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Best VPN free trial in 2020

VPN free trial
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Finding the best VPN free trial can be difficult, and every provider seems to have a different idea of what a VPN free trial actually is. From our experience, we've found that they usually fall into two categories – a free VPN trial that lets you test the service with limited features, or a money-back guarantee which requires an initial payment that can be refunded no questions asked within a certain period.

If you're looking to truly test a service out and want a genuinely useful VPN free trial, paying and claiming back is the best route. You'll have at least a month to get a feel for the service before claiming your refund, and you'll also have no limitations in terms of bandwidth, features, or privacy. Some services also offer very short, payment-free trials, but having a 30 days to use the VPN without limitation will invariably benefit you the most.

What makes a good VPN free trial?

Having access to every feature the full-fat version has is an essential part of a VPN free trial, as without that full functionality it's difficult to judge a service. That's why we recommend paying and then claiming back.

Although we have included one, a 'free version' of a VPN is often a poor substitute for the real deal, and you may be subjected to ads, have limited data, and not have the same privacy protections as full services – but you will be able to use it for as long as you want before you upgrade.

We've named ExpressVPN as our best VPN free trial because it offers excellent functionality plus a generous 30-day money-back guarantee. We'd choose Express as our own personal VPN, and having a month to test the service only makes things better. However, we've also rounded up its main rivals, so read on to see what they class as a VPN free trial, and if that might suit you. 

1. ExpressVPN – our top-rated VPN, free trial or not
With ExpressVPN's 30-day no-quibble money-back guarantee, you can test the service for a month with no limitations. If you don't like it, you'll get absolutely all your money back – but if you do decide to stay on you'll be able to claim three free months on a year-long plan.View Deal

2. Surfshark – bargain provider offers genuine VPN free trial
Surfshark offers a genuine seven-day free trial on mobile, but most people will get more value by taking advantage of its 30-day money-back guarantee. And if you do stay with the provider, you'll be getting full VPN cover for just $2.49 a month.View Deal

3. IPVanish – cheap 1-month plan, plus 30-day guarantee
IPVanish is usually fairly pricey, but the current sale is offering a rolling one-month plan for just $5.00. You don't need to pay for 12 months' worth of cover in advance to test it, and you can still claim your $5 back within a month if you're not happy with it. What's to lose?View Deal

The best VPN free trials available today

ExpressVPN VPN free trial

1. ExpressVPN

The best service available – with or without a VPN free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Peacock | Free trial: 30-day guarantee

Great apps for all your devices
Loads of servers 
Full-fat trial functionality
Unblocks tons of streaming sites
Pay before you try (but you can get it back)

Whether you’re considering services with a VPN free trial or not, ExpressVPN should be at the very top of your list. With excellent security credentials and brilliant support, it really is the full package – and a free trial is the cherry on top.

If you’re a streaming fanatic, ExpressVPN can get you access to Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime video and plenty more, as well as allowing you to watch live TV and sports from abroad – and its reliably quick connection speeds will get you streaming in HD, too.

OK, ExpressVPN’s free trial isn’t truly a free trial – you will have to pay to get access – but if you want to try the best VPN available on for size, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t fit, then just contact the super-helpful support to terminate the contract within 30 days and you’ll get your money back.

While it’s priced like a premium product, it’s got the credentials to match, so if you’re looking for a VPN with a free trial, we’d have a go with ExpressVPN first – there’s no risk, and you might discover you like internet freedom more than you expected.

Get 49% off plus three free months of ExpressVPN
Tom’s Guide readers can get three months free with ExpressVPN’s one-year plan which gives 15 months for the price of 12. Combined with that 30-day guarantee, this offers great value for what we reckon is the best VPN on the market today.View Deal

Surfshark VPN free trial

2. Surfshark

Incredible value plus a true 7-day free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Free trial: 7 days free + 30-day guarantee

Cheap and very cheerful
Great for streaming
Reliable and swift speeds
Unlimited connections
Trial has to be activated on mobile

Surfshark offers what could be the best-value VPN service around – at less than $2.50 a month it undercuts pretty much all the competition while retaining great functionality. However, if you’re not sold on signing up for a whole two years to get that price, Surfshark also offers a seven-day VPN free trial.

There’s a bit of faffing about to get it, but when signing up for a plan on mobile you’re able to start a free trial with no payment for seven days. Then, with the logins created on your phone, you’ll be able to use the VPN on your desktop. What’s more, VPN usage is unlimited in that period, so you can genuinely get a feel for how Surfshark works.

Also, that means you can take full advantage of Surfshark’s excellent streaming capabilities – you’ll be able to access geo-blocked Netflix libraries, iPlayer from outside the UK, Hulu and tons more.

If you can't be bothered to mess around on mobile to get those seven days free (we don't blame you), Surfshark also offers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee, so whichever way you go, you'll be able to get a VPN free trial and test the service out for real.

If you’re after a genuine VPN free trial and an excellent value product afterwards, Surfshark could be right up your street.

Sign up now on the Surfshark website

(Image credit: Future)

3. IPVanish

Limited-time sale offers incredible short-term value

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections : Unlimited | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu | Free trial: 30-day guarantee

Current sale offers 1 month for $5.00
Still covered by a 30-day guarantee
Unlimited device connections
Some may find the interface complex

If you're after a short-term plan to test our a service but want to spend as little as possible to test it out, IPVanish could be right up your street.

