There is no shortage of cheap Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, but does a low-cost service mean sacrificing some of the features any good VPN provider should include? Will the cheapest VPNs keep your online activity private? Will they work with streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer?
We take a look at 5 affordable VPN services that cut prices but not corners.
VPN services don’t usually cost an arm and a leg (especially if you can make the most of VPN deals) but we understand that there are many users out there on a tight budget looking for cheap, reliable options. Free VPN services don’t cut it because they’ll usually skimp on download speeds and encryption standards.
What do you need in a cheap VPN?
There are plenty of highly-rated cheap VPNs available, so there is no need to compromise on quality. It comes down to a lot more than just price. What you need from a VPN is largely determined by how you intend to use it. For example, if your primary goal is streaming, be sure it works with the service you want to unblock (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hulu, BBC etc). Speed is important for almost all uses of a VPN but in particular for streaming. That’s why we run regular speed tests as part of our VPN analysis.
If security and privacy is your main reason for purchasing a VPN, factors such as the VPNs logging policy, level of encryption, VPN protocols and features such as a kill switch are more important to focus on.
The VPNs in this list score highly in all the key uses for a VPN such as streaming, privacy, security and unblocking ability. The VPNs we recommend are also good all-rounders for those who don’t want to splash out on an expensive VPN but still value a high-quality product.
Opting to use a VPN is an excellent choice in the first place, so in this article, we’ll take you through our list of the ones that are inexpensive, reliable, and deliver the most bang for your buck.
We get into plenty of details on each of the providers we feature below, but if you can’t stick around for the whole article, below is our summary of the cheapest VPNs, that still offer quality service and robust online security.
Best Cheap VPN Providers:
- NordVPN: From $3.29/month. Our top choice for the best value VPN. Superfast and works well for streaming. Solid security and privacy. TIP In our testing we found that the cheapest NordVPN plan (Standard) works perfectly.
- Surfshark: From $2.49/month. Best budget option. Unblocks Netflix, no logs, and decent security. Unlimited simultaneous connections.
- CyberGhost: From $2.11/month. Good for beginners. It’s very fast, unblocks Netflix, great security, and no logs.
- PrivateVPN: From $2.08/month. Cheapest VPN on this list. Simple interface, unblocks Netflix, fast speeds, and good security.
- Private Internet Access: From $2.03/month. Good security, no logs, and offers some more advanced options.
Cheap VPN ranking criteria
We carry out extensive research and put VPNs through a range of tests as part of our analysis. Our ranking of cheap VPNs is based on the following factors:
- Affordable prices (obviously!)
- Reliable download speeds and encryption standards
- Varied server network with widely distributed server locations
- Unlocks geo-restricted content (such as Netflix)
- Mobile VPN Apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and MacOS
- Number of simultaneous connections
- Suitable for torrenting
Best Cheap VPNs
Our testing found that these are the top 5 cheap VPN service providers:
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is our top recommendation and a veteran in the VPN space. It’s the fastest VPN we’ve tested, has tons of customizable options, and will appeal to both beginner and power users.
Prices start at $3.29 per month.
NordVPN boasts a zero logs policy, so it doesn’t track anything you do online. Encryption standards are top-tier – NordVPN uses the 256-bit AES protocol encryption standard by default coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys. This VPN provider also offers split-tunneling should you require it. DNS leak protection is enabled ensuring safety when connecting to public wi-fi. It operates more than 5,000 VPN servers in 59 countries.
This VPN provider works with a ton of online streaming services and platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer without any problems. Plans come with unlimited bandwidth and torrenting is permitted.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, and Android. The service allows six devices to connect at one time.
- Unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites
- Strong encryption and no logs
- Plenty of superfast VPn servers
- 6 simultaneous connections
- Live chat support
- Automatic server selection isn’t the best
BEST CHEAP VPN:NordVPN is the best low-cost VPN. Great performer for streaming and torrenting. Premium service for a budget price. Strong privacy and security features and allows up to 6 devices to be used simultaneously from one account. Includes a 30-day money-back guarantee making it a risk-free option.
Here’s our full review of NordVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark is a newer cheap VPN provider that’s great for unblocking Netflix and other streaming services without adding too much onto your monthly bill. It works in China and allows torrenting, too.
Prices start at $2.49 per month.
Every connection is protected with strong encryption, and Surfshark doesn’t store any logs of user activity or other identifying information. 24/7 live chat support is ready to help.
Best of all, Surfshark allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices, which makes it a great option for a family or group of housemates with a lot of phones and laptops. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
- Unblocks Netflix and other streaming services
- Strong security
- No logs
- Works in China
- Not the fastest VPN
UNLIMITED DEVICES:Connect multiple devices on the standard Surfshark plan and take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Surfshark review.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost is an excellent option for beginner users on a budget that want a plug-and-play option without many frills or customizable options.
Prices start at $2.11 per month.
