The Best VPN Services for 2020

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an essential tool for every modern internet user. Most importantly, a good VPN will keep your internet activity private and help prevent websites from tracking you as you surf the net. It's also a powerful anti-censorship tool for those who need it. 

But it's not all sensible stuff! A VPN will also allow you to unblock the full US Netflix catalog, and to torrent with complete peace of mind. In order to find out the best VPN service for your specific needs, read on!

Beijing's announcement

 

Following Beijing's announcement of a new security law that will increase surveillance and introduce censorship in Honk Kong, it is essential to act quickly to get a VPN. Visit our Hong Kong-specific guide to find out more.

What is the best VPN service?

In the list below, we look at what we think are the best VPN services on the market:

  1. ExpressVPN - is among the most respected names in the VPN industry
  2. CyberGhost VPN - offers a very fully featured service with servers just about everywhere
  3. Surfshark - is the new kid on the block. Based in the British Virgin Islands
  4. VyprVPN - offers a wealth of features and has now been fully audited to verify its privacy claims
  5. Private Internet Access - voted best VPN by Reddit, PIA is a long-term darling of the privacy community
  6. IPVanish - is a fast VPN service ideal for gaining privacy and unblocking masses of websites globally
  7. NordVPN - combines excellent performance with a service which is private, fast, and secure

The best VPN of 2020: In-depth analysis

No two VPN services are the same, but you can’t go wrong picking any of the services listed in this guide. The list below is designed to help you make an informed choice. If you want more information on any of the providers we discuss, then check out our full VPN reviews.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a trustworthy and reliable service that is feature packed

  • Pricing

    From $6.67 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Works with

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

ExpressVPN has consistently ranked as one of the best, if not the best VPN across multiple categories. You can't go wrong in picking them.


They are one of the fastest VPN providers in our official BestVPN Speed Test. This makes it a fantastic option for streaming HD content. They work with all major services that you'd want to unblock, with multiple country libraries, including Netflix, iPlayer, HBO, and many others.


For privacy, ExpressVPN has no usage logs, it's been audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers to check it's privacy policy. They even had a server seized in Turkey, which contained no sensitive data, which confirms that they do not log. They are based in the British Virgin Islands and so are outside of any major country's intelligence remit.


If you encounter any problems, then ExpressVPN’s 24/7 live chat support team is friendly and highly knowledgeable.


You can try ExpressVPN today risk free with a 30-day, no-quibble, money-back guarantee.

2. CyberGhost VPN

CyberGhost has servers where you need them and it's easy to use

  • Pricing

    From $2.75 - $12.99
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Works with

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

CyberGhost is a long time top VPN, with great all round service. A no-logs VPN service based in privacy-friendly Romania (with its software being developed in Germany). In addition to a very generous 45-day money-back guarantee, you can try out CyberGhost for free and with no credit card required for 24 hours.


CyberGhost VPN is unique in that it guarantees access to Netflix US when connected to one of its 'streaming optimized servers'. We haven't tested this guarantee out, but that's because it always seems to work. They also unblock most other streaming services like iPlayer.


Users can connect up to seven devices at once and torrent to their heart’s delight. CyberGhost offers 24/7 live chat support if you need it.

3. Surfshark

Surfshark is a new service that is blowing many VPNs out of the water

  • Pricing

    From $1.94 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Works with

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

Surfshark VPN is only a year or so old, but in that short time, it has taken the VPN market by storm with blazing fast speed performance and 500 servers in over 50 countries.

As is to be expected from today’s top VPN providers, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 live chat support. What is unusual is that it allows you to connect as many devices as you want to the service at the same time!

Throw in split tunneling so you can choose which apps routes through the VPN and which don’t, a full Smart DNS service, and the fact that Surfshark unblocked every service we threw at it, and you can see why it won our coveted Newcomer Award.

Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands and easily meets our requirements for a no-logs VPN. Technical security is also top-notch, and we appreciate the wealth of extra privacy and security features on offer. These include double-hop VPN, and DNS-based ad blocking and malware protection. 

Surfshark tells us that it uses obfuscation “as default with all servers,”. Unusually, Surfshark’s iOS VPN app features a kill switch, as does its Windows and macOS clients. Its macOS VPN client is, however, otherwise a little light on features. 

4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN has been proven to be secure by independent auditors! A great allrounder.

