Best Free Email Services of 2018

Renee Shipley ·
Updated
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We spent 120 hours physically testing 16 free email sites and services, narrowing our list to the eight services we believe are the best options. These services have support and services that will be around for a while, plus 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, 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 we sought, such as mail collection, auto reply and spam filters.
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.
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.

Our Test Results

Product
GMX
Price
Overall Rating
9.9
9.8
9.4
9.2
9.1
9
7.8
6.7
Inbox & Folder Settings
10
10
9.8
7.8
9
8.8
8.5
7.8
Composition Tools
9.8
9.8
10
10
10
9.8
9.8
7
Security Tools & Filters
10
10
7.8
9.8
7.8
7.8
5.8
5.8
Conveniences
10
8.8
10
8.8
10
10
6.3
5
Help & Support
10
10
10
10
9.5
10
5.8
6.8
Ease of Use
100%
85%
80%
90%
90%
95%
90%
90%
Daily Message Limit
100
500
100
200
Undisclosed
250
1000
150
Mail Collector
$
Mobile Service
80%
95%
100%
75%
90%
90%
75%
70%
IMAP Support
$
Inbox Storage
15GB
1TB
1TB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Unlimited
5 GB
500MB
Message Translator
*
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Import Social Media Contacts
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Aliases
N/A
$
Spam Filters
Automatic
Automatic
Manual
Manual
Manual
Manual
Manual
Manual
Suspicious Account Activity Alert
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Secure Sign-In
Phishing Blocks
N/A
N/A
Virus Scanning
View Attachments
N/A
Average Upload Time
16.5 sec
4 sec
4 sec
.5 sec
4 sec
.5 sec
2 sec
2.5 sec
Multiple Image Upload
Auto Reply
N/A
Conversation View
Max Attachment Size
25MB
25MB
50MB
25MB
50MB
20MB
20MB
25MB
Pop-Out Window
Standout Feature
Message Translator
Block Sender
50MB Attachment Limit
Fast Load Time
Unlimited Inbox Storage
Mail Collecting
Mac Compatible
Message Encryption
Task Calendar
N/A
Custom Themes
N/A
Video Chat
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Chat/Instant Messaging
N/A
N/A
FAQ
Email Support
N/A
Forums
N/A
N/A
Best Overall

Gmail

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+. 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, which saves time. Once they are attached, documents and images are displayed as thumbnails, so it’s easy to ensure you’ve attached the correct files. When you receive attachments from an incoming message, these, too, are displayed as thumbnails so you can preview attachments to make 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
Best for Spam Blocking

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo Mail takes extra steps to keep your account secure by automatically enabling spam filters and directing these 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 identified is the sender block. This function 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 that 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 through the programs. 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. 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
Best for Email Encryption

ProtonMail

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 to go. 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 that 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 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 upload multiple files at once to attach to outgoing messages, up to the maximum attachment size of 25MB. Once they’re attached, you can’t preview the files without downloading them again and opening the file. 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
  • Resetting passwords prohibits access to previously received messages
  • Limited inbox storage

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 email accounts, to help us compare the features and services of free 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 when 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. We also determined if any functions were missing in the app that were available on the desktop version.

Inbox and Folders

The biggest drawback with free email services is the plethora of inbox ads that most services include. Some are placed 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.


Other important features to look for are the storage size of the inbox and daily message limits. Inbox storage refers to how many email messages it will store before you must start deleting messages in order to receive more. Many free email services are beginning to 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 give 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 if you need an email address to keep in touch with family or to set up online accounts. 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. More important to examine are 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 20 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.


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