If you're serious about staying safe online, paid VPN services are the only way to go. However, they don't have to be eye-wateringly expensive – some of the very best VPNs cost less than $2 a month, and if you choose correctly you won't have to make any compromises at all. What's more, with Black Friday VPN deals in full swing, there are tons to choose from.
VPNs work by sending your internet traffic through its own encrypted servers before you connect to any website. This hides your activity from any snoopers, and can also virtually relocate you to almost anywhere in the world. However, many cheap VPNs work poorly, or at worst could even pose a threat to your privacy – so doing your research is absolutely vital. That's why I've got hands-on and reviewed dozens of popular providers, testing every feature to make sure they're worth your money.
You can keep reading for my in-depth list of all the best cheap VPNs available today. If you just want to know which providers offer the best value for money, though, simply pick from my top 3 directly below:
The 3 best cheap VPNs at a glance
1. Surfshark – Quite simply the best cheap VPN
Starting at just $1.99 a month (a Black Friday special) Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market. Don't be fooled by the price, though – it ranks #3 out of every single VPN I've ever tested.
You'll get rock-solid privacy features, the ability to watch streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer from around the world, and you can use one subscription on as many devices as you want. You'll also get a 30-day refund period to make sure it works for you.
2. Private Internet Access – Cheap and configurable
Private Internet Access comes in a very close second place, and if saving a couple of pence a month is important to you, it could be a better choice – it's just $2.19 a month.
While its apps aren't quite as intuitive as Surfshark's, PIA has an excellent track record of protecting its users' privacy, and it's quite capable of accessing streaming content, too. A 30-day refund period comes as standard.
ExpressVPN – The best VPN overall
It's not the cheapest out there, but it is the best. I rank ExpressVPN as my #1 provider, and it offers an unrivaled combination of class-leading privacy features, excellent streaming performance, and easy-to-use apps.
Tom's Guide readers can also save a bit of cash by claiming 3 months free on the 12-month plan – and, of course, you'll have 30 days to try it out risk-free before you commit.
The best cheap VPNs in 2023
Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.
All of the following cheap VPNs have been rigorously tested and reviewed by the Tom's Guide VPN team, and I'm confident in recommending them as safe, effective, and good-value tools for staying more private online and unblocking restricted content.
Surfshark: the very best cheap VPN today
✔️ You want the best cheap VPN. When it comes to a balance of performance, privacy, and price, I think Surfshark is just about unbeatable.
✔️ You want searingly fast connections. In my tests, Surfshark was the fastest provider – bar none.
✔️ You want to plug and play. Surfshark's apps are attractive and intuitive, and setup is very simple.
❌ You want to subscribe and forget. To maintain Surfshark's excellent pricing, you'll have to remember to cancel and resubscribe after your plan has finished, as prices rise after the first term if you let it run.
❌ You need an unbreakable kill switch. While very unlikely in the real world, my testing revealed that under certain conditions the kill switch can allow data leaks.
When you consider the features you're getting for the price, Surfshark is an easy choice for those looking to save money and stay private online – especially with its current Black Friday price of $1.99 a month. What's more, its streaming unblocking performance is only matched by the more expensive NordVPN. Worth every penny.
Surfshark has made a real name for itself since its inception in 2018. While it's one of the newer services in the industry, the Netherlands-based VPN has quickly cemented itself as one of the very best, ranking #3 overall regardless of price in my Surfshark review. What's more, although it's undeniably a cheap VPN, it doesn't scrimp on features – the most important of which is security.
Packing 3,200 servers in a huge 100 countries, Surfshark has great global range, and no matter where you are in the world, there's bound to be a speedy server nearby.
Fire up the app, and you'll be protected by the full roster of security features you'd expect from any VPN worth its salt. Built around AES-256 encryption, your data is protected by an uncrackable algorithm, and you'll also have a kill switch to stop your IP address from leaking should the VPN cut out at any time.
It's worth noting that in my review, I managed to slightly break the kill switch – although unless you're going to be messing around with root processes, this is very unlikely to happen in actual use. This is worth noting, though, since rivals ExpressVPN and NordVPN were untroubled by the same tests.
OpenVPN (UDP & TCP) and WireGuard protocols come as standard. While WireGuard is now the default and what the vast majority of users will stick with, it's good to have some options. The legacy OpenVPN still has its uses, especially when trying to avoid detection on networks that ban VPN use, and Surfshark's Camouflage Mode still implements it.
