A good VPN will help keep your internet activity private and prevent websites and other organisations from tracking you as you surf the net. They are also widely used for unblocking streaming services not available in your country.
If you like the sound of these perks and benefits, read on to find out which VPN services are the best to use in 2020.
ExpressVPN has consistently ranked as one of the best and fastest VPNs, in all countries. You can't go wrong in picking them. Amazing privacy, unblocking, and speeds. Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, HBO and more.
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.
- Super fast - great for streaming!
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Unblocks Netflix, HBO, iPlayer
- 24/7 Live Chat Support
- Strong Encryption and No Logs
- Special Offer: 3 months free!
CyberGhost is a long time top, super fast VPN, with great all round service, everywhere in the world. 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.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) torrenting allowed
- Private: Strong no logs policy
- Based in Romania so no government spying!
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Unblocks US Netflix + BBC iPlayer
- Special Offer: 79% OFF!
VyprVPN has always been known for the high technical quality of its service, amazing speeds, 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.
- Strong encryption protocols and policies
- Worldwide server network
- 24/7 customer support
- PayPal now a payment method
- Proprietary Technology & exclusive features
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.
- Cheaper than most similar VPNs
- Great for privacy and security
- Lots of encryption options (including OpenVPN, our recommended protocol)
- Fast connection speeds for streaming
- Servers all over the world
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.
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.
- Strong OpenVPN encryption + zero logs
- Killswitch and DNS leak protection
- Torrenting is permitted
- Servers in over 60 countries
- Unblocks Netflix US
How does a VPN work?
A VPN is software or app that allows you to connect your PC, Mac, smartphone or router to a VPN server via an encrypted tunnel. The advantages of doing this are:
- 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.
If you're new to VPNs, you can familiarize yourself with the basics using our helpful guides:
How do we pick the Best VPNs to use?
If you've already begun looking for a VPN, you've probably already noticed that there are hundreds of services to pick from and many of them claim to be the "best".
The truth is, there are many VPNs that offer a high quality service and many that leave a lot to be desired. We have tested many different VPN services since we began in 2013, and in our time we have devised a series of tests to help us cut through the noise and find the very best VPN services available.
As part of our testing methodology, we look for:
- Security features. We look at what encryption the VPN uses, how well they implement it and if they have any additional features to compliment user privacy, such as a kill switch or obfuscation.
- Attitude to privacy. We prefer VPN providers who take privacy seriously. As such, we look for strong no-logs policies and which jurisdiction the VPN operates from.
- No leaks. A VPN that leaks your information when you're using it is next to useless, so we use our own in-house VPN leak testing tool to make sure they are watertight.
- Device compatibility. People are surfing the web on all sorts of different devices, from Mac and PCs to smartphones. So, we make sure our recommendations support all major devices and they are easy to use.
- Server speeds and locations. If you are a gamer or avid streamer, a VPN with fast servers situated all over the world is essential to give you the best experience.
- Unblocking power. Unblocking services is something of an art form for VPNs and not everyone is up to the task. We test VPNs with all major streaming services and tell you which ones they work with.
- Torrenting (P2P) policies. Not every VPN allows torrenting on their servers. We check if a VPN is, or isn't, suitable to be used when torrenting.
- Value for money. We'll make sure you don't get ripped off. There are some expensive VPNs that are rubbish, but equally some cheaper services that are really impressive.
Why do I need a VPN service?
As mentioned at the top of this guide, there are countless different applications for VPN software. Below, we break these benefits down and look at them more closely.
The benefits of using a VPN service
For a few dollars a month a 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.
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.
Torrenting 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.
Are VPNs legal?
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. For more information on these or any other VPN providers you come across, check out our VPN reviews hub.
|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 Shadowsocks 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.|
|VPN by Apalon||Invasive app permissions. Shares data with third parties for marketing purposes.||Displays ads. In-app purchases.|
|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.|
|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|
What goes into 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:
- Effective IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection.
From a privacy and security perspective, simply disabling IPv6 connectivity is fine.
- Mitigation against WebRTC leaks.
WebRTC leaks are a browser issue, and preventing them using regular VPN software is not easy. It is, however, possible to tighten up settings and use firewall walls to minimize their likelihood.
- Kill switch.
A kill switch prevents your IP address from becoming exposed in the event of a VPN dropout.
- Easy to use.
Although in reality, most VPN software is pretty easy to use these days.
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
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.
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.
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 7 list are good services, so you can’t really go wrong. With that said, let's review our top picks:
- ExpressVPN - is among the most respected names in the VPN industry
- CyberGhost VPN - offers a very fully featured service with servers just about everywhere
- VyprVPN - offers a wealth of features and has now been fully audited to verify its privacy claims
- Private Internet Access - voted best VPN by Reddit, PIA is a long-term darling of the privacy community
- IPVanish - is a fast VPN service ideal for gaining privacy and unblocking masses of websites globally