You can’t talk about the best VPN services without mentioning NordVPN or ExpressVPN. If you’ve read any of our “best VPN” pieces, you’ll notice that these two often lock horns for the top spot. In this NordVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison, we pit them against each other across a number of different categories to see which one deserves to be called the best.
Key Takeaways: NordVPN and ExpressVPN
- NordVPN and ExpressVPN are two of the best VPN providers, reputed for their server network, security and fast speeds.
- The main difference between ExpressVPN and NordVPN is that NordVPN has more security features that users can select, while ExpressVPN is easier to use, with all the security features built into every server.
- ExpressVPN is better than NordVPN overall, thanks to its larger server network, excellent security and privacy features, and user-friendly VPN apps.
- However, NordVPN is slightly cheaper and faster than ExpressVPN, and it boasts some extra security features, like double-hop servers.
Chances are, you’re wondering whether ExpressVPN or NordVPN best fits your needs; we’re here to help. Many experts — ourselves included — hold them in similarly high regard. In this clash of the titans, we’ll highlight what these VPNs have in common, but also reveal the subtle differences. By the end of this article, you’ll know which one is better for your specific use case.
If you want to learn more about each VPN, you can read our NordVPN review and ExpressVPN review. You can also try ExpressVPN and try NordVPN with their 30-day money-back guarantees — you can even use the guarantee with the monthly plan, effectively creating a month-long free trial of each VPN.
09/14/2021 Facts checked
Cloudwards updated this comparison with a fresh evaluation of ExpressVPN vs NordVPN. We also added more information about Kape Technologies buying ExpressVPN in September 2021.
07/25/2022 Facts checked
Reevaluated the NordVPN-ExpressVPN dynamic and rewrote the comparison. Spit the “security and privacy” round into two rounds.
05/13/2023 Facts checked
We rewrote and restructured this comparison article, and updated it with accurate information.
NordVPN is faster, cheaper and boasts some more security features than ExpressVPN. However, ExpressVPN is more reliable, has never suffered a data breach and is a good choice for beginners because all servers have all security features built in.
NordVPN adheres to a strict no-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t log, store or share your data. Plus, it’s headquartered in Panama, which is a privacy-friendly jurisdiction. Although NordVPN has had a server breach in the past, the hack wasn’t directly the fault of NordVPN. Rather, it was the fault of a data center that it chose to include in its network. However, the practical impact of this breach is minimal.
NordVPN is faster than ExpressVPN. It’s able to maintain a higher percentage of baseline download and upload speeds as well. However, ExpressVPN’s latency is slightly better than NordVPN’s.
How Did We Rate NordVPN vs ExpressVPN?
We examined NordVPN and ExpressVPN across several key categories, including pricing, speed, streaming performance, logging policies, server locations, usability and simultaneous connections.
For this comparison, we first looked at ways that ExpressVPN and NordVPN are similar, and then at how they differ. At the end, we will make recommendations on when you might value one VPN over the other.
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN: Similarities & Differences
|$3.59 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee||$6.66 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee|
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash||PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available||7 days on mobile||7 days (mobile only)|
|Worldwide server amount||5,000 servers in 59 countries||3,000+ servers in 94 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS||Android, iOS|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Edge||Chrome, Firefox, Edge|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|Encryption types||256-AES, ChaCha20||256-AES, ChaCha20|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, NordLynx||OpenVPN, IKEv2, Lightway|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Let’s start with what ExpressVPN and NordVPN have in common, including aspects of their DNS leak protection, privacy, streaming, app support, customer service and some VPN features.
DNS Leak Protection
Both VPNs are careful about DNS leak protection. We tested both to see if either one leaked our IP address, and neither did, even on several different servers and protocols.
Logging Policy, Headquarters & Audits
If you read NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s privacy policies, you’ll notice that both abide by a strict no-logs policy. Simply put, this means they don’t log, store or share data that can be traced back to you. This includes your IP address, browsing history and VPN connections. If a hacker breaks into their systems, there’ll be no personally identifiable information about you.
