The Best VPN for Routers in 2023: Protect the Whole House
Most people want to set up a VPN once and forget about it, and you can easily achieve this by installing a good VPN on your router. Read on to discover the best VPN for routers.
VPN services are changing the way people use the internet by providing users with a more secure experience, access to blocked content and much more. If you want to protect all of your devices with a VPN — or just connect more devices than your VPN provider allows — then what you’re looking for is the best VPN for routers.
By setting up a VPN on your router, you can send a VPN connection to all of the devices connected in your house without having to install an app or set up the VPN manually on each device. Even guests’ devices and your smart TV can have a protected connection with a VPN-enabled router.
So, if protecting all of your devices at once through your WiFi while having to set it up only a single time sounds appealing to you, then read on to see our top five picks for best VPN for routers and which one might be best for you.
Updated Windscribe pricing: the paid plan increased to $5.75 per month from $4.08.
A router’s hardware can have a significant impact on VPN performance, mainly due to the processing requirement of encrypting the data. A router that is too weak will noticeably slow your connection down, so it’s best to have a stronger router or, even better, one that is made for VPNs.
While many routers are compatible with VPNs — and even more can be upgraded with aftermarket firmware such as Tomato or DD-WRT — special routers are available and do have some advantages. Mainly, dedicated VPN routers will have more processing power to handle stronger encryption while also offering better speeds.
Many routers are compatible with VPNs and many more that aren’t can be flashed with aftermarket firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT to make them compatible with VPNs. You can check with the VPN provider or with the list of Tomato and DD-WRT compatible routers to see if your model can use a VPN.
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What Makes the Best VPN for Routers?
- ExpressVPN — Fast VPN with tons of options
- NordVPN — Easy-to-use VPN compatible with most routers
- CyberGhost — Wide variety of protocols
- Private Internet Access — Highly affordable VPN for routers
- Windscribe — Easy setup but limited compatibility and options
All five of these services not only fit the bill of being a good VPN with solid security and performance, but also offer good router compatibility and options.
The 5 Best VPNs for Routers
With all that in mind, let’s dive into our top five picks for the best VPNs for routers that offer speed and security for all your devices.
More details about ExpressVPN:
- Pricing: From $8.32 per month
- Website: www.expressvpn.com
- Very fast
- Wide router compatibility
- Offers many protocols
- 30-day money-back return
- Comparatively expensive
Not only does ExpressVPN cover all the bases of a top-tier VPN provider, but it also has some of the best router compatibility of any VPN. On its website, ExpressVPN offers some easy-to-install custom firmware for several common models of Asus, Linksys and Netgear routers. It’s our best VPN for Asus routers, Best VPN for Linksys routers, the best VPN for DD-WRT routers and best VPN for Netgear routers.
It also has a large number of manual setup guides. The manual setup guides cover an even wider variety of routers than the custom VPN apps and include both Tomato and DD-WRT routers as well as Xiaomi, D-Link and many more.
On top of the wide variety of compatible routers, ExpressVPN also boasts a variety of configuration options. This includes protocols such as OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and its unique DNS option called MediaStreamer, which can access geoblocked streaming services without a VPN.
Aside from working on so many devices and providing ample protocol options, ExpressVPN is also among the fastest VPNs on the market, making it a great VPN for gaming, torrenting or streaming. The only real drawback that ExpressVPN carries is its high price tag, which you can read more about in our ExpressVPN review.
More details about NordVPN:
- Pricing: From $3.71 per month
- Website: www.nordvpn.com
- Fast connections
- Easy to set up on routers
- Not as many protocols
- Few setup options
NordVPN offers a contrast to ExpressVPN in the way it handles its support for routers. As of late 2018, NordVPN stopped offering support for L2TP and PPTP connections through routers. This means that users are, for the most part, going to have to stick to OpenVPN.
If you read our VPN protocol breakdown, you’ll see that OpenVPN is an excellent protocol. So having to use this isn’t really a problem, but it would be nice to have more options.
While it doesn’t offer as many protocol options, NordVPN does offer guides for a good variety of routers including Asus, Sabai, Tomato, DD-WRT, pfSense and more. NordVPN also offers its own recommendations for which routers are generally the easiest to install a VPN on and work the best, with most of the top choices coming from Asus.
While it isn’t always quite as fast as ExpressVPN, NordVPN still manages to consistently rank among the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, and it’s cheaper, too. NordVPN is also reliably private and secure with recent improvements being made to its network, as you can read in our full NordVPN review.
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
More details about CyberGhost:
- Pricing: From $2.25 per month
- Website: www.cyberghostvpn.com
- More protocol options
- Affordable long-term plans
- Incompatible with most default routers
- Not as fast
If you look at our CyberGhost review, you’ll see that we found it to be a top-notch VPN with tons of very useful features. While it isn’t as fast in our testing as some of the other VPNs on this list, it’s still quick enough to be usable for streaming and even torrenting.
As an additional note, many routers are weak in processing power. In many cases, your router can be the bottleneck — not the VPN itself — as it struggles to encrypt and move the data quickly (as long as you purchase a decent VPN, that is.)
CyberGhost offers more control over protocol than NordVPN does, as it supports OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP and PPTP, giving users plenty of options. However, CyberGhost is not nearly as broadly compatible, with the guides on its website only covering DD-WRT and Tomato routers.
CyberGhost’s biggest draw for many will be its excellent pricing, especially with its longer-term plans and free trial. While the monthly signup option isn’t a great deal, the annual plan cuts this down considerably. Plus, the three-year option comes out to less than three dollars a month.
