HostGator vs Bluehost: Which is the Best Web Hosting Service?

bluehost vs hostgator
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If you’re starting your own website, one of the first choices you have to make is your web host. Your host is the service that displays your site on the internet for all to see. 

what is a web hosting solution

Bluehost and HostGator are two of the best known web hosting solutions.

I’ve used both services extensively. Let’s put them head-to-head.

HostGator vs Bluehost

As of eight years ago, Bluehost had over 2 million customers and was growing at 30%+ per year. As of 5 years ago, HostGator had 400,000+ paying customers. They’re now owned by the same holding company, but they’re not the same platform at all!

I’ll rate them based on six key categories:

    1. Ease of use
    2. Customer support and peace of mind
    3. WordPress
    4. Reliability: speed and uptime
    5. Security
    6. Plan pricing

I’ve now made more than 50 websites, so I have more than enough experience with these two web hosting powerhouses to make an intelligent call.

Like any buying decision, everything will still depend on personal user requirements, budget and website.

Round 1: Ease of Use for Beginners

This round is going to be a slugfest epic proportions.

bluehost vs hostgator boxing gif

I think one of the most important parts of web hosting is ease of use for beginners. After all, you probably wouldn’t be on this blog if you knew exactly what you were doing. 

Let’s face it, web hosting can be confusing. It doesn’t need to be made more confusing by difficult features, clunky or outdated interfaces or pain-in-the-butt commitments.

HostGator:

  • Domain name: HostGator doesn’t include a free domain name. Domain name registration with HostGator start at $12.99/year.
  • Website transfer and migration: If you are currently hosting a site with another web host, HostGator makes it super easy to migrate all your website files, database, emails, etc. They offer this service for free within 30 days of registration with them.
  • Navigation: HostGator uses what’s called a cPanel for managing your websites and domain. It has the classic cPanel look with its menu found on the left sidebar and most of the service’s features are represented by icons organized into categories on the main page. I find the cPanel to be a bit disorganized and slightly difficult to navigate. HostGator’s support area design is a bit archaic though; quite cumbersome and composed of icons consisting of clipart – artifacts reminiscent of a bygone era.
  • Others: One big plus though is that the MOJO Marketplace is directly accessible from the cPanel menu. This makes it easier for users to get themes, plug-ins, and add-ons for WordPress sites.   

Bluehost:

  • Domain name: Bluehost includes a free domain name with a hosting plan. This is an awesome feature. The free domain registration is good for one year. 
  • Website transfer and migration: If you are currently hosting a site with another web host, HostGator makes it super easy to migrate all your website files, database, emails, etc. They offer this service for free within 30 days of registration with them.
  • Navigation: Like HostGator, Bluehost also uses the cPanel interface — again this is fairly standard for most web hosts. What makes it different is that the design is more intuitive and modern. Unlike HostGator’s classic cPanel design of menu sidebars and icons, Bluehost has  a more minimalist approach. The service implemented a cleaner look mostly composed of text and almost no clunky icons or clipart can be seen.
  • OthersLike HostGator, the service also has the MOJO Marketplace as part of its options on the menu.  Bluehost’s biggest advantage though is its Support Area. Bluehost has a one step WordPress hosting setup. So if you’re using WordPress, Bluehost is the easiest choice. 

This round goes to… Bluehost

Hands down, Bluehost dominated this round. Given the more modern and streamlined design of its cPanel, its ease-of-use is easily comparable to most of today’s intuitive mobile applications. Moreover, one-step WordPress setup and the free domain name make it a no brainer. 

Round 2: Customer Support and Peace of Mind 

HostGator:

  • Moneyback guarantee: HostGator has a 45-day moneyback guarantee on hosting plans. They will give you a free refund if you cancel within 45 days. Not bad!
  • Customer support: HostGator’s relatively clunky interface leaves a little bit to be desired. While, of course, this isn’t necessarily reflective of the support quality, it does give me pause. The good news is that HostGator’s support is pretty good. They have instant phone and chat support.

Bluehost:

  • Moneyback guarantee: HostGator has a 30-day moneyback guarantee on hosting plans. This is slightly less appealing than HostGator’s 45-day guarantee.
  • Customer support: Bluehost also offers on-demand, 24/7 instant chat and phone support for billing, troubleshooting and WordPress. Bluehost also has some pretty helpful written content and forums, which allow you to solve most issues on your own.

This round goes to… Both 

This one is a tie. Both are well-known for customer support. 

Round 3: WordPress

27% of the internet is powered by WordPress.org (read here to understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Because of how prolific WordPress is, it makes sense to understand which web hosts cater best to WordPress.

HostGator:

  • Officially recommended: HostGator and Bluehost are officially recommended by WordPress!
  • One-click WordPress install: You can easily and instantly install WordPress with a click-of-a-button. The cPanel allows you to manage all of your installations and plugins in one location.
  • WordPress speed: Site speed is important. Both platforms claim superior WordPress speed. HostGator boasts 2.5X faster load times due to super charged cloud architecture, low-density servers, CDN, and multiple caching layers.