Furthermore, ExpressVPN and NordVPN have moved from storing data on hard drives to RAM-only servers. This means user data is wiped every time their servers reboot, and their software stack is re-installed whenever servers start. Even if a hacker gets access to their systems, or authorities subpoena them, there’ll be nothing for them to see.
Another vital aspect of a VPN’s privacy situation is its location. If it’s located in one of the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes countries, it could allow for surveillance by other countries. ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, while NordVPN makes its home in Panama. Even though the BVIs are territories of the U.K., the islands are not part of the 14 Eyes alliance, and neither is Panama.
We also like to check whether a VPN has been audited by reputable third-party firms. This is important because, although you can take a VPN’s word for it, it’s better that its logging policies and privacy practices are verified by unbiased experts. Fortunately, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have undergone independent audits.
ExpressVPN has gone through and passed 13 audits since 2018. In November 2018, Cure53 reviewed ExpressVPN’s browser extension, and in 2019, PwC checked the VPN’s TrustedServer technology. Between 2020 and 2022, ExpressVPN’s Windows app, Linux app, macOS app and Lightway protocol faced and passed various independent tests.
In early 2023, NordVPN completed its third independent security audit from Deloitte, one of the Big Four auditing firms. The test probed NordVPN’s server configurations, technical logs and specialty servers to find out if they aligned with the no-logs policy. The audit concluded that NordVPN was not violating the terms of its no-logs policy.
Overall, you can feel confident in ExpressVPN and NordVPN’s logging policies and practices, knowing that they handle user data in accordance with what they promise in their privacy policies.
ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two of the best VPNs for streaming. They can unblock all the main streaming providers, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and BBC iPlayer. They’re also good picks for lesser-known streaming providers such as Pluto TV, Peacock TV and Tubi TV.
It’s worth noting that both VPN providers unblock streaming services on the first attempt, regardless of which NordVPN or ExpressVPN servers we connected to. With most VPN providers, you might need to try your luck on different servers before getting in.
In addition, NordVPN and ExpressVPN both enable users to stream high-quality movies, thanks to their fast speeds. This means that you can stream in HD or 4K without experiencing any hiccups such as buffering wheels.
|Amazon Prime Video|
One more note — both services come with a smart DNS service, which lets smart TVs (like Android TV and others) change their IP addresses without encryption. This isn’t a security feature, but it does make it more convenient to explore worldwide TV options from your sofa.
VPN Apps and Configurations
Regardless of the device you’re using, you should be able to get an ExpressVPN app or NordVPN app. These two VPN giants have apps for mobile and desktop operating systems, including Android, iOS (iPhone and iPad), Windows, macOS and Linux.
If you intend to use a VPN on a browser, these services have you covered. Both VPNs have clients for the most widely-used browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Edge.
One difference is that it’s easier to use ExpressVPN on routers than it is to use NordVPN. ExpressVPN has custom, easy-to-install apps for various router models, including Asus, Linksys and Netgear. Plus, it supports router installations for various protocols, including OpenVPN. In contrast, NordVPN only supports OpenVPN for routers.
Furthermore, ExpressVPN has launched ExpressVPN Aircove, the first WiFi 6 router with built-in VPN protection. For all of these reasons, ExpressVPN is also the best VPN for smart TVs.
When we review the customer support of VPNs, we look at the various channels available for customers to reach out to, response time and quality of responses. ExpressVPN and NordVPN do well across the board.
Both have a wide range of support channels, including detailed knowledgebases replete with FAQs, troubleshooting guides and video tutorials. If you don’t get answers there, you can reach out to support agents through email. From our experience, you should get a response within a day.
For a real-time response, both ExpressVPN and NordVPN have live chat features. ExpressVPN’s chat is a touch more straightforward, as it connects you to a live agent right away. The responses are prompt, kind and insightful.
