There are so many good VPN providers that we had to highlight a few of the best.
At the present time, there are between 300 and 400 well-established VPN service providers around the world. Each of these services vary in size, scope, features, costs, and so forth. While your individual needs, or what you look for in a VPN service provider might vary from the next person, there are some services that seem to excel in almost all criteria, including speed, reliability, features, security, privacy, compatibility, and cost.
We wanted to take a little time in this article to highlight some of the best VPNs on the market today, in 2018, and explain why they are the best. While we’ll provide a brief rundown on their features, most of these providers were fully reviewed elsewhere on our site. The main purpose here is not to re-hash technical information, but to explain exactly WHY we think these are the best VPN providers available.
What Makes a “Good” VPN?
Our VPN reviews typically look at several key categories or characteristics of the VPN providers that we review. These are compared against other VPN provider offerings, as well as analyzed against the price or cost of a subscription (and what you get for your money – the value of the service, in essence). Ultimately, the best VPNs need to perform well in all these categories, while being affordable and a good value for the money. You can have a great VPN service that doesn’t make our list, if the costs are all out of whack with the competition. Likewise, a service may be a bit light on features compared to others, but if it’s free or incredibly cheap, it might be a better value.
The key areas we look at in our comprehensive reviews are:
- Where is the company based?
- When were they founded?
- Are they big or small?
- How many servers do they operate, and in how many countries?
- Are there any notable features about the service?
- Privacy, Encryption, and Safety
- What encryption protocols do they use?
- What connection or tunneling protocols are offered?
- How does their jurisdiction relate to privacy, security, and risk?
- Do they keep logs, and if so, of what?
- How easy are the clients/apps to download, setup, and use?
- What operating systems or environments are supported?
- Are there additional features for advanced users?
- What kind of impact does using the VPN have on ping time/latency and overall max download speed?
- Is the service reliable, or do connections drop out frequently or have other issues?
- Are there known bugs or problems with the client/app worth mentioning?
- Ease of Use
- Does the client/app for the service require a lot of technical skill and computer knowledge to use, or is it designed for all user levels?
- How easy is it to sign up for the service and get on the VPN – a few minutes of work, or a length project with a lot of tweaking and setup?
- Customer Support
- Do they have a comprehensive FAQ?
- Do they have a knowledge base or self-help section of their support site?
- What support options are provided for paying customers? E-mail/ticket systems? Live chats? Phone support? All of the above?
Finally, after asking and answering questions in all of those major categories, we have to look at the pricing – subscription plans and packages that are available, what they each offer, and how that stacks up to competitors and their prices. We also convert all the costs from the different subscription plans into a standard measure (cost per month), in order to allow readers to compare apples-to-apples when looking to select the best VPN for their needs.
Best VPN Providers 2018 – Top 6
Below is our list of the Top 6 Best VPNs for 2018, and our rationale for why they are the best. Again, we’re not going to re-review features and information here that we’ve already covered in depth in the individual VPN reviews. Rather, we hope to explain a bit more fully why these providers excel in different ways to warrant their inclusion among the cream of the crop.
ExpressVPN is always near the top of most of our review lists, as well as the lists of other reviewers. This is because they offer a full range of VPN features, and some of the highest benchmarked speeds of all the top VPN providers. With only a 15% hit or so to maximum download speed, ExpressVPN consistently performs better than any of the other providers on our list in this area. It’s not the absolute stand-out, however, because there are other services that beat them on other criteria, such as the number of devices per account, number of servers, customer support, etc. They are also not the cheapest, because quality comes at a cost. When translated into a purely comparative dollar value of the lowest cost subscription option divided by the number of devices, it works out to $2.77/month/device, with a minimum $8.32/month fee supporting 3 devices.
