Key Takeaways: Surfshark vs PIA
- The main difference between Surfshark and PIA is that Surfshark is better at unblocking streaming platforms and offers better download speeds.
- Surfshark has more advanced security features, including double VPN servers and an IP rotator.
- PIA is cheaper than Surfshark on the monthly and yearly plans and offers a bargain three-year plan. It’s also a superior choice for torrenting, thanks to its dedicated P2P servers and port forwarding.
If you’re on the hunt for an affordable VPN service, both Surfshark and Private Internet Access (PIA) may have landed on your list. It’s no wonder, as they are among the best cheap VPNs. However, to decide which one matches your needs and budget, you’d have to run a barrage of comparison tests. In this Surfshark vs PIA matchup, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Our VPN experts have tested and used Surfshark and PIA for years, as shown in our Surfshark review and PIA review. As a result, we were able to provide first-hand, peer-reviewed results in this matchup. Our focus is to show you what each VPN is best suited for.
Updated the comparison with the latest speed results for each VPN.
11/29/2023 Facts checked
We updated the article with accurate information and restructured it to focus on the best use cases for each VPN.
Average speedDownload Speed96 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency102 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed93 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency3 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Amazon, Paygarden, Apple Pay, Google Pay
- : Unlimited
How Did We Rate Surfshark vs Private Internet Access?
We examined Surfshark and PIA across multiple categories, including speed, streaming performance, security and privacy features, and torrenting. Both providers are on par in some departments, so we’ll look at similarities first. Next, we’ll compare differences to see which VPN outperforms the other and in which categories.
PIA vs Surfshark: Comparison at a Glance
|$2.29 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee
|$2.19 / month(All Plans) 30-days money-back guarantee
|PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
|PayPal, Credit card, Amazon, Paygarden, Apple Pay, Google Pay
|Supports split tunneling
|Free trial available
|Only on Android/iOS apps
|Worldwide server amount
|3,200 in 95 countries
|35,000+ servers in 91 countries
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Windows, MacOS, Linux
|Chrome, Firefox, Edge
|Chrome, Firefox, Opera
|Can be installed on routers
|Can access Netflix US
|Can access BBC iPlayer
|Can access Hulu
|Can access Amazon Prime Video
|VPN protocols available
|OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard
|IPSec, OpenVPN, Wireguard
|Enabled at device startup
|Passed DNS leak test
|Malware/ad blocker included
Which Is Better: Surfshark vs PIA?
Surfshark is better than PIA in many aspects, including speed, streaming and security features. It also has a sweeping server network covering 100 countries, while PIA covers 91 countries. However, PIA is cheaper on the monthly and yearly plans and is the better option for torrenting.
We Recommend Surfshark If You Want…
- A VPN for Streaming: Surfshark has servers in 100 countries that can unblock the major streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and Hulu.
- A fast VPN connection: Surfshark has faster download speeds and consistent upload speeds.
- A secure VPN: Surfshark has many advanced security features, including a double VPN and IP rotator.
We Recommend PIA VPN If You Want…
- A VPN for torrenting: PIA supports port forwarding and all of its servers allow P2P downloads.
- A Cheap VPN: PIA has a cheaper monthly and one-year plan alongside a bargain three-year plan.
If You Want to Consider Other Services, Check Out…
Average speedDownload Speed88 MbpsUpload Speed8 MbpsLatency5 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall
Average speedDownload Speed93 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency2 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency4 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash
- : 6
$3.33 / month(save 66%)(All Plans)
- : Credit card
- : Unlimited
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, cash
- : 10
Surfshark vs PIA: Similarities
Surfshark and PIA are top choice VPNs and you’ll find them in many of our best VPN lists. It’s no surprise that they have lots of features in common. We’ll start by highlighting those commonalities, category by category.
Apps and Configurations
Whether you’re an Android user or you swear by Apple products, Surfshark and PIA have covered all the bases. Both have apps for Android, Windows, iOS, macOS and Linux devices. In addition, both VPNs have extensions for browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Opera and Firefox.
We consider both Surfshark and PIA to be excellent VPNs for gaming because they can work on gaming consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation – aside from having decent latencies for gaming. Note that you’ll have to install the VPNs on a router and then connect your gaming console to enjoy VPN protection.
You can use both VPNs on your smart TV as long as it allows app downloads. If your smart TV doesn’t support VPN apps, Surfshark and PIA offer smart DNS services to help you unblock streaming platforms. Another workaround is to install the VPN on your router and connect your smart TV.
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections
According to Deloitte, the average U.S. household has 22 connected devices. If you’re within that range or above, you need a VPN that supports multiple devices. Thankfully, Surfshark and PIA both allow unlimited simultaneous connections. You can even share one subscription among friends and family and split the bill.
Both Surfshark and PIA offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. The VPNs will give you a full refund if you request within 30 days of your subscription. The 30-day money-back guarantee offer enables you to trial the VPN without any risk of losing your money.