NordVPN’s live chat takes a bit of a different approach. Before connecting to a live agent, you’ll have to interact with the chatbot. It will try to direct you to articles, videos and resources that answer your question. The chatbot will connect you to a live agent if you still have questions.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN both offer a kill switch. This feature acts as a failsafe, disconnecting your internet connection if your VPN connection drops for any reason.
ExpressVPN’s kill switch is called Network Lock. It’s a system-wide kill switch that works on all of ExpressVPN’s apps, including Windows, Mac, Linux and routers. Similarly, NordVPN has implemented a kill switch on all apps: Windows, Linux, iOS and macOS. On the Windows and macOS apps, NordVPN lets you define which apps are affected by the kill switch.
Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a 30-day refund window. This means that as long as you request a refund within 30 days of purchasing any subscription, the VPNs will give you your money back. This means you can use the money-back guarantee with the monthly plan to create effectively a 30-day free trial of each VPN.
Although NordVPN and ExpressVPN have much in common, there are differences worth noting. We’ll highlight the main ones in this section to help you glean which VPN is better for a number of specific purposes.
For many years, ExpressVPN held the honors as the fastest VPN. However, NordVPN has recently usurped ExpressVPN for the top spot. As you’ll observe in the graphs below, both VPNs are incredibly fast, but NordVPN is simply faster.
With upload speeds, the difference between ExpressVPN and NordVPN is not quite as stark, though ExpressVPN fluctuates more often.
In terms of latency, ExpressVPN performs slightly better across the board compared to NordVPN. However, both are exceptionally fast VPNs, which means both are solid options for streaming in high-definition, gaming and video chatting.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN’s pricing structures are markedly different. ExpressVPN offers one subscription plan, but you can opt for different durations. The shortest is the monthly plan, which costs $12.95. To use ExpressVPN for six months, you’ll have to pay $9.99 per month. The longest plan is the one-year option (including three free months), which costs $6.66 monthly.
NordVPN used to offer a similar pricing structure, but the VPN has since become part of a wider security suite. This package includes three plans: Standard, Plus and Complete. You can subscribe to each of these plans every month, year or two years.
The Standard plan combines the VPN service with a malware, tracker and ad blocker, and it’s most comparable to ExpressVPN’s singular plan. The Plus plan includes a password manager and a data breach scanner. The Complete plan includes all the above in addition to 1TB of encrypted cloud storage and next-generation file encryption.
- Unlimited GB
- Unlimited GB
However, if you want only the VPN, it’s available for $12.99 each month on the Standard Plan. NordVPN’s one-year plan costs $4.99 monthly, which is way cheaper than ExpressVPN. The two-year plan costs a paltry $3.59 per month. Between ExpressVPN and NordVPN, NordVPN is the ideal choice for the budget-conscious user looking to commit long term. For a more straightforward pricing plan, check out VyprVPN and how it differs from NordVPN’s.
|Six months plan||*$9.99|
ExpressVPN offers five simultaneous connections, while NordVPN caps it at six. Simultaneous connections refer to the number of devices you can connect at the same time under one VPN subscription. The higher the number of simultaneous connections a VPN provider offers, the more devices you can use it on; you can even share with friends and family.
If the number of connections offered by ExpressVPN and NordVPN is not enough, install the router app on your home router. If a home network has VPN protection, all devices connected are also automatically protected, and a router only counts as one connection.
In terms of VPN protocols, ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer the OpenVPN (TCP and UDP) protocol, which offers AES-256 encryption. This is the standard choice among protocols and provides a good mix of speed and security.
In addition, each of the VPNs have a proprietary protocol. ExpressVPN calls its protocol the Lightway protocol, and it provides fast speeds thanks to its lightweight codebase. Instead of AES encryption, Lightway uses the WolfSSL cryptographic library, which relies on the as-yet-uncrackable ChaCha20 encryption.
