ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN

You’ve made it. From reading all the VPN reviews, you’ve narrowed the choice down to the two most popular and promising VPNs in the industry.

In case you haven’t read the reviews, you can read our reviews of NordVPN here and ExpressVPN here.

The final decision must be made…

ExpressVPN and NordVPN Comparison

You’re probably unsure of your current choice.

Maybe there’s something you missed out on. Maybe it’s a detail that will you annoy you months after making your purchase. Maybe they’re price gouging you! Or worse, will they expose your activities to snooping eyes?

All these questions will be answered in this comparison that focuses on exactly what you’re looking for. There are probably definitely things you haven’t considered as well.

Servers and Locations

Both VPN services offer a crazy amount of servers – NordVPN with over 5000 servers and ExpressVPN with over 3000. Both VPN services offer them in various regions throughout the world – NordVPN is available in 61 countries while ExpressVPN is available in 94 countries.

NordVPN offers sheer server count number which can be inflated by virtual instances rather than a physical server, but ExpressVPN offers their services in 33 additional countries.

Server locations matter because maybe you want localized content relevant to you. If you’re in English-speaking countries, this shouldn’t be an issue since both services offer servers in the US, CAN, UK, AUS, NZ, etc.

However, if you’re not from the most populous region and need localized content, ExpressVPN might have your country on the list.

NordVPN offers more feature-rich servers, though. From obfuscated servers enabling VPN usage in censor-heavy countries like China, Turkey, and Russia, to having double VPN for double the encryption.

Let’s not forget about TOR integration – both premium services allow you to freely access .onion sites without worrying about who’s watching you.

For the server and locations category, it’s a tie – if you need localized content for your specific country, ExpressVPN may have it. If you need extra security, NordVPN has it.

VPN Speed and Performance

If you’ve read our reviews, you know we have a pretty elaborate speed test method. We test from the US and EU to US, EU, and Asia using a 100 Mbps connection.

Both premium VPNs offered fast speeds, though they were not the fastest we’ve tested.

Both saw a reduction in speed, somewhere around 10-25% but NordVPN had faster speeds by a small margin.

But connecting to a server on the VPN clients is another issue – ExpressVPN connects to a server in a few seconds whereas NordVPN client seems to take longer to optimize your routing. It won’t take more than 20 seconds and the difference is negligible.

We saw no disconnections or interruptions during testing.

Both VPNs offer fast enough speeds for 4k streaming and more. It’s a tie if we don’t get petty over 1 Mbps.

Netflix Test

One of the most important things to modern day VPNs is having Netflix access, or rather, unblocking region-locked content.

It’s safe to say, both services offer US Netflix unblocking so you can watch all US content without problems. (It’s no wonder they’re both topping our best VPNs for Netflix list).

Netflix simply can’t keep up with these two premium services. Both companies have live chat agents telling you which server to connect to, in case the public list doesn’t work.

We saw Netflix access for 5 countries for NordVPN vs. 3 countries for ExpressVPN.

US, Canada, and UK are covered by both while NordVPN offers additional access to Japan and the Netherlands.

In this NordVPN vs. ExpressVPN Netflix battle, NordVPN wins with additional region access.

Torrenting Policy

The official stance is quite simple.

Both companies do not condone illegal activities like piracy or distribution of copyrighted materials (and neither do we). Both companies have lengthy Terms of Service pages for this.

At the same time, both publicly advertise themselves as torrent-friendly VPNs!

So what’s the actual policy?

It’s safe to say, they have these policies in writing for legal reasons. They simply want to protect themselves from copyright trolls and other potential risks.

Torrenting is fast and secure on both VPNs, but NordVPN has specific servers optimized for this purpose.

Both NordVPN and ExpressVPN clients and apps will work for torrenting.

As far as not receiving DMCA notices and protecting yourself, keep reading… (Hint: both VPNs made it to our best torrent-friendly VPN list).

Pricing & Plans

This is where the great divide happens. We know you can do basic math in your head.

NordVPN is only $2.99 per month on average. ExpressVPN is $8.32 per month on average. ExpressVPN is almost 3x more expensive!

With NordVPN you pay slightly more upfront – $107.55 for 3 years whereas ExpressVPN costs $99.95 for 1 year.

You can also opt-in for the most expensive payment plan which is the month-to-month subscription which costs $11.95 for NordVPN and $12.95 for ExpressVPN.

Pricing wise, NordVPN is the clear winner. It doesn’t take a genius to see which is cheaper.

But what about value? You’re probably wondering, how can two premium VPN services with drastically different prices both be on top?

Read on to find out.

Refund Policy

Let’s assume you’re the 0.1% of the user base who are left unsatisfied with the purchase or the service.

In this case, you can rest easy.

