Private Internet Access vs. ExpressVPN
- Based in British Virgin Islands, so not subject to international surveillance alliances’ jurisdiction
- Over 2,000 servers in 148 locations
- Split tunneling available
Private Internet Access VPN
- Doesn’t keep websites accessed or IP addresses
- Kill switch protects web traffic even if VPN fails
- Torrenting allowed
When you’re not yet an expert on VPNs like we are, comparing two specific packages can be like that meme from The Office: corporate needs you to find the difference between these two pictures, but they’re the same picture. But don’t worry, that’s where we come in. Both Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN are consistently in the top list of VPNs, so we’ve broken down here why one or the other may be better for you depending on your needs.
ExpressVPN vs. Private Internet Access: Similarities and Differences
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s do a brief breakdown of the absolute basics of each service and see where they stand.
|Features||ExpressVPN||Private Internet Access|
|Number of servers||2,000+||3,341|
|Number of locations||148||52|
|Lowest cost plan||$8.32 per month (billed annually)||$2.69 per month (billed bi-annually)|
|Headquarters location||The British Virgin Islands||Denver, CO, USA|
We’re no strangers to tough decisions—we once ranked every Harry Potter film and agreed on every choice. Still, we already know this is a tough decision. Private Internet Access has about 1,000 more servers than the competition, but then again, ExpressVPN has three times as many unique locations for those servers. In addition, Private Internet Access’s most affordable plan comes in a few dollars under ExpressVPN’s, but you might rely on certain higher plan offerings, which we’ll cover in a bit.
Tip: Most companies provide extensive lists of where their servers are around the world, so you can check out exactly where ExpressVPN1 and Private Internet Access2 have the most servers by going to their websites. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if a VPN offers a million server locations if they’re all on the other side of the world from you.
Another key difference that we want to point out right away is the headquarters location for each of these companies. And as much as we’d like to say that the headquarters location factored because of whether it’s a good vacation destination, it matters for a very different reason. Because Private Internet Access is based in the United States, it’s part of multiple international surveillance alliances, so they may be asked to hand over customer data to the federal government. Luckily, they get around that by logging only what they need for account information, like email, minimal payment information, and our state or territory. ExpressVPN, based in the British Virgin Islands, is not subjected to the same alliances. (And for what it’s worth, Aliza prefers a Denver vacation but Gabe loves a good beach week.)
Two of a Kind
Both VPNs consistently rank in our top ten picks, so you can imagine that there’s a lot they have in common. Here are all the offerings that both companies offer, so theoretically, you could do a Parent Trap switcharoo and nobody would notice the difference.
- Logging policy: Both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have super strict logging policies, which we love. Neither service logs when we used their service, for how long, our IP addresses, browsing history or traffic on any websites. Of course, privacy is a major motivator to use a VPN in the first place, so we love this about both companies.
- Kill switch: If the idea of a kill switch sounds way too sexy for something as dry as a VPN, we get it. This Bond-esque tool is a key part of what makes many VPNs fool-proof. Basically, if our network connection was ever lost, the kill switch automatically killed whatever software or websites we were using, so our privacy was protected. Of course, the really good VPNs don’t even need their kill switches that often because they’ve got reliable connections, but we love having a back-up, just in case. Our moms were clearly the “better safe than sorry” types.
- Netflix & streaming: You already know about us and streaming. Just this week, we finally felt brave enough to watch HBO’s Lovecraft Country (with the volume on so low it was basically on mute), and if much as a buffering screen might have slowed down the horror, it definitely would have wrecked the mood. But luckily, both Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN were able to get around the VPN blockers that many streaming services try to use, with totally normal speeds to boot.
- Torrenting: When streaming services don’t cut it, we torrent while connected to our VPN in order to keep our entertainment for our eyes only. Torrenting is also a great way to be that girl watching an entire movie on her laptop during the morning subway commute. And it was easy with both services, thank goodness.
- Split tunneling: Split tunneling means that we could be on a VPN and a local network simultaneously, a great way to lower bandwidth. Here’s how it works: part of our traffic went through the ExpressVPN tunnel, while some traffic will connect directly with the Internet. It’s awesome if, like us, you’re often doing work on one half of a screen that needs a VPN’s level of privacy, while watching a loop of ASMR YouTube videos that aren’t quite as sensitive on the other half.
