If you're in the market for one of the best VPN services, you might be feeling like there's so much choice it's hard to pick the right one for you. Never fear, though, because at Tom's Guide we've tested just about every VPN you're likely to consider, and here we're pitting two of the best against each other, head to head: IPVanish vs Surfshark.
As two of the best, most trusted providers today, it should be elucidating to find out in which area each shines, and what kind of user they suit best. So, here we go – may the best VPN win.
IPVanish vs Surfshark at a glance
IPVanish – Great US-based service + 250GB free cloud storage (opens in new tab)
IPVanish is one of the finest VPNs on the market. You'll get unlimited connections, configurable apps and great speeds, and the current sale is offering a monthly fee of just $3.25. Plus, you'll also get one of the best freebies on the market: 250GB of SugarSync secure cloud storage.
Surfshark – bargain provider offers serious value (opens in new tab)
If all you want is top-quality VPN cover for as little as possible, Surfshark could be your best bet. While you won't get any free gifts, a monthly price of just $2.49 might sway your decision – there's a reason we rate it the best value VPN on the market.
|Number of servers:||1,500+||1,700+|
|Maximum simultaneous connections:||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Money back guarantee:||30 days||30 days|
|Lowest monthly cost:||$3.25||$2.49|
IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which is more affordable?
Before we start digging around in features, we'll assess how much each of these VPNs is going to hurt you wallet.
IPVanish opens up at $8.00 for a one-month plan. If you're looking for the flexibility offered by paying monthly, IPVanish is one of the cheapest. On a six-month plan, you'll pay $7.20 a month, which, if we're honest, isn't much of a discount.
If you go for an annual plan, the price will drop to $5.20 (opens in new tab), which more along the lines of what we expect.
Rated Tom's Guide best cheap VPN, Surfshark is know for its aggressive pricing. However, opening up at $12.95, IPVanish is clearly the better choice for commitment-phobes. It becomes about level pegging for six-month plans, for which Surfshark is asking $6.49 a month.
However, Surfshark's 12-month plan comes in at only $2.49 a month (opens in new tab). In terms of raw numbers, that makes Surfshark the cheaper provider. But, if you're in need of secure cloud storage, IPVanish also offers a completely free 250GB plan with storage
So, depending on your needs, either service could offer better value – but while expensive on short-term plans, Surfshark still remains the bargain VPN to beat in terms of price alone.
IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which is faster?
Good connection speeds are essential for the smooth day-to-day running of a VPN, so they should be high on your priority list.
We test VPNs on our 75MB UK line and our 600MB US line. We also test a number of overseas locations to make sure connecting to distant servers won't cause issues.
On our UK line, Surfshark delivered a good average of around 68MB, which is more than enough to easily stream HD content without buffering. On our US line, it zipped up to an impressive 160MB which, while not quite making the most of our superfast connection, is more than enough for pretty much any use.
In our testing in March, IPVanish's servers appeared hampered by the work-from-home response to COVID-19, and we think the poor speeds experienced were thanks to a huge increase in use. However, we did achieve speeds of 69MB connecting to a Dutch server, and tested today on a 110MB line, IPVanish delivered an excellent 105MB.
IPVanish's US performance has never dipped, though, and we got average speeds of around 220MB, well exceeding Surfshark's performance.
Despite its slight blip in March, we reckon both services are on level pegging in the UK, but IPVanish is definitely the swifter US VPN.
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IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which is more secure?
Core tenets of any VPN worth its salt, privacy and security are incredibly important if you're going to trust your VPN to keep your activity anonymous.
IPVanish claims to be a no-logs VPN, and its recent introduction of an unlimited connections policy was more to do with removing the need to keep logs than it was about value (although we can't complain about either). It also uses industry-standard 256-AES encryption alongside a good amount of protocols so you can pick between absolute security and lightning-fast speeds.
Surfshark also makes no-logging claims, uses AES-256, has a selection of protocols to tailor your experience, and doesn't limit your simultaneous connections. All pretty similar here, then.
One thing we'd like both to do, though, is undergo an independent audit of servers and policy. NordVPN, for example, has recently undergone a second in two years, and while we've no reason to distrust either provider, a bit a proof goes a long way.
