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ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

Verified by Nick Jones Editor-in-Chief

In this comparative review, we aim to dissect two formidable players in the VPN space: ExpressVPN and Surfshark. Our goal is to provide you with an exhaustive comparison covering various aspects, from price and privacy to performance and platform support. We’ve done the legwork to help you decide which VPN suits your specific needs best.

Express VPN vs Surfshark: At a glance

Let’s begin with a snapshot overview comparing the fundamental features of both VPNs.

ExpressVPN Surfshark
Lowest price £6.67 (15 months) £1.79 (24 months)
Free version No No
Max no. connected devices 5 Unlimited
Number of servers 3,000+ 3,200+
Server locations 94 65
Encryption AES-256 AES-256
VPN protocols OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2 OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
No-log policy
Audited
Headquarters British Virgin Islands Holland

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark boast robust security features, including Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 encryption and a strict no-log policy. ExpressVPN offers a reliable service with an extensive network of servers across numerous locations. However, Surfshark stands out with its highly competitive pricing and unlimited simultaneous connections, making it a popular choice among large households or users with multiple devices.

Plans, pricing and trials

Now, let’s delve deeper into the pricing structure, considering the cost of different plans and the value they provide.

ExpressVPN Surfshark
Monthly plan £9.99 £9.49
Six-month plan £7.49 /month £5.39 /month
12-month plan £6.67 /month £3.29 /month
24-month plan N/A £1.79 /month

While both VPNs offer comparable monthly rates, Surfshark truly shines when considering long-term commitments. Its 24-month plan is significantly cheaper than any of ExpressVPN’s offerings. However, it’s worth noting that ExpressVPN’s 15-month plan, which includes three free months, offers considerable savings over its standard monthly rate.

expressvpn site pricing
It’s worth noting that ExpressVPN displays prices in GBP but will charge you in USD (ExpressVPN)

Both VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, providing a risk-free trial period for users. The final choice may boil down to whether you prefer ExpressVPN’s wide server selection and consistent performance or Surfshark’s incredibly budget-friendly long-term plans.

This table represents the monthly equivalent price for each plan, but it’s essential to understand that these are not paid monthly. Instead, each plan requires a one-off payment upfront for the entire period.

ExpressVPN:

  • The monthly plan is straightforward: you pay £9.99 monthly.
  • For the six-month plan, whilst the monthly equivalent cost works out at £7.49, you must pay for the full six months in advance, totalling £44.94.
  • The 12-month plan, which includes three free months totalling 15 months of service, breaks down to £6.67 per month. However, you must pay for the full plan upfront, which is £100.05.

Surfshark:

  • Like ExpressVPN, the monthly plan requires a £9.49 monthly payment.
  • For the six-month plan, the monthly equivalent price is £5.39, but you’ll need to make a one-off payment of £32.34 for the entire six months.
  • The 12-month plan’s monthly equivalent is £3.29, which requires a single upfront payment of £39.48 for the year.
  • The 24-month plan offers the best value at £1.79 per month, but this requires an upfront payment of £42.96 covering two years of service.

This pricing structure means that whilst the monthly equivalent price decreases for extended plans, you’ll need to commit to a one-off payment for the whole period, which is a higher initial cost. It’s worth considering whether the savings on the longer plans provide enough value to justify the upfront expense.

surfshark pricing
Surfshark is significantly cheaper than ExpressVPN (Surfshark)

Security

When it comes to VPNs, robust security is paramount. The service should not only prevent unsolicited snoopers but also ensure your data isn’t compromised if the VPN connection drops. Let’s take a closer look at the security protocols and encryption offered by ExpressVPN and Surfshark.

Encryption

Both VPNs offer state-of-the-art AES-256 encryption, which is a military-grade cypher that’s considered nearly impenetrable. Here’s how they stack up:

Encryption type ExpressVPN Surfshark
AES-256

Protocols available

Protocol ExpressVPN Surfshark
OpenVPN
SSTP
IKEv2
WireGuard
PPTP
L2TP

ExpressVPN and Surfshark both employ AES-256 encryption, the most secure encryption standard used by governments and security experts worldwide. This ensures your data remains completely secure from prying eyes.

Regarding protocols, both offer a good selection to choose from, tailoring to a variety of needs. ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN, Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) and Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2), among others. Surfshark, on the other hand, supports protocols such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, and the fast and secure WireGuard, which ExpressVPN lacks.

It’s important to note that Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), although offered by Surfshark, is largely considered obsolete and insecure, so it’s generally not recommended.

While both VPNs provide robust security, choosing between them may come down to your specific needs. If you prefer the speed and modernity of WireGuard, Surfshark would be the better choice. However, if you’re looking for a proven, reliable service supporting SSTP, ExpressVPN would be more suitable.

