Bluehost is one of the biggest names in the web hosting market, mopping up around 3 percent of live websites. DreamHost, on the other hand, has about half of that share, despite offering a clearer dedication to user privacy and more transparent pricing.
Even so, Bluehost’s options and user-friendliness are undeniable, making it an attractive option for newcomers. In this DreamHost vs. Bluehost comparison, we’re going to take an analytical approach to seeing which provider is the best for you. Though reading our best web hosting guide will provide a hint at our conclusion, the comparison, in a vacuum, isn’t so straightforward.
The providers are polarizing, bringing into question what’s important when choosing a web host, so buckle in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Though we’ll supply our picks along the way, we urge you to read through each section to determine the best web host for you.
Setting Up a Fight: DreamHost vs. Bluehost
We’ve consolidated the criteria we normally judge hosts against into five rounds. Though we won’t individually address sections such as hosting types in the comparison, they’ll be wrapped into other rounds. That way, we can have a more straightforward and balanced face-off.
Those five rounds are features, pricing, ease of use, speed and uptime and security and privacy. A round is worth a single point, and we’ll reward a winner in each. Whichever provider takes the crown in three or more rounds will win the overall comparison.
At the beginning of each round, we’ll provide general ideas about what we’re looking for, and at the end, we’ll give our thoughts on how the two compare. Each round will also have a section explaining our experience with the provider in that criterion during our review.
“Features” is a far-reaching section. Everything from security features to quality of life improvements to server software can be considered “features.” In this round, our focus isn’t only identifying which features are included, but how important they are to your hosting package.
As we mentioned in our review, DreamHost has a lot of features. Those features may not be apparent at first, though. Most of the list revolves around improving the service, including full solid-state drive storage, a free SSL/TLS certificate and free domain privacy. We’ll talk more about the latter two in found five.
Moving on to some of the more obvious features, all users get the Remixer website builder, and though it’s useful, it won’t be making our best website builders list. Like Squarespace, it has gorgeous themes, but unlike, say, Wix, its integrations suffer (read our Squarespace review and Wix review).
Because of that, it might be a good option to go with a dedicated website builder if that’s the route you want to take with your website. That said, if you’d prefer to build your site with a website builder and eventually move to WordPress, Remixer has you covered. You can export your Remixer website to WordPress, and the templates will translate.
In that context, Remixer is powerful, and even more impressive considering DreamHost’s range of WordPress features. The DreamPress plans, which made our list of the best web hosting for WordPress, include access to a paid version of Jetpack, dedicated resources and on-demand backups.
Those plans are what set DreamHost apart because they offer similar levels of performance to Kinsta but for less money (read our Kinsta review). The value is immense, especially compared to overpriced WordPress hosts, such as Pagely (read Pagely review).
Bluehost is owned by Endurance International Group, and though that typically bodes poorly for features — read our JustHost review for an example — Bluehost is packed with them. Unlike DreamHost, though, Bluehost’s features aren’t available across plans, which sets a higher bar for entry.
For instance, CodeGuard Basic, which provides backups for your website, and domain privacy aren’t seen on the cheapest of shared plans. That said, they’re still introduced in the more expensive line of shared plans, which is nice to see. All users get an SSL/TLS certificate and Bluehost-managed daily backups.
There’s a website builder, too, but it’s not a proprietary design like Remixer. Rather, Bluehost provides a free version of Weebly with your plan. Weebly ranks highly in our website builder reviews, and for good reason. It offers an intuitive interface, deep integration with other platforms and a responsive design.
Plus, you can use your domain with Weebly. Though the service is still limited, you can see that connecting your domain to Weebly normally costs around $5 per month in our Weebly review. There are a few limits on media and the number of pages you can use, but the offer is solid overall.
As for WordPress, Bluehost mirrors DreamHost, but at a lower price point. The interface, which we’ll explore in round three, is built for WordPress, allowing you to access themes, plugins and more without logging in. Additionally, WordPress staging is offered.
Round One Thoughts
Round one is tough, as both providers go toe-to-toe on features. It could easily be a tie, considering DreamHost offers domain privacy, while Bluehost offers a more fleshed-out website builder. Our goal is to declare a winner, though, so we’re going to split hairs.
