How Much Does a VPN Cost? Understanding the Value of Paid and Free VPNs

Posted on May 16, 2023 by Asma Khan

In recent years, internet privacy and security have become major concerns for people worldwide. Cybercriminals can increasingly target personal information you share online, making you more vulnerable. 

Recent privacy-invasive legislative developments in the US, like the Louisiana & Utah ID verification mandates, have left many people wondering if their online activity is truly secure. 

This has led to a rise in the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which offer an easy way to encrypt internet traffic and protect against online threats. However, with so many VPN providers, knowing how much to spend on a VPN and what features to look for can take time and effort. 

Good VPNs provide great value for your money, offering enhanced security, privacy, and access to restricted content. Read on to explore the numerous benefits they offer in detail.

Your Digital Footprint Is Neither Private, Nor Secure

Let’s take a look at some of the weaknesses of online platforms, namely how your data is collected without your knowledge, the watchful eyes of government surveillance, and the ever-present danger of cyberattacks. Brace yourself as we delve into these issues and shed light on some of the biggest risks you face in the digital world.

In 2015, the US government passed the USA Freedom Act. It allowed intelligence agencies to collect people’s online browsing data without a warrant. This law replaced the Patriot Act, known for violating privacy rights. However, the USA Freedom Act still allows surveillance of individuals without enough oversight and protection.

In addition to the USA Freedom Act, the US government pushed tech companies to provide law enforcement with backdoor access to encrypted devices and communication. Privacy advocates express concern and argue weakening encryption would jeopardize users’ data.

The US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality regulations in 2020 meant that internet service providers (ISPs) could now decide for themselves whether they prevent and/or limit access to certain websites or services. President Donald Trump and many of his supporters were hailing this move as a benefit to the end user, but things couldn’t be further from the truth. 

A screenshot capturing a tweet from Donald Trump, highlighting his views on Net Neutrality.

For example, suppose you subscribe to an ISP that also provides a video streaming service, and there is another video streaming service that is a competitor to your ISP’s service. Before the repeal of net neutrality regulations, your ISP was not allowed to favor any streaming service by providing it at a faster speed or at a lower cost to you. However, after the repeal, your ISP could slow down the speed of the competitor’s streaming service, making it more difficult or costly for you to access it. Hence, the repeal of net neutrality regulations could result in anti-competitive practices and severely limit your online behavior, e.g. what sites you can visit and what online services you can use, among other things.

The lack of proper protection may lead to collecting and exploiting your online browsing data without your consent or knowledge. If implemented, backdoor access to encrypted devices and communication could compromise personal information, leaving you open to hacking or surveillance.

Recent security breaches in the US have also highlighted the importance of using a VPN for online protection: 

  • In 2021, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack caused widespread disruptions to fuel supplies on the East Coast. A cybercriminal group based in Russia carried out the attack and reportedly exploited a vulnerability in Colonial Pipeline’s VPN to gain access to their computer systems. 
  • Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, a Florida-based hospital network, suffered an IT security issue in February 2023 that appeared to be a ransomware attack. The hospital had to take down its computer system, cancel non-emergency surgeries, and divert some emergency patients to other facilities. 

The hospital’s network was offline after the attack, and staff couldn’t access digital patient records and lab results. The health center worked with outside experts to contain the issue and restore its computer systems.

These incidents serve as a reminder of the risks of using the internet without adequate protection and the importance of investing in tools like VPNs to safeguard your online privacy and security.

VPNs can help mitigate these concerns by allowing you to access the internet through servers in other countries. By doing so, you can bypass geographic restrictions or censorship and access the content you want without interference from their ISP.

Overall, the growing use of VPNs in the US reflects a wider trend toward greater concern over online privacy and security. As governments and companies continue to collect and use more data about individuals, tools like VPNs offer a way to protect against unwanted surveillance and maintain control over personal information.

In this article, we will discuss the pricing of VPNs and the expected cost for various levels of protection.

Analysis: Why Paid VPNs Are Worth It 

Paid VPNs offer many benefits over free options, making them worth the investment for many users. Here are just a few reasons why:

Free VPNs Make You More Vulnerable

Even though free VPNs are appealing (who doesn’t like free stuff?), they’re usually worse for your privacy than not using anything.

Free VPNs are known to have frequent data breaches, which can result in the theft of personal information such as passwords, email addresses, device information, and browsing activity. This information can then be sold on the dark web or used for malicious purposes. It’s important to be cautious when using free VPN services and consider investing in a paid VPN if you want to ensure the security for your online activity.

Free VPNs usually sell your data to third-party advertisers or other businesses. As a result, your online actions mightn’t be as confidential as you assume, and you may be exposing yourself to various dangers by using a free VPN.

Making Your VPN Is Expensive and Time Consuming

Building a VPN from scratch requires significant time and effort, and you won’t have access to the advanced features provided by paid VPN services, such as: 

Setting up your own VPN requires technical expertise. It involves purchasing a dedicated server, installing and configuring VPN software, managing security protocols, and troubleshooting issues. 

