Using a virtual private network is an effective way to strengthen online privacy and access region-locked content. Be it for individual consumers or larger businesses, VPNs provide tangible benefits in an increasingly digital society.

While all VPNs route online activity through a secure encrypted tunnel, not all solutions are created equal. In particular, some VPNs prioritize certain features over others, while others appeal to different budgets and price points.

SEE: Brute Force and Dictionary Attacks: A Guide for IT Leaders (TechRepublic Premium)

If you’re interested in investing in a VPN and are curious about how much a subscription would cost, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we take a look at how much an average VPN subscription costs, what options are available to you today and tips on how you can choose the best VPN for you and your organization.

How much does a VPN subscription cost?

As a disclaimer, the averages we have below don’t account for all VPN plans in the market. These numbers are based mostly on the VPNs we’ve covered so far, supplemented by additional product research. Our goal isn’t to have an exact price but to give prospective VPN buyers a general idea of what a VPN subscription would cost on average today.

SEE: What Is Cloud Security? (TechRepublic)

Without wasting time, below is a breakdown of the average prices for VPN subscriptions, in both per month and per year pricing:

Subscription LengthStarter Subscription (monthly fee)Price per year
MonthlyAround $11 per monthAround $132 per year
AnnualAround $4.27 per monthAround $51 per year
2-yearAround $2.5 per monthAround $30 per year

As shown, a starter VPN subscription for an annual plan hovers around $4.27 per month or around $51 per year; a monthly plan at around $11 per month or around $132 per year; and a 2-year plan at around $2.5 per month or around $30 per year. 

Subscription LengthHighest Subscription Tier (monthly fee)Price per year
MonthlyAround $17 per monthAround $204 per year
AnnualAround $7 per monthAround $84 per year
2-yearAround $5.8 per monthAround $70 per year

For higher end plans, an annual subscription starts at around $7 per month or around $84 per year; a monthly plan at $17 per month or around $204 per year; and a two-year subscription at $5.8 per month or around $70 per year.

As seen above, there’s a big discrepancy between the monthly vs. the annual and two-year plans. This is because VPN providers want to encourage customers to opt for longer contracts, providing more affordable prices for their one-year to two-year subscriptions.

SEE: Is a VPN Really Worth It in 2024? (TechRepublic)

There’s also a big jump between Starter Subscription prices and that of the Highest Subscription TiersStarter Subscriptions refer to the most affordable paid subscription offered by a VPN with baseline features. Meanwhile, the Highest Subscription Tier refers to a VPN’s most expensive plan, often having the most features and additional functionality included.

If all you’re looking for is a basic VPN solution, I highly recommend going for a starting plan. These subscriptions give you access to an encrypted VPN connection and the full server suite, without all the bells and whistles that can bump up the price. On the other hand, if you need additional features like encrypted cloud storage or data breach scanning, looking into a VPN’s more premium subscription tiers is your best bet.

Overview of starter VPN subscription prices

Now that we’ve seen what an average VPN plan is priced at, let’s look at some starter VPN subscriptions from popular VPNs today. For context, the subscriptions listed below are the basic or starting plans coming from each VPN provider. This means that mid-tier or highest-tier paid plans are not reflected in our comparison table below.

With that, here is an overview of a few VPN starting subscription prices as of April 2024:

1 month1 year2 yearsSpecial planFree version
NordVPN Basic$12.99$4.59$3.69n/aNo
(6 months)
Surfshark Starter$15.45$3.49$2.49n/aNo
Proton VPN Plus$9.99$4.99$4.49n/aYes
CyberGhost VPN$12.99n/a$2.03$6.99
(6 months)
Private Internet Access$11.95$3.33n/a$1.98
(3 years)
Mullvad VPN$5.32$5.32$5.32Flat rate for all plans;
1 decade option
Windscribe$9.00$5.75n/aBuild-a-Plan optionYes
PureVPN Standard$10.95$3.74$2.11n/aYes

Take note that this list reflects pricing at the time this article was published. Factors such as location, discounts and time-limited promos may cause the above-pricing to look different as time goes on.

What factors affect VPN costs?

Now that we’ve seen an overview of current VPN subscription prices, it’s time to see what aspects of a VPN affects overall cost. Like any software, certain feature inclusions can increase the final price for the end user. Let’s take a look at these one by one.

Server infrastructure

Perhaps the most prominent factor that affects VPN costs is its server infrastructure or server network. A VPN’s server network is one of the main mechanisms by which a VPN helps users secure their online activity. Through a VPN server, users can mask their IP address and change it to a different IP address location, provided it’s part of a VPN’s server network.

