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If you want to ensure privacy when browsing the web, streaming content, or doing anything online, a virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best ways to do it. A VPN blocks internet service providers and others from tracking your activity online, and this can be especially important when you're on a public network.
Not all VPNs offer the same quality, however. There are a lot of options out there, but here are our recommendations for the top five VPNs to check out in 2023.
You may have heard of a VPN but not know what it is or what it does. If you're unfamiliar with how they work, you may have asked yourself, what is a VPN? And what is a VPN used for? VPN stands for virtual private network, a tool that you can use to protect your privacy while you're online, regardless of what device you use to connect to the internet.
You may not realize the various privacy risks in play when you browse the internet. This starts with your internet service provider (ISP), which shares your location through your internet protocol (IP) address. This "address" is represents your location on the internet — the hub through which all your activity can be traced.
A VPN prevents that from happening. These virtual private networks, which are legal to use in the United States, make it so that your activity is encrypted. This keeps your IP address invisible to your ISP or the websites you're using. Instead of seeing your IP address, they see the VPN's IP, which could be based anywhere in the world.
One other reason people like VPNs is because they allow you to access streaming titles that are tethered to a certain location. So you might be able to watch shows that are only available in the U.K. if you have a VPN that blocks your U.S. location. However, using a VPN might break your terms of service, so be sure to check whether the streaming service you use allows you to use a VPN to watch titles from other countries.
Now that you have an idea of how VPNs protect your privacy, let's look at five of the top VPN providers available, the services they offer, and what they cost.
We'll cover five services below, but here are the highlights of our top three VPNs of 2023.
|Best Monthly Cost
|Maximum Monthly Cost
|Dynamic or Static
|Dynamic or Static
One of the oldest virtual private network providers, ExpressVPN was founded in 2009 and is currently owned by Kape Technologies. Based in the British Virgin Islands, its North American office is in Toronto.
ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries and provides VPN services to over 4 million subscribers in more than 180 countries. It works on all the major platforms, including Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux. It does not track your activity logs or your connection logs. The company also offers 24/7 subscriber support through a live chat function.
While ExpressVPN does not offer a true free trial, it does have a 30-day money-back guarantee. While you have to pay for your first month, you can get a full refund if you decide you don't like the service and cancel within the first 30 days.
ExpressVPN offers three plans, where you can pay monthly ($13/mo.), twice a year ($60 every six months), or annually ($100/yr.). Right now, ExpressVPN is running a promo that gives you an extra three months free if you pay for a yearly subscription. That means you get 15 months for less than $7/mo.
In addition to standard credit cards and PayPal, you can also pay for your subscription through your Bitcoin account, along with a variety of other payment options.
Based in Panama, NordVPN has been protecting its subscribers since 2012. One of the most trusted VPNs, NordVPN serves more than 14 million subscribers worldwide through more than 5,000 servers in 60 countries.
Like ExpressVPN, NordVPN does not maintain activity or connection logs and offers 24/7 live chat subscriber support. You can access it on Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems, and routers.
NordVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all its plans. Although you have to pay up front to use the service, you can get your payment back in the first 30 days if you're not satisfied.
NordVPN offers one-month, one-year, and two-year plans. The one-month plan starts at $13/mo., while the one-year plan starts at $69/yr. for the first year. The two-year plan starts at $89 for the first two years. NordVPN accepts payment through major credit cards, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and various other payment methods.
One of the newer VPNs, Surfshark was founded in 2018 and is based in the Netherlands. The company has over 3,200 servers in more than 65 countries.
Like the others, Surfshark does not maintain logs of your activity and offers 24/7 subscriber support. However, while Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee like the previous VPN service providers, it also offers a seven-day free trial if you're using an Android, iOS, or macOS device.
Like NordVPN, Surfshark offers one-month, one-year, and two-year plans. The one-month plan costs $13/mo. For the one-year plan, the cost is $48 for the first year and $60/yr. thereafter. The two-year plan costs $60 for the first 24 months, plus you get two months free. After the first 26 months, you'll pay $60 every 12 months. Payment can be made with major credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and even cryptocurrency for added anonymity.
Based in the United States, IPVanish got its start in 2012 in Orlando. The New York City-based VPN company is now Ziff Davis-owned. IPVanish makes use of more than 40,000 IP addresses from over 2,200 servers in more than 75 locations.
You can use IPVanish on an unlimited number of devices. Your activity will not be logged, and you'll have access to subscriber support. Like the other providers, IPVanish offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, but this is only available for the yearly or two-year plan. It can be used with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux operating systems.
IPVanish offers subscribers the choice of three plans -- monthly, annually, and a two-year plan. The rate for subscribers who choose to pay every month is $12/mo. To pay annually, the rate is$54/yr.. The two-year rate is $80 every two years. Note that these prices can change at renewal time.
IPVanish accepts major credit cards and PayPal.
CyberGhost VPN stands out a bit from the other VPN service providers with its guarantee. It was founded in 2011 in Romania and is currently owned by Kape Technologies, the same company that owns ExpressVPN. CyberGhost VPN has a network of over 9,100 servers in 91 countries.
With CyberGhost VPN, you can protect up to seven devices at the same time, and your activity will not be tracked. Access your CyberGhost VPN from Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux devices, along with gaming consoles, smart TVs, and routers. You'll also have access to subscriber support.
CyberGhost offers three plans -- one month, six months, and two years. While the one-month plan comes with a 14-day money-back guarantee, the other plans include a 45-day guarantee, more than the other VPNs we've discussed.
The one-month plan is $13/mo. The six-month plan, meanwhile, is $42 every six months, and the two-year plan is $57 once every two years and then $57 annually thereafter. You'll also get an extra three free months thrown in with the two-year plan. The VPN accepts major credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrency, and more.