Surfshark vs. PIA 2024: Is It Too Close to Call?

Surfshark quickly moved up the ranks of trusted VPNs when it burst onto the scene, but Private Internet Access has been securing internet connections for a decade.
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Best for More Servers

4.9
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On Surfshark's website

VPN
Surfshark
79% off + 2 months free
  • All-in-one VPN app with 24/7 protection thanks to 3,200+ RAM-only servers in over 100 countries
  • Real-time malware defense, webcam protection, alternative ID creation, ad blocking, and more
  • One subscription covers unlimited devices for your entire household with access to 24/7 support
  • Headquarters in Nine Eyes Alliance

Best for Low Price

5.0
Editorial Rating
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On Private Internet Access's website

Private Internet Access
  • VPN offering fast internet speeds and strict no-logs policy
  • Unblocks Netflix and other streaming services
  • Antivirus and dedicated IP address cost extra

Surfshark and Private Internet Access (PIA) are both trusted virtual private network (VPN) choices that offer unlimited simultaneous connections and fast speeds. While PIA is less expensive than Surfshark, Surfshark provides more server options.

Both VPNs have necessary features like fast P2P file sharing as well as unlimited bandwidth on data transfers. These are also two of the few VPN services to offer unlimited simultaneous connections, meaning you never have to worry about an unprotected device. Overall, we recommend both VPNs, so the choice between them comes down to what nuances are more important to you.

In this article
Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access review at a glance
Surfshark vs. PIA: prices
Surfshark vs PIA: features
Surfshark vs. PIA: internet speeds
Surfshark vs. PIA: compatibility and customer support
Surfshark vs. PIA FAQs
Surfshark vs. PIA: which is better?

Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access review at a glance

PIA beats Surfshark in pricing across the board. In fact, you can purchase a 3-year PIA plan for almost the same price as 2 years at Surfshark. Both VPNs have every standard feature you’re looking for — split tunneling, a kill switch, no logs, a multi-hop VPN option, and coverage for unlimited devices.

While these two VPNs take different approaches to security, they’re so comparable it’s hard to choose between them. Surfshark has more servers to choose from, while PIA is based on an open-source framework. PIA is a better value for money, but Surfshark offers an identity theft protection bundle.

How do Surfshark and PIA compare?



Price From $2.29/mo From $2.19/mo
Max # of connected devices Unlimited Unlimited
24/7 customer support
Compatibility Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and more Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and more 
# of servers 3,200+ in 100 countries 91 countries + all 50 U.S. states
VPN protocol WireGuard, IKEv2, OpenVPN WireGuard, IPsec, OpenVPN
No-logs policy No logs No logs
Unblocks Netflix?
Learn more Get Surfshark
Read Surfshark Review
Get Private Internet Access
Read Private Internet Access Review

At first, it doesn’t look like there’s a huge difference between Surfshark and Private Internet Access. Each offers connections for unlimited devices, has a strict no-logs policy, and unblocks Netflix. They each give you the option to purchase antivirus as a bundled service. They're both considered extremely secure and lightning-fast.

When you begin to dig into each product, though, you can see that there are very different approaches and offerings.

Surfshark offers over 3,200 servers around the world, while PIA lists an undisclosed amount in 91 countries and all 50 U.S. states. Both offer the ability to choose the best VPN server for your needs.

Surfshark offers more variety with plans. You can grab just the VPN and get features like split tunneling and a kill switch, or choose a Surfshark One or Surfshark One+ plan. Surfshark One includes antivirus while Surfshark One+ offers antivirus and identity theft protection.

PIA offers monthly, yearly, and three-year plans for its VPN services. At checkout, you can add a dedicated IP address or PIA's antivirus to your subscription. Just make sure to click the drop-down menu beside either upgrade to select the term limit you want.

Surfshark vs. PIA: prices



Our Pick
Price range $2.29–$21.99/mo $2.03–$11.99/mo
Best value plan Surfshark One 24-month plan for $2.89/mo 36-month plan for $2.19/mo
Money-back guarantee Yes — 30 days Yes — 30 days
Learn more Get Surfshark
Read Surfshark Review
Get Private Internet Access
Read Private Internet Access Review

To get the lowest price on either of these VPNs, you’ll need to purchase a multi-year package. Surfshark’s best value is a 24-month subscription to Surfshark One. The Surfshark One option provides you with Surfshark’s fast and secure VPN as well as antivirus, identity theft, and device protection. If you want to upgrade to Surfshark One+, you’ll receive the ability to remove your personal information from data broker websites.

Curious how effective Surfshark Antivirus is? Find out how it performed in our hands-on testing and check out our Surfshark Antivirus review.

Private Internet Access doesn’t include different tiers for different features. All of its features are included in each plan, but the pricing depends on the length of service you’d prefer. If you go with the 36-month plan, you’ll pay the lowest amount on average monthly. If you decide you do want antivirus included, you can add it on for an extra dollar a month. Given all the features included with PIA, an additional dollar for antivirus each month is a good deal.

