PureVPN and Private Internet Access are both large VPN providers – but is either one a good choice? This in-depth PureVPN vs PIA comparison will reveal a clear winner between the two, while also suggesting some alternative VPNs that performed much better in our testing.
After covering an overview of each VPN, here are the areas we will examine for this PIA vs PureVPN guide:
- Background check
- Server network
- Privacy and Security
- Netflix and streaming
So let’s get started.
PureVPN vs PIA background check
We’ll start by examining PureVPN.
PureVPN is run by a company called Gaditek, which is based in Karachi, Pakistan, although the VPN is officially under Hong Kong jurisdiction.
While PureVPN looks good on the surface, testing and analysis for the PureVPN review uncovered many problems. These problems included data leaks, slow speeds, broken features, and connection issues.
PureVPN was also found to be logging users. Based on official court records, we learned that PureVPN was cooperating with the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) by logging user data and handing it over to authorities. They later confirmed this to be true after various outlets picked up the story – see my article VPNs Are Lying About Logs.
Now let’s take a look at Private Internet Access.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the older players in the VPN industry — but a lot has changed in just the past few years. In late 2019, PIA was acquired by Kape, which has been on a buying spree and also owns other VPN services. Kape bought ExpressVPN in September 2021.
While PIA performed better in testing than PureVPN, it still comes with many notable drawbacks. Speeds were mediocre, and like PureVPN, Private Internet Access does not do well with streaming content.
One major drawback with Private Internet Access is that it is based in the United States. This is generally considered to be a bad privacy jurisdiction because it is part of the Five Eyes alliance. Additionally, being based in the US, PIA could be forced to log user data at any time, as we have seen with other US-based VPNs, such as IPVanish.
Performance: PureVPN vs PIA
My testing found PureVPN to be pretty unreliable, which is thoroughly documented in the PureVPN review. Here are some of the problems I discovered:
- Could not connect to many of their VPN servers
- Dropped connections
- Unreliable speeds (sometimes OK, but usually very slow)
- DNS leaks with the Windows VPN client
These problems with reliability also match up with feedback I have gotten from other PureVPN users. Here was one PureVPN speed test with a US server with speeds of 59 Mbps:
With a baseline connection speed of 500 Mbps, I found PureVPN to be slow with all the servers I tested. This lines up with our other tests in the NordVPN vs PureVPN comparison.
Private Internet Access was not much better. Here was the PIA server in the US with speeds around 85 Mbps.
While this is faster than PureVPN, it’s still not very impressive.
I also tested servers in the UK, and once again, speeds were not very good with either of these VPNs.
PureVPN server in the UK: 18 Mbps.
This is quite bad. Can Private Internet Access do better?
PIA server in the UK: 10 Mbps.
Here was see that PureVPN was actually faster than Private Internet Access — but only by about 8 Mbps. And both of these VPNs were far slower than other leading VPNs.
Note that PIA has historically not matched other leading VPN services. For example, in the NordVPN vs PIA comparison, NordVPN outperformed PIA in all locations we tested.
Performance winner: Tie (both are slow)
Server Network: PureVPN vs PIA
PureVPN works hard to emphasize their large server network, but it suffers from various connection problems, which I observed when testing for the review. I suspect this may be due to their overloaded servers – but there’s no way to know for sure, because they don’t provide a server status page with real-time bandwidth.
Furthermore, there is very little information about the quality of the servers – another concerning factor. Often times VPNs will use cheap virtual servers instead of dedicated premium servers. Virtual servers are usually logged by the server host, so this creates privacy concerns.
Private Internet Access has a smaller server network with fewer locations than PureVPN. The majority of PIA’s servers are located in the United States. Recently, they have begun using more virtual server locations, which is when the VPN “virtually” has locations in certain exotic countries. We see a few other VPNs using virtual locations, as we discussed in the ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparison.
Unfortunately with PIA, it’s also difficult to find any details on the quality of the servers they use. Many VPNs have undergone various security audits, such as with NordVPN and TunnelBear. However, with PIA and PureVPN, we do not see any server security audits.
Server Network: Private Internet Access
Price: Is PureVPN or PIA cheaper?
