DreamHost and Bluehost are among the best web hosting providers. Though we’ve compared two Endurance International Group brands in our HostGator vs. Bluehost showdown, we haven’t taken Bluehost out against the broader web hosting market. That changes now.
In this DreamHost vs. Bluehost comparison, we’ll give you the definitive answer to which web hosting provider reigns supreme. We’re going to compare the two over four rounds, after which we’ll declare a winner.
We’ll pull in other providers as we see fit, but we’re not comparing either host to the entire web hosting market. If you want to see more specifics about either provider, or just see how they stack up in the web hosting space, read our DreamHost review and Bluehost review.
Setting Up a Fight: DreamHost vs. Bluehost
We cover a lot of ground in our web hosting reviews, including the features, server types and other things that web hosts offer. Though we could port that over to a direct comparison, that doesn’t make it especially fair. After all, awarding a win in server types may be irrelevant if you’re not interested in, say, cloud hosting.
Because of that, this comparison will only have four rounds: price, ease of use, speed and security. Doing it that way allows us to make a more direct and fair comparison while covering the same ground we do in our reviews.
At the beginning of each round, we’ll give examples of what we’re looking for, then talk about how well each provider satisfies our criteria. After that, we’ll give our thoughts on how the two compare and declare a winner.
Though we will be declaring winners, it’s important to read each section in its entirety. We’ll spill the beans a bit: DreamHost and Bluehost are two top-of-class web hosting providers. That means it’s important to read what we think and come to your own conclusion. There’s a solid argument for choosing either, so don’t take our word as law.
There are many good, cheap web hosting services, just read our best cheap web hosting guide for examples. Unlike a lot of cloud-based services, web hosting can be inexpensive while providing quality service, so if a provider is going to charge a premium, it better be justified in doing so.
While neither of our competitors reach the egregious levels of Pagely (read our Pagely review), they’re not the cheapest options, either. We’re going to compare the prices, as well as the features offered in each plan, to see which provider offers a better value.
DreamHost is modestly priced, especially on the shared end. There are two shared options: “starter” and “unlimited.”
The first, as the name implies, will get you started with web hosting. It supports one website with solid-state drive storage, unlimited traffic and a free SSL certificate. It even comes with limited access to DreamHost’s website builder. That said, without email or an included domain, it is one of the worst-value options.
“Unlimited,” while more expensive, offers much more value. It’s essentially the same plan, except you get a free domain and email hosting, which would run you about the difference between the two plans, anyway.
A unique aspect of the shared hosting plans, though, is that they’re offered month-to-month. Most web hosting providers don’t offer monthly options on their least expensive plans, making it difficult for those who don’t have a couple hundred bucks set aside to start a website. DreamHost does and, though it’s a lesser value, it may be the right entry point for a tight budget.
Both shared plans are offered for a month, a year or three years. The best value comes from the three-year option. As long as you’re buying one or three years, you can also take advantage of the 97-day money-back guarantee, which is the longest we’ve seen, though InMotion Hosting comes close as you can read in our InMotion Hosting review.
You can also purchase the shared plans with WordPress pre-configured for the same price, which is similar to how SiteGround handles things (read our SiteGround review). That said, DreamHost didn’t make our best web hosting for WordPress guide on the backs of those plans. It made our list with DreamPress.
DreamPress is a high-performance, managed WordPress hosting solution that comes with all the bells and whistles pre-configured. In addition to faster speeds, you get dedicated storage, Jetpack and, depending on the package you select, WordPress staging.
There are three forms of DreamPress, each configured to accommodate increasing levels of traffic. That upgradability is built into the platform, too. If you see a sudden spike in traffic, you can upgrade to a more powerful DreamPress solution with a single click, even in the middle of a billing period.
Though it’s more expensive than shared hosting, DreamPress is what makes DreamHost shine. It’s comparable to Kinsta’s service, but at a far lower price point (read our Kinsta review). If you want to start a single WordPress website with the features of enterprise WordPress solutions, DreamPress is where you should look.
DreamHost also offers virtual private servers, dedicated hosting and cloud hosting, but they’re significantly more expensive than the DreamPress and shared options. Even so, cloud hosting is a nice offering to see because not all providers offer it. HostGator comes to mind, though, as you can see in our HostGator review, DreamHost’s cloud hosting is superior.
The only interesting offering is the website builder, which you can use for free, but you will have to pay for if you want to use your own domain. It’s a decent solution, but not on the level of the best website builders. Still, if you like DreamHost’s other features, it’s a good built-in option
Bluehost is largely the same on the low end. Shared plans are more expensive, with the most basic tier coming in at $1 more,. Unlike the “starter” option at DreamHost, though, Bluehost’s beginner offering comes with a free domain and email hosting.
