fast during our tests, averaging 236 Mbps for downloads and 223 Mbps for uploads. It’s one of the fastest VPNs for Windows. Its macOS and smartphone connections were also decent (200+ Mbps average), so overall, we’re happy with how PIA’s speed turned out.

    Security

    By default, Private Internet Access uses 256-bit AES encryption, but it was one of the few VPNs we tested that allow users to choose between 256-bit and 128-bit AES. The latter is less secure, but tends to be faster than 256-bit, which is why we preferred it for less privacy-demanding tasks like streaming Netflix or online gaming.

    >> See More: Best Xbox VPNs

    Why We Picked It

    Private Internet Access’ speed on Windows was one of the reasons we considered it one of the best VPNs for Windows, but we also liked how easy it was to customize. The Windows app gave us endless options to personalize how our VPN connected, how it encrypted our data, and how it tunneled our traffic through the VPN. It’s that flexibility that allowed us to optimize our VPN connections for different activities – from simple browsing to work and even online gaming.

    >> Related: The Top VPNs for Online Gaming

    What We Like
    • Strict logging policy
    • Fast on Windows
    • High app reviews
    • Netflix access
    What We Don’t Like
    • Based in United States
    • Split tunneling unavailable for iPhones
    • Slow on Mac
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (36)

    Encryption Options

    Encryption isn’t all about strength; a stronger encryption can slow down your network, so it sometimes makes sense to use a lower standard for not-so-sensitive tasks like gaming or streaming. With Private Internet Access, we had the option to switch gears between 256-bit AES (the default after VPN installation) and 128-bit AES (lower encryption standard but faster). There’s also an option to turn off encryption altogether (proxy mode), which came in handy when we just wanted to change our IP address location to the Netherlands.

    » Read More: Best Proxy Servers

    Encryption OptionsVPN Protocol Options
    128-bit AESOpenVPN
    256-bit AESWireGuard
    256-bit AES with GMCIPSec

    Highly Efficient Apps

    A VPN’s app can make or break the service. Private Internet Access is a great VPN with just as great an app that’s easy to learn to use. Even our office intern, who apparently has never heard of VPNs before, learned to use it in no time. Because of that user-friendliness, Private Internet Access’ app has garnered high ratings from users.

    iOS app rating4.7 out of 5
    Android app rating4.5 out of 5
    macOS app rating4.4 out of 5
    Windows app rating4.4 out of 5

    One thing we really liked about the apps was their flexibility and customizability, which allowed us to fine-tune our connections and get the most out of our Private Internet Access subscription. For example, PIA’s split tunneling feature is so advanced, it offers both conventional and inverse split tunneling (see our split tunneling guide for a detailed explanation).

    With conventional split tunneling, we were able to exclude apps and websites from a VPN connection. One of the programs we use at work doesn’t allow VPN traffic, so we set it to bypass PIA’s tunneling on our computers. That way, we can continue to use it while keeping the rest of our device VPN-protected.

    On the other hand, inverse split tunneling let us set apps that could connect to the internet only via a VPN connection. For this, we set apps like browsers to make sure we’re always on a secure line whenever we’re browsing.

    >> Learn More: Are Private Browsers Really Private?

    Who It’s Best For:

    While PIA has pretty good mobile apps, the desktop apps offer the best functionalities. So this VPN is best for people who mostly use desktops for work and play.

  • 4. UltraVPN - Best for Day-to-day Use

    Editors Rating:

    9.2 /10

    See Pricing

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multi-hop No
    Camouflage Mode No
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    UltraVPN’s privacy policy discusses how it doesn’t log data, but without third-party audits like we saw from Surfshark, there’s no way to concretely prove or disprove it. However, when India passed a law requiring VPNs to collect user data, UltraVPN was among the VPNs that abandoned their India servers. It still offers India IP addresses last time we checked, but those are from virtual servers located in Singapore. That’s a good indication of the company’s commitment to privacy.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (39)

    >> More Options: The Best VPNs for India

    Speed

    UltraVPN uses a proprietary VPN protocol called Hydra from its sister company Hotspot Shield, highly-touted for its speed, but UltraVPN’s speed wasn’t exactly top-notch. Our download and upload speed dropped to about 160 Mbps – about 40-percent less than our baseline network speed (250 Mbps). UltraVPN was still fast, but not as fast as NordVPN, that’s for sure.

    Security

    UltraVPN’s use of the Hydra protocol may be unconventional compared to most VPNs that use OpenVPN and WireGuard, but in our tests, it proved that it can encrypt traffic and hide IP addresses well. It also has a unique advantage. Since only a few VPNs use Hydra, cyberattackers are less interested in exploiting it than widely-used options.

    Why We Picked It

    VPNs need not be complicated. While advanced and innovative features can be useful for some, especially those that need airtight privacy, a simple VPN that can do the job, is affordable, and is easy to use is the kind of perfect VPN for others. UltraVPN checked all those boxes. That’s why we think UltraVPN is the best day-to-day VPN.

