DreamHost is easily one of the best web hosting services we’ve reviewed. It offers a long list of plans, each feeling well-rounded with its price, in addition to excellent speed, superior security and inexpensive pricing. HostGator, on the other hand, has a few problems, namely in the privacy and speed departments.
In this DreamHost vs. HostGator comparison, we’re going to see how they stack up step-by-step, isolating the variables that make them shine and the ones that make them sink. At the end, you’ll know which is the best option for hosting your site. That said, we recommend reading our DreamHost review and HostGator review in addition to this guide.
Because we’ll focus mostly on these web hosting services, their overall ranking could change. As you can see in our DreamHost vs. SiteGround comparison, sometimes a service that’s better than the rest of the market isn’t better when compared one-on-one.
Setting Up a Fight: DreamHost vs. HostGator
For our comparisons, we loosely follow the criteria used in individual reviews. “Loosely” is the operative word, here, as following our reviews exactly would result in an eight-round bloodbath that’s not only lengthy, but also unfair. Instead of placing equal weight on, say, hosting types and speed, we’ve condensed the review criteria.
We’ve found that five areas are important: features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security. Support is important, too, but seeing as most web hosts have at least decent support, it usually isn’t a concern. Each round is worth a point, and whichever web hosting service claims three or more points at the end will be our winner.
Each round will start with some notes on our expectations for that criteria. For example, we’re looking for daily backups in round one and a generous refund policy in round two. Next, we’ll talk about how well the services satisfied our expectations for that round, then give some thoughts on how they compare. Finally, we’ll declare a winner and award a point.
That said, we recommend reading through each round rather than just scanning the winners. Some rounds are very close, forcing us to make a judgement call on what aspects we believe are the most important — an evaluation that doesn’t necessarily apply to you.
Web hosts have evolved in the last few years when it comes to features. The free ad credits of iPage look stale now compared to the advanced server software of Hostinger (read our iPage review and Hostinger review). While we appreciate extra goodies, they’re not a suitable replacement for what we consider essential features.
Those features should help you do three things: build, optimize and secure your site. There should be at least one feature in each area. For example, a solid service in this round will provide a website builder, built-in caching and daily backups. We’re going to compare what DreamHost and HostGator offer when it comes to features, and also when they introduce those features in the lineup.
DreamHost offers an excellent range of features that fit directly into the three areas mentioned above. We’ll talk about building in a minute, but for optimizing, you have full SSD storage and a cache on certain types of hosting, and for securing, you have daily backups and a free SSL/TLS certificate.
While the shared plans still showcase plenty of features, the WordPress plans stand out most. DreamHost made it onto our best web hosting for WordPress guide with its DreamPress plans — managed WordPress solutions built in a cloud environment (read our MDDHosting review for another cloud-focused host).
DreamPress plans come with all of the aforementioned features, as well as an unlimited CDN, one-click WordPress staging, managed WordPress updates and a paid version of Jetpack, which is an essential WordPress plugin (as you can read in our beginner’s guide to using WordPress).
For those who are unfamiliar with WordPress, you can use Remixer, which is DreamHost’s in-house website builder. While not quite up to par with our best website builders, Remixer is a solid offering, fit with a block-style interface that resembles Webnode (read our Webnode review). The theme selection is solid, too.
However, Remixer has a unique advantage over other website builders. You can use the excellent theme selection and easy drag-and-drop interface to design your website, but you can also export that finished website to WordPress. If you want the flexibility of WordPress but don’t care to hire a developer or purchase a theme, Remixer is one of the few ways you can dip your toe in both worlds.
HostGator has equally as many features as DreamHost, but they don’t span the range of plans. Instead of breaking up hosting tiers based on performance, HostGator, for the most part, breaks them up based on the features you get, which is a dated practice we’ve seen from services like Bluehost (read our Bluehost review).
Like iPage and JustHost (read our JustHost review), HostGator distracts from the lack of features with free ad credits and multiple one-click installers. We’re not complaining, but those really aren’t features at this point — they’re expectations. What’s lacking is SSD storage across plans, as well as daily backups and caching, which are featured in the WordPress plans.
