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The best US VPN for use in or outside the USA in 2021

Best US VPN running on a number of devices
(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

As US VPN is an essential if you want to stay anonymous online, and as governmental and third-party surveillance becomes more and more prevalent, the desire for the best VPN in the States is reaching fever pitch.

However, a US VPN isn't just good for privacy. For example, in some countries, your favorite TV shows might not be available on Netflix, but by using a VPN you'll be able to change your location and access more content with your one subscription.

Wherever you are and whatever you plan on using it for, a US VPN is an indispensable piece of software – the trickiest part is choosing the right one for you. Thankfully, we've tested dozens of options and rounded them up to the top five best US VPNs below

What makes the best US VPN?

First off, a US VPN should provide excellent speeds as well as watertight privacy – with so many great options out there, you don't really need to sacrifice anything.

If you're on holiday and want to make sure you'll have access to all the content and websites you're used to back home, pick a US VPN with plenty of worldwide servers. Services that dominate in the US are typically the best overall, so you'll be getting a great product.

Accessing geo-blocked US content from Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, as well as major sporting events is a big draw for people outside the US using VPNs, but those in the States will also be able to access content from all over by virtually relocating.

After our thorough testing, our ExpressVPN review concluded that the provider is not only the best US VPN on the market, but top dog overall. That's because of its huge server network, great speeds, rock-solid privacy and top streaming power. But, there's stiff competition, so read on to see the top five US VPNs you can get today.

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1. ExpressVPN – the best US VPN on the market
As one of the biggest markets for VPNs in the world, US VPN consumers should settle for nothing short of the best – and that's exactly what ExpressVPN is. With incredible speeds, class-leading content unblocking and a 30-day money-back guarantee, it's yet to be beaten.View Deal

2. NordVPN – the biggest name is a great US VPN
The most famous VPN is still one of the best, and while it's slipped behind ExpressVPN in recent years, many still like staying anonymous behind the NordVPN name. Plus, it's good value, and you can stream in HD or even 4K with its incredible connection speeds.View Deal

3. IPVanish – US-based provider is great at home and away
If you want to support US businesses, IPVanish is the best option. Every plan comes with great speeds, excellent streaming and in-depth apps, plus unlimited connections. What's more, the provider is very affordable, too.View Deal

The best US VPNs today

ExpressVPN best us vpn

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

1. ExpressVPN

The best US VPN on the market

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average US speeds on 1Gbps line: 490-630Mbps
Simultaneous connections: 5
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 3,000+
Server locations: 160
Reasons to buy
+Swift US connections+Reliable the world over+Excellent apps for all devices+Stellar support
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly more expensive – but worth it

Simply put, ExpressVPN is the best US VPN because it provides the whole package. Its slick desktop and mobile apps make it as easy as possible to relocate yourself to the States for a Netflix binge, and if anything goes wrong there’s great support on hand 24/7 to help you out.

For those in the US, connection speeds on home ground will be a priority, and on our 1Gbps US connection ExpressVPN delivered scorching speeds of 490-630Mbps. While your internet might not be quite as fast, Express’s performance here demonstrates its servers’ ability to provide truly searing connections – and with 25 US VPN server locations alone, there’s a good chance you’ll have one nearby.

Outside the US, its 3,000+ servers in 160 locations will ensure your day-to-day use is as quick as can be, and we’ve had excellent results connecting from the UK to US servers – you won’t have to worry about dropped or sluggish connections here.

ExpressVPN is also excellent for streaming content, and can get you access to Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Peacock and more. Whatever you’re into, wherever you are, Express can get you through the door.

While it might be marginally more expensive than some others, in this case you actually do get what you pay for. Otherwise, there’s very little else we can find fault with – and that’s why it’s easy for us to crown ExpressVPN as the very best US VPN available today.  

Get 49% off plus 3 free months of the best US VPN
Tom’s Guide readers can get three free months of ExpressVPN by signing up to its 12 month plan – and you’ll be streaming overseas content in minutes. However, if it’s not for you, ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with all its plans, so there's no risk in case you change your mind.
View Deal

NordVPN - best US VPN

2. NordVPN

Big name is great in the States

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average US speeds on 1Gbps line: 480-820Mbps
Simultaneous connections: 6
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 5,300
Server locations: 80+
Reasons to buy
+Excellent streaming capabilities+Excellent US speeds+Security-focused experience
Reasons to avoid
-App layout can be awkward

As one of the best-known services around, NordVPN is a great shout if you’re looking for a US VPN. With tons of servers and server locations, we found in our NordVPN review that it delivered incredible speeds not only in the US, but the world over.

