ExpressVPN vs PIA

ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access) in 2024: Leading VPN Services Compared 

Arthur Sabayi
Last update: May 30, 2024

Quick Summary: ExpressVPN vs PIA

ExpressVPN is better than Private Internet Access in terms of speed, server spread, privacy, security and unblocking streaming services. You can test out a subscription with the 30-day money-back guarantee. 

Overall Rating 9.5 / 10
Get 49% Off ExpressVPN


You may think choosing the best VPN is easy until you’re faced with multiple options all offering the features you need. In a situation like this, you need to dive deeper to find the finer details that separate each service. This ExpressVPN vs PIA matchup article is a good place to start if you can’t choose between the two.

ExpressVPN combines solid features like TrustedServer technology with a clean history. At the same time, Private Internet Access (PIA) has established itself as an affordable option with a huge server network. Both VPNs offer encryption, unblock geo-restricted content, block ads and trackers and more.

In this head-to-head ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison, I’ll compare their security and privacy, key features like split tunneling and ad blockers, and their speeds, server networks, customer support, pricing plans, OS compatibility and ease of use

  1. Overall Rating 9.5 / 10
    Get 49% Off ExpressVPN
    Money-Back Guarantee
    30 Days
    Worldwide Server Amount
    Over 3,000 servers in 105 countries
  2. Overall Rating 8.7 / 10
    Visit Private Internet Access
    Money-Back Guarantee
    30 Days
    Worldwide Server Amount
    84 countries

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access: Comparison at a Glance

I compared Private Internet Access with ExpressVPN across nine key areas, including security, privacy, speed, server networks and streaming capabilities. Here’s a quick summary of which one emerged as the winner in each category.

No leaks
No leaks
PrivacyAudited no-logs policy,
RAM-only servers,
No history of breach
✖️Audited no-logs policy,
RAM-only servers,
No history of breaches
Features✖️8 devices,
Kill switch,
Split tunneling,
Ad & malware blocker,
Automatic obfuscation
Unlimited devices,
Kill switch,
Split tunneling,
Ad & malware blocker,
SpeedAverage download speed:
35.48% unprotected
✖️Average download speed:
15.58% unprotected
Amazon Prime Video,
Amazon Prime Video,
BBC iPlayer
Server Network163 locations in 105 countries✖️154 locations in 91 countries
Plans & Pricing✖️$6.67/month for 15 months$2.03/month for 39 months
OS SupportWindows,
Fire TV,
Smart TVs,
Aircove router
Fire TV,
Smart TVs,
Support✖️Live chat,
Live chat,

My Expert Opinion: Is ExpressVPN or PIA Better?

ExpressVPN is a more reliable VPN for many reasons. It’s constantly improving its services by upgrading server speeds, so I always find myself going to ExpressVPN whenever I need to stream or play video games online.

The server distribution is more balanced than that of most premium VPNs, making ExpressVPN more adept at unblocking content and delivering top performance to more users worldwide. For example, it has more servers in Africa than PIA and other well-known alternatives like NordVPN.

I concede that the price tag is a little high, but you only need to use the service to understand the value you get in return. In all the years I’ve used ExpressVPN, I have yet to suffer leaks, nor has the service itself given up any user data. 

If given a choice between ExpressVPN and PIA, I would go with the former in a heartbeat — but that’s not to say PIA is a bad choice. This head-to-head review will showcase where these well-known virtual private networks coincide and where they diverge.

I Recommend ExpressVPN For:

  1. $6.67/month for 15 months
    Overall Rating 9.5 / 10
    Get 49% Off ExpressVPN

I Recommend PIA For:

  1. $2.03/month for 39 months
    Overall Rating 8.7 / 10
    Visit Private Internet Access


When you use ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access, your online traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel to one of their VPN servers. Both VPNs use AES-256 and ChaCha20 for symmetric VPN encryption, but PIA also comes with AES-128, which is less secure but usually faster. Below is a table showing the different levels of security these VPN providers offer.

