ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Will the Crafty Newcomer Win or the Seasoned Veteran?

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Summary: ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark

Comparing two excellent VPN providers always comes down to nuances and incremental advantages. Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are at the top of their game, but they cater to different audiences.

With that in mind, we tested both VPNs through six essential categories:

  • Security: ExpressVPN
  • Speed: Surfshark
  • Privacy: ExpressVPN
  • Price: Surfshark
  • Ease of use: ExpressVPN
  • Customer Service: A Tie

Even though ExpressVPN triumphed in the end, Surfshark still remains a better option for users looking for raw speed with a lower price tag. ExpressVPN maintains good speeds but focuses more on security and privacy. Its clients are also less intimidating for beginners.

ExpressVPN gets the win as we believe it’s a more complete service at the moment.

Interested in learning how we got to our final decision? Read more about our testing and comparison process below.

We can’t imagine a list of the best VPN services without ExpressVPN and Surfshark. ExpressVPN may be more popular, but Surfshark has proven to be a strong contender.

Although both VPN providers have their respective audiences, we wanted to see which one comes out on top. Our testing circuit focuses on security, speed, privacy, pricing, user-friendliness, and customer support.

Each VPN service has its strengths and weaknesses — and our head-to-head comparison will identify them all. Keep reading to find out which of these two amazing VPNs is the best tool for you.

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: A Quick Overview

FeatureExpressVPNSurfshark
Servers3,000+ servers in 94 countries3,200+ servers in 65 countries
Torrents/P2P Support
Netflix
Simultaneous connections5Unlimited simultaneous connections
Operating systemsWindows, Mac, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, LightwayOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
PriceFrom $6.67 per monthFrom $2.49 per month
Log policyNo logsNo logs
Money-back-guarantee30 days30 days
DNS Leak Test
Tor over VPN
Obfuscated servers
Double VPN
Dedicated IP
Kill Switch
Split tunneling
Adblocker
Diskless servers
Custom DNS option
Online tracker blocker
Static IP-address Servers
Anonymous search engine
Email leak notification
Automated HTTPS redirect
Data compression option
Link to websiteGo to ExpressVPNGo to Surfshark

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which One Is More Secure?

Your VPN service needs to protect you against spy agencies, hackers, and even your ISP. Failing to anonymize your browsing and online traffic defeats the purpose of using a VPN. Let’s see where our contenders stand when it comes to essential security aspects.

Connection protocols

ExpressVPN supports the following tunneling protocols:

  • OpenVPN (TCP/UDP): The most popular option
  • IKEv2: Best for mobile users
  • L2TP/IPSec: a decent alternative to OpenVPN
  • Lightway: Upgraded WireGuard, excellent for streaming, torrenting, and gaming.

This is an impressive list of protocols devoid of outdated options like PPTP and SSTP. Lightway keeps WireGuard’s blazing speed while adding obfuscation, TCP support, and boosting privacy. As such, it’s great for smooth streaming, private torrenting, and dealing with online censorship. IKeV2 is the most resistant to network changes, which makes it ideal for mobile VPN users.

Surfshark VPN offers:

  • OpenVPN
  • WireGuard: Best for operations that demand sheer speed
  • IKEv2

This is also a solid list but Surfshark is still lagging behind on the protocol front. They’re using the “vanilla” version of WireGuard, which only supports UDP connection and can have privacy issues.

Encryption & extra features

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are using 256-bit encryption, which is beyond solid. Furthermore, they both have an automatic kill switch to prevent data leaks if your VPN stops working.

Both Surfhsark and ExpressVPN VPNs offer “stealth locations,” also known as “obfuscated servers”. These will disguise your VPN traffic to look like regular browsing. In other words, not even the finest deep packet inspection will be able to flag VPN users. This allows you to connect even in countries that have banned VPNs.

Surfshark supports the so-called “double VPN,” a feature pioneered by NordVPN. This allows you to route your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one. Note that, even though it sounds like a great idea (double the security), encrypting your traffic twice will result in considerable speed drops. Most regular VPN users don’t even need this level of security. It’s primarily reserved for people dealing with super-sensitive and confidential business or state data.

Lastly, ExpressVPN was fully audited by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), one of the four biggest security auditing firms in the world. Surfshark’s VPN servers and browser extensions were inspected by a German company called Cure53. However, they still have to undergo a full independent audit. You can read more about the results of the audit in this report.

