The 10 best VPN services for most people in 2020

The best VPN isn't just for privacy – you'll also access more streaming content and unblock restricted content, plus stay safe on public Wi-Fi.

best vpn online
(Image credit: Future)

Whether you're looking to secure your personal data, stay anonymous on the web or simply want to unblock regional Netflix libraries, the best VPN should be able to do it all.

A 'virtual private network' may sound technical, but as more people realize the power of VPNs, they're becoming increasingly mainstream – and that broadened appeal has done wonders for the usability of the services themselves. 

Yes, they offer an extra layer of encrypted security and anonymity when you use the internet at home or in public, but they've also become a must-have for those wanting to unlock new worlds of Netflix streaming content or looking to unblock websites at their schools, offices, or other countries.

The ongoing need for people everywhere to work and school from home has only exacerbated demand for VPNs, and it's no wonder they're going like hot cakes right now. So, on this page, we've listed the very best VPNs on the market, no matter what device you're using. 

That list opens up with T3 Best VPN award-winner ExpressVPN, but while we reckon it's got the competition licked, we've also pulled together nine more very worthy rivals so you can be as informed as possible when you make your choice.

Plus, we'll also explain some of the basics – what is a VPN, how to get set up, how to use it, how to get started, and why you'd even need a VPN online in the first place. All you need to do is keep scrolling.

1. ExpressVPN – the best VPN money can buy
You'll learn exactly why below, but if you're just after the best VPN money can buy, we'd recommend ExpressVPN every time. Not only is it incredibly simple for newbies to use, but it offers class-leading speeds, works on pretty much every device, and boasts rock-solid encryption and security. And now, T3 readers can claim three months free on a 12-month plan.View Deal

2. Surfshark – unbeatable on price
While it's not quite as fully featured as ExpressVPN, Surfshark is a seriously powerful budget VPN that doesn't sacrifice much at all. For just $2.49 a month you'll be able to stream tons of content from all around the world, as well as keep your personal info private – and for Black Friday, you'll get three months free, too!View Deal

3. NordVPN – the biggest name in VPN is still a strong competitor
Sitting somewhere in between ExpressVPN and Surfshark is NordVPN – you know, the one you've seen on TV and sponsoring Liverpool FC. It's a seriously powerful security solution, and trails ExpressVPN by a fraction in functionality, while costing a little more than Surfshark – but $3.71 a month still isn't bad.View Deal

The best VPN service online in 2020

ExpressVPN best VPN onlineT3 Awards 2020

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for just about anyone

Specifications
Is it fast?: Very
Is it secure?: Very
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 30 days
Number of servers: 3000+
Server locations: 160
Maximum devices supported: 5
Reasons to buy
+Available on any and all of your devices+Amazing customer support 24/7+Dial in to servers in 94 countries+Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer and more
Reasons to avoid
-Fewer simultaneous connections than some other services

We've said it above and we'll say it again – ExpressVPN is the best VPN online bar none. There are a lot of reasons why that is, so stick with us.

For starters, it has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, which means you can dial your IP address into 160 locations around the world. That's not the be all and end all (realistically, how often are you really going to fire up that server in Guatemala), but it's an immediate indicator that ExpressVPN means business.

More crucial is speed – you don't want your VPN slowing down your surfing, streaming and downloading – and Express delivers great performance across its servers around the world. It’s put the effort into its software too, with dedicated apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and BlackBerry as well as some Smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Apple TV, PS4 and Xbox and even your router.

Not only that, but there are solid online tutorials too, so even if VPNs appear to be dark magic to you, Express will have you up and running in no time. P2P is fully supported and it's super speedy so you can torrent using the maximum bandwidth of your broadband connection and there’s a kill switch that keeps your IP address hidden if anything goes wrong with the VPN or with your internet connection.

More interested in using your VPN for streaming content from overseas? ExpressVPN has got you sorted there, too. In our tests, we check to see whether each VPN can get around geo-restrictions put in place by the likes of Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video. It ticked all those boxes with ease.