  • Pricing

    From $2.50 - $12.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Works with

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

VyprVPN has always been known for the high technical quality of its service, helped by the fact that it owns and manages its entire CDN network. It has now addressed concerns over its privacy credentials by moving to Switzerland and going 100% no logs.


Indeed, VyprVPN was the first (and still one of very few) services to have its no logs claims verified by a respected independent third party auditor. So kudos.


VyprVPN now allows torrenting on its network, which operates servers in over 70 countries, and allows up to five simultaneous connections. Finally, VyprVPN provides a generous 30-day money back guarantee, which means you can test the service risk free. 

5. Private Internet Access

PIA is one of Reddit’s favorite VPNs - a service with a lot of privacy features

  • Pricing

    From $2.85 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Works with

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

PrivateInternetAccess has long been a firm favorite with members of Reddit’s privacy forums. We do not consider the United States to be an ideal location for a VPN provider to be based, but it has no mandatory data retention laws, allowing PIA to be no-logs VPN service.


The encryption used by PrivateInternetAccess is first-rate, and we have never detected any IP leaks when testing the service. P2P is allowed on all servers, and torrent enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that PIA supports port forwarding through its NAT firewall. 


A 30-day money-back guarantee provides peace of mind, while an allowed five simultaneous connections should be enough for even demanding users. Oh, and it’s very pocket-friendly too. 

6. IPVanish

Easy to use - Servers in 60 countries - Apps for all platforms

  • Pricing

    From $3.70 - $10.00
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Works with

    • Netflix

IPVanish is a superb US-based VPN that is known to provide a superb, well rounded service. Despite being based in the US, which is admittedly not always considered the best place for a privacy-based service to be based, IPVanish VPN makes up for this by ensuring it runs a completely no logs service. This means that once a session ends there is never any record of what its users do while connected. 


As a result, even if US Authorities did come knocking at their door - there should be no sensitive information to hand over anyway. In addition, this is a service that implements strong OpenVPN encryption, and that has important VPN security and privacy features such as DNS leak protection, OpenVPN encryption, a Killswitch, and XOR obfuscated servers for concealing VPN use when necessary. IPVanish is not the cheapest VPN on the market. However, considering the large choice of servers it provides and the excellent apps it has for all platforms - it cannot be considered expensive. 


And anybody who wants to test the service, can do so risk free thanks to this provider's 7-day money back guarantee. Where unblocking is concerned IPVanish has servers in 60 countries, and those servers provide access to popular services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix US. Overall this is a great VPN service that allows users to install the VPN on up to 10 devices. And because it has live chat support you will be able to ask questions if needed.

7. NordVPN

NordVPN has the best performance for the cost - private, fast, and secure

  • Pricing

    From $3.49 - $11.95
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
  • Works with

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer

NordVPN makes it onto our list of the best VPN services because it combines great performance, a strong focus on privacy, and a raft of useful bells and whistles. This service also won our best overall VPN service at our Las Vegas awards ceremony earlier this year, and with good reason. And that’s before we factor in its bargain-basement prices if you purchase a longer subscription!

NordVPN keeps no logs and is based in Panama, which is outside the NSA-led Five Eyes’ direct sphere of influence. It is very effective at unblocking BBC iPlayer and  US Netflix, and as a backup, offers a full Smart DNS service to all users. Allowing up to 6 devices to connect at once is generous, while a 30-day money-back guarantee provides peace of mind. 

Xor obfuscation makes NordVPN effective at combatting VPN censorship, while features such as double-hop VPN and Tor over VPN bolstered its privacy credentials. CyberSec is a new feature which blocks DNS requests based on a real-time blocklist of harmful websites that may host malware. As such, it should shield you against malware, help prevent botnet control, and block many intrusive web ads.

NordVPN offers two Mac clients, which is slightly confusing. The older OpenVPN client is more fully-featured, but we detected a WebRTC leak when using it. We detected no such problem with the newer IKEv2 client, but it is somewhat lacking in features. 

Why do I need a VPN service?

A VPN connects your device to a VPN server via an encrypted VPN tunnel, the advantages of a VPN are listed below:

  • Anyone on the internet (such as websites you visit or torrent peers) cannot see who you are or who your ISP is because their “view” back to you is obstructed by the VPN server.
  • Your ISP cannot see what you get up to on the internet because its “view” is similarly obstructed by the VPN server.
  • Your ISP cannot see the contents of your data as it is encrypted between your device and the VPN server.
  • VPN servers are located all over the world, which is great for evading censorship or pretending to be somewhere else.

