Article updated on February 16, 2024 at 10:42 AM PST

Best Cheap VPN for 2024: Privacy on a Budget

The cheapest VPNs protect your privacy on a tight budget.

Our Experts

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Written by 
Attila Tomaschek,
Rae Hodge
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
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Attila Tomaschek
Attila is a Staff Writer for CNET, covering software, apps and services with a focus on virtual private networks. He is an advocate for digital privacy and has been quoted in online publications like Computer Weekly, The Guardian, BBC News, HuffPost, Wired and TechRepublic. When not tapping away on his laptop, Attila enjoys spending time with his family, reading and collecting guitars.
Expertise Attila has nearly a decade's worth of experience with VPNs and has been covering them for CNET since 2021. As CNET's VPN expert, Attila rigorously tests VPNs and offers readers advice on how they can use the technology to protect their privacy online and
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Rae Hodge Former senior editor
Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
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See Price at Surfshark

Best Cheap VPN

Surfshark

Extensive features at a great price

Savings $2.69/mo with 24-mo plan (+4 free months)
Pros
  • Lots of unique security features
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • RAM-only server network
Cons
  • Inconsistent speed performance
  • 14 Eyes jurisdiction (Netherlands)
  • No transparency reports
Price $11 per month, $48 for the first year (or $59.54 for 2yrs)
Latest Tests No leaks detected, 17% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 3,200-plus servers in 100 countries
Jurisdiction Netherlands

Surfshark earned CNET's Editors' Choice for best value VPN in 2022. It offers solid privacy and security features, a polished interface, unlimited simultaneous connections, fast speeds and an impressive global network of VPN servers at a price that's considerably lower than many of its top competitors.

For $60 annually -- following an introductory $48 for the first year -- Surfshark offers ad and malware protection, camouflage mode, split tunneling and multihop connections along with industry-standard features like DNS leak protection, AES 256-bit encryption and a kill switch. Surfshark's apps have been independently audited by cybersecurity professionals and the provider says it doesn't keep any logs of its users' online activity. The company is also working on rolling out what it calls its 'Nexus Network' which promises to enhance user privacy even further with features like Dynamic MultiHop, IP Randomizer and IP Rotator. 

Surfshark is a cost-effective option for people who want added layers of security and a variety of ways to bolster their online privacy with their VPN. If Surfshark's Nexus Network proves as effective as promised, the VPN could be an excellent choice for users with critical privacy needs

Surfshark also works well for users simply looking to unblock geographically restricted content around the world. With servers spanning 99 different countries, the company has a network that is fast enough to handle data-heavy activities like streaming video in HD. Surfshark can help you unblock multiple Netflix libraries and other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max. We had a little bit of trouble accessing Disney Plus, but after some trial and error on a few servers, we were able to access the streaming platform.

You can get a seven-day free trial on Android, iOS and MacOS if you sign up through Google's Play Store or Apple's App Store. If you've purchased Surfshark and you're not satisfied with the service for any reason, the VPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.

See Price at Proton VPN

Open-Source VPN

Proton VPN

The only free plan we recommend

Savings 64% off with 30-mo plan
Pros
  • Highly transparent
  • Open-source
  • Unlimited free plan
Cons
  • No live chat support
  • Split tunneling only available on Android and Windows
  • Occasional speed dips
Savings 50% off with 24-mo plan
Latest tests No leaks detected, 9% speed loss in 2020 tests
Network 1,700-plus servers in 91 locations across 64 countries
Jurisdiction Switzerland

Proton VPN is a VPN product developed by the Swiss-based company behind the popular secure email service Proton Mail. The VPN has built a reputation for top-notch security and maximum transparency. Proton VPN's apps are fully open-source, and the software is also regularly audited to help affirm the security of the VPN for users without the time or know-how to inspect the code. 

On top of security features like a kill switch and DNS leak protection, Proton VPN offers extras like malware protection, Tor over VPN and a stealth protocol to help hide the fact that you're using a VPN. If you connect to Proton VPN's Secure Core servers, you'll be able to route your traffic through secure data centers located in Switzerland, Sweden or Iceland before exiting through another location. This provides a critical extra layer of security if you're a user with heightened privacy needs.

Proton VPN is currently the third-fastest VPN we've tested and does well to unblock content from various streaming providers, including Netflix.

While it's not the cheapest on this list, Proton VPN is cheaper than IPVanish in the long run if you decide to stick with the provider for more than a year. For $72 per year or $10 per month, Proton VPN offers 10 simultaneous connections and 1,800-plus servers in 67 countries. You can get a full refund within 30 days of purchase if you're not satisfied. 

Proton VPN also makes our list of best cheap VPNs thanks to its impressive free tier. Proton's free VPN doesn't include torrenting support or access to its Secure Core servers, but it doesn't limit speed, data or usage time. Free users are allotted one connection at a time and access to about 100 servers in three countries (US, Netherlands and Japan).

