The best anonymous VPN services in 2021 | Does a VPN make you untraceable?

Looking for a way to stay anonymous online in 2021? In this guide we discuss the ways a VPN can and can't help you protect your identity online and if a VPN can make you truly untraceable.

What are the best "anonymous" VPNs in 2021?

We recommend these VPNs to stay anonymous online in 2021:

  1. ExpressVPN - A VPN that accepts Bitcoin payments and offers secure servers located worldwide with a strong no-logging policy.
  2. NordVPN - A highly secure service with features that will provide watertight privacy and data security
  3. IPVanish - A great all-rounder that provides easy-to-use apps and access to more than 1,600 servers.
  4. Private Internet Access - A great VPN for gaining watertight privacy. Its no-logs claim has been proven in court and it offers multiple ciphers & settings.
  5. PrivateVPN - The cheapest VPN gaining watertight privacy on our list. For just $1.89, you can gain added anonymity with some great features & a no logs policy.

Some VPN services, like AnonymousVPN, claim to keep you "anonymous". The reality is that they don't. No VPN can give you complete anonymity because of the way that they work. When connected to a VPN, the provider can detect your IP address in real-time, and some untrustworthy VPNs even store these sensitive logs!

A reliable VPN provides high levels of digital privacy because it has strong encryption and a no-logs policy. This kind of VPN will not give you anonymity (like you get with Tor) but it will ensure that everything you do online is kept a tight-lipped secret. 

Although VPNs do not provide complete anonymity, they are still the best tool for gaining privacy and freedom online. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic to prevent your ISP, local networks, Wi-Fi hotspots, and government from tracking your online habits and web visits. It also stops websites and services from tracking your real IP address.

Again, while many people refer to privacy as "anonymity", the reality is that any anonymous VPN is actually just a secure VPN that keeps zero logs. Without data logs to analyze, there's nothing to pass onto prying agencies. This is the most secure type of VPN available, but it is important to note that you will never be truly anonymous online unless you use a service like Tor.

Before deciding on private VPNs for this guide, we always make sure the providers:

Each and every one of the VPNs listed on this page will improve your online privacy massively, so let's take a closer look.

5 Best "Anonymous" VPN Services to use in 2021

Here you'll find our top 5 VPN picks for achieving anonymity in 2021. You can count on all of these services to offer intuitive apps for your devices as well as impressive connection speeds, and, of course, those all-important privacy features. Check out our detailed review pages for even more information.

ExpressVPN is an highly private and reliable VPN service. No VPN can guarantee complete anonymity, but ExpressVPN can offer great security features, stealth servers, and no logs.

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 - $12.95

ExpressVPN is an industry-leading provider when it comes to privacy and security, helped in part by its support for cryptocurrency payments, which makes it one of the most 'anonymous' VPNs around. The service is based in the British Virgin Islands – a superb location in terms of privacy protections. And it has a no-logs policy, which means it will never store any records of what its users do online (or even basic connection logs).


During my tests, I enjoyed using ExpressVPN apps. They are easy to navigate and even the most advanced security settings can be toggled on and off with just a few clicks. In terms of speeds, I was highly impressed. I can definitely recommend this VPN for streaming in HD or doing other data-intensive tasks such as gaming. This service also runs its own DNS servers (and a free Smart DNS service). It also supports P2P activity which is fantastic. Plus, I was able to access Netflix US (and it unblocks a total of 24 Netflix regions!)


ExpressVPN comes with a lot of high-end privacy features such as strong OpenVPN encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch to stop you from ever accidentally leaking unencrypted data to your ISP. And ExpressVPN provides obfuscation to let you conceal VPN use from your ISP (by disguising it as regular HTTPS traffic). This stealth feature also lets you evade firewalls in locations such as Iran and China. 


While VPNs do not technically provide anonymity (you will need to use Tor to surf anonymously online), ExpressVPN is a fast and reliable VPN that has proven that it can completely conceal your online habits from your ISP, the government, and local networks (such as employers or Wi-Fi hotspots). In addition, it will prevent websites from tracking your home IP address. Well worth testing using its 30-day money-back guarantee.


