Article updated on May 8, 2024 at 11:15 AM PDT

Best Cheap VPN for 2024: Privacy on a Budget

The cheapest VPNs protect your privacy on a tight budget.

Our Experts

Written by 
Attila Tomaschek,
Rae Hodge
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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.
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


Extensive features at a great price

Savings $2.19/mo + 3 months free, 86% off (2 year plan)
  • Lots of unique security features
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • RAM-only server network
  • 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 offers solid privacy 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. Although Surfshark’s monthly plan is relatively inexpensive at $11 per month, it’s much more wallet-friendly if you sign up for a year or longer. Following an introductory $48 for the first year, the annual plan renews at $60 per year. You can also opt for a two-year plan that starts at $60 for the first two years combined and then recurs annually at $60. CNET doesn’t recommend signing on with a single provider for more than a year at a time, given how quickly things tend to shift in the VPN industry. 

Surfshark offers ad and malware protection, camouflage mode and split tunneling. You’ll also get standard features like DNS leak protection, AES 256-bit encryption and a kill switch. The company’s Nexus Network can help enhance user privacy even further by facilitating features like Dynamic MultiHop and IP Rotator. Surfshark is an excellent option for streaming as well and can help you unblock multiple Netflix libraries along with other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Max. 

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 PIA

Best Cheap Alternative


Budget-friendly and transparent

Savings $40 per year or $12 per month (3-year plans available at $79 every three years)
  • Extremely cheap prices
  • Open-source apps
  • Linux GUI app
  • Solid privacy and transparency
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Great for streaming service unblocking
  • US jurisdiction
  • Middling connection speeds
  • Lacks more advanced features found in rival VPNs
Latest Tests No leaks detected, 49% speed loss in 2024 tests
Network 35,000 servers in 91 countries
Jurisdiction United States
Price $40 per year or $12 per month (3-year plans available at $79 every three years)

Private Internet Access (PIA) is an OG VPN provider based in the United States. Its software is fully open-source and its apps are highly customizable, making PIA a solid choice for the techie crowd and privacy-conscious folks who appreciate transparency. It’s also one of the cheapest premium VPN providers around, at $12 per month, $40 per year or $79 every three years. 

PIA had its no-logs policy independently audited in 2022, regularly releases transparency reports and has had its no-logs claims tested in the wild on multiple occasions. Along with standard privacy features like AES 256-bit encryption, DNS leak protection and a kill switch, PIA also offers multihop connections, obfuscation and an ad and malware blocker. 

Its large server network spanning 91 countries worldwide makes PIA a great VPN for travel, while its unlimited simultaneous connections means it's a good virtual private network solution for multiple devices. In our latest testing, we experienced uneven connectivity, with a high 49% average internet speed loss. In any case, PIA is an excellent cheap VPN that provides top-notch privacy and is more than capable of handling almost anything you’d want to do online.   

See Price at Proton VPN

Best Open-Source VPN

Proton VPN

The only free plan we recommend

Savings 55% off with 24-mo plan
  • Highly transparent
  • Open-source
  • Unlimited free plan
  • No 24/7 live chat support
  • Split tunnelling only available on Android and Windows
Latest tests No leaks detected, 21% speed loss in 2024 tests
Network 4,800-plus servers in 91 countries
Jurisdiction Switzerland
Price $10 a month, $60 for a year, or $108 for two years

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. Aside from its robust privacy protections, Proton does well at unblocking content from various streaming providers, including Netflix.

Proton VPN costs $10 per month, $60 for the first year (then $80 annually) or $107 for the first 24 months (then $80 annually) and offers 10 simultaneous connections and 4,900-plus servers in 91 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 servers in five countries (Japan, Netherlands, United States, Poland and Romania).

What is the best cheap VPN right now?

Surfshark is CNET’s top pick for the best cheap VPN, thanks to its innovative feature set, outstanding speed performance, top-notch privacy protections and budget-friendly annual subscription plan. Surfshark is easy to use across all platforms and excellent for streaming -- especially if you want to maximize your Netflix viewing options. Granted, Surfshark’s monthly subscription is more expensive than the competition, but if you sign up for a yearly plan, you’ll pay far less than what you would for most other top VPNs’ annual subscriptions.  

