There are hundreds of VPN providers trying to win your business. Follow this must-read guide to choose right one for you.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) were designed as a safe portal for remote users to access company and organization networks. But the potential for this technology was boundless and consumer VPNs that offer a variety of services soon followed. With so many out there, you don’t want to get caught paying for something that doesn’t meet your needs.
So, what do you need to look out for when choosing a VPN provider?
Do people use VPNs for different reasons?
No two people are going to go shopping for a VPN for exactly the same purpose. One VPN user might be a businesswoman who travels frequently and wants to work on the go, so she needs a VPN to guard her corporate information when she’s working at an airport or hotel. Meanwhile, her brother works overseas in Dubai, but still wants to keep up with his favorite baseball team. He uses the VPN to access a server in the US so he can connect to a website that broadcasts games.
The important thing to understand is that what’s “best” for one user may not be for another, so it’s important to consider which features matter most to you.
Things to look out for when choosing a VPN
Here’s a look at some of the most important characteristics to research when choosing a VPN:
- Number of servers/countries
- Simultaneous connections
- Free trials
- Cross-platform support
- Customer service
- Software usability
The heart of the matter for most VPN services is their ability to protect your data when you’re accessing the Internet. Data that travels by VPN is encrypted to keep outsiders from being able to access it. The higher the number of levels of encryption, the less likely encryption can be broken and lead to the possibility of compromised data.
Depending on what you need, VPN prices range from free to around $10 per month. If it’s security you’re after, then paying for the service is definitely the way to go. But, if you’re simply looking to access a video or website that’s not available in your country, a free VPN service could get you around that firewall.
Some people consider getting around geo-blocking a shady practice. While you’re not likely to land yourself in hot water right now, that could change down the line — and a free service may not have your back if you get caught out.
Privacy is a big deal for an overwhelming number of Internet users. Many VPNs offer to conceal information by not keeping records of where customers go and what they view online. If a VPN logs customer information, that should start ringing alarm bells.
Speed often sets good and bad VPNs apart. Less developed VPNs have fewer resources to improve browsing speeds, meaning the more users online, the slower the connections will run. More available resources generally leads to faster browsing speeds.
Number of servers/countries
The more servers a VPN has and the more countries it places servers in, the more efficiently it will run. When you travel, the aim is to connect to a reliable VPN server as close to your location as possible in order to keep the response time low — more servers means more choices for users. Too many users on one server drains the bandwidth and slows the process for everyone.
Number of simultaneous connections
If you’re running a small business, have a large household, or just want to be able to connect on your desktop and mobile at the same time, being able to use several simultaneous connections is a must.
Free trials and money-back guarantees
Free trials and money-back guarantees are typically two features of a good VPN. A company that offers one (or both) isn’t afraid to let its product speak for itself. This lets you take a risk-free test drive before committing to anything.
Having more than one Internet-capable device is the standard these days and we’d like to be able to protect our Android with the same VPN that we use for our Mac laptop. There are a handful of VPNs that have the capability of providing their services for any device. If you use more than one operating system, this should be a priority.
Navigating the world of VPNs can be a tricky, especially when servers are continually up and down and companies like Netflix are constantly developing new ways to geo-block streamers. A good VPN has a dedicated customer support team dedicated to helping its users get help quickly.
Is it easy to use? For people who are only using VPN software on occasion, being able to simply launch a program is far more important than the option to manually configure and customize settings. VPNs that offer a mobile app can also make things easier when on the go.
What are some of the best VPNs on the market?
Two highly recommended VPN services are TunnelBear and NordVPN. If you’re thinking of signing up for either, check out the details for each provider in the table below:
TunnelBear is an easy-to use platform that would be ideal for a user who’s trying to stream content that’s blocked in their part of the world — it even offers a free plan. If you require a VPN with a higher level of security and a slew of different features, NordVPN may be more suited towards your needs.
What will you be using your VPN for?
VPN software is a tool, and the one you choose should be determined by what you need to use it for. If you have to cut down a 5-foot tree once a year, you buy an axe. If you’re cutting down a 20-footer every week, you invest in a chainsaw.
Are you trying to watch globally-restricted content?
