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ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN in 2024: VPN Speed, Features, Security & More Compared

While you can’t go wrong with ExpressVPN or Surfshark, only one service is better suited for your needs. In this ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison, we’ll reveal the similarities and differences between the two services to help you pick your ideal VPN.

Samson KiarieValentina BravoJasna Mishevska

Written by Samson Kiarie (Writer)

Reviewed by Valentina Bravo (Editor)

Facts checked by Jasna Mishevska (Lead Fact-Checking Editor)

Last Updated: 2024-04-18T04:39:01+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

4.55
4.7
  • Strong security suite options
  • Solid security
  • Excellent speeds
  • Extensive server network
  • Very fast speeds
  • Unblocks all streaming services
$2.19 / month(save 85%)(All Plans)
$6.66 / month(save 48%)(All Plans)

Key Takeaways: Surfshark vs ExpressVPN

  • The main difference between ExpressVPN and Surfshark is that ExpressVPN is more consistent, and near-distance latency is low, making it the better service for things like gaming.
  • ExpressVPN is better than Surfshark, thanks to consistent speeds, security features built into every server and solid privacy.
  • Surfshark is cheaper than ExpressVPN and boasts unique features such as CleanWeb 2.0, multi-hop servers and IP rotation. 

If your search for a virtual private network (VPN) has culminated in an ExpressVPN vs Surfshark stalemate, we’ll help you make an informed decision. ExpressVPN and Surfshark are both top-tier VPNs; neither is a bad choice. However, one might be better suited for your needs and preferences than the other.

For example, if you need a VPN for streaming, ExpressVPN’s unmatched unblocking ability and fast speeds sway the odds in its favor (read our best streaming VPN guide). On the other hand, if you need to share a VPN with your family, Surfshark’s unlimited simultaneous connections make it the best bet (read our best VPN for multiple devices guide or our comparison on Surfshark vs Windscribe).

You don’t have to make the decision uninformed. In this guide, we will walk you through the main features of both Surfshark and ExpressVPN. We dug deep into each product to reveal their similarities and subtle differences to help you choose between the two.

  • 09/05/2022

    Updated this comparison to reflect the most recent VPN speed test results.

  • 07/16/2023 Facts checked

    This ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison was rewritten after our experts tested the services, showing how the VPNs are similar and different from each other.

  • 11/30/2023

    Updated the article to reflect ExpressVPN’s recent increase of 5 simultaneous connections to 8, as well as its expansion of server presence to 105 countries, previously 94.

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How Did We Rate ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

During our rigorous testing, we noted where the virtual private networks were similar and areas where they differ. While these services have a lot in common, it’s the differences that will help you choose between the providers. If you want to learn even more about each service, read our ExpressVPN review and Surfshark review

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Expert Opinion: Surfshark vs ExpressVPN

Sandeep Babu is a distinguished writer within the cybersecurity industry, contributing in-depth analyses, insightful commentaries, and forward-thinking perspectives in several leading platforms in the tech industry, including Geekflare, Make Use Of (MUO) and Small Business Trends.

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer fast internet speeds, a money-back guarantee, DNS leak protection, a kill switch, reliable streaming performance and Smart DNS. So it can be challenging to choose between these two VPN service providers.

I started with Surfshark and later switched to ExpressVPN. Having used both VPN service providers, I can help you choose between them. 

If you want to use VPN simultaneously on multiple devices without making a hole in your pocket, Surfshark is the winner. A single subscription allows you to run Surfshark on unlimited various devices, which is a big win for many VPN users.

It is also loaded with additional security features, such as rotating IPs (it changes your IP every 5 to 10 minutes), NoBorders Mode (it allows you to use VPN effectively in areas where there are network restrictions), and Multi-Hop Servers (It will enable you to encrypt your data twice).

However, if you want to use a VPN to unlock content from different geographical locations, ExpressVPN is the right choice due to its excellent unblock capability. Also, in my experience, it has lower latency than Surfshark, so gaming would be more enjoyable using ExpressVPN.

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN: Overview

If you’re short on time, here’s a sneak peek at how ExpressVPN and Surfshark compare on various fronts. We will do into more detail afterward about the similarities and differences of Surfshark vs ExpressVPN.

