Best VPN Services 2021 | Top Rated VPN Reviews

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Popular VPN Services

VPN services currently reside in the Wild West of society, with no laws, few standards, and no oversight agency. That means that VPN providers can make all sorts of brazen claims with no regulation to keep them in check. The dozens of companies currently on the market have headquarters around the globe, making any type of oversight that much more challenging.

In other words, the VPN market is flooded with the good, the bad, and the ugly, and for most users, it’s hard to tell the difference between them. Don’t fret over finding a reliable VPN service – we did the work for you with our rating of the best VPNs. Read on to see what security features we recommend, get advice on how to pick the right service for you, and learn about the Best VPN Services of 2021.

Female hands holding phone with vpn app

Prykhodov

We evaluated dozens of companies in search of VPNs that are trustworthy, easy to use, and have lots of security features. We included feedback from professional reviewers and consumers to create our rating of the Best VPN Services of 2021. See our summaries of each below, or visit each company’s full review for more information.

Best VPNs of 2021

ExpressVPN »

4.4 out of 5

Monthly Plan $12.95/Month
Annual Plan $8.32/Month
Server Count 3,000+
Simultaneous Connections 5
View Plans »
NordVPN »

4.3 out of 5

Monthly Plan $11.95/Month
Annual Plan $6.58/Month
Server Count 5,502
Simultaneous Connections 6
View Plans »
Surfshark »

4 out of 5

Monthly Plan $12.95/Month
Annual Plan $4.98/Month
Server Count 3,200+
Simultaneous Connections Unlimited
View Plans »
CyberGhost »

3.7 out of 5

Monthly Plan $12.99/Month
Annual Plan $3.99/Month
Server Count 6,800+
Simultaneous Connections 7
View Plans »
IPVanish »

3.7 out of 5

Monthly Plan $9.99/Month
Annual Plan $6.67/Month
Server Count 1,600+
Simultaneous Connections Unlimited
View Plans »
ExpressVPN »

4.4 out of 5

Company
$12.95/Month Monthly Plan
$8.32/Month Annual Plan
3,000+ Server Count
5 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
NordVPN »

4.3 out of 5

Company
$11.95/Month Monthly Plan
$6.58/Month Annual Plan
5,502 Server Count
6 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
Surfshark »

4 out of 5

Company
$12.95/Month Monthly Plan
$4.98/Month Annual Plan
3,200+ Server Count
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
CyberGhost »

3.7 out of 5

Company
$12.99/Month Monthly Plan
$3.99/Month Annual Plan
6,800+ Server Count
7 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
IPVanish »

3.7 out of 5

Company
$9.99/Month Monthly Plan
$6.67/Month Annual Plan
1,600+ Server Count
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
ProtonVPN »

3.7 out of 5

Company
$5.00/Month Monthly Plan
$4.00/Month Annual Plan
1,080 Server Count
Up to 10 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
HMA VPN »

3.5 out of 5

Company
$11.99/Month Monthly Plan
$4.99/Month Annual Plan
1,050+ Server Count
5 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
Hotspot Shield »

3.4 out of 5

Company
$12.99/Month Monthly Plan
$7.99/Month Annual Plan
3,200+ Server Count
Up to 25 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
TunnelBear »

3.4 out of 5

Company
$9.99/Month Monthly Plan
$4.99/Month Annual Plan
Not Available Server Count
Up to 5 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
VyprVPN »

3.3 out of 5

Company
$12.95/Month Monthly Plan
$3.75/Month Annual Plan
700+ Server Count
5 Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More
Windscribe »

3.3 out of 5

Company
$9.00/Month Monthly Plan
$4.08/Month Annual Plan
Not Available Server Count
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
View Plans »
Learn More

ExpressVPN  »

ExpressVPN

Best VPN of 2021

Monthly Plan Cost
$12.95/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$8.32/Month
# of IP Addresses
Varies
Server Count
3,000+
Simultaneous Connections
5

ExpressVPN: The No. 1 VPN in our Best VPNs of 2021 rating, ExpressVPN scores a 4.4 out of 5. Though it has a high price tag, with one of the most expensive month-to-month fees and the highest costing annual plan, the VPN provides its users access to a network of servers that span nearly 100 countries. ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, outside of the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes alliance, an intelligence-sharing agreement between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The VPN provider allows you to connect up to five devices simultaneously and is compatible with major operating systems, social media platforms, and streaming services.

