HostGator and Bluehost are web hosting providers that have a lot in common. Neither made it on our list of the best web hosting, but both are owned by Endurance International Group and come with similar pros and cons. That said, there are slight differences between them that may make you prefer one over the other.
In this HostGator vs Bluehost comparison, we’re going to go over those differences. Over the course of five rounds, we’ll see how the two stack up against each other, as well as our best web hosting for small business and best web hosting for WordPress.
Though we’ll pull from those guides for other points of comparison, our goal for this guide is to compare the two as directly as possible. If you’re interested in seeing how they perform against the wider web hosting market, read our HostGator review and Bluehost review.
Setting Up a Fight: HostGator vs. Bluehost
In our head-to-head matchups, we pull from the criteria in our web hosting reviews. That said, in our reviews, we judge individual providers over eight categories, which makes for a long and not entirely fair comparison. For that reason, we combine sections of our reviews into five rounds for our head-to-heads.
Those rounds are features, pricing, ease of use, speed and uptime and security and privacy. Each round is worth one point, and whichever service has more points at the end wins.
At the beginning of each round, we’ll say what we’re looking for from each provider, then run through how well the two satisfy our criteria. At the end, we’ll give our thoughts on how the two compare and declare a winner for that round.
Though we use a point system, we recommend reading through each section because there are often nuances that can’t be summed up by awarding a point here or there. Some rounds, a service may win by a landslide, while in others, it might come down to a small feature that isn’t relevant to you.
As with all our comparisons, it’s hard to say which features are more important than others. Because of that, we’re not as focused on specific features for this round as we are with how they’re distributed. In our SiteGround vs. HostGator matchup, for example, SiteGround won this round not because it had more features, but because they were included across plans.
HostGator is no slouch when it comes to features, but it doesn’t grant everyone access. As one of EIG’s main brands, it shows off integration with CodeGuard, Constant Contact and SiteLock. Not even basic versions of those tools are included across plans, though.
Unlike SiteGound (read our SiteGround review), HostGator breaks up its tiers based on features instead of performance. Between the three shared tiers, you’re unlikely to see any performance difference. Rather, you upgrade to get certain features, such as SEO Tools on the Business tier.
That doesn’t make much sense to us, especially because HostGator offers all those tools a la carte in its marketplace. The exceptions are the WordPress plans, which include CodeGuard backups, SiteLock malware removal and a free SSL/TLS certificate across tiers.
Thankfully, HostGator isn’t all bad in this round. It includes not one but two website builders with your subscription. The first is Gator, which is a proprietary website builder that, though decent, didn’t impress us much in our Gator review. That said, the other is one of the best website builders we’ve reviewed.
Every tier has access to the free version of Weebly at your domain. This plan — called “connect” in the Weebly lineup — normally runs $5 or so per month. As you can see in our Weebly review, it’s one of the few website builders that balance power and usability, allowing you to build a full-featured website easily.
Bluehost is similar in almost every regard to HostGator. The same list of features is available, including SiteLock, CodeGuard and more, all of which are reserved for higher tiers of hosting. That said, there’s a unique shared plan that allows you to get all those features and more, and it’s not too expensive.
There’ll be advertisements to “go pro” throughout Bluehost’s website, which is similar to HostMonster (read our HostMonster review). The top-tier shared plan comes with all the normal features, including a free SSL/TLS certificate and daily backups, as well as CodeGuard Basic, $200 in ad credits, free domain privacy, a dedicated IP address and two SpamExperts licenses.
As for a website builder, Bluehost also includes integration with Weebly. The same that’s true for HostGator is true here. You can use the free version as much as you want with your domain, and if you decide you need more storage or expanded ecommerce features, you can upgrade to a higher tier.
What stands out more is the WordPress plans. Bluehost’s WordPress plans are more expensive, but they’re packed with features. They include WordPress staging, managed WordPress updates and an excellent control panel that integrates with the platform.
Round One Thoughts
HostGator and Bluehost are fairly even when it comes to features. HostGator includes a second, mediocre website builder, whereas Bluehost includes expanded WordPress features but at a higher price. We prefer the all-inclusive features of Hostinger (read our Hostinger review), but between the two, Bluehost has the edge.
Web hosting companies are notorious for deceptive pricing (read our Arvixe review to learn about one of the worst offenders). As EIG-owned brands, Bluehost and HostGator are well-versed in the art, so this round will focus on how generous your refund period will be and the actual price you’ll pay when it comes time to check out.
On its face, HostGator is one of the most inexpensive providers out there. While the cheapest shared plan doesn’t go as low as Hosting24 (read our Hosting24 review), it’s less expensive than 1&1 IONOS (read our 1&1 IONOS review). The less than $3 price tag is only applicable if you purchase three years of hosting, though.
That price jumps to almost $11 per month if you go with less than a year, putting HostGator firmly in the expensive camp. The initial term has a discount, as is to be expected, but the jump upon renewal is unmatched by other web hosts. For example, A2 Hosting is the same price when you sign up, but half as much when it comes time to renew (read our A2 Hosting review).
