Private Internet Access (also known simply as “PIA”) is an extremely popular VPN around the world, and for good reason – it’s cheap. With prices starting at just $2.91 per month, the shelf appeal makes perfect sense. But, as with everything – you get what you pay for. And although Private Internet Access is a decent provider, there are better ones for comparable prices. So if you want better global server coverage, faster internet, and greater security away from prying eyes, keep reading.
In this post, we’re going to show you our criteria for the best alternatives to Private Internet Access and talk about the drawbacks of PIA in further depth.
What makes a good VPN?
Researching and choosing a VPN can feel complicated and overwhelming. There are a lot of things to look for – things like encryption strength, server distribution, logging policies, and the country-of-origin of the provider. All these things can affect speed and security in both direct and indirect ways – so you need to make your choice carefully.
We didn’t choose those examples by random, either — Private Internet Access has had issues with each of them. With that in mind, we used the following things as benchmarks to give you a list of the best alternatives to PIA:
- Location –To be on our list, each of the VPNs had to be based out of a country not under the jurisdiction of governmental agencies or snooping laws.
- Fast speeds – VPNs slow your internet down. But these VPNs minimize that, so you can still download and stream quickly.
- Privacy + Security –Having strong encryption and privacy policies are must-haves in a VPN.
- Network size + distribution –Number of servers and a widespread distribution assures that you can get the best connection and get around geo-blocks. Bigger is better.
- Zero-logging policy – Going hand-in-hand with privacy, your VPN needs to have a zero-logging policy. Your information will only be safe if your VPN doesn’t keep logs.
The best alternatives to Private Internet Access
Here’s our 2018 list of the best alternative VPNs to PIA:
ExpressVPN has 2,000+ servers across 94 countries – this kind of broad network is the type you need to find the best server for your use-case. And since they’re based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN falls outside of U.K. jurisdiction and is exempt from the Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major world governments. So you can rest assured that your data and traffic isn’t being logged and can’t be pulled.
ExpressVPN is also one of the fastest VPNs in the world. Zero speed caps, no throttling, and no restriction on P2P networks or torrents means you can stream buffer-free, download fast, and browse seamlessly. It’s a great provider for gaining access to Netflix and Hulu, too – and if you have problems, their customer service is excellent.
They also offer 256-bit encryption, which is the best encryption money can buy, with 5 security protocols that can tackle the toughest blocks and slowest networks with ease. And with a lightweight interface that doesn’t overtake your screen, a single click brings you online.
Finally, ExpressVPN is available across a wide spectrum of devices, so you can rest easy knowing that chances are, it’ll be available to you.
Check out our full-length ExpressVPM review.
NordVPN has a massive network– over 5,000 servers massive – that makes this provider the biggest in the industry. And, although located in Panama, they’re spread across 62 countries and growing. Since they’re based in a country with a neutral government, they’re virtually immune to takedown requests, so you don’t have to worry about them reporting on you. And while we’re on the topic, they have a great zero-logging policy – not a single log kept on your traffic, IP address, timestamps, bandwidth, or browsing history. It’s one of the most complete out there.
If you like to use Onion network, game, torrent, or just want an extra layer of security, NordVPN has specialty servers for these use-cases and more. Their nearly unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption wraps your data in security and more advanced features let you customize even further – for strength, speed, or device accessibility. This makes them one of the most reliable VPN providers for bypassing annoying VPN blocks.
While NordVPN isn’t the fastest on the market, they’re very close – and excellent for accessing your favorite video streaming services. An attractive, intuitive user interface makes use simple, with a graphical map showing you where their servers are located – worldwide.
Learn more about this fantastic PIA alternative in our NordVPN review.
CyberGhost gives you privacy and security made easy. They’re incredibly beginner-friendly, keeping things simple and easy to install. Then, once you have the VPN up, they give you 6 simple configuration profiles. With these profiles, you get the option to have the best settings applied automatically for your use-case. So for things like surfing anonymously, unblocking streaming, and choosing your VPN server, as well as others, you don’t need to spend a lot of time getting your settings figured out. And, each of those profiles can be customized with simple toggles – so you can add ad blockers, online tracking blockers, and extra speed simply by turning on a toggle.
CyberGhost also utilizes a default encryption protocol that blends speed and security – but if you want one over the other for any reason, you can select one of their other 4 protocols and get connected. With a large network of 2,700+ servers across 60 countries, unlimited bandwidth, no throttling, and high connection speeds, you can rest assured you’ll find the best and fastest server for you.
