The Best Cheap VPNs of 2020

Our experts did the heavy lifting of testing out dozens of VPNs, and these services worked the best for the best price.

By
&
Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Oct 19, 2020

Although free VPNs do exist, it’s often the ones with a paid subscription that provide the best features and protection. However, a VPN doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. There are VPNs out there that won’t break the bank but also won’t compromise your digital security and privacy. These VPNs go for as low as $2 per month, which is a great deal considering that most VPNs we’ve tested were somewhere within the $8 to $15 per month range. So if you’re looking for the best VPN subscription your money can buy, these are the best cheap VPNs of 2020.

Our Top Picks

Best Cheap VPN for Privacy

NordVPN

Editor's Rating
9.4
/10
With digital security and privacy as our top priority, NordVPN easily earned the top spot thanks to premium features like double VPN. Based in Panama, a non-member country to the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances, NordVPN is under no legal obligation to store and share its users' data with the government.1

Best Cheap VPN for Streaming

Surfshark

Editor's Rating
9.2
/10
SurfShark made it incredibly easy for us to stream content from our favorite streaming services. And because our monthly subscriptions to Netflix, HBO+, and Disney Plus were already costly enough, we love the fact that SurfShark offers its services for as low as $1.99 per month.

The Best Cheap VPNs of 2020

A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Best Cheap VPNs

NordVPNSurfSharkCyberGhostTunnelBear
Monthly rate$11.95$11.95$12.99$9.99
Lowest monthly rate$3.71 ($89 for two years)$1.99 ($47.76 for two years)$2.75 ($49.50 for the first 18 months)$3.33 ($120 for three years)
Contract length1-24 months1-24 months1-12 months1-36 months
Money-back guarantee30 day30- day14 day to 45 dayCase-by-case basis
Supported operating systemsWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and browser extensions for Chrome and FirefoxWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Fire TV, and browser extensions for Chrome and FirefoxWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Fire TV, Apple TV, Smart TVs, Consoles, and browser extensions for Chrome and FirefoxWindows, Mac, Android, iOS, and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera
Split tunnelingNoYesYesAndroid Only
Kill switchYesYesYesYes
NetflixYesYesYesNo
TorrentingYesYesYesYes
Simultaneous connectionsUp to six devicesUnlimitedUp to seven devicesUp to five devices
5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes MemberNoNoNoYes
Read our reviewNordVPN ReviewSurfShark ReviewCyberGhost ReviewTunnelBear Review

Feature Breakdown of the Best Cheap VPNs

  • 1. NordVPN - Best Cheap VPN for Privacy

    Editor's Rating
    9.4
    /10
    Pros
    • Strict no-logging policy
    • Based in Panama (no data retention laws)
    • Double VPN a.k.a. Multi-hop
    • As low as $3.71 per month
    Cons
    • No split tunneling
    • Limited to six simultaneous connections
    • History of security breaches
    • Lacks phone support

    Affordable Rates

    We paid $11.95, which was their regular monthly rate, for the one month we tested out NordVPN. However, had we signed up for a longer commitment, we could have saved up to almost 70 percent with the VPN’s two year subscription. The subscription required an $89 one-time payment, which, if divided into 24 months, would come out to only $3.71 per month. That would have been a huge discount if we were looking for a VPN for that long. Now, if two years is too long, NordVPN also has a subscription billed every six months that costs $54. That’s $9 per month, which is still cheaper than most VPNs.

    Pro Tip: To maximize your savings, get a two year subscription from NordVPN for $89. That’s equivalent to only $3.71 per month. In case NordVPN doesn’t work out for you, you can cancel the subscription and get your money back during the first 30 days.

    Multi-hop

    We selected NordVPN as one of our top picks mainly because of its superior privacy features. One that we liked most was its double VPN feature, also known as multi-hop. Basically, instead of routing our data through one VPN tunnel, NordVPN doubled down on its privacy measures by adding a second VPN tunnel. This meant that our browsing data and online identifiers were encrypted not just once, but twice. Of course, introducing a second VPN tunnel sometimes caused a slight slowdown on our connection. So whenever we wanted to prioritize speed over privacy, such as when we were downloading large files or streaming Netflix, we simply turned off the double VPN feature.

    NordVPN Logging Policy
    NordVPN Logging Policy

    Strict Privacy Policy

    As part of our tests, we looked into NordVPN’s privacy policy and we were pleased by what we saw. NordVPN had a strict no-logging policy, which meant they didn’t collect and store any of our data. There were no records of our IP addresses, browsing data, bandwidth usage, or any information about our Internet usage that could be used to identify us. PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, a major auditing firm, even confirmed NordVPN’s strict adhesion to their privacy policy.2 In addition to that, NordVPN operates in Panama, which is outside the jurisdiction of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes countries, so NordVPN has no legal obligations to share its users’ data with the government, not that there’s anything to share in the first place.

