In this in-depth comparison guide examining ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access we will take a close look at each VPN and how it performed in real-life testing. Here is a brief summary of my findings:
ExpressVPN is more expensive than Private Internet Access, but it also offers faster speeds and 24/7 access to Netflix and other streaming channels that are often blocked with VPNs. Private Internet Access is cheaper than ExpressVPN, and it offers a basic ad blocker, but the applications and speeds are not quite up to par. Overall, if you want a fast, simple, and secure VPN service, ExpressVPN would be the top recommendation.
Another major difference between the two is jurisdiction. ExpressVPN is based in a good jurisdiction for privacy (British Virgin Islands) while PIA is based in the United States – which is a bad privacy jurisdiction (Five Eyes).
Before we get into the test results, let’s start with a quick overview of each provider.
|Based in||British Virgin Islands|
|Support||24/7 Live chat|
ExpressVPN is a premium VPN service based in the British Virgin Islands. It is known as one of the fastest VPNs on the market with excellent, high-security applications and strong encryption to protect user data.
In the latest update to the ExpressVPN review I found the following pros and cons:
- User-friendly and very secure apps
- Exceptional speeds throughout the server network
- 30 day money-back guarantee
- Split tunneling feature (for Mac OS, Windows, and routers)
- Works with Netflix and other streaming services
- 24/7 live chat support
- Slightly more expensive (but currently offering a 49% discount)
Now we will take a quick look at Private Internet Access (PIA).
Private Internet Access overview
Private Internet Access is a cheaper, basic VPN service that is based in the United States. As noted above, the United States is a bad privacy jurisdiction due to mass surveillance practices and laws that permit government authorities to force companies (including VPN providers) to collect user data for the government. The US is part of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance.
If you are looking for a cheap, basic VPN service, Private Internet Access might not be a bad option.
In the latest update to the Private Internet Access review I found the following pros and cons:
- Secure apps
- Verified no logs VPN provider
- Some decent security and privacy features
- Cheap prices
- Based in the US
- Mediocre support
- Slower speeds than top VPN providers
Price: ExpressVPN vs PIA
Below we will examine the prices and refund policies. While it is clear that ExpressVPN is the more expensive option, the key question is always value (what you get for your money).
Private Internet Access price
PIA is certainly cheap, with their current discount pricing that drops the monthly rate down to $3.49 with the two-year subscription plan:
Above are the new discounted prices for PIA. In terms of value, PIA is not a bad choice. While the VPN is fairly limited and basic, the price is also quite reasonable, especially with the two-year plan.
PIA refund policy – Private Internet Access gives you a 7 day money-back guarantee. While this is about average for most VPNs, you’ll notice below that it is much shorter than ExpressVPN’s 30 day refund window that they offer on all plans.
ExpressVPN is without a doubt more expensive, with their default subscription coming in at $8.32 per month with the annual plan. Fortunately, they are also offering an ExpressVPN discount coupon that includes three months free and drops the price down to $6.67 per month. The coupon will be automatically activated when you click this discount link, which gives you the following prices on the checkout page.
While ExpressVPN is more expensive, when you consider the overall app quality, security, and speed, it does offer a better value, in my opinion.
ExpressVPN refund policy – ExpressVPN offers a 30 day money-back guarantee. The refund is a “no questions asked” policy and does not include any hidden exceptions or clauses. This is the best you will find in the VPN industry – significantly longer than the 7 days you get with PIA.
Winner: PIA is cheaper, but ExpressVPN offers the best value (bang for your buck)
Performance: ExpressVPN vs PIA
After extensively testing both services for the respective reviews, there is a clear winner in terms of VPN speed, and that is ExpressVPN.
Here is one example where I am connected to a nearby server in Switzerland and getting about 150 Mbps (on a 160 Mbps connection):
You can find more speed tests in the ExpressVPN review – the results were consistently good, nearly maxing out my baseline speed with nearby server locations. Even with long-distance connections my speed was still quite good.
ExpressVPN reliability – ExpressVPN is one of the most reliable VPNs I have tested. The applications work very well, the speeds are always consistent, and you don’t have to worry about frequent dropped connections or bugs with the software. Everything just works.
Here is a shot of the new and updated ExpressVPN client.
PIA Speed – Private Internet Access did not do as well in speed testing as ExpressVPN. Many of the nearby servers I tested were in the 65 to 85 Mbps range. PIA servers in the United States and Canada also were not too impressive, with speeds between 50 and 70 Mbps.
