A secure connection gives you peace of mind while you shop online, stream shows, or access work files outside the office. With a virtual private network, you can get this kind of protection for your data.
Of course, the best kind of protection comes from the best VPN service. But you have to browse through a dizzying array of products, features, price points, and purposes to find it.
Skip the confusion with this list of the leading VPNs on the market today. I did the leg work so you won’t have to.
After several days of research and testing everything on my shortlist, TunnelBear came out on top, transparency, privacy, and other factors. It has four other contenders for you to consider depending on your priorities and preferences.
As a rule of thumb, I stay away from the free-trial options, which have duped users with their shady practices. Thus, all of my picks are paid versions.
Best VPN Service – Editor’s Pick
If you want to make sure your provider isn’t logging your activities and sharing your customer information, TunnelBear is the VPN to choose. It signals trust and transparency by consistently updating the public on its security audits.
TunnelBear is fun and simple to use, allowing easy setup on any device. Just download the right app for Android, iOS, macOS, or Windows. Open it and select a country or let it choose the quickest server automatically. You can run up to five simultaneous connections at a time without hitting a speed bump.
Wherever you are – in your home, office, an airport, or a coffee shop – its dependable kill switch called VigilantBear will shut off network traffic when connectivity is lost.
All of these features are accessible to you for an affordable monthly subscription fee. TunnelBear accepts payments via credit card, Bitcoin, and jars of honey.
Best VPN for Privacy
Among the apps I tested, Mullvad stood out with fast connections (even better than TunnelBear in this department). But it is its ability to make you truly anonymous that seals the deal. Upon signing up, you’re given a unique account number. That’s all you need to use the service – no name, email address, country, or other personal details required.
This Swedish-owned VPN taps high-end technologies to deliver on its promise. Its encryption, leak protection, and stealth options are airtight. Like TunnelBear, it offers a generous five-connection limit.
The area in which it lags a little is mobile compatibility. But current Android and iOS builds are in the works to join its lineup of desktop clients. The former carries the basic features for now. So you can only enjoy the advanced features on your Linux, Mac, or Windows device.
With a simple and affordable monthly pricing, it’s a viable option if you’re OK with its present support ratio for mobile and desktop.
Best VPN for Streaming
With over 200,000 IP addresses and over 700 servers in over 70 locations, VyprVPN goes above and beyond in giving you a reliable streaming experience. Well, at least that is what it consequently does.
At its core, it takes privacy seriously with industrial-strength encryption and topnotch protocol options: OpenVPN, IKEv2, and its own Chameleon. It has recently dropped the older and less secure L2TP and PPTP. It maintains a no-logs policy as well.
Compared to the others here, its speed is considered average. But it is good enough for browsing, sending emails, and other typical tasks on top of streaming Netflix, BBC iPlayer, etc.
You can snag the lowest price if you opt for the two-year plan. Monthly and one-year plans are available if you’re not ready to be tied up for the long-term.
Best VPN for Beginners
Together with the first three, IVPN is on the list of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. If it’s good enough for the journos, the same goes for us, ordinary folks. It’s especially true for first-time and beginner-level users.
Setting it up is pretty quick and easy. With its clear focus on security and privacy, it gets off with a solid start. It prevents third-party leaks by operating its own DNS servers. It employs a multi-hop feature that sends your traffic to two VPN servers.
I also like that it has a kill switch. Torrenting capabilities are present, but IVPN warns customers to avoid making P2P connections in the United States.
IVPN’s two-tier pricing is higher than most. But it’s justified by its better security offer. If you are on the fence, you can sign up for a free three-day trial first.
Best Cheap VPN
Low-cost, but capable. These words capture CactusVPN’s value very well. What it lacks in networks – minimal compared to others – it makes up for in other essential features.
For instance, it supports main protocols, such as OpenVPN and IKEv2. It can unblock geo-blocked sites like Netflix using Smart DNS. Its no-logging policy is clear and concise. Performance-wise, it has a slightly lower-than-average speed. But it may not cause terrible or even noticeable lags.
These issues can be overlooked if you’re after the cheapest you can get without sacrificing quality.
This cost-effective solution is offered in four pricing schemes: one month, three months, one year, and two years.
Top Features of VPN to Look For
Independent audits are now an industry standard. VPN products are put to the test by third parties, with findings published in reports to let users know whether the advertised matches the actual solutions.
TunnelBear was first to do this circa 2016 to 2017.
VPNs indeed keep your data anonymous on the web. How they handle it internally is another story. Choosing the best VPN entails minimal logs or no-logs policy.
Some VPNs are not on this list because of privacy violation claims against them. These are HideMyAss, Hola VPN, and IPVanish, to name a few.
The holy trinity of performance testing consists of speed, stability, and overall technical aptitude.
A kill switch will automatically disable your device’s internet access when connectivity drops. So when your WiFi goes bonkers, it stops your network traffic to prevent leaks. Ideally, you should be able to customize this feature according to your preference.
Most VPNs will let you install their software on different devices. But only a few will allow simultaneous connections. Go for a connection limit of three to five if you have a shared account or several devices.
Trial or Refund Policy
A money-back guarantee is better than a free trial. Some critical features can be inaccessible to you with the latter. But both can give you an idea of how the software works before you commit fully.
I like the directness of online chat, but email support and an extensive help section can also be useful in times of need. Of course, all three are nothing without quick or reasonable response time.
VPNs can help ease our worries over privacy while using technology and the internet. This is why I focused on this factor in my search for the best VPN service. Certainly, there are major and more popular VPNs out there. But some have questionable practices and privacy policies, which defeat the purpose of VPNs in the first place.
On a happier and lighter note, with the likes of TunnelBear, we can breathe a little knowing that there are products that can protect us and our data as we go on with our online lives.