Performance

In the world of VPNs, performance is critical. The download and upload speeds, as well as the latency, significantly affect the overall user experience. A VPN might have many features, but if it doesn’t deliver in terms of performance, it can leave users frustrated. To help you make an informed choice, we’ve put ExpressVPN and Surfshark to the test. Let’s explore how they fare in terms of download and upload speeds.

Download speed

ExpressVPN Surfshark
No VPN
UK to UK 70% (36.77Mbps) 96% (36.01Mbps)
UK to US 74% (38.66Mbps) 92% (34.38Mbps)
UK to Aus 22% (11.66Mbps) 81% (30.47Mbps)
Ping 157ms (US), 540ms (Aus) 92ms (US), 272ms (Aus)
% of base download speed 70% (UK), 74% (US), 22% (Aus) 96% (UK), 92% (US), 81% (Aus)

Upload speed

ExpressVPN Surfshark
No VPN
UK to UK 125% (16.65Mbps) 94% (8.82Mbps)
UK to US 94% (12.44Mbps) 95% (8.91Mbps)
UK to Aus 41% (5.49Mbps) 92% (8.66Mbps)
% of base upload speed 125% (UK), 94% (US), 41% (Aus) 94% (UK), 95% (US), 92% (Aus)

When comparing the data, it’s evident that both VPNs offer solid performance, but their strengths lie in different areas. ExpressVPN has higher upload speeds, especially for UK–UK and UK–US connections, even surpassing the base value. On the other hand, Surfshark demonstrates higher consistency, maintaining a high percentage of its download and upload speeds across different regional connections. However, ExpressVPN has a significant speed drop when connecting to Australia, which is worth noting for users who frequently connect to or from that region.

Logging and privacy

Choosing a VPN may often hinge on its stance on logging and privacy. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark greatly emphasise user privacy and data security, although they employ slightly different approaches. Let’s take a closer look:

ExpressVPN Surfshark
No-log policy
Audited
Kill switch
Headquarters in a data-secure country
Headquarters British Virgin Islands Holland

ExpressVPN and Surfshark are committed to a stringent no-log policy, which ensures they don’t store any information about your internet activity whilst using their services. This policy is crucial for users who want privacy and anonymity online.

Both services have also undergone independent audits, further bolstering their credibility in privacy. These audits reassure users about the company’s dedication to preserving user privacy and security.

surfshark audit
Surfshark’s audit was carried out by Cure53, as was ExpressVPN’s (Surfshark)

A standout feature of these VPNs is the kill switch. This function automatically disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection unexpectedly drops, preventing your Internet Protocol (IP) address and online activity from being exposed. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark incorporate this feature in their services.

Geo-unblocking and streaming

Accessing content from around the globe is the primary reason many people utilise VPNs. From streaming platforms to news sites, VPNs help users bypass geographical restrictions that may be in place. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are leaders in this field, but how do they compare?

Sites and services unblocked

ExpressVPN Surfshark
Twitter
YouTube
Netflix
Disney Plus
Prime Video
HBO Max
BBC iPlayer

Unblocking websites and services is why many users opt for using a VPN. From streaming platforms to social media sites like Twitter and YouTube, a great VPN should bypass geo-restrictions and provide unlimited access to global content.

ExpressVPN and Surfshark, two industry-leading VPNs, excel in this regard.

ExpressVPN and Surfshark both exhibit strong performance in unblocking websites and services, making them ideal choices for users seeking global access to content across various platforms. It’s a tie in this category, reflecting the commitment of both VPNs to provide a barrier-free online experience to their users.

Torrenting

ExpressVPN stands out with its robust security protocols that keep your torrenting activity private and safe. It offers a strong encryption standard (AES-256), which ensures your data is unreadable by outsiders. ExpressVPN also supports peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing necessary for torrenting across all its servers, meaning you won’t have to worry about selecting a specific server for your torrenting activities. Coupled with its strict no-log policy, it ensures that your torrenting habits remain private.

 Moreover, ExpressVPN features a kill switch (termed Network Lock), a crucial feature for secure torrenting. This automatically blocks your internet traffic if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly, preventing any data leaks that might expose your IP address or other sensitive information.

Surfshark also excels in torrenting. It supports P2P sharing on all its servers, a huge advantage for those who torrent regularly. Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark uses AES-256 encryption and has a stringent no-log policy. Its kill switch is ready to step in if your VPN connection is compromised, ensuring that your torrenting activity never spills out into the open.

One standout feature of Surfshark is its whitelist, which is its version of split tunnelling. This allows you to choose which apps or programs (such as your torrent client) will use the VPN connection and which will connect to the internet normally. This can provide a more flexible torrenting experience.

