America might be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but nonetheless it still leaves much to be desired when it comes to online privacy. The country has witnessed a growing climate of fear regarding ever-increasing levels of surveillance, compounded by the government’s move to cast aside privacy regulations that stop ISPs from sharing users’ browser data, which was signed off by President Trump this spring.
That alone has seen a massive spike in online searches for VPNs, and that’s hardly surprising. But rather than trusting to a search engine to give you pointers from somewhere, if you find yourself in the US and in need of a VPN, we’ve got some advice which you should hear.
How to choose the best VPN service for the US
Naturally, server count is the first thing to look for. The country is huge so you want a provider with good coverage in plenty of locations, and that bountiful choice should ensure that you can get a consistent and speedy connection, wherever you happen to be.
The service should have clients for both desktop and mobile devices, as well as offering a satisfactory number of simultaneous connections to enable you to hook up a number of devices. And do we really need to say that security and privacy levels should be top notch? Well, obviously they do…
With all that in mind, here are our five picks for the best VPN service to use in the US.
ExpressVPN is a winner in terms of coverage, performance, and native software clients. There are 15 server locations across the US that deliver very good and consistent levels of performance.
You also get a full suite of easy-to-use apps at your disposal for every platform, while the service offers manual setup tutorials for a wide range of other devices, just in case. However, you ‘only’ get three simultaneous connections here, which is less than some providers offer (a fair few VPNs allow you to connect up to five devices at the same time).
In terms of security, there are OpenVPN (with TCP and UDP), L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP protocols with strong encryption provided. Privacy-wise, there is a little session logging (connection dates, choice of server, etc) and the company stores basic information, but nothing that can be used to identify you.
ExpressVPN costs more than most competitors and doesn’t offer a free plan or trial, but its 30-day ‘no-hassle’ money-back guarantee gives you some flexibility to test the service before you fully commit. Three plans are on offer, and the yearly subscription provides the best overall value. The packages available are:
- [$12.95 a month] 1-month
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months – $59.95
- [$6.67 a month] 12-months (plus 3 free months) – $99.95
This VPN offers 12 server locations in the US, along with three Canadian locations at your disposal, with an additional dedicated server for streaming purposes. As a result, you shouldn’t have any problems achieving a solid connection, then, providing you aren’t fishing for P2P action as most KeepSolid servers don't support torrents.
We found overall performance levels were good in our testing, giving us only slightly lower download speeds compared to our normal rates. This service does well in terms of native clients, too, covering Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux and even Windows 10 Mobile with intuitive and user-friendly software.
KeepSolid uses the OpenVPN protocol with 256-bit encryption on Android and Windows platforms, and IPsec IKEv1 with 128-bit encryption on macOS and iOS. The provider also offers a DNS Firewall that sports ad-blocking and anti-malware capabilities, and anti-tracking solutions. Only basic details about service activity like session duration and bandwidth used are logged. Apart from that, there is no routine logging of the user’s online actions.
If you are looking for additional reassurance, there is a 7-day free trial to thoroughly test the service with. If you subsequently want to take the plunge, there are three subscription plans on offer, including a Lifetime option which is a bargain. Other than that, going the yearly route is also very cheap. The packages available are:
- Economy [$8.99 a month] 1-month
- Professional [$3.33 a month] 1-year – $39.99
- Infinity (lifetime) [$149.99]
With a whopping 421 servers on US soil, finding a stable and fast connection certainly shouldn’t be a problem here. Note that the bulk of these are P2P-friendly, and there are also a few purpose-dedicated servers. In terms of performance, NordVPN acquitted itself admirably in our testing, delivering impressive speeds.
This VPN offers feature-packed mobile and desktop clients for every major platform, with tutorials for manual setup on other devices. US users will also be pleased to learn that NordVPN offers double data encryption, which passes your connection through two separate VPN servers (as opposed to just one) for extra security.
Also on the security front, all the usual VPN protocols are supported, and an additional benefit lies in the fact that NordVPN is a Panama-based company, well outside of US jurisdiction. The provider enforces a clear and strict ‘no log policy’, and doesn’t monitor or record the user’s activity.
What spoils the fun a bit is the price tag for the monthly plan, which is a bit of a stinger, and effectively limits your choice to the remaining two plans. Naturally enough, the annual subscription offers the biggest savings. All plans have a 30-day no-hassle 100% money-back guarantee.
Interestingly enough, NordVPN offers a free trial but it’s not easy to find it on the website – if you fancy giving it a spin, you need to head here. The packages available are:
This Canada-based provider has a solid coverage of North America with more than enough servers. Our performance tests showed very good speeds on local hops but long distance connections were slower, although still tolerable for browsing.
TunnelBear’s custom clients are really simple to use with a number of automated features. There are also some advanced options such as GhostBear – this makes your online activities seem like regular internet traffic, to hopefully avoid being detected and blocked by certain services which employ anti-VPN measures.
This provider has a free plan, which is always neat, although it’s a limited affair with a data allowance of only 500MB per month. Still, you can get more data by tweeting about the service, which will secure you an extra 1GB (or better still, you can take advantage of an exclusive TechRadar free plan which offers a far more generous 5GB allowance).
As for other plans, there are only two of them – a monthly and yearly plan with no options in between. The annual plan is quite affordable and the better choice of the two. The packages available are:
Although IVPN has a fairly low amount of servers in the overall picture, it offers decent coverage for the US with 13 local servers (plus two north of the border). And the low server count did not seem to matter on the performance front, because in our testing, we achieved almost the same speeds as we get normally (without a VPN running).
Do bear in mind that while the service offers its own OpenVPN-compatible clients for Windows and Mac, there’s only an iOS app on the mobile front – with no native client for Android. That said, there are setup guides for Google’s mobile OS and a host of other platforms.
The straight-to-the-point clients offer the usual security protocols and a few advanced features such as Multi Hop, which gives additional anonymity options by providing different entry and exit points, alongside Tor's obfsproxy to get around blocks and more. The service has very standard reassurances that it doesn’t log the user’s activity.
The stumbling block here is the price. The monthly plan is one of the most expensive we’ve ever seen, while the yearly subscription is the best choice in terms of value, as usual. However, on the upside you do get a 7-day money-back guarantee with an unconditional 100% refund, not to mention the option of a 3-day free trial to test the waters. The packages available are: