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ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: which should you get?

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish
(Image credit: Future)

How do you choose the right VPN for you when there are so many options available? With a plenty of providers offering top-quality services, it can be difficult picking which one to spend your money on.

That’s where we come in. We’re pitting the very best VPNs against each other to figure out which is best at what and, most importantly, who you should trust to keep you safe online. In the article, we’re lining up ExpressVPN vs IPVanish to see who comes out on top.

ExpressVPN is one of the very best VPN providers available right now, boasting tons of servers, excellent support and well-polished apps. On the other hand, IPVanish is a quick and configurable service that claims to be the world’s only ‘top-tier’ VPN – meaning it owns every single server it uses. 

Both are excellent services, but which will come as a winner when they go head to head? It’s time to find out…


First impressions and specs

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: specs comparison

Number of servers:
ExpressVPN: 3,000+ / IPVanish: 1,400+

Server countries:
ExpressVPN: 90+ / IPVanish: 75+

Maximum simultaneous connections:
ExpressVPN: 5 / IPVanish: 10

Money back guarantee:
ExpressVPN: 30 days / IPVanish: 30 days

Lowest monthly cost:
ExpressVPN: $6.67 / IPVanish: $3.70

As you’d expect from two of the leading VPN providers, ExpressVPN and IPVanish are quick and easy to install, both greeting you with pleasing – but very different – interfaces. 

ExpressVPN’s app is strikingly simple, with a great big button inviting you to get connected to the suggested ‘smart location’. Clicking the three lines in the top left will open up a full server list and plenty more options for you to fiddle with.

IPVanish takes a more maximalist approach, displaying which protocol you’re using, data up and down, your visible location plus a nifty graph showing live connections speeds when the app is active.

ExpressVPN boasts twice as many servers in a fair few more countries than IPVanish, and the only area Express lacks is the number of simultaneous connections – five, compared to IPVanish’s ten.

Aesthetically, ExpressVPN’s client is certainly the cleaner of the two, but we do like how IPVanish has managed to cram quite so much information into one screen without it seeming cluttered or confusing.

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Plans, pricing and trials

For both services, one-month plans are the most expensive way of signing up – ExpressVPN charges $12.95, while IPVanish asks for $10.

The price drops a little for ExpressVPN’s six-month plan, which falls to $9.99 a month, while IPVanish’s next offering is a one-year plan, which comes in at a decent $6.49 a month.

Sign up for the longer plans, though, and you’ll save the most. ExpressVPN’s cheapest is the one-year option, which cuts the price to only $6.67 a month. On top of that, this plan also includes three free months, meaning over 15 months you’ll save 49%.

However, IPVanish’s longer terms plans offers the best value - only $3.70 a month - at the time of writing. Combine that with the free 250GB of encrypted SugarSync storage that comes bundled with all IPVanish’s plans and you’ve got a lot for your money.

Price isn’t everything, though – so are there any sacrifices to be made in order to save a little cash? 

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Privacy 

ExpressVPN offers an excellent list of privacy-focused features, including four different protocols to choose from, Perfect Forward Secrecy – which changes your key every time you connect and every 60 minutes thereafter – and split tunnelling.

IPVanish also gives users the choice of using various protocols, and an unusual feature is the ability to configure OpenVPN: you can pick between two ports and also ‘Scramble’ your traffic, which hides the fact you’re using a VPN at all – useful in countries like China that block VPN usage

ExpressVPN uses its own private 256-encrypted DNS on each of its own servers, and this is a truly useful feature. Making sure DNS traffic is protected is essential for maintaining privacy online, and ExpressVPN evidently only trusts itself to do that job properly.

Both VPNs boast great privacy credentials, but while IPVanish might have marginally more configuration, its desktop clients are missing a couple of useful features like split tunnelling that are likely to be used more often than OpenVPN adjustments.

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Logging 

Like many VPNs, IPVanish makes bold claims about its zero-logging status. On the home page of its site it claims that its ‘strict zero-logs policy keeps your identity under wraps’. However, while it’s good to see claims like that, IPVanish hasn’t undertaken any sort of independent audit to prove them. 

ExpressVPN takes a different approach. While there’s no logging of any personal data, or any data that can link an individual connection back to ExpressVPN, the provider does record client version number, connection date and choice of server.

The winner of this round is up to you. For us, if IPVanish were to prove it policy then it would take it – no logs are better than minimal logs – but currently ExpressVPN’s transparency wins out over IPVanish’s likely true yet unproven claims.

ExpressVPN interface

ExpressVPN (Image credit: ExpressVPN)

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Performance

Quite possibly the most important area for any VPN is simply how well in works in practice – all the privacy in the world can’t save you if you’re stuck surfing at a crawl.

