HostGator is a well-known name in the web hosting world that you’ve likely seen at the top of best web hosting guides around the internet. For a big name, HostGator doesn’t impress as much as it should. The speed and range of plans is good, but the high price tag doesn’t seem worth it once everything is put together.
In this HostGator review, we’re going to talk about our experience after launching a site with its Hatchling shared plan. Over the course of the review, we’ll talk about what we liked and disliked when it comes to features, price, security, ease of use, speed and more, then we’ll give our verdict.
HostGator didn’t get to the status it has on the back of a subpar service. It’s a solid offering, with fast speed, an excellent interface and a wide range of plans. That said, it seems like some of your money goes to the name, and that makes it feel like less of a value.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Easy to use
- Wide range of services
- Excellent managed WordPress hosting
- Great paid security features
- Modern cPanel implementation
- Free ad credits
- Lack of free security features
- Privacy needs work
- No phone support
- Dated knowledgebase
Alternatives for HostGator
Much like the security features we’ll touch on later, HostGator has a lot to offer in terms of regular features. That said, there aren’t many features of note on inexpensive plans, unless you’re willing to pay for them.
Most of the features come through the marketplace, which you can access through your account dashboard. There are many services you can add to your website, including HostGator’s website builder, SEO Tools, Constant Contact and Weebly.
The website builder isn’t bad, as you can see in our Gator by HostGator review, but Weebly’s the better choice. Even better than that is Wix, which sits at first place in our website builder reviews (read our Wix review).
Shared plans come with goodies, but nothing that makes a huge difference. You get $200 in ad credits spread across Bing and Google, as well as 52 one-click installers. Though we like the one-click installers, we’d be willing to trade the ad credits for solid-state drive storage on shared plans.
If you go for a managed WordPress plan, which is easily the best of the lot, you’ll get a few more features. In addition to CodeGuard and SiteLock, which we’ll talk about in the “security” section, you’ll get caching and a content delivery network. As you can in our beginner’s guide to using WordPress, you can get caching on your own, but having it included isn’t a bad thing.
All of that feels stale, though. The little extras here and there are attractive, but we’d prefer SSD storage and malware scanning on shared plans to flashy features. The more expensive plans are packed full, as they should be, but the low end leaves a lot to be desired.
HostGator Features Overview
|Web Application Firewall|
|Live Chat Support|
HostGator is a prime example of what we don’t like to see in pricing. It has strong points, which we’ll talk about, but it still subscribes to the dated and deceitful pricing practices of other web hosts and our best antivirus software.
The prices look good when you first land on the website. Shared plans can be had for less than $3, managed WordPress is under $10 and a decent VPS plan is around $30. Those prices are only if you purchase three years upfront, though. If you want to purchase less than a year — HostGator offers one, three and six-month durations — the price more than doubles.
That brings the most inexpensive shared plan to nearly $11 per month, which is more than most of the web hosting market. A2 Hosting is around half as much upon renewal and the same price when buying the initial term, and DreamHost is even less (read our A2 Hosting review and DreamHost review).
First impressions are everything, and HostGator stacks the deck in its favor by appearing cheaper than everyone else while actually being more expensive. We understand businesses need to do what they need to do to survive, but that comes at the expense of the customer in this case.
That said, HostGator offers plans for one, three and six months, as well as one, two and three years, which is more flexibility than most web hosts provide. The discount is only applied to annual and multi-year packages, though, so including three and six-month plans doesn’t make a difference.
You get 45 days to change your mind, which isn’t bad. It’s not impressive compared to InMotion Hosting’s 90-day refund window or Dreamhost’s 97-day period, but a month and a half is still plenty of time to get your money back (read our InMotion Hosting review).
Ease of Use
Signing up for HostGator isn’t difficult per se, but nailing down a plan is. As we’ll get to in the next section, it offers almost every type of hosting available, and trying to make sense of that can be overwhelming. It’s clear that HostGator is putting its best foot forward in streamlining the website, but there are still hurdles to get over.
For example, the types of hosting are laid out in the top menu, with shared hosting leading the pack. That part we like, but next to shared hosting is an option for the website builder, which has a different pricing structure. Unlike, say, GoDaddy, which includes a website builder with your hosting, HostGator’s is a separate entity (read our GoDaddy GoCentral review).
There’s a seperate login area for the Gator builder, too, but what’s confusing is that you can use a free Weebly account with your shared hosting plan (read our Weebly review). Though it’s one of the best website builders, the inclusion of Weebly is strange, especially when HostGator has its own website builder available.
The sheer density of products makes finding what you need confusing, which isn’t good considering web hosting is already intimidating. HostGator’s website doesn’t look or navigate poorly, but the distribution of plans is difficult to digest.
Once you choose a plan, checking out is simple. HostGator isn’t the clearest about promotional pricing, and there are multiple, obnoxious add-ons to contend with on the checkout page, but the process isn’t difficult.
