Buying a VPN is all about finding a provider that offers the features you need without breaking the bank. It’s all about value for money. In our Surfshark vs ExpressVPN comparison, we’ll put the providers through the wringer to determine which one ticks the right boxes.
- ExpressVPN boasts better performance than Surfshark in speed and streaming. Not to mention, its geographical diversity is unmatched.
- The two titans are an equal match on security, privacy, user-friendliness and customer support.
- Surfshark one ups ExpressVPN on pricing, making it a better budget VPN.
ExpressVPN is undoubtedly the best VPN provider. It offers an impressive suite of VPN features, excellent speeds and unmatched ability to access streaming services. Sadly, it’s one of the most expensive VPNs out there, as you can read in our ExpressVPN review.
As one of the more affordable VPNs, Surfshark shines where ExpressVPN stumbles: pricing — it’s a cheaper ExpressVPN alternative. Besides that, features such as unlimited simultaneous connections, fast speeds and solid security cement its position in the upper VPN echelon, as you can read in our Surfshark review.
Read on to discover how the two titans compare.
Updated this comparison to reflect the most recent VPN speed test results.
Even though Surfshark ultimately loses the fray, it manages to equal ExpressVPN’s features, security, privacy, user-friendliness and customer support performance.
ExpressVPN is the faster of the two, with faster download and upload speeds.
|$2.49 / month (All Plans)30-day money-back guarantee||$6.66 / month (All Plans)30-day money-back guarantee|
|Surfshark Review||ExpressVPN Review|
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card||PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available||7 days (mobile only)|
|Worldwide server amount||3,200 +, 140 server locations in 95 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, Safari, 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||256-AES, ChaCha20|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard||OpenVPN, IKEv2, Lightway|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Surfshark vs ExpressVPN Compared & Tested
This is a nine-round matchup, with each round representing a key aspect of VPN performance. We’ll pit the two VPNs against each other on various fronts such as speed, security, streaming and more.
The VPN that comes out on top on each front will get a point, and in case a tie occurs, both providers will get a point. We’ll then tally the overall points for each provider at the end of the ninth round and the VPN with the most points will be our overall winner. Let the competition begin.
Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency114 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed91 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency5 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall
- : 5
ExpressVPN is a speed maven that has perennially ranked as the fastest VPN. However, as VPN technology evolves, Surfshark has adopted faster protocols to improve speed. We did a batch of speed tests to determine if the provider has done enough to close in on ExpressVPN.
Our VPN speed comparison test results suggest Surfshark can offer good speeds that even beat ExpressVPN’s, but its consistency is incredibly wobbly.
With U.S. performance, Surfshark slightly outperforms ExpressVPN in download speed, but ExpressVPN offers a much more consistent upload speed result. Plus, Surfshark’s latency for the U.S. server is quite high, while ExpressVPN’s ping will not be noticeable.
With worldwide performance, Surfshark does offer a better download performance, with ExpressVPN’s Singapore server really bringing its results down. However, they are about equal in global upload speeds. Meanwhile, worldwide latency performance has Surfshark flip-flopping around ExpressVPN’s consistent line.
ExpressVPN is the winner here because it offers a much more consistently good performance. As a result, ExpressVPN claims a point to take an early lead in our matchup.
Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are top-quality VPNs, and as you’d expect, they come packed with all the commonplace VPN features. However, their basic features such as kill switches and split tunneling offer different configuration options. Plus, the two providers are uniquely decked out when it comes to advanced features.
ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN OS Support
When it comes to device compatibility, Surfshark and ExpressVPN support major desktop and mobile operating systems: Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and Linux. You can also install them on gaming consoles, routers and smart TVs such as Android TV and Apple TV.
If you like your VPN on a web browser, you’ll be glad to know ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Opera. Surfshark, by contrast, supports Firefox, Edge and Chrome only.
Split Tunneling Feature
Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark support app-based split tunneling. You can choose which apps can access the internet directly, and which ones will be routed through the VPN.
However, Surfshark’s split tunneling is not available on Mac, Linux and iOS. The drawbacks aside, Surfshark has an edge over ExpressVPN in that it supports URL-based split tunneling.
Surfshark supports unlimited connections and is arguably the best VPN for multiple devices, alongside Windscribe (read our Surfshark vs Windscribe guide to see how they compare). You can connect an unlimited number of devices, and because it supports unlimited bandwidth, your internet speed won’t dip. By contrast, you can’t connect more than five devices simultaneously with ExpressVPN.
Advanced VPN Features
Surfshark has a clear advantage over ExpressVPN when it comes to advanced features. It offers the CleanWeb — a reliable tool that blocks pesky pop-up ads, third-party trackers and malicious websites, and Surfshark One — a paid antivirus add-on.
Both VPN services exchanged equal blows in terms of basic features. Surfshark has an advantage in terms of advanced features; however, its split tunneling isn’t available for all users. In the end, the providers couldn’t get one up on each other.
