Picking the Best VPN for You
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Mention the phrase internet security to a few people and you’ll probably get a few confused looks, along with obligatory responses that all tend to say “there’s no such thing.”

And while that certainly may seem true, given all the recent security breaches in the news (Equifax anyone?), internet security is not a unicorn. You actually can browse the internet securely without worrying that someone is swiping your information and selling it in Russia.

So if internet security is the real deal, how do you find it?

The answer is a VPN.

What is a VPN?

What is a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

In today’s information age, data is valuable. Not just big data, or government data. All data.

Even your data.

What you watch on Netflix.

What you buy from Amazon.

Who you connect with on Facebook.

Everything you do matters to someone, and without the right safeguards someone can find it and use it for their gain.

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, protect that data through an encrypted connection, or tunnel, between the device you’re using and a VPN server. Because your entire connection is encrypted, no one can spy on what sites your accessing, what things you’re typing, or what you’re purchasing.

The VPN shields your internet activities from curious or sinister onlookers.

From identity thieves or hackers.

From advertisers.

Even from the government or your own Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Who Uses a VPN?

Who uses a VPN

A VPN, aside from protecting you from prying eyes, provides a lot of practicality for a lot of people.

First, consider a business traveler who may be required to access company records over public Wi-Fi in an airport or a hotel. The VPN can help protect the work being done from others utilizing that public network who might want to spy on or even steal those records.

This is also true for journalists or writers hoping to avoid censorship by a government. Granted, there may be legalities involved for the journalist, but you get the idea for the powerful protection a VPN can provide.

VPNs can also mask your IP address. This is important to keep advertisers at bay while you surf the web. It also protects your internet service provider from tracking your history and selling that to third-parties.

Finally, a lot of VPNs have an in-house DNS resolution. A DNS is what turns a text-based web address into an IP that your computer can understand. Your online activity can be followed using the DNS. With a VPN plugging leaks in the system, it further protects you from nefarious means.

If you want online security in 2018, you should be using a VPN.

Below we’ll go through the most popular VPN service providers. After that, we’ll go over what to consider when choosing a VPN.

Best VPN Service Providers of 2018

These are the best VPN providers. Keep in mind, there are a lot of VPNs out in the marketplace. Some good, some bad, and some somewhere in between.

This list comprises the most popular and widely used VPNs on the market today.

Best VPN Service Providers of 2018

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1. NordVPN

NordVPN

Highly rated wherever you look, NordVPN is the VPN all others aim to be. While not the largest, they offer a great combination of services and the ability to run up to six connections at once, more than any other provider. Netflix unblocking is available in France, Netherlands, India, and the UK.

They are expensive, particularly their per month costs, but here’s a case where you definitely get everything you pay for. If you are willing to lock in for two years, they do have an option at $3.29 per month.

NordVPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionPanama
IP Addresses2,000
Servers1,087
Server Locations61
PriceFrom $11.95 per month
Devices Supported6

2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is very user-friendly with easy set-up, detailed FAQ and a 30-day money back guarantee. In business for over a decade, they have an impressive network of 145 servers.

Excellent protocol support and a great kill switch system rate them very high on overall services offered. They also unblock Netflix in Canada, the US, and the UK, and even accept payment in bitcoin.

ExpressVPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionBritish Virgin Islands
IP Addresses15,000
ServersOver 1,700
Server Locations145
PriceFrom $6.67 per month
Devices Supported3

3. IPVanishVPN

IPVanishVPN

For the more knowledgeable VPN crowd, there is IPVanishVPN. A clunky interface doesn’t keep this VPN from doing its job. They support BitTorrenting with no restrictions and have a feature for IP address cycling.

The standard pricing is up there at the top of the scale, however, they offer one of the better 12-month plans. The rate for that option starts at $5.19 per month.

IPVanishVPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesOver 40,000
Servers1,000
Server LocationsOver 60
PriceFrom $11.99 per month
Devices Supported5

4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN

VyprVPN has over 200,000 IP addresses.

You read that right, over 200,000 IP addresses. That is the highest of any VPN. VyprVPN also boasts an impressive array of services including wide protocol support, a great kill switch feature, and an option to get a dedicated IP address. There is also an in-house tool called VyprVPN Cloud that adds security when using cloud services.

The downside is they do log some connection info and the number of connections is limited. There is a $9.95 plan that gets you five devices, but that is still an incredibly high price compared to a lot of services.

