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ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which VPN should you get?

Verified by Nick Jones

An in-depth comparison of the services and benefits offered by NordVPN and ExpressVPN

As the world continues to turn digital, Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, have become a critical tool for those looking to improve their security and protect their data while browsing the web. A range of software companies offer VPN services, designed to protect users from malicious software, cyberattacks, and overall, keep their online identity anonymous. Out of the wide range of VPNs available, two of the most talked about are NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

NordVPN was launched in 2012 by its parent company Nord Security, which specialises in providing state-of-the-art online security. NordVPN currently has around 14 million active users, making it one of the most popular VPN services worldwide. 

ExpressVPN had an earlier start; owned and operated by its parent company Kape Technologies, ExpressVPN launched in 2009. ExpressVPN is one of the most well-regarded VPN services, with over 4 million active users. 

If you want to dip your toe into the VPN space, NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the best options. While they may seem similar at first glance, they have some key differences when examined up close, with distinctions regarding features, payment plans and protocols. Our expert team has reviewed and compared every aspect of these services, so you can find out which VPN works best for you and ensure your safety while browsing online.

How we research and rate VPNs

200+
hours performance testing
700+
customer reviews read
150+
hours comparing products
35
providers compared
4
VPN experts consulted

Our reviewers are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a VPN. We will only recommend a provider after hours of testing, head-to-head feature comparisons, and after taking into account customer reviews and the opinions of industry experts.

Our VPN review scores are determined the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30%)
  • Features and functionality (30%)
  • Reputation and credibility (20%)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10%)
  • Customer experience (10%)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Streaming service accessibility
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload, download, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees, and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are verified by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be assured that our content is accurate and up to date as possible. To find out more, read our article on how we review VPNs.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: At a glance

First, we’ll compare the VPNs by looking at their pricing plans, encryption protocols and the other basic features that every VPN consists of.

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Lowest price £6.77/month for 12 months £2.79/month for 24 months
Free version X X
Maximum number of connected devices Eight Six
Number of servers 3,000+ 5,900+
Server locations 105 60
Encryption AES-256 AES-256
VPN protocols OpenVPN IKEv2 L2TP/IPsec Lightway OpenVPN IPsec/IKEv2 NordLynx (built around WireGuard)
No-log policy
Audited
Headquarters British Virgin Islands Panama

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer similar experiences with a few key differences. ExpressVPN is generally more expensive, but it does offer a higher number of simultaneous device connections than its competitor. While Express’s total number of servers is lower than Nord’s, its network covers more locations, giving users more choices of countries to connect to.

Interestingly, both providers have built their own VPN protocols: ExpressVPN has its Lightway protocol, which is designed to contain fewer lines of code and therefore faster than other protocols, while NordVPN has NordLynx, which is based on WireGuard but includes enhanced privacy features.

Plans, pricing and trials

The affordability of a VPN service is crucial, as users want to subscribe to a plan that provides them with the best value so they can continue to use the service for a long time. NordVPN offers its customers three plan levels – Standard, Plus and Complete – in monthly, one-year, and two-year terms. ExpressVPN offers monthly, six-monthly and yearly plans at one level.

Subscription term ExpressVPN NordVPN
Standard (one month) £10.53 ($13.36) / month £10.49 ($13.26) / month
Standard (six months) £8.12 ($10.30) / month (£48.75/$61.84 up front) N/A
Standard (12 months) £6.77 ($8.59) / month (£81.29/$103.11 up front) £3.99 ($5.05) / month (£47.88/$60.55 up front)
Standard (24 months) N/A £2.79 ($3.53) / month (£66.96/$84.69 up front)
Plus (one month) N/A £11.29 ($14.28) / month
Plus (12 months) N/A £4.79 ($6.06) / month (£57.48/$72.70 up front)
Plus (24 months) N/A £3.59 ($4.54) / month (£86.16/$108.97 up front)
Ultimate (one month) N/A £13.39 ($16.93) / month
Ultimate (12 months) N/A £6.89 ($8.71) / month (£82.63/$104.50 up front)
Ultimate (24 months) N/A £5.69 ($7.20) / month (£136.66/$172.83 up front)

The standard monthly plan of both VPNs is just over £10, with a minimal difference in price. There isn’t a significant difference in the pricing that could determine which of the two is more affordable. However, NordVPN offers different features in its Standard, Plus and Complete plans. For the Complete subscription to NordVPN, which has all the features, you could be paying £11.99 per month. ExpressVPN has a six-monthly subscription plan, which is relatively cheaper than its one-month plan. Overall, ExpressVPN is less expensive than NordVPN’s monthly plans. 

