If you’re browsing the internet from the United States, there are several reasons why you may choose to use a VPN service, rather than connecting directly to the internet via an ISP. These include:
This type of protection is important as, unlike in some other jurisdictions, American law does not prevent your internet service provider (ISP) from collecting your browsing data and selling it to other companies for marketing purposes. With more and more of us spending hours each day browsing the internet across a large number of devices, this information can be used to build up a very accurate picture of who we are and what our interests are – information that many of us would rather remain private.
Additionally, a VPN can be very useful when traveling. If you haven’t spent much time outside of the United States, you may not be aware that the internet can look very different when you’re not at home. A number of streaming services, such as Hulu and HBO Go, are completely unavailable and others, including Netflix, have very different content libraries for their international users. By setting up a VPN before you go traveling, you can be sure of getting the internet experience you are used to, wherever you are on the planet, even in countries like China, which heavily manage the internet traffic that comes in and out of the country.
If you’ve never used a VPN before, you may have questions about which are the most reliable and offer the best value. That’s what this article is here to answer. When you install a VPN on your system, you are agreeing to pass all of your internet traffic through a third-party server. Nowadays, the vast majority of this data will be encrypted, but it’s still worth making sure that you have confidence in your chosen VPN service before you sign up. That’s why we’ve taken some time to compare five of the best VPN services, weigh up the features that each of them offers and recommend the best of them to you. While we have ranked our choices, some offer features that may make them more suitable for certain users, so make sure that you read through all of the information before you make a decision on which VPN is best for your needs.
As we outlined above, there are various different reasons why people decide they need to use a VPN, and this means that different people will make different choices. In an attempt to balance our ratings, we have considered a number of features when putting together this list. These include:
As we’ve mentioned before, the US government has taken an active approach in collecting information about how its citizens use the internet. While this program has expanded to other countries in the past, it is internet users in the United States who are at greatest risk of having their information collected, stored and analyzed. Filtering all of your internet traffic through a VPN helps to anonymize your use of the internet and keep your personal information safe from prying eyes.
There is no way to totally guarantee your privacy and as the US government is not open about the ways in which it collects this type of information, it is impossible to be totally sure that a VPN will offer the type of protection that you are looking for. Nevertheless, it certainly offers an increased level of protection versus using a vanilla internet connection.
We have reviewed a large number of VPN options for US consumers before putting together our list of the top five US VPNs. They are:
1. Express VPN – Express VPN is one of the easiest options to set up and get using. It’s possible to connect through a number of countries in order to ensure your privacy and get access to a diverse range of online content from all over the world. Plus, the 30-day money-back guarantee offered by the company makes it easy to try out the software and reclaim the money you’ve paid if you later decide that it’s not for you.
2. NordVPN – This is a great choice if you are mostly interested in watching content from around the world, thanks to the large number of server options that the company offers. Security features are also strong on NordVPN, but there are stronger options available out there if this is your top priority.
3. CyberGhost – Again, this is a top choice for any user looking to stream content. Anonymity is also an important feature here as the name would imply and costs for CyberGhost are lower than for some of its rival options.
4. Hide.me – This is designed for those who are looking to hide their online footprints. If the reason that you are seeking a VPN is to download or torrent files with total anonymity, then it’s worth considering this option as it is fast and secure. It is one of the more expensive selections though so make sure that you understand it before you select it.
5. SurfShark – The range of servers available on this VPN is smaller than with some rivals but they are a low-cost option and make it possible to connect a range of devices to your account for one low monthly fee.
We’ll now look at each of the options in a little more detail to help you decide which is right for you.
This is the most fully featured VPN option and offers a great range of features and an easy setup process at a reasonable price. There are over 3,000 servers located across 94 different countries. This means that you will have access to content from almost any place that you could want to and that there is plenty of resilience in the event of a server being shut down or blocked by a particular content provider.
Service is provided through the ExpressVPN app, which automatically configures your computer to use the ExpressVPN app when it is open. The app also allows you to switch between servers and monitor the levels of usage that your account is experiencing.
Pricing is also reasonable and there are discounts available for purchasing the service in advance. If you want to pay from month to month, then the cost is $12.95 per month for up to five simultaneous connections. If you are able to pay for a year upfront then you will pay $80.04 for the year, a saving of over 49%.
Download speeds are generally fairly good, you’ll only notice a slowdown if you are used to a very fast internet connection. This is more than sufficient for streaming HD video and downloading large files with ease. It’s also perfectly suitable for playing online games and most other high intensity activities. Each device on your network will have a separate connection so, if your home network is capable, you’ll be able to offer this speed to multiple computers, cell phones and tablets within your simultaneous connections allowance.
There is no free trial available, but if you choose the $12.95 a month option, you can cancel after just one month of usage. This makes it easy to try the service for yourself and work out if it is right for you and your needs.
The company behind ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands and is not subject to US laws and regulations when it comes to internet activity. The company states that it does not collect logs of user activity, so there is no file to be handed over even if governmental authorities do try to request one. Your choice of server and connection dates are logged, as is the amount of data that is uploaded or downloaded, but this information is not enough to log your browsing activity.
NordVPN is another of the big players in the world of VPN services. The range of countries available is slightly smaller than ExpressVPN at only 50 but, as with its competitor, there are over 1,000 severs spread between the countries, meaning that there is a robust network available for users to connect to. NordVPN is well suited to power users and offers features such as a kill switch and dedicated P2P support, which is great for those who want to download files using their VPN service.
For less powerful users, there is also a built-in streaming support service, which will help you to select a server that will allow you to stream a certain piece of content to your device. This is great if you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of which services are available in which countries.