NordVPN  »

NordVPN

Best VPN with Optional Dedicated IP Address

Monthly Plan Cost
$11.95/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$6.58/Month
# of IP Addresses
5,502+
Server Count
5,502
Simultaneous Connections
6

NordVPN: A score of 4.3 out of 5 places NordVPN at No. 2 in our rating of the Best VPNs. Based in Panama, NordVPN is outside the Five Eyes jurisdiction. Its monthly plan costs $11.95 and includes six simultaneous VPN connections. NordVPN also comes with a double VPN feature that allows you to send your online traffic to two VPN servers, encrypting your information twice and giving you an added layer of privacy. NordVPN offers its annual subscribers the option of adding on a dedicated IP address for an additional $70 a year. A dedicated IP address is a great way to ensure that you don’t get banned from your favorite websites for the actions of others that would otherwise be sharing the IP addresses available from the VPN provider.

Surfshark  »

Surfshark

Best VPN with Unlimited Connections

Monthly Plan Cost
$12.95/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$4.98/Month
# of IP Addresses
3,000+
Server Count
3,200+
Simultaneous Connections
Unlimited

Surfshark: Surfshark is No. 3 in our Best VPNs rating with a score of 4 out of 5. It rates the highest out of the three VPN providers on our list that offer unlimited simultaneous connections. If you have a lot of laptops, cellphones, tablets, and other internet-enabled devices, Surfshark may be a good option for you. While the month-to-month cost of Surfshark is pricey at $12.95, you can get the VPN for as low as $2.49 a month with a two-year subscription. It also provides a static IP address for no additional cost. That means that every time you connect to the static IP location, you can share an identical IP address with all of the users that connect to that server, instead of being assigned one of the many random IP addresses Surfshark has to offer.

CyberGhost  »

CyberGhost

Best VPN with Optional Security Suite

Monthly Plan Cost
$12.99/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$3.99/Month
# of IP Addresses
6,600+
Server Count
6,800+
Simultaneous Connections
7

CyberGhost: CyberGhost ties for No. 4 in our rating. A Romania-based VPN provider, which means it’s outside of oversight from the Five Eyes, CyberGhost is a privacy- and protection-focused company. Its VPN service is amongst the most expensive on our list for a month-to-month plan ($12.99 per month), but the annual subscription is much more affordable ($3.99 per month). A CyberGhost plan provides its users with 24/7 customer support, seven simultaneous connections, and a 45-day money-back guarantee, the longest period of time from VPN providers in our rating offer. Additionally, you can add a dedicated IP address and CyberGhost’s Windows Security Suite to your subscription for a few more dollars a month. The security suite includes antivirus software, a privacy tool that lets you customize your settings for sharing information, and a security updater that tracks when apps on your laptop need to be updated.

IPVanish  »

IPVanish
Monthly Plan Cost
$9.99/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$6.67/Month
# of IP Addresses
40,000+
Server Count
1,600+
Simultaneous Connections
Unlimited

IPVanish: Also placing No. 4 in our Best VPNs rating, IPVanish is a U.S.-based VPN provider that falls in the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes. IPVanish reports a large number of shared IP addresses available for use. With over 40,000 IP addresses, your digital anonymity is greater, due to the small likelihood that you will use the same IP address twice. The VPN costs a reasonable $9.99 a month and lets you simultaneously connect an unlimited number of devices. However, IPVanish is not compatible with the most popular streaming services, such as Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Therefore, if you enjoy streaming content and want access to streaming libraries around the world, you may want to consider another VPN provider. If streaming isn’t a priority for you, IPVanish is a good option for households with lots of devices in use at the same time.

ProtonVPN  »

ProtonVPN

Best Free VPN of 2021

Monthly Plan Cost
$5.00/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$4.00/Month
# of IP Addresses
1,200
Server Count
1,080
Simultaneous Connections
Up to 10

ProtonVPN: With a score of 3.7 out of 5, ProtonVPN ties with CyberGhost and IPVanish for No. 4 in our rating. ProtonVPN is the least expensive option on our list for a month-to-month VPN service. It offers a $5 monthly subscription for two simultaneous connections with limited features. If you are willing to pay more, you can unlock all of ProtonVPN’s features by choosing a higher tier. The more expensive packages also give you more simultaneous connections, but the price can get as expensive as $30 a month for its highest Visionary plan. On the other end of the spectrum, ProtonVPN also offers a free version of its VPN. The free version is limited to one device, but it has no advertisements, data caps, or speed limits. ProtonVPN’s free VPN is a great option for light VPN users and those looking to simply try a VPN out.

