ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which provider is best?

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN
(Image credit: Future)

It’s harder than ever to maintain your privacy on the internet. Between hackers, spies, and advertisers, it’s easy to feel like every click you make is being watched. With a VPN, you can turn the tide back in your favor. VPNs route your internet connection through a series of encrypted tunnels to a VPN server that acts as a buffer between you and the rest of the internet, ensuring that your online activities remain private from prying eyes… as long as you choose the right one.  

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two leading VPN providers renowned for their top-notch security features and performance. In this article, I’ll delve into a comprehensive comparison of NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN to determine which one offers the best overall experience.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN at a glance

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Header Cell - Column 0 ExpressVPNNordVPN
Number of servers:3,000+6,000+
Server countries:160 locations in 105 countries140 locations in 111 countries
Maximum simultaneous connections:810
Money back guarantee:30 days30 days
Lowest monthly cost:$6.67$3.99

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Specs

In the past, it used to be that ExpressVPN provided the most server locations to choose from. However, as our table shows, NordVPN now just about squeaks ahead in terms of countries served. This is also the case when it comes to server numbers, as NordVPN offers over double the number of servers than ExpressVPN does. 

Although server numbers don't always correlate with a quality service, they are a strong indicator of such, especially when comparing top-tier VPN providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. 

Additionally, NordVPN allows you to cover more devices compared to ExpressVPN. However, it is worth pointing out that both providers allow you to cover a router using the VPN, meaning any device you connect to that router will benefit from the protection of a VPN without taking up a connection slot.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Plans, pricing and trials

While both providers offer comparable services, NordVPN just about wins out on value for money. They both offer a monthly plan that’s almost identical in price: ExpressVPN will stand you in for $12.95 a month, whereas NordVPN is slightly more expensive at $12.99 a month. However, once you start buying into longer plans NordVPN becomes significantly cheaper, meaning it's more attractive if you're looking for a cheap VPN. NordVPN’s annual plan is $4.99 a month, almost two dollars cheaper than ExpressVPN’s $6.67 a month. This is the extent of ExpressVPN’s discounts, but NordVPN has an even more cost-effective 2-year plan that works out at $3.99 a month. 

Both providers offer a 7-day trial for Android and iOS users, allowing you to test their services before committing. If that isn’t enough for you, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN provide a 30-day money-back guarantee, ensuring that you can request a refund if you’re unsatisfied with the service.

Both providers offer a 7-day trial for Android and iOS users, allowing you to test their services before committing. If that isn’t enough for you, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN provide a 30-day money-back guarantee, ensuring that you can request a refund if you’re unsatisfied with the service.

In terms of extras, ExpressVPN only gives you a password manager (admittedly, this does come free of charge). Otherwise, it focuses more on its core VPN services without additional bundled features. In comparison, NordVPN offers a ton of additional features like the NordPass password manager and data breach scanner in its Plus plan, as well as 1TB of encrypted cloud storage and cyber insurance coverage in its Ultimate plan. 

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Security and privacy


Although I’ve got some concerns with both providers, I should say that generally ExpressVPN and NordVPN are secure and thoroughly audited. All of the normal security features you’d expect are included with each of their apps, including a kill-switch that cuts off your internet traffic if your connection to the VPN drops out to prevent data leaks on public Wi-Fi. Each provider goes beyond the typical kill-switch you’ll find in VPN apps by including an app-specific kill-switch as well as a system-wide one, so you can pick which apps prioritize constant connectivity over data security and vice-versa. 

Data encryption is also strong across both providers. Both use AES-256, which is a highly secure data encryption algorithm trusted worldwide by millions of enterprise organizations. As far as actual VPN protocols go, both use OpenVPN and WireGuard which are similarly trusted. Each has their own custom VPN protocol designed for high-speed connections: ExpressVPN has LightWay, whereas NordVPN uses NordLynx. NordLynx is essentially a speedy upgrade to WireGuard, whereas LightWay is an entirely custom VPN protocol built from scratch to maximize connection speeds.

Now, it’s time to get into the concerns. While ExpressVPN used to have a reputation for security that was second to none, recent events have thrown this into doubt. As discovered by CNET’s Attila Tomaschek, Version 12 of ExpressVPN’s Windows client leaked DNS requests when run in Split Tunneling whitelist mode. Split Tunneling allows you to choose which apps are run through a VPN and which use your default internet connection, but ExpressVPN’s implementation caused apps whitelisted for the client to continue to make DNS requests using the default DNS settings on your system instead of via ExpressVPN’s encrypted DNS servers.