Nord will let you stream pretty much anything you want – including iPlayer – which for many will be its greatest selling point. However, that’s not its only strength. Nord incorporates some excellent security-focused features like AES-256 encryption and class-leading DNS protection, plus a kill switch, Double VPN and Onion over VPN.

Good performance is a top priority for a US VPN, and Nord delivers very well. On our 1Gbps US test line we experienced average speeds of 480-820Mbps using the NordLynx protocol, and while that peaks higher than others above on this list, there’s a little more variation. Consistency is more important than slightly higher speeds – but we didn’t experience any dropped connections or really sluggish servers.

Overall, Nord provides a great package – and comes at a great price too. However, while the mobile apps are perfectly usable, the UI can be awkward at times and spoils the experience a little. If you can get over that, though, NordVPN is still a real contender.

Sign up now on the NordVPN website

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IPVanish best US VPN

3. IPVanish

US VPN that’s unbeatable on home ground

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average US speeds on 1Gbps line: 190Mbps
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Hulu
Number of servers: 1,400
Server locations: 75+
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of servers+Great value 1-month plan+Very configurable
Reasons to avoid
-Netflix access patchy outside US

In our IPVanish review we found the US-based provider be a great performer, and delivers well on both domestic US connections and those overseas. When you first open the desktop client, you’re greeted with a wealth of information – IP address, data up and down, how long you’ve been connected for and even a live graph of your connection speed. We’re not sure how many people will need it, but it’s nice to see.

Our tests showed that IPVanish provides average speeds of up to 190Mbps on a 1Gbps line. That's not nearly as fast as ExpressVPN, but still very usable, and when connecting to the US from abroad speeds were also good, with no interruptions.

However, while IPVanish can get you access to US Netflix, YouTube, Peacock and Hulu, it struggles with iPlayer. The result is that the service functions better as a US VPN for American holidaymakers, or individuals solely seeking US media – if you’re after British TV, you’ll be disappointed.

That said, IPVanish offers tons of configuration, and you can fine-tune your day-to-day experience more than most on this list. For those in the US or just after US media, it’s a seriously quick contender and worth your consideration – and both its annual and monthly VPN plans are good value, too.

Sign up now on the IPVanish website

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Surfshark best US VPN

4. Surfshark

Cheap, simple and perfect for streaming

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average US speeds on 1Gbps line: 200Mbps
Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Number of servers: 3,200+
Server locations: 100+
Reasons to buy
+Incredible value+Clean, simple apps and clients+Unblocks everything you could want
Reasons to avoid
-Not the absolute fastest US speeds

Although relatively new on the scene, Surfshark has become a firm favourite with VPN users thanks to really solid performance and unbeatable value. Although the price might not inspire confidence, in our Surfshark review the provider delivered the goods and is a fine option for those looking for a US VPN.

Its apps are well thought out, making it easy to access any server – and its great unblocking power means it’s a top-quality VPN for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iPlayer, Peacock and YouTube wherever you are.

The reason Surfshark isn’t further up on this US VPN list is the fact that while its connections are very reliable, they’re not the very swiftest in the US – on our American 1Gbps test line speeds topped out around 200Mbps, falling to just 15Mbps on one attempt, whereas in the UK we got excellent speeds of up to 700Mbps. But again, if you're living with slower internet, that won't make a great deal of difference and Surfshark will perform as well as the rest.

If you’re looking for a top quality cheap VPN, you could do a lot worse than Surfshark.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

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Hotspot Shield US VPN

5. Hotspot Shield

The fastest US VPN – with a couple of drawbacks

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Average US speeds on 600Mb line: 360-380Mbps
Simultaneous connections: 5
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu
Number of servers: 1,800+
Server locations: 130+
Reasons to buy
+Absolutely blazing speeds+Generous 45-day trial+Limited free option
Reasons to avoid
-Poor device support-Doesn't unblock Amazon Prime video

If you're after a quick, simple US VPN, Hotspot Shield could be a great choice. Often downloaded as a free VPN, in our Hotspot Shield review we tested the paid version, and we were mighty impressed.

While we were unable to test Hotspot Shield on a 1Gbps line due to technical difficulties on a 600Mbps US line it delivered speeds of almost 400Mbps. On a better line, we'd expect even faster. It achieves these speeds by using its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol, rather than using OpenVPN which most others do. It used to be one of the very fastest, but now the WireGuard protocol and its derivatives are being fully integrated into other providers, competitors are catching up.