HMA VPN  »

HMA VPN

Best VPN for International Travel

Monthly Plan Cost
$11.99/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$4.99/Month
# of IP Addresses
10,689
Server Count
1,050+
Simultaneous Connections
5

HMA VPN: Seventh in our rating, HMA VPN scores a 3.5 out of 5. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, HMA VPN is in a country of jurisdiction that is part of the Five Eyes alliance. The VPN offers sought-after features, like a kill switch, DNS leak protection, split tunneling capabilities, and peer-to-peer (P2P) functionality, for an annual subscription that costs $4.99 a month. However, users report issues accessing certain streaming services, such as Disney+ and Hulu, while using HMA VPN. So take advantage of its seven-day trial period and see if HMA VPN can meet your needs before signing up. You will also be covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Hotspot Shield  »

Hotspot Shield
Monthly Plan Cost
$12.99/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$7.99/Month
# of IP Addresses
Not Available
Server Count
3,200+
Simultaneous Connections
Up to 25

Hotspot Shield: Hotspot Shield ties for No. 8 in our rating of the Best VPNs of 2021. Its month-to-month plan costs $12.99 a month, matching CyberGhost for the highest monthly cost on our list. A VPN plan with Hotspot Shield will give you five simultaneous connections. If this isn’t enough for your household, it also offers a family plan with up to 25 connections for $19.99 a month. If your VPN needs are limited, you can also consider Hotspot Shield’s free VPN, which gives you military-grade encryption on one device with a daily data limit of 500 megabytes (MB). While this may not be enough for many users, it is a good way to test out what a VPN can do for you.

Private Internet Access  »

Private Internet Access

Best Low-Cost Annual VPN Plan

Monthly Plan Cost
$9.95/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$3.33/Month
# of IP Addresses
Varies
Server Count
25,000+
Simultaneous Connections
10

Private Internet Access: A score of 3.4 ties Private Internet Access for eighth place in our rating. If you are looking for a budget-friendly VPN provider, Private Internet Access may be your best choice. It offers the least expensive annual plan out of the companies in our Best VPNs of 2021 rating. For $3.33 a month, Private Internet Access’ annual subscription gives you 10 simultaneous connections with an array of VPN features. It also includes free email breach monitoring and a one-year Boxcryptor license that encrypts files you upload to the cloud. You can add a dedicated IP address to your annual plan for $5 a month. However, Private Internet Access is a U.S.-based company and is under the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes.

TunnelBear  »

TunnelBear

Best Business VPN Plan of 2021

Monthly Plan Cost
$9.99/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$4.99/Month
# of IP Addresses
Not Available
Server Count
Not Available
Simultaneous Connections
Up to 5

TunnelBear: TunnelBear places No. 8 in our rating, and ties Hotspot Shield and Private Internet Access with a score of 3.4 out of 5. Under the jurisdiction of Canada, Tunnelbear is within a Five Eyes country. Both a monthly and annual plan with TunnelBear cost less than the average VPN service to make our rating. You will spend $9.99 on a month-to-month subscription and $4.99 a month on an annual plan. You can also opt for a three-year plan and lower your monthly cost to $3.33. TunnelBear even offers a limited free version of its VPN that gives you 500 MB of data. TunnelBear is compatible with all major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. But you won’t be able to access social media or streaming services while using the VPN. While these are common online activities for many VPN users, this may not be a problem for you if you sign up for TunnelBear’s Teams plan, an option for businesses that includes a dedicated account manager for your VPN service.

VyprVPN  »

VyprVPN
Monthly Plan Cost
$12.95/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$3.75/Month
# of IP Addresses
300,000+
Server Count
700+
Simultaneous Connections
5

VyprVPN: VyprVPN ties with Windscribe for No. 11 in our Best VPNs rating. A Swiss VPN provider, VyprVPN is in a country of jurisdiction that takes privacy seriously. Audits show that VyprVPN upholds a no-log policy that ensures its users’ activities are never tracked or recorded while using its VPN. A month-to-month VyprVPN plan costs $12.95, as one of the more expensive options on our list. However, you can save a lot of money by signing up for an annual plan. VyprVPN provides five simultaneous connections for $3.75 a month with a one-year commitment, which is one of the least expensive annual plans on our list. You can even get VyprVPN for as low as $1.66 with a three-year subscription. This company also stands out in our rating for the massive number of shared IP addresses it offers users. According to VyprVPN representatives, the VPN provider has over 300,000 IP addresses, far more than any other VPN service in our list. If five simultaneous connections meet your needs, VyprVPN may be a good affordable option for you.

