Looking for the best web hosting services to get your pro website game on?
We’ve got your back fam!
In this here monster post, we cover everything you need to know about the what, why, and how of web hosting so you can pick the best one for you – without spending a million hours sorting through feature lists and taking advantage of moneyback guarantees to try a bunch out.
We’ve got a lot of ground to cover so let’s jump in, starting a list of our favorite web hosting providers.
The best website hosting services and companies
The 6 best web hosting sites and companies
Best All-Around for Beginners
Domains: 6 (1 free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: 0 | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: 50 GB | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $5.95/month</strong<>
Pros & Cons
- Speed and uptime are solid
- Both knowledge base and chat support rock
- Best hosting management interface in the game
- An uptime guarantee would be nice
- No email included
Solid speed, solid support, solid hosting management interface. The only reasons not to use Bluehost are if you want to have email included in your plan or you’re looking for the cheapest web hosting possible.
With the second-fastest speed (663 ms) and 100% uptime in our early testing, Bluehost is looking pretty solid on this front.
A couple things to note, though:
- They have no Uptime guarantee. This isn’t great but we wouldn’t give them a red flag for it because most guarantees are either hard to get credit from and/or the amount of account credit you’ll get because a web hosting provider failed to meet their guaranteed isn’t very much (like cents back, maybe a dollar or two per occurrence).
- They specifically mention that, while bandwidth is unlimited, if you use an excessive amount they’ll give you a 48-hour notice to reduce your usage. Almost certainly not going to be an issue for you if you’re not using your hosting to store/share files (which you’re not allowed to do anyway) or something sketchy (find another host for your black market quilt trading site lol).
As we were expecting (Bluehost has been at the top of the game for a while), their knowledge base is extensive, easy to search, and a lot of articles have helpful videos (yall know we love that)!
24/7 call and chat access to support people of course, when we reached out to see how they do our gal was super helpful – we asked how to update our WordPress database and she not only told us what to do, but offered to do it for us!
Bluehost’s hosting management interface is definitely the slickest and most beginner-friendly in the game.
But it doesn’t compromise on functionality – everything you’ll want/need to do from DNS changes to database management can be done through it.
Biggest disappointment here was that email is not included.
You can buy Office 365 or G Suite email accounts, but we’d rather not pay for this service that’s pretty standard for hosting providers.
Extra features they offer:
- $100 Google/Microsoft Adwords credits
- Resource protection – automatically isolates sites hogging resources on your shared server to save yours from slowing down
- Sitelock Security ($1.99/month) extra protection monitoring, and fixing malware
- Codeguard Daily Backups ($2.99/month)
- SEO tools ($1.99/month)
- Domain Privacy ($11.88/year)
- G Suite ($6/month per email)
- Office 365 ($4.99/month per email)
- Blue Sky WordPress support ($29/month) – their experts provide fixes and guidance for building, probably better to get WordPress hosting and have access to people like this included.
- Lots of additional extras in their marketplace
While you’ll only get Bluehost’s best price of $3.95 when you sign up for 3 years, they’re right in the middle of the pack at $5.95 for your first year and the cost doesn’t get ridiculous after that.
- Best Discount: $3.95, 36 months
- One Year Discount: $5.95
- Every Year After That: $7.99
Fastest Web Hosting
Domains: 1 (free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: Unlimited | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 45 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $5.95/month</strong<>
Pros & Cons
- Fastest hosting we’ve tested
- Unlimited storage, bandwidth, email accounts
- Solid support and better than average money-back guarantee
- Hosting management interface isn’t the most beginner-friendly
If you want the fastest web hosting around without sacrificing uptime and reliability, HostGator’s got you. If you need the cheapest hosting or the most beginner-friendly experience, there are a couple of better options but we’d use HostGator any and every day (which we do!).
Speed & Uptime: 5/5
Fastest speed we tested (403 ms), 100% uptime with a 99.9% guarantee, no hidden bandwidth restrictions.
HostGator for the win!
24/7 phone, live chat, email – yep.
The knowledgebase is extensive and super helpful (including video explanations) – check.
Support is fast, technically savvy, and pretty helpful – affirmative.
The first answer we got from them when asking our WordPress database question was a bit sideways – ya girl mentioned “temporary URLs” which is part of what we’d need to do what we were asking but not a direct answer.
But, we got the impression that we’d get it sorted out if we kept asking questions, we just ended the chat because we knew what to do and her answer was on the right track.
Just a smidge of a point off for that bit of confusion.
HostGator’s hosting management interface is sleek and modern, but simpler than other hosts.
Which means you’ll have to use cPanel to get more advanced things done. That’s fine, cPanel is an industry-standard, but other hosts have it all integrated which we’d prefer if we were beginners.
Other features worth noting:
- Site transfers
- $100 Add credit
- Weekly backups (only 20GB though)
- Constant Contact Integration
- Weebly and Gator Builder Integration
- Sitelock monitoring ($1.67/month)
- G Suite ($6/month per email)
- Codeguard daily backups ($2/month)
- SEO tools ($2.95/month)
- Domain name privacy ($15/year)
If we just looked at the pricing page, HostGator’s definitely the cheapest web hosting provider…
But we go deeper than that for you friends, because you shouldn’t have to get hosting for 3 years when you don’t know if you’ll want to stick with the first host you choose!
Initial one-year cost is in the middle with Bluehost, after that, you’ll pay a dollar more per month with HostGator.
