HideMyAss and ExpressVPN are VPN services that have been around for years and have large numbers of satisfied customers. But how do they fare in a head-to-head competition? Finding out was our assignment when we started this article. Now we are ready to share the results of our testing with you.
In this face-off of HideMyAss vs ExpressVPN, we took a close look at each of these venerable VPN services. We looked at subjective issues as well as running in-depth tests. Our investigation revealed a definite winner. Here are the areas we’ll examine:
- Company background and jurisdiction
- Speed tests
- Streaming and torrenting
- Security and Encryption
Let’s get right down to it.
1. Company background check: ExpressVPN vs HideMyAss
Because your VPN service is responsible for protecting your traffic and data, you must be able to trust them. The VPN community has had some major problems in the past, with scandals such as IPVanish, supposedly a “no-logs” VPN, which was caught providing logs to authorities. Or Hotspot Shield VPN, which was caught embedding tracking libraries in its apps. This means the reputation of the VPN service is vitally important. So let’s do our own background checks on ExpressVPN and HideMyAss.
ExpressVPN background and jurisdiction
ExpressVPN has an excellent reputation. It is a premium VPN service with a spotless track record. They have never suffered from public security issues of any kind. ExpressVPN has also conducted, and passed, independent audits of their security and no-logs policy.
Based in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN has chosen an ideal jurisdiction for a VPN. This is because the BVI respects privacy, with no data retention laws and no membership in any international surveillance alliances. The privacy-friendly policies of the BVI have attracted other VPN services, with Surfshark being one example.
HMA background and jurisdiction
HideMyAss (also know as HMA or Hide My Ass) was started by a teenager in England in 2005. In 2015, HideMyAss was acquired by AVG. In 2016, AVG was acquired by Avast, which is based in the Czech Republic. Acquisitions like this seem to be in vogue in the VPN space, with several such acquisitions in the last few years. TunnelBear, was bought up by McAfee, and both CyberGhost and Private Internet Access got gobbled up by Kape Technologies.
Our website www.hidemyass.com and services are operated by Privax Limited, which is a limited company registered in England under company registration number 07207304, with our registered office at 110 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6JS, United Kingdom.
As if that isn’t strange enough, the HMA End User License Agreement specifies that disputes will be arbitrated in United States, a seemingly strange choice for a Czech company operating out of London.
HMA logging case – One big drawback with HMA is that it has logged user data and provided this to authorities. The case in this example was when HMA collected logs and handed the data over to US authorities who were investigating a hacking case against Sony.
Background check winner: ExpressVPN
2. ExpressVPN vs HMA speeds
While privacy and security are what a VPN gives you, any conversation about VPNs will quickly turn to speed. What good is the most secure VPN in existence if it is too slow to get anything done?
In our most recent ExpressVPN review the service consistently delivered results that were close to the full non-VPN speed of our test setup, a 160 Mbps wired ethernet connection.
First we tested both VPNs with servers in Germany
ExpressVPN: 144 Mbps.
Considering my baseline speed was around 155 Mbps, this is a great speed test result.
HideMyAss: 58 Mbps.
Using a nearby server in Germany, HMA could only provide about 58 Mbps. This is certainly not good given the close proximity of the test server.
Next we tested with servers in Switzerland.
ExpressVPN results: 146 Mbps.
ExpressVPN had excellent performance with all nearby servers tested.
Hide My Ass results: 57 Mbps.
Once again, Hide My Ass turned in speeds about half those of ExpressVPN.
We also tested some ExpressVPN servers in the US and Canada.
Here are the results for servers in New York.
ExpressVPN results: 140 Mbps.
Despite the long distance between our test site and the VPN server, the speeds with ExpressVPN were still excellent.
HideMyAss results: 34 Mbps.
This is not looking good at all.
Speeds with Canada servers were similar. ExpressVPN gave us speeds between 141 and 145 Mbps, while CyberGhost speeds remained around 40 Mbps. ExpressVPN is clearly the best VPN for Canada with these speeds.