Windscribe  »

Windscribe

Best Value VPN Plan of 2021

Monthly Plan Cost
$9.00/Month
Annual Plan Cost
$4.08/Month
# of IP Addresses
Not Available
Server Count
Not Available
Simultaneous Connections
Unlimited

Windscribe: Rounding off our rating is Windscribe. It ties VyprVPN for No. 11 and scores 3.3 out of 5. A Canadian VPN service, Windscribe is headquartered in a Five Eyes country. An annual plan with Windscribe costs $4.08 per month and includes an unlimited number of simultaneous connections, making it the least expensive option on our list to cover unlimited devices. You can also add a static IP address to your plan for an additional fee. If your budget has you searching for a free VPN, Windscribe may also fit the bill. Its free VPN includes 10 gigabytes (GB) of data a month and can also be used on an unlimited number of devices. Whether you’re looking for a VPN on a budget or searching for a free option, you should consider looking at what Windscribe has to offer.

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice quality. Our rating of the Best Free VPNs of 2021 only includes companies from our list of the Best VPNs of 2021. With all of them, you still get the ability to encrypt your data and privately search the web. Drawbacks for free VPN plans versus a paid subscription typically focus on elements other than security features, such as connection speed, data limits, and P2P capabilities.

It’s important to be cautious when using a free VPN. Keep in mind that a VPN is meant to keep your personal information safe. And when it comes to your privacy, it isn’t worth the risk to use an unknown free VPN to save a few bucks. So if you are considering using a free VPN or just want to try a VPN out before making a purchase, take a look at our rating of the Best Free VPNs for information about reputable free VPNs, cheap VPNs, and VPNs with trial periods and money-back guarantees.

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a way in which you can maintain your privacy online. Using a VPN hides your internet activity from your internet service provider (ISP) and the prying eyes of hackers. Instead of using your normal internet connection, where your device sends its traffic through your ISP’s servers, a VPN reroutes your traffic through its server network first to disguise any information that could be used to identify you. The outcome of using a VPN when connecting to the internet is an increased level of digital anonymity.

Every laptop and desktop computer has an IP address associated with the device. Your IP address is unique to that individual device. Think of an IP address as your fingerprints. No two humans have the same fingerprint. And therefore, when you touch something it can be traced back to you. The same goes for your IP address. When you access anything online, your IP address is shared and can be linked back to you to trace personal information, such as your geographical location. But, if you use a VPN, it replaces your IP address with one of its many shared IP addresses. Instead of leaving your digital fingerprints behind, it leaves that of your VPN provider.

However, it is important to make the distinction between privacy and protection. A virtual private network gives you an increased level of privacy online. It is designed to maintain your online anonymity, and while being completely anonymous isn’t guaranteed when accessing the internet, a VPN is among the best ways to ensure your privacy while surfing the web. However, it will not protect you from malware, viruses, or other attacks to your system. To protect your devices from external threats, you should pair a VPN with reliable antivirus software. Check out our rating of the Best Antivirus Software of 2021 to properly protect your computers and tablets from anyone with malicious intent. And if you want to know more about virtual private networks, read our full What Is a VPN? page.

VPNs work by encrypting your online activity. To better illustrate this process it helps to imagine a tunnel. On one end of the tunnel are you and your internet-connected device. On the other end of the tunnel is your ISP’s server. If you enter a search query from your device, the query travels through the tunnel to your ISP’s server. The server then retrieves the information and returns the result back through the tunnel to your device. In this exchange, your device and the server share a direct link through the tunnel. This means that your ISP and any hacker that intercepts the exchange is receiving your data. This is where a VPN can help.

When you use a VPN, the tunnel is secured and no longer runs from your device to your ISP’s server. Instead, your query is encrypted and sent to the VPN’s server first. The VPN then sends your query to your ISP’s server through the secure tunnel, disguised as traffic from one of the VPN’s IP addresses. The ISP’s server fetches a result to your search query and returns the result to the VPN’s server to be unencrypted and sent back to you. This process keeps your information safe by allowing the VPN to communicate your internet search for you so that it isn’t tied to you or your devices.

