ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access) in 2021

Mikaela Bray
Mikaela Bray | Contributing Writer
Last updated: June 16, 2021
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

Finding the right VPN service is no small task. There are numerous providers out there that excel in different areas and offer different pricing plans. In this ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison, I’ll check how these two VPN heavyweights stack up against each other in the areas of security, privacy, speed, support, and compatibility, and find out which one is better. Here’s a quick rundown.

Our rating8.38.9
“Best for” winnerN/AN/A
“Best for” nomineeBest for torrentingBest for Android, Best for iPhone, best for Mac, best overall
Price starts from$8.32/month$2.69/month
ReviewRead ExpressVPN reviewRead PIA review

ExpressVPN is rightfully often mentioned as one of the best premium services, but it gets burdened by the high price, among other things. If you want a tl;dr summary, Private Internet Access isn’t perfect, but it has several aces up in its sleeve to be the better service for regular users.

ExpressVPN vs PIA video review

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN review 2021 | Finally, the TRUTH💥
ExpressVPN review 🔥 Which VPNs can beat it in 2021??

Security of ExpressVPN and PIA

Winner: Private Internet Access

ProtocolsOpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPsec, PPTPWireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
Security featuresNetwork Lock, split tunneling, zero-knowledge DNSPIA MACE, Split tunneling, Shadowsocks, SOCKS5 proxy, HNS

Several years ago, Private Internet Access would have been bashed to bits by ExpressVPN. Now it’s just not the case anymore. PIA innovated their service and stepped ahead of the still-reliable ExpressVPN.

expressvpn windows settings

Even though the encryption ciphers they use are the same (PIA offers some choice in the matter), when it comes to tunneling protocols, there are some crucial differences. PIA is one of the few VPNs that have successfully implemented the WireGuard protocol. It’s still in the early adoption stage but the added speed and security do count. ExpressVPN continues to use OpenVPN and IKEv2, which are still very secure but are outperformed by WireGuard every step of the way.

PIA allows its users to select the authentication standard, handshake, and level of encryption. It also features a network kill switch and doesn’t have DNS or IPv6/WebRTC leaks. I checked this when I connected to PIA’s Mexican server ( and saw the correct IPs in the leak test.

PIA dns check

ExpressVPN didn’t drop the ball there, either. Their service is still without DNS, IPv6, WebRTC leaks. It helps that they’re using zero-knowledge, encrypted DNS servers. You can see that it displays the correct IP address.

expressvpn dns ip webrtc leak test

Both services have a reliable kill switch and will shut down your internet in case your VPN server disconnects.

Moving on to other security features, PIA’s MACE blocks domains used for ads, trackers, and malware. When enabled, it will work as though you were using an adblocker. Sadly, ExpressVPN has no reply here.

PIA VPN settings - proxy

PIA even offers a free SOCKS5 proxy, split tunneling, and Shadowsocks. ExpressVPN has the split tunneling feature as well, but that’s pretty much it.

Finally PIA uses the Handshake Naming System (HNS). It works by decentralizing the DNS system and circumvents DNS-level blocking. This will help to access some sites that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible.

To sum up, PIA is the stronger tool when it comes to security.

Privacy of ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access

Winner: ExpressVPN

JurisdictionThe British Virgin IslandsUnited States
LoggingCourt-proven and independently-audited no-logs policyCourt-proven no-logs policy
Anonymous payment
Cryptocurrencies, gift cardsCryptocurrencies, gift cards

In terms of privacy, jurisdiction is what makes or breaks a VPN service. It’s only natural to want your VPN to be located as far away from non-privacy-friendly countries as possible. ExpressVPN has the edge there: the British Virgin Islands is a privacy-friendly location with no data retention laws. In comparison, the United States is one of the worst locations for a VPN you can find. It’s also a member of the Five Eyes alliance.

However, no-logs policies of both providers are pretty solid. ExpressVPN had their no-logs policy tested when Turkey’s officials seized one of their servers but didn’t manage to find anything. Law enforcement agencies have been asking PIA for data for years, but always unsuccesfully. So, you shouldn’t worry too much about your data ending up in someone else’s hands.

When it comes to anonymous payment options, you can buy ExpressVPN with cryptocurrencies and gift cards. You can make sure that your name won’t be indicated on your bank account.

expressvpn payments

Private Internet Access also has multiple crypto-options and accepts gift cards.

PIA payment optionsIn short, both services are very close, but ExpressVPN wins because its located outside the United States – a pretty bad place for your privacy. This is especially true after the renewal of the Patriot Act. If you just don’t want your ISP, faculty, or workplace to know what you’re doing online both services are fine. If, however, you’re an undercover agent trying to overthrow the oppressive government, you should probably steer clear of PIA.