Features not included with your plan are available in the marketplace, and while we appreciate the one-stop shop for, well, shopping, we’d like to have most of the features included out of the gate.
Where HostGator shines is in the building department. You have two website builders at your disposal, although one of them is clearly superior. The first is HostGator’s in-house website builder, which (as you can read in our Gator review) isn’t all that impressive.
You can also use Weebly to build your site. As you can see in our Weebly review, it’s a solid inclusion for any hosting package, fit with a no-nonsense interface, a wonderful selection of themes and solid third-party integrations. HostGator provides the “connect” package, which allows you to use the free version of Weebly with your own domain.
Round One Thoughts
This round doesn’t come down to the included features, but rather where those features come in. DreamHost provides the essentials across plans, building upon them as the price increases. HostGator, on the other hand, barely gives you anything on the low-end, forcing you to upgrade to a costly package to get a well-rounded list of features.
Pricing is a complex topic for web hosts. While there are exceptions (read our 1&1 IONOS review for one of them), most services wait until checkout to clarify the rate you’ll pay. What’s advertised as a package that costs a few dollars per month is often more than a $100 when you enter your payment information. That’s because you’ll need to purchase multiple years of hosting to get a decent rate.
In this round, we’re looking at the rate of DreamHost and HostGator, but also how clear that rate is throughout the checkout process. Additionally, we’re going to compare the available durations of plans and the money-back guarantees.
DreamHost is cheap across the board, although it may not appear that way at first. Compared to a service like Hosting24, DreamHost’s rate is higher (read our Hosting24 review). Upon renewal, however, DreamHost is cheaper than most of the competition and gives you flexibility in duration, to boot. If you’re looking for cheap web hosting, DreamHost is a sure bet.
Shared plans are very impressive, with DreamHost offering an introductory rate of less than $3 per month for a year or three years, and a rate of $6 per month upon renewal. That renewal rate applies to the monthly plan, too, which DreamHost offers, thankfully, without penalty (read our Arvixe review for an example of a host that punishes monthly users).
DreamPress plans are more expensive, but still slightly cheaper than Kinsta with a similar feature set (read our Kinsta review). That said, if you can’t swing the $20 to $30 price point, SiteGround is an excellent budget alternative (read our SiteGround review).
What sets DreamHost apart most, though, is its money-back guarantee. You have a full 97 days to change your mind, which is outmatched only by A2 Hosting’s anytime money-back guarantee (read our A2 Hosting review). DreamHost’s guarantee also applies regardless of duration. That means if you decide to purchase a monthly plan, you still have north of three months to get all of your money back.
Comparing HostGator’s pricing table to DreamHost’s shows that the services are similar when it comes to rates. Shared plans start at nearly the same price point, and WordPress plans are even cheaper with HostGator. However, looks can be deceiving, and that’s definitely true here.
The prices listed on HostGator’s website are only valid if you purchase three years of hosting upfront. However, HostGator also offers one- and two-year plans, as well as one-, three- and six-month durations. The shorter you go in duration, the more expensive the monthly rate gets.
The one-, three- and six-month plans charge the renewal rate, which is $11 for the most inexpensive shared plan. HostGator may give you a good chunk off on your initial term, but you’re making up for it in the long run. Furthermore, you’ll have to purchase a lot of hosting to get the discount, meaning significant upfront costs.
Thankfully, the money-back guarantee isn’t bad. HostGator offers 45 days to get a refund, which is more than most hosts. Even so, it’s less than DreamHost and InMotion Hosting, the latter of which gives you a full 90 days (read our InMotion Hosting review).
Round Two Thoughts
Like round one, this one is pretty clear. HostGator is more expensive upon renewal and forces you to purchase multiple years of hosting to get a decent rate. DreamHost has a simple pricing scheme that costs around half as much upon renewal and gives you flexibility when it comes to duration without punishment.