We cover more on this topic in our Beginner's Guide to VPNs.

The benefits of using a VPN service

For a few dollars a month a good VPN service will benefit you in the following ways:

  • Privacy from your ISP or government

    Between the encrypted VPN tunnel and the VPN server acting as a proxy, a VPN leaves your ISP in the dark about what you get up to on the internet. As every mass surveillance scheme on the planet relies on ISPs handing their records over to their government, a VPN is also a very effective tool at preventing the government from spying on you.

  • Privacy when visiting websites

    Websites can see your real IP address when you visit them. If you're using a VPN, however, they just see the IP of the VPN server. You should, however, combine the use of a VPN with browser add-ons which prevent website trackers for maximum privacy.

  • Evade censorship

    ISPs block access to websites for all sorts of reasons, for example in China content is blocked for political reasons. Using a VPN will unblock content. Just connect to a server located somewhere the content is not blocked.

  • Unblocking streaming services

    Using a VPN can unblock many streaming services by allowing you to “spoof” your location so you appear to be in a different country. For example, The US version of Netflix has by far the biggest library. With a VPN you can access US Netflix (and other services like BBC iPlayer) and watch it anywhere in the world. 

  • Staying secure on WiFi hotspots

    It is possible for hackers, or the companies who run the WiFi network, to access user data when they are browsing on a public network. Using a VPN encrypts all the data between your device and the VPN server, protecting you from anyone looking at your data via public WiFi. More information on this topic can be found in our VPNs for public wifi guide.

  • P2P downloading in safety

    In order to share torrent files, other torrent users need to know your IP address. Unfortunately, it’s not just other torrenters who can see your IP. In order to torrent without the very real risk of getting caught you should use a VPN religiously. We recommend checking out our best VPNs for torrenting guide for an in-depth look at what you should consider before you torrent anything.

New to VPNs? Familiarize yourself with the basics using our helpful guides:

The short answer is yes: using a VPN is legal almost everywhere. Even in most places where VPNs are 'banned', they are just blocked by ISPs rather than being illegal to use. It is usually what you do while using a VPN that is deemed illegal rather than the act of using a VPN in and of itself. This isn't always the case so it's worth doing your research.

We take a more in-depth look at the legality of VPNs in our are VPNs legal? guide.

VPN providers you should avoid!

Below we list the VPN providers that you should definitely avoid. We have reviewed over 150 VPN providers and offer in-depth analysis on them all. Check out our VPN reviews hub for more information. 

Provider Why avoid? Extra info
Hola Can sell data to third parties* Shares emails with marketing partners. Sells traffic data to sister firm. Shared anonymized data to third parties. Fraudulently steals & resells user bandwidth through sister company Luminati. DNS and WebRTC leaks detected.
Betternet Can sell data to third parties.* Allows advertisers to cookie users' browsers. Displays targeted advertising. Parent firm can access all data. Lets advertisers track and log user data. IP Leak in Chrome browser extension. Contains 14 tracking libraries in total (according to CSIRO report).
Hotspot Shield Free Can sell data to third parties.* Redirects users to affiliate sites when browsing. Displays targeted advertising in-app and on websites. Uses 5 different third-party tracking libraries. Shares data with third-party affiliates and partners. Shares all data with parent company.
Psiphon Can sell data to third parties.* Allows ad partners to track users. Displays targeted advertising. Shares data with their advertising partners. Shares data with third-party affiliates and partners. Shares all data with parent company.
HoxxVPN Can sell data to third parties.* Isn't a VPN (it's a ShadowScos proxy service). DNS and WebRTC leaks. Tracks user activities and works with authorities. Keeps logs and sells them to third-party partners. Shares data with third-party affiliates and partners.
SuperVPN Willing to disclose information to authorities. Reports of it being infected with malware. Tracks user activities and works with authorities. Extensive access to user's sensitive information. Stores session logs in the UK and US.
ArchieVPN Reports of being heavily infested with malware. Performs real-time analysis (claims this is for troubleshooting only).
Onavo Project Can sell data to third parties.* Uses user info for advertising and marketing. Displays ads to users. Belongs to Facebook. Shares and sells user data with third parties.
HatVPN Has no available privacy policy. Reports of being heavily infested with malware. Invasive app permissions Could be doing anything they want with user data. Developed and based in China.
VPN by Apalon Invasive app permissions. Shares data with third parties for marketing purposes. Displays ads. In-app purchases.
Private Pipe VPN Shares data with affiliate partners. Displays targeted ads on websites. Confusing privacy policy (claims no logs, but contradicts this claim).
Tuxler VPN Can sell data to third parties*. Uses logs to target ads at users. Shares user browsing data with advertising firms.
GO VPN Can sell data to third parties*. Admits to using customer data to build out their database. Displays targeted ads through the platform. Belongs to Chinese firm Talking Data. Willing to sell usage logs to third parties and partners. Extremely invasive app permissions.
Hexatech Can sell data to third parties*. Allows advertisers to track and log user data. Advertisers can access user data whenever they want. Created by Betternet (belongs to a marketing firm). Displays ads to users.
TouchVPN Can sell data to third parties*. Adds Cookies, Pixel Tags and Web Beacons to user browsers. Shares anonymous data with third parties.
Faceless.me Doesn't work. The privacy policy is too ambiguous to be taken seriously. Has no support if you have concerns or questions.
FinchVPN Can sell data to third parties*. Reports of being heavily infested with malware. N/A
Cross VPN Reports of being heavily infested with malware. N/A
VPN OneClick Free Reports of being heavily infested with malware. Outdated PPTP encryption on Android. Based in the UAE.
Flash Free VPN Invasive app permissions. Uses 11 third-party tracking libraries.
Fast Secure Payment VPN Reports of being heavily infested with malware. N/A
sFly Network Booster Reports of being heavily infested with malware. N/A
IP-Shield VPN Contains third-party tracking software. N/A
WiFi Protector VPN Uses 5 tracking libraries. N/A
TigerVPNs Fraudulently steals and resells users bandwidth. N/A
Private WiFi Appears to have poor or no encryption. N/A

