The best VPN trials of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed

Protecting your privacy online is a necessity and not an option in today’s world, and a virtual private network (VPN) is an excellent way to begin. 

VPNs provide tunnels that mask your online communication by encrypting data transmissions, packets, and your activities. They make it harder for third parties to track you, making you less likely to become a victim of eavesdropping or a data breach. 

The choices out there for VPNs are endless — but some are more trustworthy than others. The easiest way to see if a particular VPN is the right option for you is to sign up for a free trial. Many VPN companies now allow potential customers to test them out for free for a set amount of time. In most cases, we recommend you choose a trial over a free VPN service, as many free offerings require you to agree to data collection and targeted advertising. However, you must sign up, so take note of the money-back guarantee period and cancel before you are charged.

Also: The best VPN services you can buy

What is the best VPN trial right now?

Our top pick is ProtonVPN as it is one of the few VPN providers that still provides a free option. Though limited, the VPN is user-friendly and has an attractive user interface, giving you all the time you need to figure out how VPNs work and whether one suits your needs. Paid plans are also currently on sale.

Below are ZDNET’s top picks for the best VPN trials on the market right now. 

The best VPN trials of 2024

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Proton VPN

Best VPN trial overall

Since coming to the market, Proton VPN — the open-source virtual private network from the minds of ProtonMail — has made its mark. It has garnered support because the company is transparent about software security practices and implements secure technologies, including two-factor authentication, Wireguard, forward security encryption keys, and a kill switch. 

Review: Proton VPN

Proton VPN doesn’t have a trial but does provide a free option with some of the same features as paid subscriptions. Alternatively, you can sign up for a subscription and cancel within 30 days.

At ZDNET, we like ProtonVPN’s free offering and view it as a ‘trial,’ especially if you are new to the world of VPNs and want to learn how to use the software before signing up for a paid plan. 

The caveat is that you can only have one connection to three countries (US, NL, JP) with the trial — but there are no data limits. If you opt for a paid subscription, you can access over 4,600 servers in 91 countries. 

A bonus is that the VPN provider is backed by Swiss privacy laws, some of the strongest worldwide.

Paid plans, too, are currently on sale. In an end-of-year deal, you will pay only $10 for a month of access, or you could opt for 24 months of access at $4.99/month, or a 12-month plan with a monthly fee of $6.66.

Proton VPN features: Open source | 91 countries, 4,600+ servers | No-logs policy | Security audits | Free option | Credit card not required for a free trial | VPN accelerator | 30-day money-back guarantee | Anti-censorship features

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Surfshark

Best VPN for affordability

Surfshark VPN, which includes a mobile trial, has many additional features such as cookie blockers, an IP rotator, and the option to connect to two servers simultaneously. Our past tests found connections reliable and secure, albeit with download speeds that can be slower than other VPN services. 

A bonus to consider is the massive server network — with over 3200 servers available in over 100 countries. Not to mention that Surfshark is a very affordable VPN.

Review: Surfshark VPN

A seven-day free VPN trial is available for Android, iOS, and macOS platforms, but you need to sign up for it by downloading the app from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

You can also test out Surfshark by signing up for a plan. But don’t forget to cancel within 30 days for a refund if you’re unsatisfied. The subscription options include a two-year subscription at $2.19 per month (plus three months free), a 12-month subscription at $2.79 per month, or one month of access for $15.45.

Surfshark features: Unlimited devices | Ad-blocker | Two-factor authentication | Kill switch | Credit card required for a free trial | 3,200+ servers, 100 countries | 30-day money-back guarantee

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Privado VPN

Best for free simultaneous device support

Another choice you should consider is Privado VPN. This Swiss VPN offers a comprehensive free plan with support for up to ten devices and 10GB of traffic per month. 

During testing, we considered the user interface clean and easy to use, with a handy button to enable or disable the kill switch. However, it does lack the advanced features of many other VPNs on the market. 

Prices begin at $1.99 per month for two years of access (with three months free) and $2.99 monthly for an annual plan, rising to $10.99 if you just want to try out the software for a single month.

Privado has a clear privacy policy. However, at the time of writing, there is no evidence of third-party auditing, an area the company should tackle if it wants to build more trust in the brand as a solid, secure VPN.

Privado VPN features: Supports unlimited devices simultaneously, 10 on a free plan | 49 countries | Kill switch | No-log policy | Credit card not required for a free plan | 30-day money-back guarantee 

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ExpressVPN

Best VPN trial for user-friendliness

ExpressVPN is a widely used and popular VPN. While expensive, the service is best suited for individuals who want to adopt a reliable VPN that can be used both at home and abroad. Advanced features include content streaming and torrenting availability, split tunneling, and a threat manager designed to stop tracking. 

