I’ve put together this head-to-head comparison to analyze what makes one of these VPNs better than the other, and help you choose the one that’s best for you. This includes basic aspects such as speeds and device compatibility — to more advanced functionality like security and privacy features. I’ve found ExpressVPN is the top choice with consistently fast speeds, a highly secure server network, and the ability to access most streaming services. Although Surfshark can’t reliably access content, it’s a decent VPN if you’re on a tighter budget. Luckily, both VPNs come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s completely risk-free to try out the services for yourself. Try ExpressVPN risk-free!

No Time? Here’s a 1-Minute Summary of Category Winners

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13 Categories of Comparison for ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

1. Pricing — Surfshark is Cheaper Than ExpressVPN

Surfshark is significantly more affordable than ExpressVPN, at least when you select one of its longer-term plans. Here’s a breakdown of the plans: You get the same features with every plan, regardless of the subscription length that you choose. However, you’ll get a significantly better price if you choose the longest plan. For the 1-month plan, the price is the same for both VPNs. The real difference is clear with the 6-month and longer plans. Both VPNs are premium services, but ExpressVPN takes this to the next level (it’s why subscription costs are higher than Surfshark). ExpressVPN is independently audited by PwC so you can have faith in the no-logs policy. Its server infrastructure is top-tier, with high-level security and reliable access to any website. As such, I’m more than happy to pay a little extra knowing that I’m getting the best service in the industry. However, if you’re looking for a budget option, Surfshark’s low prices are almost impossible to beat. ExpressVPN is the clear winner for streaming Netflix and other services as it provides the fastest and most consistent access. I found some Surfshark server connections resulted in error messages. My team and I tested both providers with popular Netflix locations in more than 10 locations, including Canada, Japan, the UK, the US, France, India, Belgium, and the Netherlands. ExpressVPN’s servers work in all these countries, making it a great choice if you’re traveling abroad and want to access the content you’ve paid for. Even if you’re far from home, ExpressVPN’s consistently fast connections enable high-quality streaming with minimal buffering.

For easy and reliable access to your favorite streaming sites, I recommend ExpressVPN. Stream Netflix and more with ExpressVPN

3. Server Network — Both VPNs Offer Something the Other Doesn’t

This category is a tie. ExpressVPN offers better server geography, while Surfshark has some server features that ExpressVPN is missing. Both VPNs have hundreds of servers in popular locations like Canada, Japan, the UK, and the US so making a connection is easy. However, ExpressVPN has a more geographically varied network, with servers in locations such as Croatia, Kenya, and Venezuela. This makes ExpressVPN a more appealing choice as you’ll be more likely to find a nearby server. It’s also ideal if you’re a frequent traveler and want to access the internet safely no matter where you are. Neither Surfshark nor ExpressVPN offer dedicated IP addresses, but Surfshark has a pool of shared servers that have static IP addresses. This means you connect to the same IP address every time, which is useful for avoiding 2-factor authentication for websites and services. Surfshark also offers NoBorders mode, which will disguise your connection as regular traffic to hide the fact you’re connected to a VPN. This makes it easier for your traffic to pass through tough VPN blocks. Similarly, ExpressVPN uses obfuscated servers to hide that a VPN is in use. Try ExpressVPN risk-free!

4. Speed — Surfshark Is Slightly Faster Than ExpressVPN

Surfshark marginally beat ExpressVPN’s speeds. I ran a series of speed tests, both on local servers and distant US servers. By running tests on distant servers, I could see how well each VPN would perform for people traveling abroad. I used the same device on a wired connection and ran the tests one after the other so the time of day wouldn’t affect the outcome. For reference, the base speed I measured without a VPN connection was 490Mbps. Surfshark was roughly 6% faster than ExpressVPN on local European servers and 34% faster when connected to the more distant New York servers. However, ExpressVPN’s average speeds were still above 150Mbps when connected to New York and over 350Mbps in Europe.

Even though the VPNs measured speed drops of over 25% versus the base, these are still fantastic speeds — fast enough for streaming, downloading, and browsing without issue.

5. Security — Both Have Highly Secure Technology but Only ExpressVPN is Audited

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark have extremely robust security, making this category a tie. Surfshark has a few extra technical security features, but ExpressVPN is independently audited to prove its privacy claims.

Encryption Standards

Both VPNs include the most popular encryption protocols, including OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv22, and IPSec/L2TP. ExpressVPN uses its own proprietary protocol called Lightway. Based on the WireGuard protocol, Lightway is very lightweight and designed to facilitate blazing-fast speeds without compromising on security (it uses an AES cipher which is basically unhackable). Surfshark relies on the WireGuard protocol, another lightweight option that is fast becoming a VPN standard. It uses ChaCha20 symmetric encryption to guarantee your data is secure while allowing fast connections and speeds. Surfshark also features Shadowsocks which was designed to bypass extreme censorship (although my team and I saw mixed results).