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark provide strong support for torrenting, with excellent security measures, comprehensive server support and additional beneficial features. Your choice between these two services may be influenced by the specific features and their implementation each one offers. While both ExpressVPN and Surfshark provide split-tunnelling functionality for a more customised torrenting experience, the nuances in their application might sway your preference towards one over the other. 

Apps

When it comes to the usability of VPN services, the quality of their apps across different platforms plays a crucial role. A great VPN should offer intuitive and user-friendly apps that run smoothly on various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers. Let’s explore how ExpressVPN and Surfshark perform on mobile and desktop platforms, evaluating their user interfaces, ease of use, options and speed.

Mobile apps

ExpressVPN and Surfshark both offer native apps for iOS and Android platforms. These apps are designed with a focus on user experience, ensuring that even VPN novices can easily navigate their interfaces.

ExpressVPN’s mobile app maintains a high usability standard with a minimalistic and intuitive design. It allows you to connect to your desired server with a single tap. The app also provides in-depth settings for those wanting to fine-tune their VPN experience, such as choosing between different VPN protocols. Performance-wise, ExpressVPN’s mobile app is speedy and reliable.

Similarly, Surfshark’s mobile app doesn’t lag behind. It features a clean, user-friendly interface that makes it easy to connect to the server of your choice. An additional perk is the “Quick Connect” feature, which automatically selects the best-suited server. The app provides several options for customisation and runs smoothly, providing a swift VPN experience on your mobile device.

Desktop apps

Moving on to desktops, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark provide native applications for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.

Best cheap VPNs testing Surfshark on laptop
The Surfshark desktop app tested on a MacBook (Independent Advisor/Ookla/Surfshark)

ExpressVPN’s desktop application follows the same design philosophy as its mobile counterpart: simplicity and functionality. With a straightforward layout, selecting and connecting to your preferred server is easy. The app also offers advanced settings, including a kill switch and split tunnelling features. The performance is top-notch, offering quick connection times and stable connections.

Surfshark’s desktop application continues the trend set by its mobile app. Its sleek, user-friendly interface allows easy navigation. The “Quick Connect” feature is also available on the desktop version, providing convenience for users. In terms of speed and stability, Surfshark’s desktop app is commendable and comparable to ExpressVPN.

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark offer high-quality mobile and desktop apps catering to users’ varying needs. They balance user-friendly design and comprehensive features, ensuring that both novice and advanced users have a smooth VPN experience.

Best VPN for PC Express server selection
ExpressVPN’s PC app is clean and uncluttered (ExpressVPN)

Supported platforms

ExpressVPN Surfshark
Windows
Mac
Android
iPhone
iPad
Chrome
Android TV
Apple TV
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Roku
Router support

A truly outstanding VPN needs to be compatible with a variety of platforms, accommodating users no matter what device they prefer. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark rise to the occasion, offering extensive cross-platform support.

ExpressVPN demonstrates a versatile approach in terms of platform compatibility. It supports a wide range of operating systems and devices, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, routers and even some smart TVs. This makes it an excellent choice for users relying on multiple devices for their digital needs or families with diverse device usage. It’s worth noting that ExpressVPN allows up to five simultaneous connections. This means you can secure several devices simultaneously, offering protection whether browsing on your laptop, streaming on your smart TV or shopping on your smartphone.

Surfshark goes even a step further. Like ExpressVPN, it supports various platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, routers and some smart TVs. However, the game changer with Surfshark is its unlimited simultaneous connections, which means you can secure as many devices as you like with a single Surfshark account. This is a standout feature, especially for larger households or small businesses, where multiple devices require VPN protection simultaneously. 

Support

Excellent customer support can make a significant difference when it comes to VPNs. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark understand this and have implemented robust support systems to ensure their users receive the necessary assistance whenever required.

ExpressVPN support page
The ExpressVPN support page is well-presented and has a lot of useful articles (ExpressVPN)

ExpressVPN offers 24/7 customer service support, giving users peace of mind knowing they can get help whenever needed. Its support system includes a live chat feature, providing instant responses to queries and making troubleshooting a breeze. Although ExpressVPN does not have phone support, its comprehensive knowledge base and website are rich with useful information, including guides and FAQs, empowering users to self-serve most of the time.

Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark also offers 24/7 customer service. It also features a live chat option, providing real-time assistance to users. Additionally, Surfshark has email support, offering an alternative method for those who prefer written correspondence for more complex issues. While Surfshark also lacks phone support, its knowledge base and website contain helpful information, including setup guides, troubleshooting tips and numerous FAQs.

Surfshark support page
The Surfshark support page is also full of great technical help (Surfshark)

In terms of support, both VPNs offer excellent and reliable service, ensuring their users have the necessary assistance readily available. While their support structures are similar, the choice between ExpressVPN and Surfshark might boil down to personal preferences such as website navigation or ease of finding information. Rest assured – whichever VPN you choose, you can expect comprehensive and responsive support.

