Best VPN free trial in 2022

Mobile device displaying a VPN free trial
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Two, three, and even five-year plans from the best VPN services are becoming the norm, and are undeniably good value when the equivalent monthly cost is considered. However, they also require a ton of commitment and a hefty payment upfront. Bagging a VPN free trial is the perfect way to try before you buy.

Not many VPNs offer a true free trial, but there are workarounds that allow you to try out almost every provider for free. That could be through its limited free VPN, a free introductory period, or even a guaranteed refund within 30 days.

Whichever you choose, using a VPN with a free trial is the only way to test out a service before committing, and is a sure-fire way of making sure your chosen VPN can do what you need it to.

What makes a good VPN free trial?

The most useful part of a VPN free trial is being able to test the full service before committing. So, while free-forever services are useful in a pinch, it's difficult to judge how effective the premium version will be when you finally part with your money. 

True free trials can also be very short – we're talking a matter of days – and you may find that it's run out before you get the chance to test out everything you want.

That's why we recommend taking advantage of a money-back guarantee. Yes, you have to pay upfront, but you'll get at least a month to test the service, and in our experience most providers make it quick and easy to claim your refund.

We've named ExpressVPN as the best free trial VPN, as you'll have a month to test the highest-rated VPN on the market. However, we've also included some providers with free versions and true free trials – all you need to do is pick the one that fits you best.

1. ExpressVPN – test the best service risk-free for 30 days (opens in new tab)

1. ExpressVPN – test the best service risk-free for 30 days (opens in new tab)
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 months FREE on a year-long plan.

2. Surfshark – bargain provider offers genuine VPN free trial (opens in new tab)

2. Surfshark – bargain provider offers genuine VPN free trial (opens in new tab)
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. Proton VPN – Our top-rated free option (opens in new tab)

3. Proton VPN – Our top-rated free option (opens in new tab)
Proton VPN 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

Devices displaying an ExpressVPN free trial vpn

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)
(opens in new tab)

1. ExpressVPN

The best service available – with or without a VPN free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Peacock | Free trial: 30-day guarantee

Great apps for all your devices
Loads of servers
Full-fat trial functionality
Unblocks tons of streaming sites
Pay before you try (but you can get it back)

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 team to terminate the contract within 30 days and you’ll get every penny of your money back – no matter how much you've used it.

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 recommend going with ExpressVPN first – there’s no risk, and you might discover you like the way it performs more than you expected.

Try out our top-rated VPN ExpressVPN risk-free (opens in new tab)

Try out our top-rated VPN ExpressVPN risk-free
(opens in new tab)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 very best provider on the market today.

Devices displaying a Surfshark free trial vpn

(opens in new tab)

2. Surfshark

Incredible value plus a true seven-day free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Free trial: 7 days free + 30-day guarantee

Cheap and effective
Great for streaming
Reliable and swift speeds
Unlimited connections
Trial has to be activated on mobile

In our hands-on Surfshark review we found that it offers a seriously tempting cheap VPN option – 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 great-value product afterwards, Surfshark could be right up your street.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website (opens in new tab)

Proton VPN on a range of devices

(Image credit: ProtonVPN)
(opens in new tab)

3. Proton VPN

Free option is perfect for testing the waters

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections : 10 | 24/7 support: No (live chat available) | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Free trial: Unlimited / 30-day guarantee

Our top-rated free provider
Class-leading privacy on every plan
30-day money-back guarantee
Unlimited data with free plan
Apps are somewhat complex

Proton VPN is well and truly on the up, and in our latest Proton VPN review we found that it has become a serious contender.

However, what's especially appealing is the fact that it's also the best free VPN service 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.

If you want the full package, upgrading recently became a little more affordable. If you pick the 2-year plan, you'll get a decent price of $4.99 a month. That unlocks Proton's Secure Core servers and its excellent Netflix VPN performance, and while it's a little more expensive than rivals like Surfshark and NordVPN, the free version allows you to make sure it suits you before committing.

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, Proton VPN offers a very convenient route from trialling the product to paid subscription, and we highly recommend giving it a shot.

Sign up now on the Proton VPN website (opens in new tab)

Devices displaying a NordVPN free trial vpn

(Image credit: NordVPN)
(opens in new tab)

4. NordVPN

Classic service offers a true VPN free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 6 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, | Free trial: 7 days + 30-day guarantee

Excellent speeds
Longer plans are good value
Easy to use
Excellent privacy and security
Mobile apps can be awkward

Our NordVPN review found the big-name service to be seriously impressive, and we had to include it in this 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 directly from Nord for purchases 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.

Sign up now on NordVPN's website (opens in new tab)

Devices displaying a Hotspot Shield free trial vpn

(opens in new tab)

5. Hotspot Shield

Well-featured free version is a good introduction

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Free trial: Unlimited (restricted usage)

Capable free version for an indefinite time
Apps are simple and easy to use
Fairly cheap when you come to pay
Not as in-depth as other VPNs
Some minor logging concerns

If you’re after decent speeds for no upfront cost, Hotspot Shield is a great option. Although the free version (opens in new tab) 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 – and the introduction of unlimited data is very welcome indeed.

However, in recent years both Hotspot Shield's paid and free plans have become somewhat overshadowed by up-and-coming new providers, and as such it's falling slightly behind in the areas it used to excel in. 

Despite that, though, as a simpler alternative to Proton VPN 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.

Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website (opens in new tab)

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.

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.