For the purposes of the head-to-head, this one's a dead heat.
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IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which is better for Netflix?
It's likely that you're going to want to take advantage of one of the best things a VPN can do: stream restricted or overseas content.
Surfshark storms out the blocks with this one, making bold, clear claims about its streaming prowess on its site. Thankfully it delivers, and in our testing we got access to overseas Netflix libraries, BBC iPlayer in the US, Hulu, Peacock, Amazon Prime, and more. Wherever you are, you'll be able to get streaming pretty much anything.
IPVanish is also excellent for streaming, however, with great Netflix, Amazon and Hulu performance. However, one blot on the copybook is accessing iPlayer – we simply couldn't get it to work.
If BBC content means a lot to you, you're best off with Surfshark, but if you can live without it, both and pretty much even stevens here.(opens in new tab)
IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which is better for torrenting?
A torrenting VPN is a must-have if you plan on sharing P2P.
All of IPVanish's 1,500 servers are P2P-optimized, and you'll also have locations in 75 countries – variation is very useful. Combined with good connection speeds, that makes it a great choice for torrenting.
Surfshark has a few more servers at 1,700 in 63 locations, and although not all are P2P optimized, if the client detects torrenting activity you'll automatically be switched to a server that does.
In practice there's very little difference in torrenting ability here, and again, there's not a clear winner. If you plan on torrenting a lot, we recommend considering what else you'll use you VPN for, and make your decision based on that.
IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which has better apps?
Apps and their interfaces are very important – if it's not easy to use a service, you're less likely to get everything out of it.
Surfshark delivers a very clean and modern aesthetic, and the apps are very simple. It's easy to change server on any device, and the settings are simple to go understand, too.
IPVanish is at the opposite end of the spectrum. While still easy to use, the apps display a huge amount of info, including data up and down, your IP address, connections speeds and more. While we appreciate this, it might be a bit complex for newbies. However, once you get used to it, we're sure you'll appreciate everything it has to offer.
Which is 'better' here is entirely down to you and your tastes. If you prefer simplicity and you're not fussed about seeing connection data, Surfshark's apps will be more appealing. If you prefer to get more in-depth, IPVanish has a lot more to offer.(opens in new tab)
IPVanish vs Surfshark: Which has better support?
Having good support is essential, as even the best services run into issues from time to time.
IPVanish has a wealth of useful guides, but we can't help but wish they were just a bit more to the point. Some guides covering fairly simple topics are over 1,000 words long, and try to oversimplify where it's not really necessary. However, the live chat is stellar, and we've always experienced swift, useful replies about any issues we've had.
Surfshark's knowledgebase has come a long way in recent years, and is now pretty simple to use with good info. We've also had good experiences with live chat, and although it can often seem like operators are following a script, when it comes to more complex issues they're not afraid to go rogue.
In practice you're mostly going to be using the live chat for anything except the very simplest of problems so, again, it's hard to separate the two.
IPVanish vs Surfshark: Final verdict
Did you notice a bit of a theme running through this one? These two providers are both genuinely top-drawer VPNs, and which you should choose will be entirely down to taste.
If you want to get in-depth with your software (or even just admire shiny graphs), IPVanish has a lot to offer. It delivers strongly in all areas, and offers great value on its shorter plans (opens in new tab). Plus, who can say no to a freebie?
However, if you like simple apps and want to pay the absolute bare minimum, Surfshark is probably the one for you. It can do everything you'll need – plus, if it matters to you, it can access iPlayer too. For just $2.49 a month (opens in new tab), you can't really go wrong.
If you're interested in our #1 VPN, however, we'd steer you towards ExpressVPN. With more servers than both Surfshark and IPVanish, class-leading support and streaming, excellent speeds everywhere plus three months free (opens in new tab), it's our top-rated VPN.
With excellent speeds, configurable apps and top streaming performance, IPVanish is a superb choice for any VPN user (opens in new tab). For $5.20 a month you'll get unlimited connections and 250GB of free SugarSync cloud storage – not to mention one of the top VPN services available today.
Surfshark is a great choice for anyone wanting to buy the cheapest VPN on the market today – plus you won't have to sacrifice anything to save your money. Sign up now on the Surfshark website (opens in new tab).