Best Free Email Services of 2018

Nicole Johnston ·
Internet Security & Appliance Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent 120 hours testing 16 free email services, narrowing our list to the eight services we believe are the best options. These services have sufficient inbox storage and tools to make it easy to send, receive and store messages. Gmail is our top pick because it’s the easiest to use and comes with the most services, including access to Google Calendar, an attachment preview, automatic spam filters and direct import of social media contacts into its address book.

Best Overall
Gmail
Gmail is the easiest email service to use and the only one that doesn’t include inbox ads. It has all the features the best service should, such as mail collection, auto reply and spam filters.
View on Gmail
Best for Spam Blocking
Yahoo Mail
Yahoo Mail lets you add email addresses to a block list so that messages from these senders never make it into any folder in your account, including the trash and spam folders.
View on Yahoo Mail
Best for Email Encryption
ProtonMail
ProtonMail encrypts all outgoing messages so they can’t be read by anyone except the receiver once it reaches their inbox.
View on ProtonMail
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Inbox & Folder Settings
Composition Tools
Security Tools & Filters
Conveniences
Help & Support
Ease of Use
Daily Message Limit
Mail Collector
Mobile Service
IMAP Support
Inbox Storage
Message Translator
Import Social Media Contacts
Aliases
Spam Filters
Suspicious Account Activity Alert
Secure Sign-In
Phishing Blocks
Virus Scanning
View Attachments
Average Upload Time
Multiple Image Upload
Auto Reply
Conversation View
Max Attachment Size
Pop-Out Window
Standout Feature
Task Calendar
Custom Themes
Video Chat
Chat/Instant Messaging
FAQ
Email Support
Forums
Check Price
9.9 10 9.8 10 10 10
100%
100
80%
15GB
Automatic
16.5 sec
25MB
Message Translator
Check Price
9.8 10 9.8 10 8.8 10
85%
500
95%
1TB
Automatic
4 sec
25MB
Block Sender
-
Check Price
9.4 9.8 10 7.8 10 10
80%
100
100%
1TB
*
Manual
-
4 sec
50MB
50MB Attachment Limit
Check Price
9.2 7.8 10 9.8 8.8 10
90%
200
75%
Unlimited
-
-
-
Manual
.5 sec
25MB
Fast Load Time
-
GMX
Check Price
9.1 9 10 7.8 10 9.5
90%
Undisclosed
90%
Unlimited
-
Manual
-
4 sec
50MB
Unlimited Inbox Storage
Check Price
9 8.8 9.8 7.8 10 10
95%
250
90%
Unlimited
-
-
Manual
-
.5 sec
20MB
Mail Collecting
Check Price
7.8 8.5 9.8 5.8 6.3 5.8
90%
1000
75%
5 GB
-
-
Manual
-
-
2 sec
20MB
Mac Compatible
-
-
-
-
-
Check Price
6.7 7.8 7 5.8 5 6.8
90%
150
$
70%
$
500MB
-
-
$
Manual
-
-
-
2.5 sec
-
25MB
Message Encryption
-
-
-
-
Best Overall
Gmail has all the tools and features you need for an email account, including 15GB of inbox storage space, a 100-per-day limit on sent messages, and no inbox ads to interfere with navigating the program. Along with an email address, Gmail also gives you automatic access to many of Google’s other services, such as Drive, Calendar, Maps and Google Plus. You can also use Google Translate within Gmail to translate messages in other languages.
You can attach files up to 25MB and upload more than one at a time. Once they are attached, documents and images are displayed as thumbnails, so it’s easy to verify you’ve attached the correct files. When you receive attachments in an incoming message, these, too, are displayed as thumbnails so you can preview and sure they are safe to download to your computer. Gmail keeps your inbox safe by automatically identifying and sending spam messages to a spam folder. It also has virus scanning and phishing blocks, so you know the messages you’re getting don’t have hidden threats attached to them.
Pros
  • No inbox ads
  • Direct import of social media contacts
  • Includes a language translator
Cons
  • Takes longer to attach files to outgoing messages
  • Attaches one file at a time with the mobile app
  • Limited number of daily sent messages
Gmail
Read the full review
Best for Spam Blocking
Yahoo Mail takes extra steps to keep your account secure by automatically enabling spam filters and directing messages into the spam folder. It also recognizes some junk mail and will place these items in the trash bin rather than your primary inbox. Another positive feature our testers liked is the sender block, which lets you add an email address to a black list. Rather than redirecting emails from these senders into the spam or trash folders as other email services do, Yahoo Mail blocks these messages entirely.
Yahoo Mail does have a fair number of ads that border your inbox, and some sponsored ads are inserted into the message lists so they look like legitimate emails. These aren’t too difficult to ignore, but they do cause some initial confusion and may make it harder to navigate your inbox. Yahoo Mail gives you 1 terabyte of inbox storage (enough to hold 20 million email messages) before you must delete some to receive more messages. You also have a daily sent-message limit of 500 emails – five times more than most free email services allow, but less than Gmail. The Yahoo Mail app is also easy to use, with the same features available as the online account.
Pros
  • Automatic spam filters
  • You can block senders
  • Allows up to 500 sent messages daily
Cons
  • Inbox ads
  • Tricky to navigate
  • No video chat
Yahoo Mail
Read the full review
Best for Email Encryption
ProtonMail is a basic email service that is easy to set up because it doesn’t ask for any personal information. You just pick a user name and password, and you’re set. Be aware that some features – such as mail collection and the ability to sync across multiple devices – are only available with its paid email service. But the free version does have email encryption, which is important if you send messages with sensitive information you want to protect. ProtonMail automatically unencrypts the message when it reaches the recipient’s inbox and is opened.
To further protect your messages, ProtonMail has a secure password recovery process. Although you can reset your password if you forget your old one, ProtonMail won’t allow access to the messages you received in your inbox or saved in folders before you reset your password. This means you will lose all emails, both sent and received. ProtonMail lets you attach multiple files at once to outgoing messages, up to the maximum attachment size of 25MB. Once they’re attached, you can’t preview the files without downloading and opening them again. You also have only 500MB of inbox storage, which is enough to hold about 1,200 messages.
Pros
  • Encrypts outgoing messages
  • Easy to set up
  • 25MB maximum attachment size
Cons
  • Mail collection costs extra
  • If you reset your password, you’ll lose access to previous messages
  • Limited inbox storage
ProtonMail
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

