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Best cheap VPNs: too good to be true?

Cheap VPNs are tempting, and free VPN might seem like the best deal of all. But the truth is more complicated. Cheap VPNs can put your data at risk and give you a worse internet experience. In this article, you’ll read about the pricing, features, benefits, and drawbacks of differently priced VPNs.

Lukas Ramonas

Lukas Ramonas

Best cheap VPNs: too good to be true?

Is it worth choosing a cheap VPN?

Choosing a cheap VPN isn't worth it. The biggest benefits a VPN offers are online privacy and security, which you will rarely get with cheap VPNs. You might save a little money today, but in the long run you will probably have a worse internet experience, with slower speeds and an unstable VPN connection.

That's because cheap and especially free VPNs just don't have the money to maintain a good server network. They are relying on their low price points to bring in customers, and this means they can get away with offering lower standards of service than some of their higher-priced competitors.

Cheap VPNs have a wide range of drawbacks which we'll explore in this article. The bottom line, however, is that they're just not worth it.

What is a VPN?

An online VPN service, or virtual private network, is a privacy and security tool that encrypts your traffic and changes your virtual location. It does so by routing all your internet traffic through a remote server. That way, nobody — not even your internet service provider — can observe what you’re doing online.

A VPN directly handles all your online traffic, including your sensitive data. So it’s a tool you must trust to use. However, even the best cheap VPNs aren’t trustworthy enough.

The disadvantages of a low-cost VPN

There are three main disadvantages that come with using a low-cost VPN.

  • Speed. The first thing you may notice when using a cheap VPN is how slow your internet is. VPNs always slow down your connection a little, but with a premium VPN service, it will be such a small reduction in speed that you will rarely notice it. With low-cost VPNs, on the other hand, it's likely that there will be fewer server locations available on their network (servers are expensive to set up and maintain, after all). This means that, during periods of heavy internet traffic, those servers are more likely to be overwhelmed by users and start to slow down. The last thing you want with a VPN is buffering, which is why a premium option is usually the best choice.
  • Security. Secure VPNs wrap your data in encryption, protecting it from prying eyes while in transit. Or at least — they're meant to. But with a cheap VPN, there's just less incentive to actually keep user data safe. Low-cost VPN providers may feel that they don't owe their customers the best security protocols and bug fixes, or they might just lack the cybersecurity experts needed to keep their security tight. Less revenue means less money to invest in their products and services, after all.
  • Privacy. When VPN deals seem too good to be true, they often are. A cheap VPN might be very affordable, but that's probably because the provider is making money in different ways. For example, they could be selling your data to advertisers. This isn't a problem with premium VPN services, however, because their business model relies primarily on providing a good, reliable service to paying customers.

How does a cheap VPN make money?

Like any business, a VPN needs to make money to cover its operating costs and perhaps even make a profit. A VPN provider has to operate, maintain, and secure many servers all around the globe. It must also hire excellent technical personnel (sysadmins, infosec experts, software engineers) to provide a fast and secure service.

The cheapest VPNs hardly ever make enough money to cover their bills. So they turn to other streams of revenue — your data. A cheap VPN can observe your traffic, collect your sensitive data, and sell it to the highest bidder.

If a cheap VPN isn’t independently owned and operated, its low price may result from the fact that it's not trying to make money. Its main purpose may be collecting and handing your data to the corporation or government that owns the VPN.

Even a good and cheap VPN that respects your privacy may show you intrusive ads or hide crucial features behind a paywall. Freemium VPNs may severely slow your internet until you agree to pay for their service.

Are cheap VPNs secure?

Imagine you found the cheapest monthly VPN, it's supported by donations, and it's very transparent about its finances. You have no reason to suspect it will sell your data. But can you trust its capacity to keep you private and secure?

An inexpensive VPN isn’t inherently unsecure. But to understand the risks, you have to be aware of the asymmetric nature of cybersecurity. VPN developers have to find all the vulnerabilities and patch them. On the other hand, a hacker has to find just one vulnerability to exploit it. For a VPN to be secure, it’s not enough to put out 99 fires out of 100.

Check out our article on the dangers and data breaches of free VPNs for more information.

A VPN provider must hire penetration testers and cybersecurity experts to make the service as secure as possible. That’s beyond the means of most low-cost VPN services.

A quality VPN can afford to innovate, use next-generation encryption, and prevent user data leaks — something even the best budget VPN can’t offer its users.