Tested by Hannah

NordVPN is a no logs service with strong security features including a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscated servers.

  • Pricing

    From $3.30 - $11.95
  • Aggregated or Anonymised Logs?

    • Anonymized
  • Accepts Cryptocurrency?

    • Yes

NordVPN is a provider based in Panama that offers the perfect combination of privacy and value for money. Like ExpressVPN, it has strong OpenVPN encryption, a kill-switch, DNS leak protection, and obfuscated servers for concealing VPN use and bypassing ISP firewalls. I like that this service has a trustworthy zero-logs policy, which means that it never stores any details about what you do online. And I love this VPN's live chat support, where an expert customer service team is on hand to answer any questions you might have.


I used the NordVPN apps on various platforms and found them all easy to use. I found the choice of servers to be great, and I was impressed with the amount of content I could unblock (which included iPlayer on my Kodi, and Netflix US). Being based in Panama means that this service is well out of reach of invasive jurisdictions such as the UK, the EU, and the US.


Starting at just $2.99 per month, this VPN is incredibly good value for money - especially considering that it has scarcer VPN features such as double hop encryption and Tor over VPN. Admittedly, it does have fewer servers than the number one VPN on this list, but you still get an awful lot of choice in over 60 countries. This is fine for most people's unblocking needs, and it is cheaper than ExpressVPN, which may suit you. Definitely worth a test run using its 30-day money-back guarantee.


Tested by Aaron

IPVanish doesn't keep any logs, has been independently audited, and comes with handy obfuscation measures.

  • Pricing

    From $2.62 - $9.99
  • Aggregated or Anonymised Logs?

    • Anonymized
  • Accepts Cryptocurrency?

    • Yes

With IPVanish, the name says it all! The US-based provider doesn't keep any traffic or connection logs, meaning you can browse the web in privacy. The provider makes use of 256-bit encryption as well as a variety of protocols, though I would suggest sticking to OpenVPN if security is your primary concern as this is the most secure encryption protocol around.


IPVanish impresses us with a SOCKS5 proxy server, which comes in handy for folks wanting to engage in P2P activity safely or obfuscate their internet traffic. It's also possible to pay for your IPVanish subscription with Bitcoin.


In addition to these stellar security features, IPVanish boasts speedy servers in more than 75 worldwide locations and apps for pretty much every platform you could imagine. Your bandwidth won't ever be throttled, and you can field any questions that arise to the IPVanish customer service team, available 24/7. All in all, I think IPVanish is a great VPN for privacy-minded individuals, and you can check it out yourself with a 30-day money-back guarantee.


Tested by Attila

PIA is great VPN for gaining high levels of privacy and security online. It has a bunch of different cipher settings and has proven its no-logging claim in court - pretty impressive.

  • Pricing

    From $2.08 - $9.95
  • Aggregated or Anonymised Logs?

    • Anonymized
  • Audited?

    • Yes
  • Accepts Cryptocurrency?

    • Yes

Private Internet Access (PIA) makes it onto our list thanks to its glowing reputation within the Reddit community and high-end privacy services. It is a VPN that is often praised because of its highly secure apps and advanced privacy and security features. This is outstanding considering the relatively low cost of a subscription.


I enjoyed using Private Internet Access' app because it allowed me to personalize it a lot. This customization allows you to set it up exactly how you prefer. You also have a choice of 5 themes for the app, including a dark mode, which is a nice touch. It comes with a great range of privacy features, including OpenVPN on all apps including Mac and iOS apps – which isn't offered by a lot of providers.


With PIA you get apps for all platforms that come with a kill switch, DNS leak protection, strong OpenVPN encryption, obfuscation, a SOCKS5 proxy, port forwarding, and split tunneling. Encryption can be set to be stronger or weaker depending on your specific needs – with subscribers able to switch between OpenVPN UDP, TCP, and a bunch of different ciphers and settings. This makes the VPN great for techy users who want higher levels of customization, or those doing sensitive tasks such as torrenting.