  • 2. SurfShark - Best Cheap VPN for Content Streaming

    Editor's Rating
    9.2
    /10
    Pros
    • As low as $1.99 per month
    • Unlimited simultaneous connections
    • Netflix and torrenting made easy
    • Smart DNS for smart TVs and consoles
    Cons
    • Lower speed test results on Windows
    • Limited number of servers compared to other VPNs
    • Not the fastest VPN
    • Static IP addresses

    Rates As Low As $1.99 Per Month

    Similar to NordVPN, SurfShark’s pricing gave us several options with regard to the length of our subscription. The rate for the monthly plan was the most expensive at $11.95 per month, but the one year and two year plans offered significant discounts. The one year subscription billed every 12 months reflected a 50 percent savings. From $11.95 per month, the rate went down to $5.99 per month. The two year subscription unlocked an even bigger discount, with a monthly rate of only $1.99. In total, we would have needed to pay only $47.76 to enjoy using SurfShark for two years. We’ve spent about the same amount on pumpkin spice lattes in the past two weeks alone, so that’s a pretty sweet deal.

    Netflix Access

    Netflix boasts an impressive library of content to stream, but weirdly, we often find ourselves craving more. Thanks to SurfShark, we accessed other countries’ Netflix libraries that would have been unavailable to us otherwise; for example, when we wanted to channel our inner otaku, we simply connected to a Japan server to watch Spirited Away on Netflix Japan. Side note: it’s a roller coaster of emotions. All in all, SurfShark gave us access to 15 Netflix libraries, considerably more than other VPNs we tested. We even tried to access Netflix U.S. from abroad and most of the U.S. servers seemed to work. Better still, SurfShark’s Smart DNS feature allowed us to use our hotel room’s smart TV to watch the U.S. programming of Netflix, which was good because our necks were getting a bit stiff staring at our laptops.

    Surfshark Kill switch
    Surfshark Kill switch

    Split Tunneling and Kill Switch

    SurfShark also offered us a bevy of useful features, including split tunneling and a kill switch. Split tunneling, or the Whitelister feature as SurfShark calls it, allowed us to connect to public and private networks simultaneously. We used the public network for online activities we deemed unnecessary to anonymize, like downloading app updates on our smartphones. At the same time, we could use the private network to encrypt our data while online banking. Split tunneling reduced our overall bandwidth, making our speeds faster than they would be if everything was routed through the encrypted tunnel. On the other hand, SurfShark’s kill switch automatically cut off all of our online activities when the VPN stopped working unexpectedly. This ensured that none of our data became visible to our Internet Service Provider.

  • 3. CyberGhost - Best Cheap VPN for Smart TVs and Consoles

    Editor's Rating
    9.1
    /10
    Pros
    • As low as $2.75 per month
    • Supports a variety of operating systems
    • Good for Netflix and torrenting
    • 45 day money-back guarantee
    Cons
    • Limited to seven simultaneous connections
    • Price goes up after the first 18 months
    • Logs more data than necessary
    • Kill switch can’t be disabled

    Prices Less Than $3 Per Month

    With a $12.99 regular monthly rate, we deemed CyberGhost quite expensive for month-to-month use, but for long term use, both the six-month and 18-month plans offer great value. They are priced $47.94 and $49.50, respectively, reflecting rates as low as $7.99 or $2.75 per month. We also liked that CyberGhost had a 45 day money-back guarantee on their long term plans and that the 18-month plan gave us access to CyberGhost’s premium password manager for one year. In sum? We got a great bang for our buck with CyberGhost.

    Must Know: After the first 18 months of CyberGhost, the subscription will renew yearly for the same price of $49.50, roughly $4 per month.

    Support for Multiple Operating Systems

    As individuals who use a number of devices running different operating systems, we appreciated how CyberGhost worked on all of them. Whether we were on our Macbook, our Windows desktop PC, Android smartphone, iPad Pro, or our smart TV and gaming console, CyberGhost did a great job hiding our personal data. They even had a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox for those times when we needed to hide our browsing activity without affecting our other online apps. Although the number of simultaneous connections was limited— only seven devices under our account could connect at a time— it was plenty enough for us.

    CyberGhost App
    CyberGhost App

    Excellent Customer Service

    One of the things about CyberGhost that really stood out to us was their customer support. Before getting a subscription, we wanted to know a few technical things about CyberGhost first, so we contacted the company’s customer support. They didn’t have phone support, but the agent we chatted with through the website’s live chat feature was super helpful. He answered all our questions clearly no matter how technical they were. Take note that we weren’t even paying customers back then, yet he was truthful when we asked if the VPN offered split tunneling and port forwarding. Both features weren’t available yet at that time and he was completely forthcoming about that. Fortunately, split tunneling was added shortly after we subscribed.