All VPNs come with a server network, but they vary in sizes and geographic reach. On average, VPNs carry a server fleet with around 2,000-3,000 servers from various locations and countries.

Screenshot of Figure A NordVPN server list and map.
Figure A NordVPN server list and map. Image: Luis Millares

Having more VPN servers is better as it gives users more locations to choose from and, in theory, provides them with better VPN speed by being able to choose a server closer to their location.

SEE: How to Use a VPN: 4 Easy Steps to Get Started (TechRepublic)

That being said, maintaining a VPN server infrastructure costs money — which means the more servers and country or VPN locations a VPN solution has, the more likely it is to charge a higher price.

Built-in security features

Another factor that impacts VPN pricing is additional security features. Aside from the usual inclusions like VPN tunneling protocols and encryption, some providers bolster their solution with additional security and privacy features to offer more value.

Screenshot of Figure B ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager tracker blocker.
Figure B ExpressVPN’s Threat Manager tracker blocker. Image: Luis Millares

These include things like dedicated IP addresses, data breach scanners, antiviruses and ad and tracker blockers. While there are affordable VPN plans that still include these features, it’s safe to expect them to be offered at higher-priced subscription options.

External security audits

As VPNs handle sensitive user data, some choose to undergo external security audits, which examine and confirm their no-logs policy and overall security. These third-party audits are a great way to build trust amongst customers, especially since any provider can theoretically promise that their software is “secure.” With this, having independent security audits tends to cost money and resources to accomplish.

SEE: 4 Best Free VPNs for 2024 (TechRepublic)

While I personally find the cost of an impartial audit worth taking, it’s undeniable that independent testing can affect final VPN prices. This is especially apparent since not all VPN options out there invest in having a published VPN audit for the sake of transparency and added credibility.

Bandwidth and speed

When talking about free and paid VPNs, bandwidth and speed are usually the main differences between the two. Getting a VPN provider’s fastest VPN speed and access to unlimited bandwidth is more commonly found on paid subscriptions than free ones.

Screenshot of Figure C Speedify VPN’s fastest server selection.
Figure C Speedify VPN’s fastest server selection. Image: Luis Millares

Per my experience, most paid VPNs offer unlimited bandwidth and fast speeds. However, it’s clear that being able to provide a stable and fast VPN connection significantly affects a VPN’s overall cost.

Simultaneous device connections

Finally, VPN costs can also be affected by the number of simultaneous device connections a solution is able to allow. Simultaneous device connections refer to the number of devices that can be connected to a secure VPN connection at the same time.

This is important because some VPNs only allow up to five to eight devices at a time, locking out any more devices after exceeding the limit. There are a number of VPN providers that can accommodate an unlimited number of simultaneous device connections, but it’s safe to assume that having more allowable connections can affect overall VPN pricing.

What about free VPNs?

If security is your number one concern, I find that spending on a paid VPN subscription is better than choosing to use a free plan or version. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Free VPNs may sell your data to third parties: Since VPNs take money to operate, free options may hand off sensitive user data, such as your browsing activity or personal information, to third parties to make money.
  • Lower VPN speed and stability: Free VPNs also don’t provide the best VPN speeds. They’re often capped in terms of bandwidth and won’t be a viable way to browse the internet for long periods of time.
  • Lack of access to full server suite: You also won’t get full access to a VPN’s server network. Typically, a VPN’s free version only grants access to a handful of servers and server locations. Some free VPNs also don’t give you the ability to choose which server you’re able to connect to. Instead, it automatically connects you to a server despite it possibly not being your preferred option.

Tips to save money when choosing a VPN

If you’ve decided to invest on a VPN, there are a few things you can do to get some possible savings and avoid unwanted expenses.

Consider needs and business size

The first thing to consider when choosing a VPN solution is to think about what you need a VPN for. Do you need a VPN to access geo-restricted content? If so, a VPN with a large server count and location spread is best. Is it an investment leaning more towards security? VPNs with a clean security reputation and strong security features should be your top priority.

Another important consideration is business size. Figure out how many members of your team or organization you need connected to a VPN. If you’re part of a small team, a single VPN plan may suffice. For larger organizations, enterprise VPNs may be the better option. Fortunately, we’ve already done a roundup of the 6 Best Enterprise VPN Solutions that you can check out.