This process also allows you to geo-spoof your location. Geo-spoofing is the act of choosing to connect to a VPN server in a different geographical location to appear as though you are in that region. The benefit of doing this is that you can access geo-blocked content that is only available in certain areas and circumvent the restrictions of countries that limit access to certain platforms, such as social media websites.

For a detailed description of how virtual private networks work, read our How Does a VPN Work? guide.

VPNs Are Good For:

  • Connecting to your company’s network when you’re out of the office

  • Protecting your privacy and passwords when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network

  • Unblocking content that has been censored, geo-blocked, or otherwise blocked

  • Keeping your search history and data use private from your internet service provider

  • Concealing your location and identity when you’re in a restrictive country

  • Avoiding internet speed throttling from your internet service provider

VPNs Are Not Good For:

  • Protecting your devices from malware and viruses

  • Accessing streaming services or other subscription-based content without an account

  • Providing complete and total digital anonymity for your online activity

You need a VPN if you connect to public Wi-Fi with your laptop or smartphone and want to make sure your devices aren’t vulnerable to hackers, if you want to unblock censored websites when you’re in a restrictive country, or when you want to conceal or change the physical location you appear to be connecting from.

The need for a VPN isn’t just hype. Unlike some services that have debatable advantages, having a VPN is important if you use a Wi-Fi hotspot in public, like those in coffee shops and airports. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “public networks are not very secure – or, well, private – which makes it easy for others to intercept your data.”

Selecting a VPN, or virtual private network, requires the same amount of care you would take to select a home security company. After all, you will be entrusting this company with some very personal information. In general, you should consider the following to choose a good VPN:

  • How does the VPN keep your data safe?
  • What devices do you need a VPN for?
  • What do you want to use a VPN for?
  • How much does a VPN cost?

To understand what makes a reliable VPN, it’s helpful to first understand how this technology works. “When you use a VPN app, data sent from your phone – be it your browsing data or the apps you are using – is routed through servers located elsewhere,” according to the FTC. “A VPN app can make traffic from your phone to a website you visit appear to come from a server operated by the VPN provider, rather than directly from your phone. Some VPN apps also encrypt the data sent between your phone and the VPN server.”

How Does the VPN Keep Your Data Safe?

The most important thing a VPN service must do is keep your data, online history, identity, and location private. This protects your information from being tracked by sources such as your internet service provider (ISP), viewed by advertisers and hackers, or blocked by a restrictive government or organization.

“When using a VPN, you’re making your Internet traffic pass through the VPN provider’s servers before reaching your destination on the Internet,” explains the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for user privacy and free speech online. “Your ISP will see that you’re connecting to a VPN provider, but won’t be able to see what you’re ultimately connecting to. This is important to understand because you’re exposing your entire Internet activity to the VPN provider and shifting your trust from the ISP to the VPN.”

Think of it as a safe tunnel that connects you with the website you want to visit, blocking any prying eyes in between. VPNs combine several types of technology to create this secure tunnel. One of these is 256-bit AES encryption. This is like a key that scrambles your data on one end and then correctly unscrambles it on the receiving end. According to tech-giant IBM, “AES is the encryption standard that is recognized and recommended by the US government.” In other words, it’s a complex, military-grade decoder ring.

Consider these other factors when evaluating a VPN company:

Privacy policy: “If you are using the VPN app to keep your traffic private, make sure you review the VPN app’s terms and conditions and its privacy policy to determine if it shares information with third parties such as advertisers, and if so, what information it shares,” according to the FTC.

Data logs: Also look for a VPN company’s policy on data logging, which is often included in its privacy policy. There are typically two types of data that may be collected. The first type is your connection log, which may include information such as the IP address you use to connect from, the websites you visit, the length of time you’re connected, and the VPN servers you connect to. Usually (but not always) a VPN with a zero-logs policy doesn’t record this information. VPNs do often keep track of minimal user data (such as your username and email address), and some log data such as the VPN app you use and crash reports, in the name of troubleshooting and user experience.

Country of jurisdiction: The country where the VPN has its headquarters dictates what information the VPN is legally required to log, and it can also impact how easily the government can get hold of that information. For example, the five countries that belong to the Five Eyes alliance (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., and the U.K.) have an agreement to work together for surveillance and intelligence sharing.