Privacy-conscious users who consistently use a VPN service can choose either ExpressVPN’s standard one-year plan or NordVPN’s tier-based one- or two-year plan. As ExpressVPN doesn’t offer different tiers, we’ll compare NordVPN’s Complete package with ExpressVPN’s standard package. The price difference in their one-year plans is minimal; therefore, it’s up to the user’s preference. NordVPN also offers a two-year plan that’s much more affordable than any package ExpressVPN offers.

Overall, NordVPN and ExpressVPN offer different benefits in terms of pricing. ExpressVPN has a much more affordable monthly package for novice users who want to try out its services. It has kept things straightforward to reduce confusion by offering all its features in its three subscription plans. In comparison, NordVPN gives its users more freedom by providing them with customised plans. Depending on their usage and preference, users can select the tier and plan that suits them best. Regarding affordability, NordVPN is better if you don’t mind losing out on a few features. That’s especially true if you’re looking at NordVPN’s long-term deals. A current birthday promotion for two-year plans comes with a discount of 67 per cent along with three extra months for free.

While neither provider offers a truly free trial, both have 30-day money-back guarantees for their longer subscription terms whereby users can cancel within the first month and receive a refund if they’re not happy with the service.

Security

The most important factor to consider when choosing a VPN is its security level. NordVPN and ExpressVPN prioritise the security of their users by implementing high-level safeguarding protocols. Security protocols help determine a VPN’s effectiveness, as each protocol offers a unique value. WireGuard, IKEv2 and OpenVPN are the most commonly used protocols.

Regarding encryption levels, 128-bit and 256-bit levels are the most widely used. The former provides reasonable security, while the latter offers more robust protection due to an extensive key length. Nowadays, the 256-bit encryption level is considered the standard and is used by top-level VPN service providers, including NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

Encryption

Encryption ExpressVPN NordVPN
AES-256
ChaCha20
WolfSSL X

Available protocols

Protocol ExpressVPN NordVPN
OpenVPN
SSTP
IKEv2
WireGuard ✓ (NordLynx)
Lightway
PPTP
L2TP

AES-256 is deemed the most secure encryption algorithm in the world and is considered impenetrable due to its long key length. It’s used by almost all renowned and reliable VPN services, including ExpressVPN and NordVPN. 

Such stagnant and outdated protocols as SSTP and PPTP are no longer being used by either NordVPN and ExpressVPN, as they had limited configuration options and didn’t provide adequate security. Both VPNs offer OpenVPN, while only NordVPN offers a customised version of WireGuard, known as NordLynx. WireGuard is known to improve connectivity speed but doesn’t provide robust privacy, so NordVPN has created a hybrid protocol it says is safe and quick.

ExpressVPN does offer its exclusive Lightway protocol. In contrast to NordLynx, Lightway isn’t based on WireGuard. Instead, it’s unique to ExpressVPN, whose team designed and built it from the ground up. Although the functionality is almost identical, NordLynx and Lightway provide improved internet speeds and robust security.

Performance

When using VPN services, the download and upload speeds may be affected by the virtual relocation of an IP address. To determine which VPN performs better, we’ve compared the download and upload speeds while using NordVPN and ExpressVPN in the tables below.

Download speed

ExpressVPN NordVPN
No VPN 330.16Mbps 410.6Mbps
UK to UK 213.28Mbps 344.46Mbps
UK to US 186.18Mbps 285.7Mbps
UK to Australia 132.41Mbps 204.06Mbps
Average % of base download speed 53.00% 68.00%

Although the competition was close for download speed, NordVPN was the best for all the servers we tested. 