The VPN is straightforward: install, choose a smart location or your preferred country, and connect.

You can connect up to eight devices simultaneously. A router app is also available to install the VPN directly and open access to every household device. 

Review: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has adopted the same stance as many other VPN providers and does not offer a standalone trial. Instead, you can sign up for a short-term service — either one month, six months, or a year — and then cancel within 30 days to take advantage of a money-back guarantee. There are no functionality, speed, or server restrictions. 

ExpressVPN subscriptions are priced as follows: $12.95 for one month of access, $9.99 for six months, or $6.67 monthly if you sign up for one year. Three months of free access have also been added to the yearly subscription, together with a free year of Backblaze cloud backup.

There is also 24/7 chat support if you have queries or trouble setting up the VPN. 

ExpressVPN features: Content streaming | 105 countries | Kill switch | Up to eight device connections | No-logs policy | Password | Credit card required for a free trial

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NordVPN

Best VPN for speed

Although NordVPN doesn’t offer a free trial, you can take advantage of a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the service and cancel within 30 days if you’re unsatisfied or want to test other VPNs. Subscriptions start at $3.69 per month on a Standard, two-year plan with its current promotion, with three months of access thrown in for free.

Review: NordVPN review

Given NordVPN’s popularity, accounting for millions of downloads, the service is worth considering, even though you have to jump through a few hoops to test it out. It’s very fast and reliable, and the developers are constantly monitoring and working toward improving the VPN’s security and features.

As we found in our own review, NordVPN offers consistent, impressive speeds with an impressive array of country servers. Plus, it’s compatible with many operating systems and devices. The company recently bumped up its server network to 111 countries and the number of simultaneous device connections you can have under one account to ten.

Also: NordVPN vs. Surfshark: Which is better for you?

NordVPN features: No-logs policy | Threat protection | Dark Web monitor | Rapid speeds | Ad blocking | Credit card required for a free trial | 111 countries

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Our top pick is ProtonVPN, as it is one of the few VPN providers that still provides a free option. While it is limited, the VPN is still user-friendly and has an attractive user interface, giving you all the time you need to work out how VPNs work and whether one suits your needs. Once you’ve gained more experience, you can then choose to adopt a paid plan or try out other providers. 

Not every VPN provider offers a free trial, but the best VPN providers offer an alternative: sign up, provide your credit card details, and if you aren’t satisfied, you can request your money back. Plus, most offer you 30 days to test the software. 

Money-back guarantees are becoming an industry standard, so it really depends if you’re willing to go through the sign-up process. Some VPN providers offer limited plans for free instead.

VPN trial

Starting price

Open source

Number of countries and servers

Logging policy

Credit card required

Separate free trial or money-back guarantee

Length/limits of trial

ProtonVPN

Free

Yes

91 countries, 4,600+ servers

No-logs policy

No

Free version

Free plan, limited

Surfshark

$2.19 per month

No

100 countries, 3,200+ servers

No-logs policy

Yes

Money-back guarantee

Seven days, sign-up

Privado VPN

Free/$1.99 per month

No

49 countries

No-logs policy

No

Free version

Free plan, limited

ExpressVPN

$6.67 per month

No

105 countries, 3,000+ servers

No-logs policy

Yes

Money-back guarantee

Sign up, 30-day cancellation

NordVPN

$3.69 per month

No

111 countries, 6,000+ servers

No-logs policy

Yes

Money-back guarantee

Sign up, 30-day cancellation

While deciding on the best use cases for each VPN, we considered trial features, levels of security, and affordability. We recommend testing different VPNs to find the right fit for your budget and needs. However, the recommendations below can make the decision easier if you already know your priorities.

These recommendations are updated as the VPN market shifts. 

Choose this VPN if…

If you want…

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is a security-first option with a free plan that strongly emphasizes transparency and open-source technology. It offers advanced security features like a no-logs policy, security audits, and support for the Tor network. This is our favorite way to try out a VPN.

SurfShark

An affordable VPN subscription and a seven-day iOS, macOS, and Android trial. With pricing starting at just a few dollars per month, SurfShark is inexpensive and still provides a wide range of features, including ad-blocking and two-factor authentication.

Privado VPN

A generous free plan. While there may be questions surrounding its lack of auditing, the VPN is subject to strict Swiss privacy laws and offers users a clean, barebones service.

