There are approximately 300+ VPN providers (both free and paid) that come and go.
Each one looking the same, sounding the same, offering the same features and promising to keep your connection completely secure and anonymous.
But how do you find the best VPN?
With so many biased VPN reviews filling the web, it can be difficult to discern fact from profit-driven fiction.
At the TheBestVPN.com we’ve been testing and reviewing more than 70 popular VPN services to date. Each review contains background information on the VPN, in-depth look, speed test, and cons/pros.
Here are the 6 most important factors of a VPN that we’ve compared:
- ✅Download speed
- ✅Privacy and security features/flaws
- ✅Jurisdiction and logging policy
- ✅Torrenting and Netflix availability
- ✅Usability and Support
Full disclosure: To compensate our time and money spent in testing VPNs, we’re using affiliate links. However, we never recommend a VPN service in exchange for money – find detailed review process here.
Best VPNs for Online Privacy and Security (2018)
The best VPNs don’t keep any record of the websites you visit or the files you download. They mask your IP address at a budget-friendly price. And they offer tons of restriction-free servers across the globe so you can stream Netflix content or use torrenting freely.
So without further ado, here are 10 best VPNs:
1. ExpressVPN – The Best “All Round” VPN ($6.67/mo)
Rated #1st out of 74 VPNs / Works on ALL Devices
Located in the British Virgin Islands and founded in 2009, ExpressVPN wins the best all-around VPN award.
A single subscription gets you to access over 1500+ fast servers in 94 countries.
They provide a variety of protocols (OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2) with the latest-and-greatest encryption standards (AES-256), perfect for almost any device and network imaginable.
We couldn’t find any DNS or WebRTC leaks, and their installation files were clean from malware or viruses.
ExpressVPN has the most user-friendly app we’ve seen. It also comes with a kill switch to protect your data from dropping into the wrong hands. Their log-free policy truly means no logging. Plus, their British Virgin Islands location puts them outside any intelligence-sharing agreements.
Both torrenting and Netflix works perfectly, too.
And they manage to do all of this without sacrificing performance, offering one of the fastest download speeds (83 Mbps out of 100 Mbps) and the best 24/7 customer support in the industry. The only downside? It’s a little on the pricey side, with monthly plans starting between $6.67 and $12.95/mo. But it’s a small price to pay for excellent performance in almost every category.
+ No logging policy
+ TOP 3 download speed
+ Strong AES 256-bit encryption
+ Uses OpenVPN tunneling protocol
+ Most servers unblock Netflix & Torrenting is allowed
+ Works on all devices (Win, Mac, iOS, Android & Routers)
– High cost (especially for month-to-month users)
2. NordVPN – Best “Cheap” VPN ($2.75/mo)
Rated #2nd out of 74 VPNs / Works on ALL Devices
No other VPN can match NordVPN’s server count, despite coming in at number two on our list.
Their 3350 in 64 countries is the highest concentration we’ve seen.
NordVPN also uses a “double encryption” protocol that combines two servers into one connection.
Their VPN apps come fully loaded with a kill switch. Their “no logging” policy actually confirms they won’t log each site you visit or file you download. And their Panama City location puts them in privacy-friendly territory.
They also excelled in our series of hands-on tests.
The connection had zero leaks (no IP/DNS/WebRTC), so the connection is rock-solid. Four out of six servers worked perfectly on Netflix. And their servers still placed in the top 15 for speed, too.
You can connect up to six devices simultaneously on almost any platform imaginable, including Android, ChromeOS, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux. A long-term commitment will even bring the cost down from $11.95/month to only $2.75.
Only downside? They can take 30 days to process any refunds. Kinda a hassle. But based on their results, you probably won’t even need that refund, anyway.
+ “Double” data protection
+ Large server network
+ Torrenting allowed
+ Works with Netflix
– Their company should be more transparent
– Average download speed
3. Perfect-Privacy – Unlimited Simultaneous Connections ($10.49/mo)
Rated #3rd out of 74 VPNs
You know exactly what you’re getting from a product called “Perfect-Privacy.”
Their logging policy is legit: None of your personal data is monitored or stored.
Perfect-Privacy also offers a leak-free connection with best-in-class AES-256 encryption and protocol options that include OpenVPN, IPSec, and SSH.
