HostGator Review 2021: The Good & Bad (Honest Thoughts)
Thinking about using HostGator to host your website?
HostGator is one of the most popular hosting companies in the world. A big part of that popularity is its affordable prices – everyone loves a bargain and HostGator doesn’t disappoint, with some of the cheapest cloud hosting prices that you’ll find.
However, while the prices are great, there are also some downsides to using HostGator, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of using HostGator for your website.
That’s what our unbiased, hands-on HostGator review aims to do – we’re going to cover both the good and the bad of HostGator so that you can decide whether it’s the best host for you…or whether another host might be a bit better (we’ll even recommend some better options if that’s the case).
Here’s how we’ll divide our 2021 HostGator review:
How We Tested HostGator – We Bought Our Own Account
Before we get into our full HostGator review, we first want to kick things off with a quick explainer of how we tested HostGator.
We want all our hosting reviews to be unbiased, covering both the good and the bad.
To make this possible, we bought our own domain and hosting just like you would if you signed up to HostGator yourself. We aren’t getting any special treatment and HostGator doesn’t even know who we are – we’re just a regular customer.
More specifically, we’re using the Cloud Baby plan, which is the middle-tier plan on HostGator’s cloud hosting and starts at $6.57 per month. This is the plan we’re using when we run our performance tests, show you the dashboard, etc.
With that in mind, let’s dig in!
⚙️ HostGator Key Features
HostGator offers a lot of different hosting plans, so the exact features that you’ll get depend on the plan you sign up for. You can choose from cheap shared hosting, affordable cloud web hosting, dedicated WordPress hosting, and more.
For our HostGator review, though, we’re using their cheap cloud web hosting plans, which offer better performance than the shared plans for not much exact cost. In fact, as we mentioned in the intro, these cheap cloud plans are one of HostGator’s most standout offerings, as it’s rare to find cloud hosting this cheap (unless you use a completely unmanaged server, which requires lots of technical knowledge).
You also get all of the same features as the shared hosting plans – along with some extras to make the deal even sweeter.
With the cloud hosting plan, you get:
- Unlimited websites (except the cheapest tier).
- Unmetered bandwidth and storage.
- Clear limits on CPU cores and memory (this is what makes it more powerful than shared hosting – you can know exactly what resources your hosting has).
- Built-in caching to improve performance.
- Free SSL certificates to secure your site.
- cPanel dashboard to manage your hosting.
- Unlimited email addresses and storage.
If you’re using WordPress, you also might want to go with the dedicated WordPress plans. These plans also use cloud hosting but add on useful WordPress-specific features such as:
- Pre-installed WordPress.
- Security rules and malware scans.
- Automatic backups.
- A better uptime guarantee (99.9% vs 99% on the shared plans).
🚀 HostGator Performance Tests
How quickly your website loads is a really important consideration. While your web hosting isn’t the only thing that controls how fast your site is, it is one of the biggest variables, which is why we took the time to run our own hands-on performance tests with HostGator.
To create a realistic test site, we installed WordPress and the popular Astra theme. Then, we imported a full Astra demo site, complete with plugins. So we’re testing a “full” website just like you might build.
First, we ran HostGator through WebPageTest. To create a real-world scenario, we throttled WebPageTest’s connection to FIOS* and configured it to run nine separate tests and take the median value.
*This results in “slower” load times than a tool like Pingdom but is more accurate to what your actual human visitors will experience.
Overall, the results were quite good:
- Time to first byte – 0.126 s (this is a general measure of server responsiveness).
- Largest Contentful Paint – 0.643 s (part of Google Core Web Vitals and used as an SEO ranking factor in Google’s Page Experience update).
- Fully loaded time – 2.496 s.
WebPageTest is useful for assessing the experience of a single visitor. However, on a busy website, you’ll have multiple visitors browsing at the same time, which requires more server resources and can result in slower load times.
To assess HostGator’s performance under heavy traffic, we ran it through load testing with Load Focus. We configured Load Focus to hit our test site with 20 visitors in a single minute, which is a harder test than most websites will face.
Here, HostGator didn’t perform so well, with an average response time of 4.22 s and a few spikes up into the 15 second mark:
This is a really hard test for cheap hosting, so we weren’t expecting HostGator to ace this test. However, this data does show that HostGator might struggle in high-traffic situations, so you might want to consider another host in those scenarios.
Overall, the performance data suggests that HostGator can offer good performance for low-traffic sites, but isn’t a great option for high-traffic sites (at least not the Cloud Baby plan that we’re using).
🤗 HostGator User Experience
With HostGator, you’ll use HostGator’s custom dashboard to manage your billing, email products, and domains, while using cPanel to manage your actual websites, install WordPress, etc.
The main dashboard looks like this – you can see links to different hosting products on the left, along with an option to launch cPanel:
If you open your hosting plan, you’ll get some useful quick links to jump to key areas in cPanel (along with lots of upsell offers!):
For cloud hosting, you can also see basic stats for your server’s usage, which helps you better understand your usage:
For everything about your actual websites, you’ll use cPanel, which is the most popular server management tool. If you’ve used other shared hosting, you’ve probably experienced it:
For example, if you want to install WordPress, you can use the simple WordPress installer tool:
Or, you can use cPanel File Manager to manage the files on your server without needing to connect via FTP:
All in all, it’s a fairly standard experience for hosting, but HostGator does a good job of making it easier to manage your site with useful features like quick links and its custom design.
