Online privacy is more of a concern than ever, and the first step towards digital anonymity is picking up the most private VPN. By changing your IP address and encrypting your traffic, the best VPN offers a quick and easy way of protecting your traffic – but not every provider is as private as they make out to be.
On this page, we've run down the top 5 providers that we believe offer the most private VPN experience. We've tested each service thoroughly, dug around in privacy policies, and tested kill switches to breaking point in order to determine which providers you can trust with your data.
What makes the most private VPN?
There are a few very important features to look out for in the most private VPN. Firstly, you should consider where your chosen VPN is based – those in countries like the US and much of Europe are subject to data retention laws, although there are exceptions.
You'll also want to make sure it has a watertight no-logging policy. That means that no records of how you use the VPN are kept, and if anyone demands them they won’t be there to hand over.
It’s also worth considering what payment methods you can use – does your VPN accept Bitcoin, perhaps even cash, or do you have to use PayPal? Finally, almost all VPNs require you to use an email, but if you use a secure email service like ProtonMail, you can keep that private and unidentifiable, too.
When considering all of those points and more, we’ve named ExpressVPN as the most private VPN available today – there are no sacrifices made in terms of privacy or usability, and it has a rock-solid and fully audited no-logging policy that's been proven in practice. However, there are some other strong contenders, so read on to find out the five most private VPNs available today.
1. ExpressVPN – the most private VPN on the web (opens in new tab)
If you want to keep your data and browsing away from the prying eyes of Google's trackers, Facebook's algorithms and data harvesters, ExpressVPN is the perfect choice. You'll have a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can also claim three months FREE through Tom's Guide.
2. NordVPN – well-known for keeping you private (opens in new tab)
Privacy is NordVPN's whole shtick, and it's a seriously effective way of keeping your private data truly private. You'll have great apps for tons of devices, a huge amount of servers to choose from, and best of all it's not all that pricy, either.
3. Surfshark – great value and excellent privacy (opens in new tab)
If the two above are a little pricy, Surfshark offers a cheap alternative. While not as customizable as Express, Surfshark delivers all the basics and then some – and for less than $2.50 a month, there's not much more you could ask for.
The most private VPNs available today(opens in new tab)
Topping this list is ExpressVPN, and that’s because it not only provides a great suite of privacy features, but also delivers an incredibly intuitive yet fully-featured user experience.
From the off it’s good news, as Express is based in the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction that does not have mandatory data retention laws – and it’s not a member of the five, nine or 14-eyes alliances. Express also delivers on the no-logging front, having undertaken an independent audit fairly recently with positive results.
This is bolstered by ExpressVPN's use of RAM-only servers, known as TrustedServer. In a nutshell, that means that these servers do not use hard drives, and cannot store any data after powering off. Express is one of the few VPNs to make this move, and it's an important step towards being truly zero-logging.
You can also avoid handing over any identifying information when signing up. ExpressVPN has full Bitcoin support – but unfortunately not Ethereum, Monero, Ripple or others – and although you do need an email, it’s not hard to get a free account with a decent privacy-focused provider.
So, Express ticks all the privacy boxes, but what really puts it ahead of the pack is the fact it’s all wrapped up in such a slick package. In our testing for our ExpressVPN review, it delivered excellent speeds of over 600Mbps, and was able to unblock tons of streaming sites – from Netflix and BBC iPlayer to Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
Its live chat support was a pleasure to use too, and when we posed them tricky questions they were able to deliver actionable advice that solved our problems.
If we had any issue with Express, it’d be that it’s a little more expensive than some other options, but in this case you really do get what you pay for, and you'll also get a 30-day money-back guarantee to make sure you like the service before you commit.
Get 3 months FREE of the most private VPN (opens in new tab)
Tom's Guide readers can claim a mega 3 months free of ExpressVPN, working out at 15 months for the price of 12. You can pay via credit card, PayPal or Bitcoin, and if you're not happy with the service you'll be able to get a no-quibble refund within 30 days.
An absolute stalwart of the privacy industry, NordVPN has made a name for itself as one of the go-to providers for those seeking a private VPN, and quite predictably, in our freshest NordVPN review the service truly impressed.
Some may remember the 2018 server hack – and yes, it does leave a bitter taste – but since then NordVPN has undertaken two independent audits of its servers and policies, which has certainly helped us regain some trust in the provider. This matches up to our top choice ExpressVPN, and is just about an essential these days.
These audits are incredibly invasive, and Nord allowed the firm PwC access to its Standard VPN, Double VPN, Obfuscated (XOR) VPN, and P2P servers, as well as its central infrastructure. The tests undertaken demonstrated Nord's no-logging policy was upheld in its entirety, and out of all the VPNs on this list, NordVPN's audit is the most recent.
What’s also great is Nord’s Panama-based status – just like the BVI, Panama does not require companies registered there to retain the data of its users, which is perfect for those who want true privacy from their VPN.
Like Express, NordVPN accepts cryptocurrency payments, but you’ll also be able to use Ethereum and Ripple alongside Bitcoin. Again, this is great if you want to stay absolutely anonymous end-to-end, from purchase to use.