As you have seen, both Surfshak and ExpressVPN are full of great features. Let’s put money into the equation to help you determine which service has the best bang for your buck.
Both providers have a pricing model with three plans. On a monthly scale, Surfshark and ExpressVPN set you back $12.95, which is on the higher side of the VPN pricing graph.
However, Surfshark ties a larger discount to its extended plans, making it cheaper than ExpressVPN. For example, Surfshark’s six-month plan costs $6.49 per month, which is $3.50 cheaper than the similar plan for ExpressVPN.
Beyond that, Surfshark offers a two-year plan at $2.30 per month (if you include the two free months), which is the cheapest after Private Internet Access. ExpressVPN’s yearly plan sets you back $8.32, which is still one of the most expensive one-year plans we’ve seen.
Free Trial and Money-Back Guarantee
As far as free trials go, Surfshark has more to offer. Besides the seven-day trial on mobile — which ExpressVPN also offers — Surfshark allows Mac users to test the service for free for seven days (sorry, Windows users). ExpressVPN has no free trials on desktop apps.
In terms of the money-back guarantee, both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and getting a refund is a cinch. Surfshark has an insurmountable advantage in this category and takes the point for this round.
4. Security & Privacy
VPN Protocols and Encryption
Out of the box, Surfshark and ExpressVPN automatically choose the best VPN and encryption based on your internet connection and device. However, you can still adjust the protocol option manually.
With Surfshark you can change the protocols to OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, WireGuard or IKEv2. The protocols use AES-256 encryption — a tried-and-tested option with optimal security and performance. Read our encryption guide to learn more.
ExpressVPN has more options, starting with its proprietary Lightway protocol, which supports both TCP and UDP ciphers. Beyond that, you can choose OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IKEv2 and L2TP/IPsec — a low-security option best for anonymization and changing locations. ExpressVPN pairs these protocols with AES-256 encryption.
Additional Security Features
Surfshark has a multi-hop VPN, which sends your internet traffic via two different VPN servers, making it more difficult for malicious snoopers to decipher. It also comes with a NoBorders mode, a feature that lets you enjoy unlimited internet access in restrictive countries like China.
Rather than add additional security features to deliver top security performance, ExpressVPN chose to reinforce the existing suite and offers obfuscation on all its servers — a feature that hides the fact you’re using a VPN. As a result, it still packs a punch to surpass Surfshark’s security performance, despite lacking additional tools like double VPN. It’s our best VPN for China and other restrictive regimes.
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark No-Logs Policy
Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark have a no-logs policy, meaning they do not collect, store or share connection logs and personal information. However, Surfshark claims to collect and store the user ID and connection timestamps related to the VPN server you connect to for 15 minutes, before expunging them.
Note: Surfshark Incogni is a privacy tool that automates the handling of data removal requests. However, it’s not part of the Surfshark VPN suite, and therefore has no bearing on Surfshark performance in his category.
Lately, ExpressVPN has had to deal with concerns over its acquisition by Kape Technologies. Before that dust settled, reports emerged that its chief technical officer, Daniel Gericke, helped the United Arab Emirates ((UAE) develop espionage software.
Lastly, ExpressVPN and Surfshark are based in the British Virgin Island and the Netherlands, respectively. The two countries have some of the most privacy-friendly laws with no mandatory data retention laws, which enable VPN companies to maintain top-notch privacy.
There’s nothing conspicuous to separate the two providers here. They both offer secure protocols and encryptions, and although ExpressVPN doesn’t offer additional security features, it still delivers excellent performance. Moreover, ExpressVPN’s boardroom issues have had no impact on its privacy profile.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for streaming because it’s incredibly fast and gets you into any streaming service. In our tests, it unblocked multiple Netflix libraries, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer on the first attempt. The provider also delivers a smooth streaming experience free of any lags or buffering.
Surfshark performance is a mixed bag. While it got us into Disney Plus on the first attempt, it took several attempts to unblock HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. Beyond that, Surfshark couldn’t find a way around Netflix geo-restrictions, which is disappointing.
This is the first time Surfshark failed to unblock Netflix. It seems the popular streaming service has blocklisted some of Surfshark’s IP addresses. Hopefully, the provider will refresh the pool of IPs to remedy that issue.
ExpressVPN is a streaming giant that puts up a performance Surfshark can only dream to achieve. For this reason, ExpressVPN takes the point to reclaim the lead in our ExpressVPN vs Surfshark fray.
In the torrenting category, the playing field is level because none of the VPN providers offer torrenting-optimized servers. However, we expected ExpressVPN to outshine Surfshark because of its fast download speeds. To see how the two compare, we used the automatic server option to download a 1GB test file on 3 Mbps internet.
