CHOOSING a decent VPN from the sea of available subscriptions online can be a tough ask.
So we’ve tried and tested some of the leading brands to see how they compare and find you the best VPNs in the UK.
The market for VPNs has boomed in recent years as more and more of us cotton on to the added security benefits of using them.
We know they’re great for protecting your online data when using unsafe public wi-fi, or for guarding you against online fraudsters.
But they offer all kinds of additional benefits, not least accessing ‘geo-restricted’ streaming content that’s unavailable in your region.
There is no shortage of VPNs to choose from, and like everything, they vary hugely in price and reliability.
So our tech experts have been hard at work testing the leading VPN providers, and we’ve rounded up the best of the bunch here.
You can also check out our pick of the best VPNs for Netflix for those of you interested in the streaming benefits of VPNs.
Best VPN UK: At a glance
If you’re shopping in a pinch here is a quick snapshot of our three top picks, read on to find out why.
- Best overall: ExpressVPN, from £5.39 per month
- Best for security: NordVPN, from £3.19 per month
- Best value: Surfshark, from £2.75 per month
Best VPN services 2023
- ExpressVPN, from £5.39 per month – buy here
It’ll come as no surprise that ExpressVPN tops our list, it’s one of the leading and most popular VPNs on the market and for good reason.
It’s a hugely reliable service with a large global reach, with over 2,000 servers in a whopping 94 countries.
We put it to the test back in 2022 and were impressed by its professional features, such as split tunnelling which directs some of your traffic through a VPN while the rest has direct internet access.
It’s also brilliant for streaming as works with most platforms – no surprise then that it topped our list of the best VPNs for Netflix.
While it is one of the more pricer options on the list, it’s a case of you get what you pay for and here that’s a solid all-round VPN.
- Good number of server locations
- More cyber security features
- Unlocks most streaming sites
- Pricer than other options
- May cause a lag while gaming
- Won’t multi-hop with other VPNs
Read our full ExpressVPN review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Apple TV | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: 2,000+ | Server locations: 160 | Countries: 94 | Simultaneous connections: 8
- NordVPN, from £3.19 per month – buy here
NordVPN is another big hitter in the VPN world and our writers tested it back in January 2022.
And in no small feat, it proved to be ‘among the best they’ve tried’.
It runs smoothly but does have an unusual set-up, with a list of server locations as well as a map – but if you can look past that it works a treat.
Our experts also found Nord’s security features to be ‘above par’ in their hands-on review, which is exactly what you want to find in a VPN.
Compared to its competitors it does have steeper renewal costs, but its privacy policies are some of the most transparent going and it does a sterling job with streaming platforms.
Ultimately, the pros outweigh the cons here and it’s a great choice for those looking for a decent subscription.
- Audited no-log policy
- Unlocks most streaming sites
- Multi-hop compatible
- Atypical client interface
- Costly renewal compared to competitors
Read our full NordVPN review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Hulu, BBC iPlayer | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: 5,800+ | Server locations: 60 | Countries: 60 | Simultaneous connections: 6
- Surfshark, from £2.75 per month – buy here
Based in the Netherlands, Surfshark offers subscribers great value for money – making it one of our top picks.
One of our tech experts, Alessandro Mascellino, put it through its paces and was pleased by its performance and strong security features.
He found it to have a ‘user-friendly interface’ and pretty reliable speeds.
And despite the affordable price it can be used on an unlimited number of devices under a single subscription, so it’s a true crowd pleaser.
All in all, it may not bowl you over with speeds, but it offers great performance for its price point.
- Strong encryption
- Above par customer support
- Some issues with the kill switch
- Not the best speeds going
Read our full Surfshark review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 144 | Countries: 100 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
- CyberGhost, from £1.92 per month – buy here
If you want a robust performer on a budget CyberGhost is another great option.
You’ll get a huge selection of over 9,400 servers under one subscription, which is impressive given the cheap price.
But on top of that, you can opt for an extra layer of security with the NoSpy server, which reduces the risk of third-party attacks – but our expert did see slower speeds when using it.
You’ll get a great price when going for the long-term subscription, but if you don’t want to be tied into one the monthly rolling option is very costly.
- Impressive number of servers
- Large simultaneous connections
- NoSpy servers have slower speeds
- Expensive monthly subscription
Read our full CyberGhost VPN review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 45 days | Number of servers: 9,400+ | Server locations: 117 | Countries: 91 | Simultaneous connections: 7
Private Internet Access VPN
- Private Internet Access, from £1.69 per month – buy here
While the Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN may not roll off the tongue, it’s a solid pick for those looking to subscribe.
It strikes the perfect balance between affordability and performance and certainly pleased our expert.
On testing the service our expert found it to offer ‘plenty of security features’.
And when it comes to speed, described its servers as ‘going the distance’, with consistent speeds that have been upgraded and are now 16% faster.
Despite its clear no-logs policy, which is always a plus, our expert would like to see an independent audit, but all in all, it’s a consistent performer and value for money.
- Largest network of servers on the list
- Clear no-logs policy
- Lacks decent customer support
- Needs third-party audits
Read our full PIA VPN review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: 35,200 | Server locations: 120 | Countries: 84 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Unlike the other providers on this list, PrivadoVPN is one of the few that offers a free service alongside its paid premium subscriptions.
It offers 10GB of data every month, a zero logs policy, a choice of 12 servers and it works with most streaming platforms.
