If you're in the market for a VPN, you are probably subject to tons of ads, and loads of complex information. And if you have less experience, you might find yourself a bit confused and are probably trying to sort through it all.
But finding the right VPN is much easier than you think. As long as you know what to look for when buying a VPN, you'll be able to make the right purchasing decision.
To help you out, I've compiled a list of exactly what to look for in a VPN. Use these steps to take the 'headache' out of the selection process.
Afterward, I'll also be examining some of the top providers in the industry and how to set them up!
Here are the most important things to look out for when buying a VPN:
- 1. Safety Features and Encryption Standards
- 2. Speed Retention Rates
- 3. Server Numbers and Locations
- 4. Ability to Access Overseas Content
- 5. Torrenting Capabilities and Support
- 6. Customer Service Options
- 7. The Provider's Reputation
- 8. The Cost of a Subscription
1. Safety Features and Policies
This is one of the most essential components to consider when deciding where to buy a VPN. If you're trying to purchase a VPN to keep your data secure, you should be looking at the company's safety policies. First, take a look at where the company is located.
It's best to choose a VPN that's outside of the Five Eyes Jurisdiction. This data sharing jurisdiction is a group of Western nations that often share intelligence internally. Offshore locations such as Panama, the British Virgin Islands, and Switzerland are typically safer.
A firm's logging policy is also a critical feature. Only work with companies that don't record or store any of your information. While most VPNs advertise a no-log policy, it's essential to look at their privacy policies to get the full picture.
Encryption is another critical safety component. Strong encryption will shield your data from your ISP, unsecured WiFi hotspots, and prying eyes. AES 256-bit encryption and AES 128-bit encryption are the best options for encryption in the VPN industry.
2. Speed Retention Rates
All VPNs slow down your internet speeds, but it's essential to find a VPN that can retain as much speed as possible. You shouldn't purchase a VPN that retains less than half of your download speed.
The best performers in the industry retain over 70% of your current connectivity speeds. The providers mentioned at the end of this post all go way beyond that, too.
3. Server Numbers and Locations
A provider's server list is important for individuals who want to access the internet from different locations. First, consider the number of country locations available. The best providers offer over 50 different country locations.
You may say that you don't need as much. But it never hurts to have an option? Besides, who knows whenever you'll feel like browsing some Slovakian Netflix.
Next, you'll want to consider how many servers a VPN service offers. Some VPN providers offer thousands of different servers. This allows you to switch between servers if one is underperforming or is getting blocked somewhere. It also means that other users won't overload servers.
4. Ability to Access Overseas Content
As online content expands, more and more web users use VPNs to access overseas content. If you want to enjoy the benefits of geography-locked content, it's essential to choose a VPN that can bypass such restrictions. If a VPN can bypass Netflix or Hulu, they'll most likely be able to access any overseas site.
It's not uncommon to get a VPN purely for this reason - here's our VPN for Netflix list if you're just interested in binge-watching an entire season of some overseas show.
5. Torrenting Capabilities and Support
Using a VPN to access P2P networks can help you avoid detection and prevent speed throttling from your ISP. If you plan on torrenting with your VPN, it's essential to choose a VPN provider that openly supports torrent use.
We've compiled a list of best VPN providers for torrenting for safe and private downloads.
7. Customer Service Options
If you plan on using your VPN a lot, it's essential to choose a provider with excellent customer service. The best VPN providers offer 24/7 live chat support to help you with technical issues.
Having a ticket system or email support is less ideal since technical issues should be solved as soon as possible.
8. The Provider's Reputation
Unfortunately, some VPN providers don't live up to their promises.
In recent years, there have been several VPN providers busted for cooperating with authorities or selling customer data. Make sure to work with a VPN that isn't associated with any suspicious rumors. Where there's smoke, there's fire.
9. The Cost of the Subscription
Last, but not least, it's important to consider the price of your VPN. For a lot of VPN users, the cost is the deciding factor when buying a VPN.