📞 HostGator Support Review
HostGator offers 24/7/365 support on all of its plans. You can get in touch with support via phone, live chat, or even Twitter.
HostGator support is adequate, as long as you go in with proper expectations. HostGator is a budget web host, so it’s not going to offer above-and-beyond support like you get with premium hosts such as Kinsta or WP Engine.
This is just the reality of the hosting market and something you’ll need to accept if you want to only pay a few dollars per month for hosting.
None of this is to say HostGator’s support is horrible – they’re happy to help and will try to help you solve the problems. It’s just that the responses can be slow and sometimes you need to escalate issues beyond the front-line support staff to actually get them solved.
However, if you value top-notch support and want someone to really hold your hand while building a website, you might want to pay extra for a host with a better reputation for support. If you’re using WordPress, Flywheel, Kinsta, or WP Engine are all great options (but more expensive – that’s the trade-off).
💰 HostGator Pricing Review
One of the biggest advantages that HostGator offers is its rock-bottom prices. HostGator is cheap, which is a big part of why it’s so popular.
Again, this is kind of the trade-off of going with HostGator – you sacrifice a bit when it comes to support and performance under scale, but the upside is that you get a really cheap hosting product that works fine for low-traffic sites.
HostGator offers a variety of billing cycles:
- Three months
- Six months
- One year
- Two years
- Three years
You’ll get the best prices if you pay for three years upfront, while you’ll pay the highest prices if you pay monthly.
Let’s break it down by the different types of hosting. But first…
Promotional vs Regular Prices
Like a lot of cheap web hosts, HostGator offers promotional prices for your first billing cycle, which can be anywhere from one year to three years.
These promo prices give you a cheap way to get started, but it’s important to understand that you’ll need to pay full price when you go to renew. So, when deciding if the prices work for you, make sure to consider both the renewal and regular prices.
Cloud Web Hosting
👍👎 HostGator Pros and Cons
As we get closer to the end of our HostGator review, let’s recap some of the pros and cons of using HostGator for your website…
- HostGator is very cheap – you’ll struggle to find another host that’s cheaper.
- You get a free domain name for the first year.
- You get unlimited resources on most plans – including unlimited websites, unmetered bandwidth, and unmetered storage.
- There’s a 45-day money-back guarantee, which is above average and gives you ample time to test out the hosting.
- You still get cPanel access, which is important since a lot of big hosts have moved away from cPanel.
- You can create unlimited email accounts.
- You can pay monthly, which most other cheap hosts don’t allow.
- HostGator still offers solid performance for low-traffic sites, especially considering the price.
- HostGator’s performance struggled under scale. For a high-traffic site, you’ll probably want to choose a host with better performance.
- HostGator’s support is mediocre (like any ultra-budget web host). If you want top-notch support, you should pay for a more premium host.
- They try to upsell you on a lot of extras on the cheap plans, which can get a bit annoying.
❓ HostGator Review 2021 FAQ
Here are some common questions about HostGator…
Is HostGator fast?
HostGator’s performance was fairly average in our tests. It was ok in the one-off tests, but struggled in load testing. If performance is really important to you, you’ll probably want to choose another host (we share some recommendations below).
Is WordPress free with HostGator?
Yes! HostGator includes free tools to install the WordPress software and you can create as many WordPress installs as you want for free.
Is HostGator good for eCommerce?
You can use HostGator to create an eCommerce store, but it’s probably not the best option because performance is essential for eCommerce stores. If you’re using WordPress to create your eCommerce store, you should invest in your store and pay more money for WP Engine or Kinsta.
Does HostGator offer free SSL?
Yes! HostGator offers free SSL certificates on all of their hosting plans – even the cheap shared hosting.
Is HostGator better than Bluehost?
HostGator and Bluehost are owned by the same company (EIG) so they share a lot of similarities. In general, Bluehost is a little better for beginners as it offers an even more user-friendly experience. Learn more in our Bluehost review.
🤔 Should You Use HostGator in 2021 and Beyond?
Whether or not HostGator is the best host for you depends on what you’re looking for. So – let’s talk about when you should use HostGator, but also when you should use a different host (along with some recommendations).
Use HostGator If…
HostGator can be a good option if you’re searching for budget hosting. For the prices that HostGator has and the resources that it gives you, it’s definitely one of the cheapest web hosts out there. This is especially true of its cloud plans – most hosts charge a lot more for cloud hosting.
Overall, if you have multiple low-traffic sites, you can get pretty good value from HostGator since it allows unlimited websites and storage.
Another pricing perk is that HostGator lets you pay monthly, which lets you avoid big upfront costs (though you won’t get the best prices doing this).
Use Another Host If…
HostGator is probably not the best option if performance or support are of utmost importance to you. If you value above-and-beyond support and you want your site to load quickly and be able to handle heavy traffic, there are better hosts (though they usually cost more).
Here are some recommendations for better performance and/or support:
- InMotion Hosting (50% off coupon) – despite having low prices, InMotion Hosting did surprisingly well when we tested it (even in the load tests). It’s a great option for good performance on a budget.
- Kinsta (our review) – a great premium option for WordPress sites, with top-notch performance and support. More expensive than HostGator, though. You can read our full Kinsta review.
- WP Engine (our review + coupon) – the same pros/cons as Kinsta.
- Cloudways – a good affordable option for more advanced users – but beginners should stay away.
If you’re building WordPress sites, you can also find some other great options in our full roundup of the best WordPress hosting in 2021.
That finishes up our HostGator review in 2021. Do you still have any questions or concerns about HostGator? Leave a comment!