Our download speed was 16 per cent slower when we connected to a NordVPN UK server, compared to the ExpressVPN download speed, which was 35 per cent slower. When we tested the Australian servers, the download speed was significantly quicker than those of the US servers from both providers, which is impressive considering its distance from the UK.

Upload speed

ExpressVPN NordVPN
No VPN 195.09Mbps 226.93Mbps
UK to UK 141.92Mbps 199.77Mbps
UK to US 11.48Mbps 60.12Mbps
UK to Australia 27.60Mbps 19.64Mbps
Average % of base upload speed 31.00% 41.00%

We noticed that NordVPN’s upload speed was somewhat faster than ExpressVPN’s, but only by 10 percentage points.

Logging and privacy

Data privacy is an important part of life; it allows you to have control over your personal information. It’s imperative, therefore, to use a VPN service to protect your privacy at all times while using the internet.

ExpressVPN NordVPN
No-log policy
Audited
Kill switch
HQ in data-secure country
HQ British Virgin Islands Panama

ExpressVPN and NordVPN both have a strict no-logs policy, which means they don’t collect any data from users that can be used to identify them. ExpressVPN has not suffered any data breaches. However, NordVPN did face a mishap in 2018 when a Finnish server was hacked, causing an information leak. 

NordVPN recently publicly announced its third independent audit, verifying its no-log claim. ExpressVPN has also conducted independent and third-party audits to substantiate its claims. In 2022, cybersecurity firm Cure53 conducted independent security assessments of ExpressVPN’s Android and iOS mobile apps through white-box penetration testing and source-code audits. PwC confirmed NordVPN’s no-logging claims in 2018 and 2021, and NordVPN also underwent a third-party audit from Cure53.

Both VPN service providers have headquarters in countries with no mandatory data retention laws. ExpressVPN’s headquarters is in the British Virgin Islands, an independent and self-governing jurisdiction. It’s not a part of the intelligence-sharing network between the US and some EU countries.

NordVPN’s headquarters is in Panama, which doesn’t have mass surveillance programmes either, so a user’s data should remain anonymous.

Geo-unblocking and streaming

Some people only want to use a VPN service to bypass geo-restrictions so they can access restricted content that’s not available in their geographic location or country. ExpressVPN and NordVPN both provide excellent streaming access by bypassing or unblocking geo-restrictions.

Sites and services unblocked

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

Torrenting

Although torrenting itself is legal, downloading copyrighted material isn’t. Even when you’re downloading publicly-owned files, doing so risks exposing your IP address, and some internet service providers (ISPs) slow down or throttle bandwidth when they detect large data transfers. A good VPN must be capable of torrenting while providing high privacy and security.

It’s ideal to have a superfast internet connection while using a VPN to download torrents. Both VPNs we tested provided fast speeds and a variety of servers to choose from when torrenting. NordVPN only has a few specialised servers for peer-to-peer connections (P2P). However, ExpressVPN allows torrenting on all servers and is available in 94 countries. While NordVPN provides coverage in many locations, ExpressVPN offers faster connections in hard-to-reach places.

Apps

Whether you use ExpressVPN or NordVPN, you can easily protect all devices in your home. Both VPNs offer apps for major desktop and mobile platforms, as well as Chrome, Firefox and Edge browser extensions.

Desktop apps

NordVPN and ExpressVPN both offer user-friendly Windows and Mac apps but have different designs. ExpressVPN has a compact screen with a large “Connect” button, while NordVPN works best when the window is maximised to show a map of available server locations. Each design has advantages and disadvantages, so you can choose which one you prefer.

Note there are two NordVPN apps available for macOS systems – one you can download directly from the provider’s website and another from the Apple App Store – but the one in App Store is generally recommended, as it supports all tunnelling protocols, including NordLynx.

ExpressVPN desktop apps now come with automatic updates by default to increase the security of the app. This means users can experience the latest version of the app without needing to manually update it, which is ideal for those located in countries with internet restrictions.