Outside of the shared plans, the prices are unimpressive. Managed WordPress plans are cheap, but they lack the punch of Kinsta’s (read our Kinsta review). VPS options are available, but the entry level plan doesn’t impress, either, considering the price. All other types of hosting suffer the same fate as shared, too. For example, the $30 introductory VPS plan jumps to $90 upon renewal.
That said, HostGator is more generous than most when it comes to its money-back guarantee. You get 45 days to change your mind, regardless of duration, which is 15 days longer than most web hosts allow. There are some exceptions — read our InMotion Hosting review for an example — but HostGator provides a better safety net than most.
Bluehost has similarly deceptive pricing, but it’s even more annoying than HostGator. Like its EIG sibling, the price advertised is for three years, and that price increases the shorter your duration gets. That said, Bluehost doesn’t offer one, three or six-month durations for its shared plans like HostGator does.
Bluehost isn’t alone in that practice — read our JustHost review for another example — but it causes more problems than it’d seem at first. Monthly options are offered on the more expensive types of hosting, but not on shared plans, which punishes those who are trying to save money the most.
That said, the prices make more sense than HostGator. For example, managed WordPress plans, called WP Pro, are pricier than HostGator’s, but come with features such as staging, as well. Likewise, shared plans are more expensive, but the higher tiers include crucial features such as domain privacy and a dedicated IP address.
As for getting a refund, Bluehost offers you 30 days. Though that normally wouldn’t be a problem, it is with Bluehost. Considering you have to purchase multiple years of hosting on the shared end, having a longer refund window is only logical.
Round Two Thoughts
This round is interesting. HostGator and Bluehost suffer from the deceptive pricing mess we’ve seen with all EIG brands, but outside of that, they have different strengths and weaknesses. Bluehost’s pricing is more in line with what we’d expect, but the refund window isn’t as long, and HostGator offers monthly hosting options, but the price jumps way above what we’d expect.
Though it’s difficult to choose a winner, we’re going to have to give it to HostGator. The problems are less severe overall and you get a longer window to change your mind. That said, this one could go either way.
Ease of Use
Hopefully, you won’t have to spend much time in your web hosting control panel. After setting up your website, the control panel is really only there to change details about your plan, especially if you’re using WordPress. That puts the emphasis of this round on setup. We’re going to go through the checkout and setup process at HostGator and Bluehost to see which is more fluid.
HostGator isn’t inherently difficult to use — read out FatCow review to learn about an example of that — but there are persistent issues that may make checkout harder. Choosing a plan is cumbersome because HostGator has a dense lineup of hosting types and services (read our GoDaddy review to see another example), which is made worse by the deceptive pricing.
Other issues include having a separate login area for the Gator website builder and preselecting add-ons at checkout. Any one of those issues in isolation isn’t backbreaking, but the combination of them makes choosing and purchasing a plan more difficult than it should be, especially if you’re new to web hosting.
Though we’re not new to web hosting, we had problems. After we bought a plan, HostGator emailed us our credentials, which isn’t the best approach, as you can read in our LunarPages review. That said, they didn’t work. We tried and tried to log in, even going back to the original email to ensure the password was correct. Despite our efforts, we were forced to reset.
It’s a shame, too, because HostGator is a joy to use outside of that. The account dashboard is easy to navigate, with the critical web hosting settings placed upfront. cPanel is even more impressive, with a cohesive color scheme and a look that blends into the dashboard.
You may not have the same issues we did, but we have to go on our experience. Going through the process is worth it, but dealing with a headache just to sign up shouldn’t be necessary.
Oddly, we had similar login issues with Bluehost. The layout of plans isn’t as dense, making finding what you need simple. Checkout is similarly straightforward, unlike the multi-step nightmare that Namecheap puts you through (read our Namecheap review). Everything is fluid until it comes time to set a password.
Bluehost doesn’t send your login details over email, which is good. Instead, it asks you to set a password immediately after confirming payment. Well aware of the dangers of cybercrime, we generated a unique password using one of our best password managers, LastPass (read our LastPass review).
The password wasn’t honored, though. It seems Bluehost’s password creation screen can’t handle when you copy and paste an entry because we were able to login just fine after typing in the password manually. Considering password managers are mainstays in browsers, that’s unacceptable.
Thankfully, things look up after landing in the account dashboard. It’s laid out like HostGator’s, but it has a stronger focus on WordPress. The same tabs are present, plus a “my sites” tab with the WordPress symbol. There, you can manage themes, plugins and more, all without logging into the WordPress back-end.
Advanced settings are under the, you guessed it, “advanced” tab, which shows a familiar version of cPanel. Between it and the website management page, there’s no bloat in the control panel. Bluehost has a lean dashboard like HostGator, but pushes it even further with a deep integration with WordPress.
Round Three Thoughts
Bluehost and HostGator have issues when it comes to checkout, but both make up for it with a streamlined control panel. That said, Bluehost presented us with fewer issues during sign-up and offered a control panel that gives WordPress users more flexibility. Though not the best solution for everyone, Bluehost has the edge this round.