Currently available until October 31, the monthly price is the lowest of any competitive VPN. So, with no commitment or large outlay at the beginning of a plan, you can pay just $5.00 for a month. You don't have to carry on afterwards, and if you really don't like it, you can claim that $5.00 back within the month.

If you want a longer plan, you can get the price down to just $3.25, and that's a seriously cheap price for what's usually one of the more expensive VPN services.

Outside of pricing, though, IPVanish is a top quality VPN all round. You'll get unlimited simultaneous connections so you and everyone in your household can cover every single device, every one of the company's server's is owned and run in-house to avoid third-party intrusion, and it's also great for streaming Netflix.

For the cheapest way to trial a premium VPN, IPVanish is certainly worth a shot – but be aware that this sale is only available until October 31.

Sign up now on the IPVanish website

Hotspot Shield VPN free trial

4. Hotspot Shield

Well-featured free version is a good introduction

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Free trial: Unlimited (restricted usage)

Capable free version for an indefinite time
Quick connections
Fairly cheap when you come to pay
Not as in-depth as other VPNs
Free version has 500MB daily data cap

If you’re after searing speeds for no upfront cost, Hotspot Shield is a great option. Although the free version can't access all servers, isn't much good for streaming and lacks some of the features of the paid version – as you’d expect – you’ll still be able to get protected with this VPN’s excellent encryption.

What stands out about Hotspot Shield’s free trial is that you can stick with it for as long as you want. While other trials run out and require you to pay sooner or later, this one can keep you going indefinitely.

However, it’s not all give, give, give – Hotspot Shield’s free trial limits you to 500MB of data each day (still far better than many other free services). Although the paid version works great for streaming, the free option is a little less reliable (but still makes our free Netflix VPNs guide).

Also, even if you can unblock streaming sites, you won’t be watching more than an episode of anything before your allowance is maxed – an hour of standard-def Netflix content uses about 1GB, or 3GB if it’s HD.

However, as something to securely browse the web with or protect your mobile devices when connected to public Wi-Fi, Hotspot Shield's VPN free trial does a good job and is worth considering.

Sign up now on the Hotspot Shield website

NordVPN VPN free trial

(Image credit: NordVPN)

5. NordVPN

Classic service offers a true VPN free trial

Available on: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux | Simultaneous connections: 6 | 24/7 support: Yes | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, | Free trial: 7 days + 30-day guarantee

Great performance
Longer plans are good value
Easy to use
Mobile apps aren't perfect

We had to include NordVPN in this buying guide because while its genuine free trial is complicated to access, it’s probably up there with the VPNs you’re considering – and it also has a 30-day money-back guarantee, anyway.

Nord’s trial is similar to Surfshark’s in that it’s only available from the Apple and Google app stores – but you’ll be able to use the account you create on your phone to protect your desktop too. It might be a bit of a workaround, but it’s worth it to avoid paying anything for seven days, and you’ll get access to all the features available on a full plan right away.

If that’s not long enough, you can continue your trial with no risk by making the most of the provider’s generous 30-day money-back guarantee – have a quick tester before you pay anything, and then take a deep dive over a month to see if it’s really worth your money.

As one of the best streaming VPNs available, it’s also pretty handy at getting access to whatever content you’re after, so it's definitely worth giving NordVPN a quick test.

Sign up now on NordVPN's website

VPN free trial FAQ

What is a VPN free trial?

Different VPN providers offer different ways for users to get some experience using their software without any monetary risk, and now that VPNs have become more mainstream, developers are becoming more generous with their trials.

The most common way you’ll find to try out a VPN for free is the ‘money-back guarantee’. Most providers are very fair and do refund you no questions asked

Rarer is the true free trial, in which you’ll be able to test drive the full VPN for a limited time. However, it’s not common to find a trial longer than seven days, and that leaves the chance that you won’t be able to fully explore the VPN.

Finally, we enter the realm of ‘free versions’. Essentially, these VPNs are free for an indefinite time, but they’re usually weak versions of a provider’s full, paid-for service. 

Why do VPN providers offer free trials?

It's a combination of genuinely helping the user choose a service more effectively, and getting you used to its apps and ingrained in its ecosystem.

Obviously, the VPN wants you to sign up and spend money, but the almost universal money-back guarantee means you shouldn't be afraid of claiming back if you don't like a certain VPN.

Remember, the consumer is king, so take every chance you can get to ensure you're spending your money wisely.

How can I get my money back on a 30-day VPN free trial?

Most VPNs that offer money-back guarantees – and all of those on this list – are established companies known for their fairness and holding up their side of the bargain.

If you've paid up for a VPN and decided it's not for you, you're well in your rights to get in contact and request a refund. This is usually done over email, but if you visit the provider's website you'll also be able to seek help from the 24/7 customer support.

You're likely to be asked why you're choosing to terminate your contract, but if you're within the money-back time-frame, you're guaranteed to be refunded almost immediately.

Should I get a free service?

If you're going to be using your VPN for anything bandwidth-intensive like torrenting, or keeping it on for long periods of time, a free service's drawbacks will become noticeable very quickly.

While, for example, Hotspot Shield's 500MB-a-day allowance is generous and allows you to use it every day, for activities like streaming and torrenting you'll run out pretty quickly.

Also, paid-for VPNs are more likely to have watertight privacy policies, and securing your privacy is one of the most important VPN uses. So, if you're using a VPN as a security tool you might want to think twice about where your free service is getting its revenue from.