ExpressVPN

A full-featured, easy-to-use trial that is not restricted on functionality, speed, or server connections. ExpressVPN offers advanced features like content streaming and torrenting availability, split tunneling, and a threat manager designed to stop tracking.

NordVPN

With over 6,000 servers in 111 countries, NordVPN is a long-term, reliable solution for those who want a VPN they can depend on. NordVPN offers advanced features like a no-logs policy, threat protection, and a dark web monitor.

While you are considering trying out a new VPN or two, there are numerous factors and conditions to think about, the most important of which are outlined below:

  • Trial length: VPN trials vary in length. For example, you may have 30 days on your PC, whereas iOS or Android-based trials may only last seven days. The latter can be useful but may not be enough time to properly test out a VPN before purchase.
  • Limits: VPN trials are often limited, and this may impact the devices you can use your VPN on, the number of devices, speed, or server access. Furthermore, there may be speed caps imposed on free VPN plans or during trial periods, so they may not reflect the true capabilities of the VPN service. 
  • Payment details: Some VPNs will require payment card details before you can test out their service. If this is the case, remember to remove your details before your time runs out, as you may then be automatically charged for a paid subscription. 
  • Paid plans: If you find a VPN that you like, you may then decide to sign up for a paid plan. Consider the monthly cost of your new plan ahead of time and decide whether or not it is within your preferred price range. 

When looking for the best VPN trials of 2024, we wanted to see just how user-friendly they are, whether you’ll be asked to hand over payment card details, and whether or not the trials themselves have value.

  • Hands-on research: We conduct extensive hands-on research, including speed tests and DNS leak tests, on many VPN offerings in the market. If a VPN doesn’t perform as it should, they don’t make the cut. 
  • Usability: We kept usability and user-friendliness in mind when we tried out different VPN trials. The point of a trial is to learn how VPNs work and to ensure a VPN is the right product for you. 
  • Limitations: Some VPN trials will be limited; for example, users will only be able to connect to a handful of servers. We prefer it when trials are for the full VPN service, but there are some exceptions.
  • Customer reviews: We examined customer reviews, including both positive and negative experiences. We also kept in mind the longevity of VPN providers, considering their track records for user and data privacy, popularity, and the variety and accessibility of services. 
  • Money-back guarantee: You often have to rely on a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the most popular VPNs. However, with the exception of services like ProtonVPN, a subscription model is still preferable to free VPNs, unless they utilize the revenue generated from paid plans to support free options.

A virtual private network (VPN) is a network of nodes — or servers — which reroute internet traffic to mask its original IP address. VPNs also add a layer of encryption to protect data packets and online communication. As the internet was not designed to be inherently secure, VPNs were developed to bridge part of the security gap. While they are not a foolproof solution, a reliable and trustworthy VPN can help protect your online privacy.

If you want to understand how VPNs work in more detail, check out our guide on everything you need to know about VPNs.

A VPN trial is a way to test a VPN service before purchasing it. 

Typically, VPN trials last for a specific period or have limited functionality. Once the trial period ends, you must subscribe to continue using the service. VPN trials work by providing you with a temporary account, allowing you to test the VPN’s features and functionality. 

Some VPNs offer free trials. You can cancel your subscription within the trial period to avoid being charged, but you will likely have to provide your payment card details at the time of sign-up. VPN trials can range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the VPN provider. During the trial period, you may have limited access to certain features, reduced connection speeds, or a limited number of servers to choose from. However, most VPNs offer a full range of features during the trial period.

Not all VPN trials are secure and trustworthy, so it’s essential to choose a reputable VPN provider that has a history of protecting user privacy and security.

Using a VPN is generally recommended day-to-day. However, there are some circumstances where you may decide not to enable your VPN. You should always check if using a VPN is legal in your country, for example. 

VPNs can slow down your connection, so if you’re not dealing with sensitive information, you may want to trade speed for security temporarily, like when gaming. 

VPNs protect your privacy by masking your IP address and encrypting your traffic. However, unless there are specific, integrated features, they do not offer protection against online threats such as phishing, drive-by malicious downloads, malware, ransomware, or third-party data breaches. 

To protect yourself against these attack vectors, you should ensure you have a firewall and antivirus software. It’s also recommended that you stay suspicious of untrusted messages and emails. 

There is a huge selection of VPN offerings on the market today. While we’ve showcased what we consider the best VPN providers that offer decent trials, there are other options available you may want to consider in 2024, as shown below:

View at CyberGhostView at MullvadView at TunnelBear





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