    While it lacked the advanced features and customizations we saw from Private Internet Access, UltraVPN’s performance as a VPN was rock-solid. It gave us decent speeds, bug-free apps for desktops and smartphones, and a respectable number of VPN servers to choose from (1,000 servers in 125 locations). For its price – $7.99 monthly or $1.99 per month if you sign up for two years – it’s definitely a cost-effective solution for online privacy.

    What We Like
    • Simple to use app
    • Affordable monthly and yearly subscriptions
    • 30-day money-back guarantee
    • Strong IP address protections
    What We Don’t Like
    • No real kill switch on Android
    • Can’t pick VPN protocol on mobile
    • Higher-than-average speed loss
    • Limited VPN protocol options
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (40)

    Hydra Protocol

    UltraVPN makes use of a VPN protocol called Hydra. Originally developed by Hotspot Shield, Hydra promises to deliver fast speeds, agile connections, and good security. It’s actually one of the best VPN protocols after OpenVPN and WireGuard.

    We especially liked UltraVPN’s agility when using the Hydra protocol. It reconnected automatically and swiftly even when we changed Wi-Fi networks or switched from mobile data to Wi-Fi and vice versa on our phones. It left very little opportunity for attack. It also made day-to-day use a little bit easier as we didn’t have to check our connection as often as we did with less agile protocols like OpenVPN.

    FYI: Hydra proved great at protecting IP addresses. It passed our three sets of tests for DNS and WebRTC leaks, two common types of leaks that could happen to VPNs. So even though UltraVPN lacks the commonly offered protocols OpenVPN and WireGuard, Hydra is a great alternative.

    >> See Also: What Can Someone Do With My IP Address?

    Flexible Pricing

    UltraVPN can be quite affordable in terms of pricing. Even its monthly subscription, which is typically the priciest subscription plan of a VPN, costs only $7.99. Just for comparison, our top-pick NordVPN costs $12.99 with a monthly subscription.

    If you’re looking for a VPN for long-term use, UltraVPN’s pricing gets even better. If you sign up for two years, you’ll pay only $47.76 per month. That’s an average of just $2 per month. See the pricing breakdown below.

    DurationTotal costCost per month (averaged)
    2 years$47.76$1.99
    1 year$35.88$2.99
    1 month$7.99$7.99

    The bottom line is, whether you’re looking for a short-term or long-term VPN, UltraVPN is a practical choice.

    Who It’s Best For:

    UltraVPN is a good day-to-day VPN for average users, especially with its affordable pricing and easy to use apps. While it doesn’t offer as many features as other options, UltraVPN is reliable and fast.

  • 5. Norton Secure VPN - Best VPN With Dynamic IP Addresses

    Editors Rating:

    8.4 /10

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multi-hop Yes
    Camouflage Mode No
    Kill switch No
    Split Tunneling Android and Windows only
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting No

    Privacy

    NortonVPN collects more information from users than other options. For example, while Private Internet Access let us opt out of providing aggregate usage data (bandwidth use, device ID, etc.), Norton logged mobile device data and aggregate bandwidth usage. It’s still a “no-logs” VPN, though, as it did not log which websites we visited and IP addresses we used.

    Speed

    Norton Secure VPN ranked 12th in our VPN speed comparison, which is still decent considering we tested 35 VPNs in total. The download speed was impressive. It kept the speed loss to less than 12-percent. However, the upload speed (averaged 84 Mbps) and latency (averaged 120 ms) could be improved.

    Security

    Norton Secure VPN had a particularly nifty feature where it automatically detected whenever we connected to a suspicious Wi-Fi network, such as password-less coffee shop Wi-Fi, and secured our connection with a VPN tunnel. While not rare, features like that one offer good digital security.

    Why We Picked It

    Norton is perhaps most famous for its Norton antivirus software and LifeLock (one of the best identity protection services; read more in our LifeLock review) but it also has a VPN, and it’s not half bad. Every time we connected to the macOS app, we got a different shared IP address, which is more preferable than static IP addresses because it made it difficult to trace us online. Not only did the IP address change everytime, but the IP addresses it provided us were shared with other users as well. Since online anonymity is what we’re after, we were satisfied with this VPN app.

    » Learn more: Static vs Dynamic IP Addresses

    What We Like
    • AES-256 encryption
    • Different IP addresses every time you connect
    • Affordable
    • 10 devices maximum
    What We Don’t Like
    • Based in the U.S., a Five Eyes member
    • No split tunneling on iOS devices or Macs
    • Netflix isn’t available everywhere
    • Kill switch isn’t available on Macs or iOS devices
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (43)

    Affordable Prices

    How much does the Norton Secure VPN cost, you ask?