Shared plans come in three varieties: “basic,” “plus” and “choice plus.” For your initial subscription, the latter two are the same price, but they’ll renew at different rates. The biggest difference between the plans are the offers they include.
“Choice,” for example, comes with $200 in ad credits and SpamExperts, while “choice plus” comes with those in addition to CodeGuard Basic and domain privacy.
On its face, Bluehost offers a cheaper point of entry on low-end shared plans and more features on high-end plans. It’s not that clear cut, though. While the monthly rate for “basic” is less than “unlimited” at DreamHost, you can’t purchase it month-to-month. Shared hosting is only offered for one, two, three or five years, and you only get 30 days to change your mind.
Thankfully, there are month-to-month options higher up the chain. Bluehost also offers VPS, cloud hosting and dedicated hosting at surprisingly low rates. While you can set up a VPS plan at DreamHost for less, the specs Bluehost offers on its lower-tier plan are what most providers have as their mid-tier offering.
Bluehost is also one of the few providers to offer dedicated hosting for less than $100 per month with impressive specs. The basic dedicated server comes with a quad-core Xeon processor, 4GB of RAM and 5TB of bandwidth.
A new addition to Bluehost’s lineup is the WordPress Pro class of plans, which are similar to DreamPress plans. We like the caching system DreamHost has for its WordPress plans, but Bluehost makes an enticing offer with access to hundreds of premium themes, an excellent WordPress dashboard and varying tiers of Jetpack.
Round One Thoughts
This round is close because DreamHost and Bluehost offer excellent value across their plans. Bluehost provides more in its inexpensive plans, while the higher-end plans are largely the same. In terms of specs and value, the providers are mostly equal.
There are two points of contention: the month-to-month options and the money-back guarantee. Though annual plans offer a far better value, DreamHost at least gives you the option to purchase month-to-month if that makes sense for your situation. It also provides more than three times the refund window, so you can make sure you like the product you purchased.
Though those are small advantages, they’re enough to push DreamHost ahead for this round.
Ease of Use
Like the last round, this one is close. Most web hosting providers who survived the web 2.0 boom have updated their control panels to deal with a modern customer base. In most cases, that’s with cPanel, but neither of our competitors offer a strict version of that platform. If you’re looking for that, read our guide to the best web hosting with cPanel.
Instead, DreamHost has its own control panel and Bluehost uses a modified version of cPanel. Both offer a good user experience, so we’re going to look at how well each control panel integrates with different platforms to see which provider edges out a win.
While most web hosting providers have caught the modern aesthetic bug, DreamHost was among the first to do so. It has a clean website that makes signing up simple, even for non-techies. After choosing a plan, you just need to enter your information, choose a domain and pay for your service.
After doing that, you’ll be redirected to DreamHost’s control panel, which, like the website, is clean. That said, it’s almost too clean. If you’re coming from a provider that uses cPanel, you’d be forgiven for thinking that DreamHost lacks the features that cPanel has.
That’s a double-edged sword. Most cPanels have a massive number of options, many of which are irrelevant to your website. DreamHost does the dirty work by removing extraneous options and moving away from the app-style interface cPanel offers.
The bad side of that is that you may not know what certain features are or how to use them. Without visuals, even performing simple tasks, such as setting up an email account, feels stale. Plus, there are no graphics for your account usage to see how much bandwidth or space your website is eating.
It has the functionality of a normal interface, but not the grace. DreamHost is pure business when it comes to managing your website, which, depending on what you like, could be a pro or a con.
For us, it’s a bit of both. DreamHost takes the focus off of hosting and puts it on your website, which shouldn’t be undervalued. At the same time, though, it takes some of the useful analytics and features you get with a typical cPanel. We’d like to say that you can have your cake and eat it, too, but with DreamHost, you’ll have to choose.
Bluehost builds off of cPanel to create a functionally unique experience. It claims to offer an “enhanced” cPanel and, though that looks like a cheap marketing ploy, it’s true.
Choosing a plan is simple, but checking out is more complex than we’d like. Bluehost offers a lot of extras, many of which are selected by default. Pay close attention to the services you’re purchasing, especially if the total doesn’t quite add up.
After that, things look up. Bluehost directs you to cPanel immediately and it’s clear from the first glance that it’s different than other providers that offer cPanel. Also unlike other providers, Bluehost puts billing and cPanel in one spot. One login is all you’ll need to remember.