- Dynamic IP addresses: Every time we connected to one of these VPNs, we got a new IP address, which the service assigned randomly, making us that much harder to track online. This is a simple service that the best VPNs can easily provide, so we’re glad to see that both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access made it a priority.
- No multi-hop: Unfortunately, some similarities between the services are more disappointing than some of the highlights. Neither ExpressVPN nor Private Internet Access provides a multi-hop, or double hop option, which encrypts data multiple times through multiple servers. This is definitely a bummer, but not ultimately a dealbreaker for us. If you’re interested in VPNs that do have a multi-hop option, check out our NordVPN review.
- App: Both services get great reviews for their iOS and Android apps, with an average of over four out of five stars for ratings. There’s just something relaxing about knowing we can easily navigate our security from our phones. What can we say, we’re millennials.
Some of These Things Are Not Like The Others
No two VPNs are exactly alike, and our purpose here is to help you figure out which one will serve you best. Here, we’ll highlight the key differences between Private Internet Access and ExperssVPN.
- Speed: When we tested ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access on our Macbook Pro and Windows Vivobook, we found that generally, both services performed pretty well. But, if you look closer at the specific results below, you might notice some key differences.
Tests ExpressVPN Private Internet Access Macbook Air- High Sierra Version 10.13.6 Ping without VPN (in ms) 14 14 Ping with VPN (in ms) 14 20 Ping Difference 0% 43% Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 54.86 37.05 Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 12.93 22.7 Download difference -65% -38.73% Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 33.86 25.9 Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 18.12 22.19 Upload difference -30.04% -14.32% VivoBook (Windows) Ping without VPN (in ms) 12 14 Ping with VPN (in ms) 16 19 Ping Difference -33.30% -35.70% Download Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 72.48 62.88 Download Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 61.67 39.77 Download difference -14.90% -36.75% Upload Speed without VPN (in Mbps) 41.37 40.61 Upload Speed with VPN (in Mbps) 39.13 30.95 Upload difference -5.40% -23.79%
Do you see it? Look closely. Okay, you’re right—you’re here for us to explain it to you! What is this, remote learning?
We always do our speed tests on both a Macbook and a Windows computer, as no two operating systems are the same, and we know we have readers in both tribes. First up in the chart, is the Macbook comparisons. In almost every category, ExpressVPN has Private Internet Access beat. Not only are the actual ping, download, and upload speeds just faster, but there’s a smaller difference between the speeds without the VPN and with it. That means on a Macbook, you’re less likely to notice a difference in speed with ExpressVPN than with Private Internet Access. And don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing to be ashamed about with those speeds, but there’s a clear winner here. We’re Macbook users ourselves day-to-day, and we can definitely vouch for the fact that ExpressVPN is most compatible.
But then we get down to the Windows speed tests, and oh, how the turn-tables! Here, ExpressVPN wins out only when it comes to the ping speed. But Private Internet Access worked much faster hands down when it came to every other speed category, as well as in the difference between speeds with and without the VPN. So on a Windows computer, Private Internet Access is your best bet for fast speeds and seamless transition from when the VPN is off to when it’s on.
Did You Know: The worldwide market for VPNs is expected to over double in size between 2016 and 2022, skyrocketing from $15 billion to over $35 billion.3 VPNs can provide security in obscuring a user’s location and accessing geo-blocked or censored services. They’re even useful for employees who may be working from home to access corporate intranets. If you haven’t explored using VPNs now, we’re sure you will be in the next few years!
- Price: You didn’t think we’d completely neglect one of the most important considerations when looking to purchase a VPN, did you? We know that everyone’s got their own budgets for these things, so it’s important to know what a service like this costs. We like to know ahead of time if we may have to cut down our monthly literary magazine subscriptions in order to find the funds for better security. So here’s how ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access stack up at the cash register:
Plan ExpressVPN Private Internet Access Billed monthly $12.95 $9.95 Billed every six months $9.99 per month ($59.95 per billing) N/A Billed annually $8.32 per month ($99.95 per billing) $3.33 per month ($39.95 per billing) Billed every two years N/A $2.69 per month ($69.95 per billing)
There’s really no comparison to be made here. All around, Private Internet Access is cheaper than ExpressVPN. Whether you’re looking to just try out a VPN month-to-month, or if you know what you need and want to pay for a longer-term subscription in order to save, Private Internet Access has better deals. Neither company offers free trials, but they do have 30-day money-back guarantees if it turns out it’s not for you. If you want to dive even deeper, check out our Private Internet Access pricing and ExpressVPN pricing pages.