  • 4. TunnelBear - Best Cheap VPN for Small Businesses

    Editor's Rating
    8.8
    /10
    Pros
    • Special pricing for groups
    • As low as $3.33 per month
    • Easy-to-use interface
    • Free version available
    Cons
    • No Netflix access
    • Split tunneling for Android only
    • Based in Canada, a Five Eyes member country
    • No money-back guarantee

    TunnelBear Pricing

    TunnelBear offered two types of pricing models. The regular pricing for individual users was $9.99 per month, $59.88 per year, or $120 for three years. The three-year plan was a pretty great deal considering that it included free access to TunnelBear’s VPN and password manager for essentially $3.33 per month. The second pricing model, which was what we used, was for groups of three or more users. It’s usually marketed towards small businesses, but groups of friends, colleagues, or families are also welcome to create a TunnelBear Team account. Together with our colleagues, we created a group of five users. The rate was $5.75 per month for each user, paid annually. Although the team subscription was a tad more expensive than individual subscriptions, the centralized dashboard that came with it made it easy for us to pay and access all our accounts in one place.

    FYI: TunnelBear only issues refunds on a case-by-case basis. If you want to dip your toes first before paying for a subscription, TunnelBear has a free VPN with a 500 MB usage data limit per month.

    Connects to Fastest Server Automatically

    VPN speeds vary greatly based on a number of factors, but TunnelBear made it easy to connect to the fastest server available. TunnelBear’s desktop clients and apps offered the option to choose the fastest possible server for us automatically. Essentially, it connected to the closest server, thus ensuring the best possible speed test results by reducing the data’s travel time. Of course, if we wanted to access a specific geo-blocked website, we could always manually select a server in the country where the website wasn’t blocked.

    TunnelBear Customer Support
    TunnelBear Customer Support

    Privacy and Digital Security Features

    Although full of fun bear-related puns, TunnelBear was actually a serious VPN when it came to protecting our online privacy. Its feature set included a kill switch that stopped all online activities whenever the VPN disconnected to stop our data from potentially leaking out. There was also an “always on” feature that automatically turned on the VPN as soon as we turned on our computer, ensuring that we didn’t forget to use the VPN. Lastly, TunnelBear used a strong AES 256-bit encryption protocol to hide our Web activity from the prying eyes of hackers and Big Brother.

How We Decided The Best Cheap VPNs: Methodology

We created this review of the best cheap VPNs of 2020 so you don’t have to do the work yourself. But in case you want to do your own research, look into different VPNs, and compare their pricing, here’s an insider’s look at our methodology. What factors did we consider? How did we test VPNs? How did we decide which ones to recommend? Read on to find out.

Cost

First, we decided what is considered expensive, reasonably priced, and inexpensive for a VPN. Those that cost $13 to $15 per month can be considered expensive. The norm is $8 to $12 per month. Anything below that can be considered cheap, but not in a bad way. That’s because most of the VPNs that cost less than $8 per month are the same VPNs that cost $8 to $12 per month. How so? Well, the price difference usually hinges on the length of the subscription. Springing for a longer subscription usually means getting a bigger discount, while getting a monthly plan often yields a higher rate.

Surfshark Account Page
Surfshark Account Page

For this review, we selected VPNs with regular monthly rates somewhere in the mid-range, but with special discounts for annual, two-year, or three-year subscriptions. We also pointed out which VPNs have a money-back guarantee. We figured that if a VPN company offers long-term subscriptions, we as customers should have the option to cancel it and get our money back if we thought it didn’t live up to its promises. A 30-day money-back guarantee is ideal, although CyberGhost went above and beyond with their 45-day guarantee for long-term subscriptions.

What about free VPNs? While there are good free VPNs out there, we still recommend paid ones because free VPNs typically have limitations whether it’s in terms of data usage, speed, or server locations. However, signing up for a free trial when available is a good way to test things out before paying for the service.

Privacy and Digital Security

Just because a VPN is cheap doesn’t mean it can skimp on privacy and digital security features, especially now that privacy concerns are on the rise in the U.S.3 First, we tested each VPN for DNS and WebRTC Leaks to make sure they weren’t leaking our IP address while in use. We used the DNS Leak Test tool and ExpressVPN’s WebRTC leak test to search for leaks, and fortunately, we didn’t find any from the cheap VPNs we recommended above.

