ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark – Which VPN Is Better?

Martin Gschwentner
Author
Last update

Why should VPNs be on every computer and laptop? Because they offer an affordable way to enhance your privacy online, secure connections over public networks, and bypass censorship and geoblocking. The real question is not whether you should have a VPN, but which is best for your needs? Two of the most popular choices are Surfshark and ExpressVPN.

Both services finished in the Top 3 of our extensive comparison of 22 VPN providers. This alone is reason enough to put them head-to-head and see in which specific areas each excels.

ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark

ExpressVPN Test
ExpressVPN
(459,682)
3000+ Server
160 cities in 94 countries
Excellent performance
Saves no logs
30-day money-back guarantee
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
3
Protocols
7
Contract Period
1 - 12 months
ExpressVPN 12 Months
$8.33
monthly price
Visit Website »
30 days money-back guarantee
Review Score
4.7 / 5
excellent
Surfshark VPN Test
Surfshark VPN
(75,808)
3200+ servers in 65 countries
Unlimited number of devices
Many apps (Linux, FireTV, ...)
Saves no logs
Very cheap on the 24-month plan
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
unlimited
Protocols
3
Contract Period
1 - 24 months
Surfshark 24 months
$2.49
monthly price
Visit Website »
Get 83% Discount
Review Score
4.4 / 5
good
1.

Installation & Features

Since VPNs are used on a daily basis, they should be as easy to operate as possible. With ExpressVPN and Surfshark, there really isn't much to complain about in this area: Both offer intuitive clients that provide access to all important features with just a few clicks.

Surfshark has an expandable user interface, through which it's possible to directly select a server location. ExpressVPN's interface is somewhat more streamlined, offering a choice of server locations in a second window.

VPN connections can be established in just a few seconds with ExpressVPN's app.

Both providers also give users access to all important features. These include a kill switch (which automatically severs your connection if a disruption is noticed) and split tunneling (for only routing specified apps through your VPN tunnel).

ExpressVPN's browser extension serves up a number of additional security options, such as HTTPS Everywhere. This makes sure that you are automatically connected to the secure HTTPS version of a website whenever available.

Surfshark's package of features is even larger: In addition to the ability to use a static IP, you can also set up two separate VPN tunnels to route your traffic through, which goes far in boosting your security. As if that wasn't enough, you'll get a simple ad-blocker and an email leak checker.

Surfshark offers even more features than ExpressVPN, such as multi-hop routing and static IPs.

Even though we preferred ExpressVPN's app, Surfshark offers a few more features that we found useful. As such, the first round goes to the latter.

Winner: Surfshark

2.

Server Network

When rating server networks, two figures are key: How many servers does a provider have, and the number of countries these are spread across. ExpressVPN is ahead in the latter of these (as of January 2022), with around 3,000 servers and 160 locations in 94 countries. Surfshark has 3,200 servers across 65 countries.

Both VPN providers have nearly equal numbers of severs, however, ExpressVPN's are spread across considerably more countries.

The second round goes to ExpressVPN, owing to its server presence in a greater number of countries.

Winner: ExpressVPN

3.

Performance

We measured the performance of each provider from our sample using a server based in Frankfurt with a 1 GB/s connection. In order to ensure comparable average values, we connected multiple times per day to random ExpressVPN and Surfshark servers in both Germany and the US. Our findings are presented in our performance ranking below:

The providers are nearly identical in terms of upload speeds, however, for downloads, Surfshark has a slight edge.

But speed isn't the only criteria we looked at in this category. For VPNs, it's also equally important how well they're able to circumvent geoblocking and allow users to stream content from abroad. Once again, there's nothing between the pair, as foreign content on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and the BBC's iPlayer was readily accessible with either.

If planning a trip to China, the both are also reliable, as each is capable of overcoming the "Great Firewall".

As such, ExpressVPN and Surfshark are both performance heavyweights, and thanks to their ability to access streaming content from abroad, or be effectively used in China, there's very little separating them. Since Surfshark's download speeds are somewhat higher than those of ExpressVPN, it emerges victorious, albeit, by the smallest of margins.

Winner: Surfshark

4.

Security and Privacy

In assessing how secure a VPN is, we pay attention to what VPN protocols it supports. With Surfshark, these include, among others, WireGuard and OpenVPN, two of the most secure protocols available. OpenVPN is also offered by ExpressVPN, however, instead of WireGuard, you'll find the proprietary Lightway protocol, which allegedly provides a similar level of security. Both providers encrypt connections with AES-256, the current industry standard.

Our VPN leak tests (DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks, and IPv6 leaks) did not uncover any issues with either ExpressVPN or Surfshark.

Our tests didn't discern any leaks with either Surfshark or ExpressVPN.

Equally important for security is whether and which information a provider saves regarding you, your connections, and your activities. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark promise not to retain traffic logs or other information that might offer insight into your identity.

Thankfully, you won't have to take either at their word as both ExpressVPN and Surfshark regularly submit to independent audits (ExpressVPN from PwC, and Surfshark with Cure53), that assess how truthful their guarantees are.