While Top Ten Reviews has been evaluating free email services for 12 years, our testers have been familiar with email programs for much longer.  To update our recommendations, we spent 120 hours using and testing 16 free email services.

One tester used an 18-year-old free email account (originally a Hotmail account, now an Outlook account), along with other free accounts, to help us compare the features and services of email providers.

We narrowed the 16 free email services to eight that we believe are the best options. We eliminated services that allow you to send free email messages but won’t let you receive messages without purchasing the service. We also discounted services that currently have free email accounts available but are either no longer offering support or have plans to discontinue them. We didn’t feel comfortable recommending a service that may not be around long term.

How We Tested

To test free email services, we performed common tasks with each service and took note of the ease or difficulty. For example, we noted how many steps it took to set up a new account, the amount of personal information required and whether we needed to provide a cellphone number to verify and officially activate the account.

We followed a similar process to test the tools for attaching files and images to outgoing emails. We recorded the number of steps it took to attach a file, whether we could attach multiple files at once, and how long the program took to upload attachments to our message.

Since each of the free email services we tested has a mobile app, we tested how easy it was to set up and access email accounts this way, too. Again, we tracked the steps and made note of any challenges in attaching images and files to messages via the app. We also determined whether any functions from the desktop version were missing in the app.

What to Look For When Choosing a Free Email Service

Inbox and Folders
Nearly all free email services have inbox ads, so there’s that most services include. Since they’re all but unavoidable, look for services that make them less obtrusive. Some place ads to the side, so they don’t create too much distraction. However, some services place ads all around the inbox, making it difficult to navigate the program. Some free email services even allow pop-up ads that cover your inbox and require you to click out of them to access your messages.

Pay attention to the amount of inbox storage available, because once you reach the cap, you’ll have to  start deleting messages in order to receive more. Many free email services offer a terabyte or even unlimited storage, which is helpful if you tend to receive messages with large attachments, like image and video files. However, even a few gigabytes of storage gives you enough space to hold between 100,000 and 300,000 messages.

Free email services do cap the number of email messages you can send out per day. This is to cut down on spam messages sent with their services. The cap is generally around 100 messages per day, which is sufficient for keeping in touch with family or other personal email uses. But if you need an email service for business purposes, it may be better to purchase an email service that permits unlimited messages each day.

Composition Tools

It’s easy to write and send email messages with any service once you figure out where the New Message and Send buttons are. It’s more important to examine the attachment features, including the maximum file size you can send and whether you can preview files once they are attached.

During testing, we looked at the maximum size allowed for attached files. Most of the accounts we tested can handle between 20MB and 25MB, which is about six professional images or 10 snapshots taken with a point-and-shoot camera. It was also important for us to see a thumbnail of the file once we uploaded it, so that we could confirm we had attached the correct one.

Securing Your Email
According to Mitch Stephens, a security consultant for Emagined Security, email attacks are the most common internet threat. “An attacker can send a link that looks similar to another link you are familiar with,” Stephens told us, and when you open it, you’ll see a site that looks legitimate and asks for your login information. Once you enter it, the attacker then has your credentials to log into the real site and gather even more personal information. These are known as phishing schemes, or phishing attacks.

“The best way to protect yourself from phishing attacks is by only opening email from trusted or known sources,” said Stephens.

You can also install internet security programs to your computer that include antiphishing tools to help block these schemes from getting into your inbox to begin with. We’ve tested many internet security programs and recommend Bitdefender Internet Security and McAfee LiveSafe, which both come with antiphishing tools.

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