DreamHost’s free domain privacy will have its time in the limelight, but round one isn’t it. Because of that, Bluehost’s more feature-rich website builder allows it to take a point this round.
Pricing seems straightforward and, in most cases, it is. That said, web hosting is unusual. Though we can take numbers and say one provider is cheaper than another, multi-year discounts, deceptive pricing and paywalls make pricing more complex than it should be.
For instance, Arvixe seems cheap, but as you can see in our Arvixe review, the monthly rate is more expensive than advertised if you opt for less than a multi-year plan. On the other hand, Hostinger offers multi-year discounts, but the discounts are so steep that it can cost less to go for a long duration (read our Hostinger review).
DreamHost excels in pricing, not only because it’s cheap, but also because it’s transparent. There are promotional rates, as is the case with almost all providers, but from product page to checkout, DreamHost makes that clear. If cheap web hosting is what you’re after, DreamHost can accommodate you.
Let’s talk about transparency first, though. DreamHost shows the actual price you’ll be paying on its product page, with a toggle to see monthly or yearly rates. The monthly rate is higher, as expected, but the yearly rate applies to one and three-year durations. What’s important is that you see the price you’ll be paying before committing to checkout.
That’s an issue with countless web hosts — read our HostPapa review for just one example — that DreamHost doesn’t have. Plus, DreamHost is cheaper than the competition. Though its monthly rates don’t go as low as 1&1 IONOS’s, you will save $2-$5 on average (read our 1&1 IONOS review).
That’s because DreamHost advertises the same rate as other providers, but it doesn’t force you into three or more years to get it. For example, iPage is cheaper if you just compare product pages. As you can see in our iPage review, though, you only get the advertised rate if you buy three years of hosting upfront.
Plus, DreamHost backs your plan for 97 days. Unlike most hosts, which only offer a month to try the service, DreamHost gives you more than three months to change your mind. It’s important to note that this refund window applies to monthly plans, too, so if you purchase a monthly plan and change your mind two months in, you can still get your money back.
Bluehost doesn’t have horrible pricing, but you won’t know what you’re paying until it’s time to check out. The rates are standard across the board — shared plans are around $4 a month on the low end, managed WordPress plans are closer to $20 per month and dedicated plans start at $80 a month. What isn’t clear, though, is that you’ll need to buy multiple years to get those rates.
That said, it’s clear on the product page that you’re paying a promotional rate. For instance, the most inexpensive shared plan clocks in at $4 per month, but Bluehost shows that it’ll cost $8 upon renewal. That rate only applies if you’re purchasing three years of hosting upfront, though.
The price increases as you go lower in duration. Though a common practice — read our Hosting24 review for an example — Bluehost only offers one, two or three years of hosting on its shared plans. Plus, there are several add-ons preselected at checkout that increase the price even more.
What’s annoying is that Bluehost offers durations of a month, three months and six months on VPS and dedicated plans. It’s as if Bluehost is saying a shared subscription isn’t worth the time if it’s only for a month, punishing those who are looking for an inexpensive hosting package.
Bluehost doesn’t cover your plan as long as DreamHost does, either. You only get 30 days to change your mind. Though standard for most web hosts, we’d assume one of Bluehost’s caliber would offer longer. InMotion Hosting, for example, offers three months and A2 Hosting lets you get your money back any time (read our InMotion Hosting review and A2 Hosting review).
Round Two Thoughts
Unlike round one, this one is clear. DreamHost is not only cheaper, but it’s also transparent. Plus, it offers a generous money-back guarantee. Bluehost, on the other hand, seems more interested in getting you to the checkout page and hoping you commit.
Ease of Use
Web hosting can be difficult to manage, especially if you’re a newbie. Because of that, it’s important that a web host makes it simple to transition into the complex world. Even if you’re a power user, it doesn’t make sense to have to search for a feature that should be easy to access.
Unfortunately, ease of use hurts many good providers. SiteGround, for example, offers an excellent service, but the control panel is in serious need of a facelift (read our SiteGround review). In this round, we’re going to compare how easy it is to move through checkout with DreamHost and Bluehost, as well as how easy it is to manage your website.