But the best part?
Unlimited connections. Most other competitors will only allow a small handful, like three to five, device connections at any given time. This means you can connect anything that runs on Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android, IPTV, or even routers.
That could make it perfect for teams or organizations, too. Torrenting is completely allowed. As is Tor. And Netflix worked on one out of five servers we tried (A UK one).
There were a few drawbacks, though. Speeds were average. Not as fast as the first two options. They are under Switzerland jurisdiction which is generally good for privacy (and logs). However, they are known to cooperate with countries under the five eyes jurisdiction.
And the ~$10.49 – $15.29 monthly cost is on the higher end of the spectrum. (Although, it does look a lot better when you can connect dozens of devices.)
Perfect Privacy Pros
+ No logs policy
+ Switzerland jurisdiction
+ Work with Netflix
+ Torrenting is allowed
+ Unlimited devices
Perfect Privacy Cons
– Most expensive VPN we’ve reviewed
– Average download speed
– No “ready-made” apps for Android/Mac/iOS
4. CyberGhost – Great Features, Average Speed ($2.75/mo)
Rated #4th out of 74 VPNs
CyberGhost reaches more than 1,300 servers across 61 countries.
Their deadly-combination of Romanian location with strict ‘no logging’ means your private data will stay private.
Downloading one of their apps on your Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, Linux, or router only takes seconds. We confirmed the connection won’t leak your true location, after putting it through a barrage of six different tests. While the kill switch also gives you a perfect plan B in case anything happened to your connection.
On the plus side, they’re fully Tor compatible. But on the downside, not all servers are torrenting friendly.
One out of five servers streamed Netflix content successfully. And they support most major protocols, including OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec. The $3.50 to $11.99 average monthly cost means you can land a great deal by committing to a longer term.
The only other drawbacks we noticed were average server speeds (tested on two chosen at random). And customer service was also a little spotty, too.
+ Affordable pricing
+ Very simple to use application
+ No log files
+ Torrenting/P2P is allowed
+ Works with Netflix
– Average download speed
– Unresponsive customer support
– Security allegations in the news
5. Trust.Zone – Fast VPN w/ Small Server Network ($3.33/mo)
Rated #5th out of 74 VPNs
Trust.Zone’s $3.33-$6.99 monthly cost is one of the lowest ranges we’ve seen. Especially among the other top competitors at the top of this list.
Their performance doesn’t indicate some spotty, low-priced service, either.
Trust.Zone server speeds clocked in just behind NordVPN (#2 on our list) in 15th place overall.
The parent company is based in the privacy-haven (and stunningly-beautiful) Seychelles. Which means they won’t hand over your data to the U.S., U.K. Australia, or any other country for that matter.
Their app compatibility ranges from iOS to Android, Linux, Windows, Mac, and even routers. Each native app also comes fully loaded with a kill switch.
Their servers offer restriction-free torrenting, and Netflix worked on two of the five we tried.
Trust.Zone also offers a host of encryption standards, including AES-256-CBC cipher, SHA256 authentication, RSA-2048 handshake.
If we had to gripe about a few things, it would be the slow-ish customer service (no live chat available). And the server count is pretty low (135 in 31 countries) – especially compared to the first few behemoths on this list.
+ Fast server network
+ Torrenting allowed + Works with Netflix
+ Strict no logs policy
– Limited device support
– Poor customer support
– Average usability
6. Mullvad – Most Anonymous Signup Process ($5.89/mo)
Rated #6th out of 74 VPNs
Mullvad offers log-free website browsing for any Windows, Mac, or Linux device.
Their AES-256 encryption with OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols were also IP & DNS leak-free across each of our six tests.
Mullvad’s server speeds even locked down the 10th spot. Impressive, considering their VPN software will only set you back ~$5.89/month.
Unfortunately, the app was slightly confusing to use. And there was no live chat to get fast answers from customer support.
The server park includes 166 servers in 29 countries, which is a little on the low side.
Their Swedish homebase also puts them under the extended 14 Eyes intelligence community. So even if they don’t have your website data, if the authorities come calling, your personal info might end up in a shared intelligence database somewhere.