Leak Protection

Even with military-grade encryption, there are other ways your data can leak from the secure connection. Fortunately, my leak tests with ExpressVPN and Surfshark showed they kept my information and traffic safe. My data was secure across multiple servers, ensuring that you’ll stay anonymous online. There’s also a kill switch included with both VPNs that cuts your internet connection if the encrypted connection is interrupted. This is another great way to ensure that your original IP and other data aren’t revealed.

Ad and Malware Blocker

Surfshark is the only VPN of the 2 to provide an ad blocker. Unfortunately, it’s not the most powerful and during testing, I still got ads with the ad blocker turned on. Fortunately, you can use Surfshark alongside more powerful ad- and malware-blocking software.

Server Chaining (Surfshark’s MultiHop)

Surfshark’s MultiHop feature routes your connection through 2 different VPN servers, adding an extra layer of security and privacy to hide your original location and identity. Most VPN users won’t need this level of security as the standard encryption is more than enough for streaming, browsing, or online banking. However, MultiHop can be useful in specific situations — it’s a security boost for those living under oppressive regimes, journalists with sensitive sources, and political activists. These servers are slower than a regular connection, but if you require the security this is worth the trade-off. Try ExpressVPN risk-free!

6. Torrenting — ExpressVPN Is the Best VPN for P2P File-Sharing

ExpressVPN is the #1 choice for torrenting since it offers higher server speeds while torrenting. You can see some of the speeds I received while downloading a 4.6GB video file in the image below — ExpressVPN was 77% faster than Surfshark.

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark support P2P traffic on all servers without data limits. This makes them great for heavy torrenting or use on platforms like Kodi that use P2P sources as you don’t have to spend time finding a P2P connection. Both VPNs are compatible with a range of torrent clients, including Vuze, BitTorrent, and uTorrent. Both VPNs secured my connection with cutting-edge encryption and leak protection while downloading torrents. I ran multiple leak tests and was glad to see that there were no IP or DNS address leaks, keeping my data safe from any hackers or trackers spying on my connection. In terms of security, I’m happy to use either VPN to keep my data hidden from hackers and malware. However, ExpressVPN’s fast download speeds make it the better option for torrenting overall. Try ExpressVPN for high-speed torrent downloads

7. China — ExpressVPN Is One of the Best VPNs for China

The team in China have run extensive tests on both VPNs — ExpressVPN is the clear winner. It consistently allows access to content that’s normally restricted in China and is one of my top picks for the best VPNs to use in China.

On the other hand, Surfshark didn’t work in China. Although the company claims that their Shadowsocks protocol and NoBorders mode should help circumvent China’s VPN suppression, neither worked for my colleagues. I recommend you install ExpressVPN before arriving as the government blocks the ExpressVPN website. For those already in China, you can try and use ExpressVPN’s mirror site (upghsbc.com/sign-in) to connect to the website. While you should exercise caution if you decide to use a VPN within China’s borders, you likely won’t be prosecuted for doing so. The common practice is that China fights VPNs by technologically blocking the services, and not by chasing after the people who use them. Try ExpressVPN for China

8. Gaming — ExpressVPN Offers Lower-Latency Gaming

Both VPNs have fast download speeds ideal for high-intensity gaming — ExpressVPN’s slightly lower latency makes it the winner in this category. Latency, or “ping,” is the time it takes for data to travel from your device to the server and result in a visible change on your screen — the lower, the better. I tested both VPNs in a few games to see how they performed, you can see the results here: I connected to the closest server to me to run my tests — ExpressVPN beat Surfshark across all games. Although the difference was negligible, ExpressVPN’s average latency was overall 3.3 ms lower than Surfshark’s. ExpressVPN was only 1.4 ms higher than my latency without a VPN active, so my in-game performance was like I wasn’t connected to the VPN at all. For users concerned about online security while gaming, both ExpressVPN and Surfshark offer high-level protection to keep you safe. Both VPNs are excellent at protecting you from targeted DDoS attacks from disgruntled opponents. This can happen if other players can see your IP address, leading to excessive lag or even your game crashing. Both VPNs also feature a kill switch to secure your IP address if the encrypted connection is interrupted. Both VPNs perform well during online gameplay, but ExpressVPN is the better choice for gaming with faster response times. Try ExpressVPN for lag-free gaming

9. Device Compatibility — Surfshark Offers More Connections and Features

Surfshark wins this category since you can use it on unlimited devices at once and it has a few extra features. Both VPNs support the most popular devices such as Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. They’re both router-compatible too, so any device you connect to your WiFi is instantly protected by the VPN encryption. This is useful for devices like game consoles that don’t natively support VPNs. As ExpressVPN only supports 5 simultaneous connections, VPN router compatibility protects multiple devices as a router only counts as 1 device. Surfshark allows unlimited device connections, so you can connect to multiple different servers at the same time. Functionality is largely the same across all devices, with a few exceptions; ExpressVPN doesn’t offer a kill switch on iOS, while Surfshark does; Surfshark doesn’t offer its NoBorders mode on mobile. I’m pleased that ExpressVPN includes split tunneling on Android, which is missing on other mobile VPNs. All apps for both VPNs are designed for ease of use, so they’re ideal for beginner and more experienced VPN users.

