With prices ranging from less than a dollar per month to well over ten, the cost of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are like my blood pressure; it can vary significantly. After using multiple brands for years, one question I’m frequently still asked is: “Is a VPN really worth it?”
Today I’ll try to answer this question publicly, so I have somewhere to point people towards and never have to discuss the matter ever again.
Before we begin, though, there’s something that needs clarification. VPN services are like cars; you don’t always need one, and there are categories within that are ideal for different use cases. So it isn’t just a matter of how much the VPN costs, but why you need one and how it gets used.
Yet like everything else, price governs our life. We may all want a Ferrari, but we sure as heck most likely can’t afford one. Let’s get this elephant out of the way first.
How Much Does a VPN Cost?
|VPN||Lowest Price||Term||Initial Cost||Recurring|
Let’s kick start this off by comparing prices for some of the top VPN brands in the market. There are hundreds available, but focusing on these few is sufficient to give you an overall idea of the market outlook.
VPNs are subscription-based services, so they’ll do their best to persuade you to sign on for as long a duration as possible. Because of this, I’m going to ignore the prices for single-month subscriptions since few will likely pay those prices.
Starting from the first column, we can see that ExpressVPN has the highest price even after an extended-duration discount. They’re the most expensive VPN service I’ve come across (to the best of my memory).
Most others hover between the $2 to $3 range per month for extended duration contacts.
To qualify for these discounted rates, you need to sign up for the maximum contact period that each VPN service provider provides. That means 12 months for ExpressVPN or up to 24 months for SurfShark.
While this may not seem significant, it’s essentially a lock-in with the service. If you find that the service quality drops or a better deal emerges elsewhere, you’re stuck with the one you signed on with – for up to three years.
Total Initial Cost
Not all VPN service providers offer single-year contracts; some stretch it for long durations. You may be paying less per month in cases like this but still need to fork out a lump sum in advance. Take the low price of CyberGhost as an example; you’re paying more in advance than with a Surfshark subscription.
Typically, the recurring cost is similar to the lump sum you pay on a subscription. The only reason I’ve listed this here is because of the odd service provider like IPVanish. The sign-on price is a great deal – low monthly fee, no extended lock-in. However, there’s a catch; recurring fees shoot up significantly, reaching almost the same prices as ExpressVPN.
So, Is a VPN Really Worth It?
Given how I’ve laid out VPN prices above, you can see a couple of general themes. Most want to lock you into long-term contracts and pay large sums in advance. That’s simply business. The pricing models aren’t perfect, but it does mean that you can choose one that prices according to your needs.
In my case, I see SurfShark as the one that offers the perfect balance for my liking. The contract is a reasonable two years, it has cheap monthly rates, and it doesn’t try to get me to mortgage my home after the initial term is over.
The question of value lies more in how you use it than how much the VPN costs.
Usage Reflects Value of the VPN
Because of the work I do, VPNs are an inseparable part of my life. I test various VPN brands for performance and usability, but it also helps in many other ways. For example, I live outside of the US, so it’s easier for me to find US-based prices when connected to a US VPN server.
Some websites insist on localization for everyone, and without a VPN, I’d struggle to get the information I need in a useable format.
In addition, I love my Netflix, and VPNs help me access content that is otherwise out of my reach. I also download a ton of files from torrent websites, so using a VPN helps a lot with security and anonymity.
At the same time, I sure as heck don’t run the VPN 24/7 since it can clash with some websites, and I don’t always need the features discussed above. The point is that VPNs can help a lot, and how you use them plus your financial situation can affect which you choose.