+ Anonymous signup process
+ No logging policy
+ Industry standard encryption (256 AES)
+ Built-in kill switch
– Located in Sweden (14 eyes)
– Not a very user-friendly app
– Mediocre customer support
7. ibVPN – VPN, Proxy & Smart DNS All In One ($4.83/mo)
Rated #7th out of 74 VPNs
ibVPN’s zero logging and Romanian location means your privacy remains double secured.
Their easy-to-use app is compatible with a MASSIVE list of devices.
Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Boxee Box, Chromecast, Apple TV, LG Smart TV, Samsung Smart TV, LG WebOS Smart TV, PS4, Playstation 3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, DD-WRT VPN, and Tomato USB routers.
You can connect up to five devices simultaneously across those platforms.
Their servers are locked-down with AES-256 encryption. And they offer protocols that will work on most devices and networks, including OpenVPN, L2TP, PPTP, IPSec, SSTP.
Our customer service experience was excellent. And it didn’t cost us substantially more, with their monthly averages hovering around the middle in the $4.83 – $10.89 range.
Now, for the cons.
Their combined server speeds were only good enough for 46th place (out of 74 reviews). Firmly middle of the park. Torrenting is limited to only a few servers. So not ideal if downloading massive files is a priority. Their 180+ server network in 57 countries is relatively low. And you can’t pay with PayPal, either.
+ No logs policy
+ Torrenting and P2P allowed
+ Unblocking Netflix
+ Many features
– Confusing pricing
– Average speed
– No PayPal option
8. IPVanish – Secure & Fast, US Based, No Live Chat ($6.49)
Rated #8th out of 74 VPNs
IPVanish offers customers access to over 1,000 servers in 60 countries.
They support all major protocols with bank-grade AES-256 encryption. And you can use IPVanish on up to five Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android devices at a time.
Netflix worked on one of the four servers we tested. Servers were fast, too, clocking in at the 26th position overall on our list, out of over 70+ reviews so far.
Here are a few of the biggest cons we noticed.
IPVanish pricing comes in a little high for long-term plans at $6.49 – 10.00 per month.
They don’t support Tor and discourage torrenting. So don’t count on either. Their customer service was unreliable during our tests.
And they’re located in a Five Eyes-friendly jurisdiction, meaning authorities can demand your personal information and share it among the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
+ Fast speed
+ No logging
+ Works with Netflix and allows torrenting
+ Multiple device support
– High cost
– Located in the US (5 eyes)
– No live chat
9. Private Internet Access – Affordable & Fast, No Netflix
Rated #9th out of 74 VPNs
Private Internet Access (or PIA for short) came in as the fourth fastest VPN overall.
Their combined server score was actually the fastest out of all the other competitors ranking here in our top ten, too.
One of the reasons PIA is able to offer such good speeds is because they give you the option to purposefully downgrade the security encryption from AES-256 to AES-128. So if you know you’re on a safe network and want to emphasize speed, you can easily push the limit.
That’s awesome news for people who want to use P2P file sharing because torrenting is also unlimited.
You can connect up to five devices through OpenVPN, IPSec/L2TP, PPTP, or Socks5 proxy protocols. Device compatibility covers all the big bases, like Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux.
PIA is also one of your cheaper options on this list. Their monthly ranges go from $2.91 to $6.95, along with the option to get your money back after seven days if needed.
It’s too bad they don’t offer any live chat. Although they provide an astonishingly-high total number of servers (3059), they’re only spread across 28 countries.
That’s great if you’re in one of those countries – you’ll have plenty of options. But if you’re not, you might have trouble getting access to those same stellar server speeds.
+ Large server network (3200+)
+ Very affordable
+ Torrenting is allowed
+ Above average speed
– Based in the US (5 eyes)
– No live chat
– No Netflix
10. Windscribe – A Fantastic VPN… With a Catch ($3.70/mo)
Rated #10th out of 74 VPNs
WindScribe’s 480+ servers in 51 countries provide top-of-the-line encryption and protocol options: AES-256 across OpenVPN, IKEv2, and SOCK55.
Two of the tested five servers worked perfectly to stream Netflix content. And each user-friendly app came loaded with all the bells and whistles you’d need, like a kill switch to protect your true IP from leaking to the world.
Windscribe is also one of the few providers we’ve seen that offer unlimited device connections. That means there aren’t any artificial caps that would force you to purchase more than one account.