ExpressVPN is reasonably priced, delivers a good service and has support for five simultaneous connections. There’s no free trial available as such but there is a no-fuss 30-day money back guarantee if the service doesn’t meet your requirements so that's a good way to test it out if you're unsure. 

Plus, we have used the 24/7 customer service a number of times and can vouch for its effectiveness – we had a couple of issues with using the service on a PC and were able to sort it within a few minutes using the instant online chat support.

Oh, and if all that didn't explain just how highly ExpressVPN is rated, then it's also just won the coveted Best VPN award at the T3 Awards 2020, wowing our panel of judges.

Exclusive offer – save 49%: T3 readers also get 3 months extra FREE with an annual plan


Surfshark VPN online

(Image credit: Surfshark)

2. Surfshark

Rapid VPN service that boasts unlimited connections and affordable plans

Specifications
Is it fast?: Yes
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 30 days
Number of servers: 1700+
Server locations: 100+
Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Unlimited devices covered+Usually fast connections+Very affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Android app sometimes has issues

There are plenty of reasons to pick Surfshark as your preferred online VPN service – it's super affordable, covers unlimited devices and, if streaming is your concern, it unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu and tons more.

Whether you're a beginner or a VPN veteran, Surfshark is super easy and straightforward to get to grips with, plus it boasts a very speedy live chat support – so if you do have any queries these can be solved very quickly.

Let's not forget the unlimited devices policy – this means you can get as many simultaneous connections as you wish, be it on your tablet, phone(s), desktop, router or any other compatible device. This offers incredible value for money, and you can even share your plan with members of your household – although we have seen better Android VPN apps from other providers.

The provider also has a wide range of features and has loads of payment options from credit cards to PayPal, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and even Ali Pay!

But the main hook – the price. It's no surprise at all to see Surfshark ranking near the top of our cheap VPN countdown.


(Image credit: NordVPN)

3. NordVPN

One of the biggest names in VPN is also one of the best

Specifications
Is it fast?: Very
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 30 days
Number of servers: 5000+
Server locations: 80+
Maximum devices supported: 6
Reasons to buy
+Great apps+Excellent speeds+Loads of servers+Independently audited
Reasons to avoid
-2018 hack tainted the brand

There's no doubt that NordVPN is one of the best VPN services around. It has over 5,500 servers online in 59 countries, supports up to six devices simultaneously, uses seriously pwerful encryption and has a feature list including an automatic kill switch, dedicated IP addresses, strong DNS leak protection, the ability to pay in Bitcoin and a multi-year plan which is really reasonably priced!

As well as security, NordVPN is a favourite with people wanting to broaden their streaming horizons. Nord does it all – Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube – and with relative ease, too. It has brilliant web support with articles helping to unlock the VPN's potential, and that's backed up by some sterling 24/7 live chat support, too.

Since Nord's reputation-threatening hack in 2018, it's taken the initiative and has started an annual independent auditing programme to make sure nothing like that happens again. The second audit was recently completed, with no dubious findings, so we can fairly confidently say that Nord's back on form.

In terms of performance, Nord's one of the very fastest out there, too. That's in part thanks to the all-new WireGuard-based NordLynx protocol, which can deliver searing speeds only matched by the next VPN on this list.

If you're after a fast, reliable VPN that's great for both streaming and keeping you private, NordVPN could be right up your alley.


Hotspot Shield best VPN

(Image credit: Hotspot Shield)

4. Hotspot Shield

The fastest VPN on the block

Specifications
Is it fast?: Incredibly
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 45 days
Number of servers: 1,800+
Server locations: 80+
Maximum devices supported: 5
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly fast+Free version is great for testing the service out+Stellar streaming performance
Reasons to avoid
-Some very minor logging-Mobile apps may be too simple for some

Well known for offering one of the leading free VPN services on the market, Hotspot Shield's premium service has come on leaps and bounds and has well and truly staked its claim as one of the best VPN services out there today.