VPN ProtocolsLightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2WireGuard, IKEv2, OpenVPN
Encryption TypesAES-256, ChaCha20AES-256, AES-128
Kill SwitchYesYes
Private DNSYesYes
Ad & Malware BlockerThreat manager,
Ad blocker,
Parental controls

VPN Protocols

ExpressVPN has three VPN protocols. OpenVPN is secure but not as fast as other protocols, while IKEv2 (only on macOS and iOS) is faster, more lightweight and more stable than OpenVPN. The last option, Lightway, is an in-house protocol that combines reliable security with fast speeds.

expressvpn protocols
ExpressVPN has three protocols, with Lightway UDP offering the best speeds.

PIA also has three protocols: OpenVPN, which offers solid security; IKEv2, which is available on iOS; and WireGuard, which provides protection and fast speeds. If you’re on Windows or macOS, you can switch from AES-256 to AES-128 for better speeds. However, be warned that this comes at the cost of some security, since 128-bit isn’t as secure as 256-bit.

pia protocol settings
PIA has three protocols: WireGuard, IKEv2 and OpenVPN.

Encryption Tests

I ran my encrypted internet traffic through Wireshark to test ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access. Below is a screenshot showing the results for both VPNs.

encryption test
Encryption tests for both VPNs revealed no vulnerabilities.

The series of numbers, text and symbols you see in the screenshot above proves that encryption works. This is what a hacker sees if they intercept your traffic. As long as no coherent information like your IP address is visible, you’re safe.

Security Breaches

In all the years that ExpressVPN and PIA have been operational, neither has experienced a significant breach. The servers have never been compromised, and the companies have not been caught shadily selling user data. 

Winner: ExpressVPN has been reliable for years, and the availability of more secure protocol options gives it an edge over Private Internet Access in terms of VPN security.


Strict no-logs policies govern both Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN. No information is collected or stored in any part of their systems. Not only do these VPNs keep your online activity private, but they also ensure data is never logged or at risk of retrieval if authorities seize the servers.

RAM-Only Servers

ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have RAM-only servers. These servers never write your data on hard drives, and any data associated with your online session is periodically wiped. This minimizes future risk of data retrieval if the servers are confiscated.

Independent Audits

KPMG, Cure53, F-Secure and PWC Switzerland have audited ExpressVPN a total of 16 times. PWC Switzerland conducted the first-ever privacy policy and TrustedServer audits in 2019. TrustedServer was audited again by Cure53 in May 2022, followed by another no-logs policy audit by KPMG in September 2022. The KPMG audit is the most recent to date.

Other audits have focused on ExpressVPN apps for Linux, macOS and Windows. The ExpressVPN Aircove router and the Lightway protocol were also audited in 2022. Nothing suspicious has ever been found in any of these third-party audits.

In 2017, ExpressVPN further demonstrated the reliability of its no-logs policy when Turkish authorities seized one of its servers while investigating the death of a Russian ambassador. They claimed the alleged assassin had used the server to obscure information about the incident, but the investigation came to a halt when no logs were found on the seized server.

Deloitte Audit Romania conducted a major independent audit of Private Internet Access in June 2022 that focused on its no-logs policy. The audit revealed no violations of Private Internet Access’ internal privacy policy and no vulnerabilities that could be exploited to identify users based on their VPN traffic.

Winner: This was tight, since both VPNs have been audited and have a strict no-logs policy. However, ExpressVPN has the upper hand, as it clearly demonstrated in the Turkish case that it never logs any user data. Its British Virgin Islands home base is another sign of its commitment to the policy.

Key Features

ExpressVPN and PIA have kill switches to prevent IP leaks when your VPN connection drops. The kill switch blocks your internet until a secure connection is restored. On ExpressVPN, the kill switch is called “network lock,”and you can enable it from the app settings across all operating systems.

expressvpn kill switch
ExpressVPN has a kill switch called “network lock.”

Private Internet Access switches things up a bit by offering two types of kill switches on macOS and Windows. The VPN kill switch prevents leaks by blocking traffic during connection loss, and the advanced kill switch blocks traffic even when the VPN is turned off. The advanced kill switch only works when the regular kill switch is active.

pia kill switch
PIA has two kill switches on Windows and Mac.

Another key VPN feature is split tunneling, which is available on ExpressVPN for Windows, Mac and Android. Split tunneling allows you to designate certain apps to be routed through the VPN tunnel. I always use this to exclude my food delivery apps so I don’t risk the restaurant canceling my order because it looks like it’s coming from another continent.