Of course, that is limited compared to the paid subscription, which offers over 60 server locations – that being said you’ve got nothing to lose.
Those that opt for the (still cheap) paid subscription get unlimited data, an ad blocker, and a SOCKS5 Proxy.
The addition of the proxy means you can access the fastest speeds on a secure IP while keeping your file transfers safe and anonymous.
- Free 10GB-per-month plan available
- Unlocks most streaming sites
- App is clunky
- Would like to see dedicated IPs
Read our full PrivadoVPN review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: 300 | Server locations: 61 | Countries: 47 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
- AtlasVPN, from £1.49 per month – buy here
Our Sun Tech and Science Reporter Jamie Harris tested the newest addition to the market, AtlasVPN.
Despite the service being in its infancy, our expert was largely impressed by what it has to offer.
There are only 750 servers to date, which will likely increase in time but is a decent starting point.
Its greatest strength at the time of writing is the insanely cheap subscription, which is the cheapest on our list at just £1.49.
But for that, you’ll get unlimited simultaneous connections and compatibility with most of the major streaming platforms.
- Affordable long-term subscription
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Basic user interface
- Low number of servers
Read our full AtlasVPN review
Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | 24/7 support: Yes | Refund period: 30 days | Number of servers: 750 | Server locations: 44 | Countries: 38 | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Best VPN UK: the verdict
Ultimately, our top pick for the best provider has to be ExpressVPN, which not only tops this list as the best all-round VPN but also tops the best VPN for streaming purposes to boot.
It provides reliable speeds, has a decent number of servers, unblocks most streaming sites and has extra security features.
And most importantly, the site is clear about its no-logs policy and its privacy conditions are some of the most transparent on this list, which is exactly what you want from a VPN.
Of course, that’s our verdict and yours will differ based on what you are looking to get out of your VPN.
If affordability is your priority, Surfshark is a great runner-up with strong encryption and plenty of servers to pick from.
While NordVPN is one of the best for security-conscious customers as it is multi-hop compatible, so you’ll be able to use multiple VPNs for increased privacy.
How do we test VPNs?
We like to recommend services that we can know you can trust, so each time we test we use the same process and judge each provider by the same criteria.
We also use a software called Ookla, which our reviewers use to fairly gauge the speeds of each VPN in the list.
There’s no ambiguity either, as all reviewers are looking at the same stats, including the number of servers a provider offers, or the number of simultaneous connections possible.
What is a VPN?
Short for a virtual private network, a VPN is an extra layer of online security between you and online snoopers or hackers.
It provides an encrypted connection from a device to a network, which makes the websites you visit, your location, and your IP address undetectable.
That means your internet service provider (ISP) and anyone on your network can’t intercept or track you, giving you a higher level of privacy.
In layman’s terms, think of a VPN as a type of cyber invisibility cloak that keeps your online activity and data under wraps.
Are VPNs safe?
Generally speaking, VPNs offer greater security and are perfectly safe, but it will vary and depends largely on the provider.
Using a reputable provider is the single most important factor, and there are several things to look out for.
First, you want to ensure the provider you go with has IP address leak prevention protocols and that it has a kill switch that will terminate any activity should the connection drop.
Second, a reputable provider will have a clear and audited no-logs policy: the point of a VPN is to stop any snoopers, so you don’t want your provider to do just that.
All the providers listed in this article were tested to meet these criteria, so you can be sure opting for any of the VPNs listed here comes with safety ensured.
Why do I need a VPN?
VPNs are great tools to keep you safe online, especially when you are out and about and connecting to public networks (think TfL or your local coffee shop).
Aside from security, they can also help you to access geo-restricted content. So the next new Netflix show that everyone is talking about that is only available in the US will be within reach.
Do I need to pay for a VPN?
There are free VPNs available on the market, but generally speaking, they can be questionable, and those boxes you want ticking such as a clear no-logs policy are often left unchecked.
That’s not to say there aren’t great options too, like PrivadoVPN which offers a decent 10GB monthly data plan too.
But, we believe if you are taking the time to consider a VPN you value your privacy and that is worth investing in, especially as some providers cost less than a cup of coffee these days.
And given most providers offer 30-day money-back guarantees, you won’t be out of pocket if you want to test one out for yourself.
How much does a VPN cost?
Most providers offer better rates if you invest over the long term, with plans costing as little as £2-£5 per month.
Of course, there are always free options available too, but be sure they meet the criteria we have set out above and consider it is taking more of a risk than a paid subscription with clear policies and protocols.
When is the best time to buy a VPN?
As with most things in the world of commerce, one of the best times to buy a VPN is during Black Friday when the sales bug sees providers offer insane deals.
But you will often see VPNs offer substantial savings year-round on their long-term packages to reel in new customers, which can see you pick up one or two-year plans for less than £2 per month.
What can I use my VPN for?
VPNs are pretty versatile and they are more than a one-trick pony.
Of course, to start you have the obvious security benefits which protect you online.
On top of that, you can use VPNs to keep a shared network secure, protect your financial transactions, unblock geo-restricted content, and connect to public networks safely and as an ad-blocker.
How to choose the best VPN
The best VPN will vary from person to person, so determining what you want out of yours is the best place to start.
There are options with ultra-fast connection speeds, a variety of servers, slick interfaces, or low monthly costs for those that need to keep it to a minimum.
Once you’ve decided we recommend comparing the providers in our list above. We’ve included dedicated reviews for each provider which we’ve rated on our hands-on experience.