If you're after absolute speed, then it's a perfect option – the in-house Catapult Hydra protocol trounces just about every rival, and delivers speeds well over 400Mbps. That's more than most people's Internet can muster, and plenty even for the most hardcore downloaders.

As a streaming VPN, Hotspot's a bit of a hotshot, too. You'll get access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube and just about any other site – and for its target audience, that'll be hugely important.

Hotspot Shield might not appeal quite so much to the uber privacy-conscious, though. The fact it's based in the US and not zero-logging will put a few off, and if you're seeking the ultimate in online privacy we'd certainly steer you towards ExpressVPN or NordVPN. However, what logs Hotspot collects can't be tied back to your activity, so we've got no qualms about recommending them.

So, if you want the maximum speeds possible while staying protected by a VPN, plus all the extra streaming goodness you'll be able to unblock, Hotspot Shield is a great choice.


IPVanish Best VPN service

(Image credit: Future)

5. IPVanish

A superb online VPN service especially for torrenting and downloading

Specifications
Is it fast?: Yes
Is it secure?: Very
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 30 days
Number of servers: 1500+
Server locations: 75+
Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Great apps for all devices+Use as many devices as you like at once+Mostly fast speeds
Reasons to avoid
-Not always the best to use-Can't unblock BBC iPlayer

IPVanish is one of the most recognisable names among all the VPN services out there. It's been going for years and if you've read about VPNs in the past you've probably seen some of its ads.

It promises to be the world’s fastest VPN, with more than 40,000 IP addresses, 1,500 servers in 70+ countries, unlimited peer to peer sharing and as many simultaneous connections as you can handle - it's a VPN with some serious credentials

That's certainly a bonus over ExpressVPN which only offers five connections at a time - IPVanish could be the better option for you if you want to get the whole family on one plan, for example. However, Surfshark does offer the same but for considerably less cash.

There’s a clear no-logging policy, too, which is great for anyone concerned with privacy and security - the service isn’t gathering or tracking your browsing activity.

IPVanish certainly isn’t going after the budget market here, but it's still a bit cheaper than ExpressVPN. Like Express, IPVanish doesn’t offer a free trial (although there is still a thirty day money back guarantee if the service doesn’t live up to your expectations).


CyberGhost best VPN online

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

6. CyberGhost

Supports torrents and boasts an impressive range of features

Specifications
Is it fast?: Yes
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 45 days
Number of servers: 6,000+
Server locations: 110+
Maximum devices supported: 7
Reasons to buy
+Clients have lots of smart features+Great performance levels+Supports torrents+Try for 45 days for free
Reasons to avoid
-Some issues with the interface

CyberGhost may be Romanian and German-based, but it's a very internationally used VPN, with well over 6,000 servers spread across 90 countries. That's some impressive numbers and a real statement of intent.

It's got a super effective kill-switch which is pretty handy in terms of security, or if streaming is more your concern the server also unblocks Netflix, Hulu and BBC iPlayer. Plus, its innovative filtering system automatically displays suitable servers for what you're after – for example, torrenting or streaming Netflix.

The speedy live chat support is also pretty handy for anyone who's a VPN newbie or has any questions or queries. You get a 24 hour trial for the desktop app (still pretty measly, but better than than nothing at all), and it does have a class-leading 45-day money-back guarantee.

Another bonus is that it offers plenty of features and has a powerful windows client.

Overall, though, CyberGhost offers you a lot of unusual functionality for a very fair price, and it's well worth a closer look. Plus, that 45-day money-back guarantee is longer than pretty much all the competition. 


private internet access best vpn service

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

7. Private Internet Access

A great VPN service at an affordable price

Specifications
Is it fast?: Yes
Is it secure?: Very
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 30 days
Number of servers: 11,000+
Server locations: 68
Maximum devices supported: 10
Reasons to buy
+Up to ten simultaneous connections+Very configurable apps+Good value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Windows client can be difficult to use

With plenty of apps, an effective kill switch and servers across 40-odd countries Private Internet Access is a very attractive online VPN service. The pricing is decent, too, especially when you consider that a single subscription will cover 10 devices - so you can even share them out with friends and family.