See Price at IPVanish

Best Beginner VPN

IPVanish

Simple, newbie-friendly interface

Savings 66% off with 12-mo plan
Pros
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • 24/7 customer support with live chat and phone support
Cons
  • IPVanish identified during DNS leak tests
  • US jurisdiction
  • Buggy features with platform limitations
Price $12 a month or $54 for the first year (then $90 annually)
Latest tests No leaks detected, 26% speed loss in 2023 tests
Network 2,000-plus servers in 75-plus locations across 52 countries
Jurisdiction United States

It's not the fastest VPN on the planet, but IPVanish is an excellent VPN for casual users that offers plenty of speed for activities like streaming and video conferencing. In our tests, we did experience issues with the Quick Connect feature, which didn't always connect us to the fastest server available. If you're looking for the fastest server, we recommend connecting manually based on the current server load readings displayed in the Locations section of the IPVanish app.

IPVanish's introductory annual rate matches Surfshark's $48 for the first year but jumps to $90 after that. Unlike most other VPN providers, IPVanish also offers a quarterly subscription plan at $30 every three months. The provider's 30-day money-back guarantee only applies if you purchase a yearly plan, so you would be out of luck if you purchase a monthly or quarterly subscription and decide the service isn't right for you. Other providers have more lenient free trial offers.

IPVanish joins Surfshark as one of the only VPN providers that offers unlimited simultaneous connections, so it's a good option if you have a large family or a lot of devices you want to secure at once with a single VPN account. The VPN kill switch worked well during our tests and the newly redesigned apps were a breeze to use. With IPVanish, you'll get access to more than 2,000 servers in over 75 locations as well as 24/7 support via live chat, email or phone.

See Price at Mullvad VPN

Best cheap VPN for privacy

Mullvad VPN

Along with Proton VPN, Mullvad is another open-source VPN provider that offers its services at a competitive rate. Mullvad's simple pricing structure is vastly different than most others. The service costs $5 per month, whether you use it for a month, a year, 10 years or longer. Mullvad doesn't offer any sales or discounts of any sort at any time of the year -- just a flat $5 fee for however many months you want to use it. That comes out to $60 for a year, which matches Surfshark for the cheapest annual price in this list when not taking introductory prices into consideration. 

Because Mullvad says it strives to know as little about its customers as possible, it has completely done away with recurring subscriptions so it cannot hang onto payment data longer than absolutely necessary. You can even mail Mullvad an envelope with cash to pay for the service. Mullvad automatically generates a random 16-digit account number when you sign up and you can prepay for one, two, three, six or 12 months at a time. The company is so focused on security and privacy that you don't have to enter any personal data whatsoever at signup, no email or username is required. 

DNS leak protection and the kill switch are enabled by default and cannot be disabled. Other security features include split tunneling (but only on Windows, Linux and Android devices), ad and tracker blocking and multi-hop connections. Mullvad also offers a Shadowsocks proxy to help users bypass firewalls and evade internet censorship.

On top of being secure, Mullvad is fast, dropping only 23% of our regular internet speed in our latest tests. It isn't optimized for streaming geo-restricted content internationally. We were able to access Netflix, but not Disney Plus when connected to Mullvad servers during our tests. 

The apps are polished and user-friendly, so beginners and casual users shouldn't have any issues using the service even if it is geared a bit more toward the techie crowd. Mullvad is a well-established VPN provider that's been around since 2009, well before any other VPN that made this list. It's an excellent option for budget-conscious VPN users who value extra attention to privacy and appreciate simplicity and straightforwardness. Read our Mullvad VPN review

About cheap VPNs

Having the best VPN installed will keep your online experience a good one by keeping your personal information safe and secure. If you're budget-minded, you probably don't want to take on a new monthly or yearly fee. free VPN can offer a quick fix to this problem and keep your data and browsing behavior secure. Using a free VPN comes with a few risks: they can slow your connection speeds and limit your data usage. We recommend avoiding most free VPNs, altogether. Choosing a great cheap VPN is a great and reliable alternative that will improve your security without breaking the bank.

CNET's experts have spent years putting a variety of cheap VPNs to the test to find the best affordable options available today. All of the cheap VPN providers highlighted in our list offer an impressive load of privacy features, swift connection speeds and an added layer of security. These cheap VPN providers come with an annual fee you can choose to pay monthly or yearly -- and they're still a fraction of the price of any premium VPN provider. Whether visiting websites or using apps on your phone or tablet, your online experience will be safe no matter the mobile device you use. 

The VPN market is ever-evolving, with VPN service providers changing rapidly, so we advise against signing up for a subscription that lasts two years or longer. We recommend choosing plans that are cheapest based on their one-year or one-month rates and have the best money-back guarantees. While a lot of VPN providers offer better month-to-dollar value when you go for these long-term plans, you should avoid those kinds of lengthy VPN commitments. Below, you'll find our list of the best cheap VPN services of 2024.

Watch this: Top 5 Reasons to Use a VPN

For more, check out how to choose the right VPN provider for working from home, red flags to watch out for when choosing a VPN service and seven Android VPN apps to avoid on your mobile device because of their privacy sins.

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