ExpressVPN Review: Is It Still The Best?

How Much Does ExpressVPN Cost?

ExpressVPN has three subscription options:
$12.95 monthly, $59.95 every 6 months, or $99.95 annually. As with most VPN service plans, the only difference is the length of your subscription.

The company accepts payment by all major credit cards, PayPal, and other services such as WebMoney. You can also purchase an ExpressVPN subscription with bitcoin. Notably, Editors’ Choice winners IVPN and Mullvad accept cash payments for even more anonymity. 

The current average monthly price of the VPN services we’ve tested is $9.78, which is quite a bit below ExpressVPN’s $12.95 asking price. Editors’ Choice winner Mullvad VPN asks just just 5 euros per month ($4.97 at the time of writing), making it one of the cheapest VPN available. 

How a VPN Works

You’ll save money with ExpressVPN’s six-month and annual plans, but the $99.95 annual plan is still well above the $65.57 average we seen across the VPNs we’ve reviewed. Kaspersky Secure Connection has the lowest annual fee of any VPN we’ve seen, at just $29.99 per year. Generally, we advise against starting with an annual or long-term VPN subscription. Instead, use the shortest option—or free subscription if you can find one—so you can test out the VPN with all the sites and services you need.

The only thing cheaper than cheap is free, but ExpressVPN does not offer a free VPN subscription tier. That’s not too surprising, as a truly free VPN subscription is very rare. Tunnelbear VPN does offer a free version, but limits you to 500MB of data per month. Proton VPN, on the other hand, places no data restrictions on its free subscription.

VPN Protocols

VPNs are a mature technology and as such there are many ways to create a VPN connection. OpenVPN is our long-standing favorite, as it is open-source and has been picked over for potential vulnerabilities by anyone with the interest to do so. WireGuard is the open-source heir apparent to OpenVPN, and it claims better speeds and newer encryption technology. It is, however, so new that not every VPN company has fully embraced it.

ExpressVPN does not offer WireGuard and has instead focused on OpenVPN and its own protocol called Lightway. This protocol uses the open-source wolfSSL cryptography library, which is smart because trying to build new cryptographic systems isn’t a safe bet.

Lightway and OpenVPN are supported on ExpressVPN’s Android, Linux, Mac, and Windows apps. They are also available for routers configured to use ExpressVPN. Currently, the ExpressVPN iOS app only supports OpenVPN as well as IKEv1/2. The macOS and Windows apps have legacy support for L2TP, but we advise using this older protocol. The ExpressVPN Windows app also supports IKEv2.

Servers and Server Locations

Part of what you are paying for with a VPN subscription is access to the company’s fleet of VPN servers. These are the machines through which your web traffic will flow. It’s generally good to have a diverse distribution of servers, which ensures that you’ll be able to find one close by, no matter where you travel, and likely get better service because of that proximity. It also gives you more options for spoofing your location.

ExpressVPN offers 160 server locations across 94 countries, which is nearly double the average we’ve see across the VPN products we’ve evaluated. The company also excels in geographic diversity, with several servers in Africa and excellent coverage across South America—two continents often underserved or completely ignored by other VPN companies. ExpressVPN also maintains servers for some countries with repressive internet policies, including Turkey and Vietnam. The company also maintains servers in Hong Kong and Ukraine.

To support their massive fleets of servers, VPN companies often make use of virtual servers and virtual locations. Virtual servers are software-defined servers, meaning that one piece of hardware can host multiple virtual servers. Virtual locations are servers configured to appear as if they are in a country other than where that physical hardware is located. Neither is necessarily bad, but we prefer it when companies disclose where, exactly, customer data is heading.

Your Privacy With ExpressVPN

If a VPN company were lacking in morals, it could easily monetize your personal information much the same way an ISP can, and that’s why it’s important to read and understand a VPN’s privacy policy. Don’t worry, we’ve read the fine print for you.

The company says it stores no logs of user activity, originating IP address, the VPN IP you connect with, the session duration, nor a connection timestamp. That’s what you want to hear from a VPN company. Better still, ExpressVPN makes it clear in its policy (and verified to us) that the company does not sell user data.

The company does, however, collect some information. It gathers the aggregate amount of data transferred by each user. It logs the most recent date, but not time, a successful connection has been made. The company also notes which VPN location you connect with—but not a specific public-facing IP address.

ExpressVPN has its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands, which has no data retention laws. The company points out that any requests for user information would have to be issued from a local court, and they would only be honored if the crime under investigation would be punishable by at least a year in prison in the British Virgin Islands. The hope is that this would slow down frivolous, or intrusive, investigations that would encroach on your privacy.

Speed and Performance

To get a sense of the impact a VPN has on your internet experience, we run a series of tests using the Ookla Speedtest tool and find a percent change between Speedtest results with and without the VPN running. You can read the nitty-gritty of our methologies, if you wish.

In our testing, we found that ExpressVPN decreased upload and download Speedtest results by 59.8% and 74.4%, respectively. It increased latency by 50.9%, which is slightly better than our median results for the category.

Access to the PCMag Labs has been limited due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we’re presenting our Speedtest results in a rolling fashion, posting the results for newly tested products throughout the year. The chart below shows all of our latest results.

Keep in mind that network connections are extremely variable, and your individual experience may differ from ours. Think of these results as more of a snapshot for comparison, rather than a final verdict on performance. We believe that features and overall value are far more important than speed, and we discourage readers from judging a VPN solely off these results. 


ExpressVPN’s dedication to privacy is impressive, and its fleet of far-flung servers outclasses much of the competition’s. Anyone who doesn’t need that worldwide access may find its price steep, though.

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