With apps for a Mac VPN, Windows, Android, Linus, iOS and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, it's compatible with pretty much most software.It may not boast a wide range of apps but the provider does offer a couple expert type features and it's super easy and straightforward to use.

Also, if security and privacy is a concern then the provider has quite a few features that are ideal for this, including a kill switch, flash blocking, cookie cleaning, camera and microphone protection. 

With everything that you're getting and the fact that it is super speedy means that this provider is great value for money.


Vyprvpn best VPN service

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

8. VyprVPN

A reliable VPN service for performance and security

Specifications
Is it fast?: Not overly
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: Yes
Free trial length: 30 days
Number of servers: 700+
Server locations: 70+
Maximum devices supported: 5
Reasons to buy
+Good-value VPN options+Excellent for avoiding government blocks in China and the like+Audited no-logs policy
Reasons to avoid
-A few issues on Windows-Support site isn't the best

Switzerland is famed for its privacy-friendly legislation, and that’s where VyprVPN operates from - although its servers operate in more than 70 other countries to deliver unlimited data. 

Not only that, but there are plenty of useful options including auto-connect, a kill-switch and enhanced security via the service’s proprietary Chameleon protocol and its own DNS. VyprVPN has a free trial too so you can try it our and see what you think before you commit.


TunnelBear best VPN service

(Image credit: Future)

9. TunnelBear

A super easy to use VPN service for newbies

Specifications
Is it fast?: Yes
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: No
Free trial length: Free version available
Number of servers: 1,000
Server locations: 20+
Maximum devices supported: 5
Reasons to buy
+Extremely user-friendly+Wide range of client software+Transparent privacy policy
Reasons to avoid
-Relatively few server locations-No money back guarantee

TunnelBear is designed for a very specific group of people: people who want a VPN service but don’t want to mess around with configuration or become IT experts to make their connections more secure. And it caters brilliantly for that market, with a very straightforward interface and jargon-free writing. In truth, all of the VPN services these days do this, but TunnelBear tries very hard to stand out.

It’s not for power users - there isn’t much you can change - but with up to five simultaneous connections, servers across 20 countries and decent performance on US and Canadian websites, it may be enough to satisfy casual users or technophobes who really don't want much functionality.

Longer connections can be slower, though: that's when the relatively small number of server locations really makes itself obvious. There’s a free version that works well, although it limits you to pathetic 500MB of monthly traffic. However, you can use it in place of the absent free trial to test it out briefly before committing.


Windscribe best VPN service

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

10. Windscribe

A great VPN service offering unlimited connections

Specifications
Is it fast?: About average
Is it secure?: Yes
24/7 support: No
Free trial length: Free version available
Number of servers: 400+
Server locations: 110
Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
Reasons to buy
+Unlimited device connections+Free plan available+Good for streamers
Reasons to avoid
-No live chat support-Windows kill switch is temperamental

Windscribe offers unlimited device connections. Yes, you heard that right! There are apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and the service also offers browser add-ons with useful features such as ad-blocking.

So that means you can just add Windscribe to your gadgets as you go, never having to think about how many you're already using it on. And that means, if you’re looking to protect the data from a whole bunch of devices - an office, perhaps, or just a smart home - the support for unlimited connections is a real stand-out feature.

Performance improved in our most recent tests - we recorded decent connection speeds across most servers. So it should be able to cater to the needs of most streamers, especially when you consider that we easily got it to unlock foreign Netflix catalogues, BBC iPlayer and more.


What is a VPN?

So what even is a VPN? VPN stands for 'virtual private network' and it acts like a private, encrypted tunnel between you and the internet. In practice, it's like a private filter which completely anonymises you online - so no one can see who you are or what you're doing.

