The best cheap VPNs of 2023: Stay protected, for less

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You may be concerned about your online security but dread adding yet another fee to your monthly budget by signing up for a VPN service. 

Sure, there are free VPNs, but they often come with limitations and risks. It can be unclear how those vendors make their money and whether or not your data is being mined as it transits across the free VPN providers’ networks. 

Also: The best VPN services you can buy

It’s better when VPN vendors make money from their customers rather than from shadowy marketing enterprises, but sometimes, cheap or limited VPNs can operate by using the cash flows from paying subscribers. 

If you want the best protection, consider choosing an option from our list of the best VPNs — but there are cheap VPN providers that can get the job done while keeping your data safe and don’t require you to agree to shady data-sharing policies.

ZDNET has rounded up the top best budget VPN services. Our top pick is Atlas VPN, an extremely affordable VPN with a reasonable number of country and server options. 

Read on for the rest of our picks for the best cheap VPNs of 2023.

The best cheap VPNs of 2023

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Atlas VPN

Best cheap VPN overall

Atlas VPN featuresMoney-back guarantee: 30 days | Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: Payment information only | Countries: 42 | Servers: 1,000+

Atlas VPN is an exceptionally affordable VPN — and yes, it actually works well. It also doesn’t skimp on privacy, and we were (happily) surprised that Atlas VPN enlists the services of an outside company to perform security audits. That’s good practice.

Compared to higher-priced VPN providers, the number of locations offered by Atlas VPN is relatively limited. The company operates about 1000 servers in 42 countries, compared to the thousands of servers operated by more expensive competitors. 

Also: The best travel VPNs

We like that the company uses a warrant canary, which informs you whether or not the company has been asked to cooperate with government investigations. 

Atlas VPN frequently offers discounts and sales on its services. At the moment, you can spend as little as $1.64 per month if you sign up for a two-year plan, with six months of access thrown in for free. 

Atlas VPN Web

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Private Internet Access

Best VPN for usability

Private Internet Access features: Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, routers, and more | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: Payment information only | Countries: 84

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a reliable, open-source VPN perfect for beginners as it is very user-friendly. While the company’s one-month and six-month plans are relatively expensive, two-year subscriptions are very affordable.

ReviewPrivate Internet Access: A cheap, powerful, open-source VPN

PIA’s VPN offers server connections in 84 countries, multi-hopping, split tunneling, ad and malware blocking, and encryption capabilities. PIA takes security seriously and operates a no-logs policy. Furthermore, the VPN’s code is publicly available on an open-source basis, which allows anyone to examine the code. 

At the moment, the best price available for this VPN is $2.19 per month, with three months of free access added to the length of a two-year contract. Alternatively, a six-month subscription is the equivalent of $7.50 per month. A monthly subscription is $11.99.

Private Internet Access VPN Web

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CyberGhost

Best VPN for money-back guarantee

CyberGhost features: Money-back guarantee: 45 days | Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, game consoles, and more | Simultaneous connections: | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: Payment information only | Countries: 100+ | Servers: 10,300+

CyberGhost is an affordable VPN that provides users with high levels of encryption, DNS leak protection, split tunneling, customizable security options, and a vast network of over 100+ countries. However, simultaneous connections are limited to seven devices.

Also: The best VPNs for streaming

Currently, the company is offering a deal on two-year subscriptions: $2.19 per month, with two months free. There’s also an interesting option you don’t often find with VPN providers — a six-month plan for $6.99. CyberGhost also offers a 45-day money-back guarantee for long contracts, which is more than most VPN providers. 

Cyberghost VPN Web

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Ivacy

Best cheap VPN for the long haul

Ivacy features: Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Kodi, and more | Simultaneous connections: 10 | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: Payment information only | Countries: 70+ | Servers: 5,700+

Ivacy is one of the newer VPNs on the market and is worth considering if you want a set-and-forget VPN for years to come. 

Ivacy has over 5,700 servers across over 100 locations, a zero-logs policy, split tunneling, and utilizes the WireGuard protocol. However, you are limited to 10 simultaneous device connections. 

Also: The best VPNs for iPhone and iPad

Ivacy is compatible with many devices and operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, and Kodi, alongside Xbox and PlayStation consoles.

At the moment, Ivacy has a deal running for five-year plans. If you’re willing to sign up for so long, you will pay the equivalent of only $1 a month. The company has also included a password manager. You’ll need to pay extra for a dedicated IP, though. 

A one-year subscription will set you back $3.99, whereas you will pay $9.95 for a month of access.

Ivacy VPN

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Privado VPN

Best cheap VPN with a free option

Privado VPN features: Money-back guarantee: 30 days | Platforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and more | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited, 10 on a free plan | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: Credit card not required for a free plan | Countries: 48 | Servers: 65

Privado VPN is another choice if you are looking for a cheap or free plan. This Swiss VPN offers a comprehensive free option with support for up to ten devices — but you are limited to 10GB of monthly traffic. 

The user interface is clean and easy to use, but beyond an inbuilt ad blocker feature, it lacks some of the more advanced features offered by VPN competitors in the market. Another point worth mentioning is that currently, there appears to be no evidence of third-party auditing.