This potentially exposed some ExpressVPN users' home IPs used to make these requests to their ISP, Google, or whichever DNS provider they have set up by default. It’s unclear how this issue wasn’t picked up during previous audits and casts some doubt on ExpressVPN’s internal QA practices, but at this point the feature has been disabled until ExpressVPN fixes the issue. This means that if you’re looking for a VPN with Split Tunnelling on Windows, you should stick to NordVPN for now.

Nord also isn’t entirely free from security failures either, as in 2018 they had a data breach at one of their servers in Finland through a third party remote management system installed by the data center they used. This prompted NordVPN to completely overhaul their approach to security, terminating their contract with the data center they used in Finland and implementing regular application and security audits. At the moment, NordVPN is really the right choice when it comes to security, especially when you consider the wealth of extra security applications built into their Plus and Ultimate plans.

ExpressVPN services

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Logging and privacy

I’m happy to report that ExpressVPN and NordVPN are really neck and neck when it comes to their commitment to user privacy through stringent no-logging policies. However, they differ slightly in their approach and the details they disclose.

ExpressVPN provides a detailed "Policy towards logs" document on its website. According to this policy, ExpressVPN does not log users' IP addresses, connection timestamps, assigned VPN IP addresses, or browsing activity, including DNS requests. The only minimal data logged are the dates of connection, choice of server, and total data usage. Importantly, ExpressVPN does not store connection times or allocated IP addresses, ensuring that user activities cannot be traced back to specific accounts. 

These assertions are backed up by several audits from KPMG which affirm that ExpressVPN’s privacy policy is both accurate and technically sound. Essentially, ExpressVPN is a true no-logs provider that you can trust. 

NordVPN enforces a similar policy, where no logs are stored. At most, NordVPN records whether a user has connected within the last thirty days, as well as a list of concurrent sessions and connection timestamps which are deleted within 15 minutes of a session being terminated. 

NordVPN hired Deloitte, a top auditing company, to conduct an independent audit of its infrastructure and services in November 2022. Deloitte's thorough investigation included interviews with NordVPN employees, inspections of server configurations, technical log analysis, and assessments of other servers in the infrastructure. In a January 2023 blog post, NordVPN announced that Deloitte found no evidence of any violations of their no-logs promises. 

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

(Image credit: NordVPN)

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Performance

Performance is another area where ExpressVPN used to dominate, but NordVPN has just about beat them to the top. Our OpenVPN testing shows that ExpressVPN is still the king when it comes to this protocol, but NordVPN’s speeds using its proprietary NordLynx protocol absolutely blows ExpressVPN out of the water using Lightway.

ExpressVPN delivers respectable speeds with peak OpenVPN rates reaching around 210 Mbps, while its proprietary Lightway protocol boosts speeds significantly to an average of about 410 Mbps. Despite not being the fastest, ExpressVPN will be more than enough for most use cases involving streaming and gaming. Connecting to servers in other countries is seamless, ensuring stable connections even to distant locations.

On the other hand, NordVPN’s NordLynx protocol more than doubles the top speeds you’d see using Lightway, with our top observed download speeds of over 950 Mbps. Even with the slower OpenVPN protocol, NordVPN maintains decent speeds, averaging around 110 Mbps. While this isn’t as fast as ExpressVPN’s OpenVPN speeds, it’s also more than enough to power several high-quality streams simultaneously without breaking a sweat.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Streaming

ExpressVPN has traditionally been the heavyweight when it comes to unblocking popular streaming platforms. When you check out the ExpressVPN website, you’ll see that there’s a wealth of platforms explicitly named including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, and many more. In my own testing, I’ve found that ExpressVPN still unblocks basically every important streaming service. 

However, what’s interesting is that NordVPN has clearly invested time and effort into matching ExpressVPN’s unblocking capability. NordVPN does not explicitly claim to unblock specific websites or services but during testing I couldn’t find a single platform that NordVPN didn’t unblock.

