Using a VPN free trial is the easiest way of working out whether your chosen service is the best VPN for you. However, it's no secret that not every VPN provider offers a free trial, and out of those that do, what you actually get is hugely varied.
VPN free trials tend to come in three flavors. Firstly, you'll get your true free trial, which offers you unlimited access to a service for a limited time – usually a week or so. Then, you've got the free VPN trial, which offers you indefinite access to a limited version of the software for free.
Finally, you have the money-back guarantee. While these require an upfront payment, we think they offer the best way to test out and get to know a VPN. If you don't like it, you can simply claim back your money – simple as you like.
What makes a good VPN free trial?
The ability to test every feature is an essential part of a VPN free trial, as without that full functionality it's difficult to judge a service. That's why we always recommend paying and then claiming back.
While we've included a couple, using a free version of a premium VPN can't give you true insight into what the service will be like as a paid product. Both services we've featured here offer at least 30-day guarantees, so to get the most from them, we'd recommend signing up to test, and claiming back if you're not a fan.
We've named ExpressVPN as our best VPN free trial because it offers excellent functionality plus a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. We think it's the best on the market, and having a month to test the service yourself allows you to say the same (or not) with confidence. We've also rounded up its main rivals, so read on to see what they class as a VPN free trial, and if that might suit you.
1. ExpressVPN – test the best service risk-free for 30 days
With ExpressVPN's 30-day no-quibble money-back guarantee, you can test the service for a month risk-free with no limitations. If you don't like it, you'll get absolutely all your money back – but if you do decide to stay on you'll be able to claim three free months on a year-long plan.
2. Surfshark – bargain provider offers genuine VPN free trial
Surfshark offers a genuine seven-day free trial on mobile, but most people will get more value by taking advantage of its 30-day money-back guarantee. And if you do stay with the provider, you'll be getting full VPN cover for less than $2.50 a month.
3. ProtonVPN – Free option plus cheap basic plans
ProtonVPN offers a seriously powerful privacy-based service, and has recently become one of our favorite VPNs. It has the best free version of a VPN on the market, and you'll also get a 30-day money-back guarantee on the paid plans. Perfect!
The best VPN free trials available today
Whether you’re considering services with a VPN free trial or not, ExpressVPN should be at the very top of your list. With excellent security credentials and brilliant support, it really is the full package – and a free trial is the cherry on top.
If you’re a streaming fanatic, ExpressVPN can get you access to Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime video and plenty more, as well as allowing you to watch live TV and sports from abroad – and its reliably quick connection speeds will get you streaming in HD, too.
OK, ExpressVPN’s free trial isn’t truly a free trial – you have to pay to get access – but if you want to try our top-rated VPN on for size, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t fit, then just contact the super-helpful support to terminate the contract within 30 days and you’ll get every penny of your money back.
While it’s priced like a premium product, it’s got the credentials to match, so if you’re looking for a VPN with a free trial, we’d have a go with ExpressVPN first – there’s no risk, and you might discover you like the way it performs more than you expected.
Get 49% off plus three free months of ExpressVPN
Tom’s Guide readers can get three months free with ExpressVPN’s one-year plan which gives 15 months for the price of 12. Combined with that 30-day guarantee, this offers great value for what we reckon is the best VPN on the market today.
In our Surfshark review we found that it offers what could be the best-value VPN service around – at less than $2.50 a month it undercuts pretty much all the competition while retaining great functionality. However, if you’re not sold on signing up for a whole two years to get that price, Surfshark also offers a seven-day VPN free trial.
There’s a bit of faffing about to get it, but when signing up for a plan on mobile you’re able to start a free trial with no payment for seven days. Then, with the logins created on your phone, you’ll be able to use the VPN on your desktop. What’s more, VPN usage is unlimited in that period, so you can genuinely get a feel for how Surfshark works.
Also, that means you can take full advantage of Surfshark’s excellent streaming capabilities – you’ll be able to access geo-blocked Netflix libraries, iPlayer from outside the UK, Hulu and tons more.
If you can't be bothered to mess around on mobile to get those seven days free (we don't blame you), Surfshark also offers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee, so whichever way you go, you'll be able to get a VPN free trial and test the service out for real.
If you’re after a genuine VPN free trial and an excellent value product afterwards, Surfshark could be right up your street.
In our most recent ProtonVPN review, we found that the Swiss provider had really upped its game, and it now sits near the top of our roundup of the top VPNs available today.
However, what's especially appealing is the fact that it's also the best no-fee VPN on the market today. That means that you'll be able to test this privacy-focused service out for free, for as long as you want.