Speed winner: ExpressVPN
In truth we weren’t surprised by these test results. ExpressVPN is consistently one of the fastest VPNs in our testing. This is also illustrated in our recent ExpressVPN vs IPVanish speed comparison.
While ExpressVPN is not quite the fastest VPN we have tested, it consistently delivers excellent performance.
3. Prices and refunds: HMA vs ExpressVPN
Now we need to talk about price, value (what you get for your money), and refunds.
HMA price – HideMyAss has an unusual pricing structure. They offer a 7 day free trial, a one year (12 month) plan, and a three year (36 month) plan. Some time ago, they removed the monthly payment plan that they had offered in the past. Here are the current plans.
When we questioned one of their representatives about why they removed the monthly plan, he explained that it was in response to customer requests. The rep also stated that the monthly plan is still available and if requested, support can provide a hidden link to this option. A cynic might suspect this is some kind of ploy to get users locked into a long-term plan before they realize they don’t like the product.
Whatever the logic here, HMA pricing will be frustrating for anyone who doesn’t want to commit to a long-term plan. If you just need a VPN for a short period of time, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
The pricing on HMA plans is decent. It is too high to classify them as a cheap VPN, but not outrageous either. $59.88 per year ($4.99 per month) isn’t bad for a one-year subscription. Nor is $143.64 every 3 years ($3.99 per month) too bad for the longer plan. Another point in favor of Hide My Ass is that the price you get on initial signup is the price you keep. This isn’t one of those deals where the first subscription term is at a good price then the subscription renews at the much higher full price.
HMA refund policy – Given the long-term commitments they offer, we’re happy to report that HMA offers a 30 day money-back guarantee on all their plans. We didn’t see any restrictions on the refund policy either. This is important, because some VPN services impose difficult or confusing requirements on anyone daring to ask for a refund. That isn’t the case here.
Now that we’ve looked at the money side of things for HMA, let’s see how they compare to ExpressVPN.
ExpressVPN price – ExpressVPN charges higher prices than most VPN services. Direct comparisons with HideMyAss are difficult since the two companies offer different subscription terms. ExpressVPN offers on month, 6 month, and 12 month plans. At least we can compare the 12 month plans. ExpressVPN’s 12 month plan charges $99.95 every 12 months, as opposed to HMA’s $59.88 every 12 months.
ExpressVPN DISCOUNT – One advantage with ExpressVPN, is that they offer this 49% off coupon, which includes three months free and drops the price down to $6.67 per month as opposed to HMA’s $4.99 per month.
ExpressVPN refund policy – ExpressVPN has perhaps the best refund policy in the industry. They give you a 30 day money-back guarantee on all their subscription plans. No exceptions, no fine print, no special rules. Simply request your refund within 30 days and that’s it.
Price and Refund Winner: While both ExpressVPN and HMA have solid refund policies, HMA wins this category due to their lower prices.
4. Features: ExpressVPN vs HMA
What about their feature sets? ExpressVPN has a solid set of well-executed features, but services like Surfshark or NordVPN offer more advanced features. Does HideMyAss have a rich enough feature set to will this category too?
Let’s see what the challenger brings to this feature set fight.
HMA provides user-friendly apps that run OpenVPN with AES 256-bit encryption. These are the characteristics you want to see in a secure VPN. Hide My Ass is off to a good start.
HMA brings a collection of 1100+ VPN servers spread across over 290 locations in over 190 countries. The reach of this network is truly impressive, since there are only 194 universally-recognized countries in the world according to WorldAtlas.com. Unfortunately, these numbers are somewhat misleading.
The issue is HideMyAss’s heavy use of virtual servers. A virtual server is a VPN server that uses an IP address for a country where it is not physically located. For example, a virtual server might be located in the United States but using an IP address that is registered to Panama, or South Africa, or virtually anywhere else. While using virtual servers is not necessarily a bad thing, HMA seems a bit lax about identifying which or its listed servers are actually virtual server locations.
HMA offers live chat support, which not all VPN services provide. Unfortunately the chat support is not available 24/7. Instead, their support hours are 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM UK time, seven days a week.