Online VPNs explained in more depth

Even your internet service provider cannot see what you're doing, what you're downloading or where you're browsing to. So a VPN not only makes your connection completely private, it also makes it completely secure. The encryption that VPN services use is foolproof which means no one can hack into your device and steal your data.

The practical uses for using a VPN online are plentiful. Want to access a website that your ISP has blocked? A VPN puts that website just one click away. Want to access the US version of Netflix from the UK? Just set your VPN to a US location and you're there. Want to access porn without your ISP or your business knowing about it? Want to download torrents without being blocked by your ISP? It's easy.

Most online VPN services are available as apps for any and all of your devices - whether that's a Windows laptop, a Apple Mac, iPhone or iPad, Android device, Amazon Fire TV Stick or even Smart TV. And many allow you to log on from as many as 5 devices at once, so with one account you can secure and anonymise all of your gadgets.

You simply install the app, open it and tell it what you want your location to be. All the encryption is done in the background so simply by switching it on, it'll do all of the hard work for you. 

VPN services are entirely legal and legitimate in most countries. It's completely legal to mask your IP address and encrypt your internet traffic.

There is nothing about using a VPN that's illegal and VPN services themselves do not and cannot do anything illegal.

The only thing that's illegal is if you were to break the law while using a VPN - for instance if you were to infringe on someone's copyright. But that's the action of infringement that's illegal, not the use of the VPN.

How secure are VPN services online?

The main reason to use a VPN online is security - in theory, the data that travels across your VPN should be impossible for anybody else to intercept, so it can protect your online banking or confidential business communications - but there are other benefits too.

VPNs can make it much harder for advertising to track you online, and they can overcome geography-specific blocks that prevent you from accessing some country-specific services such as online video.

When we say that in theory VPNs can’t be intercepted, that’s because they are like any other form of security: if you use them on a device that’s already been compromised by malware such as keyloggers or other security threats then they can’t do their job properly.

If you’re on Windows, then good quality, up to date anti-virus software isn’t a luxury. It’s absolutely essential.

Can a VPN really make you anonymous online?

VPNs can make your browsing private, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re anonymous. VPN services can and do log traffic (even the ones that say they don’t log do need to log some information, or they wouldn’t be able to function properly), and those logs can be requested by the authorities. Think of a VPN as being like curtains: people can’t peek through your curtains if you’ve got them closed, but curtains won’t hide your house.

What that means in practice is that VPNs are fine for bypassing geo-blocks, for protecting your online banking and for keeping business communications free from interception. However, if you’re using the internet to fight repressive regimes or to do anything else that could attract the attention of the authorities where you live, a VPN is not a magic wand that’ll make you invisible.

What’s the difference between a VPN and a proxy?

A proxy server is another way to conceal your real location. By transferring data through a proxy server the data appears to be going to that server, not you - so for example if you’re in the US and the proxy is in Switzerland, the website or service will think it’s talking to a machine in Switzerland. The main difference is that VPNs protect all your traffic while proxies tend to be limited to specific types of data, such as peer to peer networking or web browsing. 

Can I trust a free service?

Because as the cliché goes, you get what you pay for. Or rather, with free services you tend to get what you don’t pay for in the form of advertising, lower priority connections, blocks on data hungry apps such as peer to peer networking, session limits and in most cases, a lack of any guarantees about service availability or quality. 

If you only want to protect a laptop from time to time in a coffee shop a no-fee VPN will be fine, but for anything more serious we’d recommend a paid-for product.

How do I choose an online VPN service to download?

To choose the best VPN for you, don’t just look at the price, not least because many services offer massive discounts if you take out a longer term subscription. Start with the basics: how many simultaneous connections can you have? Are there particular security protocols you want to use? Does the provider have servers in the places you’ll want to use it from and the places you want to connect to? How much data will they log about you, and how long do they keep it for?

Wherever possible try before you buy. In some cases there won’t be a free trial, but most reputable VPN providers offer a money back guarantee if the service doesn’t meet your expectations.

More VPN guides you might like: