Nowadays, most of our information lives on the web. If you’re working from home or your local coffee shop, you need an extra layer of security to keep your data and interests safe from hackers. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) give protection and more. Suppose you’re using a public WiFi connection from a nearby Starbucks. In that case, you can connect your mobile device to your trusted VPN to disguise your location and browsing history using your provider’s connection. Or, if you’re working from home, your company will likely protect your information and data using a VPN.
VPNs are used for several other purposes, such as streaming shows while bypassing censorship and restrictions. It can also prevent activity and connection logging. Each VPN’s features and services will vary, so it’s best to find one that tailors to your most common Internet use and device. Whether it’s gaming, streaming or working, there’s a VPN for that.
Top 3 VPN Features to Consider
If you’re looking for a VPN, you’ll want to have a few top features whether you’re working, shopping or streaming.
Number of servers: The more number of servers a VPN has, the better. A high number of servers gives customers better upload and download speeds because one server won’t be too crowded. Keep in mind that the more servers a company has, the more expensive maintenance is for the company, so subscription costs tend to scale up with server count.
Available platforms: Before you decide which VPN you want to use, it’s essential to make sure it works with your preferred platforms. You can find out by checking the VPN’s website or asking the customer support team. You’ll also want to make sure the VPN has a browser extension and mobile app to connect on your mobile device conveniently.
Number of connected devices: If you have a family that all use the internet in many ways, you’ll want something with a high number of simultaneously connected devices to cover gaming consoles, laptops, tablets, smartphones and more if needed.
Compare the Best VPNs
We narrowed down the best VPNs and the top features to help you decide which one works best for you. Hotspot Shield, IPVanish and CyberGhost are all-around VPN favorites worth considering. Our top picks are neck and neck with each other when it comes to features and services. Fortunately, our methodology identifies key strengths and weaknesses that matter based on how you use the internet.
|Hotspot Shield||IPVanish||Cyberghost||Surfshark||NordVPN||Private Internet Access||ExpressVPN||StrongVPN|
|Best VPN Overall||Best VPN for Unlimited Devices||Best for Mac||Best VPN for Android||Best VPN for Streaming||Best VPN for Beginners||Most Widely Available VPN||Best VPN for Customer Service|
|Yes - 7 days||No||Yes - 1 day||Yes - 30 days||Yes - 30 days||Yes - 30 days||Yes - 30 days||Yes - 30 days|
Number of Servers
Number of Sim. Connected Devices
24/7 Customer Service
Compare VPN Services Review
Superlative: Best VPN Overall
Starting price: Free
Our Take: Hotspot Shield offers the best speed and encryption to make browsing fast and easy. It provides high-performance streaming with up to 500 MB of data free of charge.
- “World’s Fastest VPN” award by Ookla
- Free to use, but offers optional paid plan
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Paid plan only allows 5 devices to be connected simultaneously
- Concerns about customer support helpfulness
- Can only access VPN in other countries with a paid plan
Hotspot Shield ties with IPVanish and Cyber Ghost for the best VPN. But Hotspot Shield has military-grade encryption and worldwide streaming and browsing capabilities. Ookla recently awarded the company the “World’s Fastest VPN” in its 2020 Speedtest Awards. Hotspot’s speed and unlimited streaming data are perfect for Netflix, Hulu and Disney+.
You can download Hotspot Shield for free or upgrade to the Premium plan for $7.99 per month with an annual subscription. It also offers a free trial, 24/7 live support and a 45-day money-back guarantee. Customers love Hotspot Shield’s browser extension and easy-to-use app.
However, most of those benefits only apply to the paid version. For example, the free version has a 500 MB daily data limit, which is too low to stream HD movies. Customers also aren’t fans of Hotspot Shield’s customer support or the inability to use the VPN in other countries without upgrading to the Premium plan. The free plan may work for you if you just want added security for basic browsing, but for anything beyond that you’ll likely need the paid plan.
Superlative: Best VPN for Unlimited Devices
Starting price: $3.33/mo.
Our Take: IPVanish is one of the cheapest VPN providers, and it offers more for your money. Connect unlimited devices and get 500 GB of storage for $4.15 per month.
