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Best VPN free trial in 2021

Mobile device displaying a VPN free trial
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Finding the best VPN free trial can be tricky, and every provider seems to have a different idea of what a VPN free trial actually is. They typically fall into two categories – a free VPN trial that lets you test the service with limited features, or a money-back guarantee which requires an initial payment that can be refunded no questions asked within a certain period.

If you really want to get to know a VPN, it's definitely worth paying upfront and then claiming back if it turns out it's not for you. You'll have at least a month to get a feel for the service before claiming your refund, and you'll also have no limitations in terms of bandwidth, features, or privacy. 

Some services also offer very short, payment-free trials, but having a 30 days to use the VPN without limitation will invariably benefit you the most.

What makes a good VPN free trial?

Being able 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.

Although we have included one, a 'free version' of a VPN is often a poor substitute for the real deal, and you may be subjected to ads, have limited data, and not have the same privacy protections as full services – but you will be able to use it for as long as you want before you upgrade.

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.View Deal

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.View Deal

3. IPVanish – cheap 1-month plan, plus 30-day guarantee
IPVanish has recently changed up its pricing strategy, and now you can get your first month from just $10.99. However the biggest savings come from the 1-year plan which costs just $3.20 a month – and you'll also have a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the service before you commit.View Deal

The best VPN free trials available today

Devices displaying an ExpressVPN free trial vpn

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

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
Reasons to buy
+Great apps for all your devices+Loads of servers +Full-fat trial functionality+Unblocks tons of streaming sites
Reasons to avoid
-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 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.View Deal

Devices displaying a Surfshark free trial vpn

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
Reasons to buy
+Cheap and very cheerful+Great for streaming+Reliable and swift speeds+Unlimited connections
Reasons to avoid
-Trial has to be activated on mobile

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.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

Devices displaying an IPVanish free trial vpn

(Image credit: Future)

3. IPVanish

Seriously cheap commitment-free plans

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux
Simultaneous connections : Unlimited
24/7 support: Yes
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu
Free trial: 30-day guarantee
Reasons to buy
+Cheap one-month plan+Still covered by a 30-day guarantee+Unlimited device connections
Reasons to avoid
-Some may find the interface complex

If you're after a cheap monthly VPN plan to test out a service but want to spend as little as possible to test it out, IPVanish could be right up your street – and performance-wise it impressed in our full IPVanish review.

With the prices recently shaken up, IPVanish's monthly plan is good value at just $10.99 a month. You don't have to carry on afterwards, and if you really don't like it, you can claim that back within the month.

However, for maximum value, you'll want to go for the one-year plan, which works out at just $3.20 a month, and that's a great price for what used to be one of the more expensive VPN services.

Outside of pricing, though, IPVanish is a top quality VPN all round. You'll get unlimited simultaneous connections so you and everyone in your household can cover every single device, every one of the company's server's is owned and run in-house to avoid third-party intrusion, and it's also good for streaming Netflix.

For the cheapest way to trial a premium VPN, IPVanish is certainly worth a shot – but do be aware that after your first instalment prices may rise, so make sure you check the details before renewing.

Sign up now on the IPVanish website

Devices displaying a Hotspot Shield free trial vpn

4. 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)
Reasons to buy
+Capable free version for an indefinite time+Quick connections+Fairly cheap when you come to pay
Reasons to avoid
-Not as in-depth as other VPNs-Free version has 500MB daily data cap

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.

Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website

Devices displaying a NordVPN free trial vpn

(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
Reasons to buy
+Great performance+Longer plans are good value+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Mobile apps aren't perfect

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.

Sign up now on NordVPN's website

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 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.