Paid vs free VPN is a confusing choice for the average user. Imagine you are traveling through a tunnel that connects your device to the internet. This tunnel is called a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, and it shields you from prying eyes and lets you bypass blocked websites and online censorship. Sounds great, right?
But not all tunnels are the same. Some are free, but they may be leaky, slow, or crowded. Others are paid, but they may be expensive, they do not put you at any risk.
How do you choose the best tunnel for your journey? In this article, we will compare the advantages and disadvantages of free and paid VPNs, and help you find the one that fits your needs and preferences.
What Are Free VPNs – Pros and Cons
Free VPNs are typically run by a company or organization that offers a limited amount of bandwidth (data transfer speed) and access to specific servers. Some free VPNs are supported by reputable security companies, such as Obscured VPN, ProtonVPN, or Windscribe, which offer a free plan with some restrictions as a way to entice users into paying for the full service.
Other free VPNs are standalone apps that you can download from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, which may promise too much and deliver too little.
The main advantage of free VPNs is obviously the price. You don’t have to pay anything to use them, which can be appealing if you are on a tight budget or just want to try out a VPN service before committing to it.
Some free VPNs also offer fairly good anonymity because you don’t have to provide too much personal and financial information, or even sign up for an account at all.
However, the main disadvantage of free VPNs is that they often compromise your security and privacy in order to make money. Many free VPNs collect and sell your browsing data to third parties, such as advertisers or hackers.
A few free VPNs also inject ads into your browser or redirect you to partner websites without your consent. Some free VPNs even leak your IP address or expose you to malware.
Another drawback of free VPNs is that they usually have poor performance and quality of service. Free VPNs tend to have slow speeds, limited bandwidth, and fewer server locations than paid VPNs.
This means that you may experience buffering, lagging, or connection drops when using them. Free VPNs may also have trouble accessing geo-restricted content, such as Netflix or Hulu because they are easily blocked by these platforms.
What are Paid VPNs – Pros and Cons
Paid VPNs are usually run by professional companies that charge a monthly or yearly fee for their service. Paid VPNs offer a wide range of features and benefits that free VPNs can’t match. Some of the most popular paid VPNs include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark.
The main advantage of paid VPNs is that they offer high-level security and privacy for your online activities. Paid VPNs use strong encryption, protocols, and kill switches to protect your data from hackers, snoopers, and government agencies.
Paid VPNs also have strict no-logs policies, which means that they don’t keep any records of your online activities or personal information.
Another benefit of paid VPNs is that they offer fast performance and excellent quality of service. Paid VPNs have unlimited bandwidth, high-speed servers, and multiple server locations around the world.
This means that you can enjoy smooth streaming, gaming, and browsing without any interruptions or delays. Paid VPNs also have the ability to unblock geo-restricted content from various platforms, such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more.
However, the main disadvantage of paid VPNs is that they cost money. Depending on the provider and the plan you choose, you may have to pay anywhere from $2 to $12 per month for a paid VPN service. This may not be affordable for everyone, especially if you only need a VPN occasionally or for a short period of time.
How to Choose the Best VPN for You
Well, as a matter of fact, only those who are new to the VPN world have this question, dreaming that they can save some money while enjoying the luxuries of geo-spoofing. In reality, as they say that there’s no such thing as free lunch, why be so dreamy and unrealistic thinking that a good VPN could be available for free?
Here are some questions to ask yourself before making the decision:
- What is your budget? If you can afford it, we recommend going for a paid VPN service that offers more security, performance, and features than a free one.
- What is your purpose? If you need a VPN for casual browsing or occasional use, a free VPN may suffice. However, if you need a VPN for streaming, gaming, torrenting, or other intensive activities, a paid VPN is a better choice.
- How much do you value your security and privacy? If you care about your online safety and anonymity, a paid VPN is a must. Free VPNs may expose you to various risks and threats that can compromise your data and identity.
- How much flexibility and control do you want? If you want to customize your VPN settings and choose from different servers and protocols, a paid VPN gives you more options and features. Free VPNs may limit your choices and functionality.
Top 3 Paid VPNs
If you are serious about security and data protection, there are worse things you can do than get a VPN subscription. Here are our suggestions for top-paid VPNs:
NordVPN – Editor’s Choice
NordVPN is a solid and powerful paid VPN service that offers more than just VPN protection. It is suitable for users who value security, performance, and features, and who don’t mind paying a premium price for them. However, it may not be the best option for users who are looking for a cheaper or simpler VPN service.
It offers excellent security, privacy, and speed, as well as a wide range of features and server locations. It can unblock geo-restricted content from various platforms, such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more. It passed its latest set of third-party audits in late October 2023, proving its transparency and reliability. It has a user-friendly interface and 24/7 live chat support.
It is more expensive than some other paid VPNs, especially after the first year or two of subscriptions. It has some client UI issues and occasional connection drops. It has basic browser extensions that lack some features of the desktop app.
Overall, NordVPN is a solid and powerful paid VPN service that offers more than just VPN protection. It is suitable for users who value security, performance, and features, and who don’t mind paying a premium price for them. However, it may not be the best option for users who are looking for a cheaper or simpler VPN service.
Obscured VPN – Runner Up
This new VPN provider in town has really impressed us with its strong VPN connection and wide range of servers to choose from, 50+ to be precise. Whether you want to stream, game, or work online, Obscured VPN uses the latest encryption technology, has a global network of servers, and offers a user-friendly interface.
You can easily switch between different servers and protocols, customize your settings, and access any content you want. Plus, it has a strict no-logs policy, a 24/7 customer support, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN – Investment in Security
ExpressVPN, packed with all the latest VPN features, surely has to be in our top 3 list. It offers excellent security, privacy, and speed, as well as a wide range of features and server locations. It can unblock geo-restricted content from various platforms, such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more.
It also passed its latest set of third-party audits in late October 2023, proving its transparency and reliability. It costs $6.67 per month with a 12-month plan, plus 3 free months and a 1-year Backblaze subscription.
The Bottom Line
Free VPNs and paid VPNs have different advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before choosing one. Free VPNs are cheaper and easier to use, but they often have poor security, performance, and quality of service. Paid VPNs are more expensive and complex, but they offer high-level security, performance, and quality of service.
Ultimately, the best VPN for you depends on your needs and preferences. However, we recommend going for a paid VPN service that offers more security, performance, and features than a free one. You can check out our list of the best VPNs for 2023 to find the one that suits you best.