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Protect Yourself Online with a VPN: Our Review of the Top VPN Companies

Best Overall
ip vanish vpn
  • Fast download speeds
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • 7-day money-back guarantee

IPVanish VPN

Best for Fast Speeds
nord vpn logo
  • Fast upload speeds
  • More simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

NordVPN

Best for Customization
torguard logo
  • Useful add-on services
  • Support for VPN routers
  • Flexible payment options

TorGuard

We use the internet for work, socialization, recreation, education, financial management, and more. If we spend so much of our time online (and share so much information there), that connection needs to be as secure as possible.

That’s where a personal VPN comes in. A VPN service will encrypt your data and mask your location. This improves your online privacy while you browse the internet, provides added security when data is sent to and from your computer, and gives you access to more content in more places.

But with dozens of VPN companies to choose from, how do you know which one to choose? We researched and tested some of the top VPN services to help you find one that will suit your needs. Keep reading to learn more about the best personal VPN services and what they can do.

What should you look for in a personal VPN service?

All personal VPNs should offer data encryption and location masking, but there are a few other features you should look for when choosing a service.

  • Privacy and transparency: One of the biggest reasons to use a VPN is to keep your browsing data and online traffic private. Choose a company that doesn’t keep logs of your traffic. We suggest looking through the privacy policy and terms of use—they should be clear and specific so you know what to expect when you sign up.
  • Effect on internet speed: Your internet speed will decrease when you use a VPN, but your connection still needs to be usable whether you’re checking email or playing a multiplayer game online. Ideally, the VPN will have only a small effect on your speed.
  • Price: You’re going to have to take VPN companies at their word when they say they don’t log your traffic. If the VPN service is free, the company has to make money some other way. For this reason, we’re a bit wary of completely free services. Although we don’t suggest using a free service, you shouldn’t have to pay much more than $10/month.
  • Usability: Using a VPN shouldn’t be a hassle—after all, you’re going to be using it pretty much any time you go online. We suggest choosing a customizable and easy-to-use VPN service.

The Best VPN Companies

1. IPVanish VPN: Best VPN service overall

Pros

  • No traffic logs
  • Transparent privacy policy
  • Fast download speeds
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Quick and simple setup
  • Customizable settings
  • Reasonable price
  • Positive reputation
  • Plenty of servers in lots of locations
  • Access to sites that normally block VPNs
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Support for VPN routers

Cons

  • Significant drop in upload speed

Why we rated IPVanish as the best personal VPN

IPVanish earned the top spot by offering privacy, excellent customer support, fast download speeds, and useful features at a very reasonable price. We liked how easy the service was to use, and we were impressed with the company’s transparency.

Privacy and transparency

IPVanish doesn’t keep traffic logs and is extremely clear about what information it does collect. The privacy policy and terms of service are explained in great detail, so if you’re curious, you can find out exactly what information is collected and why. (The short version is that IPVanish collects just enough information to manage your account but never tracks your online activity.)

Speed

IPVanish was the second-fastest service we tested for download speed. In our tests the download speed dropped by only 9.3%. Your exact speed will fluctuate depending on a wide variety of factors, but our team had no trouble streaming content, browsing the internet, downloading files, and playing online games while using IPVanish. We should mention that upload speed drops quite a bit when using the VPN—but since upload speed is much less important for most users, we didn’t consider it a huge downside.

Practicality

IPVanish is easy to use and pretty inexpensive—especially if you choose the annual plan. This makes it a good option for average internet users. It also comes with other practical features.

  • There are servers in lots of countries, so you can choose the best place to connect depending on what you want to do online.
  • You can use IPVanish on routers, Chromebooks, Android devices, iOS devices, Amazon Fire TVs, and Windows phones. It also works with lots of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • If your VPN loses connection, a kill switch blocks network traffic so your data isn’t exposed.
  • Sites that would normally detect a VPN and block access didn’t detect IPVanish while our team tested it out.

Customer support


We were impressed by the amount of support IPVanish offers customers. Customer service staff is on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. IPVanish also has a detailed FAQ section on its website so you can find answers to many questions without calling and talking to someone. On top of that, IPVanish has detailed instructions and specs for using the VPN with different operating systems, which makes it easy to look up how to use it with your specific devices.

Features
  • Uses over 850 servers in more than 60 countries
  • Supports five simultaneous connections
  • Has apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin

2. NordVPN: Best for fast speeds on multiple devices

Pros

  • No traffic logs
  • Fast download speeds
  • Fast upload speeds
  • Easy setup
  • Support for more simultaneous connections than other providers
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Huge section of online tutorials for specific operating systems and devices

Cons

  • Limited access to payment history information
  • Some sites detected VPN and blocked access

Why we recommend NordVPN

NordVPN has a lot to offer, and it came close to beating out IPVanish for the top spot. If you choose NordVPN you get fast upload and download speeds, more device connections, and options for customization. Ultimately, NordVPN got bumped to second place (in spite of the impressive connection speed) because it could be detected and blocked by websites when other VPNs weren’t and because it was difficult to access payment history details. If you aren’t worried about either of those things, it might be the right service for you.