Knowing what your needs are and how many people you want to have access to a VPN will save you from spending too much or too little on a prospective VPN solution.

Maximize money-back guarantees and free trials

While not all VPNs have free plans you can easily try out, many offer money-back guarantees that will let you refund your initial subscription within a period of time, if you find it isn’t a good fit. These money-back guarantees range from 30 days to even 45 days.

I highly encourage maximizing this option. In particular, if you’re interested in a VPN, one of the best initial steps you can take is to check if it has a money-back guarantee. If it does, you can subscribe to an annual plan and see whether it fits your needs. The annual plan nets you a lower monthly fee and the money-back guarantee means you can always request a refund if the VPN isn’t a match for what you’re looking for.

In addition, some VPNs offer free trials via their mobile application and let you access their full desktop app after creating an account. Like the money-back guarantee, you can use these free trials to test drive the VPN and see whether it meets your needs.

Target unlimited simultaneous device connections

If you’re looking to get maximum value out of a VPN subscription, find a provider that allows for unlimited simultaneous device connections. This will allow you to connect multiple devices to a secure VPN connection without paying for an additional subscription to get more devices connected.

This is because some VPNs only allow up to five to eight simultaneous connections at a time. Luckily, there are a good number of VPN solutions that allow for an unlimited number of devices connected to their service.

Compare prices and features amongst providers

Take the time not only to compare prices amongst VPN providers, but to also look at features per VPN as well. One VPN solution may be more affordable than another, but that could be because it’s lacking in security features or has a small server network.

Screenshot of Figure D Proton VPN’s pricing page.
Figure D Proton VPN’s pricing page. Image: Proton VPN

While getting an affordable subscription is ideal, we also don’t want to sacrifice overall security just to get that lower monthly fee.

Check for discounts and promos

VPN providers regularly have discounts and promotional offers on their subscriptions. These may come in the form of a lower monthly fee or an additional 1-3 months free in your contract.

Be on the lookout for these discounts, as they can add up when it comes to helping you save a couple of dollars per year on your VPN subscription.

Beware of sneaky renewal prices

Some providers have more expensive renewal prices that kick in after a year or two into a subscription. Make sure to read the fine print whenever you’re about to purchase a VPN subscription, as some providers may de-emphasize price increases upon renewal.

Putting in your due diligence in checking your VPN contract’s terms can go a long way in terms of savings.

Look into VPN contract lengths

Like most software subscriptions, VPNs offer plans depending on the desired length of your contract. There are, however, benefits and drawbacks to each contract length. Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons:

  • Monthly subscription: These are usually the most expensive VPN plans. However, they allow you the most flexibility in terms of a contract opt-in since you’re only locked in for a month.
    • Annual subscription: These subscriptions offer a more affordable monthly fee for a contract length that lasts a year. Personally, I feel prospective VPN buyers should go for an annual subscription from a VPN that has a money-back guarantee. This combination provides better pricing at a reasonable contract period, and lets you refund your subscription if it isn’t a good fit.
  • Long-term subscriptions: Some VPNs offer two to three-year long subscriptions that offer the most affordable monthly fee amongst the three contract lengths. These plans are best for long-time users of a VPN, who are confident the solution already meets their or their organization’s needs.
  • Specialty plans: A handful of VPNs also have specialty plans that differ from your traditional subscription. These include Windscribe’s Build A Plan option that lets users customize their plan and pay per server; and Mullvad’s flat rate pricing that has the same price for all contract lengths. Looking out for these specialty plans can be another great way to maximize your investment.

Is a VPN worth paying for?

VPNs can be a cost-effective way to protect your organization’s online data and access region-locked content. There are numerous options available, with each VPN catering to different types of organizations and use-cases.

While the decision to invest in a VPN is ultimately up to you and your organization, the privacy and ease-of-use features VPNs provide should warrant consideration. At around $50 per year for a basic VPN plan, VPNs are accessible tools that help protect your data from hackers and malicious third parties.

Bearing that in mind, it’s important to understand how factors like server infrastructure and network, external security audits and built-in security features can have a significant impact on a particular VPN’s subscription prices. Fortunately, there’s currently an abundance of VPN options available that can accommodate all types of budgets and requirements.

If you want to learn more about the different ways you can use a VPN or the various VPNs available for different businesses, I highly encourage you to check out our other guides:

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This is your go-to resource for the latest news and tips on the following topics and more, XaaS, AWS, Microsoft Azure, DevOps, virtualization, the hybrid cloud, and cloud security. Delivered Mondays and Wednesdays