Although the VPN is based in the US, it has proven its zero-logs policy in court. The service has also previously refused to allow authorities to log user data, and the VPN maintains a transparency report and a warrant canary. In addition, PIA accepts crypto payments, which is as anonymous as a VPN can really get. It also has fast servers in 74 countries to let you unblock anything you need, and to easily bypass censorship. And I could unblock Netflix US, which is always a bonus. Overall, I found this to be a secure and reliable VPN. You can take it for a test run using its 30-day money-back guarantee.


Tested by Hannah

PrivateVPN is one of the cheapest VPNs to improve your anonymity. As it name suggests it is a really private VPN with great security features & a zero logs policy.

  • Pricing

    From $1.89 - $7.12
  • Aggregated or Anonymised Logs?

    • Anonymized
  • Audited?

    • No
  • Accepts Cryptocurrency?

    • Yes

PrivateVPN is a service based in Sweden, a location that is good in terms of privacy. I found this service to be a great all-rounder and it's easy to see why it gets rave reviews from its subscribers. Although it has fewer servers than the VPNs on this list, it impressed me a lot during testing – particularly considering the price.


True to its name the VPN has a no-logs policy, which means that it can be trusted not to store any logs of what you do while connected. It also has a wealth of advanced features including DNS leak protection and obfuscated servers. All of these features made me feel safe and secure when using it.


A kill switch is available on its Windows client but not on its other apps. This makes PrivateVPN a better prospect for Windows users who need high levels of privacy. And, for those who want to pay for their subscription with added anonymity, Bitcoin payments are accepted. Overall, this is a cheap VPN that is private, efficient, and provides decent speeds for streaming. Like others on this list, PrivateVPN has a money-back guarantee, meaning you can refund it within the first 30 days if you are unhappy.


Tested by Ray

Fast Anonymous VPNs in 2021

A VPN packed with tech to protect your identity doesn't necessarily mean it's slow. In fact, all our recommended anonymous VPN providers offer surprisingly fast speeds, so you can browse the net, stream, torrent, and game without frustration.

To help you understand what speeds you can get from our top VPN picks, we run daily speed tests on them and display the results in the table below.

Place Provider Average Speed Max Speed Visit Site
1. 63.44 Mbit/s 76.75 Mbit/s Visit Site
2. 59.96 Mbit/s 83.26 Mbit/s Visit Site
3. 48.88 Mbit/s 60.55 Mbit/s Visit Site
4. 48.68 Mbit/s 56.45 Mbit/s Visit Site
5. 43.31 Mbit/s 73.55 Mbit/s Visit Site

Can you get a truly anonymous VPN?

It is impossible for the sites and services you visit to determine your real IP address if you're using a VPN. This allows you to browse the net with a far greater level of anonymity – you'll just need to remember to avoid inputting any real account information or payment details!

However, depending on how you use online services, they may still be able to detect who you are. Websites can do this by:

  • Using cookies 
  • Recognizing you from your login details 
  • Engaging in browser fingerprinting
  • Tracking device level information (IMEI or MAC number, for example)
  • Your user agent

All these reasons explain why we rarely refer to VPNs as "anonymous".

VPNs provide unprecedented levels of digital privacy - but not true anonymity - mainly because the VPN knows who you are at all times (or can at least detect your real IP address in real time if it wants to).

To gain true anonymity, you should use Tor browser. The VPNs in this guide all have zero logs policies and military-grade encryption: which is why they are considered the best anonymous VPNs.

A VPN provider can always identify its users' IP addresses and knows what they are doing online - even if no one else can. Even providers that keep no logs can monitor traffic in real-time.

How to be more anonymous with a VPN

The bottom line is that a VPN cannot provide definitive anonymity. However, VPNs are packed with features that offer a high degree of digital privacy. Certain VPN features are vital if a VPN is to give you the most "anonymous" experience possible.

The VPNs in this guide have all been selected because they provide the highest levels of digital privacy available on the VPN market.

So, if you've been searching for an "Anonymous VPN" on Google, you're really looking for these VPNs!