Notably for privacy nuts, CyberGhost also logs nearly nothing – just anonymous log-in events once per day to accrue monthly login-statistics among unique users. That might sound fishy, but it’s not – there’s no way for this to be traced back to an individual. Get CyberGhost for your Windows, Mac OS, iOS, or Android and connect up to 5 devices at a time.
Want to learn more? Read our full CyberGhost review.
PrivateVPN is based out of Sweden – another privacy-friendly home base. There, PrivateVPN is safe from other major powers’ regulations and requests for your data. And even if they did get a court order, there would be nothing to share – PrivateVPN doesn’t keep any details about you that could allow a third party to match an IP address to you. That’s great news – you don’t have to worry about them selling your info to advertising companies on the side.
PrivateVPN gives you 256-bit AES encryption, alongside DNS leak test capability, and automatic kill switch protection. So you can test your connections to make sure your identity isn’t leaking out, and if your connection drops, you’ll still be safe. The kill switch will automatically shut down your internet, preventing any of your data from being vulnerable.
High speed connections and great customer support are right on point with PrivateVPN. And, due to a unique feature, where the best VPNs for getting around VPN blockers are labeled, PrivateVPN is one of the best providers if you want worldwide access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and all your other favorites.
Here’s our comprehensive PrivateVPN review if you want to learn more.
Why look for alternatives to Private Internet Access?
PIA is popular largely due to its affordability – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t shortcomings that have left customers unhappy with their service. Many of PIA’s customers have had problems in the areas we’re about to discuss, so let’s dive into why you should pick an alternative VPN.
To start, PIA doesn’t offer a server status page with real-time updates about your server’s bandwidth. This means that you have no ability to see the real-time speed of your bandwidth, or troubleshoot poor speed or connection problems. Alongside this, although Private Internet Access has a great number of servers, their speed isn’t great. Using PIA can slow down your internet significantly, so streaming and downloading can be frustrating ordeals.
Weak global network
Although Private Internet Access has a network size of over 3,400 servers, they’re overall coverage – how widespread they are – is poor, primarily limited to the western world. The closer you are to your nearest server, the faster your internet will be, so this isn’t good – especially for gamers, as many of the largest online gaming markets are located in the Middle East, Russian and Asia. These are all poorly covered areas.
No live chat support
Sometimes things go wrong with your VPN. It happens – that’s just a fact. But when they do, you want and need timely customer support. Private Internet Access only takes support tickets through email. There’s no “live chat” option, so it can take a while and keep of off the web.
Based in the U.S.
Private Internet Access is owned by London Trust Media, Inc., a United States-based company. Because it’s located in the U.S., that means it falls under United States jurisdiction – and the American government likes to know everything about everyone. So, with PIA located there, they could easily be ordered at any time to start keeping logs of your data and traffic – and you might never even know the difference.
Why is a U.S.-based VPN such a bad thing?
Most of the major governments and countries of modern times have domestic intelligence agencies. In the U.S., you have the NSA and the FBI. These two agencies have been found in recent years to be collecting data on just about everyone – citizen, visitors to the U.S., and diplomats included. And those efforts include spying on what you do online.
What the FBI and NSA do
The FBI was founded in 1908 to “protect the rights and liberties” of United States citizens while fighting criminals throughout the country. Originally, this was proposed so that there would be an organization that had access to government intelligence and resourced and could cross state lines – the entire U.S. is their jurisdiction.
The NSA was founded in 1952 to globally monitor, collect information, and protect the United States’ communication networks. They can – and do – do this by any means, including through physical “bugging” of electronic systems, wiretapping phone calls, and watching internet activity.
Former NSA and CIA contractor Edward Snowden shook the world when he leaked documents in 2013. These documents revealed massive, extensive, extremely invasive measures taken by the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens, travelers, and diplomats. It also showed that the NSA and FBI were increasing their surveillance, without warrants or oversight. While the United States was perhaps the most publicized country involved, others were revealed to be implicated, showing inter-country networks of spying.
You can learn more about this in our comprehensive guide.
Although Private Internet Access can be a solid VPN provider based off its extremely affordable rates, it falls short in many important areas. With a solid list of alternatives with better features, performance, and comparable prices, why stick with PIA? There’s a lot that goes into researching the best alternatives, and here we’ve done a lot of the work for you. Use this guide to finish your search, make your choice, and get online, safe and private.
Have you used Private Internet Access? What was your experience with it? Did it parallel the issues we laid out here? Tell us your story below in the comments.