Another VPN Battle: NordVPN vs ExpressVPN

By Conner Sinclair | VPNs

Today we’re going to be comparing two VPN providers that are well known throughout the industry: ExpressVPNand NordVPN. Having used each provider on numerous occasions, I can tell you that both of these services exceed the average provider in quality and value. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re right for you – after all, there’s no such thing as a 100% perfect VPN service.

However, you would do well to use NordVPN or ExpressVPN since most other providers just can’t keep up with these two industry leaders. We’ll run through the features of each service to help you make the most informed decision, but do note that NordVPN and ExpressVPN are very different services.

NordVPN is drastically cheaper, as we’ll discuss in the pricing section, but ExpressVPN has cultivated a reputation for fast and reliable servers over the span of years. Nevertheless, this is going to be a very close competition owing to each providers superiority over most other competitors in the market. So, let’s kick things off by looking at each provider’s respective pricing models.

Pricing

Both providers have a pricing model that is divided up into monthly, six-month, and annual subscriptions. However, NordVPN has a special long-term pricing option that discounts the rate even further when you subscribe for two years at a time. Also, I’d caution you to stay away from both providers’ monthly pricing options, because it is the least valuable on account of a high monthly price.

Furthermore, be aware that ExpressVPN costs more than most other providers in the industry. This is the thing I dislike most about ExpressVPN, but it does justify a relatively high cost with a service that’s often superior to cheaper alternatives.

The following describes the pricing model of NordVPN (check here):

  • 1 month: $11.95 per month
  • 6 months: $7.00 per month
  • 1 year: $5.75 per month
  • Promotional two-year subscription: $3.29 per month

I think that NordVPN has a pricing model that’s better than most others. However, I dislike the monthly rates; in fact, I think they’re a bit of a ripoff. I wouldn’t pay $12 a month for a service that I could get for almost $3 a month. Having said that, I don’t think the biannual or annual subscription plans are bad deals at all.

Next up, note that the following outlines the pricing model of ExpressVPN (check here):

  • Monthly – $12.95 per month
  • 6 months – $9.99 per month
  • Annual – $8.32 per month

Paying $12.95 per month is pretty steep, but the annual plan is, in my opinion, pretty reasonable. You should also be aware that ExpressVPN offers a 30-day money back guarantee in lieu of a free trial or free version of the service. I think a whole month is more than enough time to make a decision regarding whether or not you like the service.

However, NordVPN reduces the risk for new customers better than ExpressVPN. Not only does NordVPN offer a 30-day money back guarantee as well, it also has a 3-day free trial to give you a chance to test things out first.

Because NordVPN has a free trial, offers the same terms of a money back guarantee, and has significantly cheaper pricing, I have to say that NordVPN beat ExpressVPN with regards to the pricing model.

Network Size and Company HQ

I did also want to take a moment to discuss the size of each provider’s network of servers, as well as where each service is physically based. You should note that both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are based outside of the US.

ExpressVPN is actually based in the British Virgin Islands, while NordVPN is based out of Panama, which puts each company favorably out of reach of governmental meddling that would force them to forfeit customer records like users and payment data.

Also, I have to commend each service for providing an above average number of servers and locations. It’s fairly typical for the average service in the VPN market to only provide access to 25-30 different countries. Since most people connect to some main areas (like the US, UK, Hong Kong, etc.), the average provider feels that strategically placing servers in these main areas is more than adequate.

But the advantage to using a provider with servers all around the world is that it’s easier to find a server that’s in geographic proximity (to limit latency) yet still outside your current country (so data crosses the border in an encrypted format). Believe it or not, ExpressVPN hosts servers in over 94 different countries and seems to be adding new locations as the need arises. On the other hand, NordVPN hosts servers in over 57 countries.

Honestly, either service is more than adequate for my personal needs based on geographic coverage. However, if you’re looking for access to a more obscure country that’s off the beaten path, I’d recommend checking each respective VPN service’s list of servers on their website.