- Best Discount: $2.75, 36 months
- One Year Discount: $5.95
- Every Year After That: $8.95
Us: Got features? SiteGround: Yes
Domains: Unlimited (0 free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: 10 GB | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $3.95/month</strong<>
Pros & Cons
- Most powerful yet easy to use hosting management interface
- Awesome tutorials on how to use their services, do hosting stuff
- Loads of free extras
- Storage is low – probably fine but we like more breathing room
- After the initial discount, they’re the most expensive hosting
- Support helped but we want more
SiteGround feels really premium – from the feel and functionality of their interface, to their loaded with extras plans, to their price. That last point, combined with support that’s not so impressive and good but not great speeds (at least without any extra technical work) leave us feeling like they’re a good option if you’re a more skilled website maker who can take full advantage of all they have to offer.
Speed & Uptime: 4/5
Speed’s solid but not the fastest (873 ms), uptime we solid but not the best (99.97%) – overall, good.
Nothing funky hidden in the TOS bandwidth-wise, you get “unlimited” as promised.
Uptime guarantee is 99.9% (at least at this point, looks like they owe us some credit!), with one of the better compensation plans:
- If your uptime is 99.9% – 99.00%, you’ll get one month of free hosting.
- For every 1% below 99.00, you’ll get another free month.
Since those months cost $11.95 (undiscounted), that’s actually meaningful money and we appreciate it.
Knowledgebase is well organized (one of the easiest to find answers in) and thorough, but their articles could be a bit more detailed and helpful.
That being said, they have some bomb ass dank ass tutorials (we’d know).
Naturally, 24/7 phone, chat, ticket support, though we were underwhelmed by our girl Diana, maybe it was just a stressful day.
We got connected with her fast but she was slow to respond and didn’t answer our question about WordPress databases directly at first.
Eventually, though, we got the right answer so we’d say good enough; maybe the way we asked our question was confusing.
That hosting management interface though…
Sleek, sexy, loaded with features, if we were a web app we’d put a ring on it.
Only thing keeping our pals SiteGround from a 5/5 here is the storage limit (one of the lowest we found), you can only have one site with their cheapest hosting plan, and a domain name isn’t included for free.
The long list of extras:
- Drag & Drop Builder
- 4 Data centers, USA, Europe, Asia Pacific – loads faster, more reliable
- CDN & Caching
- $60 credit to https://codeable.io/, expert WordPress development
- 20% off Elementor plugin – WordPress drag/drop page builder
- 30% off WP forms – fancy
- 15% off WeWork coworking space
- Referral program to get free hosting when friends sign up
- Daily backups (hell yeah!)
- Site scanning ($19.80/year)
- Domain name privacy ($12/year to start, $24 on renewal – way too expensive)
- Domain name: $15.95 – expensive
The extra features are great but you’ll pay for them. We appreciate that they offer their lowest price even when you sign up for just one year.
But, with the non-discounted cost, we’d probably want to get it for the full 3 years we could – once we were damn sure SiteGround was the host for us.
- Best Discount: $3.95, 12-36 months
- One Year Discount: $3.95
- Every Year After That: $11.95
Cheapest Web Hosting
Domains: Unlimited (1 free) | Number of Sites: Unlimited | Email Accounts: 10 | Bandwidth: 6GB | Storage: 10 GB | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $4/month</strong<>
Pros & Cons
- Cheapest web hosting (when you don’t count the discounts that you only get when you pay for 3-year plans at other hosts)
- Free domain and domain name privacy!
- Support wasn’t the best, was a hassle to get to the right person (though he was helpful af)
- Bandwidth limit includes email and backend downloads/uploads (eg adding images to your site)
The cheapest web hosting is what you’ll find with 1&1 IONOS and if that’s what you’re after, they’re your boys (and girls). In our (admittedly limited) testing, uptime and speed could be better but were okay, and at least in our case getting support was… an adventure.
But once you figure out how to get to the right support person, they’re great, so don’t let that keep you from choosing this hosting provider!
Speed & Uptime: 3.5/5
Third fastest speed (754 ms) is great, uptime was the lowest in our admittedly short testing period (99.81%), which cost them some points.
They also lost with us when it comes to bandwidth: they say “unlimited traffic” – meaning they won’t keep visitors from coming to your site if you get more than x amount/month.
Good, but no web host does that (because counting visitors is complicated plus that’d just be slimy).
Look through the fine print, though, and you’ll find that their general terms limit your bandwidth to 6GB a month.
Which would be fine for 99% of websites…
But it also includes your email accounts and any uploading/downloading of files to your website on your end (have a lot of photos on your site? You could eat that up).
We have to imagine that for their higher-tier plans that say they’re good for up to 50 sites wouldn’t have this limit.
Then again, their general TOS talks about fees for additional bandwidth, so maybe not.
The uptime guarantee is a solid figure, though, 99.99%.
You can submit your own proof of downtime (other hosts will only accept their own stats), though it’s naturally “at their discretion” so YMMV on this.
If they do admit to excess downtime, you get account credit for the amount of downtime below their guarantee, which is reasonable.
But for $4/month, if you have, say, an hour of downtime, you’ll be owed half a cent.
So basically, you’re getting cheap hosting, the uptime you get is the uptime you get.
The knowledgebase at 1&1 is extensive and articles are helpful enough, though it wasn’t easy to search through.
They do have community guides and forums which is a huge plus because sometimes it’s more helpful to talk to other people using the hosting service to get the best answers (they just know your pain that much more intimately).
1&1 also offers a “personal consultant” – one person to talk to for your support needs and for “personalized advice” which might be helpful, but we’d bet that means “advice on how to spend more money with us.”
24/7 live chat and phone for sure – also included scheduling a call back so you don’t have to wait if you want to talk on the phone because nobody got time for that.
For our testing, though, we’re just tryinta slide into those online chat DMs…
Worst experience we had though.