NorSpeed

NordVPN was the fastest VPN service we tested by a pretty wide margin (especially for upload speeds). If a fast internet connection is your number-one priority, NordVPN is probably your best bet. Using a VPN had an almost negligible effect on both our upload and download speeds.

Multiple connections

Nord VPN allows six simultaneous connections, which is more than any of the other personal VPN services we tested. If you want to keep a lot of devices connected through your VPN, it is a good choice.

Smooth user experience

multiple devices different agesOur team found NordVPN easy to set up and easy to use. We couldn’t access sites like Netflix that block you if they realize you’re using a VPN, but we could still stream content and play online games without any trouble. Like IPVanish, NordVPN also uses a kill switch if your connection drops, so you don’t have to worry about data being sent over an insecure connection.

Customization

People use VPNs for many different reasons. NordVPN recognizes this and makes it easy to customize your experience depending on what you need. NordVPN offers servers in a wide variety of locations, but it also offers many different types of servers. This means that you can choose a different type of server depending on your priorities, whether you care more about speed, anonymity, or encryption.

  • Double encryption servers
  • Onion over VPN servers
  • Anti DDoS servers
  • Dedicated IP servers
  • Standard VPN servers
  • P2P servers
  • Obfuscated servers
Features
  • Uses 1,078 servers in 61 countries
  • Supports six simultaneous connections
  • Has apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin

3. TorGuard: Best for customization

Pros

  • No traffic logs
  • Affordable price
  • Useful add-on services
  • Flexible payment options
  • Support for VPN routers
  • Lots of servers

Cons

  • Slower download speeds than IPVanish and NordVPN
  • Significant slowdowns on mobile

Why we recommend TorGuard

TorGuard VPN earned a spot in the top three by offering good basic service as well as more add-on services than other VPN companies. (For example, you can get both an anonymous proxy and a VPN service in one bundle.) TorGuard is a good option for technically minded internet users looking for a little extra. Even if you don’t add on any extras, TorGuard’s normal VPN service is a good deal. If you choose the annual plan, TorGuard’s VPN is less expensive than both IPVanish and NordVPN.

TorGuard screenshotPracticality

TorGuard was slower than our other two top VPN companies, but we had no trouble browsing the internet, streaming content, or playing online games. As long as your normal internet connection is reasonably fast, you’ll probably be fine with the drop in speed caused by TorGuard’s VPN.

Customization

TorGuard is a great option if you want to customize your service to your specific needs. You can sign up for anonymous proxy service, extra device connections, a premium network, or a DDoS-protected IP, depending on your preferences. TorGuard also sells routers that come with 30 days of free VPN service.

Flexible payment options and schedules

Most VPN companies let you pay with anonymous payment options like Bitcoin, but TorGuard goes a bit further by letting you pay with gift cards. TorGuard also offers a wider selection of payment plans than others. You can pay monthly, quarterly, semiannually, or annually.

Features
  • Over 1,600 servers in more than 50 countries
  • Supports five simultaneous connections
  • Apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin

Other companies to consider

These companies didn’t crack our top three, but they may still be right for you. Keep reading to learn about the other VPN services we tested.

4. VyprVPN

Our experience with VyprVPN

We were pretty happy with VyperVPN, and it almost made it into our top three. VyprVPN is a good option because it is affordable, easy to use, and fairly quick. VyprVPN also makes it easy to use this service with a router. If you choose the premium plan you also get what VyprVPn calls the Chameleon protocol, which lets you visit sites that would normally block VPN users.

VyprVPN didn’t quite make it into the top three because while it doesn’t log traffic, it does collect a little more info than other services, and it stores some of that data for 30 days.

Features
  • Has over 700 servers in more than 60 countries
  • Base plan supports three simultaneous connections
  • Premium plan supports five simultaneous connections
  • Offers apps for mobile devices

5. TunnelBear VPN

Our experience with TunnelBear VPN

TunnelBear is affordable, very easy to use—and dare we say—cute. We like TunnelBear because the company is clear about the information it collects and why. TunnelBear also offers a free plan for users who don’t need more than 500MB per month. While we don’t normally recommend free services, TunnelBear has paying customers, so it doesn’t need to make money by selling your information to third parties. If you want more features, you’ll need to pay for service, but it is relatively inexpensive if you choose the annual plan. While TunnelBear isn’t at the top of the list, it beats out the companies below because it offers quick download speeds and we were able to stream content easily while using the VPN.

Features
  • Uses servers in over 20 countries
  • Supports five simultaneous connections
  • Has apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin

6. Private Internet Access

Our experience with Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is the cheapest VPN service we tested (aside from TunnelBear’s limited free plan). If you’re on a tight budget, it might be your best option. However, this is one of those cases where you probably get what you pay for—it was one of the slower services we tested and has servers in only 25 countries. Even though the company has lots of servers, that significantly limits your options if you’re trying to access geo-specific content. Private Internet Access also doesn’t really have an interface for desktop users, which makes it harder to customize your settings.