CyberGhost Data Logging Policy
CyberGhost Data Logging Policy

Next, we looked into each VPN’s privacy policy to make sure they weren’t logging and storing any more data than necessary. Ideally, a VPN company has a strict no-logging policy, but we’ve found that even those with such a policy sometimes still gather other types of data. Typically, they record the user’s account, email, or payment information. There are also other VPNs that log a timestamp of the latest VPN connections. However, as long as they aren’t logging identifying information— like browsing activities and IP addresses— and as long as they don’t share those data with third parties, we have no qualms. But as much as possible, we prefer VPN companies that don’t log any data at all aside from the information necessary to uphold our accounts.

We also checked each company’s profile to see which ones were under the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances. These countries have laws that would allow them to force any VPN and ISP companies to share user data. It’s not ideal if a company is based in a member country, but we won’t go as far as to say they aren’t good enough; to make that judgment, we need to consider the company’s logging policy, as well.

We also gave extra credit to VPN companies that undertook independent audits by third-party auditing firms. NordVPN and CyberGhost were known to have gone through such audits and both passed with flying colors. These audits give users assurance that what the company stated in their privacy policy is accurate and enforced.

Speed

Needless to say, speed was one of the factors we considered. Almost all VPNs impacted our Internet speed, but we tried to look for VPNs that didn’t slow down our connection by a lot. To test VPNs, we used a Windows laptop and Macbook Air or Pro.

NordVPN Speed Test South Africa
NordVPN Speed Test South Africa

First, we ran a speed test on both computers to find out our baseline Internet speed without a VPN. We recorded the upload speed, download speed, and ping. We then ran a second speed test, but with the VPN connected. Next, we computed the speed difference in terms of percentage to see which VPNs affected our Internet speed the least, ideally no more than 40 percent in any of the three-speed categories. You can find the speed test results in our longer individual reviews for each VPN.

Features

Features also matter to us, specifically split tunneling, multi-hop, kill switch, access to Netflix and torrenting, and the number of simultaneous connections allowed. Split tunneling was particularly important, as it would allow us to connect simultaneously to the VPN and to a public network, creating faster speeds for online activities that don’t need as much protection from a VPN. A kill switch was also vital as it would stop all online activities in case of a VPN failure. It ensures that when we disconnect the VPN, our current IP address and other browsing data won’t be revealed to our ISP. Lastly, we gave special credit to VPNs with multi-hop. Multi-hop routes Internet traffic through multiple VPN tunnels instead of just one, making our data encrypted multiple times.

Apps

NordVPN App
NordVPN App

We also checked which apps are available for each VPN. Ideally, a VPN offers apps for all major operating systems: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux. We gave additional credit to those that supported smart TVs and gaming consoles as well.

Our methodology also included our assessment of each VPN’s app. Are the apps easy to use? Are they reliable? What are other users saying about them? These are some of the things that we try to find out when comparing VPNs.

Customer Support

Surfshark Support
Surfshark Support

The last but not the least criterion we considered was the quality of each company’s customer support. Did they have phone support or live chat support? Were they responsive? How well did they handle our concerns and questions? It’s uncommon for VPN companies to have great customer support, so we made sure to highlight the companies that did well in this area.

FAQs

  • Are cheap VPNs secure and safe to use?

    Most cheap VPNs are secure and safe to use as they are still regular VPNs. They are only considered cheap because they offer discounts for long-term subscriptions.

  • Are cheap VPNs better than free VPNs?

    In most cases, cheap VPNs are better than free VPNs in terms of features and performance. Typically, free VPNs have limitations, such as data usage limits, speed limits, and server location limits. Cheap VPNs don’t have such limitations.

  • What is the cheapest VPN?

    The cheapest VPN depends on how long you’re willing to commit. Paying for a three year subscription in advance will yield a lower price. In the case of SurfShark, the monthly rate for the three year plan is only $1.99. However, the six month, one year, and two year subscriptions also yield significant savings.

  • What if I want to cancel my long-term VPN subscription?

    Most VPNs have a money-back guarantee. They will give you your money back if you’re unsatisfied with their service. In most cases, you have 30 days to do so after paying for the subscription. There are also VPNs that don’t have a money-back guarantee but have a free trial. You can take advantage of the free trial to test things out before paying for a subscription.

Citations
  1. UK Defence Journal. (2020). The Five Eyes – The Intelligence Alliance of the Anglosphere.
    ukdefencejournal.org.uk/the-five-eyes-the-intelligence-alliance-of-the-anglosphere/

  2. PwC. (2020). Home Page.
    pwc.ch/en.html

  3. Pew Research Center. (2016). Americans feel the tensions between privacy and security concerns.
    pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/02/19/americans-feel-the-tensions-between-privacy-and-security-concerns/