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The best US VPN for use in or outside the USA in 2020

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

Having the best US VPN, whether you’re living in the States or just want to access all the fantastic entertainment only Americans are privy to, is essential for any savvy surfer.

Put simply, a VPN is a piece of software used to encrypt your internet connection and provide you with anonymity. It does this by routing your regular connection – identifiable by your IP address – through one of its own VPN servers, hiding your IP address and replacing it with one of its own.

US VPNs make the most of the USA’s swift and efficient internet network, and the best have fettled their servers to give improbably quick results. However, many people using them will live outside the US, meaning connections from further afield – the UK, Germany, Korea – need to be usable and reliable too.

What makes a great US VPN?

Those living in the States should make sure to pick a US VPN that has top-quality privacy credentials and delivers excellent speeds over their regular network. Some VPNs can slow connections quite significantly, but the best US VPN should be virtually unnoticeable.

If you’re not in America – whether you’re on holiday or a business trip, or you just live somewhere else – you should be looking for a US VPN that’s swift and reliable on a majority of servers, US and otherwise. In practice, though, VPNs that dominate in America are generally the most reliable everywhere else.

One thing to look out for is the ability to unblock streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and others, as having access to the US libraries of these services is one of the main reasons many people purchase VPNs in the first place. However, US-based users can also use the same trick to access BBC iPlayer and other overseas streaming services.

So, we’ve taken all that into account and rounded up the five best US VPNs available today – for both those on American soil and off it. ExpressVPN tops the list due to its unbeatable functionality, but read on to find out five of the best, and work out which VPN best suits your needs.

The best US VPNs today


1. ExpressVPN

The best US VPN on the market

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Average US speeds on 600Mb line: 200-250Mb | Simultaneous connections: 5 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 160

Swift US connections
Reliable the world over
Excellent apps for all devices
Stellar support
Slightly more expensive

Simply put, ExpressVPN is the best US VPN because it provides the whole package. Its slick desktop and mobile apps make it as easy as possible to relocate yourself to the States for a Netflix binge, and if anything goes wrong there’s great support on hand 24/7 to help you out.

For those in the US, connection speeds on home ground will be a priority, and on our 600Mb US connection ExpressVPN delivered speeds of 200-250Mb. While your internet might not be quite as fast, Express’s performance here demonstrates its servers’ ability to provide truly searing connections – and with 25 US VPN server locations alone, there’s a good chance you’ll have one nearby.

Outside the US, its 3,000+ servers in 160 locations will ensure your day-to-day use is as quick as can be, and we’ve had excellent results connecting from the UK to US servers – you won’t have to worry about dropped or sluggish connections here.

ExpressVPN is also excellent for streaming content, and can get you access to Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu and more. Whatever you’re into, wherever you are, Express can get you through the door.

While it might be marginally more expensive than some others, in this case you actually do get what you pay for. Otherwise, there’s very little else we can find fault with – and that’s why it’s easy for us to crown ExpressVPN as the very best US VPN available today.  

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2. IPVanish

US VPN that’s unbeatable on home ground

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Average US speeds on 600Mb line: 250Mb | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Hulu | Number of servers: 1,400 | Server locations: 75+

Plenty of servers
US based
Excellent connection speeds
Very configurable
No access to iPlayer

US-based IPVanish is a great performer, and delivers well on both domestic US connections and those overseas. When you first open the desktop client, you’re greeted with a wealth of information – IP address, data up and down, how long you’ve been connected for and even a live graph of your connection speed. We’re not sure how many people will need it, but it’s nice to see.

Our tests showed that IPVanish provides average speeds of up to 250Mb on a 600Mb US line. Again, that performance will translate into excellent connections no matter what your ISP is like. When connecting to the US from abroad speeds were also good, with no interruptions.

However, while IPVanish can get you access to Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, it struggles with iPlayer. The result is that the service functions better as a US VPN for American holidaymakers, or individuals solely seeking US media – if you’re after British TV, you’ll be disappointed.

That said, IPVanish offers tons of configurability, and you can fine-tune your day-to-day experience more than most on this list. For those in the US or just after US media, it’s a seriously quick contender and worth your consideration.

Head over to the IPVanish website to sign up


(Image credit: NordVPN)

3. NordVPN

Big name is great in the States

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Average US speeds on 600Mb line: 125-300Mb | Simultaneous connections: 6 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Number of servers: 5,300 | Server locations: 80+

Excellent streaming capabilities
Good US speeds
Security-focused experience
Apps can be awkward

As one of the best-known services around, NordVPN is a great shout if you’re looking for a US VPN. With tons of servers and server locations, users can trust that they’ll have access to good speeds not only in the US, but the world over.

Nord will let you stream pretty much anything you want – including iPlayer – which for many will be its greatest selling point. However, that’s not its only strength. Nord incorporates some excellent security-focused features like 2048-bit encryption and class-leading DNS protection, plus a kill switch, Double VPN and Onion over VPN.

Good performance is a top priority for a US VPN, and Nord delivers well. On our 600Mb US test line we experienced average speeds of 125-300Mb, and while that peaks higher than others above on this list, there’s a little more variation. Consistency is more important than slightly higher speeds – but we didn’t experience any dropped connections or really sluggish servers.

Overall, Nord provides a great package – and comes at a great price too. However, while the mobile apps are perfectly usable, the UI can be awkward at times and spoils the experience. If you can get over that, though, NordVPN is still a real contender.