    Well, if you only sign up for a month on one device, it’s $4.99. However, for 10 devices for a year, the cost is only $59.99, which amounts to only about $0.50 a per device per month. If you need a VPN for the whole family, this plan is incredibly affordable, and one of the best VPN deals we’ve seen in a while.

    Maximum number of devicesContract lengthAmount billed
    11 month$4.99
    11 year$19.99
    51 month$7.99
    51 year$29.99
    101 month$9.99
    101 year$59.99

    Strong Encryption

    Norton Secure VPN encrypted our web activity and hid our IP address using AES-256, the same encryption that the U.S. government and military use, so you know it’s secure.

    Beyond that, in some locations, the VPN encrypted our web activity and changed our IP addresses multiple times, a process called multi-hop or double hop. That made it that much harder to track us online, from our personal emails to the items we bought on Etsy. No one needs to know about our obsession with vintage cookie jars, after all.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (44)
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (45)

    Who It’s Best For:

    Norton Secure is best for those who are just starting to utilize cybersecurity tools to protect themselves online. Besides being easy to use, Norton Secure is from a brand most famous for its antivirus software.

  • 6. Hotspot Shield - Best VPN for Netflix

    Editors Rating:

    8.9 /10

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    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (46) Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (47)

    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multi-hop Yes
    Camouflage Mode No
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling No
    Netflix Yes, but not in all regions
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    You might be getting tired of VPNs that say they have a “no-logs” policy with no data to back it up, but Hotspot Shield actually has proof. In a transparency report, the company released that it received 56 subpoena and government requests in 2018, but that it hadn’t been able to provide any information because, again, it doesn’t log VPN usage and IP address information.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (48)

    Speed

    As you might remember, Hotspot Shield created the Hydra protocol used by UltraVPN. While its supposed fast speeds didn’t materialize when we tested UltraVPN, we saw Hydra’s speed potential from Hotspot Shield. It was the fastest VPN we tested in terms of download speed, averaging 242 Mbps. That’s only four-percent less than our baseline internet speed.

    Security

    Hydra is Hotspot Shield’s only VPN protocol. It doesn’t use the tried-and-tested OpenVPN or even the newer protocol WireGuard that has been making waves in the VPN market recently. Although it has proven itself in speed, Hydra still has a lot to prove in terms of security. We would have liked to see more VPN protocol options from Hotspot Shield – even NordVPN, which has NordLynx, still offers OpenVPN as an option.

    Why We Picked It

    Hydra’s speed played a huge part in why we picked Hotspot Shield. When it came to Netflix-watching parties, Hotspot Shield had us covered with fast speeds on our Mac and Windows computers. We also didn’t experience huge delays or lags on Netflix when we used the app on our Android devices, which came in handy during commutes.

    Of course, its fast speed was advantageous in more ways than just watching Netflix. Whether for downloading, streaming, or just general browsing, Hotspot Shield kept our data safe without sacrificing speed.

    Money Saver: To get discounts, sign up for long term-lengths; typically, one or two-year subscriptions are cheaper than monthly plans.

    What We Like
    • Fast speeds
    • Free option
    • Netflix access
    • Torrenting access
    What We Don’t Like
    • Five simultaneous connections
    • Based in U.S.
    • Unresponsive customer support
    • Keeps IP address
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (49)

    Hydra Catapult Protocol

    These days, we see a lot of proprietary VPN protocols — VPN protocols made and developed by a VPN company — from the best VPN brands. Not many of them, however, can claim to be as fast as Hotspot Shield’s Hydra Catapult VPN protocol. Thanks to Hydra, the only VPN protocol offered by Hotspot Shield, we notched record-high download speeds during our recent VPN speed testing (more on that below).

    Hydra is also plenty secure. It’s actually built around OpenVPN, (which if you can remember is one of the most secure VPN protocols), but Hotspot Shield tweaked it a little to give it a boost in speed without compromising security.

    Super-Fast Speeds

    We recently tested and compared the speeds of the top VPNs, and even though Hotspot Shield didn’t take the top spot, it was right up there. We were most impressed by the download speed, as Hotspot Shield only made a negative 3.17-percent impact on our regular internet speed. That meant that with our roughly 250 Mbps connection, Hotspot Shield maintained an average download speed of over 240 Mbps.

    Hotspot Shield Speed TestsOur regular internet speedHotspot Shield speed
    Download250 Mbps242 Mbps
    Upload250 Mbps50 Mbps
    Latency2 ms79 ms

    >> Related: What Is ISP Throttling?

    Who It’s Best For:

    Hotspot Shield has strong streaming potential. Plus, Hotspot Shield is affordable, so it’s best for young people looking to expand their entertainment options without spending much.

