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Best cheap VPN 2020: Enhance your online security for less than £3 per month

The five best cheap VPNs that will let you stream blocked content abroad, while protecting your privacy and security

VPNs let you safeguard your online privacy and security, and even access geo-blocked streaming services like US Netflix, BBC iPlayer and HBO Max abroad. And while they can be expensive, they really don’t have to be. For every VPN that costs north of £10/mth, there’s another that will cost you under £3 – particularly if you’re prepared to commit to two or three years upfront.

While there many free VPNs, we recommend steering well clear of them, because many of these make money through dubious means. For example, selling your data or displaying ads. After all, if a service is free, you need to ask yourself how they're making money.

The good news is that most paid VPNs come with a moneyback guarantee for up to a month, giving you enough time to test-drive the service. It's a lesser-known fact that some of the best VPN services are amongst the most affordable. If you’re looking for a cost-conscious VPN, then you've come to the right place.

Read on to find out our top five cheap VPNs that won't compromise your speed or security. We've also put together a detailed buying guide that will tell you how we came to our decision and give you an idea on how to go about to choosing the best VPN service for you.

READ NEXT: Best VPN service

Best cheap VPN 2020

1. ZenMate VPN – £1.99/mth for 3 years

ZenMate VPN review: Good but not the best

ZenMate VPN is owned by Kape Technologies, which also operates another cheap VPN on this list - CyberGhost VPN. While the service has a strict no-logs policy, it has not been independently audited like the big VPN names, like ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Even though it’s not the fastest in terms of speed, it makes up for this by letting you access BBC iPlayer and US Netflix from abroad, though we only had luck accessing these on the desktop client, and not its Chrome extension. The service has a generous 30-day moneyback guarantee, so you have nothing to lose by signing up, but if you want something more robust, we recommend the other VPN services on this list.

Buy ZenMate VPN now

2. Surfshark VPN – £1.59/mth for 2 years

Surfshark VPN review: The best cheap VPN

If you’re looking for a great VPN service that won’t cost you a fortune, then there’s no other VPN service we can recommend that Surfshark VPN. Not only does its two-year plan cost less than £1.60 a month, Surfshark VPN is truly the most value for money because one subscription covers unlimited devices at the same time; most other services only let you use a VPN service on up to five devices at the same time. It's been independently audited to prove that the service doesn't log or store any of your personal details and it also has an ad-blocker and a whitelister, which most VPNs - even reputed ones - don’t have one.

Buy Surfshark VPN now

3. CyberGhost – £2.10/mth for 3 years

CyberGhost VPN review: The best cheap VPN for streaming

CyberGhost offers the best combination of service, ease of use, encryption and price. Even though it’s monthly plans start at a humongous £10.29, this reduces - rather drastically - to £2.10 per month when you choose the three-year plan. If you’re worried about making a long-term commitment without actually trying the service, then you’ll be pleased to know that the three-year plan comes with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. CyberGhost is especially useful to access streaming services from outside your country because both its PC program and mobile apps have neat tabs listing the most popular streaming services that you can then access with one click.

Buy CyberGhost VPN now

4. NordVPN – £2.69/mth for 3 years

NordVPN review: A brilliant top-tier VPN

NordVPN has been one of our two best VPNs for the last three years and it’s even received a Best Buy award, that we’re very frugal with. Apart from a strict no-logs policy, the service is based in Panama, which has no data sharing laws, meaning that no one can force authorities to hand over your data. NordVPN also lets you access the full gamut of streaming services, so you can watch almost anything regardless of where you are in the world. It generally costs about £10/month, but sign up for the three-year plan and you’ll save yourself a fortune. The plan is fully refundable for 30 days.

Buy NordVPN now

5. Private Internet Access (PIA VPN) – £2.70/mth yearly

PIA VPN review: Great for expert users who want more control

Even though Private Internet Access VPN is based in the US, it doesn't collect or log any traffic on its network. In fact, the US authorities have demanded their log data twice only to be sent away empty-handed. Unlike other VPNs, it gives you even more control. For example, you can choose between the common OpenVPN protocol and even the new WireGuard protocol, which is designed to enhance security without compromising on speed.