3. Ease of Use
With all of our web hosting reviews, we purchase a plan incognito so we can experience it the same as you would. That starts with landing on the site, browsing through the list of available plans, choosing one and completing checkout. In this round, we’re going to look at how easy it is to purchase a plan and set up a website with DreamHost and HostGator.
DreamHost makes finding and choosing a plan simple. The website is modern and intuitive, and each product page provides a toggle for seeing monthly and yearly rates. Once you’ve chosen a plan, the site brings you to a third-party checkout process that puts Namecheap’s multi-step checkout to shame (read our Namecheap review).
The checkout process doesn’t bombard you with add-ons or additional services, either. It asks the duration you want to purchase and little else, making the whole process feel effortless. After completing the payment, you’ll go directly to a password creation page, which is better than sending an email with your login credentials (read our LunarPages review to learn why).
Finally, you can login. DreamHost uses a proprietary control panel that combines account and website management into a single place. That said, it lacks the finesse of the control panels seen with Pagely and Kinsta. DreamHost’s control panel is more similar to Midphase, showcasing all of the available services through a left-side menu (read our Midphase review).
Instead of focusing solely on the service you’ve purchased, DreamHost has tabs for every service it offers. Behind the services you don’t own are advertisements to purchase them, which leads to a bloated interface. That said, we like having everything under one roof, so it’s hard to fault DreamHost.
HostGator presents some issues during checkout, not because checkout is difficult, but because you’ll have to be vigilant not to overpay for your subscription. As mentioned in round two, HostGator gives you a rate for three years. Furthermore, it pre-selects multiple add-ons during checkout, which is annoying.
Once you’ve finished paying, HostGator will send you multiple emails, one of which holds your login credentials. This delivery method poses some issues. If the client fails to have an encrypted connection, the email will arrive on an unsecured connection, meaning a man-in-the-middle attack could expose the dirty details of your account. Furthermore, the password sent to us didn’t work.
However, you will quickly forget these faults once you land in the dashboard. HostGator uses a modified cPanel worthy of our best web hosting with cPanel guide, combining account and hosting management under a single roof in a way even more distinguished than DreamHost.
You can jump to the marketplace to purchase additional services, access support using the left-side bar and manage your domains all from the same screen. If you want to dig into the details, HostGator provides a full version of cPanel. HostGator’s dashboard feels like the second version of DreamHost’s. It’s more concise, more powerful and better optimized.
Round Three Thoughts
DreamHost has a straightforward checkout process, while HostGator keeps you on your feet by preselecting a duration and some add-ons. That said, the control panel is more significant here. They’re very similar, overall, but HostGator’s feels more refined, which is enough to put it on the board for the first time.
4. Speed and Uptime
We measure speed and uptime using two tools: Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact. To ensure a level playing field during the tests, we launch a site using the most inexpensive shared plan and install a blank copy of WordPress. That way we can eliminate variables and isolate the performance of the web host alone.
DreamHost performed well in our speed testing, although we’ve seen faster hosts. It scored 90 out of 100 from Pingdom, suggesting a good amount of interference from the web host on loading speed. In comparison, Bluehost scored 94 out of 100, and A2 Hosting and SiteGround scored 96.
Digging through the graph above, we can see that the majority of the load time — which was just longer than one second — resulted from the “wait” metric. That means the browser was waiting to receive data from the server. Considering the most inexpensive shared plan doesn’t include the caching that’s included on DreamPress plans, that’s the most likely culprit.
Load Impact had better results. We use this tool to stress the server, sending 50 virtual users within five minutes. During that time, we note the response time of each user, as well as any unfulfilled requests. DreamHost had a decent level of inconsistency, although it was far from the horrible performance we noted in our GreenGeeks review.
During our testing, we had 100 percent uptime. DreamHost has you covered if you have any downtime, though. Unlike most web hosts that promise 99.9 percent uptime, DreamHost has a 100 percent uptime guarantee. For each hour your site is down, you’ll receive a credit for one day of hosting. However, that’s only up to a maximum of 10 percent of your next hosting period, meaning it covers only the first three hours.