Let's take a look at the all-important "anonymity" features:

Choose a No logs VPN service

The most private VPNs keep zero logs. That means that after you finish a VPN session, there is no connection logs or usage logs stored anywhere. Everything that you did online is completely unrecorded, including the time you connected and what VPN server you connected to. 

With no logs stored anywhere, copyright holders or government agencies can never come knocking at the VPN's door for evidence of a paper trail.

Connection Logs and end-to-end (E2E) timing attacks

A few minimal connection logs or aggregated statistics aren't particularly damaging to a VPN service. It's when these services store connection time stamps and IP addresses, as well as other personally identifiable account details, that it becomes an issue.

Timestamps stored alongside IP addresses allow for time correlation attacks (E2E timing attacks). This is when data gathered from third-party endpoints (websites) is tied to a VPN user by analyzing what time they logged onto a specific VPN server. 

With a little effort, time, and money (and enough information), it is possible to use these logs to figure out what a VPN user did online. For this reason, these kinds of logs can pose a direct risk to your privacy. A no-log VPN is the closest thing you will find to an anonymous VPN.

Shared IPs

When you use a VPN server with "shared IPs" it means that not only you but many other people are all using that server IP address at the same time. With a large number of people all using the same IP address, it becomes hard to know what each person did online. 

This provides a certain level of anonymity by mixing in your web traffic with the web traffic of many other VPN users. A dedicated IP, on the other hand, is one that only you use. This kind of VPN IP address is much easier to track you on. Because you are the only person using it - you do not get lost in a sea of fellow VPN users.

Pay with bitcoin or with cash

If you want to boost your online anonymity, you'll need to ensure that your VPN provider knows as little about you as possible. We'd recommend using a burner email and a fake name, and paying with "washed" bitcoins wherever you can. Really privacy-conscious VPNs even allow you to send cash in the post!

Bear in mind that the VPN will still know which IP address you're connecting to their servers from. That IP address will be unique to your home, and can be used to determine where you are and some other basic personal details.

Double Hop or Chaining VPNs

Double Hop is a feature that allows VPN users to jump through various VPN tunnels, usually via two (but sometimes more) servers. This helps to further obfuscate the VPN user's web habits and location, particularly if those servers are also shared IPs

Chaining VPNs will slow your internet connection down, because of the extra processes it entails. However, if you prefer to trade connection speed for this extra security measure, it is worth a try.

Use a VPN with strong privacy

When you use a VPN that has strong encryption and a zero logs policy you stop local network administrators (workplaces, schools, shared accommodation, landlords, Wi-Fi hotspots) from being able to tell what you are doing online. 

ISPs are also stopped from tracking you - so they can't retain web browsing habits on behalf of the government (in countries with mandatory data retention). In the US, where ISPs are legally permitted to retain and sell web browsing histories to create a source of revenue, VPNs stop ISPs from keeping those logs in the first place. 

If a VPN keeps zero logs it has nothing to hand over to the authorities - even if they come knocking at the VPN's door with a warrant. It is for this reason that a zero-logs VPN with strongly implemented OpenVPN encryption is the most private option on the market.

How to be anonymous online?

For true online anonymity, nobody must be able to detect you are who you really are - or what you are doing - at any stage. VPNs simply do not do this. A VPN provides privacy from scrutiny by third parties (such as ISPs and network admins) using encryption. This is digital privacy NOT anonymity - it is a subtle difference, but it is a very important difference.

Using a VPN through Tor

Some people want to use Tor and a VPN together. On the whole, this is considered overkill. However, some VPNs accommodate this desire by offering a VPN into Tor and VPN through Tor. For most people, this simply isn't necessary. Allow me to explain why:

  • Using a VPN into Tor stops the first Tor node from knowing your real IP address. If you are somehow traced through the Tor network, then an adversary will find the VPN server, not your real IP. If using the Tor browser the VPN cannot see your data, but if using a service that routes your regular VPN connection to the Tor network, it can. Either way, this provides no protection from malicious Tor exit nodes. Non-HTTPS traffic entering and leaving Tor exit nodes is unencrypted and could be monitored. Tor exit nodes are also often blocked.
  • VPN through Tor. Some people want to route their traffic via Tor before it arrives at the VPN. This has some merits and can provide an anonymous VPN experience since the VPN will not know your real IP address. However, this is only true if you also sign up to the VPN anonymously with a burner email and using an anonymous payment method (like posting cash through the post or using "washed" bitcoins). The fact that the end-point is fixed rather than random (as is normal with Tor), however, reduces your anonymity on the Tor network. 