Finally, HideMyAss is a no-logs VPN as confirmed in a recent third-party audit. This is a big improvement, since in the past, Hide My Ass collected logs and had been known to provide them to the authorities.
As far as technical features go, HMA offers:
- Smart kill switch and leak protection – These features are meant to keep your data from getting onto the internet in unencrypted form. In our testing, we found the kill switch to be buggy, and encountered occasional IP address leaks.
- Split-Tunneling – Allows you to control which apps or websites use the encrypted VPN tunnel, and which go directly onto the internet without VPN protection.
- IP Shuffle – Changes the IP address the VPN assigns to you every few minutes. Makes it much harder to track your online activities.
Let’s see how how this stuff stacks up against ExpressVPN’s features.
ExpressVPN offers more features than HideMyAss for all types of users. Here is what you get with ExpressVPN. It has user-friendly apps that use OpenVPN with AES 256-bit encryption. And it offers more apps for more physical devices than HMA.
ExpressVPN has been audited too, confirming that they are a no-logs VPN.
ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat support. No worrying about whether the support staff in the UK is awake, or for that matter having to care what time it is in the UK at all.
- Network Lock – ExpressVPN’s name for a kill switch is Network Lock. Network Lock is a powerful protector against your data leaking onto the internet inadvertently. It protects against IPv4 leaks, IPv6 leaks, and DNS leaks. And unlike HMA’s kill switch, we didn’t see any bugs or glitches with Network Lock.
- No hard disks – 100% of ExpressVPN’s servers run 100% in RAM, making them virtually invulnerable to prying.
- Split tunneling – This feature allows you to route specified apps or websites to pass their internet traffic outside the VPN tunnel.
- Browser extensions – Add HTTPS Everywhere to your web browsing. (ExpressVPN is our top pick if you need a VPN for Chrome.)
- Media Streamer – Great for streaming devices such as Smart TVs.
- Router app – Install the ExpressVPN client in a supported router and protect your entire network.
- Obfuscation – Disguise your VPN traffic as HTTPS traffic to evade VPN blocking systems such as the Great Firewall. This makes ExpressVPN one of the best VPNs for China.
Below is a screenshot of the new ExpressVPN app. You can see the layout is very user-friendly and switching servers is quick and easy.
HMA offers fewer features and preferences in comparison to ExpressVPN.
Features winner: ExpressVPN
5. Streaming and Torrenting: HideMyAss vs ExpressVPN
What about streaming and torrenting? How does Hide My Ass compare with ExpressVPN on these characteristics?
One of the main uses of VPNs in peoples homes is streaming media. Whether your goal is to watch Netflix or to stream shows from BBC iPlayer with a VPN, the best VPNs give you full access to streaming media, regardless of where you are located at the moment.
Hide My Ass – We found that HideMyAss has a limited ability to stream media. For example, it can occasionally stream USA Netflix, if you use the correct server. But in our tests it was hit or miss. Add in HMA’s slow speed, and you will probably be disappointed with HMA if you are into streaming.
ExpressVPN – ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs for streaming with 24/7 access to Netflix and many other streaming channels around the world.
Here is a screenshot of ExpressVPN streaming US Netflix from my location in Europe.
In our testing, ExpressVPN claims the title of the best VPN to unblock Netflix. It unblocks many of the Netflix libraries around the world. It also works with major streaming services, such as BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ (along with countless smaller services).
You may also be looking for a VPN that supports torrenting. The two main characteristics to look for in a VPN for torrenting are speed and leak protection.
- ExpressVPN is very fast, and provides very solid leak protection. We rate it as one of the best VPNs for torrenting.
- HideMyAss is much slower and we have seen problems with both their kill switch and IP address leaks.
ExpressVPN is definitely a better choice for torrenting.
Streaming and Torrenting winner: ExpressVPN
6. Security and Encryption: ExpressVPN vs HMA
When it comes to security, ExpressVPN passed all our tests with flying colors (hit this link to see our VPN test guide).
