HostGator and Bluehost are some of the largest web hosting providers in the space. Datanyze claims the two account for 544,721 domains. That’s about four percent of the entire market, a figure quite high when compared to Pagely (read our Pagely review) which only holds 0.07 percent of the market.
Despite the massive hold the providers have in common, you can only pick one when starting a website. We’re here to provide a fact-based look at the two providers, examining the most important areas of web hosting so you know which provider is best for you.
For some general web hosting knowledge, check out our web hosting archive. There, you’ll find the best web hosting providers, as well as lists like the best web hosting for WordPress and tutorials like how to register a domain name.
HostGator vs Bluehost: A Battle Between Titans
We’re going to throw two of the largest web hosts in the ring to see who comes out on top. It’ll take place over a series of four rounds, comparing the major aspects of each. After detailing each area, we’ll share some final thoughts and declare a round winner.
The four areas we’ll evaluate are price, ease of use, speeds and uptime, and security and support. While not the only areas that are important to a web host, these four provide a good overview when pitting them against each other.
After the four rounds, we’ll settle on an overall winner for the comparison. The decision will be based on the rounds themselves, meaning that our pick isn’t set in stone. A touch of grey mixes with the black and white of this comparison, so make sure you read through completely to find the right host for you.
It’s important you understand how exactly we’re evaluating each host before continuing, though. Read up on how to choose a web hosting provider to learn some specifics about the criteria we look for, or maybe check out the best cheap web hosting if price is of concern.
If, after going through both providers, you still don’t find a fit, then you can always attempt to host your own website. It’s a bit of a clunky experience, but still a definite possibility for ultra tight wallets. Now let’s jump right into comparing two of the best web hosting providers in the industry.
The bottom line is everything, and the web hosting world holds no exception to that rule. We’re first going to look at the price of both web hosts and compare just what you’re getting for your money. It’s important to note, though, that while there may be differences in dollar amount, we’re judging the overall value of the host relative to the price.
HostGator has one of the largest selection of plans among web hosts we’ve reviewed. There’s something for nearly any user and, unlike many competitors, the prices feel justified across the board.
Despite the selection, the most attractive option is shared hosting. This is a cost effective choice for individuals and small businesses, which is a big reason why HostGator ranked among our best web hosting for small business. You can get the Hatchling plan for only $3.95 per month, but you’re probably better off with the slightly more expensive Business plan that includes an assortment of extra features for only a couple bucks more.
|Hatchling Plan:||Baby Plan:||Business Plan:|
Free SSL certificate
Dedicated IP address
Hatchling plans are particularly limiting. You only have access to a single domain and are forced to use a dynamic IP, meaning no changes can be made on this level. However, you do get $200 in ad credits across Bing and Google, which adds a bit of extra value.
Business is much better because it comes with the same goodies, but lifts the domain and IP restriction. You get a dedicated IP address as well as a free SSL certificate, an inclusion that would normally run $20 or more per year.
Across all plans, though, are quite a few features. You have access to the HostGator builder, one that ranks among our best website builders. It comes stock with hundreds of designer themes, each optimized for mobile use.
HostGator offers far more than just shared plans, though. Cloud hosting starts at $4.95, WordPress at $5.95, VPS at $19.95 and dedicated at $119. These plans come with their own set of features and, unfortunately, don’t align directly with Bluehost because of that. While they’re omitted from this section of evaluation, you may find a good home there.
The lineup at Bluehost is slightly smaller, but plans come with a more extensive list of features. The three shared offerings mirror the prices of HostGator. Even so, the plans feel more well rounded, fit with extras that apply to all users.
50GB website space
|Unlimited domains |
Unlimited website space
Spam experts included
Site backup included
The Basic plan at Bluehost is just as limiting as the Hatchling plan at HostGator. It’s a single domain plan that’s suitable for individuals, but certainly sits on the low end of the bell curve. For most, upgrading to Plus or Prime is far better.
Plus brings with it unrestricted website space, domains, email accounts and email storage. Even for individuals, having the extra email and website space is worth a couple dollars. You also get $200 in marketing credits and “spam experts” which will constantly scrub your site for malware.
Prime has the same introductory rate as Plus, but costs slightly more when renewed. Even with the renewal jump, this plan provides the best value among the lineup. You get everything as you do with Plus, with the addition of domain privacy and free site backup.
Bluehost offers a variety of other services outside of shared hosting including cloud, WordPress, VPS and dedicated hosting. WordPress plans, for example, start at $19.99 per month, nearly four times the price of HostGator. However, the plans also bring a custom PHP configuration, SiteLock security and more, making a direct comparison blurry between the two providers.
On shared plans, though, the lines are straight. Between the two, you’re trading off an SSL certificate and website builder for spam removal, site backup and domain privacy. It’s small and, for some, may be insignificant, but these few factors are what we’ll use as a basis for the conclusion of this round.