ExpressVPN vs PIA speed and performance

As you can see from the table below, ExpressVPN is significantly faster than PIA in all countries. With that said, I expect PIA’s numbers to grow once they’ve finished implementing WireGuard.

With 3000+ servers in 94+ countries, ExpressVPN has a great server list. But so does PIA – a record-beating 36700+ servers in 77+ countries is nothing to scoff at.

For the sake of argument, I can add that the ExpressVPN server base is more evenly spread, so it’s probably going to be easier to connect if you’re living in some remote location. PIA, on the other hand, has way more servers in Europe and North America. This means that potentially you could see bigger speed drops when connecting to Asia or Australia.

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access: 14-Day Speed Average

More live data from our VPN Speed Test tool
ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
USA server
Download Speed 206 Mbps 97 Mbps
Upload Speed 420 Mbps 199 Mbps
UK server
Download Speed 122 Mbps 46 Mbps
Upload Speed 264 Mbps 155 Mbps
Germany server
Download Speed 194 Mbps 140 Mbps
Upload Speed 388 Mbps 441 Mbps

ExpressVPN and PIA apps: ease of use and support

Winner: Draw

Major apps
Other apps
Chromebook OS, Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV, RoutersChromebook OS, Android TV (same Android apps)
Browser extensions
Chrome, FirefoxChrome, Firefox, Opera
Manual setup
Devices per account
Customer support
24/7 live chat, email, FAQ, tutorialsLive chat, support ticket, knowledgebase, forum

Both services support all major desktop and mobile platforms. Including macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS. ExpressVPN prides itself on having a router app. It’s one of the rarely found VPN features. Plus they strongly advertise their MediaStreamer feature – a DNS server that adjusts to the content that you want to unblock even when your device doesn’t natively support VPN apps. This means you can unblock content on your Apple TV or PlayStation.

expressvpn ui

While PIA doesn’t have a router app, you can get it to run manually by following instructions on their site. Both providers also offer browser extensions for Chrome, and Firefox, with PIA even going one step further and offering an addon for Opera.

If you hate having a cluttered user interface, you’ll like either VPN. Both are easy to set up and have intuitive interfaces that are both functional and friendly for beginners. PIA is more generous with options and settings. Users who like to tweak everything will surely have a better time with PIA.

PIA connection preferences

With that said, some users will definitely hate that PIA’s desktop apps are glued to the system tray on Windows.

If good customer support is important to you, there’s plenty of good things to say about both services. ExpressVPN with troubleshooting guides and 24/7 live chat delivers about the same quality as PIA. They also have a ticket system and live chat. In short, you shouldn’t have too much trouble sorting things out if something doesn’t work.

VPN support
ExpressVPN is far less generous when it comes to simultaneous connections. They offer only 5 of them when PIA has 10. That’s twice as many devices. Overall, we can see that both services are catering to similar users. With either of them, you’re getting a similar level of ease of use and support. In this sense, they’re pretty equal. The main thing that you should consider before buying is – do you need a router app and are you OK with a lower number of simultaneous connections. If the answer is yes, then pick ExpressVPN, if not – PIA is a better choice.

Torrenting and P2P with ExpressVPN and PIA

Winner: Private Internet Access

Allowed on
All serversAll servers
Free SOCKS5 proxy
Split tunneling

ExpressVPN and PIA are both excellent services for P2P. The speeds matter in this section so both VPNs are great and neither service limits P2P traffic, which means you can torrent on any server.

PIA gets an extra point for having a free SOCKS5 proxy, which ExpressVPN lacks. Instead, the latter has the Split Tunneling feature, allowing you to choose which apps go through the VPN and which don’t. This is a nice feature, for more than just torrenting, but the SOCKS5 proxy will have less of an impact on your connection speed.

PIA settings - split tunneling

PIA even adds the Port Forwarding feature, which is great if you want to maintain a download/upload ratio. However, keep in mind, that this feature reduces your anonymity.

In the end, PIA has more features relevant to torrenters. Good speeds combined with SOCKS5 proxy and port forwarding is a combination that just cannot lose.

Netflix and other streaming platforms

Winner: ExpressVPN

Netflix US
Other Netflix libraries
Other platforms

With ExpressVPN you can unlock many Netflix libraries. This includes, but is not limited to US Netflix.

ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix

This provider also has great speeds that are suitable for high-quality streaming. On the other hand, PIA also bypass Netflix blocks but provides fewer libraries.

pia netflix punisher

ExpressVPN unblocks streaming platforms beyond Netflix as well. You can comfortably watch Sling TV, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more. I didn’t notice buffering issues or lag. PIA is simply less capable in this sense and won’t give you BBC iPlayer or Hulu, for example.