Unblocking global streaming content is now one the most sought-after VPN abilities, and Surfshark is up there with the very best. Featuring on both my streaming and Netflix VPN guides, you'll be able to unblock a huge amount of content, from free live sports streams to global platforms like BBC iPlayer, 10Play, ITVX and many more.
Buffering isn't an issue either, since Surfshark proved to be one of the very fastest VPNs I've ever used. Delivering over 950 Mbps on my 1Gbps line in testing, it's clear that Surfshark has the performance to max out just about any connection you're likely to connect to.
The final bonus is that Surfshark allows subscribers to install and use the apps on unlimited devices. This is far more generous than many more expensive rivals, and really adds value, especially for families and friends.
Overall, Surfshark is a very premium VPN that just happens to have a bargain basement price tag. If you're looking for the very best provider, we'd always steer you towards ExpressVPN – but even at a third of the price, Surfshark sacrifices very little.
|Design||Attractive and intuitive apps on all devices||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Well-suited to beginners, but not dumbed-down||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||The fastest provider I've tested||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Excellent for streaming and accessing censored content, but fails on a couple of more niche sites||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Good underpinnings, but the kill switch needs work||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Helpful live chat, but articles can be tricky to navigate||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||Undeniably great value||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
Private Internet Access: affordable customisation
✔️ You want an impeccable no-logs policy. PIA has proved it stores no user info in court twice.
✔️ You're a big torrenter. Advanced features like port forwarding offer extra features for users who really know what they're doing.
✔️ You want a powerful browser extension. The browser extension offers tons of features not offered by other providers.
❌ You love streaming. While PIA is good for streaming, Surfshark unblocks a much wider range of services.
❌ You're a novice. While the apps aren't incredibly complicated, those looking for an easy life might prefer a simpler option.
Private Internet Access is a well-trusted VPN provider that's great for torrenting, is super secure, and can also unblock tons of streaming sites. Its apps are powerful and customizable, and while Surfshark offers a marginally better package overall, PIA is a very solid choice that may suit those looking to delve into the settings a little more.
Just like with Surfshark, calling Private Internet Access a 'cheap VPN' feels like it's doing the veteran provider a disservice. Yes, it's an absolute bargain with prices hovering around the $2-a-month mark, but it's also one of the best services I've reviewed – and has been for a long time.
Headline figures that include over 10,000 servers in 83 countries worldwide, with at least one in each state of the US, show that PIA is no bargain basement throwaway, and over the years it's proved itself to take its customers' privacy seriously. In fact, it's the only VPN provider that's had its zero-logging policy proved in court not once, but twice.
It has all the basics like AES-256 encryption and a kill switch covered, but VPN aficionados will also appreciate the inclusion of more niche features like port forwarding – making PIA an excellent torrenting VPN.
PIA also proved pretty useful when it came to unblocking streaming services, with US Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime posing no problem. As an improvement from last time, it also works as a BBC iPlayer VPN, which will appeal to Brits abroad. However, a few less popular Netflix locations were unavailable
It's worth noting that PIA isn't perfect. In my last round of speed testing, WireGuard speeds peaked at around 360 Mbps, which is mid-pack at best. The likes of Surfshark, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are much faster.
It's also worth noting that while the apps are seriously powerful, they're not exactly simple, which could prove a challenge for newbies to VPN. However, if you're keen to explore things like port forwarding and connection automation, there aren't a lot of providers that come close to PIA's customization.
While Surfshark may offer a slightly better service for those looking for an ultra-simple experience, Private Internet Access is affordable, secure, and perfect for experts.
|Design||Attractive apps that offer tons of functionality||⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Not too complex, but could be a challenge for newbies||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Mid-pack speeds won't slow you down, but you won't be breaking records||⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Huge range of servers, but some Netflix locations are unavailable||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Comprehensive and trustworthy, with a proved zero-log policy||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Great support with well-written guides||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||Offers incredible value||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
PureVPN: the cheapest VPN worth considering
✔️ You want a balance of very cheap and decent performance. PureVPN is the cheapest VPN that doesn't make too many compromises.
✔️ You like streaming. Powerful unblocking means you'll be able to watch tons of geo-restricted content.
✔️ You want an audited zero-logging VPN. PureVPN has proven that its zero-logging policy is up to scratch with an independent audit.
❌ You want a premium experience. While it's very usable, PureVPN feels cheaper than Surfshark or PIA.
❌ You're a Mac user. PureVPN's Mac app simply isn't as good as the competition.