10. Company Jurisdiction — ExpressVPN Provides Guaranteed Data Privacy

ExpressVPN is the clear winner here since it has been independently audited by a trusted company. The audit, performed by PwC, confirmed ExpressVPN’s zero-logs privacy policy — no data is logged or stored while you’re connected to an ExpressVPN server. Both VPNs are based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a great location as it’s outside the jurisdiction of intelligence-sharing alliances. This means neither VPN is legally required to log or store any user data. Even if the VPN is subpoenaed by a government authority, there is zero data available to hand over to the authorities. I was interested to see that Surfshark has a warrant canary on its site for user transparency. A warrant canary informs users if the VPN is subpoenaed without explicitly saying so. If the warrant canary is up on the site, no data requests have been made. If the warrant canary disappears, users know the VPN has been subpoenaed. When I asked ExpressVPN why there is no warrant canary, I was told “there just isn’t one” — but considering its top-tier encryption and RAM-based servers, a subpoena would find no data regardless. You can use cryptocurrency to pay for both providers, although keep in mind that this isn’t a fully anonymous form of payment. Instead, it’s pseudonymous, in the sense that your wallet address is recorded while your identity isn’t. ExpressVPN allows buying through Mint, which you’re able to buy in some countries in brick and mortar stores so you can pay in cash. Surfshark has no similar option. Try ExpressVPN today!

11. Privacy Policy — ExpressVPN’s Policy is Audited

ExpressVPN and Surfshark both have strict no-logs policies that ensure they don’t store any personally identifiable data while you’re connected to the server. However, only ExpressVPN has backed up its no-logs policy with an independent audit by PwC. Many VPNs claim to have a no-logs policy, but if you read the fine print you’ll often find that they collect far more data than necessary — from original IP addresses (a huge red flag), websites visited, and even your physical location. Neither ExpressVPN nor Surfshark keep any data that can personally identify you. They both keep limited logs for diagnostic reasons, but this is for general maintenance and to keep the service quality level high. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark use RAM-based servers which minimize the risk of accidental data storage. Operating on volatile memory, these diskless servers have all data wiped with every scheduled reboot as they can only hold data while they’re powered up. There is no way for data to be stored on these servers so you can trust that your VPN activity is totally anonymous and protected. This is what I expected from a top-tier VPN and I’m glad they both use RAM-based servers as standard. As further proof of ExpressVPN’s reliability, the Turkish authorities seized an ExpressVPN server in 2017 as part of a criminal investigation. However, no data was recovered from the server — this reassures me that ExpressVPN’s data protection infrastructure and encryption techniques are of the highest standard. Try ExpressVPN’s fully audited service

12. Payment and Refunds — ExpressVPN has Anonymous Payment Methods and Easy Refunds

ExpressVPN wins this category due to its inclusion of Mint and its no-questions-asked returns policy. You also get money-back guarantees with both providers — 30 days with ExpressVPN and 30 days with Surfshark. I put both to the test by signing up for a monthly subscription, reviewing both providers, and then contacting support through live chat for a refund. I preferred my experience with ExpressVPN, as the support agent simply approved the refund without asking why I wanted to leave. This no-questions-asked policy is something other providers could learn from.

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13. Customer Support — Equally Good Support From Both Providers

After contacting both VPNs through their email and live chat options, I was equally impressed with the responses I got from each customer service method. Email support was good, although ExpressVPN was much faster. Surfshark replied to my email the following day, while ExpressVPN replied to my email within 10 minutes. This was a lot faster than I expected since I usually wait a day or more for an email response. Live chat replies were fast for both services — I waited less than 20 seconds to connect to an agent. I asked the agents a variety of questions through live chat; whether the VPN had obfuscated servers, what RAM-based servers are, and how P2P is supported. I received detailed replies from the agents that fully answered my queries. The responses were friendly and knowledgeable, showing me that both VPNs take customer service and user satisfaction seriously. Try ExpressVPN risk-free!

The Winner: ExpressVPN (By a Wide Margin)

ExpressVPN is the clear winner, receiving the victory in 7 out of 13 categories, with 3 ties.

Pricing: Surfshark Streaming: ExpressVPN Servers: Tie Speed: Surfshark Security: Tie Torrenting: ExpressVPN China: ExpressVPN Gaming: ExpressVPN Device Compatibility: Surfshark Company Jurisdiction: ExpressVPN Privacy Policy: ExpressVPN Payment and Refunds: ExpressVPN Customer Service: Tie

Although both VPNs are fantastic in their own right, it’s clear that ExpressVPN is superior in almost every way. For the primary reasons you might want a VPN — privacy and security — ExpressVPN is extremely powerful and backed by an independent audit that Surfshark is sorely missing. It has consistently fast speeds, reliable content unblocking, a broader server network, and better support than Surfshark. It’s also a consistent entry in the top VPNs for 2023 list, so you can rest assured it’s a great quality provider. However, Surfshark is good  if you’re on a budget. Although it’s lacking an audit, it’s extremely fast and comes with many premium security and performance features. Its unlimited device connections make it even more cost-effective. Try ExpressVPN today!

Summary — The Best VPNs in 2023