Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN 2023: Surfshark Surges Ahead

Surfshark is the much more affordable option and still provides high speeds and plenty of servers. But you might go with ExpressVPN for its reliability and potentially better speeds.
Ben Walker, Author
Catherine McNally, Editor
Last updated Jan 5, 2023

Best for Affordability

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On Surfshark's website

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Works with Netflix and other streaming services
  • No-logs policy needs an audit

Best for Reliability and Speed

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On ExpressVPN's website

  • Strict no-logs policy with independent audit
  • In-house Lightway protocol for more speed and security
  • More expensive than NordVPN, Surfshark, and CyberGhost

Our Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN review shows that Surfshark is the better choice for most people. It’s more affordable ($2.05 vs. $8.32 per month) and generally matches ExpressVPN for its features, including unblocking streaming content and providing loads of server options.

But ExpressVPN performed a bit better than Surfshark in our speed tests, and you can’t count out how reliable ExpressVPN has been for people over the years. This includes a strict no-logs policy that’s backed up by an independent audit, which is a step above Surfshark.

Let’s explore our comparison to see more details about pricing, features, customer service, and more.

In this article
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN at a glance
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: prices
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: features
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: streaming support
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: internet speeds
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: compatibility and ease of use
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: customer service
ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark FAQs
Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: which is better?

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN at a glance

Depending on your virtual private network (VPN) needs, you typically want to compare pricing, features, speed, and reliability between multiple services.

From our testing and research, we found that Surfshark and ExpressVPN are generally reliable, secure, and private. Both services provide plenty of compatibility with their available apps, including for different operating systems and mobile devices. You can also use either VPN to unblock streaming content on Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, and more.

But you’ll notice that Surfshark is much less expensive than ExpressVPN while staying competitive in most other categories, including features, internet speeds, and customer service.

How do Surfshark and ExpressVPN compare?


Surfshark
Our Pick

ExpressVPN
Price From $2.05/mo From $8.32/mo
Max # of connected devices Unlimited 5
24/7 customer support
Compatibility iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Android TV, Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Kindle Fire iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Android TV, Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Kindle Fire
# of servers 3,200+ servers in 100 countries 160 server locations in 94 countries
VPN protocol Wireguard, OpenVPN, IKEv2 Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec
No-logs policy No logs No logs
Unblocks Netflix?
Read Surfshark Review Read ExpressVPN Review
Prices as of 12/5/2022.

The primary differences between Surfshark and ExpressVPN include:

  • Price
  • Max number of connected devices
  • VPN protocols
  • No-logs policies

Surfshark’s price ranges from $2.05 to $12.95 per month. The cost of ExpressVPN ranges from $8.32 to $12.95 per month. See more details about prices.

The max number of connected devices is the maximum number of devices you can use with a VPN service at the same time. Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections, which handily beats the five-device limit from ExpressVPN.

VPN protocols direct how information is sent through encrypted connections. ExpressVPN has more options than Surfshark, including Lightway, a next-generation protocol built for speed.

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have strict no-logs policies. But ExpressVPN has had an independent audit done of its no-logs policy, while Surfshark hasn’t.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: prices

Surfshark
Our Pick
ExpressVPN
Price range $2.05 to $12.95/mo $8.32 to $12.95/mo
Best value plan 24-month plan for $2.05/mo 12-month plan for $8.32/mo
Money-back guarantee Yes — 30 days Yes — 30 days
See Full Pricing Details See Full Pricing Details
Prices as of 12/5/2022.

Surfshark costs between $2.05 and $12.95 per month, with its lowest-priced plan coming in at $2.05 per month for 24 months.

ExpressVPN costs between $8.32 and $12.95 per month, with its lowest-priced plan coming in at $8.32 per month for 12 months.

In terms of price, Surfshark blows ExpressVPN out of the water. Starting at $2.05 per month, Surfshark is more than four times cheaper than ExpressVPN, which starts at $8.32 per month.