Both VPNs offer a 30-day money-back guarantee – no ifs and buts, and no secret clauses that will haunt your decision. As long as you sign up from their website and not a reseller.

If you are not satisfied with either service, simply contact support for all your money back. We’ve tested the refund system of both companies and received our money back within the week.

It was a pain-free process for both.

Payment Methods

ExpressVPN has a small edge here against NordVPN for “normal” payments.

ExpressVPN has way more payment options from credit card companies to other payment methods like Alipay, Klarna, Webmoney, etc.

Both companies accept more anonymous payment methods like BTC. NordVPN also accepts a wider variety of cryptocurrencies ETH and XRP.

All transactions are done through third-party payment processors. Your identity is at a greater risk if you don’t use cryptocurrencies as a payment method.

Ideally, they would also accept cash or gift cards. We hope to see this in the future.

For now, let’s stick to using cryptocurrencies to stay anonymous.

Device Compatibility

In terms of device compatibility and product availability, ExpressVPN wins in this comparison.

ExpressVPN simply has native apps for more devices. They even have DNS guides to set up gaming consoles. For those who simply don’t want to go through with configuring their network settings, ExpressVPN may be the better option.

In terms of device usage, NordVPN wins by offering more simultaneous device connections. NordVPN allows up to 6 connections while ExpressVPN only offers 3.

The good news is, both VPNs can be configured on the router-level so your entire network can be covered (ie – unlimited device connections).

You can also buy pre-configured routers that are optimized for both services if you don’t want to go through the trouble yourself.

Sign Up Process

It’s quite easy to sign up and get things going. Both companies have a basic signup form and both offer anonymous payment methods.

ExpressVPN is still using product codes, however. It seems they can’t let go of the past.

Remember when you had to buy some program and it came with CD keys or activation codes?

Product Interface

UI and UX are somewhat subjective but we’ll try to be as objective as possible.

Both VPNs across all devices are rather simple to use. Large one-click-connect button, server list, settings for further configurations, etc.

NordVPN simply looks better. Again, this is entirely subjective; the overall aesthetics of NordVPN is cleaner and modern.

Remember ExpressVPN is still using activation codes like it’s 1999.

However, as we mentioned before, NordVPN takes a bit longer connecting to a server.

UX is quite similar between the two. A tie here.

Customer Support

Both products work as advertised and are quite easy to use straight out of the box. But that doesn’t mean troubles never come up.

Both companies offer very helpful 24/7 live chat, ticket forms and email support in addition to product documentation and guides.

One nice use case for the 24/7 live chat is asking about Netflix availability.

When we tested both services for this, the live chat agents were more than helpful and resolved the issues by offering alternate servers or routes.

Product Documentation

There is a clear winner here. It’s ExpressVPN.

If you wondered why ExpressVPN is nearly three times more expensive, we have one guess: they’re spending a lot on marketing and product documentation. There’s a guide for virtually everything.

If you think you will have some trouble configuring everything and are still learning the ropes, ExpressVPN’s documentation is slightly more expansive.

Both companies blog about privacy and security issues. Neat.

Logging Policy

Privacy advocates and paranoid pirates can come out for the time being and pay close attention.

Both companies have a zero-log policy.

On the surface, this is enough for most people. But not you. You want to know the specifics, you want to know exactly what they have on you.

The unfortunate news is, you can never 100% trust any VPN service. Rather, it’s about risk management – which service carries a lower risk of exposing you?

Both companies have what we call a “zero activity log”, or what some other sites call “harmless logging.”

Your activity is not recorded or logged, meaning they do not record or store information on who is connecting to what website; no timestamps, session information, bandwidth or IP address that can connect your VPN usage to you.

NordVPN claims that an algorithm keeps username and timestamp of the last session which is wiped 15 minutes after the session is terminated to maintain their 6 device connection policy.

ExpressVPN claims that they collect app versions you’ve activated and whether you have successfully connected on a specific day (but not the exact time), to VPN location and from what country and ISP. All these are for technical support and fixing network issues.

Both companies do use marketing tools like Google Analytics where the user ID remains anonymous.

Both companies clearly had a team of legal experts structure their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy according to their needs. Whether a VPN service is keeping logs or not – you’ll never know for sure.

We can rest a little knowing that no one has been caught by the government with these two VPNs, though. And it’s within their interest to keep it this way – if even a single case was attributed to any logging, these VPN services will be finished.

IP and DNS Leak Test

Another reason why you can rest easy with these two.

Zero leaks of any kind! Both your IP and DNS are safe while using NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

We’ve done some extensive tests across various sites. Most top-tier VPNs have this feature on lock-down.

Remember: if your IP or DNS is exposed, your activities and your identity is at risk of exposure. For instance, when you are torrenting, your activities along with your IP are visible to the public. With a VPN, your activities remain hidden.