First, getting to a chat took a lot of clicks and they try to funnel you to a support person with the right skills/knowledge (for account stuff, security, WordPress, their different products, etc).
Which we get from a business standpoint, but other hosts do this without making us work as hard.
When we first got to a chat where we thought we’d be talking to the right person, it took a while to get a response – and there wasn’t any indication of how long we’d have to wait (other hosts show that).
After that wait, though, no joy.
Turns out, we’d clicked the wrong option and the support person we got didn’t know how to help and couldn’t connect us to someone who would (they told us to call or they could submit an email ticket – we appreciate the problem solving but weren’t trying to wait for emails or talk on the phone).
So back to the “which kind of person do you need” selection, took another guess, this one was right.
We got connected fast and the response was the most thorough we got to our WordPress database question – not only did they tell us what needed to be changed, but how to make that change.
So when you get the right person, support is awesome.
It might be a bit of an adventure to get to that point, though.
1&1’s hosting manager is likable – not as slick as Bluehost’s, not as powerful as SiteGround’s, but very useable and better for beginners than cPanel.
- Domain name privacy (every other host makes you pay, this is very much appreciated)
- Website Checker (some suggestions for how to make your site more polished and SEO basics, kind of a way to get you to buy more services but a bit helpful).
- Favicon Generator
- Logo creator
- Bing Ad Credit $100
- DDoS protection
- Multiple data centers
- Daily backups of just your website files – sometimes this helps, with WordPress, you’ll need your database backed up too so limited use and you’ll have to manually restore files.
- 100gb Cloud Storage ($1/month – cheaper than Dropbox/Google)
- Sitelock security ($5/month)
- Local Listing Tool ($10/month for the first year, $20 after that – automatically lists your local business in 25 directories, manage info in one place)
- Managed WordPress ($3/month, 30-day free trial – Automatic updates and access to some premium themes and plugins)
- rankingCoach SEO tools ($10/month, 30-day free trial – step by step guides on how to improve your rankings)
- CDN ($5/month, 30-day trial)
- Codeguard daily backups ($2/month)
Hey, it’s $4 per month all day, every day. Cheapest around if you don’t buy into the rock-bottom-but-you’ll-have-to-pay-for-3-years-to-get-it prices a couple other hosts offer.
- Best Discount: $4
- One Year Discount: $4
- Every Year After That: $4
Solid Hosting + Great Support
Domains: 8 (1 free) | Number of Sites: 2 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: Unlimited | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 90 Days | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $7.46/month</strong<>
Pros & Cons
- The most tech-savvy support we found
- Very thorough knowledge base and helpful tutorials
- The best money-back guarantee
- Speed and uptime were not so great in our testing (we need to do more)
- The interface looks old, isn’t the easiest to navigate
If you can get past the outdated interface, Inmotion is a solid host. Speed/uptime wasn’t great in our test but we need to give that more time (our fault).
Our hero David W. was eyepopingly good on the support front which goes a long way when it comes to hosts. If you want to go beyond “just having hosting” and learn how to fully use everything a good host has to offer to make awesome websites, we’d go with Inmotion.
Speed & Uptime: 3/5
Inmotion was the slowest in our speed tests at 1,787 ms. In their defense, we need to run this for longer – they might have just had a bad couple of days.
And they’re still very much under the 3 second limit (re: people will leave before getting to your site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load).
Which also applies to their 99.90% uptime (second-lowest, needs more testing).
TOS particulars, they don’t offer any uptime guarantees unless you get a pro plan or higher (so, just not with their cheapest plan).
And bandwidth is unlimited, though they’ll meter you or charge you extra if you use a lot more than normal (which you almost certainly won’t).
Support is definitely top-notch with Inmotion – you’re not going to have a problem you can’t solve with their help!
The knowledge base looks outdated (like most of their site) and could be easier to find answers in, but their guides are super thorough and each article has a comments section – so you can ask specific questions and get specific answers which we like.
Support is 24/7 phone, live chat, email… yes of course but also US-based which makes the conversation just a bit more fluid.
When we reached out we got a lightning speed response and their support guy was the most tech-savvy one we encountered with any web hosting company.
He actually taught us about a WordPress command line tool that makes updating the database fast/easy/thorough.
Shoutout to our boy David W.!
The hosting management interface is fine, has everything you need.
But it’s outdated looking and not set up to make things easy for beginners.
But with unlimited storage, bandwidth, emails, multiple sites and domain names, combined with the best money-back guarantee, we let it slide.
Extras you’ll find:
- Malware scanning, patching, and guaranteeing
- Multiple Datacenters
- $150 ad credit to Yahoo and bing
- Free Yellow pages listing
- Free Boldgrid website builder (proprietary but built on WordPress)
- DDoS Protection
- WordPress Install as you checkout – saves some time trying to figure that out afterward
- Domain name privacy ($13/year)
- Backups ($2/month for first 10gb, $1 for each additional 10GB)
- Dedicated IP ($4/month) Some security benefit, not needed for most
- Managed hosting (starts at $40/month) – expert help making some serious technical changes/upgrades – could be helpful for making your site faster/more secure
- Professional Website Design ($99 for their QuickStart, depends on what you want after that) – if you have the cash might be worth the quick start, their designs didn’t impress us though so probably not worth it for a more expensive package
They’re not the cheapest, they’re not the most expensive, the price is right.
And we appreciate that the price doesn’t jump a ton after the initial discount.