- Offers 500 GB of storage
- Unlimited simultaneously connected devices
- No traffic logs
- No browser plugins available
- Limited VPN features
- Upload and download speeds vary
IPVanish is affordable, easy to use and perfect for streaming. The company offers advanced encryption, private browsing and anonymous IP addresses starting at $3.33 per month with a yearly plan. IPVanish’s upgraded plan comes with 500 GB of secure storage for $4.15 per month with an annual plan. Each plan comes with unlimited connected devices, 24/7 customer support and a proxy web server that’s free of traffic logs.
IPVanish also lets you safely share your IP address with others to increase your privacy when browsing. You’ll be able to connect to IPVanish in 75 countries without the risk of blocking websites or streaming services. However, reviews noted a few tradeoffs: Customers weren’t happy with download and upload speeds and the lack of browser plugins. IPVanish also doesn’t have as many “nice to have” security features as providers like Surf Shark.
Superlative: Best VPN for Mac
Starting price: $2.25/mo.
Our Take: CyberGhost gives customers military-grade encryption to keep their data and browsing secure. The company’s in-house 6,800 “No Spy” servers and “No Logs” policy are only a few of the ways that it is committed to keeping you safe when browsing and streaming.
- Military-grade encryption
- Available in over 88 countries
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Only able to connect seven devices simultaneously
- Cheapest pricing only available with 39-month plan
- Customers unhappy with customer service
CyberGhost gives you everything you need in a VPN with a “No-Logs” Policy, AES 256-bit encryption, an automated kill switch and unlimited bandwidth. It also offers 24/7 customer service and 6,800 VPN “NoSpy” in-house servers to stay safe in 88 countries. CyberGhost lets you hide your IP address and use one of there’s for better browsing security. Mac users are fond of the company because it is committed to security and privacy with their traffic encryption when using public WiFi networks.
But you won’t be able to get CyberGhost’s cheapest pricing of $2.25 per month without a 39-month commitment. And even then, you’ll only be able to connect up to seven devices simultaneously. Customers also are unhappy with their customer support and troubleshooting. Fortunately, CyberGhost offers a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Superlative: Best VPN for Android
Starting price: $2.49/mo.
Our Take: Surfshark offers several features to keep your information safe. The company provides CleanWeb, Whitelister, a kill switch and private DNS on unlimited devices starting at $2.49 per month.
- Offers CleanWeb feature to browse without ads, malware or tracking
- Includes a MultiHop feature for extra security
- Connect unlimited devices simultaneously
- Must commit to a two-year plan for the cheapest monthly price
- Issues with streaming services in Surfshark’s available countries
- More expensive overall compared to other VPN providers
Surfshark is one of the most popular VPN options, especially for Android users. You’ll be free of hacking, malware, identity theft and ads based on your browsing history. Surfshark’s VPN technology and privacy also prevent businesses from price discrimination based on your city.
Every Surfshark plan includes a kill switch and MultiHop to send your data through multiple servers to protect your data and browsing history further. Surfshark also offers CleanWeb to let you browse without fear of malware or pop-ups, or you can use Whitelister to let websites bypass Surfshark. You’ll also be able to connect unlimited devices simultaneously.
As with most VPN providers, you’ll get the most significant savings with a two-year commitment. You’ll only pay $2.49 per month instead of $12.95 with a monthly plan. The main drawback for the service ?Customers haven’t been totally satisfied with Surfshark’s unblocking features for streaming services including Hulu and Netflix in other countries.
Superlative: Best VPN for Streaming
Starting price: $3.71/mo.
Our Take: NordVPN makes video streaming easy with its popular SmartPlay feature and WireGuard. Watch videos safely with NordVPN’s app, advanced encryption and DNS technology.
- SmartPlay feature to stream videos safely
- P2P sharing available
- WireGuard available for better speed and security
- Only connects six devices simultaneously
- Lowest price comes with a two-year subscription
- Customers unhappy with customer service
NordVPN has top-of-the-line encryption and more than 5,550 servers. Customers have a verified “no-logs” policy to keep browsing and information private. They also have access to live customer support chat and WireGuard, just like StrongVPN. Other popular features include worldwide access to all streaming services without blocking, advanced encryption to protect your browsing data, and peer-to-peer (P2P) capabilities to share files securely. Best of all, NordVPN masters streaming videos with its SmartPlay feature using DNS technology and NordVPN’s apps.