So, to reiterate, note that both providers are based in a favorable area, but ExpressVPN has a larger network. For that reason, I’ll have to give the victory to ExpressVPN for this round.

NordVPN’s Features

NordVPN, despite being an extremely cheap service, didn’t skimp on features. In fact, it’s security is incredibly strong and includes special features that are uncommon among competing VPN services.

For example, not only does it include military strength AES-256 encryption, but it also has a special double encryption feature. As the feature’s name implies, NordVPN will encrypt your data twice over to make it even more secure.

In reality, the double encryption feature really just gives a stronger assurance and peace of mind that your data is really safe. AES-256 is virtually unbreakable to a degree that it’s used in banking and military scenarios. Additionally, be aware that NordVPN is P2P and BitTorrent friendly. Some other VPN services restrict BitTorrent and P2P applications to limit liability, but NordVPN does not.

Naturally, since the service was designed with P2P and BitTorrent users in mind, the software comes with a kill-switch feature to halt downloads in the event of a VPN tunnel disconnect. That way your data stays safe and isn’t transmitted in plain text without encryption.

And perhaps one of my favorite features is its allowance of six simultaneous connections per account. Most other providers only allow somewhere between three and five concurrent connections.

In summary, the following outlines NordVPN’s features:

  • P2P and BitTorrent friendly
  • Servers in 57+ countries
  • Military grade encryption using AES-256
  • Special double data encryption feature
  • Six simultaneous connections per account
  • Cheap pricing
  • No activity logs
  • Based in Panama
  • Kill-switch included
  • Knowledgebase, guides, and 24/7 customer support
  • Connections using OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, and PPTP

ExpressVPN’s Features

ExpressVPN has many similar features as well, and offers more or less the same encryption protocols as NordVPN, with two caveats. First of all, ExpressVPN offers SSTP connections (which aren’t offered by NordVPN).

And secondly, ExpressVPN doesn’t have a double encryption feature. But that shouldn’t be a huge concern since both providers offer OpenVPN and AES-256 encryption, which is strong enough to secure data without fear of eavesdroppers.

However, ExpressVPN only allows three simultaneous connections per account. That’s not too bad, but it is admittedly half as many as NordVPN. And like NordVPN, ExpressVPN also has a kill-switch feature and permits P2P and BitTorrent traffic through its servers.

In addition, ExpressVPN also has a split tunneling feature that helps users select which traffic and applications they want to use the VPN tunnel, and which applications they want excluded from the tunnel.

In summary, the following describes the features of ExpressVPN:

  • Servers in over 94 countries
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • No free trial
  • Three simultaneous connections per account
  • Remarkably fast and reliable servers
  • Rather expensive pricing (as low as $8.32 per month)
  • Military strength encryption using AES-256
  • Split tunneling feature to selectively exclude traffic from the VPN
  • Kill-switch included
  • P2P and BitTorrent friendly
  • Apps for Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, iOS, and even routers
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Connections using OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP

Final Thoughts

This comparison was a bit tricky since the services aren’t exactly the same. On the one hand, I do see value in ExpressVPN providing access to more countries around the world than NordVPN. Plus, ExpressVPN does have a reputation for fast and reliable servers. However, for practical purposes, I think that there are two reasons that I prefer NordVPN to ExpressVPN.

First, NordVPN offers twice as many simultaneous connections. Secondly, NordVPN only costs 40% of the monthly cost of ExpressVPN, as long as you opt for the two-year subscription. I’m really torn between these two excellent industry leading providers, but I think that NordVPN wins by just a small margin.

Check out our guide on how to find the right VPN for your needs, and which are the best VPNs. 

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About the Author

Conner is a self-professed tech nerd, obsessed with digital security and privacy. He loves debugging "lost causes" and thwarting hackers. When not in his depressing cubicle in Corporate America, he's blogging here.