Features
  • Uses 3,253 servers in 25 countries
  • Supports five simultaneous connections
  • Has apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin

7. ExpressVPN

Our experience with ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN costs more than any other service on our list, but it was incredibly easy to use and has servers in lots of countries.

It was slower than some other services we tested, but we were still able to stream content without any issues. ExpressVPN also has dramatically fewer servers than most of the competition and supports only three simultaneous connections, whereas most other services support five.

Features
  • Uses over 145 servers in 94 countries
  • Supports three simultaneous connections
  • Has apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin

8. PureVPN

Our experience with PureVPN

PureVPN has a nice, easy-to-use interface, servers in lots of countries, and good anonymous payment options—but ultimately it’s just too slow. During our tests we noticed drastic drops in our download and upload speeds. In fact, it was the slowest VPN service we tested.

Features
  • Uses over 500 servers in more than 121 countries
  • Supports five simultaneous connections
  • Has apps for mobile devices
  • Accommodates anonymous payment options, including gift cards and Bitcoin

What is a VPN and do I need one?

What you should know about using a VPN

VPNs offer privacy and security online, but there are a few things you should know before you start using them:

  • Your internet speed will likely drop when you use a VPN. For most internet users, the download speed will be more important than the upload speed, but if you upload a lot of content online, you may need to pay close attention to both. We should also note that your experience will vary depending on the normal speed of your internet connection. If you have extremely fast internet, a significant drop in speed may still not make much difference when you stream content or play games. However, if your normal connection is already a bit sluggish, a small drop in speed caused by the VPN may make the difference between being able to stream a movie smoothly and getting frustrated while it buffers in the middle of a climactic chase scene.
  • A VPN alone cannot protect you against malware and viruses.
  • If you use a VPN client on your router, you don’t have to run a separate VPN on your computer or your phone while those devices are connected to the router. Using a VPN on your router lets you connect more devices securely, and it adds more security for all the devices that connect to it (laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, security cameras, smart lightbulbs etc.).
  • While a VPN can help you get around geo-related content blocking, the content you have access to will change if your IP address appears to be in a different country.
  • A VPN company will have access to all your online traffic. If you care about privacy, it is essential to choose a VPN provider that doesn’t keep logs of your online activity.

Do you need a personal VPN?

There are three main reasons to consider using a VPN: privacy, security, and access to content.

Privacy

Without a VPN your internet service provider can see what you search for, what sites you visit, and what you do while you’re online. This information often makes it into the hands of advertisers, which starts to get annoying when you visit a website and then start seeing ads for that site (or the products sold there) in your social media feeds and on other sites you visit.

If you use a VPN, there is another layer between you and your ISP, so it can’t see what you’re doing. If your ISP doesn’t know which sites you visit or what you shop for, it can’t pass that information along to advertisers (or other interested parties—for example, governments).

Security

woman with laptop in coffee shopNormally when you use the internet, the data sent to and from your computer is unencrypted (unless you have software-level encryption). This is already a concern for everyday users, but it is especially problematic if you use open Wi-Fi at coffee shops, hotels, or other public places. If you use an open Wi-Fi connection at your favorite coffee shop, someone else in the same shop could sit down with a laptop and access the data packets being sent by your computer (sites visited, contents of emails, account login info, and more). For example, if you use the Wi-Fi to check your bank account and pay bills, someone could get your bank account number, username, and password.

A VPN service encrypts the data your computer sends and receives. If you’re running a VPN client, you can safely use open Wi-Fi at the airport or library without worrying about someone stealing your account credentials or spying on your online activity. We still don’t recommend doing your banking in a public space since a VPN can’t stop someone from reading your screen over your shoulder, but a VPN can make your connection safer and more secure.

Access to content

woman with smartphone and laptop in airportWebsites and governments sometimes limit access to content based on your location. In most cases, your location is determined by your computer’s IP address. A VPN can help you get around quite a bit of geo-blocking because it masks your computer’s real IP address. Instead, it will look like your IP address is the address of the VPN server. Many VPN services will let you connect to a VPN server in a country or city of your choice. That way, you can still access a lot of the content you’d normally access in the US, even when you’re traveling overseas.

This isn’t a fail-proof solution—some countries have outlawed VPNs, and some websites can detect when you’re using a VPN and block access. However, a VPN can make it easier to access geo-specific content from wider variety of places.

Which VPN should you choose?

If you want to improve your online privacy and security while getting access to more content, a VPN is probably a good investment. We’d suggest choosing IPVanish or NordVPN, but ultimately, you’ll need to decide which features are most important to you and whether you care most about speed, price, customization, or privacy policies.

Have you used a VPN service in the past? Share your experiences and advice in the comments below.

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