  • 7. IPVanish - Best Customer Support

    Editors Rating:

    9.3 /10

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multi-hop No
    Camouflage Mode No
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes, with uTorrent

    Privacy

    Back in 2016, IPVanish faced backlash after providing the U.S. government with data that helped in the arrest of a child predator. Nobody’s saying the company should have helped a criminal, but what IPVanish provided to law enforcement demonstrated conclusively that the company was making records of user activity. That’s a no-no for any VPN. Since then, IPVanish has taken a page of Surfshark’s playbook. In addition to saying in its privacy policy that it collects no user data–no IP addresses, no timestamps, and no browsing histories, IPVanish’s has also hired independent firms to audit its service and verify that it’s complying with that policy.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (52)

    Speed

    IPVanish was the second fastest VPN we’ve tested overall, considering its impressive upload and download speeds as well as network latency. We measured only four- and five-percent decrease in download and upload speeds, respectively, and the VPN kept our network latency well below 80 ms. We tested IPVanish on a Windows laptop and subsequently named it one of the best Windows VPN because of its speed.

    Security

    IPVanish security doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but it’s admirable that it comes complete with all the features we’re looking for in a secure VPN. It has a kill switch, it offers several VPN protocol options, it uses 256-bit AES encryption, and it passed our DNS and WebRTC leak tests. All things considered, it’s a solid and secure VPN.

    From Our Notes: IPVanish disconnected unexpectedly once during testing due to server maintenance, which showed us that its kill switch works. Because it stopped all internet connections on our device, the kill switch alerted us that we were no longer getting protection.

    Why We Picked It

    What sets IPVanish apart from other companies is its commitment to customer service. We can’t tell you how much trouble we have sometimes getting companies to respond to our technical questions. Many VPNs don’t offer phone support, and a fair number don’t provide answers 24/7.

    IPVanish has friendly customer service agents you can talk to any time, via both phone and online chat. Yet, the company doesn’t charge any more than other VPNs. A one-year subscription, for example, is just $2.99 a month.

    IPVanish Customer Support OptionsAvailability
    Email support24/7 (48-hour response time)
    Phone support9 AM to 5 PM (UTC-6), Monday to Sunday
    Live chat support24/7
    What We Like
    • Fast download speeds
    • Streaming and torrenting-safe
    • Split tunneling
    • Unlimited number of connections
    What We Don’t Like
    • History of sharing customer logs
    • Based in United States
    • Slow speeds on Windows, but has recently gotten much faster with WireGuard protocol
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (53)

    Kill Switch

    All VPNs can fail at any time without warning; that’s just the reality. That’s also why we recommend looking for a VPN with a kill switch just like IPVanish. It’s not that IPVanish is unreliable. It only ever got disconnected unexpectedly once, apparently due to server maintenance, but it showed us the kill switch in action. Without it, we would have kept browsing thinking IPVanish is protecting our data. But because it halted our device’s network connection the moment IPVanish disconnected, the kill switch alerted us that we were no longer getting protection. We reconnected through a different server and got back online moments later.

    An Audited Privacy Policy

    All of the VPNs we’ve reviewed have privacy policies that outline what types of data they collect, why they collect those types of data, and how they use the data. Not all of them, though, have been audited like IPVanish.

    The Leviathan Security Group, an independent security and privacy auditing firm, audited IPVanish’s privacy and security practices just this year. They’ve found that IPVanish’s claim that it doesn’t log browsing and usage data is true. The firm also determined that IPVanish is non-invasive to its users’ privacy, making it a solid VPN for privacy-conscious users.

    Who It’s Best For:

    IPVanish has great mobile apps and it’s also affordable, so students looking to improve their digital security and privacy, not to mention access blocked sites on their school’s network, could benefit from this VPN.

  • 8. ExpressVPN - Best Encryption

    Editors Rating:

    9.1 /10

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multihop No
    Camouflage Mode Yes
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    Privacy is ExpressVPN’s bread-and-butter, and it made sure to use state-of-the-art technology to remain a top option. It has invested in making its VPN servers run on RAM, which we consider more private than traditional VPN servers that run on hard drives. If you remember, another VPN that offers RAM-only servers is Surfshark, which is number two on this list. That speaks to how high-quality ExpressVPN’s network is.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (56)

    Speed

    ExpressVPN was middle-of-the-pack in terms of speed. It wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t bad. It was speedy enough to let us stream movies in 4K resolution. With ExpressVPN connected, our download speed averaged 230 Mbps while our upload speed averaged around 210 Mbps.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (57)

    Security

    ExpressVPN uses a combination of 256-bit AES encryption and its speedy and lightway VPN protocol called Lightway to protect user traffic. It was a solid pairing. We found no IP address leaks from the Lightway protocol and its speed was well-within the average. We also liked how quickly Lightway established tunnels – less than five seconds on average – which meant we could connect to ExpressVPN anytime without hassle, even when we’re commuting via the subway.

    Why We Picked It

    ExpressVPN excels at doing the one thing every VPN should be able to execute well: Encryption. It uses 256-bit AES as the standard, and then improves on that by offering a swath of secure VPN protocols. ExpressVPN even came up with its own VPN protocol that is both well-encrypted and agile.