Kodi fans will be happy to hear that these services will pair with all major platforms. You even can install PIA’s SOCKS5 proxy directly onto the Kodi app.

In short, ExpressVPN is a more versatile service that is better at circumventing intricate geo-blocks imposed by the streaming services. If watching videos online is one of the main reasons why you’re getting a VPN, then you should think twice before getting PIA.

China and other restricted countries

Winner: Draw

Works in China
YesDepends on region
Stealth VPN
Tor over VPN

ExpressVPN and PIA work in China. However, according to user reports, ExpressVPN is somewhat more reliable at bypassing The Great Firewall of China. It doesn’t help that PIA has very few servers in Asia. This means that China-based users may have to deal with slower connection speeds. With that said, you may still be able to use it.

PIA redeems itself by offering Shadowsocks. This disguises VPN traffic, making it more difficult for the government to recognize and block it. A feature such as this is essential to have when accessing the internet in China.

It’s also strange that ExpressVPN doesn’t have a “stealth mode” feature, which should be a must when looking for VPNs for China. There is also a lack of extra security features like Tor over VPN and the like. PIA offers Tor over VPN and it works without problems, though it will reduce your connection speed.

Despite the negatives, ExpressVPN is still better when judged purely from a reliability standpoint. So why a draw?

Well, despite legally being located in the British Virgin Islands, ExpressVPN has long been rumoured to be a product of Network Guard (formerly Chengbao), a Hong Kong company. Whether this is the case or not, with China trying to take control of Hong Kong, ownership may be a big issue for ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN vs PIA pricing comparison

Winner: Private Internet Access

One month
Six months
One year
Two YearsN/A$2.69/month
Money-back guarantee
30 days30 days

Price is the ultimate shortcoming of ExpressVPN. You’ll be surprised to find out that their cheapest plan still costs almost three times more than the cheapest PIA plan. It’s not like ExpressVPN is head and shoulders above PIA – as the rest of this comparison has shown, the VPNs are very close in terms of what they offer.

Additionally, Private Internet Access offers 10 simultaneous connections (double the number offered by ExpressVPN)

Sadly, neither service offers a free trial. However, both have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Although it’s not intended use, you can subscribe for a month, test it and ask for a refund on the 29th day. That way you’ll get a good idea of their service level, speeds, and even customer support.

ExpressVPN vs PIA – which is better?

Winner: Private Internet Access

Total wins
2 out of 83 out of 8

Having compared two of the best-known VPN providers, I conclude that Private Internet Access is the slightly better option. Additionally, it’s a lot cheaper than ExpressVPN, making it the much more appealing choice.

When comparing those two I left out some more in-depth information which would still be useful to you if you’re choosing a VPN service. To learn more check our ExpressVPN review. The same goes for the competitor, head to Private Internet Access review to get the full picture.

PIA vs CyberGhost
PIA vs NordVPN
ExpressVPN vs NordVPN
ExpressVPN vs Surfshark

Top VPN providers
9.6 / 10
30-day money-back guarantee
Military grade encryption
Friendly support
Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Excellent performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. S. Phoenix

    ExpressVPN I’m sure is a very good service, but way too expensive for many people including myself. PIA on the other hand is still highly reliable and great VPN, and is very affordable compared to ExpressVPN. I used to use CyberGhost when it used to offer free service. I thought about using Avast SecureLine VPN, but PIA still wins out in price and quality as well, so I’m choosing PIA as the best VPN for me.

  2. JT

    PIA is merged with Kape Technologies.
    I keep reading claims that Kape is known for spreading malware, but the only references to this I can find are random posts over the internet claiming… that Kape spreads malware.

    Is there an actual proof source for this? Are there any studies, reports from anti-malware companies, etc.

    Also, ExpressVPN is a high-class VPN. It’s expensive, but its speed is unbeatable, PIA VPN is slower.

  3. microtransactionminnie

    I’ve been using NordVPN, but we set up ExpressVPN for my parents. It’s worked pretty well for them – mom and dad use the internet a lot but they aren’t familiar with stuff like VPNS, haha, so my sisters and I set them up with a good one. It’s working for them so far, and we love it!

  4. theseeker

    ExpressVPN all the way! I understand it being a little expensive, but honestly PIA can’t compare to the service and coverage it provides. I can’t imagine feeling safe with a service like PIA, because ExpressVPN is so tight and secure.

  5. Mishii

    When it comes to choosing a VPN, nothing compares to Express VPN! I’ve been using it for as long as I can remember.

  6. Xioma

    I can’t afford ExpressVPN so I use PIA. Many people have their security concerns, but it works well for me. I would like them to have a live chat, but I get what I pay for.

Thanks for your opinion!
Your comment will be checked for spam and approved as soon as possible.