Incidentally, PIA is one of the fastest VPNs we've used. Our tests confirmed it gives you access to US Netflix and BBC Player in 4K, where available. The service also has 24/7 customer support and a 30-day moneyback guarantee, so we definitely recommend it as one of the best services around.

Buy PIA VPN now

How to choose the best cheap VPN for you

What do you want from a VPN?

All VPNs do the same basic job of routing your internet traffic through an encrypted connection to a remote VPN server, and then onward to the wider internet. Because the traffic is encrypted, nobody – not even your ISP – can monitor what’s passing between you and the VPN server.

What’s more, any sites you access won’t see the IP address that identifies you and your location – they’ll only see the address of the VPN server. Since that same server handles dozens, maybe even hundreds of users, this makes it very difficult to tie any online activity back to you, particularly if your VPN provider doesn’t log who connects to which server.

By connecting to a VPN server in a different country, you can also fake your location, so it looks like you’re connecting from Boston, Massachusetts, when in fact you’re connecting from Boston, Lincolnshire. This is very handy if you want to access websites or video streaming services which are blocked in your home country, or don’t offer the same content.

What should you look for?

Using a VPN slows down your connection. How much depends partly on how far you are away from the VPN server you’re connecting to: for us in the UK, servers in the US or Asia will almost always be slower than European ones. But if you have a fast internet connection (over 50MBPS), this shouldn't be a problem at all.

Some providers are consistently faster than others, however; these are the ones with bigger networks and greater server capacity to deal with large numbers of users. ExpressVPN and NordVPN have consistently been the fastest services in our tests.

Good VPNs offer additional protective measures too. These might include a killswitch, which halts all internet activity when your VPN disconnects, to ensure no private traffic gets accidentally routed via your ISP. Or you might get the option to connect through two VPNs in series, or through some other process that obscures your internet traffic even further.

If you’re particularly concerned about your privacy, then ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost and StrongVPN are all particularly strong in this regard. Not all VPNs allow BitTorrent traffic, so if you’re signing up to hide your activities from an ISP that isn’t BitTorrent-friendly – or because you don’t want the world to know what you’re sharing – then this is well worth checking first.

A final consideration is ease of use. Some VPNs are aimed at more technical users, while others are designed to make it as simple as possible to set up a secure internet connection, or to hook up to Netflix in the US and stream their extra content.

What about privacy?

There’s no reason why a cheap VPN service can’t protect your privacy just as well as a premium provider. Just watch out for services that make their money through selling ads. Even if your personal identity is kept hidden, they might be collecting and sharing some data about your online activity. Ideally, your VPN should always have a "strict no-logs policy" indicating that they don’t retain any information on how you use their service.

Also consider where your VPN is based: some countries engage in more active internet surveillance than others, and are more likely to share information with authorities in the UK, the US or elsewhere. VPN services operated from within the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US – are best avoided if you’re particularly concerned about government surveillance.

Can I try before I buy?

A handful of VPNs, including ProtonVPN, TunnelBear and Windscribe offer a limited free service, letting you try out a selection of servers and features at zero cost – subject only to a data transfer limitation, typically between 500MB and 2GB of data per month. If you like the service, you can always pay up to remove the restrictions. Other VPNs typically let you try the full service free for a few days. These include CyberGhost (24 hours), Avast SecureLine (7 days), Hotspot Shield (7 days) and Getflix (14 days).

Many of best VPN service providers, however, have a 30-day no-questions-asked moneyback guarantee. Some of our favourite VPN services - including ExpressVPN, Surfshark, NordVPN and PIA VPN - all fall into this category, and CyberGhost gives you a 45-day moneyback guarantee. This is the best way to test-drive whether a particular VPN is good for you because you can use its full range of features and ask for your money back in case the service doesn't meet your expectations.

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