    Another reason why we like ExpressVPN is how easy it was to install on our Firestick. With the VPN installed, we were able to stream different media libraries from all over the world.

    Sure, the slightly higher cost of ExpressVPN may be a bit hard to swallow, but ExpressVPN is nothing if not one of the most secure VPNs around.

    What We Like
    • No data retention laws
    • Great app ratings
    • Netflix access
    • Fast speeds on Windows
    What We Don’t Like
    • No phone support
    • Slow speeds on Mac
    • Five simultaneous connections per subscription
    • No browser extension for Internet Explorer
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (58)

    Lightway Protocol

    ExpressVPN is at the forefront of VPN technology. In addition to adopting existing VPN protocols, it developed a proprietary protocol that is both secure and fast, called Lightway. This VPN protocol runs on only 2,000 lines of code, much less than protocols like OpenVPN. And as a result, it’s lightweight and it provides a smooth user-experience.

    Here’s how it compares to OpenVPN:

    FeaturesLightwayOpenVPN
    Year established20012020
    SecuritySecureSecure
    SpeedFasterFast
    Battery consumptionLowMid to high

    IP Leak Blocking

    There are VPNs that we consider “leaky” because their technology doesn’t effectively block IP address and browsing data leakage. ExpressVPN is far from being that, though. It’s one of the most secure VPNs on the market, capable of blocking DNS leaks and WebRTC leaks.

    In fact, once you’re connected to ExpressVPN, you can use its website’s WebRTC leak detector to make sure it isn’t leaking your IP address through your browser’s WebRTC feature. Each time we tested ExpressVPN for those leaks, we didn’t find any — just the result we were hoping for.

    Who It’s Best For:

    ExpressVPN offers agile data protection, which is particularly ideal for frequent travelers. It has strong privacy features, and its lightweight proprietary VPN protocol also makes it a good travel companion, as it runs fast on most mobile devices and computers.

  • 9. CyberGhost - Best VPN for Mac

    Editors Rating:

    8.9 /10

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multihop No
    Camouflage Mode No
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling No
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    In our previous tests of CyberGhost, we found that it logged IP addresses in an anonymized format (the IP address is on record, but not tied to a specific user). This raised concerns from us, but fortunately, CyberGhost adjusted its privacy policy. Last we checked, they no longer store IP addresses; just the country of origin of connection requests. That’s an improvement.

    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (61)

    Speed

    Like many of the VPNs here, such as Norton Secure VPN and Ivacy, CyberGhost provided fast download speeds but significantly slower upload speeds. Our upload speed went down by 70-percent, which meant we only got about 75 Mbps from our 250 Mbps network. Fortunately, the download speed, which is usually what matters most to us because we like streaming, remained high with an average reading of 223 Mbps.

    Security

    In terms of security, we liked CyberGhost’s IP address masking in particular. Normally, when trying to access sites like Netflix and Disney+ that block VPNs, they’d occasionally detect that we’re using VPNs. For example, in our X-VPN review, while we were eventually able to stream Netflix, two of the 10 servers we tried were detected. With CyberGhost, we connected to 10 different servers in different locations, and all of them worked. That was, to some degree, proof that CyberGhost was hiding our IP address well.

    Why We Picked It

    CyberGhost has over 7,500 servers in 91 different countries, so although we only tested it out in the United States, wherever in the world you are, you probably won’t have trouble connecting either.

    The company is based in Romania, not a member of those international surveillance networks we keep mentioning; plus, Romania as a country has almost no data retention laws of its own, making CyberGhost a great pick for privacy.

    FYI: CyberGhost offers split tunneling on Android devices only, so if you’re using a Windows, Mac, or iOS device, you’ll only be able to access private and not public networks.

    What We Like
    • Non-member to Five eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes
    • Great customer support
    • Affordable costs
    • Thousands of servers around the world
    What We Don’t Like
    • Logging policy
    • Split tunneling available for Android only
    • Static IP addresses
    • Slow performance on Windows
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (62)

    Discounts Available

    CyberGhost offers a wide array of subscriptions to choose from, and this makes the VPN very flexible. You can sign up for a month subscription to try things out, or go all-in on a one-, two-, or three-year subscription. The best part is, you’ll get a discount depending on the length of your plan.

    The highest discount is over 80-percent off, which you can get by signing a three-year subscription. All in all, you’ll pay only $56.94 every three years, which breaks down to just over $2 per month.

    CyberGhost Pricing1 Month6 Months2 Years
    Total subscription cost$12.99$41.94$56.94
    Average cost per month$12.99$6.99$2.19

    NoSpy Servers

    CyberGhost, like most of the VPNs we review, doesn’t keep logs of its users’ browsing data. Bur CyberGhost takes things up a notch with its NoSpy servers. These data centers operated by CyberGhost itself are located in Romania, which is outside the reach of the 14 Eyes alliance.