- Best Discount: $6.39, 24 months
- One Year Discount: $7.46
- Every Year After That: $7.99
An up and comer we’d use
Domains: 1 (free) | Number of Sites: 1 | Email Accounts: Unlimited | Bandwidth: Unlimited | Storage: Unlimited | SSL: Free | Money-Back Guarantee: 30 Days (prorated) | WordPress: One-Click Install and Hosting | Price for Cheapest Plan (One Year): $3.29/month</strong<>
Pros & Cons
- Chat support was awesome – lightning-fast and immediately helpful
- If you only consider the initial discount for a one year plan, they’re the cheapest
- Best uptime guarantee in the industry
- Hosting management interface not easy to use as others
- Knowledgebase needs more articles
- No 100% money-back guarantee
Hostwinds is one of the newest web hosting companies to the game and we for sure appreciate that they’re looking to find their edge in providing a better customer experience than the big boys.
Their fundamentals are solid, though the knowledge base needs more content, their hosting interface could be easier to use, and they don’t offer a full refund guarantee.
That being said, if you want to support the little guy, Hostwinds is a team that won’t let you down.
Speed & Uptime: 4/5
Speed was the second slowest at 1,272 ms, though uptime was a perfect 100%.
Which we’d expect since they have the best uptime guarantee in the industry – 99.999%.
Meaning they’re promising your site won’t be down for more than 25 seconds per month.
Plus, they put their money where their mouth is – if you can prove to them your site was down beyond their guarantee, they’ll give you credit for the entire day that downtime occurred (not just the time your site was down).
Bandwidth-wise, nothing sneaky in their TOS.
They do say if you use a higher than normal amount (which, again, you probably won’t), they’ll ask you to upgrade and if you don’t they’ll suspend you.
But they made it clear they wouldn’t ever terminate your account for using too much bandwidth.
Which seems fair/right, we wonder if other hosts would terminate you.
We didn’t find any that said as much in their Terms, but if some do, that’s no bueno fo sho.
Hostwinds’ knowledge base could be easier to search through and feels like it needs more guides and articles, but the ones they have are detailed and helpful.
That being said, their support was super easy to access (there’s a live chat tab on every page of their site) and blazing fast to both respond and provide a solution – they literally answered our question in the first response (others asked 1-2 follow up questions or we had to clarify something with them).
And yes, that chat, along with phone and ticket support is 24/7.
Their hosting interface looked good and was relatively easy to use, though we had a harder time finding the WordPress one click install than with other hosts.
And you have to use cPanel to do most of your hosting management work – fine, but not the best for beginners.
One of the biggest areas they lost points here was their moneyback guarantee.
It’s not all your money back, it’s prorated – you get the cost of your plan minus however many days you used it.
So basically it’s a paid trial.
At just 3.95/month for your first year, it’ll only cost you a coffee if you try them for a month then cancel; still, we’d like it all back please.
Hostwinds also doesn’t have many included extras or paid extras for that matter.
That being said, we feel like a lot of the paid extras most hosts offer are kind of useless, so we don’t so much mind that, but we know you might want easier access to some of those things (we can set up things like caching and CDN without our host’s help, but it’s easier if you have it).
- Website Transfers
- Weebly Website Builder
- 3 data centers (two US, one Europe)
- Domain name privacy ($5/year – the cheapest of any host except 1&1)
- Website monitoring ($24/year)
- Daily Cloud Backups ($36/year)
Hostwinds has the cheapest one year plan price at just $3.29/month – which scores big points with us.
Especially since that's the price they advertise on their site (see the screencap above)…
Because it’s actually even cheaper when you get a 3-year plan.
We love that they’re not trying to rope you in!
We don’t give them the “cheapest web hosting” honor, though, because the price goes up to a more normal rate after that discount (while 1&1 just holds steady at only 4 bucks).
- Best Discount: $2.35, 36 months
- One Year Discount: $3.29
- Every Year After That: $8.99
What is web hosting?
We’ve already got a pretty badass post covering answering this question in-depth (which you can check out here).
But for the sake of convenience, here’s a video, followed by a quick rundown:
Web hosting services make your website’s code and content available on the internet – so you don’t have to mess with any of the technical details of running servers, making sure you’ve got a solid, fast connection to the web at all times, etc.
The analogy we like to use is this:
If your website is your house, your domain name is your address and web hosting is the land your house is built on.
Hosting companies will usually let you buy a domain name through them to make that part easy.
In exchange for some of the extra support website builders provide, you’ll ultimately pay less for web hosting than you will for a builder, and you have much more complete control over your site’s design and functionality.
Do you need web hosting?
If you’re not using a website builder, the answer is yes.
Unless you want to host your site on a server you set up and manage yourself.
That’s physically possible, but for 99% of us, it’s just not practical.
You’ve got to be super tech-savvy to do it and even then you probably won’t do it as well as a web hosting company that has hundreds or thousands of people making that magic happen for a living.
Plus, web hosting can be pretty darn cheap (like a few bucks a month) depending on the type of hosting you use.
How to choose the best hosting service for you
Alright, now that we’re up to speed on the basics of hosting, let’s jump into how you can choose the best web hosting service for you!
Which type of web hosting should you get
We hinted at this in our “types of web hosting” section above, but to make it super clear, when you’re starting out there are really only two options you should focus on:
- Shared hosting
- WordPress hosting
Well for a few reasons:
- Cloud hosting is basically shared hosting and you won’t really notice the differences until you get a serious amount of traffic to your seriously large site (which will take some time, might as well keep it simple and save some cash in the meantime).
- VPS and Dedicated hosting are a lot more work and only for really large or complicated sites that you probably won’t be building; even as your site scales a shared or dedicated WordPress hosting plan will likely be all that you need.
- As a rule of thumb, shared hosting is fine if not fantastic for sites that get less than 50,000 visitors a month.
- In the hosting world, upgrading your hosting or migrating to a different type is totally doable (more on that below)
So how do you decide between WordPress and shared hosting?