The company is headquartered in Romania – out of the reach of any mandatory data retention laws. The company abides by a strict no-logging policy to keep your online activities secure. Torrenting is permitted on most servers except those located in the United States, Russia, China, and Singapore.
CyberGhost operates thousands of servers in more than 89 countries, giving you plenty of streaming options. CyberGhost makes it easy to unblock your favorite streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer by selecting the specially optimized servers for torrenting, right from the app.
Apps are available for both Linux, Android, and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS. A maximum of seven devices can connect simultaneously.
- Very fast
- Unblocks US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and more
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Doesn’t work well in China
GREAT BUDGET CHOICE:CyberGhost is a good all-round VPN with great privacy, zero logs, fast speeds. Unblocks geo-restricted content like Netflix. Plans include a 45-day money back guarantee.
Read our full VPN review of CyberGhost.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
PrivateVPN is a relative newcomer in the industry and doesn’t offer the expansive server network that’s a hallmark of players like NordVPN. But the service is cheap, easy-to-use, and packs a punch when it comes to speed and stability.
Prices start at $2.08 per month.
PrivateVPN says it stores zero logs of any kind about its users. The service offers DNS leak protection, an internet kill switch, and IPv6 protection as standard. Encryption standards are also tough. PrivateVPN uses 128-bit CPC encryption for TAP and 256-bit AES for TUN on the default OpenVPN protocol. 2,048-DHE keys provide perfect forward secrecy.
PrivateVPN doesn’t have many servers, but it does unblock more international Netflix libraries than any other VPN we’ve tested. It also unblocks other geo-restricted sites like BBC iPlayer and Hulu.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop apps for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Torrenting is permitted, and one user can connect up to six devices at any time.
- Fast servers
- Unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites
- Strong security and online privacy
- 6 simultaneous connections
- Fewer servers than rivals
GREAT SPEEDS:PrivateVPN is a good family choice. Download speeds were surprisingly good at this end of the market. Could do with having more servers. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Here’s our in-depth review of PrivateVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Private Internet Access (PIA) isn’t flashy, but it’s powerful and does the job well. The company doesn’t store any logs and uses the best encryption standards available.
Prices start at $2.03 per month.
PIA offers a pretty diverse range of server locations – there are 3,272 of them spread across 25 countries including many in the Western hemisphere. Torrenting is permitted on all servers.
A user may connect up to five devices with a single account. PIA supports Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work with Netflix.
- Offers some more advanced settings
- Strong security
- No logs
- Doesn’t reliably unblock Netflix
- Some slow speeds
GOOD PERFORMER:Private Internet Access offers strong security, a low price, and great customer service. Speeds can be inconsistent. 7-day money back guarantee.
Read more in our review of PIA.
Finding the best cheap VPNs: our methodology
We understand that not everyone wants to spend a fortune on a VPN subscription, particularly with the rising cost of living in 2022. Fortunately, having a cheap VPN doesn’t mean you need to compromise on quality. Indeed, our methodology for finding the best cheap VPNs involved looking for those that meet the following criteria:
- Servers worldwide: It’s important for a VPN to provide access to servers across dozens of countries. This is for two main reasons. First, you’ll then be able to access a wider range of online content, bypassing copyright and censorship restrictions. Second, it means there’s always a fast server close to your physical location.
- Speed: It’s no good using a cheap VPN if it’s too slow for browsing, never mind streaming, torrenting, and online gaming. While a VPN usually slows your connection somewhat due to the encryption process, the best cheap VPNs are fast with unlimited bandwidth. In fact, our speed tests found some of the fastest VPNs around.
- Unblocking: An increasing amount of online content is region-locked due for reasons related to copyright and licensing. We test each VPN with a wide range of websites including popular streaming services and social media platforms. That way, you can be sure that you can browse as normal when you travel abroad.
- Security: It’s important that you don’t compromise on security when it comes to using a cheap VPN. Indeed, free VPNs are worth avoiding for this very reason. At a minimum, look for one that offers AES encryption and a kill switch. Note that the VPNs listed in this post offer these features and more, such as an ad blocker.
- Privacy: If you don’t want others knowing what you’re doing online, then a VPN should not only use encryption but also operate a no-logs policy. While many VPNs claim not to keep identifying logs of users, we don’t just take them at their word. Instead, we looked at 140 VPN logging policies to separate fact from fiction.
- Ease of use: No-one wants to spend all their time having to set up their VPN and adjust their settings. To get browsing and streaming within minutes, you need a VPN that offers beginner-friendly apps. We test each VPN’s apps for ourselves and look for those that provide live chat and email support 24 hours a day.
- Value for money: While you could call the VPNs we’ve included here “cheap”, they’re really just great value for money and are a reasonable price. After all, there are many VPNs on the market and many look to attract your custom with enticing deals. For an even greater discount, be sure to use the VPN discount coupons listed throughout this post.
Our VPN testing methodology involves looking for the above and testing each VPN’s speed, security, customer support, and more. This helps us provide accurate and up-to-date reviews and find the very best VPNs to fit your needs.