HostGator is the worst-performing site we’ve run through Pingdom. It scored 83 out of 100, which is more of a difference from DreamHost than it would seem at first. Our site had no content on it, so 17 points off a perfect score suggests that there are optimizations that HostGator isn’t taking.
We can see in the graphic that the wait time was relatively low, though. The larger issue is that HostGator had more requests, presumably for “coming soon” pages and the like. HostGator blocked a number of those requests, too, meaning they ate up unnecessary network overhead without actually contributing anything.
While DreamHost has a decent amount of inconsistency during our Load Impact test, HostGator had even more. Thankfully, all of our requests made it through, but there were a number of spikes that showed up as the user load increased.
As for uptime, HostGator is better than most services. There’s a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee that — unlike its sibling, HostMonster — actually means something (read our HostMonster review). If your site ever falls below 99.9 percent uptime, you’ll receive a free month of hosting. That said, the guarantee only applies to shared and reseller plans.
Round Four Thoughts
By the numbers, DreamHost wiped the floor with HostGator this round. It not only performed better when sending a single user to the site, it also handled a load of 50 visitors better. That said, HostGator has the superior uptime guarantee. While that’s not enough to give it the win this round, it is something to consider.
5. Security and Privacy
While we’ve had some back and forth other rounds, this one is as straightforward as they come. Endurance International Group (EIG) owns HostGator, which (as you can read in our Site5 review) bodes very poorly for security and privacy. DreamHost, on the other hand, maintains a clear dedication to your data that’s seen almost nowhere else.
DreamHost gives you all of the tools you need to secure your site. You’re protected automatically with a free SSL/TLS certificate, daily backups, Cloudflare integration and a web application firewall. Furthermore, DreamHost includes these security features across all plans, which means you’re protected no matter what price you pay.
The only thing not included is a malware removal tool, although DreamHost offers DreamShield for $3 per month. DreamShield will scan your site weekly for malware and automatically clean anything it finds. Considering most malware tools at this price simply scan your site, DreamShield is impressive.
As impressive as it is, though, it’s nothing compared to DreamHost’s dedication to user privacy. Every domain provides domain privacy for free, which replaces the information you’d have to enter in the WHOIS record with DreamHost’s information. There are only a handful of other services that include this level of privacy protection, WestHost being one of them (read our WestHost review).
The list of advertising partners includes Amazon Web Services, WPBeginner, Yahoo, Bing, Google Ads, Facebook, Twitter and many, many more. EIG unapologetically gathers everything about you and sells it for profit. HostGator’s domain privacy, unsurprisingly, runs $15 per year.
Thankfully, the security features are better. HostGator includes daily backups via cPanel on shared plans and via CodeGuard on more expensive ones. However, it doesn’t even include SiteLock — the “lite” version — which is a shame. Thankfully, you still get a free SSL/TLS certificate.
One key feature that’s missing, though, is a web application firewall. This is a feature included in the $40-per-month SiteLock package. Some of these features show up on the pricier plans, such as the WordPress range, but they should span the lot.
Round Five Thoughts
This round was decided before we wrote a word, not because we want HostGator to lose, but because we know how sketchy EIG brands are. DreamHost is incredible when it comes to security and privacy, enough so that it would beat just about any host. In this case, it won by a mile.
6. Final Thoughts
DreamHost swept the board, falling slightly behind in its ease of use. That said, it only came up short because HostGator’s control panel is so good, not because DreamHost’s control panel is bad. Overall, DreamHost is one of the best web hosting services around, and we’re happy to declare it our champion.
While HostGator is one of the better EIG brands around, it falls flat on nearly all accounts. Everything has a caveat to it, which is made even worse considering the price is higher than most hosts. If you’re not satisfied with DreamHost, we recommend checking our web hosting archive before purchasing a plan with HostGator.
Do you think DreamHost is the better option, as well? If not, why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.