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Best VPN Providers of 2019

NordVPN

Best overall

ExpressVPN

Best for flexibility

CenturyLink

Cheapest option

Data effective 08/20/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The bottom line

A VPN (virtual private network) is critical for scrambling your IP address and encrypting your data, so you and your internet activity are safe. NordVPN offers the best service overall with its advanced servers and security at such an affordable price.

But there’s a dark horse in this race. Surfshark, as the cheapest option with unlimited devices, is particularly great for families. So really, it’s all about what service is going to offer the features that are most important to you, at the best price.

Best VPN providers

ProviderPriceServersNumber of devices
Our Pick
NordVPN
$2.99/mo.5,687 in 60 countries6
ExpressVPN
$8.32/mo.3,000+ in 94 countries3
CyberGhost$2.75/mo.4,600 in 60+ countries7
IPVanish$5.19/mo.1,300+ in 75+ countries10
Surfshark$1.99/mo.800+ in 50+ countriesUnlimited
ProviderOur Pick
NordVPN
Price$2.99/mo.
Servers5,687 in 60 countries
Number of devices6
ProviderExpressVPN
Price$8.32/mo.
Servers3,000+ in 94 countries
Number of devices3
ProviderCyberGhost
Price$2.75/mo.
Servers4,600 in 60+ countries
Number of devices7
ProviderIPVanish
Price$5.19/mo.
Servers1,300+ in 75+ countries
Number of devices10
ProviderSurfshark
Price$1.99/mo.
Servers800+ in 50+ countries
Number of devicesUnlimited

Data effective 08/20/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

NORDVPN

Best overall

The specs

  • 5687 servers in 60 countries
  • AES-256 encryption
  • 6 simultaneous devices
  • Automatic kill switch
  • No-logging policy
  • P2P torrenting

Pros

  • Lots of servers
  • Cheap options

Cons

  • Fewer countries with servers
  • Inconsistent pricing

NordVPN is our favorite VPN company because it offers so much for only $2.99 a month.

Connection
Having 5,687 servers in 60 countries means NordVPN shouldn’t be as hard on your internet, since more servers means you’ll likely find one close to you with less traffic. NordVPN is in fewer countries than some other brands on this list, but 60 is far from a small number.

Usability
A NordVPN account supports all of your internet needs, like streaming shows or using P2P (P2P stands for peer-to-peer, and it allows a group of computers to share files, in addition to network loads, like bandwidth or storage space).

You can have up to six devices on one NordVPN account, and there’s a very easy-to-use app, so your whole family can have privacy and security, whether they’re home or on the go. And if you’re ever accidentally unconnected to the VPN service, it has a kill switch that disables you from internet access until you reconnect and are protected.

Privacy policies
Plus, NordVPN has a no-logging policy, which means it won’t track or record your information like some other lower-tier VPNs do. When it promises private access to the internet, it means it. And its location in Panama guarantees that it is outside of any required data-collection laws.

Price
Unfortunately, NordVPN’s prices jump all over the place. Still, NordVPN is cheaper than some of its competitors. And for all that it offers, we think it’s worth it for most people.

NordVPN plan options

PlanCost
3 yr.$2.99/mo.
2 yr.$3.99/mo.
1 yr.$6.99/mo.
1 mo.$11.95/mo.
Plan3 yr.
Cost$2.99/mo.
Plan2 yr.
Cost$3.99/mo.
Plan1 yr.
Cost$6.99/mo.
Plan1 mo.
Cost$11.95/mo.

ExpressVPN

Best for flexibility

The specs

  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
  • AES-256 encryption
  • 3 simultaneous devices
  • Automatic kill switch
  • No-logging policy
  • P2P torrenting
  • Split tunneling

Pros

  • Lots of servers
  • Split tunneling

Cons

  • High price

Privacy policies
ExpressVPN has many of the same impressive features as NordVPN—the best encryption tech available, secure policies to prevent data logging or sharing, and an effective kill switch to make sure you’re always protected.

Connection
ExpressVPN is said to be the fastest VPN out there, despite having fewer servers than NordVPN in a larger range of countries—and that larger range means you can gain access to more foreign content and be secured in more nations.

Usability
The one addition ExpressVPN offers that Nord VPN doesn’t is split tunneling. With it, you can choose which of your devices or apps are encrypted, and which aren’t.

You may think that’s odd—wouldn’t you want everything encrypted? But if having all your data encrypted is overwhelming your bandwidth, or if you can’t print from your local printer because of it, split tunneling can be useful.

Price
The downside to ExpressVPN is that it doesn’t offer tons more than NordVPN, but it does come at a much steeper price—$9.99 a month for six months or $12.99 for just one month. And it offers simultaneous streaming for only five devices (making it a bit tight for a family with multiple devices).