This really comes down to two things:
- How much do you want to spend?
- How tech-savvy are you?
To the first point, WordPress hosting is more expensive.
We’re not talking a lot more – think $10-20 a month instead of $5-10 – but it’s enough that it’s worth considering when you’re just getting started, there are a million other things you can put that extra cash toward to build your site and business.
Which brings us to the second point.
WordPress hosting is optimized for sites built on WordPress, so there are potentially some speed and stability improvements to be had there, but that’s really going to depend on the host and the plan you get.
The more important difference when you’re getting started is how confident you are in your tech skills/how much time you’re willing to spend figuring it out and fixing some small stuff yourself.
If you build a website on WordPress – whether it’s shared hosting or WordPress hosting – a lot of the hard work is done for you; there’s no code to write or server configuration to do to get setup.
But, things break and sometimes that’ll mean you’ll have to know a bit more about how things like MySQL databases, LAMP stacks, and DNS settings work, or get help from someone who does.
With WordPress hosting, you’re a bit less likely to have challenges like that because the web hosting provider is working harder in the background to prevent them from happening.
And if you do face those kinds of problems, their tech support will have trained WordPress experts to help you out.
Not something you’re guaranteed with shared hosting (though, because WordPress is so popular, some web hosting services will have support staff that knows this stuff).
- If you want to get cheap web hosting and are okay with learning a bit more about the technical side of things, go Shared.
- If you’re okay with spending a bit more to have fewer problems, go WordPress (and check out our rundown of the best WordPress hosting sites).
Should I use free web hosting?
Hey, no shame in admitting we all like free.
Which is why it’s no surprise that free web hosting services are super popular.
If you’re going to build a pro-level website, this ain’t it chief.
While the “freemium” model works for a lot of things like phone apps or software services, pretty much every free hosting service is just too limited to really be worth it – especially when shared plans are so cheap.
If you’re looking to save money on your website building endeavors, you’ve already started by looking for hosting as opposed to website builders (which have their advantages but almost always cost more than hosting + always free WordPress).
Beyond that, you can stick to free plugins and themes for your WordPress site so really all you’re spending on is hosting and a domain name (which can be as little as $75 a year if you make the right moves).
Some other things to keep in mind
We look at a few specific things when considering hosts and in reviewing them for this big ol’ post – we’ll get to those below.
First, a couple of other things you’ll want to know about when you’re searching for a web hosting service.
One of the technical parts of hosting that might actually matter to you is storage and bandwidth.
Storage is how much data for your website you’re allowed to have under your plan – which basically translates to how many pages and photos you can have on your site.
Bandwidth is how much data you’re allowed to transfer – which basically translates into how many people can come to your site.
Even with the cheapest web hosting plans, a lot of times you’ll get unlimited amounts of each.
Sometimes companies will say it’s unlimited but have specific terms of service that place some limits if you want to do crazy double backflip things with your site (we looked into that to get you the skinny in our reviews below).
But for those that don’t offer unlimited, here’s a bit of perspective to give you a sense of what you’ll need.
At the time of publishing, this very site, with all our fancy graphics and custom code and images and thousands of visitors, uses the following:
- Storage: 431.11 MB
- Bandwidth: 3.17 GB
We also asked our friends over at Create and Go (which is a much older and bigger site) what they use:
- Storage: 1.5 GB
- Bandwidth: 184.84 GB
What does that mean?
Unless you’re going all out with tons of pictures and videos, any plan that has storage limits of 10 GB or more will be fine.
Bandwidth-wise if you’ve got at least 50GB you’re the proverbial good to go!
The price will jump after the promo period
Across the board, 99.9% of the time, web hosting companies will offer lower prices when you first sign up than they’ll normally charge you once you renew.
It’s not particularly shady, it’s a tried and true way for companies to get new customers.
We just want to make sure you’ve got the full facts because that’s how we do.
How long does that promo period last?
Well, usually it’s for your first purchase, and you can usually buy hosting for anywhere from one month to 3 years.
Sometimes companies will also offer their best rates when you buy 3 years at a time – know that when you see one price on the “pricing” page and another in your checkout cart.
We usually recommend starting with one year because:
- That’s how long you’ll have to buy a domain name for anyway.
- That’ll give you a solid discount without locking you in for a crazy long amount of time
Starting small is fine
- It’s relatively easy to upgrade your hosting package to suit your needs
Other posts you’ve probably found in your “best web hosting services” search probably explain all the types of hosting and then say “well, if you want to build a big site get VPS…”
No no no friends. It’s not that complicated.
Start small, learn what works, what you like and need to build awesome websites, then scale your hosting as your sites get bigger and you can actually take advantage of the higher rates.
Shared or WordPress hosting are more than enough for starting out.
“Oh, but you see, I’m going to build this big giant awesome site, gather a whole team that does all this custom coding work, publish tons of video, get hundreds of thousands of visitors a month – this shared stuff just won’t do!” you say?
Hey, we’re for it, yes, get after it.
BUT you’re not there yet. No need to go through the headaches of figuring out the more complicated hosting wizardry now, no need to shell out the extra cash.
Particularly because upgrading or changing your hosting is pretty easy.
If you decide to stick with your current host and keep a shared or WordPress plan for a while, you can just upgrade your plan to a higher tier one and instantly get more speed, storage, bandwidth, etc.
If you do want to switch over to another type of hosting or another hosting provider, you’ve got two things to help:
- That provider will offer migration services to handle moving everything over for you, they might even be free.
- If you’re using WordPress (which you should), there’s a really awesome plugin called All-in-One WP Migration that literally makes migrating a WordPress site take a couple of clicks; just install the plugin on your old site, install WordPress on your new hosting with the plugin, click download on your old site, click restore on your new site. Done!