If you simply want to watch content that isn’t available in your country, then a SmartDNS service might be for you. SmartDNS is similar to VPN in the sense that they both mask your Internet Protocol (IP) address, giving you uncontrolled access to the world wide web. However, because Smart DNS only reroutes certain portions of your traffic through its server, you’ll often find that streaming video through a SmartDNS is smoother and faster than when using a VPN.
Because Smart DNS providers offer a stripped back service, you’ll often find that this option is also cheaper than a VPN. Keep in mind that while Smart DNS is often cheaper and faster than VPN, you’re sacrificing your security — premium VPN services will include a SmartDNS.
Is using a VPN to access geographically restricted content legal?
There are many legitimate uses for a VPN. However, the legality of using one to access geographically restricted content is a bit of a grey area. While you’re not likely to attract the attention of the government, you do run the risk of having your VPN or streaming subscription cancelled.
There’s a small chance that a copyright holder may want to pursue legal action if you’re found to be accessing that content in an unlicensed region. Keep in mind that the very nature of a VPN masks your IP and prevents your online activity, so we can’t tell you if or how the copyright holders would be able to identify you if you do choose to access their content without the proper licensing.
Here at finder, we do not encourage internet browsing activity outside the law, we only aim to compare the services .
Will you be torrenting, P2P or file sharing?
If you plan to torrent using a VPN, you need to find out if it’s permitted by the VPN service you’re considering. Many VPNs will automatically detect when torrenting software is being used and block it, possibly even cancelling your membership or banning you from their service in the process. Make sure and check the fine print of any VPN you buy or trial to determine its stance on file sharing, P2P or torrenting.
Compare VPN services now
|VPN Service||Min. Monthly Price||Annual Payment||Server locations||Sign Up|
|FastestVPN||$10.00||$29.95 ($2.49/month)||22 Countries, 100+ servers worldwide||Sign up|
|CyberGhostVPN||$5.99||$35.88 ($2.99/month)||57 Countries, 1277 servers online||Sign up|
|EarthVPN||$3.99||$39.99 ($3.33/month)||6 Continents, 54 Countries, 190 Physical Locations||Sign up|
|Getflix||$4.95||$39.90 ($3.33/month)||20+ regions. Every location has multiple servers running for redundancy and speed.||Sign up|
|Hide.Me||Free – $9.99||$119.95 for Premium||35 locations worldwide||Start now|
|IBVPN||$4.95||$58.06||130+ servers in 47 countries||Sign up|
|PureVPN||$10.95||$131.40||141 countries, 180 locations worldwide||Sign up|
|TunnelBear||$4.99||Grizzly: $59.88 ($4.99/month)||20+ countries||Sign up|
|Unblock-Us||$4.99||$49.90 ($8.32/month)||Not specified|
|Iron Socket||$6.99||$49.95 ($4.16/month)||Over 50 servers (High concentration in US and UK)||Sign up|
|NordVPN||$11.95||$69.00 ($4.00/month)||1082 Servers in 61 Countries||Sign up|
|TorGuard||$5.95 – $11.54||Not available||3000+ servers||Sign up|
|VPN Unlimited||$8.99||$39.99||1000+ high-speed servers across 70+ locations all over the world||Sign up|
|Speedify VPN||$0 to $8.99||$49.99||36 locations worldwide||Sign up|
|Ivacy VPN||$9.95||$49.00||200+ Servers||Sign up|
|Blockless||Free for Basic and $7.50 per month for Premium||$90.00||N/A|
|Hide My Ass||$9.99||$59.88 ($4.99/month)||280+ servers worldwide||Sign up|
|Overplay||$4.95||$99.95 ($8.32/month)||70+ locations in 50+ countries|
|Safer VPN||$8.99||$71.90||400+ premium VPN servers in over 30+ countries||Sign up|
|IP Vanish||$10.00||$77.99 ($6.49/month)||40,000+ IPs on 850+ servers in 60+ countries|
|VyprVPN||N/A||$155.40||Server clusters in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania (700+ servers)|
|Express VPN||$12.95||$99.95($8.32/month)||145+ VPN locations|
|PIA||$6.95||$39.95($3.32/month)||3272+ Servers in 25 Countries|
|Strong VPN||$10||$69.96||45 cities in 24 countries|
|VPN Service||Encryption||Mobile Support?|