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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 VPNs 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

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Other VPNs we tested

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 $5.47 per month, whether you use it for a month, a year, 10 years or longer. Mullvad doesn't offer any sales or discounts, just a flat $5.47 fee for as many months you want to use it. That comes out to $66 for a year, which nearly matches Surfshark's annual price when not considering introductory prices. 

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 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 at signup; no email or username is required. 

Mullvad is fast and offers excellent privacy, but isn't optimized for streaming. I streamed content on Netflix without any issues during my tests, but couldn’t watch anything on Disney Plus. It's otherwise an excellent option for budget-conscious VPN users who value extra attention to privacy and appreciate simplicity and straightforwardness, but you may want to go with another provider if you’re interested in streaming. 

Read our Mullvad VPN review.

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How we test cheap VPNs

We test cheap VPNs much like we do any VPN, but we pay special attention to the cost of the service to determine its overall value. We test each VPN’s features, speeds and usability across platforms. To determine speed loss, we run over 250 internet speed tests with a VPN enabled and disabled, across multiple VPN servers. We also evaluate how well the VPN performs when streaming and unblocking content from different regions worldwide. Additionally, we run DNS leak tests and look for trust signals like transparency reports and third-party security audits.

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Factors to consider in a cheap VPN

Based on our experience testing, using and researching VPNs, these are the most important factors to consider when choosing a cheap VPN.


If your objective is to find the cheapest VPN for your needs, then the cost of the VPN will likely be your primary consideration. While some VPNs cost up to $100 or more per year, you can get a top-notch cheap VPN with many of the same features, usability and privacy protections for $40 to $60 per year.


Privacy is a major consideration for any VPN, regardless of what kind of VPN you want. The best VPNs all have privacy protections like a kill switch and DNS leak protection, along with a no-logs policy and AES 256-bit encryption. Depending on the level of privacy you need, you can get a cheap VPN that offers additional features like Tor over VPN, obfuscation and multihop connections.  


A VPN will often slow down your connection speeds by 50% or more. So you’ll want to look for a VPN that will cut your speeds by as little as possible; ideally less than 20% so that you’ll barely even notice a difference. Fast VPN speeds are essential for data-heavy activities like streaming, gaming, downloading or video conferencing. A fast VPN will easily handle all of those activities, whereas slow VPN speeds may only be suitable for basic internet browsing.


Getting a VPN on the cheap doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to sacrifice usability. In fact, many of the more budget-friendly VPN options are miles ahead of their pricier peers in terms of user-friendliness. Look for a VPN that works well across all the devices you want to use. Your VPN should be as easy to use as any other app you may download and should require little to no learning curve.  

Best cheap VPN FAQs

What is the best cheap VPN?

Surfshark is the best cheap VPN on the market. While there are lower-cost options, like PIA, it's tough to find the price-to-performance ratio of the wallet-friendly Surfshark.

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Can I get a free VPN?

Proton VPN's free tier is the only free VPN option we recommend. Otherwise, we don’t recommend using a free VPN for various reasons. First, free VPNs are typically slow, lack premium features, offer a small selection of servers and impose usage limits. Worse, there are free VPNs that sell your data to make money and some are even riddled with malware. You’re much better off getting a full, premium VPN experience with a cheap VPN than risking your privacy with a free VPN.

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How much does a cheap VPN cost?

As with many services, the longer you commit, the bigger the savings over time. While a VPN may have an expensive monthly rate of around $10 to $14 per month, it can still be considered a cheap VPN if its annual subscription prices are more budget-friendly. You can get a cheap VPN for anywhere from around $40 to $70 per year.

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Can I get in trouble for using a VPN?

Using a VPN is perfectly legal across most of the globe, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting in trouble simply for using a VPN. That said, check your local laws and regulations before purchasing a VPN. If you do anything illegal while using a VPN, it’s still illegal. If you’re in a region where VPN use is restricted, you can connect to an obfuscated server to hide your VPN usage.

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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.