Obviously, the free version holds back some features like streaming and torrenting support, Proton's famed Secure Core servers, and its searing connection speeds. For that, you'll have to upgrade to a Plus plan.
Sign up for two years and it's not too expensive, and just like every other VPN worth its salt, you'll have 30 days to test the full premium product. If, within that time, you don't like it, you can claim back your cash.
Overall, ProtonVPN offers a very convenient route from trialling the product to paid subscription, and we highly recommend giving it a shot.
Our NordVPN review found the big-name service to be seriously impressive, and we had to include it in this buying guide because while its genuine free trial is complicated to access, it’s probably up there with the VPNs you’re considering – and it also has a 30-day money-back guarantee, anyway.
Nord’s trial is similar to Surfshark’s in that it’s only available from the Google Play store – but you’ll be able to use the account you create on your phone to protect your desktop too. It might be a bit of a workaround, but it’s worth it to avoid paying anything for seven days, and you’ll get access to all the features available on a full plan right away.
If that’s not long enough, you can continue your trial with no risk by making the most of the provider’s generous 30-day money-back guarantee – have a quick tester before you pay anything, and then take a deep dive over a month to see if it’s really worth your money. Be aware that refunds are not available from Nord for purchased made through the Apple App store – you need to go to Apple to get one. To avoid any issues like that, we'd recommend signing up on desktop.
As one of the best streaming VPN services available, it’s also pretty handy at getting access to whatever content you’re after, so it's definitely worth giving NordVPN a quick test.
If you’re after decent speeds for no upfront cost, Hotspot Shield is a great option. Although the free version can't access all servers, isn't much good for streaming and lacks some of the features of the paid version – as you’d expect – you’ll still be able to get protected with this VPN’s excellent encryption. Check out our Hotspot Shield review for more.
What stands out about Hotspot Shield’s free trial is that you can stick with it for as long as you want. While other trials run out and require you to pay sooner or later, this one can keep you going indefinitely.
However, it’s not all give, give, give – Hotspot Shield’s free trial limits you to 500MB of data each day (still far better than many other free services). Although the paid version works great for streaming, the free option is a little less reliable (but still makes our free Netflix VPNs guide).
Also, even if you can unblock streaming sites, you won’t be watching more than an episode of anything before your allowance is maxed – an hour of standard-def Netflix content uses about 1GB, or 3GB if it’s HD.
However, as something to securely browse the web with or protect your mobile devices when connected to public Wi-Fi, Hotspot Shield's VPN free trial does a good job and is worth considering.
VPN free trial FAQ
What is a VPN free trial?
Different VPN providers offer different ways for users to get some experience using their software without any monetary risk, and now that VPNs have become more mainstream, developers are becoming more generous with their trials.
The most common way you’ll find to try out a VPN for free is the ‘money-back guarantee’. Most providers are very fair and do refund you no questions asked
Rarer is the true VPN free trial, in which you’ll be able to test drive the full VPN for a limited time. However, it’s not common to find a trial longer than seven days, and that leaves the chance that you won’t be able to fully explore the VPN.
Finally, we enter the realm of ‘free versions’. Essentially, these VPNs are free for an indefinite time, but they’re usually weak versions of a provider’s full, paid-for service.
Why do VPN providers offer free trials?
It's a combination of genuinely helping the user choose a service more effectively, and getting you used to its apps and ingrained in its ecosystem.
Obviously, the VPN wants you to sign up and spend money, but the almost universal money-back guarantee means you shouldn't be afraid of claiming back if you don't like a certain VPN.
Remember, the consumer is king, so take every chance you can get to ensure you're spending your money wisely.
How can I get my money back on a 30-day VPN free trial?
Most VPNs that offer money-back guarantees – and all of those on this list – are established companies known for their fairness and holding up their side of the bargain.
If you've paid up for a VPN and decided it's not for you, you're well in your rights to get in contact and request a refund. This is usually done over email, but if you visit the provider's website you'll also be able to seek help from the 24/7 customer support.
You're likely to be asked why you're choosing to terminate your contract, but if you're within the money-back time-frame, you're guaranteed to be refunded almost immediately.
Should I get a free service?
If you're going to be using your VPN for anything bandwidth-intensive like torrenting, or keeping it on for long periods of time, a free service's drawbacks will become noticeable very quickly.
While, for example, Hotspot Shield's 500MB-a-day allowance is generous and allows you to use it every day, for activities like streaming and torrenting you'll run out pretty quickly.
Also, paid-for VPNs are more likely to have watertight privacy policies, and securing your privacy is one of the most important VPN uses. So, if you're using a VPN as a security tool you might want to think twice about where your free service is getting its revenue from.