$6.66 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee$2.19 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee
ReviewReview
General
Payment methodsPayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWallPayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
Accepts cryptocurrency
Simultaneous connections Unlimited
Supports split tunneling
Unlimited bandwidth
Free trial available7 days (mobile only)
Refund period
Worldwide server amount3,000+ servers in 105 countries3,200 in 95 countries
Desktop OSesWindows, MacOS, LinuxWindows, MacOS, Linux
Mobile OSesAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
Browser extensionsChrome, Firefox, EdgeChrome, Firefox, Edge
Can be installed on routers
Streaming
Can access Netflix US
Can access BBC iPlayer
Can access Hulu
Can access Amazon Prime Video
Security
Encryption types256-AES, ChaCha20256-AES, ChaCha20
VPN protocols availableOpenVPN, IKEv2, LightwayOpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
Enabled at device startup
Allows torrenting
No-logging policy
Passed DNS leak test
Killswitch available
Malware/ad blocker included
Support
Live Chat24/724/7
Email support24/724/7
Phone support
User forum
Knowledgebase

Similarities

Let’s dive straight into the similarities. Here, we’ll show you what ExpressVPN and Surfshark have in common.

User-Friendliness

Both VPNs are easy to use and connect. As the best VPN for beginners, ExpressVPN stands out for its sleek and clean user interface. The UI is as simple and clutter-free as it gets, with just a power button (to connect or disconnect) and the location picker on the main screen. 

Surfshark Android app
Surfshark’s Android app has a one-click setup that makes it easy to use.

Surfshark’s UIs on desktop, Android and iOS devices aren’t as sleek as those of ExpressVPN. Still, the learning curve is flat. It takes a single click to connect to a preferred location thanks to the logically organized menus. 

Money-Back Guarantee & Free Trials

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. The money-back guarantee gives you ample time to test the VPN before making a commitment. You can use the refund window as a sort of free trial. 

However, the refund period isn’t a traditional free trial. You’ll still be charged, but if you cancel the subscription within 30 days, you can claim a full refund hassle-free. Read our guides on how to claim an ExpressVPN refund and how to cancel Surfshark for a full refund for more information on that process. 

DNS Leak Protection & Kill Switch

DNS leaks occur when your DNS requests are sent via unencrypted tunnels or to a server other than the VPN’s (read our DNS leak guide). These data leaks can reveal information about you to your internet service provider (ISP), government agencies or malicious snoopers. 

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN come with built-in DNS leak protection. This prevents leaks that could reveal your identity or digital trail. We tested Surfshark and ExpressVPN, and neither leaked our IP addresses.

surfshark kill switch
Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark’s kill switch doesn’t work on apps added to the split tunnel.

Beyond DNS leaks, your IP and traffic could leak if the VPN connection accidentally drops. Thankfully, both providers have a kill switch, which cuts your internet when the VPN connection drops. 

Customer Support

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN have knowledgebases packed with helpful guides and tips to help users solve common issues. 

If you encounter technical issues requiring a human touch, you can find help via 24/7 live chat with both providers. Live chat offers near-instantaneous responses, and the quality of answers is excellent thanks to the well-versed support agents. 

You can also use email to engage support agents on a deeper level or attach a screenshot of the issue you’re experiencing. Sadly, neither VPN provider offers user forums or phone support. 

Device Compatibility

Whether you want to watch live sports on your smart TV or access geo-restricted content on your mobile devices while on the move, you can’t go wrong with either VPN.

expressvpn apps
ExpressVPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, Android,
iOS, routers, gaming consoles and smart TVs.

The providers have arguably the best device compatibility, with native apps for:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS
  • ChromeOS
  • 📺 Smart TVs (Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and more)

Both VPN services are compatible with routers if you want to protect connected devices at home. You can use the VPNs with gaming consoles like PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch via a router. In addition, they offer reliable browser extensions.

Streaming Performance & Smart DNS

ExpressVPN and Surfshark are among the best VPNs for streaming. Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN unblock all major streaming services on the first attempt, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video.

Both VPN providers come with private DNS services to help you unblock streaming services on smart TVs that don’t support VPN apps. A smart DNS changes your IP, but doesn’t encrypt your traffic. As a result, it delivers a faster performance but doesn’t offer VPN-level security.

Surfshark smartDNS png
If you dread the slower speeds caused by VPN encryption, you can use Surfshark’s SmartDNS
to watch movies on streaming platforms with good security. 

Surfshark’s SmartDNS provides U.S.-based IP addresses, meaning you can only unblock U.S. streaming services. If you want to access U.S. and U.K. streaming services, such as BBC iPlayer, ExpressVPN’s smart DNS feature — called MediaStreamer — provides both U.S. and U.K. IP addresses. Read our ExpressVPN MediaStreamer guide to learn more. 