So start with the smallest plan you can get by with (usually the cheapest, maybe the second cheapest if you need more than one site or a bit more storage), and upgrade from there.
Have you considered page builders?
We’re betting you have if you’ve gotten to this point in your web building journey, but just in case they’re worth mentioning.
With web hosting you have to manage the setup of your site and sometimes do some ongoing maintenance to get WordPress installed and running smoothly (there are other options but please, for all our sakes, just use WordPress).
Also, WordPress takes a bit of learning (or knowing about the right plugins) in order to make an awesome website.
It’s a bit more work, but still pretty easy and definitely cheaper.
But if you’re willing to pay a bit more to not have to mess with as much technical stuff and have an easy to use drag and drop web creation experience, builders are worth considering.
Check out our list of best website builders to learn more about those!
General things to know/look for out of the way, the 4 main things you’ll want to consider when choosing the best website hosting service for you are:
It just so happens, that’s what we looked at for our web hosting reviews!
Let’s take a look at how we did that so you can get a sense of what you’re looking for/how to choose which you want to use.
Our website hosting review process
Here’s the basic process we use to test web hosts for our reviews:
- We sign up for the cheapest web hosting plan because they’re all fine for getting started.
- Then we set up a basic WordPress site on each, test how fast it loads with a tool, and set it up to monitor uptime.
- We then send a few not-so-common questions to their support team to see how fast they respond and how helpful they are.
- Finally, we look for extra features, check for any hidden costs or tricky terms of service, then compile all that data into a rating in each of our 4 categories as well as an overall score.
When you’re looking for web hosting, you can go ahead and start with our reviews as far as speed/uptime, features, support and price goes.
If you’re still not sure, check out some of the extra features each offers for yourself.
All of the hosts on our list have moneyback guarantees so if you’re torn from there go ahead and sign up for 1-3 accounts, get WordPress installed, try out their support and you should have your winner (cancel and get your money back from the other hosts)!
Here’s what we look for (and what you should, too) in each of our main evaluation categories.
Beyond simply having a space for your website on the internet, the real key things you need from a host are:
- For your site to load quickly so people don’t click away out of frustration (aka speed)
- For your site to load at all so people can actually see what you’ve got going on (aka uptime)
When you’re getting started, “fast enough” is fine, and fast enough means (according to Google) under 3 seconds.
As you grow, your search engine rankings and beating the competition means you’ll want to go for blazing fast, as fast as possible, Superman around the world a million times a minute fast.
To start, under 3 is good.
To test speed we just loaded a simple WordPress site (meaning we literally just installed WordPress) and tested it with Pingdom.
Which means none of the sites in our test come anywhere close to 3 seconds – there’s just not that much work the hosts’ web servers have to do to make the site load.
But this did give us a general sense of how each host does speed wise – the fastest host in our test will likely be the fastest for the actual sites you build.
Like speed, when you’re getting started pretty much any host will be fine uptime-wise – even the worst hosts are up 90% of the time, most are 98%+.
While that’s mostly fine, though, you want your site to be accessible 24/7/365.
Stuff happens, it will go down, but the less often that happens the better.
We also measured uptime using Pingdom to compare them, though to get a good read on this takes at least a year of monitoring (we didn’t want to wait that long to get this post out to you, so we just watched each for a few days as a starting point).
So we also took a look at each host’s uptime guarantee to see how you’ll be compensated if there is any downtime.
Important to note on those guarantees though – they don’t necessarily mean your site will absolutely, positively be online for that percentage of time.
There’s a lot of fine print about what does or doesn’t count (often hosts won’t consider uptime stats you report to them), and “guarantee” just means you get a discount on your bill when they fail to meet their guarantee.
Beyond having a site that loads fast – or loads at all – support is really the #2 most important thing to consider when choosing a web host.
In the website building world, a million things can go wrong any minute.
Most minutes none of them do.
Some minutes, one or two of them do.
Sometimes those one or two mean your site’s real broken.
When that happens, you’ll want some expert help to get things back up and running asap.
As you learn more about building websites and doing the web hosting dance, you’ll learn how to fix a lot of things on your own.
But there will be times when a problem is beyond your knowledge or beyond your control (because the web hosting company doesn’t give you access to the thing that needs to be fixed).
For those times when you do need to call in some good old fashioned support, you’ll want them to respond quickly, courteously, and knowledgeably.
For our web hosting reviews, we took a look at each company’s knowledge base to see how much you could figure out through a quick search and read of a help article.
We also reached out to support with a few technical questions, aiming to go beyond the basics to get a sense of how tech-savvy they are and how quickly they’ll be able to respond when you need them.
Once the essentials are covered with speed/uptime and support, we also take a look at the extra features, the nice to haves that make some hosts just a bit more awesome.
You’ll often get more of these when you buy higher-tier plans, for our web hosting reviews we mostly looked at what you get with the cheapest plan with some consideration of what extras you can get if you do pay more (either with a higher plan or as add ons).
Some of what we looked for here:
- How many domains/sites you can have and if they include a free domain name
- How many email accounts you can have
- How much bandwidth/storage you get (and if there are any sneaky terms of service around them)
- If website backups are included
- If SSL (aka “https”) is included
- How long their moneyback guarantee is
- If they offer any extra security features beyond the basics
- If they offer CDN/caching (makes your site load faster around the world)
- Freebies like Google Adwords credits
We also took a look at each hosts “hosting management interface” – the portal through which you manage the different features and functions of your hosting.
Since you’ll be spending some time here setting things up and fixing things, the easier (and more fun) it is to use, the better.