    Romania’s laws also makes it a VPN-friendly country, as it doesn’t require data gathering and mass surveillance tactics used by other countries. When you connect to one of CyberGhost’s NoSpy servers, you can rest assured that your data is safe.

    Who It’s Best For:

    It’s true that the longer subscriptions offer the best prices, but CyberGhost’s flexibility makes it a great-value VPN for pretty much anyone.

  • 10. Proton VPN - Best VPN for Work

    Editors Rating:

    8.8 /10

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    How We Review

    Product Specs

    Multi-hop Yes
    Camouflage Mode Yes
    Kill switch Yes
    Split Tunneling Yes
    Netflix Yes
    Torrenting Yes

    Privacy

    Proton is a privacy-focused company that offers privacy tools like a secure email (that detects phishing email well) and calendar, an encrypted cloud drive, a password manager, and of course, Proton VPN. It’s also based in Switzerland, a privacy-friendly country with no data retention laws, so Proton VPN can legally maintain a no-logs policy not just for its VPN, but for all its privacy tools and services.

    Speed

    We’ve seen a fair share of VPNs with good download speed but disappointing upload speed. If you’re looking for a VPN with fast upload speeds, though, we can recommend Proton. It topped our ranking in terms of upload speed, notching just a four-percent decrease compared to our baseline speed. The average upload and download speed were both 240 Mbps, which is why we mostly used it for Zoom meetings and other work-related tasks that require both solid download and upload speeds.

    Security

    Though fast, Proton VPN was plenty secure as well. Notably, we discovered that it uses perfect forward secrecy encryption. VPNs use keys to decipher encrypted traffic as it passes through a server, but if not secure enough, these keys can be stolen by hackers to decrypt subsequent traffic. With Proton VPN, it generated a different cipher key for every session. Another VPN that offers perfect forward secrecy is NordVPN, which as you might recall, is our top-pick for privacy.

    Why We Picked It

    ProtonVPN is now Proton, which seems like an ignorable change, but is actually big for the VPN company. As Proton, it now includes the entire Proton suite of cybersecurity tools. That includes ProtonMail, ProtonCalendar, ProtonDrive, and ProtonVPN. As such, Proton is a good personal VPN to use at work.

    What We Like
    • Fast speeds
    • Free option
    • Netflix access
    • Torrenting access
    What We Don’t Like
    • Relatively high prices
    • Customer support limited to tickets
    • No browser support
    • Relatively few servers
    Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (65)

    Stealth VPN

    Proton recently joined the growing number of VPNs with their proprietary VPN protocols. Proton’s VPN protocol is called Stealth, and it has one special feature: obfuscation. Basically, it encrypts your traffic, but it also makes it look like regular traffic, hiding it from network, ISP, and government filters. Obfuscation is particularly useful in countries where the use of VPNs is highly controlled or monitored.

    Right now, however, Stealth is only available for Android, iOS, iPadOS, and macOS users, but Proton will roll out support for the Windows platform soon.

    Fast Upload Speeds

    At work, we need fast upload speeds and low latency so our meeting software works smoothly. There’s nothing more embarrassing than when you laugh at someone’s joke but they don’t hear it until two minutes later. ProtonVPN was one of the fastest VPNs we tested on our Windows and Mac computers when it came to both upload speeds and latency.

    Proton VPN Speeds

    Upload speed difference, Macs11 percent slower
    Upload speed difference, Windows4 percent slower
    Download speed difference, Macs87 percent slower
    Download speed difference, Windows42 percent slower
    Latency speed difference, Macs20 percent faster
    Latency speed difference, Windows10 percent faster

    Who It’s Best For:

    Digital privacy is Proton’s main priority, with a whole suite of privacy-focused online tools. So if your profession calls for extra privacy, like if you’re a journalist, you should consider Proton.

Video Breakdown

We made a video review so you can see the VPNs for yourself! Watch it below or on our Youtube channel (and be sure to subscribe once you’re there).

How These Top-Rated VPNs Keep You Safe Online

VPNs provide online safety by connecting you to a private server. As opposed to a normal network wherein all online traffic is subject to monitoring by the internet provider or someone who has control over the local network, a private network offers encryption that obscures the content of online traffic. This makes your online activity harder to track.

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The top VPNs in the industry (i.e. the ones we tested and ranked above!) offer tried and tested encryption standards. Many of them offer 256-bit AES encryption, while others use the equally secure ChaCha20.

In addition, VPNs hide users’ IP addresses. Any website you visit can see your IP address – that’s not very private – but when you connect to a VPN, they’ll see only the IP address of the VPN server. It acts as a stand-in for you, making sure websites can’t easily track your information.