The advantages of a top-tier VPN

Why are VPNs expensive? Are they worth the money? Firstly, it's important to remember that a premium VPN can still be an affordable VPN. But a top-tier service like NordVPN also offers a wide range of benefits, from next-generation encryption to a Kill Switch which prevents you from accidentally exposing your traffic.

As well as being the fastest VPN available, it's one of the best value VPNs out there; one NordVPN account can be used on 6 devices at the same time. Pick the best price for a VPN plan and enjoy both speed and security online.

Top-notch transparency

NordVPN is independently owned. We’re the flagship service of Nord Security — an internet security company that also offers a password manager and secure cloud storage.

Our business is internet security and nothing more. NordVPN adheres to strict privacy standards, tested by a Big Four auditor every few years.

Trustworthiness comes at a cost, but it saves you money in the long term.

Blazing speed

You’d be hard-pressed to find a cheap and fast VPN. The reason is simple — the connection speed depends on the quality of the encryption, your distance from the VPN server, and the VPN server load. You can’t expect amazing speed from a low-cost VPN provider with few servers in a couple of locations.

With NordVPN, you can always find a VPN server that’s near you or one that's under low load. You can choose from over 5,000 servers worldwide, so the server load won’t cause you connection problems. We also built an advanced VPN tunneling solution — NordLynx — that made NordVPN the fastest VPN service on the planet, as confirmed by the latest speed tests.

NordVPN has also developed a freely available VPN Speed Test and Comparison Tool, so see for yourself.

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Ultra-secure connection

NordVPN employs the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys to secure your online data. Governments, cybersecurity experts, and cryptographers recommend AES with 256-bit keys.

On top of that, NordVPN regularly upgrades its infrastructure. In recent years, we have:

  • Launched a bug bounty program — a reward program for independent cybersecurity experts who report any bugs they find in our service.
  • Introduced colocated servers, which are fully owned, maintained, and managed by NordVPN.
  • Upgraded to diskless servers, which store no data or configurations on site.
  • Undergone an exhaustive assurance engagement assessment, performed by a Big Four auditing firm. It included employee interviews, server configuration inspections, and technical log inspections.

If you want to get the best value for your money, this is the VPN for you.

Extra (but necessary) security features

A VPN is irreplaceable if you want to secure your online traffic or change your virtual location, but some threats are beyond its protection. That's why NordVPN offers extra security features, like Threat Protection.

Threat Protection comes with NordVPN at no additional cost. Here’s what it does:

  • Blocks dangerous websites. If a website is known for hosting malware or performing phishing scams, it’s automatically blacklisted.
  • Hides intrusive ads. No more pop-ups that cover your whole screen the moment you enter a website.
  • Protects you from malware. Threat Protection will scan the files you download. If malware is detected, it will delete the file immediately.
  • Provides the Meshnet function. Meshnet lets you connect to other devices directly no matter where in the world they are.

Instead of looking for the best low-cost VPN, consider all the benefits and advanced features you’ll get if you pay a bit more for a first-rate VPN.

Reputation matters

NordVPN is one of the most widely used and trusted VPN providers on the planet, with over 14 million users worldwide. Cybersecurity experts vigilantly observe our business practices, tech innovations, and solutions. They advise, praise, or criticize us.

In turn, we work under immense pressure to provide the best service possible. We have no hope of hiding our flaws, so we must fix them and improve. And we do — NordVPN reviews speak for themselves.

We’ve built our reputation by providing a top-quality service. Smaller-scale VPNs can cut corners, but we can’t. So if you’re looking for the best, avoid the cheapest VPN services.

How much should you pay for a VPN?

It depends on your needs. If you need a VPN for a short term, it’s best to look up a straightforward VPN price comparison online.

You can buy a quality VPN for $5-12 per month. But you can get a much better deal! If you buy NordVPN’s 1-year or 2-year plan, you’ll pay 2 or 3 times less than that.

Weigh your options and explore all the features that a VPN service offers.

Is there a 100% free VPN?

It’s best to avoid free VPNs for the same reasons you avoid cheap VPN services. However, you can try NordVPN for 30 days and get your money back (no questions asked) if you find that you don’t need a VPN.

Online security starts with a click.

Stay safe with the world’s leading VPN

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Lukas Ramonas
Lukas Ramonas Lukas Ramonas
When Lukas is not busy being a news junkie or playing with the latest gadgets, he loves to blog about tech and cybersecurity issues. He hates the idea of anyone collecting excessive data about him or his two cats.