Head over to the NordVPN website to sign up

Surfshark US VPN

4. Surfshark

Cheap, simple and perfect for streaming

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Average US speeds on 600Mb line: 150-160Mb | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Number of servers: 1,700+ | Server locations: 100+

Great value
Clean, simple apps and clients
Unblocks everything you could want
Not the fastest US speeds

Although relatively new on the scene, Surfshark has become a firm favourite with VPN users thanks to really solid performance and unbeatable value. Although the price might not inspire confidence, Surfshark genuinely does deliver the goods and is a fine option for those looking for a US VPN.

Its apps are well thought out, making it easy to access any server – and its great unblocking power means it’s a top-quality VPN for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, iPlayer and YouTube wherever you are.

The reason Surfshark isn’t further up on this US VPN list is the fact that while its connections are very reliable, they’re not the very swiftest – on our 600Mb test line speeds averaged around 150-160Mb. While that’s still great performance and perfectly serviceable, other options are just a bit quicker overall.

However, if you’re looking for a top quality cheap VPN, you could do a lot worse than Surfshark.

Head over to the Surfshark website to sign up

Hotspot Shield US VPN

5. Hotspot Shield

The fastest US VPN – with a couple of drawbacks

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Average US speeds on 600Mb line: 474-547Mb | Simultaneous connections: 5 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 130+

Absolutely blazing speeds
Generous 45-day trial
Limited free option
Poor device support
Doesn't unblock Amazon Prime video

Just like a sports car probably isn’t the best choice for the school run, if you want the fastest US VPN available you’re going to have to make a few sacrifices. Hotspot Shield – often downloaded as a free VPN – is incredibly fast, and if it can do everything you need it to then it’s worth a look.

In our tests on a 600Mb US line, Hotspot Shield delivered average speeds of 474-547Mb – double what most of its competitors top out at. It achieves these speeds by using its proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol, rather than using OpenVPN which most others do.

While this provides incredible speeds, it does mean you can’t use the VPN on Chromebooks or games consoles – you’ll only get cover on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and Linux, and the apps don’t offer much configuration either. On top of that, it struggles to unblock Amazon Prime video, although it does give access to all the other streaming sites we tested.

While it does have some drawbacks, if you want the very fastest US VPN money can buy (and it’s not too expensive either), Hotspot Shield could be the way to go.

Head over to the Hotspot Shield website to sign up


Why do I need a US VPN?

We all know that the US is a huge producer of quality entertainment for the English-speaking world. However, if you don’t live in the USA, you won’t be able to watch much – especially exclusive movies and shows on Hulu and other such streaming services. Using a good US VPN can get you access to all of this and more.

An often-overlooked feature of VPNs is the fact they can help you avoid location-based pricing. This usually affects things like plane tickets and software, and while it's a little more trial and error than exact science, using a VPN to flit across the globe can allow you to find the best price in seconds.

Seeing as the US is home to a massive amount of software developers – known for offering favourable prices to those in the same country – having a good US VPN could save you a bit of cash, and perhaps even pay for itself.

Can I get a US VPN free?

While it's possible to find a free US VPN, they universally come with their drawbacks.

Firstly, free VPNs come with monthly or daily data caps, meaning you'll have to be careful how much you them. While these range from a minuscule 500Mb to more generous offers in the tens of Gb, none are well suited to streaming media – and, let's be honest, all most people want to do is use their US VPN for Netflix.

Secondly, if you're not paying for the service, the company will have to get its revenue from somewhere else. Your app might be cluttered with ads or worse – the data you're trying to protect could be sold on for profit.

Although they have their uses – see our guide for choosing free services for more info and our best picks – most free services aren't great for more than checking your emails while connected to public Wi-Fi. And, seeing as the cheapest paid-for VPNs start under $2 a month, a very small investment can get you a whole load of functionality.

How do I get a US VPN?

Getting a US VPN couldn't be simpler. Once you've signed up to a service, every US VPN provider will have a direct download for their VPN client on their website – and you'll probably be directed to this page as soon as you've paid.

If you're using a Mac, most VPNs are also available in the Mac App Store. Anyone can download them for free, although to use them you'll usually have to purchase a subscription unless the VPN offers a free trial.

After you've downloaded the software, install it like any other program. You might be faced with a dialog box requesting your permission to allow the VPN to access or change settings, but this is perfectly normal – and to use the VPN you'll have to allow this, anyway.

From there on, you'll just have to log in with the details you created when purchasing the plan, and click the connect button on the app. From then on, you'll be protected until you switch it off.

How do US VPNs unblock Netflix?

Netflix has specific libraries for many countries and regions around the world, and these are only accessible to those who are using an IP address within that country or region. This can prove a problem for those on holiday, and many others just want to watch shows they’re not ‘allowed’ to.

A VPN for Netflix can be used to virtually relocate you to a server in whatever country you want, and the best will do this in a way that’s undetectable by the streaming service. Once you’ve done that, you’re free to watch whatever you want.

Should I get a mobile US VPN?

If you’re often out and about or travelling, it’s likely that you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. While these are convenient and can save you a wedge of data, many are unprotected and are especially vulnerable to hackers. There’s a real risk that your sensitive information is on show to someone you might not want it to be.

The solution to this is to get a great iOS or Android VPN to protect your data. With a tap on an app you can shield your identity from anyone who’s looking, and the best mobile VPNs are entirely unnoticeable in practice.

Seeing as all VPN subscriptions cover more than one device, you’ll be able to keep your phone, tablet and desktop covered with whichever US VPN you’ve chosen from this list, too.

  • kep55
    I don't need a VPN every day so a fee one makes more sense. How do they stack up?
  • John Conoor
    kep55 said:
    I don't need a VPN every day so a fee one makes more sense. How do they stack up?
    the cheapest of all is Surfshark