2024 VPN Trends, Statistics, and Consumer Opinions

As consumers become increasingly protective of their online data, VPNs have surged in popularity, and 10 million more people may adopt VPNs this year.

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By Brett Cruz Headshot Brett Cruz, Digital Security Expert

In a world defined by cybercrimes and intrusive data practices, Americans are increasingly drawn to the security and privacy of VPNs.

The American virtual private network (VPN) market has expanded rapidly in recent years, shifting from a niche tool used primarily by businesses, enthusiasts, and power users to a household product that nearly all Americans are at least familiar with.

For the last four years, the research team at Security.org has conducted a broad study of nearly 1,000 Americans to learn how VPN awareness, preferences, and perception are changing. Our latest annual VPN market report reflects continued growth in the general public’s understanding and use of the technology, with adoption today driven by personal use as corporate networks rely less on the technology.

Here are a few key insights from this year’s report:

  • VPNs have continued to grow in use and recognition: 95% of adults are now familiar with the technology, and 46% use VPNs. This means as many as 105 million Americans have VPNs today.
  • The most popular VPNs were NordVPN, Proton VPN, and Google One VPN, which has surged in popularity since Google began offering it free with cloud storage subscriptions and Pixel 7 phones last year.
  • About half of all users rely on VPNs for work or business applications, and an equal number use them on personal devices.
  • Nearly 40% of users rely on VPNs to prevent tracking from search engines or social media sites. As many as 10 million American adults could begin using VPNs in 2024, underscoring the growing recognition of the significance of online privacy.
  • Despite the risks, about 43% of users have free VPNs, which can jeopardize data security.

Privacy, Security, and Streaming: Personal Users Drive VPN Market Growth

IP-based VPNs have been around since the 1990s. Companies needed a way to access their internal network from outside the office without risking the exposure of their files on the broader internet. Today, VPNs are very frequently used by individuals on their personal devices. The rapid growth we noticed in VPN use, as seen in our study and analysis of thousands of consumer insights, is due primarily to a more informed consumer market in recent years.

VPN Usage By Year

Ninety-five percent of American adults are now familiar with VPNs, and most correctly defined them as software services that allow users to establish a secure and encrypted connection over the internet to ensure data privacy and security. In 2020, only 72 percent of respondents had this familiarity, an impressive jump in public awareness in just three years.

That greater awareness has translated to greater adoption. Today, 46 percent of people in our study, which could represent over 100 million American adults, now use a VPN. This is a significant jump from 39 percent of respondents just last year.

VPN providers have expanded their offerings to cater to this growing market of knowledgeable personal users. They’ve increased security and user anonymity with features like antimalware services built into VPNs. Some providers have rolled out multi-hop, which routes traffic through multiple VPN tunnels. Killswitch, a standard option on most VPNs, cuts the internet connection if the VPN connection is lost.

To improve the surfing experience, features like “stealth mode” can now hide the fact that a VPN is being used at all, enabling a smoother experience on sites that don’t like them. Built-in ad-blockers reduce both tracking and intrusive ads.

Top reasons for VPN use, by year 2021 2022 2023
For general privacy 54% 50% 63%
For general security 55% 55% 54%
Job requirement 38% 34% 39%
To prevent tracking by search engines or social media (e.g. Google, Facebook) 18% 17% 39%
To use public Wi-Fi more securely 34% 24% 36%
To hide your internet activity from your ISP 23% 23% 35%
For access to international/non-local media content not available in your country 19% 22% 28%
For greater security when online shopping 24% 20% 25%
Torrenting 13% 12% 21%
For work in activism/journalism/whistle-blowing/research 3% 5% 4%

Personal users are drawn primarily to the privacy, security, and greater access VPNs provide.

There were a few key shifts in the primary motivations for using VPNs in the past year, with a new focus on enhanced privacy and anonymity. We observed a substantial increase in the number of users who rely on VPNs to avoid search engine or social media tracking year over year. Additionally, there was a significant uptick in users depending on VPNs to conceal their online activities from their internet service provider (ISP) compared to the previous year.

Accessing non-local media, such as region-specific streaming content or content banned within a country, is another popular reason many turn to VPNs. There was also a substantial increase in respondents saying they use the technology to torrent or download (generally) pirated media.

Most Popular VPNs in 2024

VPN preferences don’t just vary by age: knowledgeable and casual users have very different approaches to their choice of VPN. More familiar users are likelier to elect paid services from companies emphasizing privacy and security, such as Nord and Proton. The third most popular service, VPN by Google One, attracted a significantly higher percentage of low-familiarity users.