Most VPN companies have servers all around the world so users can connect as locally as possible; the closer the server, the faster the speeds while connected. Some VPNs even encrypt users’ traffic multiple times through multiple servers, a process called “multi-hop”.1

» Check Out: Learn How To Fix Common VPN Issues

The Fastest VPNs On This List

The protection that VPNs provide doesn’t come without tradeoffs, most notably of which is reduced network speeds. Adding a layer of encryption to your network traffic and routing it through a VPN server can cause your internet speed to dip a little. That’s why we make it a point to test and compare the speed of each VPN we recommend.

“Speed” is such a broad term. It can refer to either the download speed, upload speed, or network latency. We can also associate it with the reliability of a VPN’s connection. When it comes to being fast in general, however, these were the top options:

  • NordVPN: NordVPN offered balanced upload, download, and latency, coupled with incredible stability even on distant VPN servers.
  • Hotspot Shield: Hotspot Shield provided great speed on desktops and smartphones powered by the lightweight Hydra protocol.
  • Private Internet Access: Capitalizing on its app’s customizability, Private Internet Access offered agile connections that could be fine-tuned to get the best speeds possible for different tasks.
  • IPVanish: We saw impressive download and upload speeds from IPVanish, making it great for transferring data (e.g. torrent downloads, seeding, etc.).
  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN excelled on desktops, providing us stable connections with above average download and upload speeds.
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How To Get One of These Top VPNs

While VPNs may seem like complex technology, you actually don’t need much to get started. All you need is a VPN subscription, the software, and your device.

First, start by getting a subscription to one of the top VPNs mentioned above. Make sure to do this on the service’s official website.

Next, download the app. You can download the VPN app on multiple devices. If you’re on mobile, you can usually get the app from the App Store or Google Play Store. If you’re using a desktop or laptop computer, you can download the installer straight from the VPN’s website. Once again, make sure you’re getting the VPN app from official sources only.

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Lastly, install the app and connect. The best VPNs really make it that easy, but before you buy just any VPN subscription you could find, take a quick pause and consider this next section.

Can You Trust The Top VPN Services?

VPNs are meant to hide users’ web traffic, but what if the VPN itself isn’t trustworthy? Sadly, not all VPN companies are trustworthy. Remember that they have access to your traffic, so anything you do online, while shielded by the VPN from external threats, can actually be monitored by the VPN service itself.

Here’s how we determine if we can trust a VPN service or not:

  • Company headquarters: We look for companies based in countries that are non-members to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes, an influential surveillance alliance among countries that give member governments deep access to digital communication monitoring. Most VPNs avoid putting up their headquarters in member countries of the alliance. Usually, that shows their commitment to protecting people’s privacy. However, being under the jurisdiction of the alliance doesn’t automatically mean a VPN is not trustworthy, which is why we look at the next key factor.
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  • Privacy policy: Nearly all VPNs claim they have a “zero logs” policy, but that’s not the case for the majority of them. While most VPNs don’t log web traffic, many log other user information like IP addresses, times and durations of visits, the amount of data used, and more. To find out how much data a company collects, we read their privacy policy and see if they keep the minimum amount of data necessary to uphold the user’s account, which is typically just their email address, payment information and not much more.
  • Third-party audit: While we can easily access and read a VPN’s privacy policy, we have no way to actually verify its truthfulness. That’s where third-party audits come in. Trustworthy VPNs would submit themselves occasionally to independent security audits to prove that they are following their privacy policy and that their networks and apps are secure. Audit results are often published online.

There’s a lot more to consider besides a VPN’s trustworthiness, though. For more information on how we ranked VPNs, check out the Methodology section below.

The Best VPNs Around The World

We conducted a comprehensive study on how adults in the United States use and shop for VPNs, and we found that 68% of the survey respondents use a VPN. That said, the importance of using a VPN isn’t exclusive to the U.S. or North America alone. Everyone who uses the internet can benefit from VPNs. As such, we made a list of VPN recommendations for specific countries where VPN use is high, such as in Asia Pacific countries where 30% of internet users utilize VPNs2:

  • Best VPNs for Spain
  • Best VPNs for Japan
  • Best VPNs for Hong Kong
  • Best VPNs for Singapore
  • Best VPNs for South Korea
  • Best VPNs for the Netherlands
  • Best VPNs for Mexico
  • Best VPNs for the United Arab Emirates
  • Best VPNs for Australia
  • Best VPNs for France
  • Best VPNs for Germany
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Don’t see your country in the list? No worries; in our experience, you can easily find a good VPN for your locality by looking at three key factors:

  • Number of servers: How many servers a VPN has can affect your speed and access to the private network. Look for a VPN with at least a few thousand servers, as those are more likely to provide better speeds where you live. Private Internet Access (12,000+ servers) and NordVPN (6,000 servers) are great options for this.
  • Server locations: More than the size of the network, though, check the location of the servers. You’re most likely to get fast connections if you connect to a server near you, so look for a VPN with servers in your country. However, it’s also beneficial to have servers in other countries/regions, as those are what you’ll use to unblock content and get around internet censorship. ExpressVPN leads this category, as it has servers in 105 countries around the globe.
  • VPN cost: Lastly, consider the cost. VPN subscriptions can cost anywhere from a few dollars per month to over $10 per month. A long-term subscription is more likely to get you the best price – sometimes as low as $2 per month, as is the case with Private Internet Access – while a short-term or monthly subscription gives you more flexibility. If you’re looking to save money, we recommend Private Internet Access’ three-year subscription ($79) or CyberGhost’s two-year plan ($56.94).

