Maybe you’re working from home now and need more security.
Maybe you’re traveling abroad and need to access blocked websites.
Maybe you just want the peace of mind of a private network.
You need a VPN service.
A good VPN makes sure that your privacy online is protected, while giving you access to websites and content that might typically be limited to certain countries. There are a TON of different services out there though. Choosing one that’s right for you can be dizzying.
Luckily, we’ve researched and tested the very best VPN services out there. Now, we want to break down the top six ones we love the most—and think you will too.
But before we dive into the best ones, let’s take a look at what a VPN service is exactly–and why you need one.
What is a VPN service?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a service that creates a private network for you on an existing internet connection. This allows you to browse the web safely, privately, and securely.
For example, you might use a VPN using a public space’s free WiFi knowing that other users won’t be able to access your private information like passwords. It will also hide your IP address to make all of your browsing private.
The way it works seems complex but is quite straightforward: When you log online, it reroutes your internet connection from your internet service provider to the VPN service’s own server. From there, it’ll hide your IP address from any evil doers out there.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Think of it as a mask you can wear to protect your online identity and actions. You’ll be able to conduct your own business online knowing that no one can recognize you through the mask.
You’ll also be able to use it to unlock different websites and web content that might not normally be available to you and your location. For example, some people use VPNs to access Netflix and Hulu content that aren’t shown in their country.
Why do I need a VPN service?
There are many different reasons why you should consider a VPN service. For one, you might be traveling abroad soon. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to be able to access as many public and private WiFi as possible–making VPNs an absolute must have. That way you’ll be able to browse without someone potentially accessing your private information.
And if you’re traveling, you might want to be able to access websites not normally accessible in the country you’re in. For example, the Chinese government has blocked many websites used in the West such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Netflix (just to name a few).
If you want to access those websites in Beijing, you’ll need a VPN.
Perhaps the most important reason you might want to get a VPN is the security. Since VPNs encrypt your private information such as your IP address, you’ll be able to access virtually any WiFi safely with the knowledge that your identity is protected.
This can be very important for anyone who values their security and privacy. For example, VPNs are often used by political activists as well as journalists reporting from high conflict areas. It allows them to spread their message on social media and other websites privately with less of a risk of political repercussions.
The Best 5 VPN Services to Consider
Below are the 5 best VPN services we suggest for you. They each have their own pros and cons. What you ultimately chose is up to you.
- ExpressVPN – Best VPN service overall
- NordVPN – Best price for VPN service
- Surfshark – Best VPN service speed
- Cyberghost – Best VPN service features
- TunnelBear VPN – Best VPN service for Beginners
#1. ExpressVPN – Best VPN Service Overall
ExpressVPN is our top pick—and with good reason.
The VPN gives you access to 3,000+ servers, with 160 servers in 94 countries and unlimited speeds. Their 24/7 customer support is also on hand to help you out no matter what time zone you’re in.
They also support a wide array of platforms such as Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, and even gaming consoles like Playstation and Xbox.
ExpressVPN also promises never to log and record your IP address, browsing history, DNS queries, and metadata. This ensures your privacy even after you’re finished browsing online. If you’re still not convinced, they also offer a network lock (or kill switch). That means if your VPN connection is ever disrupted for any reason, ExpressVPN will stop any web traffic coming into or out of your laptop or mobile device. Your IP address will remain safe and secure.
It’s also dead simple to use. With just one click, you’ll be able to start browsing the web via a VPN. It’s intuitive enough that even the newest VPN user could get started easily.
There are few drawbacks to ExpressVPN. The price is pretty high compared to the others on this list. It starts at $6.67 a month for a 15 month deal (with 3 months free). There’s also a $12.95 for just a monthly deal, and a $9.99 a month price for 6 months. Expensive when compared to some of the others on this list.
#2. NordVPN – Best price for VPN service
Even if you’re completely new to VPNs there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this one. It might have been pushed by one of your favorite YouTubers and podcasters. Luckily, it’s not just a great marketing campaign. NordVPN actually offers a great VPN service.
They have 5,000+ servers across 59 countries including 2,165 servers in North and South American alone. They use AES with 256-bit keys to encrypt your data—the same encryption method the NSA uses to secure classified information.
A single user account supports up to 6 devices too, which is perfect for solo travelers looking to stay connected. The software supported include the likes of Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux. That means your desktop, laptops, smartphones, and tablets can all be protected with Nord VPN.
Like ExpressVPN, Nord also has kill switch protections, 24/7 customer support, as well as browser extensions for easy use and access. It does include a feature that ExpressVPN doesn’t though: Ad and malware blockers. Which can be very nice to have when you’re surfing online on different websites.
One thing to note: In October 2019, one of NordVPN’s servers in Finland was breached in a cyberattack. This resulted in a leaked private key. In November of that year, another cyber attack occurred that resulted in the exposure of some 2,000 usernames and passwords of their users.
This is obviously a huge red flag and potential cause of concern for anyone who cares about their security. However, NordVPN dedicated themselves to fixing these issues by severing contact with the data center in Finland where the breach occurred as well as rolling out audits as well as a bug bounty program to uncover more potential issues in their service.
Their pricing starts at $3.49 a month for a two year plan. A typical month-to-month plan is $11.95 a month.
#3. Surfshark – Best VPN service speed
Surfshark is perhaps the fastest VPN on this list. In fact, it’ll provide some of the fastest connection times and download speeds of any other service out there.