PIA has split tunneling on Windows, macOS and Linux. On Android, split tunneling is called “per app setting.” You can add or exclude as many apps and websites as you want to improve your VPN connection speed by reducing the encryption load.

Both VPN providers have blockers for ads, malware and trackers. ExpressVPN has a threat manager to block trackers and malicious sites, an ad blocker for ads and parental controls to block adult sites. Threat manager is available on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux, Apple TV (tracker and ad blockers only) and ExpressVPN Aircove

I tested the ad blocker with AdBlock Tester and got a score of 45/100. This means it wasn’t very effective at keeping some ads away. ExpressVPN managed to block some contextual ads, which are the most common, but struggled with banner ads.

expressvpn adblocker
ExpressVPN scored 45/100 in the ad-blocker test.

PIA’s blocker is called PIA MACE. It prevents tracking cookies and blocks malware and phishing. It also helps you use less data on mobile networks by blocking ads that eat into your bandwidth. PIA MACE is available on Windows, macOS, Linux and Android APK versions (not the ones downloaded through the Play Store). 

I got an Adblock Tester score of 54/100 with PIA, which was slightly better than with ExpressVPN. PIA MACE also had a hard time blocking some banner ads but was efficient at dealing with contextual advertising.

pia adblocker
PIA scored 54/100 in the ad-blocker test.

Additionally, both VPNs offer obfuscation for bypassing networks that restrict VPNs. It is automatically switched on in ExpressVPN and works with all protocols. In PIA, obfuscation is tied with multi-hop, which routes you through two servers for double-layered encryption. One of those servers can be an obfuscated Shadowsocks proxy.

PIA is also the only option of the two that offers dedicated IP. A dedicated IP is a private static IP address that helps you avoid blocklists and access sensitive websites without raising suspicion. Available dedicated IP locations include Australia, Germany, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Belgium, the U.K. and the U.S.

dedicated ip
PIA has dedicated IP that you can pay for on top of your regular subscription.

Winner: Both VPNs have helpful features that improve your experience. However, Private Internet Access wins this round, as it has two kill switches, a more effective ad blocker and extra features like dedicated IP and multi-hop, which ExpressVPN lacks.


ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access don’t hold back on speed and are great options for streaming, torrenting and gaming. I conducted speed tests with each virtual private network using six server locations from different continents.

ExpressVPN Speed Tests

LocationLatency (ms)Download (Mbps)Upload (Mbps)
🇰🇪 Kenya (unprotected)105040
🇿🇦 South Africa*20737.8712.00
🇧🇷 Brazil40936.0313.21
🇯🇵 Japan27635.789.17
🇦🇺 Australia40334.948.22
🇬🇧 UK18034.4516.87
🇺🇸 New York29533.8315.28
*Fastest server

ExpressVPN was very fast in my tests; even the distance between my physical location and far-off servers didn’t matter much. South Africa was the quickest, at 37.87 Mbps, while New York was the slowest, at 33.83 Mbps — which was still fast enough for streaming and gaming without problems. The Lightway UDP protocol lived up to its name here.

PIA Speed Tests

I repeated the test with Private Internet Access. My location was the same, and I had the WireGuard protocol selected. Here are the results.

LocationLatency (ms)Download (Mbps)Upload (Mbps)
🇰🇪 Kenya (unprotected)104040
🇿🇦 South Africa*7035.6719.46
🇯🇵 Japan22322.7311.78
🇬🇧 UK17310.3012.05
🇧🇷 Brazil41010.1410.63
🇦🇺 Australia4917.4710.50
🇺🇸 New York3077.217.71
*Fastest server

Private Internet Access was slower than ExpressVPN in my test. While the fastest server, South Africa, averaged an impressive 35.67 Mbps, most of the other servers could have been better. The slowest server was New York, with just 7.21 Mbps, which barely got me through HD streaming without constant buffering.

Winner: ExpressVPN is the undisputed winner of the speed category. It averaged far better speeds with Lightway UDP than Private Internet Access.