Besides, a self-made VPN could compromise your online security, as you’ll be accountable for maintaining and securing it.

Paid VPNs Provide Better Privacy and Security

One of the main reasons why paid VPNs are worth the investment is because they provide better privacy and security features. Paid VPNs typically have stronger encryption protocols making it harder for hackers to intercept your data, and features like Kill Switch disconnects your device from the internet if your VPN connection drops. 

Many paid VPNs have a no-logs policy, meaning they don’t store any information about your online activity, and they often set up their software and hardware to guarantee that.

Paid VPNs Offer More Servers and Faster Speeds

Another advantage of using a paid VPN is they often offer an extensive selection of server locations, which can be helpful if you need to access restricted content in certain regions. 

Paid VPNs offer faster connection speeds and less latency than free options, making a big difference if you’re streaming video or engaging in other bandwidth-intensive activities.

Paid VPNs Have Actual Customer Support

Finally, paid VPNs typically offer customer support. If you have any issues with your VPN service, you can contact a support representative via email, live chat, or phone, and they’ll be able to help you troubleshoot any problems you’re experiencing. 

This level of support is invaluable if you need some guidance when setting up and using your VPN or if you’re looking to implement a custom, tech-savvy solution.

Investing in a paid VPN service is smart due to its numerous advantages over free options. Paid VPNs provide:

  • Better privacy and security features.
  • Faster connection speeds.
  • A broader selection of server options.
  • Excellent customer support.

On the other hand, free VPNs often compromise your online security and sell your data to third-party advertisers, while creating your VPN from scratch is time-consuming and less secure.

When using VPNs, you can choose between paid and free VPNs. While free VPNs may seem tempting, they often have limitations and risks not found in paid VPNs. Check out the table below for the full list of paid vs free VPN pros and cons.

Features Free VPNs Paid VPNs
Privacy and Security Often sell your data to third parties Strong encryption, no-logs policy, Kill Switch
Server Locations Limited selection (providing only 4 or up to 10 locations to choose from) Large selection (80+ locations), helpful for accessing restricted content
Connection Speed Slow speeds, high latency, which means very slow browsing and definitely no streaming (low video quality with frequent buffering and interruptions because of overcrowded servers and unreliable connections) Faster speeds, lower latency, enough to stream, game, and browse.
Customer Support Little to no support, which means you have to solve any problems on your own. Excellent customer support, tailor-made solutions to your problems.
Cost Free or minimal cost Higher cost, around $10/month, but you can get big discounts with long-term plans
Vulnerability Passwords, email, and your online activity are exposed. Lower risk of vulnerabilities due to stronger security and external audits.
Advanced Features Not available. Access to a wide range of advanced features, like multihop, custom encryption.

As you can see, while free VPNs may be more cost-effective in the short term, they often come with significant drawbacks making them less secure,less functional, and more troublesome than paid options. Paid VPNs offer better privacy and security features, faster speeds, and more helpful customer support, making them a worthwhile investment in many cases.

Key Factors to Consider Before Choosing a VPN

When choosing a VPN, it’s essential to carefully consider the factors listed below to increase your online privacy and security. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a VPN:

  1. Encryption

A VPN should use strong encryption to protect your data from prying eyes. Look for VPNs using AES-256 encryption, currently one of the strongest encryption standards available.

  1. Logging policy

Make sure your VPN has a strict no-logging policy. This means they don’t keep records of your online activity, such as websites you visit or files you download.

  1. Server location

If you’re using a VPN to access restricted content in your country, you’ll want to choose a server in a different country.The more server locations available, the easier it is to access restricted content. For a secure and fast connection, choose a server closer to your physical location.

  1. Kill Switch

If the VPN connection drops, a Kill Switch feature automatically shuts down your internet connection. This feature can prevent exposing your online activity.

  1. DNS leak protection

A DNS leak can occur when your computer sends DNS requests outside the VPN tunnel, exposing your online activity to your internet service provider. Get a VPN with DNS leak protection to prevent this from happening.

  1. Protocol

Look for a VPN supporting OpenVPN and WireGuard, one of the most secure protocols. The VPN protocol determines how the internet transmits your data.

  1. User authentication

A good VPN should require user authentication to prevent unauthorized access. Look for VPNs using multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication for added security.

  1. Compatibility

Ensure the VPN you choose is compatible with all your devices and operating systems. Many VPNs offer apps for desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and even routers.

  1. WebRTC Leaks

The VPN you choose should also not leak your private IP address. You can test for this by doing a WebRTC leak test.

  1. Customer support

It’s essential to have reliable customer support when using a VPN. Look for VPNs offering 24/7 customer support via email, chat, or phone.

  1. Reputation

Research the reputation of the VPN provider before using their service. Look for independent reviews, third-party audits, and user feedback to ensure the VPN is trustworthy and reliable.

