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Comparing VPN services: which one’s the best in 2024?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is an online privacy tool that encrypts your traffic and hides your IP (Internet Protocol) address. But that does not mean all VPN service providers offer the same thing. Let’s take a look at the best available VPNs and how they compare against each other and, of course, Surfshark.

A man standing between two shields with checkmarks on them

VPN comparison chart

While each VPN provider is unique, there are some features that you’d expect all of them to have. This includes 24/7 customer support, a solid money-back guarantee, affordable pricing, and thousands of servers. Before we dive into more detail, what are some of the most popular VPN providers offering?

Surfshark NordVPN ExpressVPN CyberGhost PIA IPVanish ProtonVPN Mullvad Windscribe
Devices 6 5 7 10 10 5 ∞*
Server countries 100 60 95 100 84 75 67 40 62
Servers 3200+ 5000+ 3000+ 7000+ 10,000+ 1900+ 2600+ 650+ Undisclosed
Price $2.49 $3.39 $8.32 $2.19 $1.75 $3.25 $4.99 $5.44 free/$5.75/month
Ad blocker ✅*
Cookie pop-up blocker ✅*
Independent audits
10 Gbps servers ✅**
24/7 support
Money-back guarantee 30 days 30 days 30 days  45 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days 3 days***

*Available only for the paid plan

**Available in specific locations only

***To be eligible for a refund, you must have used less than 10 GB on the paid plan

The data in the table is accurate as of February 12, 2024, and is subject to change.

Exploring the best VPN services

The table above can help you choose a VPN, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Some of the more intricate details can’t be put into numbers or checkmarks. To get a better feel of how Surfshark compares with the competition, let’s take a closer look at what each provider has to offer:

Surfshark vs. NordVPN

Surfshark vs. NordVPN

Surfshark and NordVPN are arguably two of the best VPN providers in the business today. The key difference is that Surfshark has a more widespread server infrastructure in Asia, Africa, and South America. While NordVPN has more servers in North America and Europe. So your choice may simply depend on the region you live in.

Surfshark also offers unlimited simultaneous connections compared to NordVPN’s six. It’s also slightly cheaper than NordVPN$2.49/month compared to Nord’s $3.39.

For a full, in-depth review, take a look at our Surfshark vs. NordVPN comparison.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have secure encryption, good VPN protocols, and a similar number of servers and server locations. The connection speeds were also quite similar when we tested them. 

But Surfshark has a cookie pop-up blocker and even offers antivirus protection and breach alerts with the more expensive plans. Neither of these is an option with ExpressVPN. On top of that, Surfshark is considerably cheaper, with $2.49/month for the Starter plan, compared to the $8.32/month with ExpressVPN.

Check out our comparison of Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN for more detailed information.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN
Surfshark vs. CyberGhost

Surfshark vs. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is one of very few VPN services that are actually cheaper than Surfshark. However, at $2.19/month compared to Surfshark’s $2.49/month, the difference is minimal. CyberGhost also offers a slightly longer money-back guarantee and has more servers, although they’re spread over fewer locations.

With that said, CyberGhost is missing some privacy and security features, such as obfuscated servers or a double VPN. Both of them are available with Surfshark. CyberGhost is also not as well audited as Surfshark, with only one independent audit to its name so far, but it released a transparency report in 2011.

Read the full Surfshark vs. CyberGhost review if you want to get into more detail about what these two providers have to offer.

Surfshark vs. PIA

The Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access VPN comparison is quite similar to that of CyberGhost. PIA is slightly cheaper and has more servers, but Surfshark still offers more server locations. With $1.75/month, PIA is among the cheapest monthly VPN plans, but it requires you to subscribe for 3 years, compared to $2.49/month for 2 years with Surfshark.

Surfshark also has GPS spoofing and double VPN features, neither of which is available with PIA.

Check out our in-depth Surfshark vs. PIA comparison to learn more about both of these providers.

Surfshark vs. PIA
Surfshark vs. IPVanish

Surfshark vs. IPVanish

Surfshark and IPVanish are the only two on this list to offer unlimited simultaneous connections. Both also have a Kill Switch, split tunneling, and obfuscated servers. But Surfshark extends its list of features even further with a double VPN, an ad blocker, and smart DNS, neither of which are available with IPVanish.

Surfshark is also the cheaper option of the two at $2.49/month compared to $3.25/month for the cheapest IPVanish plan. On top of that, Surfshark has more servers in more locations, although IPVanish has more servers in the Americas, which may be useful for users in the region.

To get a better idea of how the two match up, read our Surfshark vs. IPVanish comparison.

Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN

At $4.99/month with its cheapest plan, ProtonVPN is one of the more expensive providers on this list. That’s two times more expensive than Surfshark. For all that, you’re still getting fewer servers in fewer locations and customer support without a live chat option

That said, both providers have a solid list of additional features and offer secure encryption and industry-leading VPN protocols. ProtonVPN also allows 10 simultaneous connections, which is more than most providers on this list but less than Surfshark’s unlimited connections.