Moreover, ExpressVPN users can hide intrusive ads when browsing the web, allowing for pages to load faster and consume less data. This feature is available on Windows, Android and iOS, with support coming for Mac and Linux by the end of 2023.

Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer convenient features to access your favourite websites or apps once connected to the VPN. With ExpressVPN’s “Shortcuts”, you can add up to five links, while NordVPN’s “Presets” feature on macOS lets you add up to six links or apps and customise your preferred tunnelling protocol and server. Considering these options when choosing a VPN provider is important to ensure the best user experience and maximum convenience. 

Mobile apps

The mobile VPN app interface of both providers is similar to the desktop versions, with the main difference being the lack of a settings bar on the left-hand side.

When it comes to ExpressVPN, the Android version is better than the iOS due to its split tunnelling and kill switch features. NordVPN’s Android app lacks a kill switch, so you must rely on the native “Always-on” VPN setting. In addition, the iOS kill switch can’t be disabled.

Platforms supported

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are accessible on all popular streaming devices, computers, gaming consoles, routers and mobile devices. As mentioned, they also have similar applications, with the only difference being their interfaces, so it’s up to your taste which one you like more.

ExpressVPN NordVPN
Windows
Mac
Android
iPhone
iPad
Google Chrome
Android TV
Apple TV (no app available, but is compatible with streaming)
Amazon Firestick
Roku
Router support
Xbox (Series X/S, One)
PlayStation (PS4, PS5)
Nintendo Switch
Chromebook
Kindle Fire

Support

Regarding customer support, Express VPN and NordVPN both provide comparable customer support options. They offer a 24/7 live chat with short waiting times and respond quickly to emails if you have more complex issues or queries. Both VPNs have a dedicated section on their websites consisting of helpful resources, such as FAQs and setup guides, where you can usually find the solution to most problems.

An AI chatbot initially answers NordVPN’s live chat, but it can be diverted to a live customer representative upon request. In contrast, ExpressVPN’s live chat is directly answered by an agent.

Reputation and credibility

Both VPNs are widely trusted and highly rated worldwide. They offer exceptional protection and encryption and customer-friendly services. They’re among the best VPNs available on the market.

ExpressVPN has a clean record with no reports of a breach. However, a 2018 cyberattack on a third-party data centre affected one of NordVPN’s servers in Finland. NordVPN took swift action after the incident to ensure no such event would occur again, including a move to managing all of its own servers.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Which is best?

Comparing the two VPNs that hold prominence in the VPN industry is tricky, as both provide similar features. The custom protocols they provide have the same working principles, they’re both available on all major devices, and their encryption protocols are identical. Both offer large server networks spread across the planet, and both undertake regular independent audits to verify their no-logs policies and security practices.

The answer of which provider is best really comes down to two factors; budget and simultaneous device connections. If you need up to eight devices connected to your VPN at one time, ExpressVPN is the best choice. If you’re hoping to save money, however, NordVPN offers more diverse membership plans, and is overall cheaper. However, both services run frequent deals throughout the deal, so you might be able to catch a bargain on either option.

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 £6.79 /Month
£6.79 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.26 /Month
£4.26 /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 £4.60 /Month
£4.60 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £2.92 /Month
£2.92 /Month

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product based on the security it affords the user
  • User experience of the application(s)
  • Level and quality of customer service

Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

Gemma Ryles, Home Tech Expert.

Gemma Ryles

Home Tech Writer

Gemma Ryles is a BJTC and PPA-accredited journalist with three years of experience writing across various publications. As a home tech expert at Independent Advisor, Gemma tests, researches and writes about broadband and home security. 

Previously, Gemma reviewed and curated lists about consumer technology at Trusted Reviews, where she honed her skills in creating buying guides and features to help customers make informed decisions. She has previously worked at Yorkshire Post, BBC Yorkshire, Glitterbeam Radio and Bonus Stage. 

Gemma has a BA in Journalism and in her free time can be found writing short stories, gaming and crocheting. 

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.