Thanks to its incredibly cheap introductory deal, PureVPN is easily the cheapest VPN worth actually using right now. While in my PureVPN review it didn't match up to the likes of Surfshark, PIA, NordVPN or ExpressVPN, it's still a reliable provider that I'm happy recommending.
Like all good VPNs, PureVPN is based around AES-256 encryption and has an audited zero-logging policy – so even if it's ordered to share your activity, it won't have anything to divulge.
It apps are also fairly easy to use, but it's worth noting that they're not as intuitive as Surfshark, and there are a few UX issues I'd love to see remedied. What's more, the Mac VPN app is pretty thin in terms of features compared to the Windows VPN option.
Let's get to the meat of it, though – PureVPN is offers incredible deals on its 5-year and 1-year plans.
If you fancy bagging the cheapest monthly price, the 5-year plan is just $1.83 a month, which is $109 all-in.
For those looking for shorter-term cover, the 1-year plan will be more appealing. At $1.99 a month, or about $25 all-in, it's pretty eye-catching, and what's more, Tom's Guide readers will also get PureKeep, PureVPN's password manager, for free.
Of course, if PureVPN was a load of rubbish, I wouldn't even suggest you consider it, but in practice it's quite capable. In terms of streaming performance, you'll be able to unblock iPlayer from outside the UK along with Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+, and while simple, the apps will keep you private and secure.
Speeds are a little lower than the very fastest, coming in at 650Mbps, which is good but not exactly groundbreaking. However, that won't affect usage in practice. For the price, PureVPN is an incredible deal and is well worth testing out.
|Design||Decent, but pretty rudimentary||⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Fairly easy to use, but some app niggles may irritate||⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Fairly fast, but still mid-pack at best||⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Quite comprehensive unblocking, bested only by more expensive providers||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Good basics plus an audited no-logs policy, but I did find an issue with the kill switch||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Support site isn't really up to scratch, but enough to get by||⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||Insane value, especially on long-term plans||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
The best of the rest
✔️ You want a recognized brand. CyberGhost has been around for a long time, and has developed a good reputation in the industry.
✔️ You like to keep it simple. The apps are clean and clear, making it easy for beginners and experts alike.
✔️ You want a long trial period. With a 45-day money-back guarantee, CyberGhost offers a longer trial period than any other VPN.
❌ You want to watch Disney+. Although CyberGhost is good for unblocking most sites, it failed in my tests with the House of Mouse's service.
❌ You'll need support. CyberGhost's support site isn't quite as comprehensive as the rivals'.
❌ You have tons of devices. Unlike most other VPNs, CyberGhost limits the number of installations rather than simultaneous connections.
CyberGhost is reliable, has excellent apps on most operating systems, and is an absolute bargain. The limited installation policy is a pain if you've got a lot of devices, and the lack of support for Disney+ is unfortunate, but overall it's reliable and easy to use.
CyberGhost is a Romanian-based VPN service that offers a staggering 9,000+ servers across more than 90 countries – which gives you tons of scope for finding a quality connection anywhere in the world.
Like all the rest, CyberGhost uses super secure AES-256 encryption, and also offers a number of protocols, including the ubiquitous OpenVPN and WireGuard. It doesn't stop there, though. You'll also get automated HTTPS redirection and optional data compression for when on mobile – find out more in my full CyberGhost VPN review.
Since its update to CyberGhost 8, the apps have been greatly improved, and they're now a pleasure to use. Simple connection options mean that beginners will find it easy to get going, while there are a good few options for more advanced users to get stuck into.
CyberGhost has positioned itself as a streaming VPN, and in my testing it performed pretty well. With access to plenty of services like Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and HBO Max, there's plenty to choose from, and the apps themselves offer dedicated servers and a smart filtering system to get the best results.
However, it does lag behind the very best, as I was unable to unblock Netflix UK and Disney+. It'll be worth considering if you're going to want to watch any of these – if so, I recommend Surfshark as the best cheap VPN for streaming.
When it comes to connection speeds, CyberGhost has lost a little ground. In my last round of testing it peaked at 630Mbps when using WireGuard, and while this isn't slow by any means, a year or two ago it was one of the fastest. However, be aware that speeds can fluctuate day to day, and while I spread my testing over a number of days and times, you may get different results.
Although CyberGhost isn't quite up there with the best, it's a fantastic choice for those looking to stream and torrent without breaking the bank – and you'll also be covered by an unusually long 45-day money-back guarantee, so you'll be able to test it thoroughly before committing.
|Design||Good, intuitive design||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||A couple of complexities, but largely very easy to use||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Pretty fast, but can't compete with Surfshark||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Good specialized unblocking features, but lacking a few key services and locations||⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Good basics with a Deloitte audit||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Live chat agents are helpful, but support site is lackluster||⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||One of the best value VPNs out there||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
✔️ You want an absolute bargain. On longer plans, Ivacy is incredibly cheap. Simple as that.