Go in-depth by reading our Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN comparison.

Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN
Surfshark vs. Mullvad

Surfshark vs. Mullvad

When looking at all VPN providers on this list, Mullvad is definitely the odd one out. It doesn’t have an impressive fleet of servers, nor can it flaunt industry-leading features. It’s missing things like live chat with customer support, and it doesn’t work very well with major streaming platforms. Needless to say, the overall VPN experience isn’t as good as it is with Surfshark.

What makes Mullvad stand out is the complete focus on anonymity and privacy. It allows you to create an account without any personal details, not even an email address. You can even pay for their services by mailing cash to their headquarters if you don’t want to make digital payments. This makes Mullvad a popular choice by anonymity enthusiasts worldwide.

You can find a much more detailed comparison in our Surfshark vs. Mullvad review.

Surfshark vs. Windscribe

The difference is that Windscribe has a free option but limits data, and most additional features are unavailable.

When comparing the paid version with Surfshark, Windscribe has fewer servers and doesn’t have features like SmartDNS and an IP rotator, but it has designated stealth protocols called Stealth and Wstunnel. In essence, Windscribe gets the job done but will cost more than Surfshark in the long term.

Dive deeper into our Surfshark vs. Windscribe comparison if you want the nitty-gritty.

Surfshark vs. Windscribe
Why compare VPNs?

Why compare VPNs?

Every VPN provider offers a unique package. If you want to find one that suits your needs the best, you need to see how they compare against each other. Things like secure encryption, modern VPN protocols, and server infrastructure are a must for any good VPN provider, but that’s just part of what premium VPNs have to offer.

Ease of use, customer support, price, privacy policy, and additional features are all things that can make or break your VPN experience. If you take some time to make sure a VPN has everything you need, it will enhance your whole online experience, not just privacy and security.

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How to compare VPNs

There are a few main criteria to look at when comparing VPN providers. The aforementioned privacy and security features, price, speed, servers, and customer service are all essential building blocks for a solid VPN. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about them.

Privacy and security features

Privacy and security features

Secure encryption is a must for any VPN. AES-256 is the industry-standard encryption most premium VPN providers use, including Surfshark. On top of that, a no-logs policy, modern VPN protocols, and Kill Switch are all things you should look for when choosing a VPN provider.

Price

Price

Not all VPNs cost the same, but just because some are more expensive doesn’t mean they’re better. You can get the Surfshark Starter plan for as little as $2.49/month. At that price, you’re getting a package that’s comparable with the best VPN services out there, both in terms of security and performance.

Speed

Speed

VPN protocols, server load, and the distance between you and the server are the main factors that determine your VPN connection speed. You can make use of free trials offered by many VPN providers and test the speed without risking your money. To get the best results, use the WireGuard protocol, as it’s considered to be the fastest option available today.

Server infrastructure

Server infrastructure

More often than not, a VPN with more servers in more locations will outperform a VPN with fewer servers. A higher server count makes it less likely that the servers will be crowded, and more locations to choose from make it more likely that you’ll be able to find a server nearby. Both of these are crucial for fast connection speed.

Customer support

Customer support

You hope that you’ll never need to get customer support involved. And maybe you won’t. But it’s always nice to know that your service provider has a reliable customer support team in case you ever need help. It’s best to look for one with 24/7 live support, a vast knowledge base, and a ticketing system.

Audits

Audits

Any VPN provider can boast about their services. But words don’t carry too much weight until they’re proven to be right. To prove their claims, premium VPN providers undergo regular audits by reputable firms. If a provider has never been audited, that’s definitely cause for concern.

VPN comparison on Reddit

VPN comparison on Reddit

Reddit has a dedicated VPN thread with a VPN comparison table where users review VPNs they tried. The table is often updated and should simplify choosing and using VPNs. It’s a community effort, and the people are invited to collaborate and report any mistakes or outdated information.

According to the table, Reddit users rank Surfshark among the top three, but feel free to check it out yourself.

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FAQ

Is there a difference in VPNs?

Most premium VPNs are similar in what they do — encrypt online traffic. However, the difference in VPNs boils down to VPN pricing, available VPN protocols, encryption, the VPN provider’s upheld policies, and additional features.

How much should a VPN cost?

The cost of a VPN depends on the provider and the subscription length that you choose. While most VPNs are around $10-13 for a one-month plan, you can get a premium VPN subscription for as cheap as $2-3/month if you choose to go with a longer subscription.

Why would I pay for a VPN?

While paid VPN providers focus on protecting your privacy online, free VPNs may put it at risk. In 2022 alone, the records of 25 million users were exposed by free VPNs. So while they might be free at first, you can end up paying with your privacy. With that in mind, paying $2-3/month for a VPN subscription seems like a much better deal.

How do I compare VPNs?

There are several things you need to look at when comparing VPN providers. These include encryption, privacy policies, pricing, server infrastructure, customer support, and additional security features. A provider will usually offer a money-back guarantee as well, so you can make sure that it’s the right fit without risking your money.

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