With 1,700+ servers in 63 countries, they have no problem bypassing country restrictions with ease. Like NordVPN and ExpressVPN they leverage AES 256-bit keys encryption, have a strict no log policy, and come with a kill switch for top performing security. Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox was also approved by Cure 53 (a German security firm) when it was audited.
What sets them apart along with their speed, however, is the amount of devices you can support. Surfshark allows you to have unlimited devices with a single user account. That’s great for anyone who takes security and privacy seriously in their everyday lives.
It also comes with a handy whitelist tool. This allows you to pick and choose the websites and apps you want to bypass the VPN. Very flexible.
There are a few downsides. For one, Surfshark doesn’t have 24/7 customer support like some other competitors on this list. Their online support is a bit lacking too. If you have an issue, you’ll need to consult their help center page. If your issue isn’t there or if you need more support, you’ll have to contact them by either submitting a request or hopping on their live chat.
Pricing isn’t bad. It starts out at $1.99 a month for a two year plan. There’s also options for a yearly plan at $5.99 a month, and a monthly plan for $11.95 a month. Not too bad if you plan on using a VPN for an extended period of time.
#4. Cyberghost – Best VPN service features
Founded in 2011, this Romanian company is committed to defending “privacy as a basic human right.” And with 6,500+ servers in 90+ countries, Cyberghost can easily help you remain private and secure while surfing online.
Along with just the massive amount of connection points they have, Cyberghost also offers a wide variety of service features you won’t find with many others such as dedicated video streaming servers, BitTorrent and other P2P sharing through their VPN. There’s also the WiFi protection
Like some of the others on the list, they also have a no-logs policy, a decent amount of simultaneous connections (7), a kill switch, as well as AES 256-bit encryption. Their services work on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and LInux devices. They also have apps available for Amazon Fire Sticks and Android TVs.
They are lacking in two key areas though: Support and pricing.
There’s no call number and they only offer a support request form that you have to fill out online in case there’s an issue. There’s also a page with troubleshooting guides, but for those who need help right away or can’t find their issue in the guides, you’re only option is to fill out a support request form—which can be frustrating when you need help.
Pricing starts at $2.75 a month for three years of service. That includes a little over two months free. For one year, it’s $5.99 a month and for the month-to-month rate is $12.99. So it’s definitely more expensive than the other options on the list–which can be a draw back. Keep in mind though that they also offer more features than other VPN options out there.
There’s also a 45-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with your service.
#5. TunnelBear VPN – Best VPN service for beginners
If an absolute VPN newbie came up to me and asked for my recommendation, I’d point them to TunnelBear. No question.
The Canadian VPN service has a strong focus on providing a simple, easy-to-use experience for their customers. It results in a great VPN for even the most inexperienced users. The interface is also bear-themed and really fun to use if you’re a big dork like me. Simply click on the country you want your IP address redirected to, watch the bear “tunnel” it’s way to that city, and you’re done. Like I said, real simple.
Simplicity doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the same privacy protections you’d find in other VPNs either. TunnelBear still offers AES 256-bit encryption, a no-log policy, and WiFi protection just in case you suddenly lose your Internet connection. However, if you’re looking for more advanced features like dedicated streaming servers, VPN on devices such as gaming consoles, or 24/7 customer support, you’re not going to find it here.
TunnelBear has 1,800+ servers in 20+ countries. It’s a bit on the low end when it comes to VPNs but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. You still get decent speed while surfing. Besides, 21 million+ customers who use TunnelBear don’t seem to mind.
The VPN service is available on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. It also comes with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
Pricing starts free. Yes, you read that right. You can just get the service completely free. There is a catch though: You only get 500MB of browsing. After that it starts at $3.33 a month for unlimited browsing. If you’re a part of a team you can get it for $5.75 a user per month. That comes with a dedicated account manager focused on helping your team as well as centralized team billing.
Methodology for choosing the best VPN services
When looking for a VPN service, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. Here is a list of the three things we were looking for in each of the services we reviewed above:
Since security and privacy is the name of the game with VPNs, we only chose one with one of the strongest encryption algorithms out there: AES 256 bit encryption. While it’s not the strongest encryption methods out there, a 256-bit key will hide your identity sufficiently.
How sufficiently? A 256-bit key has 15,792,089,237,316,195,423,570,985,008,687,907,853,269,984,665,640,564,039,457,584,007,913,129,639,936 combinations.
(That’s 78 digits)
For some perspective, it would take the strongest computer on earth millions of years to guess every possible combination. It’s just that secure.
Of course, no VPN service is perfectly safe to cyber attacks (see NordVPN), but the encryption key is a crucial part to keeping your identity secure.
This one is pretty much non-negotiable. If the VPN didn’t have a no-log policy stated on their websites and list of features, we weren’t going to include it on the list.
The reasoning is simple: VPNs exist to make sure your data is secure at all costs. If they’re recording your browsing information and keeping a log of it, that opens the doors to a host of issues including cyber attacks. Not to mention the fact that they could give that data to an unknown third party.
So if the VPN you’re considering doesn’t explicitly state that they have a no-log policy, turn the other way. Your data and identity is not worth the risk.
If you’re investing in a VPN, you should be able to use it most of the devices you own. Of course, you’re probably not going to get a VPN on your smart fridge anytime soon. But being able to browse safely no matter if you’re on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device is important.
That’s a level of flexibility that you want to look for in your VPN service. Luckily, all of the ones above include multiple devices on their plans.
Bottom line: ExpressVPN is a fantastic option if you’re looking for an easy-to-use VPN along with robust platform support and 24/7 customer support. Their pricing is a bit more expensive but totally worth it in my opinion.