After you’re done, HostGator will send you a few emails, one of which contains your login information. Though we’re not fans of that credential delivery method, it’s not the worst. HostGator also goes through the trouble of providing links to the billing area and control panel, along with the nameservers for shared accounts.
The password you’re provided is randomly generated with numbers, letters and special characters, so make sure you store it with our best password manager Dashlane (read our Dashlane review).
The problem for us was that the password didn’t work. It did initially. We could log in, go to cPanel and mess around with things, but when we tried to log in again, the password failed. Note that we had the password stored with LastPass (read our LastPass review), and double-checked it against the email HostGator sent. Even so, we had to reset.
After that fiasco, though, we could log in. HostGator splits management between an account dashboard and cPanel (read our best web hosting with cPanel guide). The account dashboard is great, with HostGator providing quick links to important sections of cPanel and offering a marketplace where you can purchase SiteLock, a SSL/TLS certificate and more.
HostGator uses a modified cPanel, which is a good thing in its case. Though not as integrated with other services as Bluehost (read our Bluehost review), HostGator does an excellent job of displaying the most relevant information without becoming overwhelming.
Between the account dashboard and souped up cPanel, HostGator is a joy to use. That’s after you’ve signed up, though. Choosing a plan and knowing what you’re buying is confusing and tedious, and our issue with our credentials caused headaches. HostGator makes the effort worth it, but we don’t think effort like that should be required.
HostGator is the baseline when it comes to hosting types. Though that causes issues during sign-up, the amount of options is undeniable. No matter what kind of website you’re trying to build, or on what scale, HostGator can accommodate.
We’ve touched on the confusing website builder and shared hosting dilemma, but we’ll recap it.
HostGator offers three tiers of Hostgator, which puts multiple users on the same server to save money, and you can use a free or paid version of Weebly with your shared plan. There’s also the Gator website builder, which is similar from a hosting standpoint, but different from a building one.
Moving up the line, there’s managed, cloud WordPress hosting. It’s cheap compared to Kinsta and Pagely (read our Kinsta review and Pagely review), but lacks the dedicated WordPress features of more costly options. Even so, it earned a spot in our best web hosting for WordPress guide.
If you’re looking for more power, there are VPS and dedicated plans.
VPS, or virtual private server, uses a similar structure to shared hosting in that multiple users are on a single server. Unlike shared hosting, though, there’s a separate, virtual server that’s dedicated to you. Think of VPS as a compromise between shared and dedicated hosting. You get a dedicated server environment and resources, but without the cost of a physical server.
If you want a physical server, though, HostGator can accommodate. There are three server types to choose from, and you can configure them with hard disk drive or SSD storage, along with Linux or Windows. You can choose to have the server be fully managed or semi-managed if you’re comfortable getting your hands dirty.
We’re impressed with HostGator’s lineup, despite the confusing layout of shared plans with website builders. The WordPress hosting stands out among the lot, but we wish HostGator would offer non-WordPress cloud hosting. Overall, though, we have little to complain about.
Speed & Uptime
We use Load Impact and Pingdom Speed Test to measure website speed. Between the two, we can get a decent idea of how well a web host performs relative to its competitors, but website speed isn’t entirely on the host. There’s a lot involved, so read our guide on how to improve website loading times if you’re having trouble.
Both tests we ran were with HostGator’s most inexpensive shared plan and a blank version of WordPress, as are all of our web hosting speed tests.
HostGator performed decently, but we’ve seen better. Pingdom Speed Test gave it an 83 out of 100, with most of the time being accounted for by DNS requests. The “wait” metric, which is the key concern for us, wasn’t bad. Even so, HostGator falls short of SiteGround when it comes to speed (read our SiteGround review).
Our Load Impact test, which sent 50 virtual users to the website over five minutes, produced less than desirable results. There was a decent amount of variation in load times as the user load increased, suggesting that HostGator’s shared hosting isn’t the best with large traffic spikes. The consistency of SiteGround and A2 Hosting looks better.
That said, HostGator isn’t the worst we’ve seen when it comes to the Load Impact test. There were only a few spikes, and the variation between load times wasn’t massive. If you want to see what an inconsistent performer looks like, read our GreenGeeks review.
As with most web hosting services, HostGator has a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, but unlike HostMonster, which doesn’t guarantee much of anything (read our HostMonster review), HostGator walks the walk. If your shared or reseller hosting fails the 99.9 percent threshold, you’ll get one month of credit on your account.
You’ll need to reach out to get the credit, which isn’t surprising. Note that the guarantee only applies to shared and reseller plans. Dedicated hosting is covered by a separate guarantee where you’ll receive a prorated credit for any amount of time the server is down.
HostGator offers a lot in security, but you may not get it for free. With multiple partners in the website security realm, it’s easy to find the services you need to stay protected. That said, some web hosts provide similar services for free, which puts HostGator behind.