Most web hosting plans, especially when looking at the entry-level/cheapest ones, are pretty similarly priced – so we wouldn’t necessarily choose a host just based on price.
But, it’s definitely a factor, so we took a and gave each host a rating based on:
- The cost of their cheapest plan for one year of service (we don’t recommend you get hosting for 3 years when starting out so we don’t count those prices even if there’s a better discount)
- How much the cost increases after the discount period is over
- Whether you have to pay extra for important things like backups, SSL, or domain name privacy (which keeps your contact info hidden so you don’t get bombarded by sales calls from companies that scrape WHOIS info).
Types of website hosting – explained!
When it comes to choosing the right hosting plan for you, there are a ton of features and options that’ll get thrown at you.
No worries – we’ll cover what’s important as far as all of that goes below.
The first step to figuring out what moves you should make in the hosting game though is to understand the main types of hosting options.
- Shared Hosting
- Cloud Hosting
- Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS)
- WordPress Hosting
All of these will act as a main hub for your website – storing all your website code and data and making it accessible to the world via the internets – each offers different levels of storage capacity, speed, control, and reliability.
Let’s jam on the what and why of each for a minute.
With shared web hosting, your site will be stored and accessed from a web server alongside a bunch of other sites that all share the server's storage, CPU, and RAM resources.
In our housing analogy, this is like renting in an apartment complex – your website gets a room with a bunch of other people who all share hallways, power, water, etc.
This is by far the most popular setup (and the one we recommend for pro website beginners like you) because it’s absolutely the cheapest hosting you’ll find and it’s super easy to use.
Plans start around $5-10 a month, there’s almost no technical knowledge required to set up a site, and no maintenance (at least that you’ll have to do).
Though there are limitations on speed and storage capacity, for almost any site you’re looking to build this won’t be a problem when you’re getting started.
And if and when it does become a headache, you’ve got options – either upgrade your shared plan or migrate to another option.
For what we’re talking about here, cloud hosting is basically a catchy marketing term.
There is a level of website game where IT guys at big companies make some super complex setups using things like Hadoop and Amazon Web Services…
But for our website game – making awesome, pro websites for ourselves and other companies that look awesome and help sell products and services – we’re not messing with that.
In that world, “cloud hosting” means the web hosting service we use (HostGator, Bluehost, etc) does that fancy work for us – then what we get basically looks and functions just like shared hosting.
There are some potential speed, performance, and security benefits to hosting that uses a cloud setup vs. some of the older ways of setting up shared hosting servers.
Not enough to worry about, though; if you find cloud hosting that’s basically as cheap as shared hosting and you really want to go for it, by all means.
Don’t spend hours trying to figure out if it’s that much better though.
Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS)
If shared hosting is like living in an apartment complex, VPS hosting is like living in a duplex – your website will still share some resources with other people’s sites, but there’s a bit more separation.
It’s solid separation, too, as in you won’t be kept up by your neighbor Jerry blasting headbanging death metal at 2am.
Technically, this means your website is still on a server that’s shared by other sites, but it’s inside its own “virtual server” where you get a specific, dedicated amount of the server’s resources, almost completely isolated from everyone else.
This means there’s more backend customization you can do to manage how your site uses server resources, so you can have more complex code and handle higher traffic.
But it costs more (we’re talking $20-60 a month) and we guarantee that you’ll never need this if you’re building WordPress sites. It’s really for super custom sites for bigger companies that have complex web applications.
Dedicated Server Hosting
This kind of hosting lets you have your own server, no sharing involved; basically you’re buying a piece of land in the countryside.
A couple flavors exist.
Managed means you get a super savvy tech support team to do the extra setup and maintenance required, unmanaged means you’ve got to do this yourself or hire someone on your end. Someone’s got to water the garden, fix the broken pipes, and dig out that hole for the giant pool with a waterfall feature.
Long and short: it’s expensive as hell ($100+ a month) and is only necessary for the largest of the large websites (we’re talking online casino and Fortune 500 types).
As the name might suggest, this is hosting specifically setup for WordPress websites.
Depending on the host, they might have you in a shared, VPS, or cloud setup on the backend.
What makes this different from those is WordPress hosting has servers optimized for WordPress specifically, they’ll likely include some specific plugins and maybe some premium themes, you’ll get tech support for WordPress (vs. general support that just helps with the hosting side in other plans), and they might manage keeping your plugins and such up to date for you.
Sounds great, right?
It is, but…
Shared hosting is fine, it’s what most WordPress site creators use.
And WordPress hosting will cost you more (Typically $10-20 a month) and they are probably restrictions on the plugins you can use (the hosts want to make sure they stay blazing fast).
Bottom line: start with shared unless you know for a fact you’re WordPress site is going to get a ton of traffic and you don’t want to mess with updates and fixing things that break; even then, you’ll be able to migrate your WordPress site to a WordPress hosting plan when you get to that point!
Best website hosting FAQ
Can I trust your reviews are honest?
Glad you asked!
We’ve worked hard to make our reviews as legit and honest as possible.
We’ve worked hard to make our reviews as legit and honest as possible.
As possible? So you did slant things!?
Nope, not as much as we can help.
The reality is we have a lot of experience with website hosting in making a ton of sites over the years.
So, like any human being, we have our opinions and preferences based on that experience.
But we knew going into this thing we needed to try to combat that as much as possible so we could deliver you the real, the helpful, the most objective info possible for you to make the best decision.
That’s why we worked in some objective measurements like speed tests using a trustworthy 3rd party tool (Pingdom).
For our Support rating, there was some instinct involved, but we asked the same questions of each host and included how fast they respond as part of our rating to try to ensure that was unbiased.