If you need a VPN for only one month (maybe you’re traveling and want better internet access), ExpressVPN’s one-month plan is similar to other brands in price and may be worth it. But if you want a long-term plan, ExpressVPN is expensive.

CyberGhost

Best for usability

The specs

  • 4700 servers in 60+ countries
  • AES-256 encryption
  • 7 simultaneous devices
  • Automatic kill switch
  • No-logging policy
  • P2P torrenting

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Reasonable pricing

Cons

  • Inconsistent performance
  • Barely adequate speeds

CyberGhost is another popular VPN service provider, offering advanced encryption, customizable features and apps to help you stream, share P2P, and simultaneous use on up to seven devices. It also guarantees secured privacy with its no-logging policy and kill switch.

Connection
Despite having tons of servers in a good number of countries, CyberGhost falls behind NordVPN or ExpressVPN with speed. And customers have complained that it sometimes drops its connection unexpectedly, leading to questionable results—if you’re not sure that you’re always protected, what’s the point?

Usability
But CyberGhost does a good job at letting you set up your VPN for your needs and at making the whole process very simple.

We love companies that are focused on giving us the extra security we need without having to do a lot of extra work, and CyberGhost does just that, providing simple setup and easy use on a regular basis.

Price
And its longer-term plans are really cheap: $2.75 per month for three years. But be careful, its one-month plan is $12.99, so there’s quite a price range.

That said, if you want an easy and effective VPN to use, CyberGhost does a good job.

IPVanish

Best for anonymity

The specs

  • 1300+ servers in 75+ countries
  • AES-256 encryption
  • 10 simultaneous devices
  • Limited kill switch
  • No-logging policy
  • P2P torrenting

Pros

  • More simultaneous devices
  • Good speed

Cons

  • Limited kill switch
  • Difficult-to-use app
  • High price

IPVanish’s reliable VPN service offers advanced encryption tech and security measures. Even though it’s based in the USA, the company simply doesn’t collect your data, which ensures that your data can’t be passed on.

Connection
IPVanish has fewer servers, and they’re spread out over lots of countries, so your speeds won’t be great. That’s unfortunate, but at least you can connect 10 devices to one account—more than NordVPN or Express VPN allows.

Privacy policies
IPVanish, as its name suggests, ensures your IP address is completely hidden, so you don’t get charged extra for international calls and can avoid censorship, no matter the country you’re in.

Usability
IPVanish is also really good with streaming and P2P, so sharing content remains seamless and safe.

On the downside, its kill switch doesn’t work with all mobile apps, so you have to be on your guard for that. And its personal app can be tricky to figure out—but a lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s so many tools to learn on the app, so it isn’t all bad.

Price
As another unfortunate note, IPVanish is on the more expensive end. A one-year plan is $5.19 per month, but you get three additional months free, so that’s pretty nice. Its one-month plan is $10. That’s a lot compared to Surfshark, which is your cheapest option.

Even so, if you have lots of devices you want to keep anonymous, and if the price isn’t your biggest concern, IPVanish could be a good choice for you.

Surfshark

Cheapest option

The specs

  • 800+ servers in 50+ countries
  • AES-256 encryption
  • Automatic kill switch
  • Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • No-logging policy
  • P2P torrenting
  • Whitelister feature

Pros

  • Unlimited devices
  • Cheap price

Cons

  • Limited servers
  • Barely adequate speeds

Alright, so Surfshark looks less competitive than other options, because it has only around 800 servers in about 50 countries, which means less access in foreign places and slower speeds. But hear us out: Surfshark has some major features that counteract the bad.

Usability
First and foremost, your Surfshark account allows unlimited devices—a major bonus if you have a big family or lots of personal devices. And Surfshark also has a tunneling option called WhiteLister, so you can choose which apps and sites you don’t want to go through the VPN.

This feature is particularly helpful with a big family if you’re worried about overwhelming your bandwidth with everyone using the VPN on every site.

Price
Plus, Surfshark is the cheapest option of them all. A two-year plan is only $1.99 a month, although the one-month plan does shoot up to $11.99. So, this service is best for the budget-buyer who’s okay with long-term commitment.

Overall, Surfshark does a good job of protecting your privacy and opening up your options by blocking trackers and ads. And it offers you that on all of your devices for a really cheap price.

So if you’re thinking about a VPN service for your family, or if you’re worried about the cost of being protected, this could be the perfect option for you.

What to look for in a VPN

Now that you know a little about what’s out there, let’s go over the most important things to keep in mind when choosing a VPN.

Servers

The number of servers, and where they’re located, is really important. When you go through a VPN, your data has to go through that VPN’s server network first before it goes through any other server.

That means your internet speeds will be slower, regardless of the VPN you choose—it can’t be avoided.

But the more servers there are, the more likely you are to be close to one, which will improve your speed. That’s why the total server count is important.