Unfortunately, we’re still yet to wholly get over the hacking incident – as we know a number of prospective users are, too. However, its practice of regular audits alongside a clear no-logging policy instils more trust than ever in NordVPN. And, if you're not sure, Nord offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ll be able to test out the service without committing to make sure it’s the one for you.(opens in new tab)
While Surfshark is one of the cheapest, it’s also one of the most private VPN providers out there. You’ll be able to pay in Bitcoin, Ethereum or Ripple, and a recent audit of its server infrastructure has proved its security – check out our Surfshark review for more.
Surfshark has also recently introduced a couple of interesting privacy features that can help you protect your identity online.
Surfshark One is the provider's comprehensive security suite, and while it comes at a premium, you'll get a few interesting privacy features you won't find elsewhere.
First up, you'll get a basic but effective antivirus tool, which is nice to have. You'll also get an ultra-private search engine which will keep your data out of Google's hands. Finally, the Alert tool will notify you of data breaches in which your data has been included.
If you don't fancy shelling out the extra $1.49 a month for Surfshark One, though, the basic package is still a super private and secure service. With excellent AES-256 encryption and all the essentials like a kill switch and split tunneling, it's really all you need.
If you’re looking for a quick, private VPN for less than $2.50 a month, though, Surfshark is your best option.(opens in new tab)
You may well have used ProtonMail to keep your paper trail anonymous when signing up to other services, so why not go the whole hog and get ProtonVPN too? Our most recent ProtonVPN review showed plenty of improvements, and it's fast becoming a serious contender.
Proton's Secure Core servers are the standout feature. Essentially, they allow you to connect to an ultra-secure location (think an underground bunker of servers in remote Sweden) before connecting to another server. ProtonVPN recommends users do this when connecting to more vulnerable locations like Turkey – but there's nothing stopping you using it all the time.
ProtonVPN also has the audited credentials and open-source bragging rights to prove its trustworthiness, and surprisingly in our testing it also performed very well as a streaming VPN, able to access Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer and more.
One of our only real complaints is that on balance, it's quite expensive even compared to the very premium ExpressVPN, but if you've been taken in by the green and black interface and Swiss privacy, we certainly don't blame you.(opens in new tab)
Often thought of as a VPN that specializes in streaming and torrenting – and it is – in our CyberGhost VPN review we found it also has some pretty powerful privacy credentials to match. It’s one of the few VPNs to publish a quarterly transparency report, which details how many requests from the DMCA and police the company gets.
Thankfully, CyberGhost’s claims of zero-logging seem to be true, but just like Surfshark we’d love to see the firm undergo an audit to prove this. While being based in Romania is a good start (favorable data retention laws), we’d love to see the policy and servers verified.
Other than that, it’s pretty much good news. You’ll be able to pay with Bitcoin (although not Ethereum, Ripple, or any other cryptos), and as a specialized torrenting VPN you can access P2P sharing without worrying about being busted if you accidentally get hold of copyrighted material.
If you’re happy with CyberGhost’s no-logging policy and not worried about the lack of an audit, it’s a great-value VPN with a huge amount of servers all over the world. True privacy nuts, though, will probably go with one of the above.
Most private VPN FAQ
1. ExpressVPN (opens in new tab) – The most private VPN on the market
2. NordVPN (opens in new tab) – Fully audited and great for streaming
3. Surfshark (opens in new tab) – One of the best-value private VPNs
4. ProtonVPN (opens in new tab)– Cash payments and Swiss privacy are appealing
5. CyberGhost (opens in new tab) – Combines privacy with great torrenting ability
What is the most private VPN?
Overall, we recommend ExpressVPN (opens in new tab) as the most private VPN on the market. It's great for streaming, staying anonymous, has plenty of servers, and also delivers excellent connection speeds.
However, close on its tail is NordVPN, with a very similar feature set for a little cheaper (opens in new tab), and a great bargain option is Surfshark, which is available for less than $2.50 a month (opens in new tab).
Can you trust any VPN to be private?
When you sign up for a VPN service, you give it permission to view all the data you're trying to keep private from some other party, such as your internet service provider – you're essentially swapping who you show your data from a party you don't trust to one you do. But, can you actually trust VPNs?
You shouldn't blindly trust anything. It helps to know as much as possible about a VPN provider, such as who owns it, who runs it and where it's based, but if you're really privacy conscious, you'll want to give your VPN provider as little information about yourself as possible. That means seeking out a provider that might offer anonymous payments, or perhaps doesn't require an email address.
However, while many do require an email address, if you're really keen on staying anonymous you can sign up for a free, secure email provider like ProtonMail. That way you don't have to tie your name to your VPN.
Who needs a private VPN?
If you don't want the government or your ISP snooping on what you're up to, and want to evade hackers and trackers, having a private VPN should be a priority.
That's not incriminating either – why should we have to do all our business and leisure activities in plain sight? We close our curtains when we want privacy at home, so think of a private VPN as the shutters on your computer's windows.
Thankfully, even if you're after a fast VPN as well, you don't need to sacrifice anything. The very best private VPN will be able to do it all for you.