Free VPN vs. Paid VPN vs. Free Trial VPN – What’s the Difference Between Them? Which One’s Right for You?

You’ve probably heard that VPNs protect your privacy, help you unblock media streaming services, and keep your P2P file sharing anonymous. All of that is true – but keep in mind that not every VPN is the same, especially once you compare their cost. We’re sure that many of you wonder about the differences between free VPNs, paid VPNs, and free trial VPNs – which we’ll help you understand and pick the best option for you.

With that said, we wish you a warm welcome to our free VPN vs. paid VPN vs. free trial VPN comparison, where we’ll dive into various aspects of those VPNs, helping you understand their pros, cons, and ideal use cases. With that said, let’s jump right in!

Free VPN vs. Paid VPN vs. Free Trial VPN (2021) – Side-by-Side Comparison!

We’ve decided to explain the differences between free, paid, and free trial VPNs via five different aspects, as you can see just below. 

1. Your Privacy & Security

We'll start our comparison of free, paid, and free trial VPNs with the most crucial aspect. And yes, we're talking about your digital privacy and security. 

  Free VPN Paid VPN Free Trial VPN
No-Logs Policy NO YES YES
VPN Encryption Medium High High
VPN Protocols Limited Full Full
IP Replacement YES YES YES
Anonymization NO YES YES
Security Guarantees NO YES YES
  • FREE VPNs: In the past, we’ve seen many situations where free VPNs used to expose their usersturn them into botnets, and leak their personal data. After all, since you're not paying for a free VPN, you can expect them to turn to other sources of income at the expense of your privacy and security. And also, free VPNs don't come with no-logs policies, and they often avoid implementing the same level of VPN encryption found in their paid counterparts. 
  • PAID VPNs: It’s true that paid VPNs come in all shapes and sizes, and some can be more secure than others. However, using a paid VPN is typically safe, and the best of them come with verified no-logs policies (such as ExpressVPNNordVPNProtonVPNTunnelBearPureVPN, and more). All of those bring an array of VPN protocols, in addition to AES-256 encryption, making your privacy truly protected. 
  • FREE TRIAL VPNs: If you decide to use a free trial of any premium-priced VPN, you’ll get the same set of privacy-protecting features at that VPN’s paying customers. So, your privacy will be protected by a no-logs policy (if one is employed), and your VPN tunnel will be keeping your data anonymous thanks to a range of VPN protocols. The only limit here is the duration of the trial – which is often set to 7 days max. 

SUMMARY: In terms of keeping your privacy intact on the Web, there are significant differences between free and paid VPNs. In short, if you want to keep away trackers and other snooping technologies, we recommend using a free trial VPN with the intention of becoming a paying VPN customer at some point. 

2. Data Allowance

The overwhelming majority of free VPNs impose data limitations, which is a way to cut their costs. So, let's see how strict those limitations are. 

  Free VPN Paid VPN Free Trial VPN
Data Limitations YES NO NO
Daily Data Limits YES NO NO
Monthly Data Limits YES NO NO
Data Caps 500MB – 10GB+ NO NO
  • FREE VPNs: Almost all free VPNs come with data caps. Some of them limit you on a daily basis, up to 500MB/day – which is the case with Hotspot Shield FREE. Others limit you on a monthly basis, like Windscribe with its 10GB+ limit (if you register using your personal email address). Once you reach your limit, your VPN connection will stop working, and in some cases, your data can become exposed at that moment. That makes using free VPNs unsuitable for any bandwidth-hungry activities.
  • PAID VPNs: Paying a VPN subscription means getting to use your VPN without any limitations – and that applies to its data and bandwidth as well. In other words, you’ll be free to keep your VPN connection alive 24/7, without ever having to worry about crossing any limits, encountering slowdowns, or exposing your data. 
  • FREE TRIAL VPNs: Typically, VPNs that offer free trials don’t impose data limitations, as they want you to test their capabilities in-depth. So, you’ll be limited by the duration of the trial – and not by the amount of data you’re allowed to transfer. 

SUMMARY: While free VPNs tend to come with quite rigorous data allowances, you won't find such a thing in paid VPNs. That is precisely what makes free VPNs useable only for quick online tasks, like browsing the Web or checking your email. 

3. Speed & Performance

In this segment of our free VPN vs. paid VPN vs. free trial VPN comparison, we’ll talk about what to expect from them in terms of their speed and performance. 

  Free VPN Paid VPN Free Trial VPN
Unlimited Speed NO YES YES
High-Speed Servers NO YES YES
  • FREE VPNs: It doesn't come as a surprise that free VPNs come with limited performance. That's because they're used by a large number of individuals, while offering a very limited number of servers. In other words, those servers are often overcrowded, which leads to all kinds of performance issues. That's one of the reasons why free VPNs impose data limitations as a way to save their servers' performance (without much luck, in most cases). 
  • PAID VPNs: It’s true that any VPN will slow you down a bit, as that’s simply how VPNs work. However, that slowdown doesn't have to be noticeable. Paid VPNs come with all kinds of protocols, different levels of encryption, and they tend to bring a large number of servers placed across the world. That is why some VPNs can even improve your speed if ISP-induced throttling is involved. To learn more, here are the fastest VPNs you’ll find right now
  • FREE TRIAL VPNs: If you think about it for a second, you'll see how counter-productive it would be for a VPN to limit its speed and performance for those who decide to try it out. That's why during your free trial, you'll get to use your VPN's full capabilities and even test various protocols and servers, seeing what kind of performance to expect if you decide to pay. 