ExpressVPN is known for being expensive, and it shows. If you want a cheap but reliable VPN, Surfshark is the way to go. But keep in mind that the month-to-month prices are actually the same at $12.95 for either service. So if you want to save money on a VPN, choosing a multi-month or multi-year plan is typically your best bet.

Note that both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide 30-day money-back guarantees, where you can request a full refund within 30 days.

But with Surfshark you’ll be automatically enrolled in an auto-renew subscription after signing up. We had no option to turn auto-renew off in our account and had to contact customer service to turn it off for us. It was a bit of an annoying situation, but Surfshark customer service was very quick and helpful in resolving the issue.

Winner: Surfshark easily beats ExpressVPN on pricing, which isn’t a huge surprise considering how expensive ExpressVPN is. Check out our Surfshark VPN review.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: features

Features Surfshark
Our Pick
ExpressVPN
Number of servers 3,200+ servers in 100 countries 160 server locations in 94 countries
No-logs policy No logs No logs
VPN headquarters The Netherlands British Virgin Islands
Encryption AES-256 AES-256
VPN protocol Wireguard, OpenVPN, IKEv2 Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec
Kill switch
Split tunneling
Netflix support
Torrenting support
Read Surfshark Review Read ExpressVPN Review
Data as of 12/5/2022.

Surfshark and ExpressVPN share many similarities when it comes to their available features. This includes a large number of servers, strict no-logs policies, and high levels of encryption. Both VPNs also provide split tunneling, kill switches, regional content unblocking, and torrent support.

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are headquartered in locations with strong data privacy laws, which help back up their no-logs policies. But it must be noted that the Netherlands, where Surfshark is located, is part of the 14 Eyes alliance. The British Virgin Islands, where ExpressVPN is located, aren’t part of the Five, Nine, or 14 Eyes alliances.

Countries that are members of these alliances have been known to share private information about their citizens with other alliance members. And it could mean that living in one of these countries poses a risk to your online privacy and anonymity.

Digging further into the no-logs policies, we found that ExpressVPN had an independent audit done of its policy by PricewaterhouseCoopers. We couldn’t find anything about an independent audit of the Surfshark no-logs policy, though Surfshark has had an infrastructure audit completed by Cure53.

Surfshark provides servers in more countries than ExpressVPN, but the numbers are close enough to not matter for most users. ExpressVPN doesn’t advertise its exact number of servers. But from testing, we found that both Surfshark and ExpressVPN have plenty of available servers for the average VPN user.

Surfshark and ExpressVPN's server counts seem to be similar — both offer plenty of servers for the average VPN user.

One big difference between the two VPNs is found in their available protocols. ExpressVPN provides more protocols than Surfshark, including its in-house Lightway protocol. Lightway is a next-generation protocol that provides fast speeds, which may have made the difference for ExpressVPN in some of our speed tests.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: streaming support

Platform Surfshark
Our Pick
ExpressVPN
Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
Disney+
HBO Max

We tested Surfshark and ExpressVPN to see if they could unblock the above streaming services. Our testing involved loading the streaming websites on Windows using a Chrome browser and playing a movie or show while observing for any issues, such as lag or low-quality streams.

We were able to successfully unblock content from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and HBO Max using both Surfshark and ExpressVPN. The only issues we ran into were with ExpressVPN and BBC iPlayer, where the BBC iPlayer site kept saying we had to be in the U.K. to use the streaming service.

We switched between a few different U.K. servers and completely logged out and closed out windows, then tried again in an incognito browser. It didn’t take too long to fix, but we’re not sure if it was an issue with the original server IP address or something on our end.

We initially couldn't get BBC iPlayer to work with ExpressVPN, but swapping to a different UK server, incognito browser, and logging out seemed to fix the issue.

Other streaming services all loaded and worked perfectly with both VPNs. This included Disney+, where we could access content from Star while connected to U.K. servers. Star isn’t available in the U.S. and provides the type of content you might not be used to seeing on Disney+, such as true crime shows.