Another factor that plays a role in determining how secure a provider is pertains to where it is headquartered. Both value the tropical lifestyle and are based in the British Virgin Islands, which are known for their lax data privacy laws. This carries with it advantages and disadvantages: Each advertises that they can guarantee greater anonymity owing to the jurisdiction they're based in, however, this is a double-edged sword, as you'll also have less legal recourse to ensure that they safely handle your data.

Ultimately, opting for a VPN provider that operates from a country with strict data privacy laws, comes down to what your priorities are. In any case, each offers a comparable degree of security.

Winner: Draw

5.

Customer Support

Good customer support is comprised of two elements: One of these is a solid help center with comprehensive articles that can be full-text searched. In the event that you can't find the answer to your question, you should be able to get in touch with a staffer directly, capable of providing you with a competent and helpful answer.

In terms of the first aspect, ExpressVPN and Surfshark offer equally good static content.

When evaluating each provider's live chat, we were connected to support staffers within minutes.

The two providers also offer direct assistance in the form of live chats and support tickets. Response times in the first option were short, with our emailed queries answered after seven (Surfshark) and 20 hours (ExpressVPN), respectively.

Overall, even though Surfshark's email arrived quicker, it's too little to distinguish between the two.

Winner: Draw

6.

Pricing

So far as pricing is concerned, both providers charge rates depending on the length of the contract. ExpressVPN is offered in 1, 6, or 12-month packages, whereas Surfshark is available for 1, 12, or 24 months (the two-year subscription is the most affordably priced, per month).

Below, you can find a detailed overview of each VPN's pricing:

Surfshark Prices

24 months12 months1 month
Pricing
Set-up fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Effective monthly price $2.49 $3.99 $12.95
Contract period (months) 24 12 1
Limits
Data volume unlimited unlimited unlimited
Number of Devices unlimited unlimited unlimited
Features
Number of servers 3,200 3,200 3,200
Number of countries 65 65 65
No server logs
P2P allowed
Tor access
Kill Switch
Protocols
OpenVPN
WireGuard
IKEv2
OpenVPN
WireGuard
IKEv2
OpenVPN
WireGuard
IKEv2

ExpressVPN Prices

12 Months6 Months1 Month
Pricing
Set-up fee $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Effective monthly price $8.33 $9.99 $12.95
Contract period (months) 12 6 1
Limits
Data volume unlimited unlimited unlimited
Number of Devices 3 3 3
Features
Number of servers 3,000 3,000 3,000
Number of countries 94 94 94
No server logs
P2P allowed
Tor access
Kill Switch
Protocols
OpenVPN
PPTP
SSTP
IKEv2
IPSec
L2TP
Eigenentwicklung
OpenVPN
PPTP
SSTP
IKEv2
IPSec
L2TP
Eigenentwicklung
OpenVPN
PPTP
SSTP
IKEv2
IPSec
L2TP
Eigenentwicklung

There isn't much difference in each's monthly subscription rates, however, as the contract's duration goes on, Surfshark offers progressively more competitive prices. As noted above, its two-year subscription costs less than a third of ExpressVPN's most affordable monthly price.

As such, Surfshark emerges as the clear winner.

Winner: Surfshark

7.

Customer Reviews

Both providers did well in the customer reviews we assessed from various aggregators. ExpressVPN was commended on its performance and user-friendliness, whereas Surfshark received plaudits for its good price-performance ratio.

Once again, there was very little separating the two, however, ExpressVPN's ratings were slightly better than those of Surfshark.

Winner: ExpressVPN

Surfshark Customer Ratings

Customer Rating
4.4 / 5
75,808 Ratings
good
We analyzed the reviews and ratings from various portals and found 75,808 ratings with an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5 .
Show sources

ExpressVPN Customer Ratings

Customer Rating
4.5 / 5
459,682 Ratings
excellent
We analyzed the reviews and ratings from various portals and found 459,682 ratings with an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 .
Show sources

Conclusion

After seven rounds, three went to Surfshark (features, performance, and pricing), two to ExpressVPN (server network and customer reviews), and two were undecided (customer support as well as security and privacy).

For good reason, both VPNs are among the most popular, performing equally well in all of the areas we assessed. However, since Surfshark offers these capabilities at a more attractive price and for longer, we feel confident calling the final result in their favor.

Overall winner: Surfshark

Detailed reviews of all 22 VPNs from our sample can be found in our comprehensive VPN assessment.

Surfshark VPN Test
Surfshark VPN
(75,808)
3200+ servers in 65 countries
Unlimited number of devices
Many apps (Linux, FireTV, ...)
Saves no logs
Very cheap on the 24-month plan
Surfshark is one of the cheapest providers on the market, but besides the price also impresses with strong protection, many features and a great support with 24/7 live chat.
Data volume
unlimited
Devices
unlimited
Protocols
3
Contract Period
1 - 24 months
Surfshark 24 months
$2.49
monthly price
Visit Website »
Get 83% Discount
Review Score
4.4 / 5
good
Author (German Version): Martin Gschwentner
Martin Gschwentner majored in American Studies and Media Studies in Germany, the USA and France and works as a freelance editor in Paris. He is a doctoral student at the Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Paris Diderot, where he is researching the influence of money on US politics. On EXPERTE.com he writes about IT security, data protection and software for the self-employed and small businesses.
Translator & Editor: D Bare
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