Surfshark Vs ExpressVPN Torrenting Speeds
|VPN service:||Top download speed||Download time|
|ExpressVPN||0.41 MB per second||81 minutes|
|Surfshark||0.40 MB per second||75 minutes|
The results didn’t pan out as we expected. Though Surfshark started slowly, it quickly gathered pace to reach a maximum speed of 0.4 Mbps, compared to ExpressVPN’s 0.41 Mbps. Its slower download speed didn’t impact its performance as it completed the download in 75 minutes, beating ExpressVPN to the line by six minutes.
As a result, Surfshark gets the point in this round. Read our Surfshark vs NordVPN comparison to see how the former compares to another great torrenting VPN.
7. Server Locations
In our ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison, we’re more interested in server distribution than count. A wider server distribution means you have more country-specific IP addresses to unblock services. On the other hand, a higher server count makes sure you don’t face throttling in specific locations.
Even though Surfshark hasn’t been around for long, it has amassed more than 3,200 VPN servers across the globe. This number is slightly higher than ExpressVPN’s tally of more than 3,000 VPN servers. One thing to note is that both VPNs use physical and virtual servers.
However, Surfshark has one advantage in the form of static IP servers. Unlike regular servers that assign you a dynamic IP, these servers assign you the same IP address every time you connect to them. Sadly, neither ExpressVPN nor Surfshark offers a dedicated IP address. Read our shared vs dedicated IP address guide to learn more.
Global VPN Server Coverage
ExpressVPN cancels out Surfshark’s slight advantage with arguably the best geographical server diversity you’ll see in the market. Its servers are spread out across 94 countries in a whopping 150 VPN server locations (ExpressVPN claims there are 160 locations). Surfshark VPN servers are situated in 112 VPN server locations across 65 countries.
ExpressVPN is the undisputed winner in this category. Surfshark has a slightly bigger server count, but ExpressVPN has servers in 31 more countries and 38 more server locations. For these reasons, ExpressVPN takes the point to cement its lead in our matchup.
Surfshark and ExpressVPN are the epitome of user-friendliness, thanks to their clean UI with clearly labeled functions. Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned VPN user, you won’t struggle to find and connect to your ideal VPN server, change protocols or tinker with other connectivity options.
Finding the server you want to connect to is a cinch with Surfshark. You search the server by country name using the search tool, which gives you a list of regular, multi-hop and static IP address servers. Alternatively, you can scroll through the list of locations to find the ideal server.
Surfshark’s “settings” tab houses vital configuration options. It takes a touch of a button to activate auto-connect, Bypasser, kill switch and CleanWeb, in the “connectivity” tab. For additional security, head over to the “advanced” tab to change protocol options and activate the NoBorders more.
ExpressVPN is similarly easy to use. Click the three dots in the “selected location” area to open the server list and use the search tool to quickly find the ideal server.
If you want to tweak either VPN’s configurations to suit your preferences, all the options are clearly labeled and organized in neat menus, and you won’t have to guess your way to the settings of interest.
VPN Service Mobile Apps
Many VPN mobile apps are trimmed-down versions of their desktop versions. ExpressVPN and Surfshark mobile apps defy the odds.
Surfshark’s Android app mirrors the intuitiveness and capability of the Windows app, and it has all the features of the desktop app. The exception is split tunneling, which isn’t available on iOS.
ExpressVPN mobile apps feature a more intuitive interface than their desktop versions, so they’re easier to use. Not to mention, they bundle all the features you need from the kill switch and split tunneling to auto-connect and other configuration options.
The providers are an equal match for each other in this category. A tie is the perfect reflection of the VPNs’ user-friendly performance.
9. Customer Support
When you encounter issues using ExpressVPN or Surfshark, there are various ways to find help. If the issues are minor, you can search through the knowledgebase articles for some quick self-service tips. Surfshark has links to popular guides, to save you the hassle of scrolling through knowledgebase categories.
However, if your issue is complex and requires a human touch, you can find help via live chat or email. Live chat is the fastest way to find help for both providers because agents respond in seconds. On the other hand, email remains the best way to engage support agents on a deeper level, and you can attach a screenshot of the problem you’re facing.
ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN offer excellent customer service and it’s hard to find a fault, except that they don’t have phone support. You can contact support around the clock with either service. There’s nothing to set them apart, so the round ends in a tie.
The Surfshark vs ExpressVPN matchup played out as we anticipated. ExpressVPN proved once again that it’s the best VPN in the industry with seven points, compared to Surfshark’s tally of six. However, there’s more to the story than score alone, as the difference in price might tip the scales in Surfshark’s favor for many of you.
ExpressVPN dominated all categories, except pricing and torrenting (lost by the slightest of margins). Surfshark, on the other hand, couldn’t match ExpressVPN’s performance on speed, streaming and server locations. The two titans were evenly matched on features, security and privacy, user-friendliness and customer support.
To learn how the two providers compare with other top VPNs, check our Cyberghost vs Surfshark and ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost reviews. Check out our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN matchup to learn how our winner compares to the fastest VPN.
What do you think of our ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison? Have you used either of these VPN providers? Which VPN do you think deserves a point in a category they lost? We’d like to hear about it. As always, thanks for reading.