At this point, the real litmus test for top-tier VPNs isn’t what’s unblocked—it’s how a VPN provider reacts when a streaming service blocks a server. In the rare instances in the past where ExpressVPN couldn’t access a service, I was able to get in touch with a support representative and raise a ticket to get a particular streaming service unblocked within days. NordVPN is still a little slower in this regard, but both providers are really neck-and-neck when it comes to unblocking streams. NordVPN’s recent additional locations particularly help here. 

ExpressVPN vs nordvpn

(Image credit: Future)

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Torrenting

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are both torrent-friendly providers, albeit with slight differences. I found that ExpressVPN is great for casual torrent users, whereas NordVPN requires a little more thought but the top speeds you can achieve on the service really make it worth your while.

NordVPN provides dedicated P2P-friendly servers across various global locations, including the US and UK. While not all servers support P2P, NordVPN's Windows app offers a convenient P2P server list, letting you connect to suitable servers within seconds. Moreover, NordVPN's stringent no-logging policy, multiple layers of DNS and traffic leak protection, and privacy features such as Double VPN and Onion over VPN mean it’s ideal for worry-free torrenting.

ExpressVPN doesn’t prominently advertise its P2P support, but in some ways it’s actually better than NordVPN. Unlike some VPNs that restrict P2P to specific servers, ExpressVPN allows torrenting from all its server locations. There are no bandwidth or transfer-related restrictions, and the company guarantees it will never throttle your connections. Unlike NordVPN, you’ll never have to change your server to receive optimal torrenting speeds. 

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Mobile apps

ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer mobile apps for Android and iOS devices, each with their own set of features and user experience. 

ExpressVPN's Android app boasts a clean and intuitive interface, allowing easy connection to VPN servers with a tap. It provides a protection summary displaying current IP information and offers a security assistant for device protection tips. The app includes a built-in kill switch, split tunneling, and support for OpenVPN and Lightway protocols. 

On the iOS side, ExpressVPN's app presents a similar user-friendly interface, with options for location selection, protocol choice, and network protection features. While it lacks support for OpenVPN, it offers IKEv2 and Lightway protocols for secure connections. The app also includes a kill switch and Threat Manager for blocking trackers and malicious sites. Overall, ExpressVPN's iOS app delivers essential functionality in an easy-to-use package, although you may miss some of the advanced features found in the desktop apps.

NordVPN's Android app offers a map-based interface for location selection and supports NordLynx, OpenVPN, and other protocols. The app includes features like auto-connect and split tunneling, along with Threat Protection Lite for DNS blocking. While lacking a built-in kill switch, NordVPN provides instructions for setting up device-level kill switches. 

Similarly, NordVPN's iOS app features the same visually appealing interface with map and location list options. It includes a Favorites system for quick server access unlike the Android app and supports NordLynx, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 protocols. The app also offers advanced features such as automatic connection on untrusted networks and Siri shortcuts for convenience. With Dark Web Monitoring and a range of protocol options, NordVPN's iOS app stands out as a particularly feature-rich VPN client when most iOS VPN apps remain somewhat lacking.

While ExpressVPN’s apps prioritize ease of use, NordVPN’s apps provide a more comprehensive set of features and customization options. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a mobile VPN app, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one over the other.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Support

ExpressVPN and NordVPN both offer comprehensive customer support options, including detailed knowledge bases, live chat, and email support. There’s not much difference between the two here, honestly.

ExpressVPN's support site has extensive troubleshooting guides and setup tutorials for various platforms so you can find solutions to common issues easily. It can be a little overwhelming, so to help you there’s a built-in search engine which efficiently retrieves relevant articles based on keywords. Additionally, ExpressVPN's support team is available 24/7 via email and live chat, delivering prompt and helpful responses. I sent out test email queries which were answered within half an hour, whereas for live chat questions responses were received within a minute. 

Similarly, NordVPN provides a comprehensive support website with detailed setup and troubleshooting guides, although the categorization of articles is a little less intuitive compared to ExpressVPN. In addition to a search engine, NordVPN uses a chatbot feature which offers instant assistance. I was a little skeptical at first, but it consistently directed me to relevant resources. Thankfully, the live chat support is manned by real human agents, who responded promptly and politely. NordVPN also offers email support, with my test queries receiving replies within the hour.

There’s so little in the running between NordVPN and ExpressVPN when it comes to support, as both offer a really high-quality level of documentation and live agent assistance.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is better?

It’s a close run race, but there’s three main points that put NordVPN ahead of ExpressVPN in my mind. 