VPN protocols: Thinking again of a VPN as a tunnel, a VPN protocol is like the blueprints for the tunnel. Most VPNs automatically select the best protocol for your needs, though advanced users may want the ability to pick a specific protocol. The best VPN protocols currently include OpenVPN and L2TP, which are more secure than older ones such as PPTP. Learn more about which VPN protocol is best from ExpressVPN, our top-rated VPN service.

Kill switch: If your VPN connection drops, your information is no longer secure. A kill switch prevents the accidental leakage of any data by blocking your internet connection if this happens. When your VPN is working again, its auto-connect feature instantly reinstates your internet connection.

Number of IP addresses: An IP address is a number that identifies your computer (or mobile device) and its current location. A VPN service substitutes your real IP address with one of its own to conceal your identity. The downside of sharing IP addresses is the off chance that another user has breached a website’s terms of service. If that user’s actions resulted in the IP address getting blocked, you will also be blocked by the service or website when it’s your turn to use the IP address. Using a VPN service with a lot of IP addresses minimizes the likelihood of this happening.

What Devices Do You Need a VPN For?

Best VPN’s Device Compatibility

NordVPN »
Windows
Mac
Linux
iOS
Android
Router
IPVanish »
Windows
Mac
Linux
iOS
Android
Router
NordVPN » Company
Windows
Mac
Linux
iOS
Android
Router
IPVanish » Company
Windows
Mac
Linux
iOS
Android
Router
HMA VPN » Company
Windows
Mac
Linux
iOS
Android
Router
VyprVPN » Company
Windows
Mac
Linux
iOS
Android
Router

Number of devices supported: VPN subscriptions typically allow for multiple simultaneous connections. That’s a good thing if you want to connect more than one device at the same time. The limit only includes those that are currently connected to the VPN, not the total number that you are protecting. Some VPN providers also support routers – this bonus connection counts as one device and secures the data of every device connected to your home Wi-Fi network. This is especially helpful when you have baby monitors and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices that you can’t download an app on.

Smartphones and tablets: Most VPN services have iOS and Android apps that you can download directly on your phone or tablet. A few also have apps for Blackberry and Windows mobile devices.

Computers: Support for Windows and Mac operating systems is universal, and support for Linux is common, making it easy to install a VPN on most laptops. A few VPN providers even have apps for Chromebooks. An alternative to a desktop app is a browser extension, though the security features of these can be different from the main desktop app. Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox are the most common.

What Do You Want to Use a VPN For?

Streaming: Some VPN providers can unblock a streaming service, which is handy if you’re traveling in a different country and want to watch your favorite U.S.-based show (note that you still have to have a subscription to the streaming service). Not all VPNs work with all streaming services, so be sure to check if the VPN you are considering is compatible if this is important to you. For more information on streaming services, including info on the best live and on-demand companies, see our Streaming Services guide.

File sharing: Sharing large files, performing large cloud backups, or updating multiplayer games are some of the reasons you may want to use a P2P (peer-to-peer) network or torrenting client. Most of the best VPNs support legal P2P applications.

Server count and the number of server locations: Both of these can affect your online speeds. For faster download speeds, you want to use a server that’s geographically close to you and not overloaded by too many VPN users.

Country locations: This refers to the locations where the VPN servers are, not the locations where the VPN works. You may want to select a specific country to unblock geo-restricted content or to have a server network physically close to you for faster speeds.

Static IP available: When you log in to a VPN service, it usually replaces your IP address with one from its VPN servers, randomly assigning you a different IP address each time. Sometimes it’s advantageous to use the same IP address each time, which is called a static or dedicated IP address. This is often an upgrade to your monthly subscription.

How Much Does a VPN Service Cost?

Price Comparison of VPN Plans

ExpressVPN »
Monthly Plan $12.95/Month
Annual Plan $8.32/Month
Dedicated IP Fee Not Applicable
Trial Period 7 Days
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days
NordVPN »
Monthly Plan $11.95/Month
Annual Plan $6.58/Month
Dedicated IP Fee $5.83/Month
Trial Period Not Applicable
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days
Surfshark »
Monthly Plan $12.95/Month
Annual Plan $4.98/Month
Dedicated IP Fee None
Trial Period 7 Days
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days
CyberGhost »
Monthly Plan $12.99/Month
Annual Plan $3.99/Month
Dedicated IP Fee $5.00/Month
Trial Period 1 Day
Money-Back Guarantee 45 Days
IPVanish »
Monthly Plan $9.99/Month
Annual Plan $6.67/Month
Dedicated IP Fee Not Applicable
Trial Period Not Applicable
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days on Annual Plan