*according to the privacy policy

Which is the best VPN software?

In an increasingly competitive market space, VPN providers are keen to stand out by offering additional bells and whistles in their custom software. These additional features can be useful, but should never come at the expense of the core functionality every VPN client should provide:

Features that top VPNs offer

As noted above, we think that effective IP leak protection and a kill switch should be a given in any decent VPN software. Other groovy features that top VPNs offer to set themselves apart from the pack include:

  • No logs policies

    Good privacy is achieved through privacy by design. We know that you aren’t using a VPN to do anything illegal, but a good tool should be designed from the ground-up to be as good as it can be at doing what it does.

    In the case of VPNs, a key aspect of fully realizing their purpose as a privacy tool is keeping no logs of what you do online. Simply put, a VPN provider cannot compromise your privacy by handing over logs to an adversary if it has no logs to hand over. This is good privacy by design. For a detailed look at this subject please check out best No Logs VPNs.

  • Strong encryption

    IP leaks are probably a bigger danger to your privacy when using a VPN than the risk of someone trying to break the encryption used to protect your data. But as we just said, a good tool is good by design, so a good VPN uses strong encryption.

  • Speed

    Distance between you and the VPN server will always be the biggest factor determining how fast your VPN connection is, but even taking this into account, some VPNs are faster than others. Check out a daily VPN speed tests for more information.

  • Smart DNS

    Smart DNS is an alternative technology to VPNs, used to spoof your location. It provides none of the privacy and security benefits of a VPN, and is therefore only really useful for unblocking streaming services. For this, however, it does offer some advantages over using a VPN:

    • It’s faster because no encryption/decryption is required, which means that buffering issues are less likely.
    • Almost every internet-capable device can be configured to use Smart DNS, including many devices such as games consoles and smart TVs which cannot run a VPN client.
    • Services which block VPNs can often (but not always) be accessed by Smart DNS instead. Stand-alone Smart DNS services are often comparable with the cost of a VPN service, but a number of top-tier VPN services throw in a Smart DNS service for free…
  • Obfuscation technology

    Regular VPN connections can be blocked using a simple firewall, something that repressive governments the world over take full advantage of.

    Most VPNs allow you to route OpenVPN connections over TCP port 443 in order to simulate regular HTTPS traffic. This can be effective but does not work against determined efforts to block VPN use. Some providers go the extra mile by providing more advanced ways to defeat VPN censorship. Please see How to bypass VPN blocks for more information on this subject.

  • Unblock Netflix

    Streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Crunchyroll, and more try to block VPN users. Unless a VPN service takes special measures to evade such blocks, it is unlikely you will be able to use it to access such services.

