The best VPN trials of 2023: Top VPNs to test for free
In today’s modern, digital environment, it’s more important than ever to protect your privacy online.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an excellent way to begin. VPNs provide tunnels that mask your online communication by encrypting data transmissions, packets, and your activities. VPNs make it harder for third parties to track you, so you’re less likely to become a victim of eavesdropping or a data breach.
However, the choices out there for VPNs are endless — and some are more trustworthy than others. You may choose one VPN for the fastest connection speeds and another for travel. The easiest way to see if a particular VPN is the right option for you is to sign up for a trial. Many VPN companies now allow browsers to test them out. Below are ZDNET’s top picks for the best VPN trials in 2023.
Also: How the top VPNs compare: Plus, should you try a free VPN?
- User friendliness
- Card details, cryptocurrency, or PayPal required
Features: Content streaming | 94 countries | Kill switch | Over 3000 servers | No-logs policy | Password | Credit card required for a free trial
ExpressVPN is a widely-used and popular VPN. While expensive, the service is best suited for individuals who want to adopt a reliable VPN that can be used both at home and abroad. Advanced features include content streaming and torrenting availability, split tunneling, and a threat manager designed to stop tracking.
You can connect up to five devices simultaneously. A router app is also available if you want to install the VPN directly and open access to every household device.
ExpressVPN has adopted the same stance as many other VPN providers and does not offer a standalone trial. Instead, you can sign up for a short-term service — either one month, six months, or a year — and then cancel within 30 days to take advantage of a money-back guarantee. However, if you’re willing to pass on your details, you receive 30 days of use with no restrictions regarding functionality, speed, and server connections.
ExpressVPN subscriptions are priced as follows: $12.95 for one month of access, $9.99 for six months, or $6.67 per month if you sign up for 12 months, a saving of 49%. Three months of free access have also been added to the yearly subscription.
There is also 24/7 chat support if you have queries or trouble setting up the VPN.
Read the review: ExpressVPN review: A fine VPN service, but is it worth the price?
- Kill Switch
- Based in Switzerland, strong privacy laws
- Free plan limited to one connection
- No ad-block, P2P support with free version
Features: Open source | 67 countries, 1,700+ servers | No-logs policy | Security audits | Credit card not required for a free trial
Since coming on to the market, ProtonVPN — the open source Virtual Private Network from the minds of ProtonMail — has made its mark. And it has garnered support because the company is transparent about software security practices.
ProtonVPN doesn’t have a trial, but does provide a free option with some of the same features as paid subscriptions, starting at €4.99 per month.
The caveat is that you can only have one connection to three countries (US, NL, JP) with the trial, and you can expect a medium-speed rather than high-speed service. If you opt for a paid subscription, you can access over 1,700 servers in over 60 countries at up to 10Gbps.
Read the review: How the top VPNs compare: Plus, should you try a free VPN?
- Cross-platform compatibility
- Reliable speeds
- Payment details required
- Signs up are based on two years
- Limited simultaneous connections
Features: No-logs policy | Threat protection | Dark Web monitor | Rapid speeds | Unlimited bandwidth | Credit card required for a free trial
Although NordVPN doesn’t offer a free trial, a 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to sign up, test the service, and cancel within 30 days if you’re not satisfied or if you want to keep testing other VPNs. Standard subscriptions start at $4.19 per month.
Given NordVPN’s popularity, accounting for millions of downloads, the service is worth considering even though you have to jump through a couple extra hoops to test it out.
As we found in our own review, NordVPN offers consistent speeds with an impressive array of country servers: 5400+ servers in 60 countries. Plus, it’s compatible with many operating systems and devices.
Read the review: NordVPN review: Consistent speed and performance
Also: NordVPN vs Surfshark: Which is better for you?
- Independent security audits
- Download speed downgrades
Features: Unlimited devices | Ad-blocker | Two-factor authentication | RAM-only servers | Kill Switch | Credit card required for a free trial
SurfShark VPN has a vast range of features, including cookie blockers, an IP rotator, and the option to connect to two servers at once. In our past tests, we found connections to be reliable and secure, albeit download speeds slightly slower.
You can test SurfShark VPN free for seven days across Android, iOS, and macOS platforms when you sign up for a subscription package. But don’t forget to cancel within 30 days for a refund if you’re not satisfied. The subscription options include a two-year subscription at $2.30 per month (plus two months free), a 12-month subscription at $3.99 per month, or one month of access for $12.95.
Read the review: Surfshark VPN review: Bargain price, unlimited connections
- Trusted brand
- Trial only lasts seven days
- Limited sign up regions
Features: Supports five devices simultaneously | Over 500 servers | 30+ countries | No-log policy | Credit card required for a free trial
Another choice you should consider is the non-profit Mozilla’s VPN. This VPN, compatible with numerous operating systems, can handle up to five devices and connect you to around 500 servers in over 30 countries.
While it’s a limited number of servers compared to other VPN providers, value is added through Mozilla’s email and phone masking service, Firefox Relay.
Mozilla uses WireGuard, a relatively new VPN protocol designed to be more secure with improved cryptographic protections.
You’ll have to sign up for a subscription to access the trial, but there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee. So, to take advantage of Firefox Relay, you need to agree to a 12-month subscription and additional fees.