Company

Monthly Plan

Annual Plan

Dedicated IP Fee

Trial Period

Money-Back Guarantee

ExpressVPN » $12.95/Month $8.32/Month Not Applicable 7 Days 30 Days
NordVPN » $11.95/Month $6.58/Month $5.83/Month Not Applicable 30 Days
Surfshark » $12.95/Month $4.98/Month None 7 Days 30 Days
CyberGhost » $12.99/Month $3.99/Month $5.00/Month 1 Day 45 Days
IPVanish » $9.99/Month $6.67/Month Not Applicable Not Applicable 30 Days on Annual Plan
ExpressVPN » Company
$12.95/Month Monthly Plan
$8.32/Month Annual Plan
Not Applicable Dedicated IP Fee
7 Days Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
NordVPN » Company
$11.95/Month Monthly Plan
$6.58/Month Annual Plan
$5.83/Month Dedicated IP Fee
Not Applicable Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
Surfshark » Company
$12.95/Month Monthly Plan
$4.98/Month Annual Plan
None Dedicated IP Fee
7 Days Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
CyberGhost » Company
$12.99/Month Monthly Plan
$3.99/Month Annual Plan
$5.00/Month Dedicated IP Fee
1 Day Trial Period
45 Days Money-Back Guarantee
IPVanish » Company
$9.99/Month Monthly Plan
$6.67/Month Annual Plan
Not Applicable Dedicated IP Fee
Not Applicable Trial Period
30 Days on Annual Plan Money-Back Guarantee
ProtonVPN » Company
$5.00/Month Monthly Plan
$4.00/Month Annual Plan
Not Applicable Dedicated IP Fee
7 Days Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
HMA VPN » Company
$11.99/Month Monthly Plan
$4.99/Month Annual Plan
Not Applicable Dedicated IP Fee
7 Days Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
Hotspot Shield » Company
$12.99/Month Monthly Plan
$7.99/Month Annual Plan
Not Applicable Dedicated IP Fee
7 Days Trial Period
45 Days Money-Back Guarantee
Private Internet Access » Company
$9.95/Month Monthly Plan
$3.33/Month Annual Plan
$5.00/Month Dedicated IP Fee
Not Applicable Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
TunnelBear » Company
$9.99/Month Monthly Plan
$4.99/Month Annual Plan
Not Applicable Dedicated IP Fee
7 Days Trial Period
Not Applicable Money-Back Guarantee
VyprVPN » Company
$12.95/Month Monthly Plan
$3.75/Month Annual Plan
None Dedicated IP Fee
Not Applicable Trial Period
30 Days Money-Back Guarantee
Windscribe » Company
$9.00/Month Monthly Plan
$4.08/Month Annual Plan
Up to $8.00/Month Dedicated IP Fee
1 Day Trial Period
3 Days Money-Back Guarantee

Company

Monthly Plan

Annual Plan

Dedicated IP Fee

Trial Period

Money-Back Guarantee

ExpressVPN » $12.95/Month $8.32/Month Not Applicable 7 Days 30 Days
NordVPN » $11.95/Month $6.58/Month $5.83/Month Not Applicable 30 Days
Surfshark » $12.95/Month $4.98/Month None 7 Days 30 Days
CyberGhost » $12.99/Month $3.99/Month $5.00/Month 1 Day 45 Days
IPVanish » $9.99/Month $6.67/Month Not Applicable Not Applicable 30 Days on Annual Plan
ProtonVPN » $5.00/Month $4.00/Month Not Applicable 7 Days 30 Days
HMA VPN » $11.99/Month $4.99/Month Not Applicable 7 Days 30 Days
Hotspot Shield » $12.99/Month $7.99/Month Not Applicable 7 Days 45 Days
Private Internet Access » $9.95/Month $3.33/Month $5.00/Month Not Applicable 30 Days
TunnelBear » $9.99/Month $4.99/Month Not Applicable 7 Days Not Applicable
VyprVPN » $12.95/Month $3.75/Month None Not Applicable 30 Days
Windscribe » $9.00/Month $4.08/Month Up to $8.00/Month 1 Day 3 Days

The average cost of a month-to-month VPN service in our rating is just over $11, with prices ranging from $5 a month to about $13 a month. You can significantly lower your monthly cost to around $3 by signing up for an annual plan or as low as $2 per month by signing up for a multi-year plan, which generally are billed upfront.