While we talked about pricing in the previous round, it’s important for ease of use, too. As mentioned, DreamHost makes it easy to know the price you’re paying, which helps smooth the checkout process. After choosing a plan, you’re sent through an intuitive three-part checkout process that doesn’t drag on like Namecheap’s (read our Namecheap review).
After completing the process, you can set your password, eliminating the need to sift through emails to find your login credentials. We weren’t able to enter a domain during checkout, though. Instead, DreamHost set up WordPress on a temporary subdomain and we had to set up our own domain after completing checkout.
Finally, you’ll land in the control panel, which looks different from most web hosts’. DreamHost doesn’t use cPanel. It opts to use a proprietary design instead. Unlike LunarPages’, though, DreamHost’s design works (read our LunarPages review). It’s easy to find what you’re looking for using the left-side menu, easing the often overwhelming nature of cPanel.
Even so, there are issues. Like Midphase, DreamHost puts more options than you need in the left menu, many of which serve as advertisements (read our Midphase review). For example, there’s a “DreamPress” option, even if you aren’t subscribed to DreamPress, and heading there will show an ad to upgrade.
That’s a small issue, though, and it’s hard to deny DreamHost’s usability otherwise. It’s not hard to navigate, and any issues we have with the control panel are more than made up for by the seamless checkout process.
Bluehost is the opposite of DreamHost. It struggles when it comes to checkout, but the control panel is one of the best we’ve seen. Balancing those things may be trivial, though, because you’ll end up spending much more time in your control panel than you will purchasing a subscription.
That said, we encountered horrible bugs during checkout. In addition to the deceptive pricing and preselected add-ons, Bluehost wouldn’t accept our password. After purchasing your plan, you’re sent to an order confirmation screen where you’re asked to set a password.
We’re well aware of the risks of cybercrime, so we generated a password with one of our best password managers, LastPass (read our LastPass review). Bluehost wouldn’t accept the password, though. No matter how many passwords we generated, they wouldn’t work. That said, once we typed in a password, it did, which is just annoying.
There were a few other issues during checkout, including a constant error code saying our credit card was declined. That error code wasn’t explained, simply displayed, which led to a lot of confusion during sign-up.
That’s a shame considering how excellent Bluehost’s control panel is. It integrates well with WordPress, allowing you to manage themes, plugins and more without moving from the control panel. It doesn’t lack power, either, giving you the full cPanel experience if you need it. In fact, Bluehost made our best web hosting with cPanel list.
That said, getting there is a hassle, so much so that it might not be worth it. Bluehost has a pretty face on the inside, but fighting through the battle to see it is annoying.
Round Three Thoughts
Like round one, this one is tough, but for different reasons. Bluehost has a superior control panel, but the checkout process left us not wanting to use it. DreamHost doesn’t have as clean of a look, but the control panel is still just as functional. Stack on top of that the fact that DreamHost has a seamless checkout process and the winner is clear.
That said, you might have an easier time with Bluehost, so take our evaluation at your discretion.
Speed and Uptime
Speed is what makes or breaks a web host. We’ve seen it many times before. A web host offers solid pricing, an easy-to-use interface and plenty of features, only to fall apart when it comes to speed testing (read our GreenGeeks review for an example).
DreamHost performed well in our testing, but we’ve seen faster web hosts. Pingdom Speed Test gave it a score of 90 out of 100, which, though not bad, isn’t the best. Digging into our results, we can see most of the time was wasted on the “wait” metric, which measures how long the browser is waiting to receive data.
What that suggests is that there’s a lack of caching going on. Caching and data compression can lead to small files traveling shorter distances and eliminate the need to find the data in a database. If more caching measures were implemented, you’d see a higher Pingdom Speed Test result.
Load Impact was solid, though. We sent 50 users to the server over five minutes, and each made it without problems. There was inconsistency between users, which is to be expected on inexpensive shared hosting, but we’re happy that there were no errors along the way.
There’s an uptime guarantee, too, and it’s better than what most web hosting services offer. You’re guaranteed 100 percent uptime for your website, databases, email, FTP, SSH and webmail. If any go out, DreamHost will give you a credit for one day of hosting for each hour the service is out. That said, credits are limited to 10 percent of the cost of your next hosting period.