Round One Thoughts
On a razor thin margin, Bluehost slightly edges out HostGator for this round. The prices are the same on shared plans, with a negligible difference in features. The largest is trading a free website builder at HostGator for free site backup at Bluehost.
Sure, the website builder is nice to have, but site backup is far more useful considering around 25 percent of all sites use WordPress anyway. If a website builder is of concern, HostGator does suffice. However, it certainly isn’t as detailed as the builder at Wix (read our Wix review) for example.
Additionally, spam removal and domain privacy provide far more upside than an SSL certificate. Yes, an SSL certificate protects any personal information entered on your site, but domain privacy and spam removal apply to all, whereas an SSL certificate is far more niche.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is an even tighter matchup between the two. Both are built on cPanel, taking first and second places on our best web hosting with cPanel, respectively. For good reason, too, as both implementations take an already clean interface and add extra features to make it even better.
HostGator uses a typical cPanel interface with a few minor changes. The first, and perhaps most useful, is a second search bar on top of the page. You have the normal cPanel search bar, with an additional one at the top for searching the knowledge base.
WordPress users can take advantage of the MOJO Marketplace directly within cPanel as well. Here, you can purchase new plugins and themes for your WordPress site without opening another tab. The prices are a bit steep in the marketplace, but the products are of a high enough quality to make any purchase worth it.
As far as managing your site goes, everything works fluidly at HostGator. This cPanel implementation is involved enough to give you plenty of options without sacrificing the ease of use in the original design. There is, however, an issue when moving out of this area.
HostGator’s support area has an archaic design, a far cry from the smooth cPanel interface. It’s clunky by any definition of the term, fit with difficult to read text and cheesy clipart icons. To give you some reference, the copyright information on the support page hasn’t been renewed since 2002.
That isn’t to say the level of support is bad. In fact, it’s an area we’ll rank very well in round four. However, this design lends itself to a poor overall support experience, bogged down by too many options and no way to make sense of the mess.
Bluehost has a slightly different take on cPanel. The categories are moved from the center to the left-side menu, without a search bar for cPanel or the help center. Even so, the segregation of tools within the menu makes managing your site easier than ever.
The general array of site management tools are present including FTP/SSH access, domain management and DNS record settings. The two interesting inclusions are the “my sites” and “marketplace” tabs, though.
The first is specifically for WordPress users, allowing a quick overview of your site directly within cPanel. This isn’t just a broad look at resources, though. You have much of the control of the WP backend within cPanel, including plugin and theme management. For single sites, the inclusion is a bit arbitrary, but essential for those running two or more.
Similar to HostGator, the second tab brings you to the MOJO Marketplace. While it doesn’t give the provider any advantage in this round, it’s certainly a feature to consider when checking out Bluehost.
The real deviation from HostGator is within the support panel. Bluehost has one of the cleanest support areas we’ve seen, combining every avenue under a single roof, but making sense of it all.
There are six categories that divide up the support area, with common questions under each. Say, for example, you wanted to set up an email forwarder. You’d go to the email tab and then select the “setup forwarders” question.
Bluehost will then display every form of support that falls under the category of setting up a forwarder account. In this case, there’s a video and article, as well as options to contact Bluehost. Furthermore, the system will actually recommend what it believes to be the most helpful piece of information based on the question.
Round Two Thoughts
HostGator and Bluehost are neck and neck when managing your site is on the table. While cPanel differs between the two hosts, both are excellent redesigns that add new features to the interface while keeping the integrity of the original design.
However, Bluehost clearly has a better support area, one of the best we’ve seen outside of this comparison. HostGator’s dated design simply can’t stand against Bluehost’s system. You can find what you need quickly, with all the options presented in a clean and organized manner.
If both sites were compared strictly on cPanel, then declaring any sort of winner would be an arbitrary conclusion at best. However, the support panel makes the decision between the two quite clear.
Speeds and Uptime
Testing speeds and uptime is a bit tricky as a normal speed test factors in the server response time as well as all information on the site. Images, for example, take up a significant amount of loading time, meaning the results aren’t too reliable.
To accurately compare the speeds of these two hosts, we formed a different methodology. Using domaintools.com, we reverse DNS searched both providers and used the top five domain names as the sample for the test. The nameservers we used were for shared plans, offering a nice baseline for comparison.
Next, we used a tool called Bitcacha that measures server response strictly. No content is loaded on the site through the tool. Instead, only the response time from the server back to the user is measured.
After running all five domains through the test, we averaged the results of two servers in the U.S. (one for the West coast and one for the East coast) to provide a solid figure in which these two hosts can be compared.
HostGator comes out of the gate with slightly disappointing speeds. The performance is still excellent given the cost, but response times from the server reached slightly higher than its competitor.
Our tests returned an average response time of 45.3ms. Again we must stress, this is purely a test of server response time, so your results will be higher. Bitcatcha’s own results came out with a 52.5ms response time, but this figure only accounts for a single site.