Many people are looking to save money on a VPN. Sow which one of these two comes out with a better price?
PureVPN could be considered a cheap VPN since it offers a $.99 one-week trial — but you need to read the fine print. Prices increase significantly after the initial trial period. You can see this in the image below:
Unless you read the fine print, you probably won’t catch the price change. And at about $6.49 per month, PureVPN is on par with other expensive services, as you can see in the ExpressVPN review.
PureVPN refund policy – PureVPN provides a 30 day money-back guarantee. But as I found in the PureVPN review, they make it very difficult to actually claim a refund. Instead, they try to force you through endless troubleshooting.
Private Internet Access also has three pricing tiers, with the two-year deal being the best option.
We can see here that PIA is more affordable than PureVPN when you consider regular prices (not trial prices).
Note: If you’re looking for VPN deals, you can also check out the VPN coupons page. One of the best deals right now is with the NordVPN coupon, which drops prices down to only $3.30 per month with the two-year plan. NordVPN is currently one of the top-ranked VPNs here on Restore Privacy.
Price winner: PIA
Features: PureVPN vs PIA
PureVPN makes a lot of big claims regarding their features, especially their privacy and security features. But testing revealed many of their “features” don’t work correctly. Below is an example. I have the kill switch enabled to block any VPN leaks, yet I am still getting a DNS leak with PureVPN:
PureVPN offers a lot of features, but many of these simply do not work well. The apps are buggy and slow, and the service can’t even unblock popular streaming websites.
Private Internet Access is a basic VPN with minimal features, but the features seem to work well. Their main features/settings are an a VPN ad-blocker called PIA MACE, a kill switch, and IPv6 leak protection.
Below you can see both the kill switch and PIA MACE features:
In comparison to PureVPN, PIA has fewer features, but they work correctly.
Features winner: Private Internet Access
Privacy and Security: PureVPN vs PIA
PureVPN has a few privacy and security problems. These are the issues that were identified through testing in the review:
- DNS leaks
- Kill switch that does not block traffic
Overall, we do not consider this to be a very secure VPN.
Private Internet Access did better in terms of privacy and security.
Here I’m testing the PIA Windows client for leaks (no leaks were found):
However, the major drawback with PIA in terms of privacy is the jurisdiction. Being based in the United States poses risks to customer data and privacy. For VPNs located in a good privacy jurisdiction, see the NordVPN vs ExpressVPN report, with both of these VPNs being good options.
Privacy and Security winner: PIA again comes out on top, but it’s still based in the US (drawback).
PIA vs PureVPN Netflix and streaming
Unfortunately, neither PureVPN nor PIA is a good choice for Netflix.
PureVPN has constant connection issues and slow speeds. Even if you found a PureVPN server that would unblock Netflix, the performance issues would still be problematic for streaming.
Private Internet Access is also not the best VPN for Netflix, as it is constantly getting blocked in my tests:
In addition to Netflix, we also found PIA to get blocked with BBC iPlayer. Right now there are only two VPNs that work with BBC iPlayer on a consistent basis.
Generally speaking, I do not consider either of these VPNs to be very good for streaming. However, at least PureVPN gets through to Netflix, even though it had buffering problems.
Streaming winner: PureVPN
Conclusion: PIA wins (but consider the alternatives)
Here is a brief recap of the winner in each category of this PureVPN vs PIA comparison:
- Performance – Tie (both are slow)
- Server network – PIA
- Price – PIA
- Features – Tie
- Privacy and Security – PIA
- Netflix and streaming – PureVPN
- Conclusion: consider alternatives
Private Internet Access is the winner in this PureVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison. To learn more about Private Internet Access, you can check out my review of PIA.
If you’re open to alternatives, there are certainly some better options on the market that performed better in testing. For a full description and comparison of the top VPN recommendations, see my report on the best VPN services.
Top alternatives to PureVPN and PIA:
Click the VPN name below to read our full review – or grab the discount for the best savings. All three of these VPNs have a 30 day money-back guarantee.
This PIA vs PureVPN comparison was last updated on November 4, 2021.