Encryption Security

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark are as secure as it gets, thanks to solid encryption and VPN protocols. VPN protocols work in unison with encryption ciphers to form the encrypted tunnel. Surfshark pairs both the WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols with AES 256-bit encryption. ExpressVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption with OpenVPN and the ChaCha20 cipher with its Lightway protocol. 

These protocol-encryption combinations create virtually unbreakable VPN tunnels. However, if speed is a top priority, the Lightway-ChaCha20 and WireGuard-AES-256 combinations are the best bets. 

Perfect Forward Secrecy

Surfshark and ExpressVPN both use perfect forward secrecy (PFS). With PFS, the apps change encryption keys periodically to protect your traffic from future attacks. PFS generates new encryption keys when you terminate a VPN session, so even if a hacker gets one key (which is highly unlikely), they won’t be able to decrypt your entire traffic thread. 

ExpressVPN is the better VPN service on this front, as it changes encryption keys every time you start a new session or every 15 minutes. Surfshark changes the encryption keys every time you start a new session, meaning longer sessions don’t benefit from the dynamic encryption keys. 

Split Tunneling

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark support app-based split tunneling. You can choose which apps can access the internet directly and which will be routed through the VPN. For example, you can access Netflix U.S. on an unprotected channel while downloading torrents with VPN protection.

Surfshark bypasser
Besides apps, Surfshark users can use split tunneling with websites and IP addresses.

ExpressVPN and Surfshark’s split tunneling is unavailable on Linux and iOS. Surfshark doesn’t support split tunneling on Mac, while ExpressVPN offers support up to macOS 11. 

Privacy Policies

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark adhere to strict no-logging policies, meaning they don’t collect, store or share user data. Both VPNs’ no-logging policies were verified by independent security audits. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) audited ExpressVPN’s no-logs policy and found that the provider adheres to that logging policy. The story was the same when Deloitte audited Surfshark’s no-logs policy

Note, though, that Surfshark and ExpressVPN may collect and retain your real IP address when you use its website or private DNS service. You can read more details in ExpressVPN’s privacy policy and Surfshark’s privacy policy.

RAM-Only Servers

In addition to the no-logs policy, ExpressVPN and Surfshark are among the first providers in the industry to upgrade to RAM-based servers. 

The RAM servers (or TrustedServer technology, as ExpressVPN brands it) automatically wipe data and browsing history with every server reboot. This prevents the server from accidentally retaining data that could expose user activity if government authorities or hackers were to seize it. 

Server Locations

Both ExpressVPN and Surfshark have a similar number of server country locations. Surfshark offers VPN servers in 100 countries, while ExpressVPN has VPN servers in 105 countries.

ExpressVPN desktop app server list
ExpressVPN has an excellent server infrastructure with thousands of servers in 160 locations. 

Surfshark and ExpressVPN’s fleets of servers consist of both virtual and physical servers. You can read our physical vs virtual server guide to learn more.

Obfuscated Servers

Obfuscation disguises your VPN traffic to make it look more like regular internet traffic. It enables you to use a VPN where VPNs and anonymizers are banned, without the authorities noticing. While both providers support obfuscation, implementation differs slightly.

Obfuscation is built into all ExpressVPN servers. Regardless of the server you connect to, your VPN traffic is obfuscated, which is why it’s the best VPN for China

Surfshark uses obfuscation (called “camouflage” mode) on all servers, but there’s a slight difference. The technology isn’t activated on all servers by default. You have to switch to the OpenVPN protocol to enable obfuscation. 

Differences

In this section, we’ll reveal how ExpressVPN and Surfshark differ, to help you make an informed buying decision. 

Connection Speeds

Connection speed is crucial for watching movies, downloading torrents and playing online games. When evaluating connection speed, we consider three key factors: upload speed, download speed and latency (read our latency vs speed guide).

ExpressVPN is a speed maven that had perennially ranked as the fastest VPN until recently, when NordVPN edged ahead (learn more in our VPN speed comparison). When compared to Surfshark, ExpressVPN offers slightly better performance. 

With near-distance speeds, our latest automated testing results suggest that both providers lose less than 10% of unprotected download speeds, which is excellent. However, Surfshark is more inconsistent. 

The providers deliver near-identical performance on the upload front, but ExpressVPN is again more consistent. What’s more, Surfshark’s near-distance latency is quite high, which will be a disadvantage for gaming.

Surfshark has a slight edge over ExpressVPN on international download speeds. The services are neck-and-neck on the upload speed front, but Surfshark edges it out with a slightly lower ping rate. Overall, both VPNs offer excellent speeds that qualify them for our fastest VPNs list.