Surfshark and PIA are two of the most secure VPNs, thanks to their encryption and protocols. They both have WireGuard (ideal for fast speeds) and OpenVPN (a healthy mix of speed and stability). PIA offers IKEv2/IPSec, which works best for mobile devices. On both VPNs, your traffic is protected by AES-256 encryption or a cipher of equivalent strength.
Surfshark and PIA also offer an internet kill switch. This fail-safe feature blocks your internet access when your VPN unexpectedly disconnects. In addition, we checked whether both VPNs leak your IP address and data and can confirm that they don’t. Both also offer split tunneling, so you can run a torrenting client safely in the background if you like.
Surfshark and PIA offer dedicated IP addresses. Instead of sharing an IP address with others, you’ll get a unique IP. This reduces the chances of landing on blocklists and experiencing CAPTCHAs. It’s also better for accessing sensitive websites like banking services. Both VPNs offer dedicated IPs in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany.
Surfshark and PIA both adhere to a strict no-logs policy. Their privacy policies state that they don’t log sensitive user information, such as IP addresses, traffic logs, and details about the websites you visit. Both VPN providers use RAM-only servers, so any information they have on you is erased after each server reboot.
Both VPNs have undergone audits of their no-logs policies. Surfshark’s policy was audited and given a thumbs up by Deloitte in 2023. Deloitte also verified and confirmed PIA’s policy in 2022.
Neither VPN has experienced any server breaches. As of right now, no information has come to light about either service collaborating with law enforcement.
We also like to check the headquarters of each VPN provider since local laws might affect how your data is handled. PIA is headquartered in the U.S., which is part of the Five Eyes alliance, an arrangement that allows countries to share intelligence. Similarly, Surfshark is based in the Netherlands, part of the Nine Eyes, an expanded version of the Five Eyes.
Ordinarily, this might be cause for concern, as the Five Eyes and Nine Eyes agreements have been used to spy on private citizens. However, since both operate RAM-only servers, there’ll be nothing to share even if intelligence agencies try to circumvent your civil rights.
Surfshark and PIA each offer a self-service knowledge base with setup guides, FAQs and troubleshooting guides. We like that Surfshark goes further by including Surfschool, a series of video guides to help you understand the features of the service.
If the knowledgebases don’t help, you can send an email. We tested both VPNs’ email support and got responses within the same day.
For real-time assistance, use Surfshark and PIA’s’ live chat feature. In drawing up this comparison, we asked both VPNs several questions through the live chat option. We connected to agents from both VPNs in seconds. Plus, the responses to our queries were prompt, insightful and helpful.
Surfshark vs PIA: Differences
In this section, we’ll pick apart the VPNs, showing areas where they diverge. As a heads up, Surfshark and PIA differ in streaming performance, pricing, speeds, and advanced security features. Our goal in this section is to recommend the best VPN for each use case.
Streaming Ability and Performance
If you need a VPN for streaming, Surfshark is a more reliable choice. It can unblock all the major streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Max, Disney Plus, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and the usually hard-to-crack Netflix. We streamed HD movies without any buffering issues whatsoever.
We also consider Surfshark one of the best VPNs for streaming live sports. For instance, we were able to unblock Hulu and stream various sports, including UFC Fight Nights and English Premier League matches interruption-free. PIA can help you live stream sports, but it cannot unblock some streaming platforms and might stutter speed-wise.
PIA works with Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Netflix. In some cases, especially with Netflix, we needed multiple attempts. For example, to unblock Netflix U.S., we had to sift through multiple U.S. servers until we had access, but this trial-and-error is inconvenient. Unfortunately, we couldn’t access Hulu and BBC iPlayer, no matter which servers we used.
If you want a VPN with a large server spread, Surfshark is the obvious choice. It has over 3,200 servers in 100 countries. PIA is just a little behind, though, with servers in 91 countries. PIA doesn’t disclose its actual server count on its website, an increasingly common practice among VPNs. For example, ExpressVPN (see our ExpressVPN review) doesn’t disclose its server count.
However, we reached out to PIA’s customer support agents and they indicated that the service had over 35,000 servers. It’s curious that this information is not displayed on the website since it’s a major selling point. However, this massive server count indicates that PIA offers more IP address options than Surfshark.
Surfshark has a slightly better server coverage in many regions. For example, Surfshark has servers in more countries in Europe and Africa than PIA. This means Surfshark offers better chances of getting a wide range of IP addresses and reduces the likelihood of server overcrowding.
PIA does have its strengths server-wise. For instance, if you need a U.S. IP address, you get to choose from PIA server locations in all 50 US states. Surfshark doesn’t quite have the same coverage, with servers in 25 major US cities, but it does have a total US server count of 600.
Looking for a cheap VPN for a month? We recommend PIA because it has one of the cheapest monthly plans at $11.95. Comparatively, Surfshark’s monthly plan costs $10.99.