When we look at these two side by side, PIA actually offers the better deal. It’s a feature-rich VPN that allows you to include cybersecurity for a nominal fee. That’s not to say Surfshark is unreasonable, but PIA's surprisingly low prices give it the edge.

If you buy one and aren’t into it, no worries. Both PIA and Surfshark have 30-day money-back guarantees, so you can test them out beforehand.

Winner: Private Internet Access. Even though Surfshark VPN has great prices, PIA beats it out with an even lower subscription cost, whether you choose monthly or multi-year plans. If you want to save money on a VPN, PIA is the most wallet-friendly.

Surfshark vs PIA: features

Feature

Number of servers 3,200+ servers in 100 countries 91 countries + all 50 U.S. states
No-logs policy No logs No logs
VPN headquarters The NetherlandsUnited States
Encryption AES-256-GCM AES 128-bit or 256-bit
VPN protocol WireGuard, IKEv2, OpenVPN WireGuard, IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN
Kill switch
Split tunneling
Netflix support
Torrenting support
Learn more Get Surfshark
Read Surfshark Review
Get Private Internet Acces
Read Private Internet Access Review
Data as of 11/02/2023.

The biggest feature discrepancy between these two VPNs is the number of servers. When you look at the side-by-side comparison, you immediately see that Surfshark has over 3,200 servers, while Private Internet Access operates servers in 91 countries and all 50 U.S. states. When you use PIA, you'll see there's no shortage of server options.

PIA VPN servers with high latency have their ping listed in orange next to the server location.

In our testing, we found PIA to be wicked fast, and each server unblocked streaming services in that country. We found the same thing to be true of Surfshark (although PIA was faster in our testing), and we enjoyed a variety of unblocked Netflix libraries.

Surfshark has 3,000+ servers in a variety of locations, including Europe.

In other aspects, PIA and Surfshark both offer standard VPN features like torrenting support and obfuscated servers. Each also includes device protection and identity protection features. It’s safe to say that Surfshark and PIA are both dedicated to privacy and security.

Surfshark CleanWeb vs. PIA MACE

Sure, a VPN is great and all, but have you ever surfed the web without any ads, trackers, pop-ups, or annoying cookie requests? CleanWeb and MACE are here to do just that for you.

Visiting a site without a million ads makes your online experience so much better. CleanWeb says it can even get rid of video ads (commercials) on streaming platforms, including on your Smart TV.

Surfshark CleanWeb features

  • Blocks ads and trackers online
  • Blocks ads on streaming platforms
  • Blocks and auto-denies cookie requests
  • Blocks malware
  • Blocks certain phishing attempts

PIA MACE features

  • Blocks ads and trackers online
  • Blocks ads on YouTube
  • Blocks malicious sites

Surfshark vs. PIA: streaming support

Platform
Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
Disney+
HBO Max
Learn more Get Surfshark
Read Surfshark Review
Get Private Internet Access
Read Private Internet Access Review

Netflix can be a problem for VPNs; Surfshark and PIA both largely passed our Netflix tests. While testing Surfshark, we couldn't unblock Netflix Canada, and while testing PIA, we had to do a lot of troubleshooting to connect to Netflix U.K. Otherwise, both VPNs do a solid job of unblocking streaming services.

With either option, you should be able to watch your favorite content as well as geo-restricted libraries without your internet service provider (ISP) throttling your bandwidth. You can split tunnel your traffic and not worry about turning off your VPN completely, which should make you feel more secure.

NordVPN successfully unblocking Netflix Australia.

Surfshark connected to a server in the U.K. and streaming BBC iPlayer.

Winner: Tie. Both of these services offer support for your favorite streaming services as well as many others.

Surfshark vs. PIA: internet speeds

Speed and latency are the biggest determinants in whether you notice lag times, so paying attention to those can help you evaluate your VPN’s effectiveness. Remember, just because there’s a large difference in speeds doesn’t mean you’ll notice slower download speeds. Most of the time, you won’t notice, or the lag will be just a moment or two.

We tested Surfshark on a Windows laptop, while Private Internet Access was tested on a Mac. Neither of these is better than the other for internet speeds, but it's worth noting that they were tested on two different operating systems. Accounting for the age of the machine, the efficiency of the routers, and the processing capabilities of each computer, there shouldn’t be much of a difference between Mac and Windows in regard to speed variations.

Surfshark and PIA only had minor differences in their test results. PIA was marginally slower than Surfshark while connected to a U.S. server but was about 20% faster than Surfshark while connected to a server in Australia. Surfshark provided a faster connection with a U.K. server.

Surfshark vs. PIA speed test results

Our Pick
US 41% slower 32% slower
EU 24% slower 42% slower
AU 92% slower 75% slower
Learn more Get Surfshark
Read Surfshark Review
Get Private Internet Access
Read Private Internet Access Review

Winner: PIA wins for speed, beating out Surfshark while connected to U.S. servers and Australian servers.