✔️ You enjoy streaming content. Ivacy is remarkably effective for unblocking global streaming content.
❌ You want maximum privacy and security. With some faults in the apps and kill switch, for those looking for reliable protection, I'd recommend Surfshark or PIA.
❌ You don't want a long-term plan. While Ivacy's long-term plans offer crazy value, you have to commit for a long time to get it.
Ivacy is a decent VPN for general protection when browsing and unblocking streaming services. However, for that looking for really comprehensive protection, the kill switch issue and generally underwhelming apps will be red flags. For most, I'd say go for Surfshark, or even PureVPN for similar value.
Ivacy is well-known to be an absolute bargain, and it would be remiss of me not to include it in my best cheap VPN guide. It's one of the few VPNs that includes antivirus that detects and blocks malware threats as you securely browse online.
My tests show you'll be well protected using this VPN, and it's well-suited for day-to-day use. Its top seeds reached 630Mbps in my last round of testing. This is decent, though there are other providers, like Surfshark, that are considerably faster.
When you connect to Ivacy, you have the option to be automatically connected to the fastest available server, or choose one yourself. There are over 5,700 servers located in more than 100 countries, so you're sure to find the best one for your situation.
If you travel away from home, you can use Ivacy to unblock your TV streaming accounts to watch your favorite shows. During testing, I was able to unlock Netflix in the United States, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Hulu, Amazon, and Disney+ are also accessible.
However, it's not all good news. In my full Ivacy review, I noticed a few issues with the apps. First off, the kill switch wasn't rock-solid, and this risks your data leaking should the VPN drop its connection. The apps themselves are also just a little troublesome, and privacy experts won't like the fact that the service hasn't been externally audited.
Ivacy's biggest draw is its price, and it has one of the best long-term plans that starts at just over $1 per month. However, you are locked into a 5-year commitment. Its monthly plan is a bit hefty at $9.95, though the 1-year plan is reasonably priced at around $4 per month.
With each plan, you are given a money-back guarantee, but the terms of this guarantee vary. You get 30 days to check out the 5 and 1-year plans, but only 7 days to back out of a monthly plan.
|Design||Usable, but apps are dated and unintuitive||⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Not the easiest to use||⭐⭐|
|Performance||Speeds are fair, but nothing impressive||⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Kill switch issues and lack of an audit means I'd only recommend for light use||⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Live chat is quite good, but written guides are flimsy||⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||The cheapest of them all, but perhaps with good reason||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
✔️ You want the very best provider on the market. I rate ExpressVPN as the #1 VPN available today, regardless of price.
✔️ You love streaming. ExpressVPN has an impeccable record of unblocking just about every streaming service
✔️ You value privacy above all else. With rock-solid apps and audits for just about every aspect of the service, ExpressVPN is the most secure provider I've tested.
❌ You're on a strict budget. This being my cheap VPN guide, it's quite possible that ExpressVPN's $6.67-a-month price tag will put you off.
❌ You want the fastest speeds possible. Rivals like Surfshark and NordVPN offer faster peak speeds, although on domestic connections this is unlikely to make a difference.
In my last round of testing, ExpressVPN proved to be the very best – and has been for a long time. While it's expensive, you absolutely get what you pay for, with no compromises when it comes to streaming, privacy, app design or customer support. The only downside is the price.
OK, ExpressVPN isn't quite as cheap as some of the other VPNs on this list, but we think the package it offers makes its worth its slightly higher price tag. In fact, our ExpressVPN review found it to be the best service we've ever tested.
With a wide range of server locations, you'll be able to find a great connection. Connection speeds have increased since my last round of testing, too – up to 750 Mbps from 630Mbps. it's fast enough to keep you connected and browsing without any disrupting lag, and one of the best.
Express's apps are also incredibly easy to use, but under the surface you'll find a huge amount of powerful features.
There's a wide range of protocols, split tunneling, a kill switch, and the VPN also uses 'Perfect Forward Secrecy', which uses a brand-new key each time you connect, as well as changing it every hour when you're connected.
If you're looking to protect your whole house without limits, ExpressVPN recently launched Aircove. This is a router with ExpressVPN built-in, and offers a custom dashboard for choosing devices and locations, and more. It's a niche offer that definitely won't be for everyone, but it's the only VPN to offer its own router.