Reputation and credibility

In the high-stakes realm of internet privacy and security, reputation and credibility are non-negotiable. Let’s examine the standing of ExpressVPN and Surfshark based on user reviews, years in business, number of employees and their commitments to user privacy and security.

ExpressVPN, which has been in the business for 14 years, enjoys a stellar reputation. Its robust Trustpilot score of 98 per cent based on 14,911 reviews underscores its reliability and customer satisfaction. Having 315 employees working towards ensuring smooth and secure internet connectivity for users further speaks to its credibility. ExpressVPN’s commitment to user privacy is unwavering, with its no-log policy and regular audits to ensure its system’s integrity. To date, ExpressVPN has reported no data breaches, demonstrating its commitment to asserting the importance of user privacy and security as well as actively ensuring it.

On the other hand, Surfshark, despite being relatively new with five years in the market, has quickly established its credibility. With a Trustpilot score of 92 per cent from a significant 18,332 reviews, Surfshark has demonstrated that it’s a VPN service users can trust. It has an equally large team of 317 employees devoted to ensuring top-notch services for its user base. Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark has a no-log policy and has been independently audited to verify its privacy protection measures. Surfshark has a clean slate with no reported data breaches, reinforcing its commitment to user privacy and security.

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark have proven to be reputable and credible VPN providers. While ExpressVPN’s longer tenure and higher user satisfaction put it slightly ahead, Surfshark’s rapid rise in the VPN industry and commitment to user privacy are impressive. Regardless of which one you choose, you can browse with the confidence that your internet privacy and security are in capable hands.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which is best?

The world of VPNs is highly competitive, with numerous contenders vying for the “Best VPN” title. 

ExpressVPN, often hailed as the ‘best overall VPN’ by critics, has an Independent Advisor rating of 4.5 stars. Its impeccable Trustpilot score of 98 per cent, derived from an impressive 14,911 reviews, echoes the vast user base’s trust in this seasoned veteran.

ExpressVPN’s robust arsenal of 3,000 servers spread across 94 unique locations worldwide is a testament to its remarkable global reach. Its AES-256 encryption and a steadfast no-log policy ensure an added protection layer. Plus, it offers a kill switch and features such as split tunnelling and router configuration. Besides its compatibility with multiple platforms, ExpressVPN’s offering is rounded off with Netflix compatibility and an unlimited data limit. All this comes with a lowest monthly price tag of £6.67, backed by 24/7 customer service.

On the other side of the ring is Surfshark, the VPN which consistently offers the best value for money. This VPN service has also earned a 4.5/5 rating from our experts, and a solid Trustpilot score of 92 per cent from a whopping 18,332 reviews. With 3,200 servers across 100 unique locations, Surfshark offers an equally impressive global coverage.

Like ExpressVPN, it uses AES-256 encryption, provides a kill switch, router configuration, split tunnelling and a no-log policy. Its unrestricted simultaneous device is a dream come true for larger households. geo-unblocking websites such as Netflix and an unlimited data limit underscore its streaming-friendly nature. The best part? These features are available for just £1.79 monthly, making Surfshark a bargain for budget-conscious users.

So, which is better? It’s a tough call, as both VPNs provide reliable and robust service. If you’re seeking an all-rounded VPN with the extra edge in user satisfaction, ExpressVPN is a top-notch choice. However, if budget and unlimited device support are your main concerns, Surfshark offers an unbeatable value proposition. In a nutshell, the “best” VPN depends on your individual needs and preferences.

Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month

Nick Jones

Editor in Chief

Nick Jones is a highly experienced consumer journalist and editor, who has been writing and producing content for print and online media for over 25 years.

He has worked at some of the UK’s leading publishers including Future Publishing, Highbury Entertainment, and Imagine Publishing, with publications as diverse as Homebuilding & Renovating, TechRadar, and Creative Bloq, writing and editing content for audiences whose interests include history, computing, gaming, films, and science. He’s also produced a number of podcasts in the technology, science, gaming, and true crime genres.

Nick has also enjoyed a highly successful career in content marketing, working in a variety of topics such as health, technology, and finance, with market-leading global companies including Cisco, Pfizer, Santander, and Virgin Media.

Now the Editor-in-Chief of the Independent Advisor, Nick is involved in all aspects of the site’s content, where his expertise in finance, technology, and home products informs every article that’s published on-site. He takes a hands-on approach with our VPN content, penning a number of the articles himself, and verifying that everything we publish in this topic is accurate.

Whatever the area of interest he’s worked in, Nick has always been a consumer champion, helping people find the best deals and give them the information they need to make an informed buying decision.