Torrenting is limited, though. We also found that speeds were on the slow side, coming in towards the bottom at number 51 out of 74.
One potential reason for this slow down could be that not all servers are active. That means you’re only choosing from a limited sample at any given time.
The other problem is that Windscribe is located in Canada, another card-carrying member of the Five Eyes agreement.
+ Free version available
+ Works on most devices
+ Bypassing Netflix geo-restrictions
– Slow speed
– Using “bots” for support
– Canadian based (5 eyes)
74 VPNs We’ve Tested + Reviews
Here’s the full link to our testing spreadsheet:
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Benefits of Using a VPN?
Hides your IP address, encrypts your traffic and allows you to remain anonymous.
You might know that a VPN delivers privacy and anonymity. But how, exactly, does it do that?
First, it masks your IP address to conceal where you’re sitting. That’s no small feat, considering many VPNs leak your DNS or IP address.
Appearing like you’re somewhere else allows you to bypass geo-blocked content or uncensor websites. It also helps journalists and privacy activists under authoritarian regimes escape backlash, jail time, or worse.
VPN’s create a secure tunnel around your entire internet connection (mostly using OpenVPN tunneling protocol), protecting not just your browser, but also your app activity, too. Most VPNs use 256-bit AES encryption that makes it virtually impossible for your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to track which websites you’re visiting.
But it also means your personal data stays protected.
Further reading: What is a VPN? (Beginner’s Guide)
Is a VPN Fully Legal?
Yes, in 97% of countries.
Using a VPN is completely fine in most countries around the world.
However, we fact-checked 196 VPN country laws to confirm that some countries control VPN use, while others ban them outright.
Only “Government Approved” VPNs are supposed to be used in:
- United Arab Emirates
Getting caught using one that’s not sponsored could mean fines, jail time, or both.
Beware when in these countries, though. Because you can pretty much assume that “government approved” means they share some (if not all) data with each government when called upon.
Can You Use VPN to Stream or Watch Netflix?
Yes, you can…
Every VPN we reviewed says their service will work with Netflix. But not every VPN actually does work.
We found that roughly 70% of the VPNs we tested will fly under Netflix’s geo-blocking radar, including our two favorites: ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Those numbers are pretty good, considering Netflix has aggressively gone after VPN connections and proxy servers in the last few years.
Their licensing restrictions are under extreme pressure, so they’re doing anything necessary to prevent people in the U.K. from streaming U.S. content (and vice versa). The fact that our tests revealed both ExpressVPN and NordVPN work flawlessly on multiple servers was amazing.
It means they’re proactively avoiding detection from Netflix. And it means you can count on them working successfully in the future, too.
Besides Netflix, people also user VPNs to bypass geo-restricitons, watch sport channels or even HULU.
Further reading: Best (Working) VPNs for Netflix (2018)
Are VPNs Safe for Torrenting?
Yes, they’ll keep your P2P activity anonymous.
The only problem is that not all VPNs will allow torrenting on their servers.
We’ve compiled the best VPNs for torrenting and found that most fall in one of four categories:
- Allow unlimited, unrestricted torrenting
- Allow limited torrenting only on specific servers
- Allow but don’t encourage and don’t
- Don’t allow
Torrenting connects you to peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing to download massive files at lightning speeds. Without a VPN, you leave yourself exposed from the other people on that same connection.
The problem is that torrenting is most well known for bypassing copyright laws to illegally download content.
And many VPN companies shy away from the potential blowback from authorities.
Do VPN Providers Keep Log Files?
Same VPN services collect and store your log files.
After going through 118, we found that 26 will collect three or more important log files that would easily reveal your personal actions.
They all say they “don’t log.” But pretty much all of them do. The trick is to dig into their privacy policies and terms of service to see what, exactly, they’re logging.
For example, pretty much all of them will track aggregate bandwidth usage so they can monitor their own server performance. That stuff is no problem.
It starts to get a little tricky when they track when you log in or out of their service. And you’ll want to run for the hills when they track individual websites you visit.
To make matters worse, a lot of them use overly-complicated legal mumbo-jumbo to confuse the issues.
They’ll word it in such a way that makes it sound innocent. It doesn’t seem like they’ll track the files you download.