If you need a VPN for a year, PIA is still cheaper. It costs $4.17 per month, a few cents lower than Surfshark’s charge of $3.49 per month.
Surfshark has a two-year plan, which costs a mere $2.29 per month, one of the cheapest two-year plans on the VPN market. For context, NordVPN, one of the best VPNs, costs $3.39 on the two-year plan. You can learn more in our NordVPN review.
If you want a VPN for three years, go for PIA. It has a rare three-year plan, which costs $2.19 per month.
Surfshark offers Surfshark One, which includes identity protection features such as a masked email generator and real-time email breach alerts starting at $17.95 per month. There’s also Surfshark One+, which adds Surfshark Incogni, a data removal service.
It’s important to mention that Surfshark’s prices increase after the initial billing period. These price shifts are written in small print beneath the prices on Surfshark’s pricing page, so pay attention to them.
We recommend Surfshark over PIA if you need fast internet speed for download-related activities like streaming, scrolling through social media, loading complex web pages and torrenting.
In our VPN speed tests conducted in the U.S., Surfshark had faster download speeds. It kept 96% of our initial speeds, compared to PIA’s 93%. The gap is much wider in the U.K., where Surfshark maintained 94% of our original speeds and PIA managed a measly 54%.
Regarding upload speeds, Surfshark and PIA are comparable. Both maintained at least 90% of our initial speeds across different countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Brazil. This makes them excellent choices for content creators who upload content on platforms like YouTube.
Good VPN upload speeds are also helpful for torrenting with a VPN since they enable you to get a good seeding or share ratio. This will let you get priority downloading before other torrent users. In other words, your torrent downloads will be faster.
If you’re interested in playing online games with VPN protection, you need a VPN with low latency. We ran our tests in the US and observed that PIA has lower latency than Surfshark in nearby locations. However, Surfshark has lower latency in faraway locations like Australia, Brazil and Singapore.
People generally play video games on nearby servers, so PIA’s higher latency in distant locations shouldn’t be a disadvantage in practice. All in all, PIA is a better pick for gaming.
Advanced Security Features
Surfshark has more advanced and innovative security features compared to PIA. For example, it has double VPN servers, which route your internet traffic through two VPN servers instead of one. This is a useful feature if you’re heading to countries that suppress internet freedom.
Unlike other VPNs, Surfshark lets you choose your own locations for a double VPN connection. This feature is called the dynamic multi-hop, and it’s particularly handy if you want to be more private when connecting to a server in your own country or if you’re an activist who wants to make it hard for a government to track you.
Surfshark also offers Surfshark Nexus, which routes your traffic through Surfshark’s server network instead of a single server.
Nexus enables Surfshark to include an IP rotator, which changes your IP address frequently and makes it hard for anyone to track you. A hacker or third party will have to keep track of many IP addresses to be able to track you. If you’re a journalist or someone who shares sensitive information, this is a good tool.
Nexus also plans to introduce a unique feature known as the IP randomizer. This tool changes your IP address whenever you connect to a different server. That way, your browser patterns will be near-impossible to detect by any third party. We’ve yet to see any other VPN implementing this feature.
If you purchase a Surfshark One plan, you’ll enjoy many security features. This includes a private search engine for private browsing, 24/7 antivirus protection and webcam protection. It also includes many identity theft protection features like real-time email, credit card and ID breach alerts, and a masked email generator.
It also has a handy personal detail generator, which can create a new online persona for you, including a new name, email address, valid home address and alternative ID. This can be useful if you need to fill in your details on websites you don’t trust.
For torrenting, choose PIA over Surfshark. PIA explicitly allows P2P file sharing on all its servers, and we consider it one of the best VPNs for torrenting. We tested PIA on popular torrent sites like KickassTorrents and 1337x and it worked like a charm, giving us fast and seamless downloads.
We recommend that you enable port forwarding while torrenting with PIA. Doing that will establish a direct connection between your device and the seeder, allowing you to enjoy high-speed download speeds for torrenting.
Unfortunately, Surfshark doesn’t have dedicated P2P servers. While this doesn’t mean you can’t torrent with Surfshark, it suggests that Surfshark’s focus is not on torrenting like PIA. You might get some of its servers to work with torrenting sites, though. Also, Surfshark doesn’t support port forwarding.
The Verdict: Why We Think Surfshark Wins Overall
The matchup is close enough that we’re willing to consider Private Internet Access-Surfshark a viable rivalry, but in the end, Surfshark performs better than PIA in several respects.
It offers faster download speeds, unblocks streaming platforms more reliably and has servers in more countries. It also comes with advanced security features, including double-hop servers and an IP rotator.
FAQ: Surfshark vs PIA Compared
ExpressVPN is better than Surfshark. Its servers are more consistent at unblocking and its lower near-distance latency makes it a better option for gaming.
You can trust Surfshark because reputable companies, including Cure53 and Deloitte, have audited its server infrastructure. So far, Surfshark hasn’t suffered any server breach and there’s no record of it giving away sensitive user details.