You'll also be able to stream from plenty of Netflix locations, as well as access Hulu outside the US and iPlayer from outside the UK – plus, its great selection of mobile VPN apps means you can cover just about every device you own, no matter what it is.
Even cheap VPNs need great support, and Express has the best in the business – the live chat works very well with replies coming in seconds, and no matter what your issue is, the operator will be able to help.
The only downside is the fact that Express is a little more expensive than other services, but when you consider what you're getting, we reckon it's worth the investment.
|Design||Simple, navigable design that’s easy on your eyes and straightforward to understand||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Beginner-friendly, little to no expertise needed||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||Reliable and very fast, although some others deliver higher peak speeds.||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Servers in 160 locations and 90 countries ensure limitless content||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Security and privacy||Top-notch security with 256-bit AES encryption||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Expert assistance is available 24/7||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||Slightly more expensive than other options||⭐⭐⭐|
How to choose a cheap VPN
Just because you're looking for a cheap VPN doesn't mean you should compromise on features, performance, or privacy. Some of the best value VPNs are far better than providers twice their price.
The most important step is considering what you plan on using your VPN for. Are you a TV addict who wants more content from around the world? An excellent VPN for streaming like Surfshark will likely fit the bill. Do you want your chosen provider's no logs policy to have been proven in court? PIA might appeal more.
It's also important to be aware of your expertise. Some VPNs are more complex than others, so if you're a newbie, it might be worth forgoing advanced customization for a simple and effective solution that you know is just going to work.
For most people, I think Surfshark fits the bill – it's cheap, simple to use, very secure and also offers plenty of extra features that experts will appreciate. However, to find which one fits you best, keep reading for a closer look at all the best cheap VPNs available today.
Cheap VPN FAQ
What is the best cheap VPN?
From my in-depth review process, I can confidently say that Surfshark is the best cheap VPN on the market. It has excellent apps for tons of devices, is impeccable for unblocking streaming sites, and has top-notch privacy and zero-logging credentials.
However, closely following it is Private Internet Access. It's slightly cheaper, and in most areas is a comparable service – so if saving every possible penny is important to you, then PIA is a good choice.
Is a cheap VPN worth it?
If you pick the right one, it certainly is. While some cheap services might not have many servers, provide poor connection speeds or, at worst, leak sensitive data, all of the options on this list provide premium-quality VPN protection for a great price.
If you really can only spare $2.50 a month, Surfshark is the absolutely the best cheap VPN – and will even leave you some change. However, if you can spare a little more I'd steer you towards ExpressVPN. Although you might be spending a few extra dollars a month, Express's functionality is class-leading, is top of our best VPN services guide, and now offers a year of Backblaze backup absolutely free.
Are cheap VPNs secure?
While quality varies a lot in the VPN market, the services on my list are all reliable, secure VPNs that I rank among the top VPNs no matter the price.
All feature at least AES-256 encryption, most have extra features to keep you and your data private, and most will also work well as a Netflix VPN, Suffice to say, if you pick your cheap VPN from this list, your data will be as secure as it would be with any other VPN
Can you get a VPN for free?
It's not impossible to get a decent free VPN, but if you do you'll be sacrificing a lot in terms of performance and, in some cases, security.
Free services still have to make money, so if users aren't paying the provider directly with a subscription, it uses other techniques to earn revenue. Often you'll find the VPN might inject ads into pages you're browsing, and in the worst case it may well be selling your data.
Also, many free providers offer paid options as well, so the free versions are limited to encourage you to upgrade. You may find your connection speeds are throttled, and you'll usually have a data limit which is measured in MB rather than GB.
While free options are available, if you're looking to stream TV or use a VPN daily, it's worth picking up a cheap service like Surfshark rather than risking it – at least you know where your provider is making its money if you pay for a subscription.
Why are VPNs so expensive?
In actual fact, while some VPNs can be fairly pricey, on the whole they're one of the cheaper digital subscription services – especially if you go with one of my recommended cheap VPNs.
However, good VPNs aren't free because they need constant maintenance to ensure their servers are running reliably and securely, and technical teams to keep updating the service to ensure you can still access sites that actively block the use of VPNs – think Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
Also, none of the VPNs on this list will show you any sort of advertising when you're using it, and you'll also have unlimited bandwidth and data to use. Therefore, the only place they make their money is from user subscriptions, and starting at less than $2.50 a month, I think that's a pretty reasonable price to pay for total internet anonymity and data security.