  1. Cost

VPN services can vary significantly in price. While finding a VPN fitting your budget is important, be wary of free VPNs as they may provide a different level of privacy and security than paid options.

  1. Privacy policy

It’s important to review the VPN’s privacy policy you choose carefully. Ensure it doesn’t log any more information than necessary to uphold your subscription, limited only to your primary name and payment information. The VPN shouldn’t log your web activity or IP address, as this defeats the purpose of using a VPN for privacy and security.

  1. Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of the VPN provider can affect your privacy and security. Look for VPNs based in countries with strong data privacy laws and a good track record of protecting user data. That said, no jurisdiction should be able to get around a good No-Logs infrastructure. PIA’s No-Logs policy is court-tested.

  1. Number of servers

The number of servers a VPN provider has can affect the speed and reliability of their service. Look for VPNs with a good number of locations to ensure a fast and stable connection.

It is also important to consider the server resources and bandwidth when choosing a VPN provider. While many VPNs advertise thousands of servers, if they don’t have modern hardware with appropriate specs, they will not be able to withstand high traffic and provide stable connections.

Considering these factors, you can choose a VPN with the best privacy, security, speed, and compatibility.

How to Choose the Best VPN for Your Budget

Comparing VPN prices can be daunting, as numerous VPN providers and subscription plans are available. Here are some steps to help you compare VPN prices effectively:

  • Identify your needs: Determine what features and services are essential, such as server locations, security protocols, device compatibility, and the ability to access geo-restricted content.
  • Research VPN providers: Look for popular and reliable VPN providers offering the necessary features. Read reviews and ratings from other users to get an idea of their experience with the service.
  • Compare subscription plans: Check the subscription plans offered by each VPN provider and compare them based on the features they offer, the number of simultaneous connections allowed, and the subscription duration.
  • Look for deals and discounts: Many VPN providers offer deals and discounts to new users, such as a free trial, a money-back guarantee, a discount on the first subscription, and excellent deals for long-term plans.
  • Check for hidden costs: Be wary of any hidden costs, such as fees for additional devices, data usage, or bandwidth restrictions.
  • Consider the payment options: Check if the VPN provider offers various payment options, such as credit card, PayPal, or cryptocurrency.

Following these steps, you can effectively compare VPN prices and choose a service meeting your needs and budget.

Are There Any Safe Free VPNs?

While free VPN services are available on all platforms, it’s important to remember they are also dangerous. Free VPNs may collect and sell your data to third parties, often use weak encryption or security protocols, and can even infect your device with malware.

However, some reputable free VPN services are available to use safely. PIA’s browser extension, for instance, provides privacy protection and strong encryption. If you’re new to VPNs, PIA’s browser extension is an ideal choice with its user-friendly interface and hassle-free installation process. Enjoy the convenience it offers!

Note: Free VPN services may also limit the amount of data you can use, which can be problematic if you need to use the VPN frequently or for large data transfers.

If you’re looking for a VPN with strong privacy and security features, opt for a paid VPN service like PIA. PIA’s no-logs policy has undergone third-party audits to ensure the privacy and security of your data. While some free VPN services are safer than others, it’s important to carefully research and evaluate each provider before deciding.

Choosing the Right VPN for Your Needs

While the cost of a quality VPN may vary, selecting a paid VPN service with premium privacy and security, such as PIA, is the only safe choice. PIA’s court-proven no-logs policy and third-party audit ensure your data privacy and security.

When comparing VPN services, it’s vital to consider their privacy policy, security features, server locations, and overall industry reputation. Price alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor, as the cheapest VPN may not fit your needs best.

If you want a good VPN now, try PIA risk-free with the 30-day money-back guarantee. Take the first step towards secure online browsing by choosing a reputable VPN provider suiting your needs.


Is it worth paying for a premium VPN? 

Yes, paying for a premium VPN is worth it. Premium VPNs offer stronger security, fast speeds, wider server options, and better customer support. They prioritize privacy and use advanced encryption. Investing in a premium VPN is highly recommended if you value enhanced protection, especially when using public Wi-Fi or accessing restricted content.

How much does a good VPN cost per year?

The cost of a good VPN service can vary depending on the provider and the plan you choose. On average, a reliable and feature-rich VPN like PIA VPN can cost anywhere between $24 to $143 per year. 

Are there any safe free VPNs?

When it comes to free VPNs, it’s important to exercise caution. The PIA VPN extension is a notable option, offering a free plan with privacy-focused features.

You can also use PIA’s money back guarantee to test it out for 30 days. If you’re not happy with the service, you can get a full refund, no questions asked.

What makes PIA the most private VPN on the market?

PIA is one of the safest VPNs on the market due to its strict no-logs policy and third-party audit. We offer advanced encryption, a wide network of servers, and built-in ad and malware blocking. 

PIA’s commitment to privacy and security and its track record of protecting user data contribute to our reputation as one of the best VPNs.