Will free VPNs do the job?
Users short on cash might be tempted to go for a free VPN service. They’re present on the internet and don’t require you to fork over your credit card details – luring and enticing users who think they’re getting the real deal.
We recommend you proceed with caution. Many such ‘free’ services have been caught indulging in fairly abhorrent practices such as forcefully injecting tracking cookies, mining your data, and selling it to third-party advertisers. It’s a handy reminder of the fact that when the product is free, usually you end up being the product.
Other VPNs might be freemium which means that even if they don’t steal your data, they’ll definitely subject you to download caps, bandwidth throttling, and a small selection of servers (usually only one or two). They’re not bothered with robust encryption either, so there’s a continued risk of being exposed.
After all, such companies are registered businesses too. They need to make money to pay for salaries, office space, and server maintenance. Our recommendation is to avoid these traps to stay safe. Cough up a few dollars each month – it’ll be worth it.
What exactly is a VPN?
For the uninitiated, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is software that helps you stay safe and secure on the web. The service works by encrypting all the web traffic to and from your device and routing it via an intermediary server of your choice. This helps keep nosy surveillance agencies and hackers at a distance and also makes it seem like you’re accessing the internet from a different location.
The latter feature makes it possible to unlock geo-restricted content on streaming services. That’s one of the reasons why foreign expats find a VPN to be an excellent choice for staying in touch with content from back home.
See also: How to change your IP address
Cheap VPN FAQ
Do cheap VPNs have dedicated IP addresses?
There’s no clear cut answer to this: some do, some don’t. It’s worth bearing in mind that usually, if dedicated IP addresses are available, you’ll have to pay a little extra each month to get one. Additionally, you’ll often only have the choice of a few different countries.
On a tight budget? You should note that many cheap VPNs offer access to static IP address servers as part of a standard subscription. The only difference between these and a true dedicated IP address is that other users have access as well; it’s not just you. As such, these servers are still at risk of being blacklisted due to the high amount of traffic they generate.
Do cheap VPNs offer port forwarding?
Every VPN is different in terms of their security features, speeds, and network size. Some cheap services might offer port forwarding, while others won’t. This is a pretty advanced feature, though, so it’s worth asking yourself whether port forwarding is something you really need.
Unless you’re hosting a game server or are experiencing incredibly slow speeds, we’d actually advise against using port forwarding. This is because you’re effectively opening up your device to external connections: this is useful for things like accessing your PC remotely, but it does give attackers another avenue for compromising your system.
Can I use a cheap VPN for Netflix?
There are plenty of affordable VPNs that work with Netflix. Usually, you’ll be able to access the US content catalog, and if you’re lucky, the British or Japanese Netflix libraries too. The services that work with a higher number of regional Netflix libraries tend to cost a little more, though.
Although cheap VPNs tend to work fine with Netflix, free VPNs are a terrible choice. Netflix (and most other streaming services) can identify and blacklist these in a heartbeat since there’s so much traffic coming from such a small number of IP addresses. What’s more, because of the strain on the network, your speeds are often too slow to even stream standard-definition video.
Are cheap VPNs secure and reliable?
Major VPN providers pride themselves on their security features and they know that if their apps gain a reputation for unreliability, their customers will simply switch to a different service. For these reasons, you can expect secure, reliable connections from the vast majority of paid services.
Free VPNs are a whole other matter. These usually don’t undergo the same kind of rigorous security testing before release, and may come with vulnerabilities that actually make your device easier for attackers to access. Further, a surprisingly high number of free VPNs fail to include even basic encryption, making them effectively useless from a security standpoint.
Do cheap VPNs limit bandwidth?
If you’re paying for a VPN, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll face any kind of bandwidth or speed cap. These tactics are usually employed by free services as a way to generate revenue and reduce strain on their (often very limited) networks. Should you find a paid VPN that limits the amount of data you use, it’s best to run the other way; after all, any privacy tool that restricts how often you can stay safe online isn’t worth signing up to.
Should I buy a lifetime subscription VPN?
Paying a one off cost for a lifetime VPN subscription might sound tempting but this sort of marketing tactic is not typically used by higher quality VPNs. We’ve yet to see any of the highest rated providers offer a lifetime VPN subscription.
Will a cheap VPN limit my connection speed?
Most cheap VPNs will limit your connection speed, some to a noticeable degree. There are multiple reasons for this. First, some slowdown is to be expected due to the encryption and data re-routing process. However, some VPNs don’t offer enough servers for the number of users they attract, resulting in heavy load (and slow speeds). Some cheap VPNs and free VPNs throttle bandwidth and this can also have a negative impact on your connection speed.
However, the best cheap VPNs as listed in this post all offer good speeds and unlimited bandwidth. As such, you shouldn’t notice slower connection speeds, particularly if you connect to a server close to your physical location (so that data doesn’t have to travel quite as far).