Bluehost performed better than DreamHost, likely because many of the suggestions we make in our how to improve website loading times guide are done for you. Pingdom Speed Test returned a score of94 out of 100, only suggesting we further cache objects, which can be accomplished with a free WordPress plugin, such as W3 Total Cache.
The details back that up, too. Bluehost has a longer than average wait time, but it’s still shorter than DreamHost’s, which could be resolved with additional caching. Even so, Bluehost’s performance on the most inexpensive shared plan is solid, and you’d be fine without additional caching.
That said, Load Impact told a different story. Our test was the same, 50 users over five minutes, but the results were much worse. Bluehost had a higher number of HTTP errors than average, suggesting there are too many users and not enough resources to accommodate them. There was a long period during which the website became unresponsive, in fact.
Plus, there isn’t an uptime guarantee in place. Bluehost cites the “complexity and nature of a shared web hosting environment” as a reason not to offer one, which is ridiculous. If other hosts can do it, so can Bluehost.
Round Four Thoughts
Single-point speed testing favors Bluehost, but not by a massive amount. Though faster, there are steps you can take to make DreamHost reach that level. What’s most important is that DreamHost provided us a website that functioned and Bluehost didn’t.
Under even the most modest of loads, Bluehost broke, while DreamHost stayed resilient. Combined with the fact that DreamHost offers an uptime guarantee, the winner for this round is clear.
Security and Privacy
Website security is obviously important, but website privacy may not be so apparent. DreamHost got our gears turning on website privacy, bringing into question what data a web host collects and how the service use it for or against you.
Bluehost is an EIG brand, and we’ve seen the same song and dance routine from them before. The privacy is horrible, which doesn’t look good when compared to the clearly privacy-conscious DreamHost. That said, Bluehost’s security features are sound, so we still have a battle on our hands.
DreamHost has all the security measures we like to see. Your plan comes with a free SSL/TLS certificate, daily backups and server-side protection. That protection includes ModSecurity, which is a web application firewall, and DreamShield, which is a paid malware removal service.
What’s most impressive about DreamHost, though, is its privacy. We gave it a perfect score in our review, and it’s easy to see why. Every domain registered with DreamHost includes free domain privacy, which replaces the information with which you registered the domain with information from the registrar.
The DOJ not only requested information about the owner, but also the 1.3 million or so IP addresses that had visited the website. Instead of bending over, DreamHost fought the DOJ all the way to the Washington D.C. Superior Court, eventually getting much of the information revoked.
Unfortunately, this round started on a high note, but it’s going to end on a low one. Bluehost, or rather EIG, has horrid privacy practices, using the personal information you register as a means for income. Bluehost is better than some of its EIG siblings, such as Site5, but still not great (read our Site5 review).
That said, the security features are solid. You get an SSL/TLS certificate, daily backups and even a basic version of SiteLock, which will scan your website for malware. As for server protection, we suspect Bluehost is using ModSecurity and BitNinja because those tools are industry standard, but the support rep we spoke with wasn’t able to confirm that.
Despite Bluehost’s robust list of security features, privacy remains a major concern. Starting with domain privacy, there are a few plans that get it for free, including the top two tiers of shared hosting and all WP Pro plans. Everyone else, unfortunately, will have to pay a $10 or so fee.
Round Five Thoughts
On a somewhat anticlimactic note, the winner for this round is clear. Bluehost has horrible privacy practices while DreamHost has some of the best. The security is mostly even, but we weren’t able to confirm that Bluehost offers the same server-side security as DreamHost.
With four round wins, our overall winner is DreamHost. Some rounds, such as the last one, it was a clear decision, but others were more nuanced. Of the EIG brands, Bluehost is the best, so you shouldn’t discount it.
Though DreamHost is among the best options, it isn’t the only option. We think you should consider it over Bluehost, but you might be better off with a plan at SiteGround or Hostinger. Read our other web hosting reviews to learn more about those web hosts to see if they’re right for you.
Do you agree that DreamHost should win? How much value do you put on web hosting privacy? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.