Trying to figure out the best VPN provider for 2017 is not easy. Everyone has an opinion and most reviews can't be trusted. Read our recommendations and, more importantly, about what to look for when choosing the best VPN provider for you
Relying on a VPN provider to act as a shield and protect your Internet activities requires a high degree of trust. This is especially true for sensitive online activities such as torrent file-sharing or browsing websites you’d rather keep private.
Free services may say they offer “anonymity” and claim not to keep logs of your online activities that could be traced back to you, but how can you know for sure?
Your online privacy is not something you should mess around with. This is why you should only use reliable and trusted services.
In this post, we recommend the best VPN providers on the market today. Of course you are encouraged to conduct your own research and decide for yourself. For that, the last half of this post outlines how to choose the best VPN provider for you.
What to Look for in a Best VPN Provider
Not all VPNs are created equal. Some deserve a place in your privacy tool arsenal while others are best avoided. While writing our books and blog posts over the past several years, we have come to trust only a handful of VPNs.
Our recommendations are summarized in the table below and based on the following criteria:
- Privacy (no logging and strong customer privacy and security protections)
- Speed (fast downloading)
- Reliability (minimal downtime and connection drops)
- Ease of use (installation, setup and day-to-day use)
- Coverage (number of proxy servers and country locations)
- Value (cost, payment options, free trials or money-back guarantees)
Best VPN Providers at a Glance
Here are our carefully selected picks for the best VPN providers organized by category.
Best VPN for ...
Provider, Features & Discounts
Overall Best VPN:
IPVanish is a fast & reliable VPN for all uses whether torrenting, geo-shifting or secure Wi-Fi
Now 20% off exclusively for our readers.
Value Priced VPN:
Private Internet Access is a trusted and reliable VPN at a low price of $3.08/mo, used by many torrenters
Best for Newbies:
PureVPN has the most user-friendly interface.
Our readers get an additional 15% off too. 🙂
Best Non-US VPN:
IPVanish is today’s most technologically advanced VPN network
Best Android VPN:
Private Internet Access is quick connecting and hassle-free VPN for Android devices
Best iOS VPN:
IPVanish has a slick design and is fast connecting
Best VPN for
Tor & Dark web:
NordVPN has ubercool ‘VPN over Tor’ & 'Double VPN' features
Best Free VPN:
Hotspot Shield, but use it only for Wi-Fi hotspots, not other online activities!
(read our Wi-Fi Hotspot Security post)
Best Kodi VPN:
IPVanish has a trouble-free setup and is fast connecting
Best Usenet VPN:
Private Internet Access provides solid protection for Usenet users downloading from newsgroups
How to Choose the Best VPN Provider for You
Emotions run high when talking about which VPN provider is the ‘best.’ Everyone seems to have an opinion, but remember, the assessment depends on many factors and everyone’s situation is different. You should consider the following criteria and factors when choosing the “best VPN” for your needs.
What will you use the VPN For?
First off, what do you want to use the VPN for? Remember, a VPN has many uses, so your choice of VPN will depend a lot on what your major uses of it will be.
For example, the needs of a person wanting a VPN to keep his or her torrent file-sharing safe is different from a business person wanting a VPN for occasional use at airport Wi-Fi hotspots and different still from someone wanting a VPN to watch streaming TV and live sporting events from all around the world.
Many of our readers are interested in staying anonymous while torrent file-sharing. Another major category of our readers want to unblock or bypass geo-restrictions for online content. Still others want to curtail the increasingly widespread practices of online tracking and profiling.
Top Tip – If your focus is on finding a torrent VPN for anonymous file-sharing there is even more criteria to keep in mind when choosing the right VPN. We have grouped these specific torrent VPN criteria.
Your Experience Level
Your quest to find the best VPN provider will also depend on your level of experience and your comfort level with technology.
If you are completely new to VPNs and concepts such as IP addresses, proxies and encryption, your priority may be a user-friendly VPN with an easy interface – for example, check out PureVPN (or see our review).
More advanced users might be in the market for a VPN with extra features such as a kill switch, DNS leak protection and different encryption & protocol options – check out IPVanish VPN (now discounted a further 20% exclusively for our readers).
The price each VPN charges is an obvious factor in your choice and a very personal one. Some people can afford or are willing to spend more, others are not. Prices range from about $3 to 10 per month (about £2-7 or €2.70-9) depending on the length of the signup period you choose.
Always keep an eye out for deals as the best VPN providers sometimes have time-limited promotions or exclusive discounts, and almost always offer discounts for longer signup periods.
Money-Back Guarantees or Free Trial Periods
Before signing up to a VPN, especially any longer-term plans, check to see if they offer a money-back guarantee or offer a free trial. This way, you can make sure that everything works well for you.