NordVPN’s server performance tends to vary depending on the country you are connecting through and the particular server that you have chosen. In some cases, we experienced very long ping times and significant drops in internet connection speed compared to a direct connection but in others, we had no problems streaming video and downloading large files with ease. The large number of servers means that you have other options if the first VPN server that you connect to is operating a little slowly.
The company that operates NordVPN is based out of Panama, meaning that it is beyond the reach of US authorities when it comes to data collection and monitoring of activity. This, combined with the no log policy, makes it the ideal choice for those who are particularly concerned with their online privacy.
Pricing of NordVPN is competitive and a little bit lower than ExpressVPN. Monthly pricing comes in at $11.99 with discounts available for those who commit to a longer period of membership in advance. Deals are available now and again so keep an eye on the website to see what is available.
CyberGhost is a great choice if your main concern is to ensure that your internet browsing occurs without a trace being left. Unlike some of the other VPNs that we have covered, which prioritize streaming content and browsing websites from overseas, CyberGhost is very clear that its main priority is the safety and security of user data.
There is a network of servers in over 88 countries but the speeds that they offer are not as high as some of the other options on the market. Streaming video from the US version of Netflix for example can be a little bit temperamental, although we were able to get the server to work in the end. If data security is not a priority for you and there will be less technical people using the VPN service, then it may be worth looking elsewhere.
The security and privacy policies are second to none, however. The company behind CyberGhost is based in Romania, giving their users the confidence that any data they control is protected by the European Union’s strict GDPR data protection laws. This means that there are strict controls on the amount of data that the company can hold on you and how long it is able to retain it for. In addition, there are strict legal limits on what data can be divulged to outside parties, including governments outside the reach of European Union law.
On top of these legal protections, CyberGhost has a ‘no log’ policy and does not retain any information on the activities of its users. This goes beyond the usual lack of a log of the websites that users visit and stretches to CyberGhost not maintaining records of the servers that individual users connect to or the amount of information that passes through these servers.
CyberGhost is also a great value option for a VPN, with prices starting from only $12.99 a month. The service is supported by iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Windows, macOS and Linux, making it possible to access your account from a whole range of devices.
Hide.me is the ideal choice for users who are looking to download files with total anonymity. If your ISP has cracked down on the use of torrent files in recent years or you are worried about receiving a legal letter from them based on your downloading activity, then Hide.me may be the solution that you are looking for.
Unlike many of the other options that we have listed here, Hide.me does offer a completely free tier. However, this is limited to only 2GB of data per month and if your main interest is downloading and uploading files, you are going to burn through that quickly. The free tier is a great way to try out the service without handing over your credit card details and work out if it is right for your needs.
Like most other options, Hide.me offers a downloadable helper program that will set up the VPN on your computer and means that you won’t have to reconfigure any complex settings in order to use it. The big drawback for casual users of the service is that Hide.me is not able to access US Netflix content using its US based server at the moment. If your main reason for getting a VPN is to stream content from the United States when you are traveling overseas, then it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.
From a security point of view, Hide.me is a great choice if you are worried about your browsing records falling into the hands of the US government or a major corporation. The company that operates the service is based in Malaysia, putting it far beyond the reach of US government interference. It also offers a number of secure features that can improve the safety of your data. For example, it has recently launched a new feature, which can prevent certain apps on your computer (such as your web browser) from launching at all unless the VPN function is turned on. This is a great way to ensure that other users of your computer respect your privacy concerns and don’t accidentally leave a trail of browsing history with your name attached to it.
The last entry on our top five list is one of the smaller players in the market. While the other players that we have looked at either trade on their range of servers and services or their beefed up approach to security, SurfShark is a good choice for the casual user who is looking for an easy to use VPN service that makes it simple for them to watch great online content from around the world.
Like ExpressVPN, the company is based in the British Virgin Islands, putting them beyond the reach of the US Government and the American Courts system. It also has a no logging policy in line with a number of its rivals. SurfShark also has a range of servers in a number of countries, over 3200 servers in more than 95 countries at the last count.
Content and ease of use is where SurfShark comes into its own. Unlike some of the more security focused services that we have looked at on this website, the VPN is able to unblock Netflix USA and other streaming services, such as Hulu and BBC iPlayer in the UK, without issue. Some of these providers do occasionally block individual servers belonging to SurfShark or other VPN companies, but the range of servers in operation means that it should be relatively easy to pick another server and carry on streaming where you left off.
The real advantage of choosing SurfShark against another option is the price of the service. It costs only $12.95 a month to subscribe to a SurfShark account that will allow you to connect to a vast number of VPN servers. Speeds are generally good enough to allow you to stream HD video content and play games online (although 4k content can occasionally be a bit of a struggle, as with almost any VPN service). There is no trial option available, but the very low price means that it should be easy for most users to trial the service and work out if it is right for them.
Hopefully, our in-depth reviews of the multiple VPN services that are available to American users have made it easy for you to decide which one is right for you before you start using one. There are all sorts of features available and, in general, you will get what you pay for – although there are some great low-cost options available in the VPN world alongside some of the more established names. Whether you are concerned about security or just want to make sure that you have access to the films and TV shows that you love the next time that you take an overseas vacation, having a VPN service should be a no-brainer, especially as costs continue to come down.
Worries about governments and major corporations collecting and storing your data are becoming increasingly widespread and, even if you have nothing to hide, it’s only natural to be concerned about large amounts of your personal information being stored by other people without your direct consent. Unfortunately, there is little sign that laws in the US are going to change to protect users in the coming years, so internet users will have to decide whether or not to protect themselves the next time that they log on. Thankfully, the simple setup tools and easy connection options offered by the VPN services that we have covered in this review make it easier than ever before to browse anonymously and securely without sacrificing the fast connection speed that you are already paying for.
In short, any internet user who travels, loves foreign shows or just wants to know their data is safe needs to think about the right VPN option for them today.
Head of content