TunnelBear 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
- Kill switch protects web activity if VPN cuts out
- AES-256 encryption hides web traffic and IP addresses
- Dynamic IP addresses
Comparing TunnelBear to ExpressVPN is sort of like comparing an underdog, amateur football team to the NFL. There’s no doubt that ExpressVPN is more recognizable than TunnelBear, and while TunnelBear has servers in 22 countries, ExpressVPN has servers in 148 countries. That being said, we don’t want to assume that ExpressVPN is better just because it’s larger and more popular, which is why we compare them directly in terms of encryption, IP addresses, privacy policies and other essential features. Who will come out on top? Keep on reading to find out.
Let’s start with a general overview. Not surprisingly, NordVPN is a much larger VPN than Surfshark, with 5,246 servers as opposed to just over 1,7000. However, the servers are available in nearly the same amount of countries, 62 with NordVPN and 63 with Surfshark. Why do we care, exactly? Well, our distance to the server could affect our Internet speeds, which we’ll discuss below. That being said, looking at the number of servers alone, we initially expected faster speeds from NordVPN as opposed to Surfshark. You’ll have to read further to find out if these expectations were met!
Tip: Before you buy any VPN, be sure to check out its list of servers and make sure it’s available in your country, with servers close to where you’ll be using the VPN.
Devices and Browsers
First, let’s talk about compatibility, as you don’t want to buy a VPN that doesn’t work with the device or browser you want to encrypt. While both VPNs work with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux, TunnelBear only works with Linux in a pretty limited capacity and ExpressVPN also works with:
- Wireless routers from Sabi, DD-WRT, Asus and Tomato
- Apple TV
- PlayStation 3
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One.
Both VPNs have browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, but while ExpressVPN supports Safari, TunnelBear explores Opera. Since 17.2 percent of Internet users globally use Safari as their web browser versus just 1.5 percent of global Internet users who use Opera,1 this probably means that ExpressVPN will be compatible for more people than TunnelBear.
Did You Know: Chrome is the most popular web browser, holding over 60 percent of the market share.
Score: ExpressVPN one, TunnelBear zero.
No matter which VPN you choose, you’ll get the industry standard in encryption, namely AES-256. This protected our web traffic and IP address in either VPN’s encrypted tunnel.
Score: Express VPN two, TunnelBear one.
Another thing that TunnelBear and ExpressVPN have in common? Whenever we signed onto either VPN, we got new IP addresses, which felt a bit like putting on a new wig every time we left the house to escape the paparazzi (in our fantasies). We prefer dynamic IP addresses over static IP addresses, which make us much easier to follow online.
Score: ExpressVPN three, TunnelBear two.
Being digital security experts, we’re always looking for back up plans in case our software fails. What if TunnelBear or ExpressVPN got disconnected? Would that leave our web activity open to the prying eyes of our Internet Service Provider? Thankfully, the answer is no with both VPNs due to their kill switches, which shut down our web browsers if they failed. Think of the kill switch as a curtain that comes down in case the show literally can’t go on.
Score: ExpressVPN four, TunnelBear three.
Since neither VPN encrypted our traffic multiple times through a couple or more different servers, a practice called multi-hop, the scores stayed the same for this round.
Score: ExpressVPN four, TunnelBear three.
It may sound a bit sad to admit, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix is one of the most important things in our lives. The thing is? We’re not alone. Netflix accounts for a quarter of all TV-watching and 34 percent of all streaming platforms,2 which is why we tested TunnelBear and ExpressVPN to see if Netflix still worked with the VPNs on. While we got to watch Netflix with ExpressVPN, the streaming service had our TunnelBear server blocked. Rats!
Score: ExpressVPN five, TunnelBear three.
Number and Locations of Servers
ExpressVPN has a larger global presence than TunnelBear, with servers in 148 countries compared to just 22. But while ExpressVPN says they have over 2,000 servers, TunnelBear wouldn’t tell us this information for privacy reasons, but given their lack of countries, we can assume that TunnelBear also has fewer servers than ExpressVPN.
Score: ExpressVPN six, TunnelBear three.
Prices and Subscriptions
So far, ExpressVPN has twice the number of points as TunnelBear, but the scale is about to tip a bit more in favor of TunnelBear. Why? Because of their lower prices, not to mention their free option, one of the best free VPNs, and their option for teams.
|Daily Bandwidth Maximum in MB||Unlimited||500 with free option, Unlimited with individual or teams options|
|Number of Simultaneous Connections Maximum||5||5|
|Number of Connected Devices Maximum||Unlimited||5|
|Extras||3 free months with annual plan||Paid subscriptions get priority customer support, teams get billing and management in one place|
|Cost per 1 Month||$12.95||$0.00, $3.33 for one user, $5.75 per user for teams|
|Monthly Cost with 6 Month Plan||$9.99||n/a|
|Monthly Cost with 1 Year Plan||$8.32||n/a|
While we had to pay a minimum of $8.32 a month with ExpressVPN, TunnelBear’s paid options started out at only $3.33 a month, or $5.75 per user per month if we got the VPN for teams. It’s clear that TunnelBear is cheaper than ExpressVPN no matter how you slice it but if you want to know more, read our pages on ExpressVPN’s costs and TunnelBear’s costs.
