If, like many of us, you’re still working remotely these days, using a virtual private network to protect your privacy online is more important than ever. However, a free VPN typically doesn’t give you enough security, and a paid VPN service can be pricey. With the current crisis pinching a lot of people’s pockets, paying a hundred dollars or more for homebound privacy protection doesn’t square with everyone’s priorities.
But I have good news: It’s actually possible to find a cheap VPN service that can reliably secure your internet connection and protect your online privacy. Some of the most affordable VPNs available are less than half the cost of premium VPN services. And they still offer a fast connection, a solid download speed, and a wealth of features with only an internet connection. You can even hook up your mobile device for secure surfing on your phone.
If you’re looking for the best cheap VPN, here are three with affordable prices and excellent security reputations.
- Number of servers: 3,200-plus
- Number of server locations: 65
- Country/jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- Cost: $2.49 a month for two years ($59.76 up front)
Honestly, my personal preference for the best cheap VPN is Surfshark. Of the three, it’s the only service provider located in a country outside of US intelligence-sharing agreements, and it’s the fastest VPN you can find for the price. The connection offered by this VPN company is very speedy with no leaks detected, lightweight but feature-rich and cheap without being chintzy. Plus, you can run every device in your house through it.
The upfront price is more than the other two best cheap VPN services are asking. But, you get two years of service instead of one. This recommended VPN is definitely worth the upgrade.
While Surfshark’s network is smaller than some, the VPN service makes up for it on features and connection speed. Let’s start off with the biggest win it offers: Unlimited device support. If you want to run your entire home or office on Surfshark’s VPN, you don’t have to worry about how many devices you have on or connected. It also offers anti-malware, ad-blocking and tracker-blocking as part of its software.
Another reason Surfshark is my highest recommended cheap VPN is that it received generally high marks when its Chrome and Firefox extensions were audited for privacy by German security firm Cure 53 (full report) — though that audit was commissioned by Surfshark.
The company has a solid range of VPN app support, running on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, FireTV and routers. Additional devices such as game consoles can be configured for Surfshark via DNS settings. We particularly like the feature that allows you to whitelist certain apps and websites to automatically bypass the VPN. For some business uses, this can be critically important.
Surfshark also offers three special modes designed for those who want to get around restrictions and more carefully hide their online footsteps. Camouflage Mode masks your VPN activity so your ISP doesn’t know you’re using a VPN. Multihop jumps your VPN connection through multiple countries to hide your trail. Finally, NoBorders Mode “allows [you] to successfully use Surfshark in restrictive regions.”
Just be careful. Doing any of these three things could be illegal in your country and could result in severe penalties. During our testing, we saw no DNS or IP address leaks, and had no trouble accessing streaming platform Netflix on our device.
Read more: Surfshark VPN review: A feature-rich service with blazing speeds and a security focus
Private Internet Access
- Number of servers: 3,252
- Number of server locations: 52
- Country/jurisdiction: US
- Cost: $2.85 a month or $40 a year (two months free)
While we haven’t reviewed it recently, VPN provider Private Internet Access likely has the strongest reputation among the three best cheap paid VPN services on this list. Beloved by a loyal fan base, the VPN company has been around since 2010, swears by its no-logging policy and routinely offers new updates and features.
PIA does not release information on the number of IP addresses available for its VPN service, but at 3,252, its VPN server count is more than any of our other cheap VPN picks. This recommended cheap VPN provides 10 simultaneous connections, a connection kill switch feature (like the other two VPNs in this list) and some good online documentation and security guidance. PIA’s servers are also all friendly to peer-to-peer sharing if you’re into torrenting.
The desirable WireGuard VPN protocol is currently available on all of PIA’s platforms, which range widely and include Windows, Android, Mac, iOS and Linux. This cheap VPN also offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, as well as a new private browser for iOS that wipes your data when you close it. If you’re ready to make the leap to VPN routers, PIA has those, too.
Even though it doesn’t offer live chat, PIA does promise 24/7 support and accepts a wider range of payment options than most VPN service providers. Along with credit cards and PayPal, you can pay with Bitcoin, Etherium or Amazon payments. In an additional privacy boost, this cheap VPN provider will even accept gift cards from 90 different retailers.
- Number of servers: 1,300
- Number of server locations: 60
- Country/jurisdiction: US
- Cost: $5 a month or $39 a year
IPVanish is the least expensive VPN I’ve reviewed recently.
A big win for VPN service provider IPVanish is its fun, configurable interface, which makes it a great VPN for those who are interested in learning how to understand what a VPN does under the hood. Its multiplatform flexibility is also ideal for people focused on finding a Netflix-friendly VPN for streaming.
A unique feature of IPVanish, one we’re intrigued by, is the VPN’s support of Kodi, the open-source media streaming app that was once known as XBMC. Any serious media fan has used or built Kodi or XBMC into a media player and the integrated IPVanish Kodi plugin provides access to media worldwide.
At $5 a month or $39 a year, IPVanish is obviously trying to move you towards its yearly program. I’m a little disappointed that it only allows a seven-day trial, rather than a full 30 days, but it does offer a full money-back guarantee.
No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during my testing. Even so, we recommend some caution here. In 2019, reviewers at CNET’s sister publication ZDNet detected a partial IPVanish DNS leak during testing. Without DNS leak protection, organizations that want to block VPN traffic could do so and it could be harder to hide your VPN use from government authorities.
Despite this, I still recommend IPVanish as a flexible, configurable cheap VPN subscription choice for users who are new to VPNs.
Read more: IPVanish review: Get under the hood with this zippy VPN
For more, check out how to choose the right VPN provider for working from home, red flags to watch out for when choosing a VPN service, and seven Android VPN apps to avoid on your mobile device because of their privacy sins.
Read more about connectivity
Originally published earlier and updated periodically.