Further reading: 15 free VPN services that can sell your data to 3rd parties
Can You Set Up a VPN on a Router, SmartTV, Game Consoles?
Yes, you can.
IF the VPN supports those devices. OR if they offer a workaround (like through manual OpenVPN setup).
Ideally, go with a VPN that natively supports the platform you have in mind.
Let’s say that’s a router. Setting up a VPN connection at your Internet source means you can lock-down your entire connection. But it also means you can effectively add as many devices to a secure network as you’d like, too.
If you do need to do a little more manual labor, click here to read our full guide on setting up a router VPN.
Additionally, setting it up on your Smart TV will help you more easily stream geo-blocked content on Netflix, Hulu, and others.
You can change server locations right from the device itself and simply cycle through the best options to finally access whatever content you desire.
What About FREE VPNs?
We never recommend free VPNs, here’s why:
You know what they say about “free” services…
YOU are the product.
Shady free VPNs will commonly track your data and sell it to the highest third-party bidder.
Many have even been caught doing far worse, like injecting ads or referring affiliate traffic to boost profits on your behalf.
So be sure to do your homework.
Does VPN Impact Speed?
A little, expect a 30% drop…
But it depends a lot on the VPN.
Think about it:
Sure, they’re adding another layer of security. However, that also means they’re adding more hoops for your traffic to jump through.
Those additional speed bumps mean you can always expect a slowdown of some sort.
The key is to find a VPN that doesn’t completely derail your traffic, either.
We repeat the same speed test for each VPN we review.
First, we get the benchmark reading without a VPN so we can compare.
Then, we connect to a few different servers to try and compile an unbiased, combined rating.
Throughout this process, we’ve seen some that might only dock your connection a few percentage points. Chances are, you wouldn’t even notice it.
But we’ve also seen some awful ones, too.
Hide.Me, for example, slowed down our connection by over 100%!
That would make streaming content virtually impossible. Even answering emails would be a struggle.
We’ve ranked each VPN from first to the last place. So reference the ranking on each if you’re concerned.
How Much Is The Average Cost For a VPN?
A good VPN might set you back somewhere between $3 – $8/month…
Pretty affordable, right?
Usually, month-to-month options will cost you the most. We’ve seen some as high as $18 bucks per month.
But if you’re willing to prepay for a year (or even longer), you can expect to find something in the $3-7 range.
I’d recommend the following:
See if the VPN you’re interested in offers a free trial. Many do.
If not, go ahead and sign up for the month-to-month option. Almost every (good) VPN we’ve reviewed will give you somewhere between seven and 30 days to get your money back if you’re unhappy.
Then, once you’ve been able to try it out for a few weeks, commit to the long-term option to lock-in an awesome rate.
Can a VPN Help With My IPS Throttling?
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will ‘throttle’ your connection to intentionally slow it down.
Crazy. Shouldn’t be legal. But it is.
If you’re using a ton of bandwidth, streaming HBO or Netflix, they might purposefully slow down your connection to indirectly force you to stop.
Using these services mean two things:
- Less resources are available for their other customers, and
- You’re not watching their own services or shows
Many times, they’ll use sophisticated methods like ‘peering’ to basically spy on your traffic data. The problem is that it’s not always possible to escape throttling.
A VPN can help, though. It will encrypt your device, and help hide it from these peering-type activities.
It’s not foolproof. But it can help obfuscate your data packets buried below the surface that would identify you as you.
Are There Any Risks of Using a VPN?
Only when you are doing something very illegal…
VPNs are mostly safe. Using them is mostly legal.
So you shouldn’t run into any problems or risks.
You’re doing one of a few things:
- Using a non-government sponsored VPN in a country that requires one
- Downloading copyrighted information through a VPN and torrenting
- Performing other illegal activities while under a VPN connection.
Obviously, any of those questionable details can land you in hot water no matter what type of connection you’re running.
But for everyone else, you’re mostly risking time and money.
You’re wasting money on a VPN with terrible performance, for instance. So it might take forever to stream something, until you eventually abandon it and can’t get your money back.
We’ve already highlighted some of the ‘spying’ and malware risks with free VPNs, too.
Fortunately, these are pretty rare. But it definitely does happen. So we’ll let you know if we found any potential red flags in each of our reviews on this site.