Speeds and Uptime
Our speed testing consists of launching a website using the most inexpensive shared plan and installing a blank copy of WordPress on it. After that, the website is run through two benchmarks: Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact. During this round, we’re going to compare the results we gathered for HostGator and Bluehost.
HostGator’s response time is far too bloated. Our Pingdom Speed Test results returned an 83 out of 100, which may not seem bad, but it is. It’s important to remember that our test uses a site with no content, so any points off a perfect score aren’t good. For HostGator, there are too many points off to ignore.
The graph shows that there were a lot of blocked blocked requests, meaning there’s network overhead where there shouldn’t be. It’s a shame, considering HostGator’s “wait” metric, which is the key one we look at for web hosts, is low. You can improve HostGator’s speed — read our how to improve website loading times guide to learn how — but it’s too slow out of the box.
Load Impact had problems, too. We used it to send 50 virtual users to the server over five minutes, measuring the response time for each and noting errors that crept up. Thankfully, there were no errors, but HostGator showed a decent level of inconsistency. Though not as bad as GreenGeeks (read our GreenGeeks review), more consistent response times are expected.
That said, the uptime guarantee is solid. HostGator promises you’ll have 99.9 percent uptime on shared and reseller plans. If your hosting ever falls below that limit, HostGator will compensate you with a month of hosting for free.
Bluehost had much more impressive results. Pingdom Speed Test awarded our website a 94 out of 100. Though Pagely was faster (read our Pagely review), Bluehost is one of the snappiest services we’ve seen, especially considering the price. Around that area, the only hosts that beat it are A2 Hosting and Hosting24.
The graph tells a much different tale than HostGator’s. There was little bloat, with no blocked requests or lengthy connect times. The “wait” metric was longer, but with how little there was outside of that, the website loaded faster. That number can be improved with caching, too.
Unfortunately, Bluehost wasn’t as impressive when it came to our Load Impact test. We still sent 50 users over five minutes, but Bluehost broke under the pressure. We saw multiple 0-millisecond response times during the test, suggesting the website didn’t load. In most cases, that happens when there are too many users on a server and not enough resources to share.
Even worse, Bluehost doesn’t have an uptime guarantee. It says “due to the complexity and nature of a shared web hosting environment, downtime occurs” and it won’t compensate you for it. Frankly, Bluehost is alone is making that claim. Shared hosting is complex, but it’s Bluehost’s job to handle it. That’s like telling you to deal with typos because editing is too hard.
Round Four Thoughts
Once again, we have strengths and weaknesses from both sides in this round. Unlike our SiteGround vs Bluehost matchup, in which there was a clear victor, both competitors presented a compelling argument. Though HostGator offers a generous uptime policy, its bloated load time can’t be ignored. That’s enough to push Bluehost into the lead for this round.
Security and Privacy
Our final round focuses on security and privacy, which EIG brands struggle with. To be clear, neither Bluehost or HostGator is a great option for the security conscious. If that describes you, you’re better off with a provider like DreamHost (read our DreamHost review).
Thankfully, HostGator provides many of the essential website security features we look for, and it does so for free. They include an SSL/TLS certificate and automated, daily backups across plans. Given the list of EIG brands, though, we’re disappointed that more isn’t included.
For example, SiteLock, which is a malware scanning and removal tool, isn’t included, even in a stripped down form. The basic scanning package, which should be included for free, is $3 per month. The full package, which provides a web application firewall and malware removal, will run you $40 per month.
Privacy is a joke, too, as it is with all EIG brands. Unlike Midphase and WestHost, HostGator doesn’t include domain privacy with your plan (read our Midphase review and WestHost review). Plus, it’s more expensive than most web hosts. Though you can usually get domain privacy for $8 to $10 per month, HostGator charges $15 a month.
Bluehost is a carbon copy of HostGator when it comes to security features. You get daily backups and a free SSL/TLS certificate with your plan, but other security features, such as SiteLock, aren’t included. Plus, we couldn’t clarify which server-side security features were in place.
We always ask web hosts about features, such as ModSecurtiy and BitNinja, because there’s no way for us to know if those security features are being used on the server end. We pried a support rep for answers, but found none. Instead, the rep redirected us to purchase Cloudflare and SiteLock.
Privacy is also bad, but Bluehost takes more steps than HostGator. The top two shared plans and the WP Pro plans include domain privacy for free, though at a high cost, and there’s a privacy center that makes it easy to see what’s collected and how it’s used.
We appreciate the step in clarification, but it doesn’t make the collection sting less. Bluehost attempts to appeal to the privacy conscious with its privacy center, but it’s guilty of the same nefarious tactics as other EIG web hosts.
Round Five Thoughts
Bluehost earned four points, making it the winner of this comparison. Though it may have seemed close, it wasn’t. Bluehost is the best EIG web host, despite suffering similar issues to the brands it shares the badge with.
HostGator has its strengths, particularly in the density of hosting types it offers, but it falls short on almost every account when compared to Bluehost. That said, neither offers the complete package. If that’s what you’re after, make sure to read our other web hosting reviews.
Do you agree that Bluehost is the better option? Do you like HostGator more? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.