4. Private Internet Access
More details about Private Internet Access:
- Pricing: $2.19 per month (three-year plan)
- Website: www.privateinternetaccess.com
- MACE ad-blocker DNS
- Many different setup options
- Setup guides lack clarity
When it comes to setting up a VPN on your home router, Private Internet Access does not make itself the easiest option. The setup guides are long and intricate, but for good reason. Private Internet Access seems to have opted for longer, more complex setup processes in exchange for giving the end user more control over how the VPN runs on their router.
Each guide offers several configuration files to download with different settings to offer different levels of security and speed. You’re also given a choice between several DNS options during the setup, which includes the option for PIA’s unique MACE DNS.
We look at this in more detail in our Private Internet Access review, but in short, it acts similarly to an ad-blocker. Running MACE on your router will block ads on all of your devices at once and help reduce how easy it is for others to track your activity online.
There are a few drawbacks with PIA, aside from being a bit more difficult to set up and use than other top VPNs. It doesn’t cover nearly as many models and firmware options as ExpressVPN and NordVPN. Plus, many of the configuration files are set up for AES-128 rather than 256-bit encryption.
This is probably done to improve speed and performance, since many routers are lacking in the processing power department. Heavy encryption will further slow down the connection. We’d like to see the guides make it clear exactly what each configuration profile offers without having to comb through it ourselves. However, PIA redeems itself with a low price tag and many features.
More details about Windscribe:
- Pricing: From $5.75 per month
- Website: www.windscribe.com
- Easy setup
- Limited router options
- OpenVPN only
Windscribe shifts things back toward the idea of user-friendliness and away from the highly configurable world that PIA was in. Windscribe only offers a single protocol, OpenVPN, and it only has setup guides for Tomato, DD-WRT and Asus routers.
Depending on who you are, this could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing. This choice greatly streamlines the installation process and makes the guides much shorter and easier to follow. If this ease of use is something you’re willing to trade for less control over the configuration, then Windscribe could be a great choice.
If you check out our Windscribe review, you’ll see that it works well with all the streaming services we throw at it. It also offers a free plan as a great way for potential VPN users to try before they buy.
- Up to 15 GB free with email confirmation and Tweet
- Unlimited GB
Honorable Mentions: Best VPN for Routers
Five isn’t a whole lot of options when there are so many VPN providers competing on the market, so we wanted to include just a couple of honorable mentions to give you even more options to mull over.
First, we’d like to point to Mullvad. While many of our top five options have excellent multi-year pricing, such as NordVPN and CyberGhost, most of them are pretty expensive for those interested in signing up monthly. Mullvad is a great option for those looking for a VPN with a cheap monthly option.
If you head to our Mullvad review, you’ll see that it actually only offers a monthly option, and it’s one of the best deals available for a short-term signup. While it doesn’t offer as many configuration options as many of our top five, it is compatible with many routers including Tomato, DD-WRT, pfSense, Asus Merlin and more.
The other VPN worth mentioning is VyprVPN. VyprVPN is a highly secure and private VPN that offers an easy setup app on Tomato routers and manual setup guides for many more, including DD-WRT and Asus.
Read our VyprVPN review for a deeper look at its unique privacy features, such as its proprietary chameleon protocol that makes it a great VPN for getting around censorship or firewalls, like those found in China.
How Do I Choose a VPN for My Router?
When choosing a router VPN, the key factors are the same as when you’re shopping for any other VPN. For some, things like speed will make a huge difference when sharing large files or streaming. If your use case for a VPN requires speed, then ExpressVPN is a great option.
All of the VPNs that made it on this list are secure, private and offer good protocol and encryption options. Each one offers a no-logs policy and will not be collecting your IP address or any other questionable information during use.
Another thing to consider is ease of use. As we mentioned, Private Internet Access might not be a great option for someone who wants something that is more “fire and forget” or something that can simply be set up at a moment’s notice and then left alone.
If setting up a VPN on your router sounds intimidating, it might also be a good idea to choose a VPN that’s known to have good customer support. Many of the VPNs we looked at even have live chat, which can be a lifesaver in a tight spot if you get stuck during setup.
Compatible With DD-WRT & Tomato Firmware
Naturally, one of the most important things in choosing a VPN for your router is to make sure you have a compatible router. The supported router models change by VPN, but the most common ones you’ll see are Tomato and DD-WRT.
These are not actually “models” of routers, but open-source firmware that you can install on most routers as an aftermarket alteration. Once loaded onto the router, the firmware allows for much greater functionality than the stock firmware offered by most router manufacturers. Firmware is how most people will set up a VPN router.
Both firmware options are pretty easy to install and cover a large list of routers, as you can see from either the Tomato router list or DD-WRT router list.
While some VPNs also offer manual setup guides or configuration files for other firmware, Tomato and DD-WRT will be by far the most common and widely compatible options. Using separate firmware will add an extra step to the setup, but it’s worth it in most cases for the functionality that it adds.
Take a look at our guides on how to install Tomato firmware and how to install DD-WRT on your router.
Setting up a VPN once and forgetting about it is the ideal scenario for most people. You can easily achieve this by setting up a good VPN, like ExpressVPN, on your router. Once it’s set up, you can just let it do its thing in the background and have peace of mind knowing that your data is safe and encrypted.
Alternatively, you could invest in a VPN router, such as the Vilfo VPN Router.
Does your router have Tomato or DD-WRT firmware? Did one of the options we looked at stand out to you or have you used one of them before? Do you think more routers should come with VPN compatibility out of the box? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.