Surfshark vs. PIA: compatibility and ease of use

Our Pick
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Router
Smart devices
Browser extensions Chrome, Firefox, Edge Chrome, Firefox, Opera
24/7 live chat
Customer support options Live chat, email, online guides Live chat, email, online guides, support forums
Learn more Get Surfshark
Read Surfshark Review
Get Private Internet Access
Read Private Internet Access Review

We didn’t run into issues using either VPN. Both offered clean, modern interfaces that were easy to use from the beginning. Everything is located in the dashboard or the menu on the side. Whether you’re looking to connect quickly for security or are scrolling through servers to choose a specific location, neither Surfshark nor PIA makes it difficult.

If you want to use any extra features, we found those were also easy to access. The dashboards of both VPNs offer quick access to any included features. If you’re really stuck and can’t find what you need, hop on the 24/7 chat and ask support or slide into the online guides.

Customer support

The only major difference in customer support options is that PIA offers support forums. Sometimes the collective hive mind can really solve a problem. It’s also validating to know that other people experience the same technical issues as you.

We reached out to both VPN providers via live chat support. We found both had acceptable response times and offered helpful insights. We did find the support agent for Surfshark had more of a knowledge base for the product, while the PIA agent directed us toward help articles rather than assisting us directly.

Payment options

Both VPNs offer the ability to pay with major credit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and cryptocurrency. 

Crypto payments are preferred by people who want to remain anonymous and don’t want to leave a paper trail. While you may think criminals are the only ones who want to stay hidden, there are also individuals in countries like Russia and China where VPNs and access to most of the internet are illegal. 

With Surfshark, you have the ability to pay with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, PayPal, Sofort, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and crypto.

PIA accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. We didn’t have an issue choosing any of these options, and nothing failed to load.

Winner: PIA wins out here. Even though the chat support wasn’t as informative, it was easier to pay for PIA’s service than for Surfshark’s. Additionally, PIA offers community forums where users can discuss technical issues together.

Surfshark vs. PIA FAQs


+

Is Surfshark better than PIA VPN?

No, Surfshark is not better than PIA VPN. They are on pretty equal ground when it comes to price, features, accessibility, compatibility, and support. Either VPN is a fantastic, budget-friendly option with useful and interesting features.


+

Is PIA VPN trustworthy?

Yes, PIA VPN is trustworthy. It’s been on the market for over a decade and independently audited for security. PIA uses open-source software, so you always have the ability to scrutinize the code that’s being run and suggest ways to improve it.


+

Which is cheaper, Surfshark or PIA?

PIA is cheaper than Surfshark, but only marginally. These are two of the most affordable VPN options available. What makes them especially useful is the inclusion of so many security features. You really can’t go wrong with purchasing either VPN.

Surfshark vs. PIA: which is better?

PIA checks more boxes than Surfshark, but, really, we love them both. If you want to say one is “better,” then PIA is the winner. It’s a little faster, has a few more customer service avenues, is less expensive, and offers a few more payment options.

But it’s such a close race that it may not matter to you which service you use. Just make sure you’re using a VPN, especially on public Wi-Fi. Better to be safe than hacked.

Surfshark vs. PIA VPN alternatives

If neither of these feels right for you, we suggest some of the best VPN services available. You'll be guaranteed plenty of features, fast speeds, security, and user-friendly interfaces. 

  • NordVPN: Widely considered the best VPN, but it’s also more expensive. NordVPN can be bundled with any other Nord security product, such as NordPass and NordLocker, with everything accessed from one dashboard. NordVPN has similar features and offerings as both Surfshark and PIA.

    Get NordVPN | Read Our NordVPN Review
  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN is powerful and good at unblocking streaming services. It even offers its own proprietary VPN-enabled router, Aircove, so you don’t have to try to configure your router to include your VPN. However, you’ll need an additional ExpressVPN subscription to use the Aircove, and ExpressVPN is considered one of the most expensive VPN services.

    Get ExpressVPN | Read Our ExpressVPN Review
  • CyberGhost: Headquartered in Romania where there are no data retention laws, CyberGhost maintains its own no-spy servers rather than using third-party servers like some other VPNs. CyberGhost has similar prices to Surfshark and PIA, and offers a lot of great features plus a ton of streaming compatibility. On the other hand, there’s no option to split tunnel on any device other than an Android, but that’s slated to change.

    Get CyberGhost | Read Our CyberGhost Review
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5.0
Editorial Rating
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On Private Internet Access's website
Private Internet Access
  • VPN offering fast internet speeds and strict no-logs policy
  • Unblocks Netflix and other streaming services
  • Antivirus and dedicated IP address cost extra
Author Details
Mary lives in Los Angeles and has been a cybersecurity writer for over five years. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, her career in online security began in sales and content creation for a private cybersecurity firm.