However, NordVPN only lets you connect to six devices simultaneously. And its lowest price requires a 2-year commitment. Customers aren’t fans of NordVPN’s customer service when needing help with their connection and mobile app glitches. If you’re on the fence, NordVPN offers a 30-day risk-free trial period.
Superlative: Best VPN for Beginners
Starting price: $8.45/mo.
Our Take: We love that Private Internet Access gives customers the flexibility to pay for VPN access with their gift card trade-in from accepted retailers like Target, Walmart and Home Depot. Whether you use gift cards or your bank account, you can get all VPN features for less than $10 a month.
- You can pay for your VPN using gift cards from accepted retailers
- Free email breach monitoring
- Includes an IP cloak to keep your data and browsing private
- Customers unhappy with customer support
- Cheapest plan requires a two-year plan
- Only allows 10 connected devices simultaneously
Private Internet Access claims to have the largest network capacity worldwide with over 25,100 servers. The company focuses on giving customers unrestricted streaming and browsing. Private Internet Access uses its IP cloak to prevent leaking your data or tracking your browsing. You’ll get a different IP address with a different location to keep your information safe. The company also offers free email breach monitoring as an added security service. Private Internet Access is $9.95 with a monthly plan but costs $2.69 per month with a two-year plan. You’ll also get a 30-day money-back guarantee.
You can pay for your Private Internet Access plan using a gift card trade-in. Just enter your gift card information from Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Walmart or other accepted retailers. Your number of access days will depend on your card’s balance.
Private Internet Access customers love the browser extension and customer service, but there are several customer service complaints and unfulfilled refunds. Customers are also unhappy with download speeds and blocked websites.
Superlative: Most Widely Available VPN
Starting price: $8.32/mo.
Our Take: ExpressVPN is one of this year’s top VPNs. It promises a safer browsing experience, even on public WiFi. ExpressVPN is available for any mobile device in 94 countries.
- Fast speed and reliable connection
- Ability to unblock all browsing and streaming restrictions
- Reliable VPN connection
- More expensive than other VPNs
- Only five connected devices available
- Frequent unexpected disconnections and low connection speed
ExpressVPN is a popular VPN pick for almost everything, including TV streaming, gaming and shopping. The company prides itself on being able to “unblock everything.” It has a zero-log policy to keep all of your information private. And customers love its speed, reliable connectivity and the ability to hide your IP address and location for extra privacy.
But ExpressVPN is more costly than others. Plans start at $12.95 per month, making it one of the more expensive VPN options. And for the cost, you won’t be able to connect unlimited devices simultaneously. ExpressVPN only allows five. Customers also have some concerns with the VPN connection speed.
Superlative: Best VPN for Customer Service
Starting price: $10/mo.
Our Take: StrongVPN is a solid choice for VPN security and speed. Customers get 250 GB of secure storage and Wireguard for advanced encryption to make browsing and streaming safer.
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- High customer satisfaction ratings
- Mobile app is available for all platforms
- Not as many features as competitors
- Frequent failed connections
- Speed and VPN reliability concerns from customers
StrongVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with your service. It was the first VPN provider to offer WireGuard, a VPN protocol that gives customers better speed and security with encryption. You’ll use less computer memory and have better performance than other providers. StrongVPN has an app available for all platforms and has a “Best Available Location” feature to help you have the best connection nearby. StrongVPN only costs $10 per month and includes 250 GB of SugarSync® Secure Storage. You’ll be able to connect 12 devices.
Customers enjoy StrongVPN’s reliability, customer service and fast speed. But some have reported concerns about frequent failed connections. It doesn’t have as many privacy and security features as other providers like Surfshark or ExpressVPN, but it’s still a popular choice for its value.
If you’re thinking about getting a VPN subscription or you already have one, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind.
- Be skeptical of “no-log” claims: It’s tough to tell whether or not your VPN provider is logging your activity or connections, even if the company says it isn’t. You’ll need to hire an expert or auditor to take a closer look. Logs may not matter if you’re watching a movie, but if your job includes sensitive data, you’ll want to dig deeper to make sure your connection and usage aren’t being logged.
- Watch out for warrant canaries: A warrant canary is a message company’s post to inform customers that the government or other authorities have not subpoenaed the company for data. Companies are not required to post warrant canaries, but some do in the spirit of transparency. If the canary has been “killed” or the message has been removed, it’s possible that the government has targeted the company and they cannot speak on the data request.