NordVPN’s proprietary protocol is called NordLynx, which it developed based on the super-fast WireGuard protocol, which also uses ChaCha20 encryption. As a result, it delivers great speeds and is especially great for online gaming, since you don’t have to worry about lag. In addition, NordLynx uses a double NAT system to create secure connections without storing personal user data.
Furthermore, NordVPN offers IKEv2/IPsec protocol on all its apps, while ExpressVPN offers it on Mac and iOS devices. This protocol is a great fit for mobile apps because it’s great at reconnection when your connection drops.
|OpenVPN (TCP & UDP)|
|Proprietary Protocols||Lightway (TCP & UDP)||NordLynx|
|IKEv2/Ipsec||Mac & iOS only|
Servers & Locations
Whenever we look at VPN server networks, we consider two key factors: server spread and server count. ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, while you can find a NordVPN server in only 60 countries. ExpressVPN’s server spread includes numerous servers in areas VPNs don’t often cover, including South America, Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The more servers a VPN has, the higher your likelihood of finding servers that are not congested. ExpressVPN doesn’t, however, disclose its exact server count — a practice that’s becoming increasingly common among VPNs, including its related service Private Internet Access (PIA).
All of NordVPN’s servers are physical, while ExpressVPN does use some virtual servers to offer IP addresses for areas that are dangerous to have physical servers, like India.
Ease of Use
In contrast, NordVPN’s app home screen has a large world map that lets you click on the server location you want to connect to. While this is not unique among VPNs, it’s likely confusing if your geography is on the shakier side.
NordVPN’s apps could do with better organization. Some VPN features are located in curious places. For example, the VPN protocols setting is located in the auto-connect menu. ExpressVPN does a fine job in terms of organization. All features are properly organized and have small descriptions, perfect for those new to VPNs.
NordVPN and ExpressVPN have the all-important split tunneling feature, although there are subtle differences. Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers split tunneling on browser extensions. In addition, you can use the feature on various NordVPN devices, including Windows, Android and Android TV.
ExpressVPN’s is available on Windows and Android, and Mac, although it’s not available for macOS 11 and above. On routers, you can section the devices connected to them using Device Groups.
The split tunneling feature is vital if you want to use both foreign and local IPs. For example, let’s say you’re in Canada; you can stream Netflix US, while using your original IP to browse the internet. Split tunneling is also great since it can help you enjoy fast internet speeds and you can connect to LAN devices like a printer while using a VPN.
Dedicated IP Address
Unlike ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers dedicated IP addresses. You’ll have to pay an additional $3.89 per month, and the available locations include the U.S., the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada. Note that the dedicated IP price might change depending on the plan you choose. For instance, it costs $8.99 on the monthly plan but $5.39 on the one-year option.
Normally, when you connect to a VPN server, you’re given an IP address that is shared among many users. While this is standard practice, it could be detrimental on certain counts. For example, if someone uses the IP for fishy activities, it might end up on blacklists.
You won’t have such troubles with a dedicated IP address. Since it’s unique to you, a dedicated IP is an excellent choice for businesses that want to prevent unauthorized access to their systems. A dedicated IP also helps you skip repeated verification requests, particularly CAPTCHAs. Plus, it’s a great choice if you’re looking at hosting websites securely.
Simply put, obfuscation allows you to use a VPN without anyone else knowing that you’re using a VPN. This is vital to help you bypass VPN-blocking firewalls and internet restrictions. Without obfuscation, your internet service provider (ISP), government or anyone monitoring your internet traffic might be able to decipher that you’re using a VPN.
Thankfully, NordVPN and ExpressVPN have obfuscation features, although there are differences. NordVPN has obfuscated servers as part of its suite of specialty servers.
In contrast, ExpressVPN has implemented obfuscation on all its servers, rather than offer specialized servers for specific functions. This means that, regardless of the ExpressVPN server you choose, you’ll be able to conceal the fact that you’re using a VPN.
Note that when you set your ExpressVPN protocol to automatic, you’ll benefit from obfuscation all on your traffic. However, if you configure your protocol manually, your traffic might not be obfuscated.
