The five best cheap VPNs that will let you stream blocked content abroad, while protecting your privacy and security
The best cheap VPNs let you safeguard your online privacy and security, and even access geo-blocked streaming services such as US Netflix, BBC iPlayer and HBO Max abroad. For every VPN that costs north of £8 per month, there’s another that will cost you under £3 per month – particularly if you’re prepared to sign on for two or even three years up front.
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Note that we say “cheap”, not “free”. While there are many free VPNs available, we generally recommend that you steer clear of them as they tend to make their money through more dubious means – many are rife with allegations of data harvesting and, more often than not, you’ll encounter ads while using them.
Luckily, some of the best VPN services out there are also among the cheapest, or at least offer great deals to first-time subscribers. On top of that, they usually offer a money-back guarantee, usually for up to a month, which should be sufficient time to test drive the service.
Read on to discover our top cheap VPNs that perform as well as the most expensive option out there. We’ve put together a detailed buying guide that will reveal how we’ve come to our decision and also provide you with information on how to choose the best VPN service for you.
How to choose the best cheap VPN for you
Picking the right VPN can be tricky, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
What do you want from a VPN?
All VPNs do the same basic job of re-routing your internet traffic via an encrypted connection to a remote server, and then onward to the wider internet. Since this traffic is encrypted, your internet service provider isn’t able to monitor what’s passing between you and the VPN server.
What’s more, any sites you access won’t be able to see the IP address that identifies your location, they’ll only see the address of the VPN server. Since a good VPN provider doesn’t log who connects to which server, this affords you a good measure of anonymity while browsing.
Connecting to a VPN server based in a different country also means you can fake your location – otherwise known as “spoofing” – so you can make it look like you’re connecting from Boston, Massachusetts, when, in fact, you’re connecting from Boston, Lincolnshire. This is particularly handy if you want to access websites, or video streaming services, that are blocked in your home country, or that don’t offer the same content.
What should you look for?
Using a VPN will slow down your connection. But by how much will depend, in part, on how far you are from the VPN server you’re connecting to. For example, for us in the UK, servers in the US or Asia will almost always be slower than those in Europe. However, if you have a fast internet connection – over 50Mbits/sec – this shouldn’t prove too much of an issue in practice.
Note that some providers are consistently faster than others – they have bigger networks and greater server capacity to deal with large numbers of users – and the strength of the encryption also plays a role. ExpressVPN and NordVPN have consistently been the fastest services in our tests.
Good VPNs may offer additional protective measures too. Some will include a kill switch, which halts all internet activity when your VPN disconnects, ensuring your data isn’t accidentally exposed. Some will let you double up on security by connecting to two servers, one after the other, and some can offer advanced stealth protocols that can hide the fact that you’re even using a VPN.
If you’re particularly concerned about privacy then ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost are all strong in this regard. Besides being superb at protecting your browsing habits, they can also be used to hide any torrenting activity – fairly vital to anybody who lives in a country where using BitTorrent is frowned upon.
A final consideration is ease of use. Some VPNs are definitely aimed at more technically adept users, while others are designed to make it as simple and user-friendly as possible to set up a secure internet connection, or to hook up to Netflix in the US to stream extra content.
What about my personal data?
There’s no reason that a cheap VPN service can’t protect your privacy just as well as a high-priced provider, but you should watch out for the services that make money through ads – even if your personal identity is being kept hidden, they might still be collecting and sharing some data about your online activity. Ideally, your VPN should always have a strict no-logging policy, indicating that it doesn’t retain any information on how you use its service.
Can I try before I buy?
Many of the best VPN service providers offer a 30-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. Some of our favourite VPN services – including ExpressVPN, Surfshark, NordVPN, and PIA VPN – fall into this category, while CyberGhost goes so far as to give you a 45-day refund window. This is the best way to test drive a VPN, using its full range of features to see whether the service meets your expectations before you commit.
The best cheap VPNs to buy
1. Atlas VPN: The best cheap VPN
Price when reviewed: £40.34 for 2 years + 3 months free (£1.49/mth) | Check price at Atlas
AtlasVPN offers probably the cheapest plan, at just over £40 for 27 months, which works out as less than £1.50 per month. No other reputable VPN will let you sign on at that price.
However, these prices come at, well, a price: the Atlas VPN app is clunky at best, with some weird choices when it comes to the user interface, as well as experiencing frequent crashes. It also has some speed issues and occasionally has trouble getting through to Netflix. Still, if you can put up with that, it could be a very good buy indeed.
Read our full Atlas VPN review for details
2. NordVPN: The most versatile cheap VPN
Price when reviewed: £60 for 24 months (£3/mth) | Check price at NordVPN
NordVPN has been one of our two best VPNs for the past three years and has even received our Best Buy award, which we don’t give out easily. We like NordVPN for security and its streaming abilities – it’s great at getting through to Netflix. As for ease of use, its app is great, with an interactive map for helping you decide where to connect.
NordVPN offers a fairly generous deal, with its standard package costing £91.53 (+VAT) for two years (plus three months). Although you should note this is only for the first subscription period – if you let your subscription auto-renew, the price goes up markedly – so your best bet is to sign up once, and then try out a different service after that initial period is up.
Read our full NordVPN review for details
3. Private Internet Access (PIA VPN): The best cheap VPN for advanced controls
Price when reviewed: £43.94 for 2 years + 3 months free (£1.63/mth)| Check price at Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access, better known as PIA, has been around for a long time and at the forefront of the online privacy fight for years, so it’s safe to say that you can trust it with your data. It was also one of the fastest VPNs in our tests, although the downside is that it doesn’t do as well at cracking streaming services such as Netflix.
Even if we disregard everything else that we like about it, PIA really shines in terms of price. Currently, a two-year plan costs less than £50, which is a steal for what it offers. After the introductory period, it renews annually at the same price, which is effectively doubling, but still a good deal compared with the renewal cost of other VPNs.
Read our full PIA VPN review for details
4. Surfshark VPN: The best all-round cheap VPN
Price when reviewed: £57.53 for 2 years + 2 months free (£1.84/mth+VAT) | Check price at Surfshark
If you’re looking for a great VPN service that won’t cost you a fortune, then Surfshark VPN is another strong contender. Surfshark offers great value for money because not only does its two-year plan work out at costing barely more than £2 per month, one subscription covers unlimited devices at the same time. Compared with other services only allowing you to use their VPN on up to five devices at the same time, this allows a single subscription to be used for your whole family, or to be split among a large group of friends.
However, as with PIA, the introductory rate only applies for the initial term. You renew per year at the same rate, doubling the cost of the service. While this is still pretty cheap, it’s something to keep in mind.
Read our full Surfshark VPN reviewfor details
5. CyberGhost: The best cheap VPN for streaming
Price when reviewed: £59.94 for 2 years + 3 months free (£1.85/mth+VAT) | Check price at CyberGhost
Another strong option for people looking to save money is CyberGhost, which offers a solid combination of service, ease of use, encryption and price. For those concerned about making a two-year commitment, this plan comes with a generous 45-day, money-back guarantee – the longest in the business. However, like Surfshark, the very friendly price of £66 for two years is only for the initial term, after which you’ll pay that per year.
We especially like CyberGhost for its ability to access streaming services from outside your country. Not only does it manage to get past blocks, it makes the process easier through having special servers assigned to each service. You can access these servers with a single click from the app, making CyberGhost a favourite for ease of use.