- Think twice before using a U.S.-based VPN: Often, the best internet privacy doesn’t come from VPNs based in the U.S. The reason? The country isn’t the biggest fan of privacy, and the government may still be watching. Many U.S.-based VPNs cooperate with the federal government if they’re under scrutiny for data and secret monitoring. If you feel comfortable with your U.S.-based VPN choice, make sure that it offers top-notch encryption, and stay up to speed on any news or concerns.
Why you need a VPN
Whether you’re just browsing the web at a coffee shop or handling proprietary data at home, you need a VPN to secure your personal information. Some of the benefits you’ll get:
- Boost security: When browsing or streaming, you shouldn’t have to worry about your data being shared or compromised. VPN encryption keeps your information secure from others.
- Avoid hackers through encryption: Cybercriminals are less likely to access your information when it’s encrypted. They won’t be able to decode your data for their gains.
- Secure passwords, usernames and bank information: VPNs are great ways to keep your data safe and prevent identity theft.
- Access private networks: A VPN is the safest way to access and share files, data and applications conveniently.
- Maintain anonymity online: The less information you share on the web, the better. You’ll be able to browse and share without a trace to prevent hacks and cybercrimes.
Methodology: How we research VPNs
The best VPNs give you control and peace of mind when using the Internet. The Safety.com team looks closely at the top features and factors to provide you the safest online experience. Cost and reputation are important, but you should feel confident that you’re safe and in control with a reliable provider that’s always there if you need help. Here’s a breakdown of what we consider most important.
Control: Many VPN features give users control of their online activity and data. We look closely at a few, including the ability to bypass censorship, unblocking features and storage availability. We also know that many VPN users rely on their VPN’s mobile app to connect and check their VPN status quickly. Providers with these and other features score higher than their competitors.
Prevention: The Safety.com team looks carefully at whether providers offer features to prevent hacks and cybercrimes. Standard VPN features include a killswitch, a “No Logs” policy and a private DNS for your privacy.
Reliability: If you’re shopping for a VPN, you’ll want a reliable connection and guaranteed security. Our team looks at the number of servers to help determine speed because we believe the more servers available, the better.
Response: Our team looks closely at customer reviews and ratings to understand each company’s response. VPN providers with 24/7 customer support score higher for their dedication to assisting customers and making sure they have a safe browsing experience.
A VPN is a private network that protects your connection, activity and data by hiding your IP address. VPN providers will give you a different IP address that has a different location to protect your privacy.
A VPN is the easiest and most lawful way to protect your data online. You’ll be able to browse, shop, game and stream using an encrypted connection without leaving a footprint. It’s also the fastest way to securely share, download and upload files because VPNs have thousands of servers to avoid customers overloading one server.
Simply put, a VPN works by wirelessly connecting your device to your VPN’s network using your home or public WiFi connection. Once your device is linked to the VPN, the web will hide your IP address and encrypt your data while using the internet to protect your data, location and activity.
Hotspot Shield is the best VPN. It’s a free VPN service with upgraded plans starting at $7.99 per month. Hotspot Shield has military-grade encryption and the fastest speed compared to competitors. Hotspot Shield is free to use but offers paid subscriptions for upgraded features for better streaming and speed and for access to more devices.
Be careful choosing free VPNs without optional paid plans because they may share your data or have questionable privacy policies. Paid VPN subscriptions often come with better encryption, speed and data limits than most free VPN plans.
VPNs have a few limitations worth keeping in mind. Your VPNs speed may not be as fast as advertised, depending on your WiFi connection’s reliability and speed.
Secondly, the VPN will only be as secure as your login information. Remember to create strong usernames and passwords to keep your VPN and data safe. Other common VPN limitations include the number of connected devices and data usage limits.
Netflix often blocks VPN users because they have certain rights to show certain countries’ content as part of their agreements. There are several workarounds to stream Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services. But the safest way is to look into a fast VPN that specializes in unblocking and censorship restrictions but still gives top-notch encryption for your privacy.
Companies often use a site-to-site VPN to connect multiple networks and their offices for all employees to stay connected to their network and data securely.
A mobile VPN is a secure network that protects your activity and data on your mobile device regardless of your location. It’s commonly used for smartphones and tablets for travelers or those working remotely to keep their data encrypted. Some mobile VPNs are also remote VPNs to give you online safety wherever you are.