Staying Anonymous on Mobile 

Because of the reasons mentioned previously, A VPN will not make you anonymous on your Android or iPhone device. On mobile devices, which can be tracked with a MAC address, for example, things get even more tricky. A mobile phone is usually tied to the person that owns it (especially true if you have a mobile contract, but also true for many people with a pay as you go SIM), so anonymity is always going to be very hard to come by.

Purchasing a cheap phone and SIM with cash from a supermarket is an option that will provide much higher levels of anonymity. This, combined with a zero-logs VPN which you purchase with a fake name, a burner email address, and pay for in cash or with bitcoins, is the only way to get high levels of anonymity on a mobile device.

However, if you use that mobile device from your home's Wi-Fi address, for example, your IP address will still let the VPN know who you are. If served a warrant by the authorities (and the VPN keeps connection logs), an e2e timing attack could be used to figure out your IP address, which would then be tied to you by your ISP. It is for this reason that a zero-logs VPN is necessary for strong privacy.

Furthermore, even if your VPN does not keep logs, it could be served a warrant and gag order and VPN servers could be monitored for activity in real-time. It is for this reason that a VPN is said to provide privacy, not anonymity.

Although they won't make you anonymous, VPNs are in fact great for keeping you secure on public Wi-Fi and unblocking content. 

Are any free VPNs anonymous?

Running a good VPN service takes a lot of time, money, and resources. For this reason, any VPN claiming to be "free" should be treated with a healthy amount of suspicion.

Always ask yourself how that free VPN is paying its bills. The worst and most malicious free services have been known to log user data and, in some instances, can sell these logs on to third parties.

Whilst there are reputable VPN services out there that really are free, we'd recommend playing it safe and avoiding them if anonymity is important to you.

Conclusion

A lot of VPNs claim to provide total anonymity, but it's typically just a marketing tactic used to generate sales.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth investing in a VPN. They're invaluable online services that provide the highest level of digital privacy available on the market – and all without sacrificing performance. If you have your heart set on achieving true anonymity, however, you should really be using Tor.

Just remember that Tor is not suitable for data-intensive tasks like streaming, gaming and P2P torrenting. Luckily, a VPN is an ideal solution in these instances (especially torrenting)!

For this reason, VPNs are a unique privacy service that has no real alternative. In this article, we have described how to get the most private VPN experience possible. Our recommended VPNs keep no logs and implement high standards of OpenVPN encryption. Thus, you will be secure using any one of these services. If you have any questions about anything in this article, please don't hesitate to contact us below.

Written by: Hannah Hart

Originally hailing from Wales, Hannah Hart graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a 1:1 in Creative Writing, going on to work as an Editor across a number of trade magazines. As a professional writer, Hannah has worked across both digital and print media, and is familiar with collating news pieces, in depth reports and producing by lines for international publications. Otherwise, she can be found pouring over a tarot deck or spending more hours than she'll ever admit playing Final Fantasy 14.

3 Comments

Mike
on October 11, 2019
Reply
Express VPN is a chinese company (at least the devs are working under a chinese company) so I have my serious doubts how private and secure it could be
greg
on June 13, 2018
Reply
Buddy. VPN through tor does not expose your traffic to an exit node. You misunderstand how tunneling works.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to greg
on June 13, 2018
Reply
Hi greg, VPN through Tor (Tor -> VPN) does not expose your expose your traffic to an exit node. But Ray (who is on holiday at the moment) did not say this. He said that VPN into Tor (VPN -> Tor) exposes your traffic to exit nodes. I admit that his terminology could be clearer here, and I would prefer to say "Tor through VPN."
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