While Catapult Hydra provides great speeds, it does mean you can’t use the VPN on Chromebooks or games consoles – you’ll only get cover on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux, and the apps don’t offer much configuration either. However, it's great for streaming as it can access just about every service on the market.

Although it does have some drawbacks, if you want a fast, simple US VPN (and it’s not too expensive either), Hotspot Shield could be the way to go.

Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website

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Why do I need a US VPN?

We all know that the US is a huge producer of quality entertainment for the English-speaking world. However, if you don’t live in the USA, you won’t be able to watch much – especially exclusive movies and shows on Hulu and other such streaming services. Using a good US VPN can get you access to all of this and more.

An often-overlooked feature of VPNs is the fact they can help you avoid location-based pricing. This usually affects things like plane tickets and software, and while it's a little more trial and error than exact science, using a VPN to flit across the globe can allow you to find the best price in seconds.

Seeing as the US is home to a massive amount of software developers – known for offering favourable prices to those in the same country – having a good US VPN could save you a bit of cash, and perhaps even pay for itself.

Can I get a US VPN free?

While it's possible to find a free US VPN, they universally come with their drawbacks.

Firstly, free services come with monthly or daily data caps, meaning you'll have to be careful how much you them. While these range from a minuscule 500MB to more generous offers in the tens of GB, none are well suited to streaming media – and, let's be honest, all most people want to do is use their US VPN for Netflix.

Secondly, if you're not paying for the service, the company will have to get its revenue from somewhere else. Your app might be cluttered with ads or worse – the data you're trying to protect could be sold on for profit.

Although they have their uses, most free services aren't great for more than checking your emails while connected to public Wi-Fi. And, seeing as the cheapest paid-for VPNs start under $2.50 a month, a very small investment can get you a whole load of functionality.

How do I get a US VPN?

Getting a US VPN couldn't be simpler. Once you've signed up to a service, every US VPN provider will have a direct download for their VPN client on their website – and you'll probably be directed to this page as soon as you've paid.

If you're using a Mac, most VPNs are also available in the Mac App Store. Anyone can download them for free, although to use them you'll usually have to purchase a subscription unless the VPN offers a free trial.

After you've downloaded the software, install it like any other program. You might be faced with a dialog box requesting your permission to allow the VPN to access or change settings, but this is perfectly normal – and to use the VPN you'll have to allow this, anyway.

From there on, you'll just have to log in with the details you created when purchasing the plan, and click the connect button on the app. From then on, you'll be protected until you switch it off.

How do US VPNs unblock Netflix?

Netflix has specific libraries for many countries and regions around the world, and these are only accessible to those who are using an IP address within that country or region. This can prove a problem for those on holiday, and many others just want to watch shows they’re not ‘allowed’ to.

A VPN for Netflix can be used to virtually relocate you to a server in whatever country you want, and the best will do this in a way that’s undetectable by the streaming service. Once you’ve done that, you’re free to watch whatever you want.

Should I get a mobile US VPN?

If you’re often out and about or travelling, it’s likely that you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. While these are convenient and can save you a wedge of data, many are unprotected and are especially vulnerable to hackers. There’s a real risk that your sensitive information is on show to someone you might not want it to be.

The solution to this is to get a great iOS or Android VPN to protect your data. With a tap on an app you can shield your identity from anyone who’s looking, and the best mobile VPNs are entirely unnoticeable in practice.

Seeing as all VPN subscriptions cover more than one device, you’ll be able to keep your phone, tablet and desktop covered with whichever US VPN you’ve chosen from this list, too.

US VPN disclaimer

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Mo is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees privacy and security content, and his product guides help his readers find the best software and products for their needs. When he's not testing VPNs, you'll find him working on his classic car or plugged into a guitar amp.

  • kep55
    I don't need a VPN every day so a fee one makes more sense. How do they stack up?
  • John Conoor
    kep55 said:
    I don't need a VPN every day so a fee one makes more sense. How do they stack up?
    the cheapest of all is Surfshark
  • Techguy46
    kep55 said:
    I don't need a VPN every day so a fee one makes more sense. How do they stack up?

    I think it depends on exactly what it is you're looking for. Most of them have different "free bundles/packages". Tunnelbear is quite popular (specially due to their advertising) among the free users. As a european I personally use either Allertaprivacy or diebestvpn.

    But that's mainly because it's what I know and are familiar with. Been meaning to check out some of the newer ones, like the VPN that comes with protonmail.