Protocols

ExpressVPN and Surfshark differ slightly in the available VPN protocols and encryption standards. Out of the box, Surfshark and ExpressVPN automatically choose the best VPN protocol and encryption type based on your internet connection and device. However, you can adjust the VPN protocol option manually.

The providers have ditched the low-security protocols to retain highly secure protocols on desktop. Surfshark and ExpressVPN both support OpenVPN (with TCP and UDP options) — a tried-and-tested protocol. 

ExpressVPN Lightway protocol
ExpressVPN Lightway protocol isn’t a version of WireGuard;
it uses the wolfSSL cryptographic library. 

However, they differ when it comes to the choice of modern protocols. Surfshark offers Wireguard — a lightweight protocol that is as secure as OpenVPN but offers better speeds. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, offers its proprietary Lightway protocol (with TCP and UDP), which is also secure and faster than OpenVPN.

In addition to OpenVPN and WireGuard, Surfshark supports IKEv2 on mobile. This protocol is secure (though not as secure as OpenVPN) and offers better stability on mobile devices. 

Extra Advanced Security Features

Surfshark offers some additional security features over ExpressVPN, including rotating IPs and NoBorders mode. The former changes your IP every five to 10 minutes, without altering your virtual location. Unfortunately, IP rotation only works with regular servers, not static or multi-hop servers. 

Surfshark rotating IP
Surfshark’s rotating IP feature changes your IP every few minutes to enhance digital privacy.

The NoBorders mode is an advanced feature that helps Surfshark users in restrictive regions use the VPN more effectively. It scans your network, and when it notices any restriction, it serves up a list of servers that can circumvent those restrictions. 

ExpressVPN and Surfshark Headquarters

Both providers were initially headquartered in the British Virgin Islands — a privacy-friendly jurisdiction with no mandatory data retention laws. Surfshark moved its base to the Netherlands, another country with privacy-friendly laws. Neither country belongs to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes or 14 Eyes alliances.

Ad- and Malware-Blocking

Beyond the privacy tools, Surfshark’s CleanWeb blocks ads and pop-ups, alerts you of data breaches on websites you visit, and detects malware and malicious activity. It even filters out video ads on your smart TV. 

ExpressVPN also includes a blocker tool, called Threat Manager, which blocks ads, malware and third-party trackers. It’s not quite as capable as CleanWeb, but it’ll do for most use cases.

Dedicated and Static Servers

Unlike ExpressVPN, Surfshark offers dedicated and static IP addresses. Surfshark has 36 free static servers spread across Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom. For more on the difference between static and dedicated IPs, check out our guide to the best VPN for dedicated IPs

In addition, Surfshark introduced dedicated IPs in June 2023. Each dedicated IP costs $3.75 per month. Currently, the VPN provider offers dedicated IP addresses in the U.S., the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands. 

surfshark multihop servers
As the name suggests, multi-hop servers route your traffic
through multiple servers to boost online security. 

Multi-Hop Servers

ExpressVPN doesn’t offer multi-hop servers, which route your internet traffic through two servers for extra protection. Meanwhile, Surfshark VPN offers 12 preconfigured multi-hop server combinations: 

  • 🇩🇪 Germany
    ↕️
    🇸🇬 Singapore
  • 🇳🇱 Netherlands
    ↕️
    🇺🇸 U.S.
  • 🇸🇬 Singapore
    ↕️
    🇳🇱 Netherlands
  • 🇸🇬 Singapore
    ↕️
    🇭🇰 Hong Kong
  • 🇬🇧 U.K.
    ↕️
    🇫🇷 France
  • 🇬🇧 U.K.
    ↕️
    🇩🇪 Germany
  • 🇺🇸 U.S.
    ↕️
    🇳🇱 Netherlands
  • 🇺🇸 U.S.
    ↕️
    🇵🇹 Portugal
  • 🇦🇺 Australia
    ↕️
    🇺🇸 U.S.
  • 🇺🇸 U.S.
    ↕️
    🇨🇦 Canada
  • 🇫🇷 France
    ↕️
    🇸🇪 Sweden
  • 🇩🇪 Germany
    ↕️
    🇬🇧 U.K. 

In addition, Surfshark has introduced a custom multi-hop feature — called Dynamic MultiHop. This feature lets you choose the entry and exit servers to create custom multi-hop connections. 

Simultaneous Connections

Simultaneous connections refer to the number of devices that can be connected to the VPN at the same time.