|FastestVPN||PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), OpenConnect, IKEv2, And Xsec||Yes|
|EarthVPN||PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, SSTP, SSH||Yes|
|Getflix||PTTP, L2TP, SSTP and OpenVPN UDP||Yes|
|Hide.Me||PPTP, L2TP, IPsec (IKEv1 and IKEv2), OpenVPN, SoftEther and SSTP||Yes|
|IBVPN||Open VPN, PPTP, L2TP, SSTP supported||Yes|
|PureVPN||OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, and IKEv2||Yes|
|TunnelBear||strong AES 256-bit encryption by default||Yes|
|Iron Socket||OpenVPN, L2TP, PPTP, HTTP, Socks5 and DNS Proxy||Yes|
|NordVPN||IPSec, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, PPTP and SSL||iOS, Android and Windows Mobile|
|TorGuard||SOCKS5, SSH, HTTP, SSL, OpenVPN, SSTP, L2TP, IPsec||Yes|
|VPN Unlimited||AES-128 and AES-256 encryptions||Yes|
|Speedify VPN||By default, it uses ChaCha20-Poly1305 for data encryption and ECDHE-ECDSA for handshake encryption, utilizing 256-bit elliptic curve keys. (TLS_ECDHE_ECDSA_WITH_CHACHA20_POLY1305_SHA256)||Yes|
|Ivacy VPN||PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and IKEv2||Yes|
|Hide My Ass||OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec||Yes|
|Overplay||PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN protocols||Yes|
|Safer VPN||OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP||Yes|
|IP Vanish||OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPsec VPN protocols||Yes|
|VyprVPN||OpenVPN™, L2TP/IPsec, PPTP and Chameleon™||Yes|
|Express VPN||OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP protocols||Yes|
|PIA||OpenVPN, IPSec/L2TP, PPTP and SOCKS5||Yes|
|Strong VPN||PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN and IPSec Protocols||Yes|
|FastestVPN||Share files with|
complete anonymity, access blocked content from Anwhere, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server switching
|Monthly fee is a bit pricey|
|CyberGhostVPN||Hide your IP, highest encryption, Wifi protection, strict no logs policy, global servers||Speed can sometimes be slow, limited capabilites for non-torrent gaming|
|EarthVPN||Strict no-log policy, offers multiple devices||Unreliable speeds and server connections|
|Getflix||Supports over 200 channels, free signup with our 14 day trial, no credit card required||…website is a little overwhelming|
|Hide.me||Absolutely no log files.||Limited countries and servers.|
|IBVPN||Military Grade Encryption and Advanced Features for Online Privacy and Security||Only works for one device at a time, unless you purchase the Ultimate plan.|
|PureVPN||Enjoy 5 Multi-Logins And 24/7 support with a single account, 15-day money-back gurantee|
|TunnelBear||Blocks all unsecured traffic until it’s safely reconnected||Not any advanced features. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about TunnelBear is one of the most impressive VPNs we’ve seen.|
|Unblock-Us||Software can be configured on Apple TV, PS4, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV, and many more, all within minutes||…except Linux.|
|Iron Socket||Enhanced Privacy – No Activity Logs||Limited server distribution|
|NordVPN||Available on up to 6 multiple devices linked to one account||…though only allows for 2 simultaneous streams|
|TorGuard||Unlimited data transfer and great connection speeds.||Personal information being stored for promotional reasons is a bit of a concern.|
|VPN Unlimited||Unlimited access and subscription of more than 5 devices|
|Speedify VPN||Does not log IP addresses, data and websites|
|Ivacy VPN||Unlimited bandwidth & Server Switching|
|Blockless||Ultra fast speeds, up to 5 connected devices||Blurry position on data logging|
|Hide My Ass||30-day money back guarantee, AVG integration and amazing customer service||No IPv6, Only 128 bit encryption|
|Overplay||Unlimited region and server switching||US-based, more expensive than other SmartDNS providers|
|Safer VPN||FREE unlimited Chrome Extension||Lacking in features that others within the same price range offer.|
|IP Vanish||User-friendly apps for all of your devices||No 24/7 support.|
|VyperVPN||Online storage and NAT firewall add-on are both neat additions.||Vypr will only allow for one device to be connected on the basic plan.|