Prices begin at $1.11 per month for two years of access (with three months free) and $1.33 monthly for an annual plan, rising to $10.99 if you want to try out the software for a single month.

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Our top pick is Atlas VPN, an extremely affordable VPN with a reasonable number of country and server options. It will set you back only $1.82 per month. Plus, three months’ extra for free is a bonus.

This service provides top-tier security along with unlimited connections, making it a potentially cheaper alternative to other top VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Plus, you get a 30-day refund guarantee — that’s hard to beat.

Best cheap VPN

Best price

Kill switch

No logs policy?

Simultaneous connections

Atlas VPN

$1.64

Unlimited

CyberGhost

$2.19

7

PIA

$2.19

Unlimited

Ivacy

$1

10

Privado VPN

$1.11

Unlimited, 10 on a free plan

 *Lowest price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts.

The best cheap VPN for you depends on various factors besides price. If you choose a low-cost service, but you can’t unblock the streaming services you want to use, then what did you really save? Start by asking yourself why you need a VPN. Then, test out a reputable provider that has high standards for security.

If you want to learn more about how VPNs work and how to choose the best one for you, check out our guide: What is a VPN and why do we need one?

Choose this cheap VPN…

If you want…

Atlas VPN

Top-tier performance and plenty of features. Atlas VPN has long stood as a top VPN provider that offers reliable, stable connections, security, and a competitive price point.

PIA

Private Internet Access is a cheap, powerful VPN powered by open source technologies, and well worth considering if you want an affordable subscription service.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is another top choice for a fast connection in an extensive server network at a reasonable price. This VPN has a long money-back guarantee and is great for streaming.

Ivacy

The most affordable, long-term option. While a relatively new VPN service provider, Ivacy unblocks major streaming services and its current deal is for a five-year contract at only $1 per month.

Privado VPN

Privado VPN is one of the cheapest options and also provides a free plan. You could try out this VPN’s free solution, as long as you don’t mind the 10GB monthly traffic limit.

Pricing certainly played a significant part when we chose these VPNs, but it’s not the be-all and end-all when choosing the best cheap VPN. There are several cheap and free VPN services that aren’t trustworthy. Saving a little bit of cash isn’t worth putting your privacy at risk.

If ZDNET is going to recommend a VPN, it needs to meet specific, minimum standards, like having a kill switch, a reasonable data log policy, and no outstanding issues linked to improper customer data use. The server network range and capacity, money-back guarantee periods, privacy policies, and the number of simultaneous connections allowed are also important.

If you want your data to be secure, then yes. VPNs offer protection no matter what kind of device you use to transmit and receive data. Before you commit to a VPN service, it’s a good idea to test it out and see how well it works with all of your devices. The best VPN for Android may not be the same as the best VPN for iOS, and vice versa.

A VPN may help you get cheaper flights by connecting you with foreign servers and hiding your IP address. But airline prices shift based on various factors, and the impact of changing your location could be negligible or at the very least, hard to confirm. 

It’s worth trying to use a VPN to save money on flights. I’ve managed to score slightly cheaper long-haul flights by appearing to come from my destination country, for example, but the discounts haven’t been huge. 

Let’s be clear: Yes. Using a VPN will slow down your connection because your data is encrypted, decrypted, and sent through intermediate servers. Your online gaming experience might suffer. You might have enough lag to miss shots if you’re a first-person shooter player. That said, both computers and VPNs have gotten much faster. Years ago, VPNs caused everything to slow down far more than today’s services.

But now the negative impact is almost unnoticeable, especially with the fastest VPN services. Most (but not all) VPN providers also limit the number of devices you can connect to simultaneously, so you may have to pick and choose which home devices to connect to.

We’ve shone a spotlight on paid services in this article, although some of them offer a free tier. We don’t usually recommend free VPN services because we don’t consider them secure, the exception being ProtonVPN. 

Running a good VPN service requires hundreds of servers worldwide and a ton of networking resources — it’s expensive. If you’re not paying to support that infrastructure, who is? Probably advertisers or data miners. What’s the point of a VPN if it doesn’t keep your data secure? 

However, we want to clarify that no one tool can guarantee your privacy. First, anything can be hacked. Second, a VPN protects your data when it transits from your computer to the VPN service, but it doesn’t protect what you put on servers or whatever cloud-based application you’re using. It doesn’t typically offer password security or multi-factor authentication unless you pay for these add-ons. Privacy and security require you to be diligent throughout your digital journey, and VPNs, while helpful, are not a miracle cure. 

There is no shortage of reputable VPNs that get the job done.

If what has been highlighted here doesn’t suit your needs, you can try out other services that may meet your requirements. Some may be free, even — with limited capacity and network scope — whereas others are still cheap, but might not perform quite as well as our top picks. Below, you can check out other VPNs that are worth consideration.

surfshark

Best beginner-friendly VPN alternative

Surfshark VPN

Surfshark’s VPN service is very affordable at $1.99 per month and has a user interface suitable for beginners. 

Mullvad VPN

Best simple pricing structure alternative

Mullvad VPN

A security-first VPN with a simple pricing structure — there are no changes in fee whether you want a month or ten years.

ProtonVPN

Best free alternative

ProtonVPN

While very limited in terms of server connections and countries, ProtonVPN is a free VPN option with high levels of security. 



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