Navigation speaks for itself — we’ll leave that for you to discover — but we’d like to highlight WordPress integration. Bluehost is unique in that it offers a lot of WordPress functionality in cPanel, which we’d like to see from more web hosting providers.
You can manage WordPress users, install new plugins and configure themes in cPanel. WordPress Pro plans also offer analytics in the marketing center, as well as dedicated tabs for monitoring performance, security and backups.
The level of control over WordPress without logging in to it is great. Instead of rationing the control over platforms you use, Bluehost integrates them into a single spot. You can view Google Analytics, manage how your website functions and ensure you’re staying within the limits of your hosting account in cPanel.
Round Two Thoughts
There’s a clear difference in approach between DreamHost and Bluehost. DreamHost doesn’t focus much on the hosting experience. Instead, it just gives you the necessary tools to manage your website and lets the platform you’re using deal with the specifics.
Bluehost, on the other hand, offers a more hands-on approach without sacrificing core functionality. For WordPress users, especially, it’s a fluid system that offers a massive amount of control over your website in a single interface.
Speeds and Uptime
Speed and uptime are the core metrics by which web hosting providers can be compared. Though a couple of milliseconds here and there seems irrelevant, it can be the difference between ranking on the first page of Google or not. Quick load times not only give your users a better experience, they help grow your website, too.
You can read our guide on how to improve website loading times, but not all of the optimization is on you. We’re going to compare the server response times that we tested with the providers, as well as their uptime guarantee and caching processes.
DreamHost is one of the fastest web hosting providers we’ve tested. When measuring speed, we test the response time of the server multiple times and average the results. The metrics we’re going to show aren’t the speeds you’ll get, though, as we were essentially loading a blank website. That way, we could compare providers without worrying about variations on a website.
In the U.S., DreamHost was about average. We noted a 49.5 ms response time, which is longer than providers such as GreenGeeks (read our GreenGeeks review), but only by a couple of milliseconds.
The fastest provider we’ve found in this price range is, oddly, iPage, which is a more beginner-focused web host (read our iPage review). Still, iPage came in at 43 ms in the U.S., so there’s not a large gap between them.
DreamHost was about average internationally, as well, with a score of 161.8 ms. That result is more exciting, though, because some providers, such as Arvixe, perform well in the U.S. and terribly abroad (read our Arvixe review).
During our testing, we did not experience downtime, and DreamHost backs that up with a 100 percent uptime guarantee. There are plenty of reasons not to trust an uptime guarantee, but DreamHost outlines the specifics of it in its terms of service.
If your website, databases, email, FTP, SSH or webmail are down as a result of DreamHost’s system failures, you’ll be compensated for one day of service for each hour the systems are down. That doesn’t include announced system maintenance, though, and you’ll only be compensated a maximum of 10 percent of your next billing period.
There’s a massive caveat to that, too. The last line of the guarantee reads, “DreamHost’s assessment of downtime begins when [a] Customer opens a support ticket to report the problem.” If you don’t notice that your website is down or don’t contact DreamHost in time, you won’t be compensated.
Bluehost has impressive U.S. speeds, but the speeds abroad aren’t great. We noted an average response of 33.8 ms, which is around 15 ms faster than DreamHost. That’s a small difference, but in the eyes of search engines, it’s noticeable.
Speeds aren’t as good outside of the U.S. We got an average of 188.6 ms abroad, which is 20 ms slower than DreamHost. Bluehost also came in slower than SiteGround, InMotion Hosting and A2 Hosting internationally, but it beat Hostinger, which has terrible speeds (read our Hostinger review).
If you’re focused on the U.S., Bluehost is faster. International results are more applicable to most people, though, and DreamHost has a bigger advantage there than Bluehost has in the U.S.
Despite many review platforms saying that Bluehost has an uptime guarantee, it does not. Given how often uptime guarantees are thrown around, it’s easy to assume that a top-shelf provider, such as Bluehost, offers one, but it makes it clear that it does “not offer compensation for any down time.”
We didn’t experience downtime during our testing, so that’s a small reassurance. That said, there’s no policy in place if your website does experience downtime. Scheduled or not, announced or not, if your website goes down, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope it goes back up soon.
Round Three Thoughts
Though Bluehost has a slight advantage in the U.S., there’s no denying that DreamHost is the better option in this round. It has faster speeds internationally and comes with a uptime guarantee that’s actually honored, which is not something all web hosts can attest to.
That said, Bluehost isn’t hiding anything. It doesn’t claim 100 percent uptime and it makes it clear that you won’t be compensated if your website goes down. Though that’s concerning, we never experienced downtime and user reports online seem to back that up. Neither is horrible in this round. DreamHost is just better.
Security and Support
Websites are prime targets for cybercrime. Just take a look at our guide to website security to see how many threats are out there. As in the previous round, there are things you can do to keep yourself safe. Unlike the previous round, though, some of those things are supplied or integrated by the web hosting provider.
We’re going to factor in the security measures the providers include. Some specific examples of what we’re looking for are SSL certificates, spam protection and automated backups.
In addition to security, we’re also going to briefly touch on the support options DreamHost and Bluehost offer.
DreamHost is rare in that it’s a web hosting provider with a privacy-friendly slant. Privacy is a normal part of our VPN reviews, but it has a lot to do with web hosting, too. When you launch a website, your personal information is tied to the domain, which is concerning, especially if you’re putting out controversial content.
For example, the U.S. Department of Justice received a warrant to investigate an anti-Trump website hosted by DreamHost last year. Instead of handing everything over, DreamHost went to court to fight on behalf on its client and got some of the terms reworked. You can get the details in DreamHost’s blog post.
DreamHost begins protection with your domain. All domains registered through DreamHost are registered privately, meaning none of your personal information is stored in the WHOIS record. Instead, the provider registers the domain under its name while giving you full control over what you do with it.
Private domain registration isn’t unique to DreamHost. Most web hosts offer it, but it almost always comes with a price. DreamHost looks at anonymity as a right, not a service, so private registration is included with every domain for free.
SSL/TLS certificates, which verify your website’s credentials to establish an encrypted connection, are also provided for free. Certificates show that you are who you say you are, and that’s important for both visitor trust and search rankings. Some browsers will even display warnings on websites that don’t have a valid certificate.
All websites have the option to turn on Cloudflare protection, which will help speed up load times and decrease the chance of falling victim to a distributed denial-of-service attack.
Cloudflare is a content delivery network that intelligently distributes and filters traffic to make sure legitimate requests get to your website as fast as possible and phony requests are tossed aside. You can learn more about how that works in our what is Cloudflare guide.
DreamHost’s support is excellent, too. It offers live chat, email and phone support, but speaking with a support agent over the phone will cost extra. Even so, the email and live chat are great, with the latter solving small issues in a few minutes and the former digging in to topics without unnecessary fluff.
Bluehost has a lot of security options, but many are only available if you purchase a more expensive plan. Because of that, the standard array of security features at DreamHost looks more impressive, despite the fact the Bluehost has more power at higher price points.
All plans share Cloudflare integration, which is nice to see. While you can set any website to use Cloudflare free of charge, it’s a difficult process that requires technical know-how. If you’d like to see the process, read our advanced guide to using WordPress.
Speaking of WordPress, those plans come with the most security features in Bluehost’s inexpensive lineup. All WordPress websites include an SSL/TLS certificate, which is a paid feature on some shared plans, and SiteLock.
The version of SiteLock you get depends on the WordPress plan you’re on and ranges from Pro to Enterprise. It’s an all-in-one security suite for finding vulnerabilities, removing malware and detering DDoS attacks. Think of it as an antivirus for your website.
The problem is how the security features are distributed. You can always use SiteLock or an SSL/TLS certificate, but depending on the plan you’re on, you may have to pay extra. Likewise, private domain registration is only offered at a premium, no matter how expensive the plan you’re purchasing is.
Bluehost’s support is good, as well, but it lacks an email option. Phone and live chat support are available around the clock, though, even if you’re not a customer. While we appreciate the open nature of Bluehost’s support system, the lack of email stings. Ticketing is one of the best ways to track support requests, especially if your problem requires a lot of correspondence.
Round Four Thoughts
As far as raw security features go, DreamHost and Bluehost are evenly matched. There’s no winner in terms of what you can get, but DreamHost offers more bang for your buck with the services it offers for free, such as private domain registration. Because of that, as well as the more fluid support experience, it edges out Bluehost in this round.
DreamHost and Bluehost are among the best web hosting providers around, but, based on our comparison, Bluehost seems to be more style than substance. Though it trades blows well with DreamHost, it doesn’t have the chops in speed, security or pricing to outclass its competitor.
Even so, this comparison was won by thin margins. Both providers offer excellent ease of use, security and features for a modest price. Our preference for DreamHost doesn’t mean that Bluehost isn’t the right option for you. Maybe neither is right for you. If that’s the case, we recommend reading our other web hosting reviews.
Do you agree that DreamHost is the better option? Let us know why or why not in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.