Number one, and arguably the most important, is ExpressVPN’s recent security failure. A VPN needs to be secure above all else, and while ExpressVPN have taken swift action to close their DNS leak it’s put all of their security audit results into question. Although NordVPN has had security issues in the past, at the moment it seems that they’re ahead of ExpressVPN in this regard. 

Secondly, there’s the price. Both VPNs are comparable at the monthly price, but NordVPN works out significantly cheaper for every other plan. There’s also more value on offer, as NordVPN provides several different plans that include cloud hosting, extra security tools, and a Meshnet service which allows you to run your own encrypted file-sharing network piggybacking on NordVPN’s servers. 

Finally, our testing indicates NordVPN is faster. Although ExpressVPN works out a little bit better for easy torrenting, NordVPN using NordLynx is a stronger choice for streaming and general internet usage. Both providers offer top-tier VPNs, but for these reasons I have to give the number one spot to NordVPN.

How we test VPN services—our review methodology

There’s no replacement for hands-on experience when it comes to reviewing VPNs. That’s why we take an end-to-end approach, breaking down every aspect of a VPN we can think of. This process starts at the provider’s website, where we go over the marketing claims, the privacy policy, the support materials, and any intrusive tracking cookies we notice. 

This gives us a sense of how sincere a provider is about protecting your data before we get into the VPN itself - after all, it’s a red flag if a VPN that claims to protect your data is selling off all of your data to third parties before you even download the app. 

Then, of course, we sign up and download the app (anonymously, naturally). Each platform gets its fair shake - we test all the platforms a provider offers to make sure they work as advertised. We pay particular attention to feature parity across apps, as often mobile apps don’t quite match up to their desktop counterparts.

Once we’ve got our hands on the app, it’s time for a stress test: We test out each protocol and run speed tests, check for data leaks, and run through a gamut of streaming services to see which ones get blocked.

Finally, we take all of the information we’ve gathered about the VPN and make a final judgment on it: Is it worth the money? Is it secure? Does it stand out in any particular way in a sea of similar products? There’s plenty of VPNs out there, but there’s only a few that qualify for our recommendation.


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Olivia Powell
Tech Software Commissioning Editor

Olivia joined Tom's Guide in October 2023 as part of the core Future Tech Software team, and is the Commissioning Editor for Tech Software. With a background in cybersecurity, Olivia stays up-to-date with all things cyber and creates content across TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. She is particularly interested in threat intelligence, detection and response, data security, fraud prevention and the ever-evolving threat landscape.

With contributions from
  • Tommymymymy
    One big difference which is not mentioned in this article is that Bank of America phone app works on all ExpressVPN locations (in the US), while NordVPN ONLY works coming out of NYC, NY. I personally do not feel safe coming out of NYC, plus the added propagation time does not help Also, those connections are saturated, so sooner or later, you'll get bumped off. The whole reason I use a VPN is for secure banking and other secure sites.

    With either service, whenever you search with Google on any browser, you'll have to successfully fill out an Re-Captcha form every time you search. Bing search does not seem to be affected, so I often use it instead of Google.

    Having both services, NordVPN seems glitchy to me at times, where ExpressVPN seems transparent, as if your not even using a VPN. I do get disconnects with ExpressVPN on occasion, I only know because I can't get mail or browse.

    Couldn't tell you if it works for streaming video, don't use that.

    I make no money by writing this, I am coming from a consumer user side of things.

    With having said all of this, I will be investigating Mozilla's new VPN service, it may also be a good choice. For now, I will stay with ExpressVPN over NordVPN.

    The few times I've had issues with ExpressVPN, they've responded by email within 48hrs.
  • Jonas Bentzer
    I'm a Linux sysadmin in the 50's from the far south-east of Sweden.
    Just want to make a couple of corrections regarding CyberGhost VPN. I switched from NordVPN to the Romanians for about 6 months ago after eventually gotten fed up with daily connection loss.
    CyberGhost have indeed both WireGuard and killswitch. They also offer a solid PrivacyGuard for free which covers all major browsers and M$ privacy and optimal settings. A Secuity Suite is also offeres for a fee I do not remember in writing time.
    Last but in no any way the least, CybGhost are still to let me regarding connection...or anything else for that matter.

    I strongly recommend CyberGhostVPN Just saying, it'rock steady alternative to ExpressVPN.
    Just saying, take your time comparing before making a final descision and you'll be good to go