    Fortunately, a number of top VPNs specialize in unblocking these and other streaming platforms.

  • Additional stuff

    Many VPN services offer additional features such as double-hop VPN, DNS filtering, built-in malware protection, and more. We are a little ambivalent about many of these, although they are undoubtedly useful to some.

    When considering extra bells and whistles, be sure that they are useful to you before allowing them to affect your purchasing decision.

FAQs

Conclusion

This article should provide you with lots of food for thought. But as we have already said, there is no reason to panic if it seems a bit too much. All the VPNs in our top 10 list are good services, so you can’t really go wrong.

Written by: Douglas Crawford

Has worked for almost six years as senior staff writer and resident tech and VPN industry expert at ProPrivacy.com. Widely quoted on issues relating cybersecurity and digital privacy in the UK national press (The Independent & Daily Mail Online) and international technology publications such as Ars Technica.

232 Comments

lawrence cobb
on May 16, 2020
Reply
Douglas, I bought and used NordVPN for nearly all the 30 day money-back guarantee period, then canceled my purchase and got my money back. They repeatedly denied that the problem I was having with their service was their fault. I decided they were wrong, and bailed. Now I’d like your opinion on whether they should have fixed this, or is this normal VPN behavior that I should expect from other services: Soon after installing the VPN client on my Win10 laptop, while googling, I would randomly get a Google msg that refused to do the search for me until I filled in a Captcha. (I never got this problem before installing and using NordVPN, and haven’t gotten it since uninstalling.) The included information said I was searching so often that Google suspected I wasn’t human, and included the IP# assigned to the NordVPN client after it made a connection with its algorithmically chosen “best choice” server. NordVPN Support’s work-around that worked (among others that were useless) was to make my NordVPN client disconnect from the NordVPN server and reconnect to a different server. (To me, the mere fact that worked told me that NordVPN is doing their server NATting wrong, but they disagreed.) What do you think, and should I expect this problem using another service, like ExpressVPN?
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 lawrence cobb
on May 18, 2020
Reply
Hi lawrence. Although by no means universal, this is a common problem encountered when using a VPN service. The IPs you are issued by the VPN company are shared among many users. This great for privacy as it makes tracing an IP back to an individual user very hard, even when logs are kept (and NordVPN doesn't keep logs). But it does mean that the IP can get blacklisted thanks to the behaviour of other users (or in your case, simply because so many users have searched using that IP address). NordVPN's suggested the solution it did in the hope that the new server's IP hasn't been placed on a blacklist somewhere (so no, its not a NATing issue). This whole problem can be mitigated against somewhat by VPN providers who regularly refresh their IP pools, but the frequency with which each service does this is not usually public knowledge. ExpressVPN offers 30-day no-quibble money-back guarantee (which it is very good at keeping), so the best I can suggest is giving it a try and see what happens...
zaumeir
on May 6, 2020
Reply
hi Douglas whats your opinion about wevpn? a brand new vpn with awesome options
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 zaumeir
on May 6, 2020
Reply
Hi zaumeir. I can't comment on any VPN service until we have reviewed it.
John Gupta
on April 30, 2020
Reply
Good day sir. Can you please tell me why you have moved Nord VPN down to the #7 position. You previously had it rated much higher. What changed? They now have NordLynx and are even faster. Why do you rate them so low?
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 John Gupta
on May 1, 2020
Reply
Hi John. Our lists are always changing and evolving as new competitors come into the market and old ones up their game. NordVPN is an all round great service, but at this time, we don't feel they warrant a top spot. Please see our review of NordVPN for additional details of our thoughts on the service.
Terry
on April 29, 2020
Reply
While the site claims to be unbiased, accepting commissions from VPN providers creates a serious conflict of interests, regardless of claims. The two highest rated VPNs just happen to have the some of most lucrative commission structures. Chance? You tell me. You also fail to state that any one of the "eyes based" VPNs can be ordered by their respective governments to log ALL traffic and also be given a gag order to not notify any customers of the ordered logging (ie: The USA and the Patriot Act). That in itself is a serious breach of security and any VPN whose jurisdiction falls in an "eyes" country should be avoided if you want any real security and privacy.
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 Terry
on April 29, 2020
Reply
Hi Terry. This is simply not true. Every one of our full reviews examines the jurisdiction under which a VPN service operates for just this reason, although it has to be said that any government can force even the most rabid no-logs service to start logging at any time. Again, we do our best to explain this in many of our articles.
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