VyprVPN Overview (by Golden Frog)

Country/JurisdictionSwitzerland
IP AddressesOver 200,000
ServersOver 700
Server LocationsOver 70
PriceFrom $12.95 per month
Devices Supported3 to 5

5. Hide My Ass!

Hide My Ass! VPN

You know you’re interested based on the name alone. Hide My Ass does offer some great services to match the great name. A solid interface with great speed results, HMA also allows BitTorrent. They support bitcoin payment and gaming consoles which can be hit or miss elsewhere.

They are on the high side with their monthly charge, but if you commit to a year that comes down dramatically to $6.55 a month, with a 30-day money back guarantee. They also log some connection data.

Hide My Ass! Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
IP Addresses3,106
Servers830
Server Locations280
PriceFrom $11.52 per month
Devices Supported5

6. PureVPN

PureVPN

With a widespread, diverse network, PureVPN is one of the fastest VPN providers on the market. That alone may be worth the steep price to some users, but they also have robust protocol support and allow connections to five devices.

The 30-day refund policy is nice for this price segment, although if you aren’t afraid of long-term commitments, they do have a three-year plan that you can nab for $1.91 a month. They do log connection data but are forthcoming about that in their policies. Regardless, they are one of the better all-around VPNs.

PureVPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionHong Kong
IP Addresses95,000
Servers500
Server Locations180
PriceFrom $10.95 per month
Devices Supported5

7. TorGuard

TorGuard VPN

TorGuard doesn’t release the stats on their IP addresses, but that should be of little concern. They have a nice system that covers the basics and then some without logging any data. Wide protocol support and a focus on BitTorrent are the highlights.

Unfortunately, their interface leaves a little something to be desired. Their monthly pricing is high, but the one-year commitment comes in right under $5 a month.

TorGuard Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesN/A
Servers1,600
Server Locations50
PriceFrom $9.99 per month
Devices Supported5

8. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access VPN

Another provider who’s shy about their IP addresses, Private Internet Access is an amazing value at $6.95 per month or $3.33 if you settle in for a year.

Five connections, a great kill switch feature, BitTorrent capable, an ad blocker and allows access to a private DNS server are a few of the offerings you can access. They also do not log any traffic or connection data.

One minor drawback is a sparse interface, but that may be a plus for some.

Private Internet Access Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesN/A
Servers3,252
Server Locations37
PriceFrom $6.95 per month
Devices Supported5

9. TunnelBear

TunnelBear VPN

TunnelBear stands out thanks to its comprehensive free service offering. Capping at a 500MB data limit and use with only one device, you won’t be doing any heavy lifting. Though for general browsing on public networks you still get top of the line encryption and security that outclasses a lot of paid providers.

You can still sign up for a monthly plan at $9.99 or the yearly service that breaks out to $4.99. Both offer unlimited usage over five devices and a solid interface that easy to navigate. There are some limitations, however, like the lack of BitTorrent support or varied protocols. But if you’re new to the VPN game, this is a good place to start.

TunnelBear Overview

Country/JurisdictionCanada
IP AddressesN/A
ServersLess than 1,000
Server LocationsOver 20
PriceFrom $9.99 per month
Devices Supported5 (1 with free option)

10. OverPlay VPN

OverPlay VPN

Modest in size compared to some other providers, OverPlay VPN does the trick if you’re looking for something a bit more under the radar. Offering the standard complement of services they also play up the ability to access censored websites and content.

A few drawbacks include lower device connections, and their only price reduction is for a watered down version of their services.

OverPlay VPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited Kingdom
IP AddressesN/A
Servers650
Server LocationsOver 70
PriceFrom $9.95 per month
Devices Supported3

11. SaferVPN

SaferVPN

Fast and easy to get up and running, SaferVPN is another of the all-around workhorses that show very few weak spots. Finely walking that line between access for novices, but giving seasoned users the customization they crave, SaferVPN does a nice job for both.

Solid DNS plugging, support for varied protocols, and a good spread of servers round out the service.

Two drawbacks though come in the form of absolutely no torrenting and a browsing policy that seems to render a verdict on objectionable browsing, even if it’s legal. Pricing is competitive with a 12-month option at $5.49 a month.

SaferVPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesN/A
Servers700
Server Locations34
PriceFrom $8.99 per month
Devices Supported5

12. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited

KeepSolid is a provider that falls into the category of not your first choice but so cheap, easy, and reliable maybe it should be. Their best attribute is their flexibility. It starts with the pricing – six options ranging from a seven-day plan for $3.99 (great for travelers) to the lifetime package for $149.99 (great for the deeply committed).

They have most of the protections you’d expect, though ad-blocking is curiously missing along with support for gaming platforms. Those small oversights aside KeepSolid is a good all-around provider.

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesN/A
Servers400
Server Locations67
PriceFrom $8.99 per month
Devices Supported5

13. AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite

AnchorFree HotSpot Shield Elite VPN

Performance is the key feature for Hotspot Shield, even if it comes at the cost of some customization. Regardless, Hotspot Shield is easy to use and navigate with some handy little quick links to your favorite streaming sites and no ads. It also supports gaming platforms which is a bonus.

Pricing is also competitive once you dial down from the initially high per month charge. The one year plan runs $5.99 per month with a 45-day full refund policy.

AnchorFree Hotspot Shield Elite Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesN/A
Servers2,000
Server Locations79
PriceFrom $12.99 per month
Devices Supported5

14. ZenMate

ZenMate VPN

ZenMate is another VPN aimed at the first timer, with a simple set-up, simple interface, and simple policies. With that simplicity, comes a very basic service and more seasoned users may want to steer clear.

Pricing, as you’d expect, is reflective of the service. A low initial monthly rate is what some other providers offer as their discount. Zen’s one year package is a manageable $4.99 per month. Not for everyone, but if looking to get in the VPN door, ZenMate is easy to open.

ZenMate Overview

Country/JurisdictionGermany
IP AddressesN/A
ServersN/A
Server Locations30
PriceFrom $8.99 per month
Devices Supported5

15. Windscribe

Windscribe VPN

When wading into free VPN territory it’s often best to be skeptical. Windscribe helps relieve some of the concern with their appealing free plan. Offering 10GB a month for registering your email, it also comes with ad-blocking. Limitations appear with only one device, access to eight countries, and basic performance speed.

The paid service steps out of the norm as well, with unlimited device support at an attractive price. One month comes in at $9.00 with a 12-month plan dropping that to $4.08 per month. They even accept Bitcoin.

Windscribe Overview

Country/JurisdictionCanada
IP AddressesN/A
Servers429
Server Locations47
PriceFrom $9.00 per month
Devices SupportedUnlimited

16. Hide.Me

Hide.Me VPN

Another provider with a free offering, Hide.Me gives you a 2GB plan, but with only three server choices, it is limited. Their pay plans are also lacking with the $4.99 version offering 30 locations, a single connection, and a 75GB data cap. The top tier has no restrictions.

Hide.me does offer all the tools you’d expect with nice tailoring available for techies. That being said it’s hard to justify a mid-level plan with a data cap and single connection considering the other services available.

Hide.Me Overview

Country/JurisdictionMalaysia
IP AddressesN/A
ServersN/A
Server LocationsOver 30
PriceFrom $9.99 per month
Devices SupportedUp to 5

17. Buffered VPN

Buffered VPN

If it’s torrenting you want, Buffered VPN is for you. One of the fastest VPNs it also proves healthy in support of six connected devices. The number of IP addresses and solid kill switch feature stands out as well as their lack of usage logs. 24/7 chat help is also a nice addition.

The adage you get what you pay for proves out with Buffered. On the top end, many, particularly heavy users may find the service absolutely worth it. A 15-month plan at $6.60 per month and 30-day money back guarantee does help the overall price tag.

Buffered VPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionGibraltar
IP Addresses11,000
Servers800
Server Locations46
PriceFrom $12.99 per month
Devices Supported6

18. CyberGhost

CyberGhost VPN

Feature rich and customizable, CyberGhost is a very good overall provider, especially if you need BitTorrent coverage. They also handle the protocol spectrum and are very proactive about a free and secure internet. That also means zero logging.

The pricing can be high, but they do offer a 7-day free trial and a $5.99 monthly plan if you commit to a year. The service also comes with 24/7 live chat service.

CyberGhost Overview

Country/JurisdictionRomania
IP AddressesOver 1,400
Servers1,300
Server Locations115
PriceFrom $11.99 per month
Devices Supported5

19. Avast SecureLine VPN

Avast SecureLine VPN

Avast SecureLine VPN is a very good middle of the road pick that offers the service and protection you need at a competitive price. Considering Avast has a robust anti-virus product, their VPN service is a natural extension. They also do not track connections and have ad-blocker as you browse.