Another of our top all-around providers is NordVPN. They offer one of the largest server networks of any provider, and have a reputation for their outstanding no-logging policy. At the same time, their speed is typically slightly below ExpressVPN, with around a 20% download speed hit. They and ExpressVPN are neck-and-neck on a lot of the features, options, security measures, and so forth. The tradeoffs really are ExpressVPN is a bit faster, and NordVPN offers a much larger server base. That’s why these two are consistently at the top of most of our (and other reviewer’s) lists for best VPN provider. The standardized cost works out to $1.17/month/device, with a minimum $6.99/month fee supporting 6 devices.
WindScribe is neither the fastest nor largest of the VPN service providers around today. However, they provide an excellent mid-range service, hitting all of the major criteria categories. They make this list especially because they offer one of the most generous free plans, which, provided you sign up with an e-mail address, offers 10 GB/month – entirely free – with of course a few restrictions on server locations and features. Of course there are paid plans, too, but we had to recognize WindScribe as both a good mid-range provider, and one of the most generous free plans of any VPN service. They are also one of the few providers to offer an unlimited number of device connections. For the sake of our standardized math, we’ve set this number to 10, comparable to the largest specified limit of any other provider (otherwise, we’d have some funky divide by infinity irrational numbers going on). The cheapest subscription plan standardized cost works out to $0.41/month/device, with a minimum $4.08/month fee supporting an unlimited number of devices.
VyprVPN makes the list because they are one of the few VPN providers offering flexible subscription plans, rather than a one-size-fits-all model. One covers three devices, with all the basic features of the service, and another covers up to 5 devices, with additional handy features thrown in, that help disguise the fact that you are using a VPN and so forth. At the same time, for a mid-range company, they offer speeds that are only slightly below NordVPN and ExpressVPN, with only a 20-25% max download speed hit. Given this quality performance and flexible subscription model, they’re worth considering. The standardized cost on the 3 device plan is $1.67/month/device, with a minimum $5.00/month fee supporting 3 devices. The standardized cost on the 5 device plan is $1.33/month/device, with a minimum $6.67/month fee supporting 5 devices.
CyberGhost straddles the line on spec between a mid-range and a large-size VPN service. They have a very large server base, with 2,700 servers in 60 countries. They also meet or exceed many of their competitors in all of the other feature areas we look at in our reviews. At the same time, their speed is not great in our testing, with max download speed decreases of 45-50%. This sounds like a lot, but is really only noticeable if you’re torrenting, downloading large files, etc. For regular browsing, gaming, and even streaming, this shouldn’t present any kind of noticeable problems for users. This is one of the reasons we include them – despite the speed hit, they’re golden on most of the other features and aspects of our reviews, and that speed hit isn’t a problem for a lot of people who are looking for a VPN service. And, perhaps most importantly, they offer one of the cheapest subscription plans of any VPN provider on our list. The standardized cost is $0.39/device/month, with a minimum $2.95/month fee supporting 7 devices.
Our final entrant is Hide.Me. They are on the smaller side of VPN providers, with only about 150 servers in 34 countries. Still, this provides a reasonable number of options for a lot of people who are looking to use a VPN service. They also offer a tiered subscription system, that is kind of unique. There’s a free option with heavy restrictions, a paid subscription for 1 device and a 75 GB/month bandwidth cap, and a top-tier subscription for 5 devices with no bandwidth cap. While their download speed hit is fairly high (60-75%) and won’t be a great solution for anyone looking to torrent or stream a lot of HD content, for regular browsing, and even most gaming, this should not be a problem. The flexibility afforded by the different and unique plan options here is one of the key reasons we’ve included Hide.Me on the list. The 1 device plan standardized cost is $4.99/device/month, with a minimum $4.99/month fee supporting 1 device. The 5 device plan standardized cost is $2.00/device/month, with a minimum $9.99/month fee supporting 5 devices.
No matter which VPN provider you choose, we want to ensure you get your money’s worth. That’s why we’ve done such rigorous, individual reviews of each of the top VPN providers, as well as custom reviews of the best VPN providers for various categories of activities, devices, and so forth. We hope this article has helped explain why we consider the above half-dozen providers among the best choices for consumers, depending on their particular needs.