We had no trouble unblocking Disney+ with Surfshark and ExpressVPN.

Winner: We’ll call this one a draw because both Surfshark and ExpressVPN were able to unblock all the streaming content we tried. But there were a few small hiccups with ExpressVPN and BBC iPlayer.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: internet speeds

We test internet speeds before and after using a VPN to see if the secure connection significantly reduces our speed. We expect our speed to go down somewhat while using a VPN because it uses bandwidth. But we want to see whether a VPN affects everyday internet usage, such as streaming content or playing games.

We establish a baseline speed by first running a speed test before we connect to a VPN. This lets us know how fast our internet connection is without being connected to a VPN.

We then run multiple speed tests while connected to VPN servers in different locations worldwide. Note that large physical distances between our location and the server locations can drastically reduce internet speeds, which is expected.

We ran these speed tests using the Surfshark and ExpressVPN Windows apps on a desktop computer from a physical location in the U.S.

Baseline speed: 239.5 Mbps download / 11.9 Mbps upload / 11 latency (ping)

Our baseline internet speed without either VPN connected was 240 Mbps download, 12 Mbps upload, and 11 ping.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN speed test results

Server location Surfshark
Our Pick
ExpressVPN
US
  • Download: 221.91 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.36 Mbps
  • Download: 213.51 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.12 Mbps
Canada
  • Download: 203.54 Mbps
  • Upload: 9.94 Mbps
  • Download: 204.02 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.19 Mbps
UK
  • Download: 166.30 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.44 Mbps
  • Download: 176.33 Mbps
  • Upload: 12.22 Mbps
AU
  • Download: 155.61 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.42 Mbps
  • Download: 169.66 Mbps
  • Upload: 11.05 Mbps
Read Surfshark Review Read ExpressVPN Review

We tried to make the testing as fair as possible by connecting to servers in the same cities from both VPNs. This included Salt Lake City (U.S.), Toronto (Canada), London (U.K.), and Sydney (Australia).

Surfshark had slightly better download speeds than ExpressVPN while connected to a nearby U.S. server, but the speeds were about the same while connected to servers in Canada.

Our Surfshark VPN internet speeds while connected to a Canadian server were 204 Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload, and 67 ms.

Our ExpressVPN internet speeds while connected to a Canadian server were 204 Mbps download, 11 Mbps upload, and 64 ms latency.

ExpressVPN took the lead on Surfshark as we started testing servers that were farther away from our physical location. Specifically, ExpressVPN had faster speeds than Surfshark with its U.K. and Australia servers.

We also compared the latency, or ping, of our connections during the tests. Your latency is a general measure of how long it takes for networks to communicate. Lower latency is better and means a faster connection.

Our baseline latency was 11 and reached as high as 185 while connected to an ExpressVPN server in Sydney. But overall, there was barely any difference in latency between Surfshark and ExpressVPN.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN latency comparison

Server location Surfshark ExpressVPN
US 38 ms 41 ms
Canada 67 ms 64 ms
UK 151 ms 148 ms
AU 180 ms 185 ms

Winner: ExpressVPN wins as the generally faster VPN, but there honestly wasn’t a huge difference in internet speeds with ExpressVPN and Surfshark. Check out our ExpressVPN review.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: compatibility and ease of use

Platform Surfshark
Our Pick
ExpressVPN
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Router
Smart devices

We had no issues setting up Surfshark and ExpressVPN on our desktop computer using Windows. The process was as simple as downloading the Windows apps from the applicable websites and using our info to log in. We expect you would have a similar experience, whether you want to set up a VPN on Windows or Mac.

Apart from Windows and macOS, Surfshark and ExpressVPN are also compatible with other operating systems, browser extensions, and mobile apps. This includes Linux, Apple iOS, Android, and even routers and some smart devices.

For example, you can set up Surfshark or ExpressVPN on a compatible router so that all Wi-Fi devices in your home have a secure connection, including smart locks, refrigerators, and more.