Looking at those factors will help you narrow down your options, but if you want to find the best VPN for you, you can use our methodology below as a guide.

How We Test VPNs: Methodology

Testing, comparing, and ranking VPNs is an arduous task, but even if you’re not a VPN expert, it’s not impossible to do tests on your own. Take a look at our methodology, and you’ll be testing VPNs like a pro in no time.

Speed

In general, using a VPN slows down your connection. No one wants to get stuck in a loading screen forever, though, so we perform VPN tests to make sure they don’t slow us down too much.

We test each VPN on a private Optimum network in our Brooklyn office. We use our internet speed without a VPN as an objective control to measure against (usually around 250 Mbps), and then test how much our speed drops once we connect to a VPN. We use Ookla’s speed test tool for all our tests.3

Security

We perform more tests to ensure a VPN is secure enough to protect our browsing history, including:

    • WebRTC leak tests: This ensures that the VPN can block IP address leaks from browsers’ WebRTC feature.
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  • DNS leak test: This checks that VPN is using a private DNS server and not the public DNS server from our internet provider.
  • IP address checker: This checks that the VPN has successfully changed our IP address through tunneling. Learn how you can check and find your IP address.
  • Privacy policy check: We also dig into the privacy policy to see what types of data do and don’t collect and what they use collected data for.

Pro Tip: Ever get stuck coming up with strong passwords? Head over to another tool of ours, our Random Password Generator, to help you shore up your digital security (and it’s actually really fun to use!).

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Performance

Some use VPNs to torrent anonymously, while others use VPNs to access region-blocked Netflix content. While those are far from being the only uses of a VPN, they are two of the most common, so we also test VPNs if they can serve either purpose. For this, we try to download torrent to check if VPNs are compatible with peer-to-peer (P2P) connections and access Netflix U.K., Australia, and Japan to see if they can access different Netflix regions.

Subscriptions

Cost is another notable factor we consider. Besides just checking how much a VPN costs – they range from $2 to $15 per month – we also take into account buying policies like how long subscriptions are, whether or not there’s a free trial for the VPN or a free version, and how easy it is to cancel. Most VPNs offer a money-back option, through which you can get your money back if you cancel within a specified trial period, usually 30-days.

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Customer Support

Although VPN companies are not known for their customer support, ideally they have a live chat feature in addition to their online help center. 24/7 live chat is preferred, and extra points if they also have a phone line.

App

Finally, we review the app for both iPhone and Android, as well as its ratings. If an app has a rating below three stars, we cannot recommend the product to the device-owner which the app goes with.

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Pro Tip: Connecting to a VPN on your mobile device is easy. Just go to the Apple or Google Play store, depending on the make of your phone, and download the VPN’s app. From there, you just have to sign in and click connect for private browsing.

VPN FAQs

  • What is the best VPN?

    The best VPNs are NordVPN, Surfshark, Private Internet Access, UltraVPN, Norton Secure, Hotspot Shield, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Proton VPN.

  • Is it worth paying for a VPN?

    It is worth paying for a VPN. VPNs that are “free” typically limit the time you can use them and the amount of data you can use while connected, which is pretty limiting for most people. If you’re consistently on public Wi-Fi networks or want to access a private server, VPNs are worth shelling out a few dollars a month.

  • Are VPNs trustworthy?

    In general, VPNs are trustworthy, as nearly none of the companies we review logged our web traffic or activity. However, some VPNs are definitely more trustworthy than others; we prefer companies based in countries that are non-members to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes, international surveillance alliances. We also look for VPNs with strict logging policies that only keep the minimum amount of customer data to run their services; these kinds of VPNs are more trustworthy than most.

  • Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?

    Typically, you can’t be tracked if you use a VPN. VPNs hide your web traffic and activity and replace your real IP address with a stand-in. However, some VPN companies do keep your real IP address along with your device type, the times you went online, and more information that could be used to track people. That’s why it’s important to look at the VPN’s privacy policy and make sure that it’s strict.

  • Which free VPNs are best?

    The best free VPNs, which mostly offer limited versions of their premium VPNs, are Hotspot Shield, Privado VPN, AtlasVPN, Surfshark, and TunnelBear.

Best VPN Services of 2024: Reviewed by Experts (2024)
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