Skip to main content

Best VPN free trial in 2020

VPN free trials
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A VPN free trial isn’t unheard of, but each provider seems to have a different idea of what a free VPN trial actually is. Mostly, they fall into two categories – a free trial that gives you a taste of the service but with limited features, or a money-back guarantee, which requires you to pay upfront, but guarantees a refund with no questions asked within a certain period.

Of the two, most people will find a money-back guarantee more useful. For starters, you'll usually have at least 30 days to test and trial the full package, with no limitations on bandwidth or server location. This way, you can tell exactly what the service will be like in practice.

Others offer short free trials or free versions, which, while they sound tempting, reduce functionality to convince you to purchase. Read more about these below.

Regardless of whether there's a free trial available or not, there are countless reasons why you might want a VPN. Many people use them to access geo-blocked streaming services like US Netflix or BBC iPlayer, while others want the peace of mind a VPN brings by securing and anonymizing any and all of your activity online. Whatever your reasons, having a free trial of a VPN can’t be a bad thing – at least you’ll know it can do what you want before you invest.

What makes a good VPN free trial?

Whether you’re offered a money-back guarantee or a genuine VPN free trial, you’ll want to make sure that you can at least access the core elements of the service. It can be tricky to judge a VPN if you can’t use it to its full potential.

While we’ve included one in this list, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you’re using a ‘free version’ of a VPN, you’re likely to be subjected to adverts. In these cases you’ll also probably have a data cap, but the bonus is you can use the limited version for as long as you want before you inevitably upgrade.

ExpressVPN tops the list due to its fantastic functionality and generous 30-day money-back guarantee, and it's the one we'd pick to protect our own personal data. However, read on to find out about its main rivals, their takes on what a ‘VPN free trial’ actually constitutes, and if they’re the right fit for you.

The best VPN free trials available today

ExpressVPN VPN free trial

1. ExpressVPN

The best VPN available – with or without a free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | 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 VPN free trials or not, ExpressVPN should be at the 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 will have to pay to get access. But, if you want to try the best VPN available on for size, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t work for you, then just contact the super-helpful support to terminate the contract within 30 days and you’ll get 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 internet freedom 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.

Surfshark VPN free trial

2. Surfshark

Incredible value plus a true 7-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 very cheerful
Great for streaming
Reliable and swift speeds
Unlimited connections
Trial has to be activated on mobile

Surfshark offers what could be the best-value VPN service around – at less than $2 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, Surfshark also offers 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.

Head over to the Surfshark website to sign up

Hotspot Shield VPN free trial

3. 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
Incredibly quick connections
Fairly cheap when you come to pay
Not as in-depth as other VPNs
Free version has 500Mb daily data cap

If you’re after searing speeds for no upfront cost, Hotspot Shield is a great option. Although the free version can't access all servers 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.

What stands out about Hotspot Shield’s free VPN 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 VPNs). Although it’s able to unblock streaming sites pretty well, 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 does a great job and is worth considering.

Head over to the Hotspot Shield website to sign up

CyberGhost VPN free trial

4. CyberGhost

Streaming specialist has lengthy money-back guarantee

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections : 7 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Free trial: 45-day guarantee

Great for streaming and torrenting
Swift connections
Useful apps
Interface is clunky
Not a true free trial

CyberGhost is another premium VPN service that offers a money-back guarantee rather than a free trial – but it’s gone all out by offering 45 days of testing before it keeps your money. In this case, paying for an unlimited version with the option of getting your money back is probably the most sensible option, as having a data cap would negate some of CyberGhost’s best features.

Optimized for streaming, CyberGhost’s desktop client offers the option to see which of its servers are best for which streaming sites, and this takes out a lot of the guesswork often involved with other lesser providers.

Torrent support is another excellent feature, and you’ll be able to share P2P in safety to your heart’s content once you’ve got a nice quick connection up and running – it even features on our best torrenting VPNs buying guide.

While it’s not quite as polished as the very best, CyberGhost’s VPN free trial is incredibly generous and should give you more than enough time to figure out if the service’s great price and excellent performance are worth spending real money on. However, it's worth noting that if you sign up to a shorter one-month contract your guarantee will only be 14 days long – something to keep in mind.

Head over to the CyberGhost website to sign up

NordVPN free trial

(Image credit: NordVPN)

5. 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

Decent performance
Cheap
Easy to use
Very little configuration

We had to include NordVPN 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 Apple and Google app stores – 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.

As one of the best streaming VPNs 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.

Head over to NordVPN's website to sign up

VPN free trial FAQs

What is a VPN free trial?

Different VPN providers offer different ways to 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’. While you’ll have to hand over some cash to the VPN provider to get access, you’ll have a certain number of days in which to claim your money back if you don’t like or want the service. Most providers are very fair and will refund you no questions asked – especially those on this list.

Rarer is the true free trial, in which you’ll be able to test drive the full VPN for a limited time. These are appealing as while you’ll get your money back with a guarantee, you won’t have to hand anything over in the first place with a trial. 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. Keep in mind, though, that most providers that run VPN free trials also have money-back guarantees.

Finally, we get to 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. They’re great for getting a handle on the interface and infrequent use, but be aware that these free versions are usually supported by ad revenue and often operate with data caps – if you're looking for a VPN to stream with or to set and forget, they won't be ideal.

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 VPN?

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 VPN'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, so if you're using a VPN as a security tool you might want to think twice about where your free VPN is getting its revenue from.