Pricing is fairly standard, but they do have a package that will cut $20.00 off your yearly amount if you go for the 12-month service. One nice consideration is a 7-day trial before the year commitment kicks in.

Avast SecureLine VPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionCzech Republic
IP AddressesN/A
ServersN/A
Server Locations52
PriceFrom $6.67 per month
Devices Supported5

20. Strong VPN

Strong VPN

Strong VPN is another of the “Netflix ready” VPNs with great coverage in the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands. This is aided by their favorable speeds, particularly when downloading. A straightforward interface is also a plus along with wide variable protocol support and their own DNS service, StrongDNS.

Pricing starts on the higher end, but you can cut that almost in half to $5.83 with the 12-month commitment. Extras include 24/7 live support.

Strong VPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionUnited States
IP AddressesN/A
Servers688
Server Locations46
PriceFrom $10.00 per month
Devices Supported5

21. Cryptostorm VPN

Cryptostorm VPN

We’re tossing Cryptostorm VPN in here as it has found favor with those who truly value absolute privacy. Big on plugging up DNS leaks, they also do not maintain a record of traffic and support heavy file sharing. This is a favorite of those who frequent the Dark Web, which speaks to its airtightness.

Their payment system extends the masking of identities as they support token based funding.

Cryptostorm VPN Overview

Country/JurisdictionIceland / Canada
IP AddressesN/A
ServersN/A
Server LocationsN/A
PriceFrom $7.44 per month
Devices Supported4

What To Look for When Choosing a VPN

Considerations when choosing a VPN

Now that you’ve seen how vital a VPN service can be, you’ve seen the top VPN providers, how do you pick one? And not just any VPN, but the right VPN.

It can be a challenge.

With concerns about online privacy and security skyrocketing in recent years, it’s no surprise that an industry trying to address those fears is booming.

By 2019, the VPN market is expected to be worth $70 billion worldwide, almost double what it was four years ago.

That is very robust growth, and as a result, there are literally hundreds of providers looking to grab a piece of that pie.

How do you avoid the confusion amidst such a crowded field and pick the right provider for your needs?

Here are the important items to consider when shopping for a VPN.

Devices Supported

This is important since each device you want to protect, including laptops, tablets, and phones,  will require its own VPN. The vast majority of services offer five connections with your account.

That may seem like plenty, but remember that you’re not browsing the web through just your computer. Each device you use to connect online will need its own VPN.

Tablets and gaming consoles initially come to mind but don’t forget about all of your smart devices.Thermostats, light bulbs, plugs.

If your home has any level of intelligence, you’ll barely make it to the light bulbs. To work around this, you can use one of your connections for your router. By protecting this central hub, everything that connects to it is also protected.

Servers and Server Locations

When reviewing the number of servers a VPN service has, aim high. The more servers the better, to ensure the traffic doesn’t bottleneck. Keeping traffic moving keeps it dependable.

Also, note how these servers are spread out. The more comprehensive the network, the better your real location can be masked. It also helps that regardless of where you are there, will almost always be a server nearby, upping the speed and performance.  

Price

Of course, how will this all fit into your tech budget? When looking for the right VPN, price should be viewed hand in hand with what you’re getting. Monthly costs can be high, but plenty of the services come down from that number if you’re willing to commit to at least a year’s service.

You’ll realize that once you begin to research the various VPNs, services and price run in lock step with each other. We are, after all, talking about security, and the vast majority of providers know we are willing to pay for it.

To that end, determine what you really need. Are you merely a casual surfer looking for an extra level of security? Or are you a heavy tech user, dealing with mass amounts of data transfer?

Surprisingly enough, you both may end up using the same VPN.

We’ve covered a few more of the in’s and out’s above, but the point is to determine your needs and then look at VPNs that meet them. Chances are one will be at a comfortable price point for you.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to take advantage of free trials or money-back guarantees. If you’re not happy with one service, try another. There are plenty.

If this all seems a bit much right now, don’t fret. After we introduce some of the top VPNs, we’ll revisit this topic and give you some guidance on how to narrow your search to something more manageable.

Additional Criteria

So those are the significant factors in choosing the right VPN, but what else is there? Here is a handful of other smaller, but no less important considerations to take into account when picking a VPN.