Some VPNs don’t cost anything, but you may want to be wary of these. “Many VPN apps are free because they sell advertising within the app, or because they share your information with (or redirect your traffic through) third parties,” states the FTC. A separate study of VPN apps with free plans available for Android devices found that 75% of the apps used third-party tracking, and more than 38% contained some type of malware. There are a few dependable companies with free plans, which we name in our rating of the Best Free VPNs of 2021.

How To Get and Set Up a VPN

With so many people using VPNs to keep their personal and professional online activity private, most VPN providers have made the process to get and set up VPN. Before you jump into using a virtual private network to keep your data private, consider the following things:

  1. Why do I need a VPN? Consider how you interact with the internet. What type of online activity do you engage in? Identify how you use the internet and make a list of your most common online activities. Once you take stock of your digital behaviors, you will know exactly what to look for in a VPN and how it can help you.
  2. Consider your options. With your list of common online activities, you will now be able to search for a VPN that can meet your specific needs. And while researching VPNs can be overwhelming, our ratings have done the work for you. Read some of the reviews of our Best VPNs of 2021 and find a few options of VPN providers that are offering the features and compatibility that is right for you.
  3. Determine your budget. Now that you have some options of VPN services to pick from, figure out which companies are within your price range. Keep in mind that many of these companies offer free trials and money-back guarantees. Some even offer free VPNs with limitations, such as data caps. These are great options to test out the VPNs you’re interested in risk-free. If you test out a VPN and find it works for you, remember that you can save a lot of money by opting for an annual subscription instead of a month-to-month plan.
  4. Install your VPN software. Once you’ve found a VPN that is right for you, purchase your VPN plan and set it up. You don’t have to be tech-savvy to use a VPN – below we give you advice on how to set up your VPN.

The way VPNs work may be complex, but installing and using one isn’t. You’re first going to need to create an account with your VPN provider. Many VPN services accept numerous forms of payment, and some even include Bitcoin, to help support your online anonymity.

When you have your account set up, you will have a few options of how you want to use the VPN on your devices. This decision will depend on the compatibility of your VPN and the number of simultaneously connected devices your VPN provider offers. In general, you will need to download the VPN app on each device you plan to use it on. Many VPN services also have VPN browser extensions that you can use instead of downloading a VPN app.

If your VPN service offers a limited number of connections, you may want to consider installing the VPN on your router. This covers all devices connected to the internet through your router, but it comes at the cost of slowing down your overall internet speed. Installing a VPN on your router is also slightly more complicated than using a VPN with devices such as laptops and tablets, but it is still a manageable process.

Learn More

Still looking for more information about VPNs or trying to find the best VPN for you? Explore the directory below to learn more about these services.

Other Ratings from 360 Reviews

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing VPNs to guide prospective consumers.

1. We researched the companies and products people care most about.

U.S. News analyzed and compared a variety of publicly available data, including internet search data, to determine which VPN companies Americans are most interested in. We found 20 companies that stand out in terms of volume of searches and research among consumers, as well as across the different rating sources.

We then compared the available VPNs provided by our top VPN companies across several criteria, including monthly fees, compatibility with common systems, and technical capabilities such as type of protocols, number of servers, and IP addresses. Research shows that these are the most important criteria for people shopping for a VPN. We then narrowed the list down to the twelve best VPNs.

2. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on an analysis of third-party reviews.

U.S. News’ 360 Reviews team applied an unbiased methodology that includes opinions from professional reviews as well as consumer reviews.

Our scoring methodology is based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on personal opinions or experiences of U.S. News. To calculate the ratings:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party ratings and reviews:

  • Professional Ratings and Reviews. Many independent VPN evaluating sources have published their assessments of VPN companies and their products online. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contradict one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are considered and analyzed collectively with an objective, consensus-based methodology.
  • Consumer Ratings and Reviews. U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of VPN providers. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer ratings and reviews were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources were excluded from our model.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The third-party review source data were collected in a variety of forms, including ratings, recommendations, and accolades. Before including each third-party data point into our scoring equation, we had to standardize it so that it could be compared accurately with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each company’s score compared to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

  • Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point’s relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it’s above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it’s equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a company, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all companies evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the mean from the company’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to produce the Z-Score.
  • Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.
  • Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted-average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than two was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each product, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.



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