ExpressVPN supports eight simultaneous connections. You can install and log in to ExpressVPN on an unlimited number of devices, but only eight can be connected to the VPN at once. One loophole to this eight-device limit is to install the VPN on your router. The router will count as one connection, but it will protect all connected devices.

Surfshark doesn’t cap the number of simultaneous connections, making it ideal for large households or those who want to split the bill with others. 

Plans and Pricing 

Both providers offer three plans; neither VPN offers a free plan. For the monthly plan, Surfshark costs $15.45 and ExpressVPN will set you back $12.95, which is on the higher side of the VPN pricing spectrum. 

Surfshark pricing
Surfshark is one of the best value VPN services on the market.

However, Surfshark boasts a larger discount for its extended plans, making it cheaper than ExpressVPN when you commit long term. 

Surfshark Starter
  • Unlimited GB bandwidth, Unlimited devices, Secure VPN, Ad blocker, Cookie pop-up blocker. Plans renew: $231.75 for one year, $417.15 for two years
  • Unlimited GB
  • Unlimited
  • Yes
Surfshark One
  • Everything in Starter, plus Antivirus protection, Identity protection, Email Breach and Credit Card Alerts, Online Alias Plans renew: $239.25 for one year, $430.65 for two years.
  • Unlimited GB
  • Unlimited
Surfshark One+
  • Everything in One, plus Data removal Plans renew: $269.25 for one year, $404.65 for two years
  • Unlimited GB
  • Unlimited

After the monthly plan, Surfshark offers one-year and two-year plans. The one-year plan costs $2.79, and the two-year plan costs $2.19 per month, which is the cheapest around after CyberGhost VPN and Private Internet Access

Meanwhile, ExpressVPN offers a six-month plan and one-year plan, the latter of which comes with three free months. The six-month plan costs $9.99 per month, and the one-year plan costs $6.66 when you factor in the free months.

You may also want to refer to our VyprVPN vs ExpressVPN guide to see how Vypr also offers competitive pricing plans but also how it differentiates itself from our top pick.

Which Is Better: Surfshark vs ExpressVPN?

Both Surfshark and ExpressVPN are top-quality VPNs that will serve you well, and the “best” VPN will depend on your needs. The final decision is up to you, but here are the best use cases for each service.

We Recommend ExpressVPN If You Want…

  • Faster streaming: ExpressVPN combines excellent unblocking ability and high speeds to deliver an interruption-free streaming experience.
  • Excellent gaming experience: ExpressVPN near-distance latency and consistent speed lets you play online games with smoother gameplay. 
  • Obfuscation built into all servers: If you’re in a country where VPN services are banned, you can connect to any ExpressVPN server and use the VPN without the risk of getting caught. 

We Recommend Surfshark If You Want…

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections: Surfshark is ideal for large households and friends who want to split the bill. 
  • Multi-hop servers: Surfshark multi-hop servers add an extra layer of protection and are ideal for journalists and human rights activists. 
  • More affordable pricing: Surfshark’s one-year plan is cheaper than ExpressVPN’s equivalent option.

If You Want to Consider Other Services, Check Out…

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The Verdict: Why We Think ExpressVPN Wins

ExpressVPN and Surfshark have a lot in common — both services are easy to use and offer excellent device compatibility. They also offer top-notch security and privacy, and unblock all popular streaming services on the first attempt. However, they differ subtly on various fronts. 

Considering all factors, ExpressVPN edges Surfshark out on the key categories — it takes the lead when it comes to speed, streaming and security. However, you can try ExpressVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee and also try Surfshark’s month-long money-back guarantee to see which one works best for you.

For similar guides, check out our Surfshark vs NordVPN comparison.

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.

FAQs: ExpressVPN, Surfshark 

  • In our testing, ExpressVPN is overall better than Surfshark, though it’s pricey. It has fast and consistent speeds, solid security and privacy, and it delivers the best streaming performance.

  • Both VPNs unblock Netflix on the first attempt. However, ExpressVPN has the edge, thanks to its fast and more consistent speeds, which guarantee interruption-free Netflix streaming all the time.

  • Surfshark delivers slightly better torrenting performance than ExpressVPN when downloading small torrent files. However, if the torrent files are large (and might take longer to download), ExpressVPN may be the best bet because of its consistent speeds.

  • Yes. We’ve been testing and comparing top-tier VPNs for years, and ExpressVPN keeps cementing its spot as the best VPN. For a comparison between it and another top provider, check out our NordVPN vs ExpressVPN article.

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