Flywheel Review 2021: The Good & Bad (Honest Thoughts)
Considering using Flywheel to host your WordPress website?
Flywheel is one of the top managed WordPress hosts, and it’s also the host that I use for a lot of my own sites.
It offers premium features and performance at a price that’s competitive (or even lower) than many similar managed WordPress hosts. However, that still doesn’t mean it’s the right host for everyone, and there are some pros and cons that you’ll want to understand before choosing Flywheel.
In our hands-on Flywheel review, we’ll take you through everything that this popular WordPress host has to offer so that you can decide if it’s the best choice for your websites.
Here’s everything that we’ll cover in our 2021 Flywheel review:
How We Tested Flywheel – We Bought Our Own Account
To make this review as objective as possible, we set up our own Flywheel hosting account and created our own WordPress websites to run performance tests and experience the dashboard.
Basically, we want to experience Flywheel just as you would experience Flywheel so that we can give you real, objective thoughts on the hosting.
Additionally, as I mentioned in the intro, I use Flywheel for some of my own websites, which adds additional experience to the review.
⚙️ Flywheel Key Features
Flywheel is a true managed WordPress host, which means it goes beyond the basics and also includes a bunch of features to help make your life easier, like automatic backups and staging sites.
You can find all of these features in Flywheel’s marketing copy, but I think it’s useful to start our review with a quick look at everything that Flywheel offers.
- Cloud hosting infrastructure from Google Cloud.
- Nginx server for improved performance and scalability.
- Built-in server-level caching – no need to use a caching plugin.
- Built-in content delivery network (CDN), powered by Fastly.
- Web application firewall (WAF) to proactively stop threats and DDoS attacks.
- Free SSL certificates powered by Let’s Encrypt.
- Free malware removal if anything makes it through.
- Custom hosting dashboard that’s really well-designed.
- Automatic nightly backups.
- One-click staging sites.
- “Blueprints” let you create a new site using a pre-packaged template of themes/plugins.
- Integration with Local to automatically deploy your local development site to Flywheel hosting (either the live site or staging site).
- Simple FTP – one login to access all your sites.
- Add other users to your Flywheel account as collaborators, with different levels of account access.
- Managed plugin updates.
- Free access to the Genesis Framework and all StudioPress child themes.
- Billing transfer to easily send sites to a client’s billing account.
- Growth Suite, which is a unique feature that helps you bill and manage your clients (along with hosting their sites).
🚀 Flywheel Performance Tests
Next, let’s take a look at Flywheel’s performance, as performance is one of the most important considerations in choosing a WordPress host.
Normally, we run two separate tests using WebPageTest for one-off tests and Load Focus for load testing. However, Flywheel’s firewall automatically blocks Load Focus (and other load testing tools that we’ve tried), so we weren’t able to run our usual Load Focus tests.
Honestly, for your website, this is a good thing as Flywheel is set up to protect you from DDoS attacks (which is what load testing kind of looks like). It just means we can’t collect as much data as we normally would.
With that being said, Flywheel performed excellently in the WebPageTest and our personal experience hosting high-traffic sites with Flywheel says that Flywheel can maintain its performance even under scale.
We set up a realistic test site using the popular Astra theme and a full demo site and it still loaded in under half a second in WebPageTest:
We configured WebPageTest to use a FIOS connection and ran nine separate tests, so this is quite impressive.
Overall, based on this test and our own experience with hosting high-traffic sites on Flywheel, you won’t be disappointed by its performance.
🤗 Flywheel User Experience
Instead of using cPanel or another off-the-rack hosting management panel, Flywheel created its own custom hosting dashboard.
The dashboard is really well designed and includes a lot of useful tools to help you create and manage your WordPress site(s).
One cool thing is that Flywheel lets you create an account and a test site for free – no credit card required. So if you want to experience the dashboard yourself, click the button below to go to Flywheel and create your own account:
If you have multiple websites, Flywheel makes it super easy to organize all of your sites, including offering a tagging system that lets you tag and filter sites.
Once you choose a site, you’ll get a dedicated dashboard that helps you manage backups, plugins, staging sites, etc.
The main dashboard lets you see all of the people that have access to that site – called “collaborators”:
In the Plugins tab, you can see a list of all your site’s plugins, along with whether there’s an update available:
The Stats tab lets you monitor your site’s usage, which is useful for tracking billing:
The Backups tab lets you manage all of your site’s automatic and manual backups. For each backup, you have the option to download or restore.
One nice thing about the backup interface is that it gives you a basic summary of your site’s stats so that you can quickly choose the right backup. For example, you can see when you most recently published a blog post. You can also add your own comments to backups to make notes when needed:
Finally, the Advanced tab houses a bunch of useful features, including the ability to turn on a staging site (which basically gives you a clone of the site dashboard for the staged version of your site).
You can also:
- Purge the cache.
- Force HTTPS.
- Enable the built-in CDN.
- Enable debug mode.
- …plenty more
One thing that’s kind of “non-standard” with Flywheel is that Flywheel doesn’t give you phpMyAdmin for database management, which is what most other hosts offer. Instead, Flywheel built its own custom database management tool.
📞 Flywheel Support Review
Flywheel offers excellent support that’s available 24/7.
All Flywheel plans get you access to 24/7 live chat and ticket support via the user-friendly widget, which is always available in the bottom-right corner of any part of the Flywheel website:
If you’re on the Agency plan or a custom plan (more on pricing next), you’ll also get access to phone support from 9 AM to 5 PM CST from Monday to Friday, along with a dedicated account manager.
Lower-tier plans do not get phone support, though.