Another feature that NordVPN offers that ExpressVPN doesn’t is multi-hop servers. Also known as double VPN servers, the multi-hop feature sends your traffic through two encrypted tunnels instead of one. This means that any hacker will have to work twice as hard to get access to your traffic.
A multi-hop feature is a good option for activists and journalists who want to stay as far from government tracking as possible. It’s worth noting that NordVPN’s double VPN feature is dynamic. In other words, you can choose your own multi-hop server combinations.
NordVPN’s Server Breach & Security
We should also note that NordVPN suffered a server breach in 2018. The hacker was able to access NordVPN’s TLS keys, which they could use to create a fake NordVPN website. The hacker was not able to access or monitor user data.
Technically, the hack wasn’t directly the fault of NordVPN, but the fault of a data center that it chose to include in its network. However, NordVPN only reported this incident a year after it happened, which raised many eyebrows. Overall, our expert trust is still with NordVPN, but you can read more about it in our article about NordVPN safety.
NordVPN’s parent company is Nord Security. Recently, Nord Security acquired Surfshark (see our Surfshark review), another of the best VPNs on the market. Nord Security is owned by CyberSpace, which also owns Atlas VPN. It’s worth noting that all three VPNs are independent.
ExpressVPN is owned by Kape Technologies, which runs several VPNs, including Private Internet Access (PIA), CyberGhost and ZenMate. Kape Technologie’s operations have raised suspicion in the past due to its software being used to spread malware, but there’s no conclusive evidence of any wrongful activity.
Which Is Better: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN?
This is a close call, because both NordVPN and ExpressVPN match each other in many respects. For instance, both are able to unblock major streaming platforms, have fast and responsive customer service and offer threat protection. That said, each provider is better for different use cases.
NordVPN is exceptionally fast, making it an excellent choice for data-heavy activities like streaming in high resolutions and torrenting. NordVPN boasts more interesting features, including double VPN servers. ExpressVPN’s low latency makes it a better choice for gaming, but you can’t get a dedicated ExpressVPN IP address.
If you’re a journalist or activist who wants to remain anonymous to restrictive regimes, you’ll find ExpressVPN’s more complete obfuscation handy. It also has a larger server footprint, with servers in 94 countries — 30 more than what NordVPN offers. We recommend ExpressVPN for people new to VPNs because its apps are organized and user-friendly.
We Recommend ExpressVPN If You Want…
- A beginner-friendly VPN: ExpressVPN’s apps are simple, organized and easy to navigate.
- A VPN with a large server spread: ExpressVPN has server coverage in 94 countries.
- All features built into all servers: ExpressVPN makes it easy for users, with all the bells and whistles — like obfuscation — on all its servers.
We Recommend NordVPN If You Want…
- A dedicated IP address: NordVPN offers dedicated IPs for an extra fee.
- Extra security features: NordVPN offers some extra security features, including a dynamic multi-hop feature and an ad/malware blocker.
- More affordable pricing: If you opt for the two-year plan, you’ll be able to get a lower per-month rate with NordVPN.
The Verdict: Why We Think ExpressVPN Wins Overall
Although NordVPN gives ExpressVPN a run for its money, ExpressVPN edges it out. NordVPN is slightly faster and cheaper, but ExpressVPN is the better VPN software. It is more reliable, and all its servers in 94 countries have obfuscation.
Moreover, ExpressVPN’s apps are designed with beginners in mind. They’re sleek, intuitive, organized and easy to figure out.
Although ExpressVPN doesn’t have the kind of extra security features that NordVPN does, it does an exceptional job of protecting user data and privacy. Unlike NordVPN, ExpressVPN has never been breached. However, if you’re not convinced, feel free to check out our other top VPN suggestions.
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- : 30
Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency3 ms
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- : Unlimited
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- : 10
Average speedDownload Speed93 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency10 ms
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- : Unlimited
$3.33 / month(save 66%)(All Plans)
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- : 5