The Bottom Line: Which is better, ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access?
Okay, we know what you’re thinking. This is all great, but what’s the bottom line? At the end of the day, if you force our hand to choose one (though please note, neither Aliza nor Gabe do well with an ultimatum!) we’d have to choose ExpressVPN. However, as we’ve shown, they both have their own merits, so as a reminder:
Choose Express VPN if you like:
- Faster speeds for Macbooks
- More server locations
- British Virgin Islands headquarters
Choose Private Internet Access if you like:
- Faster speeds for Windows
- More total servers
- Cheaper prices
To learn more about PIA, read our Private Internet Access review. ExpressVPN was our top VPN this year, but if you still feel like neither of these services are for you, there’s even more to explore at our top VPNs list. We can literally feel our heart rates slow and anxiety decrease when we feel protected on the Internet with a VPN. So no matter what you choose, make sure to choose protection over unguarded risk.
We love answering questions, so let's answer some FAQs about Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN.
Is ExpressVPN better than Private Internet Access?
Yes, ExpressVPN is better than Private Internet Access. Here are the areas where ExpressVPN took the lead.
- Privacy: ExpressVPN’s headquarters is in the British Virgin Islands, which is outside of the jurisdiction of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes Alliance. That means the government can’t force ExpressVPN to share customer data. Unfortunately for PIA, which is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, the United States is a founding member of Five Eyes, so the company could be forced to give the U.S. government customers’ data.
- Server locations: Although PIA has over 1,000 more servers than ExpressVPN, the location of Express VPN’s servers is more evenly dispersed. ExpressVPN has servers in 148 locations, which means we can make it appear as if we’re browsing from any of those locations. PIA only has 52 server locations.
- Speeds on Mac: We’re avid Mac users, and ExpressVPN’s performance on Mac was superb. Not only were the speeds faster overall, but the difference between our speeds with and without a VPN was smaller. ExpressVPN only slowed down our download speed by 39 percent and our upload speed by 14 percent. PIA’s download speed difference was 65 percent and the upload speed difference was 30 percent, on the other hand.
Is Private Internet Access a good VPN?
Yes, Private Internet Access is a good VPN. For starters, it has a strict logging policy. It didn’t log our IP addresses, which websites we visited while connected to the VPN, how long we were connected to the VPN, or internet traffic of any kind. On top of that, PIA is one of the most affordable VPNs we’ve seen, especially with the two-year subscription that only costs about $2.69 per month.
Monthly subscription cost Annual subscription cost Two-year subscription cost Monthly rate $9.95 $3.33 $2.69 Total amount billed $9.95 $39.95 $69.95
Is ExpressVPN really private?
Yes, ExpressVPN is really private. It uses military-grade 256-bit encryption to hide internet traffic from ISPs. According to experts, it will take millions of years to crack this type of encryption, even for the fastest supercomputers in the world. ExpressVPN also doesn’t keep logs of important user data, such as IP addresses, browsing history, and web traffic. Of course, ExpressVPN has to keep some data about customers for the upkeep of their accounts, such as contact and payment information, but it makes sure to store this data securely with encryption. Lastly, ExpressVPN operates from the British Virgin Islands, which is not under the jurisdiction of international surveillance alliances. The British Virgin Islands’ government doesn’t have the power to force ExpressVPN to share customer data.
Is Private Internet Access fast?
Private Internet Access is fast, based on our speed test results. It does particularly well on Windows devices, managing to keep the download speed difference to below 15 percent and the upload speed difference to just above five percent. Even on Mac, Private Internet Access kept our internet speeds fast, although the upload and download speed differences were a bit larger.
Windows Mac Download speed without PIA 72.48 Mbps 54.86 Mbps Download speed with PIA 61.67 Mbps 12.93 Mbps Download speed difference -14.90% -65% Upload speed without PIA 41.37 Mbps 33.86 Mbps
ExpressVPN. (2020). ExpressVPN’s VPN server locations.
PrivateInternetAccess. (2020). Our VPN Network.
Statista. (2020). Size of the virtual private network (VPN) market worldwide from 2016 to 2022.