FYI: TunnelBear lets you use their VPN for as long as you want for free, with one huge caveat: you’ll only be able to use up to 500 MB of data per day, which could seriously limit the amount of time and the activities you perform while connected to TunnelBear.
Score: ExpressVPN six, TunnelBear four.
Unfortunately for TunnelBear, the pendulum swung in the other direction when it came to its privacy jurisdiction. Unlike ExpressVPN, which is based in the Five Eyes non-member country the British Virgin Islands, TunnelBear is based in Toronto, Canada, a Five Eyes member. That means that the Canadian government could force TunnelBear to give them information about their customers, while ExpressVPN is under no such obligation. When it comes to privacy, ExpressVPN is a far safer bet.
Score: ExpressVPN seven, TunnelBear four.
We were pretty pleased with both VPNs when it came to their privacy policies; neither logged the IP address of our device that we connected to their service, nor the web activity we did while connected. However, TunnelBear did log the IP address of the device we used during payment, making the transaction slightly less private. They also logged our operating system version as well as whether we used the app or not this month. This isn’t a huge deal in our book, but since ExpressVPN logged less of our information, they win this round.
|Type of Data||ExpressVPN||TunnelBear|
|Anonymous app diagnostics||✓||X|
|App version used||✓||✓|
|Days you connected successfully||✓||X|
|Internet Service Provider||✓||X|
|IP address||X||✓*only at the time of payment|
|Operating system version||X||✓|
|Sum of data transferred in MB||✓||✓|
|What location you connected to||✓||X|
|Whether app was used this month||X||✓|
Score: ExpressVPN eight, TunnelBear four.
|Total speed difference on Mac||96.05%||5.25%|
|Total speed difference on Windows||96.24%||3.16%|
Rarely do we see VPNs with so little impact of Internet speed as TunnelBear. We barely saw differences in download speed, upload speed and latency (ping) when TunnelBear was connected, unlike ExpressVPN. Of course, these speed tests were our experiences and may be different from other users. Factors like device make and model, operating system version, and distance to the server can also affect speed, but according to our tests, TunnelBear is much faster than ExpressVPN.
Score: ExpressVPN eight, TunnelBear five.
It’s not always necessary for us to route all of our web traffic through an encrypted tunnel, especially if the web pages don’t contain any sensitive information. While we could split tunnel, or access private and public networks simultaneously, with both ExpressVN and TunnelBear, split tunneling only worked on TunnelBear’s Android application. With ExpressVPN, we used split tunneling with all of their apps, which is obviously preferred.
Score: ExpressVPN nine, TunnelBear five.
Last but not least is torrenting, which has become increasingly popular since the COVID-19 lockdown; in the U.S, torrenting usage has increased by over 40 percent,3 so we wanted to ensure that we could torrent while connected to both TunnelBear and ExpressVPN. Fortunately, we could torrent with either VPN, although we had to do it through ExpressVPN using uTorrent, a separate download. For this slight inconvenience, we’ll give the point to TunnelBear.
Score: ExpressVPN nine, TunnelBear six.
If you can do basic math, then you know that we much prefer ExpressVPN to TunnelBear. In a nutshell, it’s a service that more people can use, due to its global presence and a large number of servers; it’s private, based in the British Virgin Islands with a strict data logging policy, plus, we got split tunneling on all apps and Netflix access. We’d only recommend TunnelBear if you’re on a budget, want a free VPN or a VPN for teams, as ExpressVPN lacks group options, but for individual use, ExpressVPN is a much better option.
|Five Eyes member||X||✓|
|Number of servers||2,000+||n/a|
|Number of locations||148||22|
|Logging policy||Very strict||Pretty strict|
|Torrenting||✓*requires uTorrent download||✓|
|Split tunneling||✓||✓*Android app only|
|Speed difference- Mac||96.05%||5.25%|
|Speed difference- Windows||96.24%||3.16%|
|Monthly cost range||$8.32- $12.95||$0.00- $5.75|
|Simultaneous devices per subscription||5||5|
|Devices per subscription||Unlimited||5|
|Supported devices||Linux, Chromebook, routers, Apple TV, PlayStations 3 and 4, Xbox one, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Kindle||iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux (limited support)|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Safari||Chrome, Firefox, Opera|
Hopefully, this comparison helped you reach your purchase decision, but if that’s not the case, we’d recommend checking out our best-of lists, such as the best VPNs for Netflix, the best VPNs for torrenting, the best VPNs for Fire TV Stick, the best VPNs for Mac and the best VPNs for Chrome. Or, type in “best VPNs” in our search bar to find even more compilations.
W3Counter. (2020). Browser & Platform Market Share.
Nielsen. (2020). Going Swimmingly: Streaming Continues to Grow Among Consumers.
Hubspot. (2020). Film and TV Piracy Surge During COVID-19 Lockdown.