Conclusion

ExpressVPN takes a win in this category by a very thin margin. Its WireGuard implementation (Lightway protocol) is just better in the privacy department. They both have impressive security features, including an automatic kill switch. ExpressVPN has also undergone a full server, privacy, and logging audit. Surfshark VPN has audited its servers and browser extensions but a full independent review is still pending.

Security winner: ExpressVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Security Banner ExpressVPN


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which VPN Is Faster?

To compare the speed of these two VPNs, we conducted speed tests for them both. However, we first had to test our own internet connection without a VPN to set the speed baseline. Check the screenshot below for the results.

Speedtest no VPN

We then tested international and local servers belonging to both ExpressVPN and Surfshark. The results are provided in the table below, with the fastest speeds entered in bold.

Speed metricExpressVPNSurfshark
Download speed local server (Mbps)322.38381.40
Upload speed local server (in Mbps)171.11265.15
Ping local server8 ms4 ms
Download speed international server (in Mbps)139.68372.46
Upload speed international server (in Mbps)26.9719.02
Ping international server114 ms78 ms

Our testing shows that both VPNs provide seamless day-to-day operation. So, you shouldn’t experience any speed drops during daily use. However, Surfshark is a clear choice for large downloads, HD streaming, and online gaming. Surfshark is also the fastest provider on our list of the best VPNs currently out there.

Fastest VPN: Surfshark

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Speed Banner Surfshark


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: How Do These VPNs Protect Your Privacy?

Third-party attack aside, your VPN provider also has to protect you from itself. If they keep extensive logs, your data could still end up in the wrong hands. Even NordVPN got hacked in 2019 and leaked private encryption keys and configuration files.

With that in mind, let’s see how both Surfshark and ExpressVPN safeguard your privacy:

ExpressVPN

  • ExpressVPN is one of the top no-logging VPNs out there.
  • The company operates out of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which is a very VPN-friendly location. The BVI technically belongs to the UK, but it’s governed by its own laws. It also operates outside of any international data-sharing agreements and alliances. Lastly, it doesn’t have any mandatory data retention laws, which allows VPN companies to conduct business without any data logging.
  • The TrustedServer technology means that their OpenVPN and IKEv2 servers run on RAM only (the so-called “diskless servers”). This means that they’re physically unable to store any data since they don’t have any hard drives.
  • ExpressVPN has been independently audited by PwC and the results showed the company’s commitment to user privacy and anonymity.

Surfshark

  • Surfshark also has a “no logs” policy. However, they do collect some data that could put you in harm’s way (your IP address when you’re using their Smart DNS feature, for example).
  • Although many Surfshark reviews claim that it’s located in the British Virgin Islands, it’s actually headquartered in the Netherlands, which is a 9 Eyes country. The “Eyes Alliance” is a network of countries that effectively spy on their citizens and share the obtained data with each other. That’s why it’s so important that your VPN adheres to a solid no-logging policy, which Surfshark does, for the most part. However, if any info kept by Surfhark leaks out, it can be shared internationally.
  • Surfshark has recently switched to a RAM-only server network. As with ExpressVPN servers, no data can be saved because it only exists temporarily.
  • Some of the collected data is kept up to two years after you stop using the service, which is something we don’t like.
  • Surfshark is the first VPN that got the AV-Test seal of approval. AV-Test is a renowned independent research institute for cybersecurity from Germany.

Both providers don’t keep logs, but ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands, which is a better location. Surfshark VPN also collects your IP address through its Smart DNS, so we’re giving the victory to ExpressVPN.

Privacy winner: ExpressVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Privacy Banner ExpressVPN


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which Provider Is Easier on Your Pocket?

Surfshark’s most attractive feature is its extremely low price. It’s one of the cheapest premium VPN services that we recommend (with the exception of the occasional VPN deal). ExpressVPN, on the other hand, is known for its steep pricing policy. Check the available subscription options in the table below (the price per month is shown).

SubscriptionExpressVPNSurfshark
1 month$12.95$12.95
6 months$9.99$6.49
1-year plan (15 months)$6.67
2-year plan$2.49

Please note: prices are susceptible to change. We try to keep this table up-to-date, but you should always check the prices on the official website of your chosen provider.

The most affordable VPN: Surfshark

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Price Banner Surfshark


ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Which App Is Easier to Work With?

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark clients are pretty beginner-friendly and easy to use. Having said that, let’s explore some of the differences in their apps, installation processes, and respective websites:

ExpressVPN

  • The layout of ExpressVPN’s app is very clear and minimalistic. It features a large ONN/OFF button with a shortcut to the server list directly underneath it. If you’re having trouble picking the fastest server, the client can identify it automatically for you.
  • ExpressVPN’s client provides some useful guidance on the available protocols. So, you should have no problems choosing the right option for your needs.
  • The official ExpressVPN site offers in-depth info about the services but it can be challenging to navigate at times.
  • The installation is pretty intuitive and self-explanatory; you click on the downloaded file and follow the steps indicated on-screen.

Surfshark

  • Surfshark basically has the same layout as ExpressVPN. The home screen lets you pick between the “fastest server” or the “nearest country”, which is the same thing in 99% of the cases.
  • Surfshark’s app is pretty scarce when it comes to explaining its various functions.
  • The official site is very easy to navigate but it doesn’t quite go as in-depth as ExpressVPN.
  • The setup process is as simple as with ExpressVPN.

Firstly, we must say that both applications work well. However, Surfshark could provide a little more information about its various settings. That is why ExpressVPN narrowly wins in this category.

ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN client software side by side

Ease of Use Winner: ExpressVPN

VPN Provider vs Provider Winner Ease of Use Banner ExpressVPN


Customer Service: How Do these Providers Solve your Problems?

Good customer service is an essential piece of a premium VPN service. A good support team has to be able to solve your problems when all the FAQs and knowledge bases fail.

So, here’s how ExpressVPN’s and Surfshark’s customer support fare in direct comparison:

  • The support team of both providers can be reached via live chat. And we’re talking about a person, not an AI-powered chat widget.
  • Both teams were knowledgeable and gave appropriate answers to our questions.
  • Customer service is only available in English for both providers.
  • For minor issues, both sites offer extensive FAQs and tutorials.

Both services offer outstanding customer support so it’s impossible for us to give an edge to a single provider.

Customer service winner: A Tie

VPN Provider vs Provider Customer Service Banner Tie


Our Final Verdict: When Would You Choose ExpressVPN, and When Would You Choose Surfshark?

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are excellent choices, so it really comes down to your specific needs. If you just want to go for the lowest price, Surfshark is the clear winner. On the other hand, ExpressVPN is better when it comes to privacy.

If you do a lot of heavy downloading, HD streaming, and online gaming, Surfshark is the better tool for you. If you want a slightly better security configuration, we would have to suggest ExpressVPN.

Here are the results for each comparison category:

  • Security: ExpressVPN
  • Speed: Surfshark
  • Privacy: ExpressVPN
  • Price: Surfshark
  • Ease of use: ExpressVPN
  • Customer Service: A Tie

In the end, ExpressVPN wins by a very small margin. Would you like to take out a subscription to one of these providers? Then click the appropriate box below to go to either ExpressVPN’s or Surfshark’s websites.

ExpressVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
Great discount on annual subscription + 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$6.67
9.5
  • Very easy to use VPN
  • Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
  • 3000+ servers in 94 countries
Visit ExpressVPN
Surfshark
Deal:
Safe and anonymous internet for only $2.49 a month
From
$2.49
9.0
  • Very user-friendly and works with Netflix and torrents
  • 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
  • Cheap with many extra options
Visit Surfshark

Interested in more hands-on VPN comparisons? Check the best VPNs in direct comparison on the links below:

ExpressVPN vs Surfshark: Frequently Asked Questions

Have some additional questions about our ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison? Take a look at our list of the frequently asked questions below:

It depends on your specific needs. Surfshark is faster, which makes it ideal for online gaming, torrenting, and streaming in full HD. ExpressVPN is more secure and user-friendly. Read our full ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison for more details.

Yes! Surfshark is on our list of the best VPNs for a good reason. It offers a solid security package with RAM-only servers, it’s extremely fast, and is the first-ever VPN to receive the AV-Testing seal of approval. It’s also one of the cheapest premium VPNs currently on the market.

As a complete package, we would have to say yes. There are VPNs that might surpass ExpressVPN in some aspects (Surfshark is faster, for example), but ExpressVPN still remains a more complete product overall. It provides a perfect balance between security and performance and only NordVPN could come close to challenging it. You can learn more about this provider in our full ExpressVPN review.

Tech journalist
Djordje is a cybersecurity copywriter with an extensive background in law and marketing. He was a team leader in a company specializing in content creation in the field of technology. His main interests include legal frameworks for censorship on all levels and the place of VPNs and other cybersecurity software on that spectrum.