ExpressVPN had much faster speeds on all servers tested in comparison to Private Internet Access.
These slower results may be due to overcrowded servers (too many users and not enough bandwidth) or other network issues.
PIA reliability – PIA was not as reliable as ExpressVPN, although it wasn’t that bad either. In comparison to ExpressVPN, PIA takes longer to establish connections.
I have also received feedback from some people stating that PIA is blocking outgoing emails when connected to their VPN.
Winner for performance: ExpressVPN
Features: ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access
Both ExpressVPN and Private internet access are somewhat limited on features. But the winner still goes to ExpressVPN.
PIA features – The main features with Private Internet access are:
- PIA MACE, which is just a basic ad blocker
- Kill switch and IPv6 leak protection
ExpressVPN features – The main features with ExpressVPN are:
- Split tunneling (available on Windows, Mac OS, and the routers application)
- Kill switch and leak protection (IPv4, IPv6, DNS and WebRTC)
- Obfuscation features (configured to break through restrictive networks, such as China and anywhere else that VPNs may be blocked)
- Large selection of applications for all devices
And while it is not necessarily a “feature” per se, it is important to note that ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs that still works with Netflix and other streaming services. Furthermore, it earned the title as the best VPN for Kodi because it offers great apps that you can use on any device. The high-performance network is also important for streaming, which is where ExpressVPN really delivers.
The obfuscation features are very important if you need a good VPN for China, where VPNs are routinely blocked. In this area, PIA is not an option, but ExpressVPN continues to work with obfuscated servers.
Winner with features: ExpressVPN
PIA vs ExpressVPN support
The support category is a big factor to consider, especially because setting up a VPN may be complicated for some people.
In the support category, ExpressVPN is the clear winner.
ExpressVPN provides 24/7 live chat support, that is always available directly through the website, as you can see in the screenshot below:
If you want a VPN service that offers great support, ExpressVPN would be one of my top recommendations.
PIA support – Unlike ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access does not offer live chat support. Your only option for reaching someone from the support department is through email or perhaps on reddit. On a positive note, I found PIA support staff to be fairly responsive, but not on par with getting instant help via live chat with ExpressVPN.
One big drawback I found, however, is that my refund took a long time. PIA was very slow to refund my money and it took multiple emails and follow-ups until it was finally handled.
In the past, I have seen many complaints about PIA support, but they seem to have improved that area over the past year. Nonetheless, ExpressVPN is still the clear winner in the support category.
Support winner: ExpressVPN
Streaming: Private Internet Access vs ExpressVPN
Many people are turning to VPN services to unblock streaming websites, such as Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu.
Given the importance of streaming for many VPN users, I decided to test out both PIA and ExpressVPN to see if they unblock Netflix.
First up is PIA. I found that Private Internet Access could not unblock Netflix. Here you can see Netflix is blocking me when connected to a PIA server in the US.
PIA also explicitly states on their website that they do not support Netflix streaming. Therefore it is safe to conclude that PIA is not a good VPN for Netflix.
Next up is ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN was able to unblock Netflix for me without any issues. The streaming quality was perfect and there were no issues at all with playback.
ExpressVPN is currently the best VPN for streaming Netflix that I have tested and personally used.
Streaming winner: ExpressVPN
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins
The clear winner of this ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison is ExpressVPN.
Despite being more expensive, I still think it offers a better value, especially when you consider the overall quality of the applications, excellent reliability, and great speed throughout the VPN server network.
Even more importantly, ExpressVPN is a service that is continually improving. In just the past year they have:
- updated their applications to ensure more security and protection against leaks
- rolled out the split tunneling feature for the Windows application
- undergone third-party audits to verify their security and no logging policies
- added more servers (ExpressVPN has significantly more servers than PIA)
- significantly reduced their price down from $8.32 per month to $6.67 per month with this discount link
On the other hand, PIA is also not a horrible choice. It packs a punch for being a cheap VPN service, but it also comes with drawbacks and limitations.
Consequently, I would recommend going with ExpressVPN if you can afford it.
Be sure to pick up the exclusive 49% discount , which is applied automatically and includes three months free.
If you want to give PIA a try, you can also get the discount pricing with the two-year plan.
Perhaps you are still on the fence and want to consider other options. If that is the case, be sure to check out the latest test results of the best VPN services for 2019.