You can also utilize the Smart DNS functionality on either service to use your VPN on devices that typically aren’t compatible. This could include using certain VPN features, such as streaming regional content, on a TV or video game console where you can’t download the Surfshark or ExpressVPN apps.

The interfaces of both Windows apps were intuitive and easy to use. We had no issues navigating the server lists or finding available features in the settings. And we barely had to wait at all when connecting to different servers.

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN had easy-to-use interfaces on their Windows apps.

Winner: There’s no clear winner, so it’s a draw. Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are compatible with loads of devices and provide easy-to-use interfaces. Learn more in our Surfshark VPN review and ExpressVPN review.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: customer service

Platform Surfshark
Our Pick
ExpressVPN
24/7 live chat
Phone
Email
Support forums
Online guides

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide customer service options in the form of 24/7 live chat, email, and online guides. There’s no option to call a support number or participate in official community forums with either VPN, which is common for many popular VPN services.

It should be noted that not every major VPN provider offers 24/7 customer support, or you might have to be a paying subscriber to access this feature. But with Surfshark and ExpressVPN, you can access the live chat feature 24/7 from their websites, whether you have a subscription or not.

We tested both the Surfshark and ExpressVPN live chats with great results. We waited almost no time at all to be connected with agents from both providers and their responses were quick, understandable, and helpful.

In the case of Surfshark, the agent was able to help us figure out a billing issue. And with ExpressVPN, the agent informed us that all ExpressVPN servers work for torrenting, so you don’t have to search for specific ones.

Winner: It’s a draw in this category, as neither VPN was necessarily better than the other for customer service. Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN provide ample customer support options, including 24/7 live chat.

ExpressVPN vs. Surfshark FAQs


+

Is Surfshark better than ExpressVPN?

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are fast and secure VPNs, but Surfshark is much cheaper. Surfshark starts off as low as $2.03 per month, while ExpressVPN starts off at $8.32 per month, which is more than quadruple the price. Unless there’s a specific reason you want ExpressVPN, such as its server selection, Surfshark is likely the better, cheaper option.


+

Is Surfshark owned by ExpressVPN?

No, Surfshark is owned by Nord Security, the parent company of NordVPN. ExpressVPN is owned by Kape Technologies, the parent company of CyberGhost VPN, ZenMate VPN, and Private Internet Access. Surfshark and ExpressVPN are both popular VPN providers, but they’re owned by different companies.


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What’s better than Surfshark?

In terms of price, speed, and security features, there aren’t many VPNs that can beat Surfshark. 

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are more expensive but can compete in terms of speed. CyberGhost and Private Internet Access are about as cheap as Surfshark, but might not provide as many features, and CyberGhost is often slower.


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What are the benefits of ExpressVPN?

ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, giving it some of the widest reach among major VPN services. It also provides high levels of security and privacy, 24/7 live chat, and is compatible with multiple operating systems, web browsers, and mobile devices. 

Popular features include split tunneling, a kill switch, and a no-logs policy. See how ExpressVPN compares to NordVPN.


+

Should I use Surfshark?

You should use Surfshark if you want a fast and secure VPN service with affordable prices. 

Surfshark starts as low as $2.05 per month and our testing shows that it competes with top VPNs such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN in terms of speed and reliability. You can also use Surfshark with unlimited devices, which isn’t a common feature.

Surfshark vs. ExpressVPN: which is better?

ExpressVPN is a secure, fast, and private service that can unblock streaming services, has 24/7 customer support, and doesn’t tend to significantly reduce your internet speeds. But Surfshark generally matches ExpressVPN across the board and costs a lot less.

Between the two options, we recommend Surfshark. We still think that ExpressVPN is a great option, but it’s not the most affordable.

Surfshark Balances Affordability With Excellent Features
Learn More
On Surfshark's website

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Works with Netflix and other streaming services
  • No-logs policy needs an audit

Author Details
Ben Walker is a writer at All About Cookies with a passion for all things internet and technology, whether it's using VPNs while away from home or organizing his life with password managers.