For features, we mostly used a checklist of things like Free SSL, Unlimited bandwidth/storage, etc – they got points for having those or not.
And for pricing we used some fancy spreadsheet work to rate them based on how much their plans cost before and after the initial discount, as well as any additional costs for essential things like domain names and domain name privacy.
In short: we worked hard to make our ratings as objective as possible.
Now if you’re a bit more savvy about how the online business game works (or just read our disclosure above), you’ll know we included affiliate links for most of the hosts – so if you purchase a plan through our link, we’ll get a bit of a commission.
This doesn’t cost you anything (in some cases, you’ll even get an extra discount for using our link).
And we did not change our ratings to make the hosts that pay more rank better.
We have our preferences in which hosts we like to use, some hosts pay us more, but we put that aside to make sure this definitive guide was the most helpful it could be for our most important customer: you, the reader.
If you have any questions about our website hosting reviews and process, feel free to contact us and we’ll happily share more details!
How much does web hosting cost?
For the shared plans we recommend, anywhere from $5-10 a month for shared, or $10-20 for WordPress.
After the initial discounts, you’re looking at about the same.
What is the difference between shared, cloud, VPS, dedicated, and WordPress hosting and which do I need?
- Shared: cheapest, lowest performance but still enough for most sites
- Cloud: basically just shared, maybe a bit more performance
- VPS: better performance than shared but costs more and requires more technical setup; not needed for most sites
- Dedicated: the best performance, the most expensive and complicated setup; not needed for almost any site
- WordPress hosting: optimized for WordPress sites, in general better performance, stability, and support but costs a bit more than shared
- Go with WordPress hosting if you want the least amount of problems and are okay with paying a bit more
- Go with shared if you want the cheapest website hosting and are okay with needing to put a bit more time into fixing the occasional technical issue.
What is the cheapest web hosting?
1&1 IONOS offers the cheap web hosting when you buy a package for a year – just $4 a month for their cheapest , forever (no pesky increases after the initial discount!
If you really want to go after it with up to a 36-month plan (which we don’t recommend in case you change your mind after you learn more about the hosting game, Hostwinds offers the absolute cheapest web hosting at the lowest price at just $2.35 a month.
How often do you have to pay for web hosting?
Web hosting can be purchased for as little as one month up to 36 months (that’s 3 years) at a time.
Paying for more will get you discounts (both when you first sign up and when you renew), though obviously you get more locked into using a particular host.
We recommend paying for a year upfront to get the best balance of discount and flexibility.
And you can always take advantage of a web hosting company’s money-back guarantee if you decide you don’t want to stick with them.
Should I get Windows or Linux hosting?
Don’t worry about this. The hosting provider will choose it for you for the plans we recommend and it only matters for really big, complicated websites and businesses.
Will my new host help me to transfer my data?
Pretty much any host will help you do this, some hosts do this for free.
If you’ve built your site on WordPress, though, you don’t even need them.
Just use the All-in-One WP Migration.
With that, all you have to do is install WordPress on your new host then the plugin will transfer everything over in just a few clicks!
What is cPanel?
cPanel is a “web hosting control panel” that most hosts use to let you manage the technical side of your website hosting.
- Your host will probably offer some sort of account management portal, where you can buy domain names, change your contact info, update your hosting plan and billing info, etc.
- cPanel is where you’ll be able to do things like add email accounts, connect domains to your websites, change files on your web server, etc.
- WordPress’ Dashboard is where you’ll spend most of your time – that’s where all the changes and updates to your WordPress website happen.
Will hosting come with email?
Yep, pretty much every web hosting company includes email as part of your account, some might only let you have a limited number of accounts.
They’ll also likely offer you third party email services like Google G Suite or Microsoft Outlook.
BUT before you buy that, if you want to use your website’s domain to send and receive email in Gmail, we show you how to do that for free in our free professional email address post.
Is data center location important?
Yes and no.
Data centers are where web hosts set up the servers that hold your website and everyone else's, usually if they have more than one they’ll have some overlap in case one data center goes down because of a serious power outage, hurricane, etc.
So there’s an uptime factor to that.
Also, the closer your website is to the person trying to get to it, the faster your site will load (in general), because the data being transferred doesn’t have to go as far.
However, CDNs (content distribution networks) are built to make that happen anyway – they load your website on servers around the world so your site loads faster… around the world.
It takes a bit of extra setup work, but you can get a CDN for your site for free through Cloudflare.
What is an uptime guarantee?
Uptime guarantees are promises hosting companies make to you about how much of the time your website will be live and accessible on the internet.
For example, if a web host has a 99% uptime guarantee, they’ll credit your account if they’re not up for that percentage of time in a given period.
But, these can be a bit tricky.
A 99% guarantee allows for over 7 hours of downtime a month, which can be a lot if you’re website’s hoppin with traffic.
And it’s up to your host to monitor and credit you honestly – they won’t accept reports you get from third-party tools as proof of downtime.
All that being said, we wouldn’t worry about this too much when getting started.
But if you really want to consider it, look at the terms of service to see how the host measures downtime (by month or by year) and how they’ll compensate you.
What is hosting bandwidth and storage?
Storage is how much data in the form of code, text, videos, and images you can have with your account, and bandwidth is how much data can be transferred between the server that holds your site and visitors to your page.
Some web hosting companies will put caps on these for their lower-level plans, but most are still more than enough to get started.
For context, at the time of publishing, this very site, with all our fancy graphics and custom code and images and thousands of visitors, uses the following:
- Storage: 431.11 MB
- Bandwidth: 3.17 GB
We also asked our friends over at Create and Go (which is a much older and bigger site) what they use:
- Storage: 1.5 GB
- Bandwidth: 184.84 GB