Netflix and Geo-Restricted Content

A big factor in the growth of VPNs is their ability to cross borders and unlock entertainment content in other countries that would normally be unavailable to the end user.

Effectively, if you’re sitting in Boise, but your IP address shows you surfing from London, then content restricted to broadcast in the UK would be available to you. Nifty as that may be, it does create some concerns.

Netflix is the white whale when it comes to accessing geo-restricted content. With a number of first-run films and new television shows available on Netflix in other territories, it is an entertainment gold mine outside of the US.

The flip side is that this practice is against Netflix terms and conditions. Though there are a handful of VPNs that support this, which we will note below, we do advise you walk this path at your own risk.

Logs

Even in the world of hardcore online security, some firms will do a little tracking. The vast majority of VPNs do not keep logs of any kind, which is ultimately where you should gravitate.

Some of the higher rated services though will log connection info. If you can’t resist their other offerings, make sure to read their privacy and collection policies to understand what they collect and why they collect it.

Throttling

Trying to escape the dreaded ISP throttle is one of the top draws about using a VPN network, so be mindful of any restrictions the VPN may have, bandwidth or otherwise. Understand if there are bandwidth limits and the reasons why, and make sure your plan pricing correlates with what VPN is selling.

Protocols

The VPN protocol is how your data routes between the server and your computer. There are a few options, but we will keep this simple. The protocol you want is OpenVPN due to its flexibility, speed, and security. It’s only major drawback is that it does not extend to some mobile smart devices.

L2TP/IPsec is an acceptable, albeit, slower alternative. Perhaps the protocol with the widest reach, particularly for mobile devices, it is very easy to set up.

The one to try and avoid is PPTP, specifically due to limited security and stability.

BitTorrent

As a widely used method for peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, BitTorrent users seeking out a VPN is only natural. But the level of support offered by VPN’s does vary. Most providers have little problem with legal torrenting, though some do offer protections should it go beyond that (although still assume you are taking all the risk). Either way, if this a factor for you, there are several VPNs that gear their services towards BitTorrenting and P2P.

Kill Switch

The last thing of note is whether a provider has a kill switch option. This ensures that should a VPN connection be lost or fails, the connection locks automatically. Doing so keeps your traffic from finding its way onto an unsecured internet. If a VPN provider doesn’t have this, you may want to think twice about using them.

Understand What You’re Getting

It’s worth noting that no matter what guarantees a VPN provider makes, nothing is 100% safe and secure. Highly sophisticated attacks or incredibly aggressive thieves are always working on new ways to thwart the latest advances in tech security.

While a VPN may not be perfect, it will certainly make your browsing experience less open to outside tampering or interference.

Consider for a minute that your data and browsing activity is your car. The VPN acts as the locks on your doors and alarm in your dash. The determined thief may attempt to break in and steal your ride, but they are far more likely to target the vehicle that offers no protection at all.

Which VPN Should I Choose?

What is the best VPN to choose

At first glance, that seems like an overwhelming list. Even more so, when you consider there are many more providers than the ones listed here.

However, now that you’ve decided to secure your browsing, it’s all about determining your specific needs and then paring down to the VPNs that will best work for you.

Asking yourself, and honestly answering, the next three questions can make identifying a VPN super easy:

What type of internet user am I?

Casual browser? Heavy shopper? File-sharer? Business traveler? Or a combination of each?

Answering this first will cut your initial VPN list in half.

How much security and coverage do I need?

One device? Multiple devices? Does a tablet or smartphone need coverage? A gaming console? Do I access public Wi-Fi often?

This will further narrow your options down to a handful. And if answered honestly, a few clear choices will emerge.

Then it all comes down to one last thing.

How much am I willing to pay for the service that best fits me?

With so many options there’s no reason to pay for services or add-ons you don’t want or need. Let how you use the internet dictate the VPN you choose and how much you pay for it.

A little thought and research upfront go a very long into simplifying your search for the right VPN.

Conclusion

VPNs can help tighten up your online security and give you peace of mind at the same time. Don’t be afraid to try a few out, test out their guarantees, and make the best decision for you and your needs.

As we spend more and more of our time online, the risk we face on the web grows greater with every point and click we make. Being left open to attack, whether from data miners, identity thieves, or a nosy onlooker, is no longer a gamble worth taking.

Picking the Best VPN for You

Written by Alex Jasin

Last Updated: April 28, 2018