Bluehost:

  • Officially recommended: HostGator and Bluehost are officially recommended by WordPress! Bluehost has worked closely with WordPress since 2005.
  • One-click WordPress install: You can easily and instantly install WordPress with a click-of-a-button. The cPanel allows you to manage all of your installations and plugins in one location.
  • WordPress speed: Thanks to Bluehost’s “OpenStack,” your server is up and running in seconds. According to Bluehost’s information the hosting is built on a VPS platform with custom architecture engineered to deliver unprecedented performance. Frankly, I’ve never had a problem with WordPress site speed on either platform.

This round goes to… Both 

This one is a tie too. I happen to like Bluehost’s one-click WordPress hosting signup, but both offer that. My simple preference is Bluehost in this regard, just because of the clean interface and straightforward registration flow. 

Round 4: Reliability, Speed and Uptime

Web hosting service reliability means two things – the service is fast and there are no downtimes. This means your audience won’t ever visit your site and find a blank page – which does happen. Companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook have entire teams devoted to uptime and site reliability. 

For this part of the review, we’ve selected five top domains to be used as samples. We tested the speed of each service provider through DomainTools and Bitcatcha – two services that measure the response time of a server.

Finally, we’ve tested all five sample domains and averaged the results of both West and East coasts servers. 

HostGator: 

  • Speed: Surprisingly, HostGator’s speed response time test was disappointing. Nevertheless, given the cost of the service, the results are still within reasonable limits. The tests resulted to 45ms average response time for DomainTools and an average of 53ms for Bitctcha’s results. These tests were done from servers based in the US, so the results were as expected. What’s surprising are the speed tests done from servers located at different parts of the globe. Most results came in at an average of 200ms – and with servers from London just going a little above 300ms. Given these numbers, HostGator’s shared web hosting server speeds are average in the US and are impressive abroad.
  • Uptime: Like with most providers, HostGator promises a 99.9% uptime.  If this service level isn’t met within a given month, HostGator guarantees to compensate users for that entire month. This, of course, only applies to unexpected downtime and doesn’t include server maintenance. This guarantee just shows how confident HostGator is on their service.

Bluehost:

  • Speed: When it comes to testing from other servers based in the US, Bluehost did just slightly better than HostGator. Tests from both DomainTools and BitCatcha averaged at 37ms – just a few milliseconds faster than the competition. This, of course, is barely an advantage. What was kind of worrisome was the consistency of Bluehost’s average speeds abroad. Servers located in East Asia and Australia did fairly well – giving responses of below 200ms. It was the results from European servers that can be a cause of concern. The tests averaged roughly 400ms – not really that impressive for users located in Europe.
  • Uptime: Bluehost, like with other providers, also promises a 99.9% uptime.

This round goes to… Both

Bluehost wins the speed test for the Americas, Asia and Australia. Surprisingly, European speed is slow. Both services have strong marks for uptime. 

Round 5: Security

In today’s world, with hacking attacks left and right, malware infections, denial of service attacks (DDoS) and other forms of cybercrime, security has never been so important today.

And although quite overlooked in the web host provider selection process, security features should be a part of the decision. 

HostGator:

  • Security features: HostGator has lots of available security features; the only issue is that most of them need to be purchased. For example, HostGator offers important security features like SiteLock, CodeGuard backups, and domain privacy protection. These features still have to be added to any shared webhosting plan. SiteLock costs $1.67 monthly ($19.99 annually) and CodeGuard can be added for $2.00 a month ($23.95 a year).  Domain privacy protection costs $14.95 a year.
  • Free?: The service does have free security features though; and SSL certificates and offsite backups come with all of their plans. While these two might be helpful, especially the offsite backups, SSL certificates only apply to sites that collect information. This means that not all sites can use SSL certificates.

Bluehost:

  • Security: Bluehost has a more complete package in terms of security. Right off the bat, the ‘Choice Plus / Prime’ plan already comes with SpamExperts protection, CodeGuard backups, and domain privacy protection. This therefore means that for no additional cost, you already get advanced security features for your website.
  • Free?: Another advantage the Bluehost has is that, like HostGator, it also comes with free SSL certificates and offsite backups. Users can also add SiteLock to the plan for a monthly fee of $1.99 ($23.88 yearly).

This round goes to… Bluehost

With its built-in security for its ‘Plus’ plan and with more advanced built-in features available on the ‘Choice Plus / Prime’ plan, Bluehost is the clear runaway champ of round 5. 

Round 6: Plan Pricing

The best providers give you the best features for the lowest cost.

There may be providers out there that includes all the bells and whistles, but cost an arm and a leg (and a kidney!). There may also be providers that only cost a few couple of dollars a year; but you have to compromise and sacrifice a lot of your most-needed features.

And at the end of the day, deciding a service’s cost-effectiveness will be based on two things: your budget vis-à-vis your requirements. So, let’s take a look at how HostGator and Bluehost fare, pricing-wise.

HostGator:

HostGator has one of the most flexible pricing schemes out there. There’s an option for almost any type of user or requirement. And as of this writing, they have three tiers for shared web hosting (the most basic hosting packages): the ‘Hatchling’ plan, the ‘Baby’ plan, and the ‘Business’ plan.