In terms of support quality, Flywheel is excellent, with friendly agents who are helpful and able to solve any issues that you might have. Overall, you won’t be disappointed and the only hosts that match Flywheel’s support quality are similarly priced hosts like Kinsta and WP Engine.
💰 Flywheel Pricing Review
Flywheel’s pricing is straightforward, with none of the confusing promo rules that you’ll find at cheaper shared hosts. That is, there’s no price jump when you go to renew.
For all of the plans, you can pay monthly. Or, you can pay annually to get two months free.
There are four different plans, along with custom plans and agency-focused plans for people who don’t fit inside the pre-set plans.
The four pre-set plans are as follows:
|Monthly price (/mo.)||$15||$30||$115||$290|
|Annual price (/mo.)||$13||$25||$96||$242|
|Storage||5 GB||10 GB||20 GB||50 GB|
The Starter plan is identical to the entry-level plans from WP Engine and Kinsta. However, the Tiny plan is a unique option for low-traffic sites that is cheaper than most other premium managed WordPress hosts.
In addition to the core plans, Flywheel also offers some optional add-ons.
The most common add-on is an extra site – you can pay an extra $20 per month to add another site to any of the plans. However, adding a site does not increase the visit limit or storage, so you’d still need to work within those limits.
For example, if you have two sites, you could pay $50 per month for the Starter plan ($30 + $20 for the extra site). With that, you would get:
- Two websites
- 25,000 visits (the same)
- 10 GB storage (the same)
The other add-ons are:
- Managed plugin updates – $8/month/site for managed plugin updates powered by AI and visual regression testing.
- Performance insights – $25/month for your first site + $2/month for each extra site.
If you’re part of an agency or otherwise build sites for clients, Flywheel also offers special agency pricing via its Growth Suite offering, which includes tools to help you manage client subscriptions:
👍👎 Flywheel Pros and Cons
To recap everything that we’ve discussed above, let’s go over some of the pros and cons of hosting WordPress with Flywheel.
- Flywheel offers top-notch performance, based on our own testing as well as our personal experience with hosting our own sites on Flywheel.
- You get access to really good 24/7 live chat support, along with phone support on higher-tier plans.
- Flywheel’s custom dashboard is well-designed and includes a lot of useful features. It includes nice touches like a summary of each backup point and the option to add notes to backups.
- Flywheel has lots of useful development workflows, which is great for agencies and freelancers. For example, billing transfer, Local integration, collaborators, and more.
- Agencies get access to unique features like Growth Suite, which you won’t find at any other hosts.
- You pay a premium price for premium performance and support – there’s no free lunch.
- Like other managed WordPress hosts, Flywheel doesn’t offer email hosting. If you want to create your own email account (
firstname.lastname@example.org), you’ll need to pay for a service like MXRoute or Google Workspace.
- Flywheel doesn’t offer phpMyAdmin, though it does have its own database management tool. This won’t affect most people, but some developers might prefer phpMyAdmin.
❓ Flywheel Review 2021 FAQ
To close out our Flywheel review, let’s run over some common questions you might have about Flywheel…
Is Flywheel hosting worth it?
If you’re looking for the best performance and support, then Flywheel hosting is definitely worth it. However, if you’re on a tight budget and willing to sacrifice in those areas, you can find cheaper hosts that get the job done.
Who owns Flywheel hosting?
Flywheel started as an independent web hosting company, but it was acquired by WP Engine in 2019 and is now part of the WP Engine family. You can learn more about WP Engine in our WP Engine review.
Does Flywheel hosting include email?
No – you’ll need to pay for a separate email hosting service if you want to create your own email account.
🤔 Should You Use Flywheel WordPress Hosting in 2021 and Beyond?
Now for the important question – should you use Flywheel to host your WordPress website?
In general, we think Flywheel is a great host, which is why we use it for some of our sites. However, that doesn’t automatically mean Flywheel is the right host for you, so let’s go through when you should use Flywheel and when you might be better off with a different host…
Use Flywheel If…
Overall, Flywheel is a great option if you’re looking for top-notch performance and support and you’re willing to pay for it. Flywheel does a great job when it comes to offering fast performance, useful features, and excellent 24/7 live chat support.
However, the trade-off there is that Flywheel is more expensive than shared WordPress hosts, especially if you need to host multiple sites. Flywheel isn’t expensive for the premium managed WordPress hosting space – it’s right on par with Kinsta and WP Engine. It’s just expensive compared to shared hosts that offer low prices and unlimited websites.
But overall, if you’re willing to invest in your site and pay the prices, Flywheel won’t disappoint when it comes to performance and support.
One neat feature is that Flywheel lets you sign up and create a demo site for free. You’ll only need to enter a credit card and pay when you want to make your site public.
Use Another Host If…
One issue some people will have with Flywheel is the price, especially if you need to host a lot of low-traffic sites. Simply put, Flywheel is definitely more expensive than the popular budget options.
If you don’t need top-notch speed and performance and/or you’re hosting a lot of low-traffic sites, you might be better off from a value perspective using a budget host. Here are some good options:
- InMotion Hosting — had very good performance for its price. The plans still have website limits, but they’re a lot cheaper than Flywheel.
- DreamHost – offers cheap hosting for unlimited sites. The performance is definitely not as good as Flywheel, but it was adequate for the price and it should be fine for simple, low-traffic sites.
Or, if you’re a more advanced user, you could consider a solution like Cloudways. Cloudways can offer similar performance to Flywheel at a lower price, but it’s more complicated and doesn’t offer above-and-beyond support, so we don’t recommend it for beginners or anyone else looking for a “white glove” support experience.
To see all of your options, you can check out our full collection of the best WordPress hosting providers, which includes real test data for all of the hosts that we looked at.
Do you still have any questions about Flywheel or our Flywheel review? Let us know in the comments!