Encryption and Protocols

You may have some preferences over how you want to encrypt your connection and what protocol to use.

NordVPN uses AES with 256-bit keys which is the standard “military-grade” encryption used. They also offer IKEv2/IPsec and OpenVPN as protocol options.

ExpressVPN also uses AES with 256-bit keys. They also offer L2TP/IPsec, and UDP and TCP with OpenVPN. If you want to go old school, there’s also PPTP.

With encryption and protocols, it’s a tie. Both VPN services offer great protection.

You will have various choices and can switch things around depending on your needs.

Kill Switch

Random, anonymous people on the Internet may report that they’ve received a DMCA notice or noticed a leak.

This simply shouldn’t happen with NordVPN or ExpressVPN, provided all the proper protocols are set up and the kill switch is on.

So yes, a kill switch is available for both premium VPNs. And it works.

Business Acumen

When it comes to a business comparison between ExpressVPN and NordVPN, it’s difficult to measure things up.

Both businesses are quite secretive in their practices in a lot of ways, and both make great transparency efforts to connect with the community.

ExpressVPN was launched in 2009 under ExpressVPN International Ltd in the British Virgin Islands – it’s a decade old! They’ve since built up a brand that sits at the top of the hill.

NordVPN was launched in 2012 under Tefinkom & Co., S.A. in Panama. It’s a very close second, and well-positioned to overtake ExpressVPN.

It’s quite common for VPN businesses to stay private. You’ve probably done some background checks on these businesses and noticed you can’t find the people behind them. No information on the Board of Directors, no CEOs, no tax reports or anything.

The reason why things remain hidden is to deter governments (especially from the Five Eyes Alliance) from using legal measures to disclose customer information. So it works both ways – it can protect you, but at the same time, you never really know who is behind the services.


Both companies remain outside of any Alliance grounds.

The British Virgin Islands, while technically being a British territory, has its own government, does not report to the UK and does not have any data retention laws.

It is entirely possible that a foreign government mandate BVI High Court to release your information, although this scenario is highly unlikely.

Panama, another fantastic place in the Caribbean, is a completely independent country. It is known for being a tax-haven along with having a notorious reputation for not cooperating with international transparency policies.

The likelihood of Panama releasing your information is nearly zero. The country thrives on that reputation alone and they simply won’t throw that away. Unless you’re a special snowflake.

There is a winner between ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN for the jurisdiction category.

It’s NordVPN. Panama is simply the better jurisdiction for the reasons listed above.

In the one-in-a-billion off-chance that either the BVI or Panama’s courts force these companies to disclose your data, remember these companies are keeping no logs. All the data they hand over probably cannot connect you with your activities alone.

Security and Policy Audits

The reason why the security and “no log” policies remain believable is due to security audits and transparency reports.

Both VPN providers are making efforts to make sure all their architecture and infrastructure is secure and sound.

ExpressVPN has been audited by Cure53, a widely-respected penetration testing firm from Germany. Issues were found and resolved, and ExpressVPN even made some additional marketing efforts and made their Chrome browser extension open-source.

NordVPN has been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG, a world-renowned company with global revenue of $41.3 billion. PwC is one of the Big Four auditors – four of the biggest companies in the world that offer financial and legal audit services.

It’s great seeing two of the biggest VPN services make strides for better transparency. Another tie between the two.

Winner: NordVPN

The short version?

NordVPN offers nearly everything ExpressVPN does, with a more stylish and modern product and a significantly cheaper price point. It’s a no-brainer.

So congratulations on making this far. You’ve made great choices and eliminated the lesser VPNs.

Now it should be pretty clear who is the winner between NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

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The Full Breakdown

Both services have:

  • Great speeds – a reduction of 20-25% speeds and supports 4k streaming.
  • Torrenting is a go – everything works out of the box and they’ll also look the other way for your personal use.
  • Fantastic security – zero leaks, high level of encryption and widely accepted protocols along with a kill switch.
  • Safe jurisdiction – no data retention laws and outside of Five Eyes.
  • Amazing customer support – whether it’s the responsive 24/7 live chat or documentation, both companies have it right.
  • Anonymous payments – for those lookings to be extra anonymous, you can pay with Bitcoin.
  • No logs – while the term is simplified, both VPN services state that you are safe.
  • Zero risk – 30-day money back guarantee for both. There’s no risk!

The main differentiators are listed on the sidebar.

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Editor’s note: NordVPN loses out in locations – if you fall under one of those countries outside of NordVPN’s service range and require localized content (while ignoring the main differentiators), then it makes sense to get ExpressVPN.

Published by

Jamie Cambell

Ethical Hacker. Ph.D., M.S. in Computer Science at University of California, Berkeley. Technology enthusiast and also a part-time gamer. My goal is liberating the Internet.

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