HMA had some issues. Their kill switch was a bit unreliable, and we ran into occasional IP address leaks with the Android VPN client.
ExpressVPN is the clear winner in this area.
With encryption, ExpressVPN and HMA are pretty comparable:
- HMA: AES-256-GCM cipher, SHA-256 hash authentication, and a 4096-bit RSA key.
- ExpressVPN: AES-256 cipher, SHA-512 HMAC authentication, and a 4096-bit RSA key.
Although these encryption levels are very similar, ExpressVPN has the slight edge.
ExpressVPN has undergone two separate third-party audits:
- An audit of their browser extensions, which was conducted by Cure53 in Berlin.
- An audit of their privacy protection systems and no-logs policies, which was done by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
HideMyAss completed an audit by Versprite to verify their no-logs claims.
While it is great to see that both services have successfully completed audits, ExpressVPN comes out ahead due to the greater number and scope of their audits.
VPN server security
ExpressVPN has been a leader in moving the industry to the next level of server security. In 2019, they completed the process of converting their entire network into diskless servers. That means all the software for their servers runs in volatile RAM memory. Hard drives (or SSDs) can be a security risk since they can retain old data that could be recovered. Without hard drives, no data can persist in the server once that server no longer has power. Seizing servers to analyze the data on their hard drives is impossible when the servers have no hard drives.
No data can be stored on ExpressVPN servers, which means server data cannot be seized by third parties. TrustedServer is ExpressVPN’s name for this technology.
As far as we have been able to discover, Hide My Ass does not run any of its servers in diskless mode. Nor have they announced plans to make such a transition. Nor have they had any security audits done.
Security winner: ExpressVPN
7. Privacy: HMA vs ExpressVPN
In terms of privacy, is HMA VPN or ExpressVPN the best choice?
HMA – There are two troubling aspects of HideMyAss on the privacy front.
- The company has handed over data about its users to the FBI in the past. They are now a no-logs VPN, which means they have no data to hand over to the FBI or anyone else, but if you are looking for a service that will protect your privacy to the maximum, this history is troubling.
- Hide My Ass is a UK VPN service and must abide by UK laws and regulations. This is despite being owned by a country based in the Czech Republic, and requiring all arbitration activities to be conducted in the United States. The problem is that the UK is a member of the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance. In addition, US companies can use the UK court system to obtain customer data, such as with the LulzSec case. Depending on your threat model and why you are using a VPN, a service bound by UK law is generally not a good option.
ExpressVPN – ExpressVPN is a great privacy option. This service is one of the few no logs VPNs that has been tested, verified, and audited by an independent third party. The trend toward outside verification has also been picked up by NordVPN and PIA.
While both ExpressVPN and HMA use Google Analytics on their websites, HMA uses the invasive session recording script Hotjar. ExpressVPN uses no such scripts.
Privacy winner: ExpressVPN
Conclusion: ExpressVPN wins
While both ExpressVPN and HMA are popular VPN services that get good reviews on many sites, It is clear to us that ExpressVPN is the better VPN.
ExpressVPN came out on top in nearly every category tested:
- Company background and jurisdiction: ExpressVPN
- Speed tests: ExpressVPN
- Price: HMA
- Features: ExpressVPN
- Streaming and Torrenting: ExpressVPN
- Security and Encryption: ExpressVPN
- Privacy: ExpressVPN
Hide My Ass did win one category, the price category. However, we suggest you think about which service is a better value. In other words: Which VPN offers a better value for my money?
ExpressVPN outperformed HMA in every area, while offering more and better security features. Plus, ExpressVPN has had more outside audits, and has never turned over user data to third parties.
Adding up all the benefits of ExpressVPN, we think the additional benefits more than outweigh the additional cost, making ExpressVPN a better value, despite its higher price.
Interested in giving ExpressVPN a try? They are currently offering the following discount coupon:
If you want to consider addition options first, check out our best VPN services guide.
Have you used either ExpressVPN or HMA VPN? If so, leave your experience below in the comments to help others.