Any reliable VPN provider will have a money-back guarantee. These guarantee periods can range from 3 to 30 days.
VPN Download Speeds
Take any speed ratings you find with a grain of salt whether stated on the VPN provider’s website or in reviews on other websites.
These speed ratings don’t often mean much because a VPN’s download speed will vary for many reasons. These include your distance from the VPN provider’s servers, the path your Internet traffic takes, what you are doing online, the load on the VPN (the number of total users at that precise time) and the quality of your ISP connection, just to name a few.
This is why one person’s experience with the speed of a VPN can be very good, while another’s is much less satisfactory. The best way to determine if the VPN’s speed is good for you is to sign up with a VPN that offers a money-back guarantee and put the VPN through its paces to thoroughly test download speeds.
Payment options may also be important to you. Some people are not comfortable paying by credit card and want to use PayPal or other payment options instead.
A small, but passionate, minority of VPN customers will want to pay anonymously for the service so they don’t have to share any information with the VPN provider that could potentially be traced back to them. This is possible by paying with Bitcoin which is widely accepted by the best VPN providers, including IPVanish.
Another way to avoid sharing your personal or financial information when signing up with a VPN provider is to use prepaid store gift cards that you have bought in person with cash. This is only offered as a payment option by a select handful of privacy-conscious VPN providers, including Private Internet Access.
VPN Proxy Server Country Locations (Exit Gateways)
Most VPN providers will allow you to choose the location of the exit gateways your Internet connection uses when the VPN is activated. These are the countries in which the VPN’s various proxy servers are located. Having this choice gives you control over which country your IP address will appear to be coming from.
For example, if you want to access content that is only available to people based in the US and you live elsewhere or are travelling outside the US, you could choose a US-based exit gateway offered by your VPN to access the content that would otherwise be geo-blocked.
Generally speaking, you will want a VPN that has exit gateways in many different locations; the bigger choice of gateways, the better.
The number of exit gateway locations is most important to content streamers or online gamers that wish to “geo-shift”: to watch content and play games that are not available in their country or that are cheaper outside of it.
But exit gateways are also important for torrent file-sharing. You will want to see a VPN with exit gateways located in “torrent friendly” locations such as (in alphabetical order) Belgium, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and Turkey (this list is a good indicator.)
Anyone snooping on your Internet traffic (whether monitoring your P2P torrent activities or just generally tracking you online) will think you are based in the location of the exit gateway and detect the VPN’s IP address, rather than your actual location and true IP address. If the snoop traced back the traffic or IP address to the VPN’s exit gateway proxy servers, this would lead them only to the VPN service and not you.
Top Tip – If you want to make sure that the chain of discovery will end there and cannot be further traced back to you, make sure you choose a VPN provider that does not log its customer (your) activities. This is discussed in detail further below under the heading ‘Check the VPN’s Logging Policy’.
A Word about VPN Technical Specifications
Sometimes you will see a VPN feature a long list of various technical specifications. These technical terms may include PPTP, L2TP IPSec, SSTP, OpenVPN, SSL and TLS. Don’t let these confuse you.
Whether you need to get wrapped up in these different specs depends on your needs. Each one has its intricacies, but they will all adequately protect you for day-to-day web browsing and media streaming. All of the technical specifications listed above will provide a secure (encrypted) connection and hide your true IP address, masking it with a decoy one.
However, for more sensitive activities – whether torrent file-sharing or accessing censored websites (for example inside China) – use one of the more secure protocols such as OpenVPN or SSTP.
What’s important is that the VPN’s available technical specifications serve your needs.
Customer Experience & Support
Customer experience and support should also weigh on your choice of best VPN provider. While the VPN provider’s website will tout lots of satisfied customers and glowing testimonials (what else would you expect?), some independent research is in order.
Seek out and search for information about customer experiences with the VPN. However, make sure that the information is from a trustworthy source of VPN information such as the torrent subreddit, Cogipas.com, TorrentFreak, Lifehacker or MakeUseof.
BIG Word of Caution about “Reviews” of Best VPN Providers
When researching VPNs you will notice that there are lots of websites purporting to ‘review’ the best VPN providers for 2017. Keep in mind that many of these websites are not as objective and unbiased as they claim. Too often, these sites act unethically and pose as independent reviewers without disclosing their affiliations to the VPN providers they are ‘reviewing’, all in an attempt to lure you into generating commissions for them. Ethical practice (and the law in many places including the US) dictates that reviewers should expressly and prominently disclose – as we do in our sidebar – affiliate links.
Beware! – It’s no surprise that many VPN review sites try to maximize their profits by recommending the most expensive VPN providers. That’s good for their bank account, but not for you!