That all depends on the plan you choose, though. What isn’t dependent on that is a free SSL/TLS certificate. Across all plans, you can install an SSL certificate, which will tell browsers visiting your website that it’s secure. If you’re just starting, read our how to install an SSL certificate on WordPress guide to make sure you do it correctly.
That’s about it for shared plans, but you can upgrade using the marketplace in your account dashboard. HostGator offers CodeGuard and SiteLock for an additional fee, and though we’re happy with the quality of those tools, other web hosts offer similar items for free.
CodeGuard is an automated backup service that will store your files off-site daily. Though the 1GB limit is a joke compared to our best online backup services, you’re allowed unlimited files and databases for around $2 per month. If you jump to the $8 per month subscription, you’ll get 10GB of storage, on-demand backups and daily website monitoring.
For the price, it might be worth it just to backup manually or invest in a WordPress plugin that enables you to use cloud storage to backup your website. Read our cloud storage guide for recommendations.
SiteLock is more worth it. It’s basically an antivirus for your website that will scan it daily for malware. The basic package, which runs around $3, only scans your website, though. You’ll need to upgrade to a $7 package to remove malware.
Plus, if you want a web application firewall, which, once again, many web hosts include for free, you’ll need to jump to a $40 package. SiteLock is an excellent service, and we think it’s worth the price, but some form of malware scanning for free on basic shared hosting has become the norm.
That’s on shared hosting, though. WordPress hosting, for example, includes basic versions of CodeGuard and SiteLock for free. That said, we wanted to see at least weekly backups and malware scanning on shared plans. Spending an extra $10-$20 per month to get what other web hosts include for free just doesn’t make sense.
When talking about website privacy, we always start with your domain. Your domain has information tied to it known as a WHOIS record, which is publicly searchable online. That means whenever you register a domain, anyone with an internet connection can see you own it, along with your address, phone number and more.
The way to circumvent that is domain privacy, which replaces your information with the registrar’s. HostGator offers domain privacy, but not for free. It’s $15 for a year, which is the same price as the domain registration. Though it doesn’t seem like much, domain privacy shouldn’t be a service.
Providers such as DreamHost are leading the charge with free domain privacy with every purchase, but even hosts that charge, such as InMotion Hosting, don’t ask for as much as HostGator. It shouldn’t be a paid service in the first place, and HostGator’s tax isn’t helping the matter.
What is a concern are the third parties HostGator shares personally identifiable information with. Among the list are Amazon Web Services, Commission Junction, Facebook, Google AdWords, PayPal, Salesforce, Verizon, WPBeginner, Yahoo and Bing. In short, your information is sold to or shared with advertising platforms at least.
There’s also the concern of Endurance International Group. It’s a web hosting conglomerate that owns HostGator, Bluehost, SiteBuilder, MOJO Marketplace, iPage and more (read our iPage review). Your personal information is shared across platforms, so it’s not unreasonable for, say, MOJO Marketplace to be aware that you might be in the market for a WordPress theme.
Privacy isn’t a major concern for HostGator. Your information will be sold to and shared with whoever it wants, all in effort to sell you more products.
HostGator’s support is omnipresent. After logging in, no matter where you are, there’s a search bar for the knowledgebase and a link to start live chat. Those aren’t the only ways to get support, though. HostGator also offers around-the-clock live chat for U.S. and international customers.
Though we love how easy it is to access support, the support could use work. HostGator has a dated knowledgebase, fit with cringey clip art and stock images. The copyright has been updated for the current year, so it’s clear the knowledgebase hasn’t been abandoned, but it’s still an eyesore.
A dated look isn’t a problem, but the implications for user-friendliness are. HostGator uses an old version of its website in the knowledgebase, so if you click any of the top bar items, it’ll redirect you back to the main website.
That’s not just for the top menu, either. Some articles are in an updated knowledgebase, while others still use the dated look. It appears that at the time of reviewing, we caught HostGator with its proverbial pants down as it makes an effort to move to a more streamlined system.
From what we can see of the new knowledgebase, that system works, but it’s not fully implemented. We need to judge based on what we see at a particular time, so if you find HostGator when its knowledgebase has been changed over, adjust accordingly.
Live chat isn’t bad, but the reps aren’t always clear. HostGator’s support approach is more hands-off than, say, SiteGround’s or InMotion Hosting’s, and though that doesn’t make for an inherently bad support experience, it doesn’t stand out, either. HostGator’s support isn’t bad, but we’ve seen better.
HostGator feels disjointed. The range of plans is excellent, but the price is high, and the security features are great, but most users don’t have access to them. Overall, it’s a host that can deliver decent speed and a solid user experience, but with a high price tag and little substance when it comes to features.
It’s not bad, but you can do better for the price. If you’re looking for more options, read our other web hosting reviews.
What do you think of HostGator? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.