SUMMARY: Once again, we encounter many differences between free and paid VPNs. This time around, while free VPNs limit their speed and performance, paid VPNs allow you to take full advantage of your Web/VPN connection. And since free trial VPNs act as gateways to paid VPNs, you can expect unlimited speeds from those as well. 

4. Media Streaming & Torrenting

Looking for a free or affordable VPN for media streaming and torrenting? Let’s see whether free, paid, or free trial VPNs can answer your needs. 

  Free VPN Paid VPN Free Trial VPN
Website Unblocking YES YES YES
Media Streaming LIMITED UNLIMITED UNLIMITED
Torrenting NO/LIMITED YES/UNLIMITED YES/UNLIMITED
  • FREE VPNs: It’s true that you’ll find a small group of free VPNs for unblocking Netflix and downloading torrent files. However, don’t forget that free VPNs come with both data and speed limitations. So, streaming anything in more than the lowest possible video resolution would be impossible. And also, downloading anything via P2P but images or other small-sized files would also be impossible. 
  • PAID VPNs: A number of paid VPNs can unblock NetflixDisney PlusHuluHBO MaxDiscovery PlusParamount Plus, and plenty more. In other words, paid VPNs will help you unblock those platforms from anywhere in the world, even letting you subscribe to streaming services not available in your country. And if you check our guide on the best VPNs for torrenting, you'll see that many of those are perfectly safe for downloading P2P files without anyone else knowing about your P2P activities. 
  • FREE TRIAL VPNs: VPNs will let you unblock and access media streaming websites and download torrent files during your free trial. Of course, that applies to VPNs that support those features via their paid subscriptions. And since they come with unlimited bandwidth, you'll be only restricted by the duration of your VPN trial. 

SUMMARY: If you want to stream media and download torrents, know that free VPNs won’t enable you to do that. Your only option (and your best option overall) is to use a paid VPN, all of which work automatically, without much input on your part. 

5. Cost & Payments

Free VPN Paid VPN Free Trial VPN
Requires Your Payment Information NO (in most cases) YES YES (in most cases)
Can You Be Charged Automatically?  NO (in most cases) YES YES (in most cases)
How to Sign Up?  VPN’s website VPN’s website iOS/Android 
Money-Back Guarantees N/A YES NO (in most cases)
  • FREE VPNs: In most cases, free VPNs won’t ask for your payment information. That means that you can download them from their website (after registering), and then use them within your data allowance. Keep in mind that if a free VPN asks for your payment information at some point, there’s a chance that you’ll be charged (which is one of the most common VPN scams out there). 
  • PAID VPNs: If you decide to use a paid VPN, you'll need to pay immediately. That means that your access to your chosen VPN will open up once your payment is processed. However, this comes with two essential benefits. First, you'll get to pick from different subscription plans, letting you save in the long run. And also, know that VPNs come with money-back guarantees, which makes buying a VPN subscription risk-free. 
  • FREE TRIAL VPNs: The majority of VPNs that offer free trials do so on iOS and Android only (giving you up to 7 days of access for free). Some of those VPNs are ExpressVPNNordVPN, and Surfshark. However, we also have VPNs such as CyberGhost, where you can get a 24-hour trial on any computer. Keep in mind that if you get a free trial on iOS or Android, you will be charged once you trial ends. You can avoid that by canceling your subscription on time. 

SUMMARY: You know how they say – if you don’t pay using money, you pay using something else. That’s especially true for free VPNs, which often exploit your privacy, inject ads, and use all kinds of trackers to collect data.

With that said, we strongly recommend using a paid VPN. If you’re on a tight budget, make sure to check the best VPN deals available right now. And also, here’s our list of the best cheap VPN services.

In the End – Should You Go for a Free, Paid, or Free Trial VPN?

You're getting closer to the end of our free VPN vs. paid VPN vs. free trial VPN comparison. So, to summarize everything said above, make sure to check the table found just below. 

  Free VPN Paid VPN Free Trial VPN
No-Logs Policy NO YES YES
VPN Encryption MEDIUM STRONG STRONG
VPN Protocols LIMITED FULL FULL
Data Limitations YES NO NO
Data Caps YES (500MB – 10GB+) NO NO
Speed Limitations YES NO NO
Good for Privacy? NO YES YES
Good for Browsing?  YES NO NO
Good for Streaming? NO YES YES
Good for Torrenting? NO YES YES
Price FREE PAID FREE (1-7 days)
  • FREE VPNs: In general, we don't recommend using a free VPN if you want to protect your privacy. They also aren't usable for streaming or torrenting. We recommend using them only for quick browsing sessions if you wish to unblock a website or two. To check your options, here are the best free VPNs
  • PAID VPNs: If you want to feel secure on the Web and keep your sensitive data away from anyone’s prying eyes, a paid VPN is what you should use. To help you get started, we’ve produced a guide on how to pick a VPN service. And then, you’ll want to check our guide to the best (paid) VPNs
  • FREE TRIAL VPNs: In case you’d like to use a paid VPN – but if you don’t want to pay straight away, relying on a free trial VPN is a good idea. With that said, make sure to check the best VPN free trials available today. And if you want a VPN trial that requires no credit card, use the provided link to find the best options. 

That would be all for our free VPN vs. paid VPN vs. free trial VPN comparison. If you have any doubts or questions, share them via the comments section below. And lastly, thank you for reading!

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