|Express VPN||Comes with 30-day no-risk money back guarantee||…but the base fee is a little pricey.|
|PIA||Connect Through VPN Tunnel in Seconds||Many users report very poor tech-support from the company.|
|Strong VPN||Automatic setup application for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android||Many report being banned for torrent downloads with no option for a credit refund.|
|VPN Service||Does it log usage data?||Payment methods||Killswitch?|
|FastestVPN||No||VISA, Mastercard, American Express, PayPal, BitCoins, AliPay||256 Bit Encryption Algorithms & Killswitch Feature||Yes|
|CyberGhostVPN||No||VISA, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, PayPal, BitCoins, GiroPay, DirectDebit, Sofort Banking, CashU||Data not yet available||N/A|
|EarthVPN||No||VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover via PayPal, PayPal, BitCoins, AliPay, UnionPay, WebMoney, CashU, Ukash, Paysafecard||Data not yet available||N/A|
|Getflix||No||Data not yet available||For security and encryption, we suggest you to select the closest server location to you||N/A|
|Hide.Me||No||Visa, American Express, Mastercard, Paypal, Sofort, Giro Play, CashU, Bitcoins||Recommended connections are IKEv2, OpenVPN with AES-256 encryption/||Yes|
|IBVPN||No||Credit/Debit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB, Maestro and more), eWallets (WebMoney) and many other (AliPay, Perfect Money, BitCoin, Yandex, Bank Wire Transfer and more)||The 256 Bit Encryption Algorithms||Yes|
|PureVPN||No||Paypal, Alipay, Payment Wall, Coin Payments, CashU, Gift Cards||256-bit AES encryption||Yes|
|TunnelBear||No||Visa, Mastercard, American Express, PayPal, Bitcoin and Jars of Honey||OpenVPN and AES 256 in CBC mode on Windows, Android and OS X and IPSec with 256-bit AES encryption for iOS.||No|
|Unblock-Us||No||Visa, Mastercard||Data not yet available||N/A|
|Iron Socket||Yes||Paypal, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover Network, Bitcoin and Giftcards||The OpenVPN-based Ironsocket VPN network with AES-256 encryption, SHA256 Message Authentication and a 4096-bit key.||No|
|NordVPN||No||Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Network, Paypal, Bitcoin, Alipay,||Double VPN with two layers of AES-256-CBC encryption.||Yes|
|TorGuard||No||Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, American EXpress, Payment Wall, Bitcoin||An OpenVPN connection with AES256 with 2048bit RSA encryption.||Yes|
|VPN Unlimited||No||Over 200 different payment options, including PayPal, credit card, Bitcoin, Cash U, Gift Cards.||An OpenVPN connection with AES256 with 2048bit RSA encryption.||Yes|
|Speedify VPN||No||Over 200 different payment options, including PayPal, credit card, Bitcoin, Cash U, Gift Cards.||An OpenVPN connection with AES256 with 2048bit RSA encryption.||Yes.|
|Ivacy VPN||No||Paypal, Visa, Bitpay, Coin Payments, Perfect Money, Paymentwall||An OpenVPN connection with AES256 with 2048bit RSA encryption.||Yes|
|Blockless||N/A||Credit card or PayPal||SmartDNS||N/A|
|Hide My Ass||No||Credit card or PayPal||Data not yet available||N/A|
|Overplay||No||Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Paypal||Data not yet available||N/A|
|Safer VPN||No||Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, Paypal, Bitcoin, Cherry, Money Online,|
Alipay, Mobiamo, Mint
|256 Bit bank-level encryption||Yes|
|IP Vanish||No||Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, JCB, Delta, Paypal, ideal, giropay, boleto, Bitcoin||An OpenVPN connection with 256 bit AES encryption.||Yes|
|VyprVPN||Yes||Visa, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, Discover, Alipay, Paypal||Data not yet available||N/A|
|Express VPN||No||Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB, Visa Electron, Delta, Diners Club, Paypal, Bitcoin, Web Money, Union Pay, iDeal, Sofort, Giropay||best-in-class encryption based on a 4096-bit CA||Yes|
|PIA||No||Paypal, Amazon, Google, Bitcoin, Stripe, Stellar, CashU, Ripple, PIA Gift Card,|
|PIA recommends a combination of AES-256, RSA 4096 and SHA1 (or 256-bit)||Yes|
|Strong VPN||No.||Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Paypal, Bitcoin, Alipay||2048 Bit Encryption||N/A|