Prices begin at $4.99 per month.
At the moment, Mozilla VPN is available in the UK, US, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. A waiting list has been opened for other regions.
Not every VPN provider offers a free trial, but the best VPN providers offer an alternative: sign up, provide your credit card details, and if you aren’t satisfied, you can request your money back. Plus, most offer you a full 30 days to test out the software.
Money-back guarantees are becoming an industry standard, so it really depends if you’re willing to go through the sign-up process. Some VPN providers offer limited plans for free instead.
|VPN trial||Starting price||Open source||Number of countries and servers||Logging policy||Credit card required||Separate free trial or money-back guarantee||Length/limits of trial|
|ExpressVPN||$6.67 per month||No||94 countries, 3000+ servers||No-logs policy||Yes||Money-back guarantee||Sign up, 30-day cancellation|
|ProtonVPN||Free||Yes||67 countries, 1700+ servers||No-logs policy||No||Free version||Free plan, limited|
|NordVPN||$4.19 per month||No||60 countries, 5400+ servers||No-logs policy||Yes||Money-back guarantee||Sign up, 30-day cancellation|
|SurfShark||$2.30 per month||No||N/A||No-logs policy||Yes||Money-back guarantee||Seven days|
|Mozilla VPN||$4.99 per month||No||30+ countries, 500+ servers||No-logs policy||Yes||Money-back guarantee||Seven days|
While deciding on the best use cases for each VPN, I considered trial features, levels of security, and affordability. I recommend testing different VPNs to find the right fit for your budget and needs. However, the recommendations below can make the decision easier if you already know your priorities.
These recommendations are updated as the VPN market shifts.
Choose this VPN if…
If you want…
A full-featured trial that is not restricted on functionality, speed, or server connections. ExpressVPN offers advanced features like content streaming and torrenting availability, split tunneling, and a threat manager designed to stop tracking.
ProtonVPN is a security-first option that places a strong emphasis on transparency and open source technology. It offers advanced security features like no-logs policy, security audits, and support for the Tor network.
With over 5,400 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN is a long-term, reliable solution for those who want a VPN they can depend on. NordVPN offers advanced features like no-logs policy, threat protection, and a dark web monitor.
An affordable VPN subscription. With pricing starting at just $2.30 per month, SurfShark is inexpensive and still manages to provide a wide range of features, including ad-blocking, two-factor authentication, and RAM-only servers.
A VPN with phone and email masking. In addition to connecting you to around 500 servers in over 30 countries, Mozilla VPN also provides email and phone masking service through Firefox Relay, which can help protect your privacy and security.
When looking for the best VPN trials of 2023, I conducted hands-on research. I wanted to see just how user-friendly VPN trials are, whether or not you’ll be asked to hand over payment card details, and whether or not the trials, themselves, have value.
You often have to rely on a 30-day money-back guarantee to test the most popular VPNs. However, with the exception of services like ProtonVPN, a subscription model is still preferable to free VPNs, which are likely to collect your data to generate revenue.
I examined customer reviews, including both positive and negative experiences. I also kept in mind the longevity of VPN providers, considering their track records for user and data privacy, popularity, and both the variety and accessibility of services.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network of nodes — or servers — which reroute internet traffic to mask its original IP address. VPNs also add a layer of encryption to protect data packets and online communication. As the internet was not designed to be inherently secure, VPNs were developed to bridge part of the security gap. While they are not a foolproof solution, a reliable and trustworthy VPN can help protect your online privacy.
If you want to understand how VPNs work in more detail, check out our guide on everything you need to know about VPNs.
A VPN trial is a way to test a VPN service before purchasing it.
Typically, VPN trials last for a specific period or have limited functionality. Once the trial period ends, you need to subscribe to continue using the service. VPN trials work by providing you with a temporary account, allowing you to test the VPN’s features and functionality.
Some VPNs offer free trials. You can cancel your subscription within the trial period to avoid being charged. VPN trials can range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the VPN provider. During the trial period, you may have limited access to certain features, reduced connection speeds, or a limited number of servers to choose from. However, most VPNs offer a full range of features during the trial period.
Not all VPN trials are secure and trustworthy, so it’s essential to choose a reputable VPN provider that has a history of protecting user privacy and security.
Using a VPN is generally recommended day-to-day, however, there are some circumstances where you may decide not to enable your VPN. You should always check if using a VPN is legal in your country, for example.
VPNs can slow down your connection, so if you’re not dealing with sensitive information, you may want to trade speed for security temporarily, like when gaming.
VPNs protect your privacy by masking your IP address and encrypting your traffic. However, unless there are specific, integrated features, they do not offer protection against online threats such as phishing, drive-by malicious downloads, malware, ransomware, or third-party data breaches.
To protect yourself against these attack vectors, you should ensure you have a firewall and antivirus software. It’s also recommended that you stay suspicious of untrusted messages and emails.
There is a huge selection of VPN offerings on the market today. While we’ve showcased what we consider the best VPN providers that offer decent trials, there are other options available you may want to consider, as shown below:
TunnelBear – 58% off
A free VPN with a discount for paid subscriptions
AtlasVPN – Mobile protection
A free app version and 7-day trials for iOS and Android devices