Streaming Performance

The ability to unblock major streaming platforms is a core VPN function — our article on the best VPN for streaming highlights some champions in this area. I tested ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access with streaming services like Hulu to see how fast I could bypass the geo-restrictions. The table below shows the results.

Amazon Prime VideoYesYes

ExpressVPN breezed through all the major streaming platforms easily, but PIA struggled with unblocking Hulu no matter how many U.S. servers I switched to.

Winner: ExpressVPN wins this round because it unblocked all the streaming platforms without a problem, beating out PIA, which struggled with Hulu.

Server Network

A bigger server network makes unblocking easier. You get better performance, since ending up on a crowded server is unlikely. Here’s a quick look at where ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have servers.

ExpressVPN Server Spread

ExpressVPN has servers in 163 locations across 105 countries. Most of these are concentrated in Europe, North America and Asia. Unlike most VPNs I’ve used, ExpressVPN has a decent presence in sparsely covered regions like Africa (six) and the Middle East (two). 

ExpressVPN has also been upgrading its servers from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps, which could explain its amazing speeds. Here’s a table showing the server distribution.

North America1440
South America910
Middle East22

PIA Server Spread

Private Internet Access has servers in 154 locations across 91 countries. The distribution isn’t too bad, and like ExpressVPN, most servers are in Europe, North America and Asia. Africa has five, while the Middle East has four, including Saudi Arabia.

Here’s a table showing the server spread.

North America863
South America99
Middle East44

An interesting bit of information about PIA is that it’s one of the few VPNs with servers offering Chinese and Indian IP addresses. These servers are virtual, so they’re not actually located in Chinese or Indian territory and thus are not subject to those countries’ data-reporting laws.

Winner: ExpressVPN has servers in 163 locations across 105 countries, which is more than Private Internet Access’ 154 locations in 91 countries. However, PIA impresses with its virtual servers in China, something ExpressVPN lacks.

OS Support & Usability

ExpressVPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV and Chrome. It also works with a router called ExpressVPN Aircove — the only router that comes with a VPN pre-installed and an app to operate it. 

You can connect up to eight devices simultaneously with a single ExpressVPN subscription. ExpressVPN also has a smart DNS feature called MediaStreamer, which has U.S. locations for unblocking streaming content on Samsung and LG TVs. 

Private Internet Access is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Firefox, Opera, consoles, routers and smart TVs. Smart DNS works with LG, Samsung and Apple TV, as well as Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, IP TV and Nvidia Shield. PIA supports unlimited simultaneous device connections, making it a better choice for large households.

Ease of Use

ExpressVPN has a nice-looking app that isn’t clunky. Tap on the “connect” button to connect to a smart location (the fastest) or the last location you connected to. There’s also a search bar to find the specific server you want. Alternatively, ExpressVPN groups its servers by continent, which makes navigation easier.

expressvpn servers
ExpressVPN groups servers based on continental regions.

Private Internet Access is more crowded than ExpressVPN. When you launch the app, you’re met with information on data usage, your encrypted connection and more, which can overwhelm new users. However, I appreciate that latency values are displayed next to each server to indicate how fast they are. The greener the latency value, the quicker the server.

pia servers
PIA displays latency values next to its servers.

Winner: ExpressVPN wins again because it offers the Aircove router with the VPN pre-installed, has more user-friendly VPN apps and even has a native app for Apple TV.

Plans and Pricing

Private Internet Access is cheaper than ExpressVPN, though each service has unique price plans and money-back guarantees. Let’s quickly break down the plans so you have an idea of where your budget fits.

ExpressVPN Pricing Plans

ExpressVPN has three price plans. The best deal is the 12-month option, which costs $6.67 per month and comes with three months free. Next is the six-month plan for $9.99 per month and the monthly plan for $12.95. If you want to test the service, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee covering every plan, and you can get a free seven-day trial on Android and iOS.

PIA Pricing Plans

Private Internet Access has three price plans. The two-year plan goes for $2.19 per month, with an extra two months free. The next best deals are the six-month plan, which will set you back $7.50 per month, and the monthly plan, which costs $11.99. You can try the service using the 30-day money-back guarantee that covers all three plans. PIA also offers a seven-day free trial on Android and iOS.

