Free VPN Buyer’s Guide

Though the title may sound like a contradiction, each VPN has its own strengths and weaknesses. Of course, the best options for you are the ones that suit your needs. This post will address the specifics based on what you want to do. That way, you can make the right decision. You can always try others later, but we’ll give you some things to look for.

Why do you plan to use a VPN?

You can use a VPN for a variety of different reasons. Those reasons will help you determine the right options. Whether you are connecting to one for privacy, streaming, gaming, censorship, shopping, or other ideas, choosing the right one is key. Below, we’ll look at each category and why it matters.

1. Streaming

These days, streaming is king. When the global pandemic hit, things shut down. Many got stuck with free time they did not count on having. At the same time, you are taking a risk by being around others. Although some aspects may return to normal, many users will take advantage of streaming online because of the altered behaviors.

  • TV shows and movies – let’s say you want to stream shows or films from a different region. Many have discovered there is quite a bit out there to watch. If you have services like Netflix, each region has its own content library. Because of that, you’ll want to choose a VPN with servers in multiple countries. If you want to watch a show or movie that is specific to a region, having access to that region is important. However, even if your VPN provider is in multiple countries, that may not help you. That’s why you need the ability to unblock regions. Because of licensing rights, media companies like Netflix put geo-restrictions on their content. In other words, if you are outside the area, they will usually block you. By choosing the right provider, you can get around those geo-restrictions to view the libraries from different regions. Bandwidth is also important. Most free services either limit your speeds, the amount of data, or both. If you use a service with lower-speed servers, you’ll run into buffering issues. If the service has a data cap, it won’t let you go beyond that point without upgrading.
  • Sports – multiple regions are important if you are streaming sports. In countries like the US, some regions do not have access to all of the sports. That is due to sports blackouts. Instead of watching what you want wherever you are, you’ll miss out if you try to watch your home team online. Thar’s due to licensing and exclusivity rights in major cities. The key to watching those sports is to have multiple locations within a country. Just like with shows, the provider you choose needs to have the ability to unblock those sports. Even if it has servers in other cities, the sports provider may block it. Therefore, you’ll want to find the one you can watch your favorites on. As with streaming movies or shows, bandwidth matters. You don’t want to watch your sport and have it buffer.

No matter what type of streaming you do, connecting to a VPN will help you prevent ISP throttling.

2. Gaming

While gaming can involve streaming, it has its own category and things you need to look for when choosing a provider. Server locations in multiple countries are important here, too. Even though you can find most games internationally, some developers make their games available in only some countries at first. By choosing a VPN with servers in many locations, you may be able to access the game early. If you play an extremely popular game in your area, it may not be quite as popular in others. If you play FPS or other PVP games, the providers with servers in multiple countries could give you an edge, especially if you are a decent player. By the same token, changing to a tougher region could provide you with more competition.

Bandwidth matters when gaming. Most of the games are online these days, so if you are on a slow server, that could make the difference between winning an FPS match or losing it. Of course, some services are better suited for gaming than others. If you select a provider that has a data cap (which all the free versions do), your game may disconnect in the middle.

Over time, game developers stop supporting some games and shut down the online servers. However, if you like the game, that does not always mean the end of it. When you connect to a VPN, you can make the game think you are on the same network. Because it thinks you are on the same LAN connection, you’ll be able to play the game with your friends again.

Keeping your information private when gaming is crucial. You’ll want to find a provider that uses next-generation encryption. These are encryption protocols like WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. If the provider you choose does not have those options, you leave yourself vulnerable.

3. Torrenting /Kodi

If you use a BitTorrent client or Kodi, we suggest some safe-free options. The first thing you want to look for is if the provider supports P2P traffic. If so, some have servers they use for that reason only. Bandwidth is a big factor with VPNs because P2P downloads can quickly count against the data cap. Choosing one with a lower cap will cut you off when you hit the cap. You’ll also want to look at the privacy features the provider offers. The most important one is the kill switch feature. Without having that feature, you take the chance that your ISP will get upset.

4. Censorship

Depending on what country you are in, you can run into censorship. When you choose a provider, keep in mind that not all of them can get around censorship in all counties. Choose one that will help you access social media, news sites, and even apps while traveling abroad. Just as with the P2P category, you’ll want to make sure it offers privacy features like a kill switch. That way, you can access the blocked apps you want.

5. Secure messaging and VoIP

If you want to protect your Voice over IP and secure messaging activities, choosing the right provider is important. The things you want to look for are fast servers, security features like a kill switch, and next-generation encryption protocols. Because some countries ban the use of VoIP and secure messaging apps, make sure the provider has servers in multiple countries, and you have the kill switch enabled so you can protect your privacy. That will help you protect yourself when using WhatsApp, Skype, Snapchat, etc.

6. Shopping online

Some shopping sites are only available in specific countries. When you choose a provider with servers in multiple countries, you can access the countries that offer sites like that. When shopping, a VPN will help you protect your transactions.

7. Privacy

If you’re choosing a VPN for privacy reasons, you have to ask several questions.

  • Does the company have a good reputation? Reputation means quite a bit, epsecially when trying to protect yourself. If the company doesn’t have a solid reputation, you don’t know what they will do with your data.
  • Does it keep logs? – Choose a provider that does not keep logs.
  • Where is the company headquartered? Stay away from companies headquartered in countries included in the five/nine/fourteen eyes agreements. If the company has its headquarters there, they can share your information with thirteen other countries.
  • Does the provider have secure protocols? As we mentione above, you want to make sure the VPN you choose has next generation protocols. If it uses options like PPTP or L2TP, you’ll want to stay away from those options.
  • What about privacy features? To protect your privacy, the provider needs to have at least a kill switch feature. Dedicated IPs can be helpful, but other features include multi/doublehop servers, and obfuscation.

Once you have answered those, a VPN can help stop your ISP and apps from tracking you. You will also be able to secure your public WiFi usage, especially for sensitive sites like online banking.

As you can see, you have several options when choosing a VPN, depending on what you plan on doing.

Will a free VPN meet your needs?

We have found that in most instances users will start with a free VPN and then move on to a premium account. The reasons are typically related to privacy and usage. I won’t spend a lot of time talking about free VPNs in general other than to say that many are not safe. That’s why we only recommend a handful of VPNs that respect your privacy.

The key is to consider your needs versus what each VPN offers. For example, PrivadoVPN offers 10 GB of free usage a month. Is that enough bandwidth? If you are using a VPN to protect your privacy and perhaps complete tasks like email when on public WiFi then it’s plenty. However, if you want to stream your favorite movie or sporting event you’ll likely find that you want more bandwidth. In the case of PrivadoVPN that’s easy enough since they offer paid accounts at a low price.

We understand that Free VPN is a great starting point for a lot of users that haven’t used a VPN service before. It makes sense to want to test something before deciding whether you want to sign up. While some premium services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer risk-free money-back guarantees, you still have to enter payment information to sign up. This is different with the free VPNs we recommend. They offer free access with the hope that you will choose to upgrade in the future.