Are VPN free trials worth using?

Man downloading a free trial on a laptop
(Image credit: Garagestock/Shutterstock)

Testing out products before you spend real money on them is an essential part of the buying process, yet as we rely more on online shopping and software downloads, it’s something that seems to have fallen by the wayside. That’s why if you’re in the market for the best VPN, you might be looking to test out a VPN free trial before you commit.

There are a number of different kinds of free trials that VPNs offer, and here we’re going to be exploring whether it’s worth the time and potential hassle using one, plus any tips we’ve got on how to make the most of it.

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Are free trials worth using with VPNs?

In short – yes. Prioritizing a free trial or money-back guarantee when choosing a provider gives you peace of mind that even if you don’t enjoy the product, you won’t be out of pocket. You’ll usually have at least a few days to test any essential features, and if it doesn’t perform, you haven’t wasted money.

Every user is different, and while we often recommend ExpressVPN as the best service available, you might dislike the interface or find that it simply doesn’t behave how you want it to. In ExpressVPN’s case, you can test it for 30 days and claim back for any reason, so you’ll have plenty of time to figure out if it’s right for you.

However, not every free trial is the same, so which kind should you choose?

Hand holding a cosmic globe that says 'free trial'.

(Image credit: Alfa Photo/Shutterstock)

What kind of free trials are on offer?

VPN trials tend to fall into one of three categories: money-back guarantees, free VPN versions, or short true free trials.

On the surface, a true free trial (no payment or credit card entry) seems like the best option. However, these are usually very short, ranging from 24 hours to seven days, which doesn’t give you much time to test it out, and fewer and fewer providers are offering them. 

Also, you may often still have to submit your credit card details, but the payment will be deferred for a short period of time in which you can cancel. Both NordVPN and Surfshark offer a seven-day free trial, but these are only available with the mobile apps.

However, while it does require an upfront payment, money-back guarantees give you much longer to test a service. You’ll get full access to the VPN for at least 30 days (in some cases up to 45), and in that time you’re much more likely to discover any problems that might change your mind. The aforementioned ExpressVPN offers this, alongside most other premium providers.

Finally, using a free option allows you to test a limited version indefinitely. That’s good if you’re just worried about the interface, but for features like streaming and torrenting it’s likely you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version to test them out. Hotspot Shield and ProtonVPN are great examples of this.

Is it easy to claim your money back?

We’ve all had issues with refunds in the past, but thankfully VPN providers know that their customers are often buying because of the promise of a refund, and are very fair about it. All of our top-rated providers are very fair, have active live-chat assistance to see you through the process, and deliver refunds promptly.

All you need to do is either send a message over live chat or email stating that you’d like to claim your refund. You’ll likely be asked why, but your reasoning won’t affect your refund.

Hands on a keyboard using a VPN

(Image credit: Song_about_summer/Shutterstock)

How to use your free trial

Whichever option you’ve chosen – true free trial or a money-back guarantee – it’s good practice to identify why exactly you want your VPN. If you’re after a secure VPN, make sure all the protocols and privacy features you need are available. If you’re a big streamer, make sure your streaming VPN can access everything you want to watch.

This is another reason why having longer to test your VPN is a positive – you simply might not get round to testing everything you need in the short time a true free trial offers you.

Which VPN do we recommend?

ExpressVPN – our top-rated service today
three months absolutely FREE

ExpressVPN – our top-rated service today
With over 3,000 servers worldwide and excellent speeds on just about all of them, ExpressVPN is a versatile, secure solution for streaming, torrenting, and day-to-day browsing. You can test it out risk-free for 30 days and claim your money back, and now Tom's Guide readers can get three months absolutely FREE.

Mo Harber-Lamond
VPN Editor

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.