The ‘Hatchling’ plan goes for $10.95 monthly. Its current promotional price is $2.75 a month for the first 36 months, then $6.95 monthly after. Its only difference among the other plans is that you can only host a single domain – the other two plans can host unlimited domains.

Next, the ‘Baby’ plan costs $11.95 a month; and the current promotion is pegged at $3.95 monthly for the first 36 months, and $9.95 after. Unlimited domain hosting comes as a welcome upgrade from the ‘Hatchling’ plan. 

Thirdly, the ‘Business’ plan is at $16.95 per month; and the promo price is at $5.95 for the first 36 months, then $14.95 after. The ‘Business’ plan includes a free upgrade to Positive SSL, a dedicated IP address, and free SEO tools.

Hatchling

Baby

Business

Regular Rate

$10.95/mo.

$11.95/mo.

$16.95/mo.

36-month Term Promo Rate

$2.75/mo. for 36 months, $6.95/mo. after

$3.95/mo. for 36 months, $9.95/mo. after

$5.95/mo. for 36 months, $14.95/mo. after

Notable Features

Can only host 1 domain

Unlimited domains

Unlimited bandwidth

Unlimited domains  Unlimited bandwidth

Free Positive SSL upgrade

Dedicated IP address

SEO Tools

.com Domain Registration

$12.95/yr.

$12.95/yr.

$12.95/yr.

*All HostGator plans offer a free SSL certificate, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited email hosting.

**Initial.com domain registration costs $12.95, and goes for the same yearly rate.

Bluehost:

Bluehost’s shared web hosting plans have three basic tiers. The first and most basic of which is the ‘Basic’ plan – costing $8.99 a month for a yearly term. The current promotion has a rate of $3.95 a month for 36 months, and goes to the regular rate after. What separates this low-cost plan from the rest is that you can only host one domain. Moreover, there is a limit of 50GB of storage and only 5 email accounts can be hosted with an allocation of only 100MB per account.   

The next tier, called the ‘Plus’ plan comes with unlimited features for bandwidth, storage, email accounts, and domains hosting. It is at $12.99 a month for a year’s subscription, and is currently offered at a 36-month term promotion of $5.95 monthly. One sought-after feature that it comes with is the SpamExperts protection for a domain of your choice.

The third plan, the ‘Choice Plus’ costs $16.99 monthly, with a promo rate of $5.95 a month for the first 36 months. The plan comes with domain privacy protection for one domain. Like the ‘Plus’ plan, the ‘Choice Plus’ plan also offers SpamExperts protection for a domain of your choice. More importantly though, the service comes with automated backups through CodeGuard Basic.

Basic

Plus

Choice Plus / Prime

Regular Rate

$8.99/mo.

$12.99/mo.

$16.99/mo.

36-month Term Promo Rate

$2.75/mo. for 36 months, $8.99/mo. after

$5.95/mo. for 36 months, $12.99/mo. after

$5.95/mo. for 36 months, $16.99/mo. after

Notable Features

Can only host 1 domain

50 GB storage limit

5 100MB email addresses

Unlimited domains

Unlimited bandwidth

SpamExperts (1 domain)

Unlimited domains  Unlimited bandwidth

Domain Privacy Protect

SpamExperts (1 domain)

.com Domain Registration

First year is free, then $11.99/yr.

First year is free, then $11.99/yr.

First year is free, then $11.99/yr.

*All BlueHost plans have unlimited bandwidth, a free SSL certificate, and free initial domain registration.

**There is also a ‘Pro’ plan that offers hosting on a high-performance server, with dedicated IP, and Positive SSL upgrade. It is at $25.99/mo., with a promo rate of $13.95/mo. for a 36-month term. 

This round goes to… Bluehost

We’ve put a lot of focus on this category because – let’s be honest – price and features are the two biggest factors when it comes to choosing a web hosting provider. And in this case, it’s really close. The plan pricing vis-à-vis the matching features for both providers are almost identical. We, however, award this round to Bluehost.

The functionality of Bluehost’s ‘Choice Plus/Prime’ plan over HostGator’s ‘Business’ plan sealed the deal for us. The reason being that for the same price range, spam protection, domain privacy protection, and free initial domain registration are more useful to a wider range of users than a dedicated IP address, an SSL upgrade, and SEO tools. 

The winner?  Bluehost

Bluehost reigns supreme in this head-to-head battle. It was quite close; especially in the pricing and features, but the draw of free initial domain registration and the additional security features is what sets Bluehost apart from its competitor. 

I recommend Bluehost for most website builders — particularly those plunging into creating a WordPress site.

Click here to use our specially-negotiated discount for $2.95/month hosting.

*Articles on this blog contain affiliate links that GMP receives a small commission from at no cost to you. We only recommend tools we trust. And never ones we don't trust.


One Comments

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    Thanks for this wonderful post. You put great efforts in your post !!! Blue Host and In Motion hosting both are the best. As they offer most affordable and reliable web hosting services to their customers.

    Reply

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