If you have more countries included in a server list, your VPN service will work in more countries. Plus, no matter where you’re at, you can read foreign news or avoid government censorship.

Security

Obviously, if you’re considering a VPN service, you’re worried at least a little bit about privacy and security, whether from potential hackers or big corporations or governments (and you’re probably not wrong to worry).

All VPNs scramble your IP address, making you harder to track by any of those potential threats. And many (but not all) VPNs will encrypt your data as well, making it harder to follow.

The best military-grade encryption tech is AES-256, and all of the VPN services on this list use it through a protocol called OpenVPN. But if you go with a different VPN provider than we’ve discussed, you’ll want to make sure it has this security tech.

Data logging

A VPN exists solely because you don’t want your private information out there for the world to find. That said, you’ll want to know the brand you’ve chosen to safeguard your data isn’t also collecting it for its own purposes.

This is very important when considering VPN brands based in Western nations (like the US, Norway, the UK, and Germany), which require data be handed over if requested. Some brands are outside of those jurisdictions, so you’re safe. Others are within them, but they have no-logging policies, meaning they won’t even collect your information, so they have nothing to give the government, should it come asking. Our favorite options all have no-logging policies to ensure that.

Streaming, P2P, and torrenting

Torrenting is a type of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. P2P torrenting divides lots of info and shares it among a group of individual computers.

So if you’re torrenting a movie, the opening credits might be pulled off a computer in Paris, while the closing credits come from a computer in London. That won’t really affect your viewing—it’s just another way of accessing and downloading files.

By hiding your location with a VPN, it’s easier to stream, torrent, or use P2P for location-restricted content—you can watch Luther on BBC’s iPlayer even in the USA—or to share files with a family member in China.

If your VPN has limits on any of these features, you’ll want to drop it, and fast.

Simultaneous devices

Simultaneous devices means how many devices you can connect to the same VPN account at once. The number you get depends on the service you choose, but the standard minimum is five.

You’ll want to make sure your choice has at least that many, so you and everyone in your family is secure—your daughter doing her biology class research on her laptop, your son shopping for those new Nikes on his phone, and you streaming the latest Korean drama on your iPad.

You’ll also want to check that your chosen VPN is compatible with your devices. Most work with or have apps for Windows, iOS, Android and beyond, but you should always check to be sure—some of the cheaper ones may try to scam you.

Our final take

We think that NordVPN has the right combination of secure tech, affordable pricing, and useful features like six simultaneous devices. If you’re looking to run even more devices at a cheaper price, however, we’d say go with Surfshark.

VPN FAQ

Why use a VPN?

A VPN keeps your private information, well, private. It keeps hackers, corporations, and governments from collecting and using your data, whether for their personal research or for targeted ads. It can also help you get around location restrictions.

What about free VPNs?

In today’s world, everything comes at a price, and a VPN is no different. While you may not be paying a financial cost, free VPNs often collect your data and sell it to bidders or send you targeted ads to make up for the cost.

That kind of defeats the whole point of a VPN, since it doesn’t actually protect your info. All it really does, then, is slow down your internet. When better options cost as low as $1.99 per month, we think it’s manageable to just pay for a brand you can trust.

What should I know about VPN protocols?

VPN protocols are the connections used to encrypt and secure your IP packets (the internet data sent out) as they travel through the world wide web. Think of the protocols as the individual tools that a VPN provider uses to make your online searching secure.

Most popular VPN services will offer a variety of VPN protocols that you can switch through manually or automatically, including IPsec, OpenVPN, and PPtP.

OpenVPN is the ideal VPN protocol, and it’s used among the most popular VPN service providers. Its code is freely accessible, earning its name, but it allows for that AES-256 encryption. And while it slows things down a bit because its process requires more bandwidth, OpenVPN is by far the most secure protocol available.

IPsec (internet protocol security) will individually authenticate and then encrypt each packet of information sent out—it also slows things down a bit with its bandwidth requirements, but it’s secure. Still, Ipsec isn’t the newest protocol on the table, and the best companies today will opt for OpenVPN over IPsec.

PPtP (point-to-point tunneling protocol) was one of the first VPN protocols. It’s very old, and while faster than the other protocols, it’s the least secure option. It should be used only as a last resort for things that require very little security, like streaming.

Ultimately, you’ll want to make sure that, even if your VPN service provider has all of these protocols, its standard is OpenVPN. Also, double-check that it will only switch to the other protocols manually as a last resort.

About the Author

Makayla has managed to combine her childhood dream of writing for a living with her passions for research and the digital world—and she’s loving it! As a recent graduate of Brigham Young University, she’s written about everything from small business loans to pro traveling tips to streaming TV providers. When she’s not busy writing, you’ll find her running the trails, dancing in the rain, or searching for the newest best show to watch.

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