In our full review, IPVanish delivered mixed results in terms of connection speed, varying from 9–75Mb. However, we admitted these numbers could be misrepresentative due to the fact many people had recently started working from home.

Tested on a 110Mb UK line for this head-to-head, IPVanish performed much better, delivering speeds ranging from 70–95Mb. 

In ExpressVPN’s full review it was more reliable, with a very minimal 6–8% reduction in speeds. For this head-to-head, Express performed similarly, just edging out IPVanish with speeds around 85–95Mb.

In the US, both VPNs provide excellent connection speeds of around 200–250Mb, and both also stay pretty stable on farther-flung servers. However, for sheer reliability ExpressVPN is the better choice in terms of performance.

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Streaming

Unblocking streaming media is one of the most common reasons people use VPNs, so being able to access everything available is a massive selling point for any provider.

ExpressVPN clearly states exactly which websites it can give us access to, so expectations are high. It had no trouble unblocking YouTube – not a difficult task – but it also breezed through Netflix’s restrictions, giving us access to every regional library we tried. 

While a little more cagey in its marketing material, IPVanish also sailed through these tests, accessing YouTube and Netflix with ease – there’s a reason it sits on our best Netflix VPN list alongside ExpressVPN.

However, unblocking iPlayer is a much more difficult task, and in this comparison only Express gave us access – each of IPVanish’s UK servers failed to unblock the BBC’s streaming service.

If you’re in the UK or don’t care about iPlayer, both IPVanish and ExpressVPN are excellent for unblocking Netflix. However, of the two, only Express has the power to unblock everything you might want to watch.

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Torrents

Torrenting unprotected can be a risky game, and if you frequently share P2P then a torrenting VPN is a must-have.

While not every ExpressVPN server is P2P-friendly, it can detect your activity and redirect your connection if needs be. This is all done automatically behind the scenes, and in practice is entirely painless.

However, IPVanish offers P2P support on every single server. This means that your fastest connection is guaranteed to be suitable for torrenting and you’ll get the best possible speeds.

While both work well for torrenting, IPVanish’s wider selection of P2P-friendly servers will give more choice and, ultimately, provide a more specialised torrenting experience.

IPVanish

IPVanish (Image credit: IPVanish)

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Mobile apps

Both IPVanish and ExpressVPN offer powerful and polished mobile VPN apps, making it easy for everyone to stay safe wherever they connect.

IPVanish’s apps install easily, and on opening you’re faced with a simple UI consisting of country, city and server selections, plus a connect button. Once connected you’re treated to the same speed graph as the desktop client.

ExpressVPN’s app is also similar to the desktop offering, but appears even simpler than IPVanish’s with just a Smart Location display and another massive on/off switch. However, a server list is just a tap away.

Both give a choice of protocols – IPVanish offers two, Express has two on Android, four on iOS – and the ability to autoconnect. There are few things the Android and iOS apps do differently. For example, it’d be nice to see split tunnelling on Express’s iOS app, and only IPVanish’s Android app has a kill switch

Although there are some compromises on both sides, both are more fully featured than much of the competition. However, if we had to pick, it’d have to be ExpressVPN as it provides a simpler and more pleasant user experience.

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: Support 

Things can wrong with any VPN, but the most important thing is being able to get problems sorted with the minimum of fuss.

ExpressVPN has first-class support, with tons of well-written guides that should see you through any issue you come up against. If they don’t, the live chat support is excellent as well, with swift replies that have remedied any problems we've had.

IPVanish’s support articles are useful, but aren’t as good as ExpressVPN’s – some take far too long to get to the point, and they just aren’t as polished – but its live chat works perfectly. 

IPVanish uniquely offers phone support, but we’re not sure how much more useful that actually is compared to live chat, so thanks to its well-written guides alongside great live support, ExpressVPN takes this final round.

ExpressVPN vs IPVanish: which is better?

Both ExpressVPN and IPVanish are big names in the VPN for good reason – they provide simple, powerful and effective ways of protecting yourself online. 

However, thanks to its excellent user interface, top streaming capabilities and downright reliability we’d recommend ExpressVPN to pretty much anyone.

IPVanish is still one of the best, though, and if you’re just going to be torrenting or want to save a little money it’s definitely worth considering.

Overall, both are thoroughly reputable services that should be amongst the first you consider when looking for a VPN to keep you safe online.

Mo Harber-Lamond

Mo Harber-Lamond is eCommerce Editor at Tom's Guide, and contributor for TechRadar. He focuses on cyber security content for Tom's Guide, and creates insightful content across the board to help readers make informed buying choices.