Winner: Private Internet Access wins this round because it has cheaper long-term deals than ExpressVPN.

Customer Support

Getting prompt help when your VPN runs into issues is a big deal, which is why customer support is so important. The more avenues of communication a VPN has, the more reliable it is. Let’s see how ExpressVPN and PIA squared up in this category.

ExpressVPN Customer Support

expressvpn support
ExpressVPN’s live chat is the fastest way to contact customer support.

There are several contact channels available to ExpressVPN users. Live chat has a very fast response time, but you may have to deal with a bot first. Direct email is my least favorite because it may take up to 48 hours to have an issue addressed. 

ExpressVPN also has an FAQ section answering common VPN issues. Finally, multiple video tutorials exist for installing and troubleshooting ExpressVPN app issues on compatible platforms.

PIA Customer Support

pia support portal
PIA has a blog, knowledgebase, community and live chat.

Private Internet Access has a live chat that you can access anywhere on the official website by clicking the “chat” button in the bottom right corner. You must provide your email before speaking with an agent, but their responses were fast.

Like with ExpressVPN, direct email takes longer than live chat. You can also use an extensive guide section with installation and troubleshooting instructions along with a knowledgebase and news blog. PIA also has an active community where users help each other out with solutions.

Winner: PIA wins this round because it offers everything ExpressVPN does, in addition to a blog and community resources to help users find solutions.

Conclusion: Why I Think ExpressVPN Wins Overall

ExpressVPN is superior to Private Internet Access in the most important areas. It has reliable security and amazing speeds for gaming and streaming, and it has repeatedly proven that it strictly adheres to its no-logs policy. The service provider is also compatible with multiple devices and has a router that comes with the VPN pre-installed.

Private Internet Access has strengths, too. You can simultaneously connect as many devices as you need, it’s cheaper and it unblocks most streaming services worldwide. Additionally, it offers virtual IP addresses in China, which is rare in the VPN industry.

Do you find it easier to decide between these two now, or are you still on the fence? Is your favorite VPN one I didn’t mention? Drop me your feedback in the comments below, and thank you for continuing to read our blog.

  1. Overall Rating 9.5 / 10
    Get 49% Off ExpressVPN

Methodology: Private Internet Access vs ExpressVPN Comparison 

Here’s how I devised a methodology for this PIA vs ExpressVPN comparison.

PIA vs ExpressVPN: Other VPN Alternatives I Like

  1. Surfshark: Affordable price plans, Best price: $2.21
    Overall Rating 8.9 / 10
    Visit Surfshark
    Surfshark has more than 3,200 servers in 100 countries and supports unlimited simultaneous device connections. It also offers affordable price plans and great streaming speeds. Our Surfshark review explains all this and more.
  1. NordVPN: Fast speeds, Best price: $4.13
    Overall Rating 9.2 / 10
    Visit NordVPN
    NordVPN is one of the fastest VPNs on the market, with more than 6,300 servers in 111 countries. It unblocks most streaming services, and has double VPN and obfuscation for extra security and anonymity. Read our NordVPN review for more
  1. Proton VPN: Best free VPN, Best price: $3.29
    Overall Rating 8.8 / 10
    Visit Proton VPN
    Proton VPN is the best option if you’re looking for a free alternative. It has no data caps, gives you access to servers in five locations and protects your internet traffic with encryption. Read our Proton VPN review for more details.

PIA VPN vs. ExpressVPN vs Other VPN Providers

Here’s how PIA and ExpressVPN compare to other VPN providers.

ExpressVPN vs NordVPN vs PIA

NordVPN has a bigger server network than ExpressVPN, plus slightly faster speeds than both ExpressVPN and PIA. It also unblocks Hulu, unlike Private Internet Access. Additionally, NordVPN has specialty servers like double VPN and obfuscated servers, which enhance your security and ability to bypass VPN blocks.

Surfshark vs ExpressVPN vs PIA

Surfshark is more affordable than ExpressVPN and PIA. It’s faster than Private Internet Access and supports more unlimited simultaneous connections than ExpressVPN. Additionally, Surfshark offers obfuscation, dedicated IP and multi-hop servers, like PIA.

FAQ: ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access VPN

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