You shouldn't have to pay more than $10 per month to access a premium VPN service.
Most providers also offer considerable discounts if you're willing to pay for annual or multi-year subscriptions upfront.
Here Are Some VPNs I'd Recommend
If you're wondering which VPNs excel in most of the above categories, take a look at some of the VPN industry's top performers below. But if you'd like to make that decision yourself, here's our best VPN list to choose from.
Price from: $8.32/month
Located in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN is an offshore VPN provider with a strict no-log policy. In terms of encryption, ExpressVPN offers the gold standard: AES 256-bit encryption.
ExpressVPN offers one of the most extensive country lists on the market, you have access to over 2,000 servers in over 90 countries. You'll also be able to use these servers to access foreign media online.
I tested its servers with Netflix and Hulu and never experienced issues streaming content. You can also use its platform to download torrents.
Regarding speed retention, my tests on ExpressVPN's platform indicated its servers retain over 80% of download speed. This is one of the best retention rates in the industry.
The only downside to ExpressVPN is its price. With its cheapest plan coming in at $8.32 per month, this is an expensive choice (even if you purchase a multi-year plan).
Price from: $2.99/month
NordVPN is another premium 'offshore' VPN provider. Located in Panama, NordVPN also offers a strict no-log policy and AES 256-bit encryption standards. With this VPN provider, you'll also benefit from over 5,000 servers in around 60 different countries.
NordVPN is another of the limited VPN providers that can access Netflix and Hulu without any issues. Torrents are openly supported on the platform. I tested uTorrent and didn't experience any performance variations while engaging in P2P sharing.
After testing NordVPN's servers, I was pleased to find the provider offers over 70% download speed retention. While this isn't quite as impressive as ExpressVPN, it's still a retention rate that places NordVPN near the top of the market.
NordVPN is packed with excellent features, but you will need to pay for a few years up front to take advantage of the affordable price points.
Price from: free
Switzerland-based ProtonVPN is a VPN provider with a particular focus on data security. The firm was started by the team behind ProtonMail: a major encrypted email platform with millions of worldwide users.
As privacy is a focal point at ProtonVPN, the provider doesn't log any of your web data or IP information. It also offers its clients access to AES 256-bit encryption. Its location in Switzerland places it outside of the Five Eyes Jurisdiction's sphere of influence.
As with all the VPNs on this list, ProtonVPN also allows you to access overseas content and torrents. I didn't experience any issues accessing the world's dominant online media providers. Its servers are also some of the fastest in the industry. After testing some of the leading servers at ProtonVPN, I was able to access download speed retention rates of over 74%.
Best of all, ProtonVPN also offers a limited free version to its users. You can access three servers (on one device) without having to pay for a subscription. The only downside is that ProtonVPN doesn't offer 24/7 customer service access.
How to Buy a VPN
Once you decide on a VPN, buying it is the easy part. The purchase process between VPNs doesn't vary too much. Let's take a look at the steps for purchasing a VPN. We'll use ExpressVPN as an example:
1. Head to the ExpressVPN Website - Head to the VPN of your choice's website. There will be a button on the homepage to begin the process of purchasing a VPN.
2. Enter Your Email and Select Payment Method - You will then be prompted to enter your email, subscription choice, and payment method.
3. Follow Download Instructions on Email - You will receive an email that will include an activation code and a link to download the VPN software onto your device.
4. Enter Activation Code - After downloading the VPN, enter the activation code and set up an account. This will link your subscription to your VPN interface.
All Done! - Now you're done. You'll be able to encrypt your data, access worldwide servers, and shield your activity from prying eyes!
Verdict: Should I buy a VPN?
Yes, everyone should own a VPN.
As every component of our lives moves further online, it's more essential than ever to protect yourself on the internet. Whether you're accessing public WiFi hotspots or overseas media, a VPN is an affordable way to improve your internet experience.
What's your experience with VPNs? Which one are you using or planning to use? Leave a comment below!