What VPN do you use? Percent of users
NordVPN 27%
Proton VPN 13%
Google One VPN 9%
ExpressVPN 8%
Private Internet Access 7%
Brave VPN 7%
Norton Secure VPN 6%
Mozilla VPN 5%
Surfshark 5%
CyberGhost 4%
Mullvad VPN 4%
Windscribe 3%
IPVanish 3%
Atlas VPN 3%
Other VPNs 21%

Far and away the most popular VPN among personal users in our study was NordVPN. NordVPN delivers privacy through features such as an automatic kill switch and Double VPN, which doubles the VPN encryption for extra privacy. NordVPN has also kept its promise not to keep IP addresses and VPN usage logs, which could improve trust among its users.

Proton VPN was also popular among users in our study. Though many use it for personal reasons, the service is excellent for business applications. It topped our ranking in upload speed, which is essential for remote workers.

43 percent of users pay nothing for their VPNs

Generally, using a VPN costs between $5 to $10 a month. About half of all VPN users in our study paid this amount for their services. Since our last analysis, the use of free VPNs has mostly stayed the same. This year, just over 43 percent of personal VPN users relied on free software.

How much does your VPN cost per month? Percentage of personal VPN users
$0; I use a free VPN 43%
Less than $5 per month 25%
$5 – $10 per month 24%
More than $10 per month 8%

We don’t typically recommend free VPN services, as they may limit devices, data, servers, or log-on time. These free services may also harvest personal data in exchange for service or adversely affect your online experience. Remember: when the service is free, you are often the product.

Around 62 percent of free VPN users have had issues with their service. Slow internet speed was the most common problem, which can happen since some VPN providers have limited servers, leading to overcrowding and reduced performance. Bandwidth limitations, ad-supported models consuming extra resources, lower-quality infrastructure, and P2P restrictions can all contribute to slower connections.

You indicated that you use a free VPN. When using your free VPN, have you experienced any of the following? Select all that apply. Percentage of free VPN users
Slow internet speed 36%
Difficulty using streaming services 19%
Difficulty accessing websites 19%
Limited server locations 19%
Frequent disconnections or interruptions 12%
Bugs (software issues) 8%
Viruses or malware attempts 6%
Invasive advertisements 4%
Battery life problems 4%
Identity theft or privacy concerns 3%
Poor customer support 3%
No issues 38%

While slow internet speeds are inconvenient, other more sinister issues can arise with free VPN use. Six percent of users reported viruses or malware attempts. Free VPNs can introduce viruses or malware through malicious software bundling, where additional unwanted programs or harmful elements are included with the VPN software. Additionally, since some rely on ads for revenue, free VPNs can expose users to potentially malicious ads containing malware or phishing links.

Perceptions of Cost and Convenience Limit VPN Adoption

Today, about 54 percent of adults in our study did not use VPNs. Given their utility, we wanted to understand why. The main reason people don’t use VPNs is that many people feel they don’t need them. Cost emerged as the second-most common deterrent, as VPNs were deemed too expensive by 27 percent of holdouts.

Why don’t you use a VPN? Select ALL that apply. Percentage of non-users
I don’t need one 52%
Too expensive 27%
Too much trouble to set up 20%
I don’t see the benefit 13%
I don’t trust their privacy 9%
I don’t trust their security 8%
Sites block them 5%
I don’t know enough about them 4%
Other reasons 5%

Additionally, 20 percent found VPNs to be too complex to set up. For people who are not very tech-savvy, choosing, installing, and connecting to VPNs on their devices could seem intimidating. A smaller percentage, approximately 10 percent, harbored concerns about the privacy and security of VPNs.

2024 Outlook: Market Primed for Growth as Consumers Prioritize Privacy

In the current landscape, where approximately five percent of individuals not currently using a VPN are contemplating adoption within the next year, the continued importance of VPNs is evident. As many as 10 million American adults could enter the market in 2024, underscoring the growing recognition of the significance of online privacy. In an era where data breaches and privacy concerns are rising, VPNs offer a crucial layer of protection.

The sustained relevance of VPNs is due to their low cost, tangible benefits to privacy and security, and ease of setup, which providers should continue to emphasize to win over new customers. As awareness reaches a saturation point and the desire for online privacy remains high, VPNs are poised to play an integral role in safeguarding digital identities and ensuring secure internet experiences for a broader user base.

Our Data

In December 2023, researchers at Security.org conducted their fourth annual study on VPN usage. 998 adults residing in the U.S. participated in the study, and were representative of the U.S. population based on ethnicity, age, and gender. The online platform used to gather data for this study doesn’t allow users to access it using a VPN, which may have resulted in underreporting the number of people using VPNs.