Since HostGator is based in the U.S., the results aren’t all too surprising. What is surprising, though, are the speeds abroad. The responses around the world stayed shy of 200ms overall, with the London-based servers edging just over 300ms.
So, results are speedy across the board, with a particularly impressive rate abroad. That doesn’t matter if your site goes down, though. Thankfully, HostGator has one of the best 99.9 percent uptime guarantees from any web host we’ve seen.
If within a given month your site falls below the 99.9 percent uptime threshold, HostGator will compensate you for the entire month. This only includes unexpected downtime, so server maintenance doesn’t count, but it’s a clear devotion that your site will stay online constantly.
Bluehost has a slightly faster response time in the States, with slightly slower speeds abroad. Our tests returned an average 37.4ms from the server, nearly 10ms shorter than HostGator. Even so, it’s a negligible difference overall.
Abroad speeds showed slightly higher rates, though. Servers in East Asia and Australia returned sub-200ms speeds, but European servers touched 400ms. It’s a larger delta between the two providers, certainly, but one that only European users (particularly those near the UK) will feel.
Uptime gets a bit messy as Bluehost provides no figures for uptime history or any sort of guarantee. However, in our Bluehost review, we observed 100 percent uptime over a 24 hour period. A few Google searches returned similar figures, with uptime overall falling between 99-100 percent.
It is more of a long game with uptime, a measure of how long your website will stay online overall. While a single 24 hour figure couldn’t possibly tell the full story, it’s a fairly good indicator that you shouldn’t worry about your site going offline with Bluehost.
Even so, there is no guarantee, and often, that wouldn’t matter. Many hosts advertise one with no intent on follow-through. However, when put up against the guarantee at HostGator, Bluehost simply falls short.
Round Three Thoughts
Judging on speeds alone, the two hosts are quite close together. Sure, there is a 10ms difference in the U.S., but that’s negligible when other elements are brought into consideration. You should experience little to no difference in speeds between them.
That makes the determining factor for this round uptime. The history of both providers is fairly constant, meaning you shouldn’t expect your website to go down with any more frequency at one host over the other. However, the 99.9 percent uptime guarantee at HostGator gives it enough of an advantage to edge out a win in this round.
Security and Support
Finally, we reach an important but often overlooked area of web hosting. Web sites are increasing vulnerable to DDoS attacks and other realms of cybercrime, putting more value on the security your site has and how the web host can support it.
There is certainly a large number of security features at HostGator, but many of them are hidden behind paywalls. Starting with the free stuff, though, all web hosting plans come stock with an SSL certificate and automatic weekly offsite backups.
These features are useful, yes, but not outside the realm of what you can handle yourself. HostGator also offers SiteLock, domain privacy and encrypted backups with CodeGuard. On shared plans, these features are only available for purchase, with some more expensive plans including them stock.
Including some security features and omitting others isn’t surprising for an inexpensive plan. However, HostGator’s choices are a bit interesting. An SSL certificate, for example, is an important part of web hosting, but not one that applies to every site. If your site doesn’t collect personal information, an SSL certificate really isn’t necessary, whereas a feature like SiteLock applies to every website online.
As mentioned in round two, the real stinker at HostGator is its support panel. That isn’t to say the support is bad, though. In fact, it’s quite dense. While the support area itself is stuck in the past, the amount of content is staggering. HostGator has an article or video for nearly any topic, and while it can be difficult to track each down, you’re sure to find something helpful.
However, ease of use and support often work in tandem. Part of good support is easy access, meaning we can’t overlook the bygone design. It’s an unfortunate part of HostGator’s system that adds a demerit to its score.
Bluehost changes up the list of included security features a bit. SSL certificates are an additional purchase, a tradeoff that comes with more applicable features for everyone. Shared plans come with Spam Experts and domain privacy right out of the gate, protecting your WHOIS information and keeping your site clean.
Overall, the trade is well worth it. Yes, an SSL certificate is important, but spam detection and removal is far more important. After all, it doesn’t matter if in-transit information is compromised if a piece of malware can gather it at the source.
That’s only for shared plans, though. WordPress plans, for example, come with a greater array of security features, a list that HostGator can’t keep up with. You’ll get an SSL certificate as well as SiteLock security and an included CDN.
We’ve already touched on Bluehost’s support section, but it shines particularly well when put next to HostGator. It’s an intuitive interface that gives you the all pieces of support for a particular topic. Furthermore, the recommendation system means you’re likely to find the most up to date piece of content as well.
Contacting Bluehost poses a few difficulties, though. Phone and live chat are available around the clock, with convenient segregation of different departments. Email support, on the other hand, is a bit difficult to find. In fact, the only way we found to submit an email ticket was to Google “bluehost email support”.
Even so, this is a small con. Live chat and phone support are sufficient for the majority of situations, and email support is available if you have the willpower to track it down.
Round Four Thoughts
Unlike other rounds, the winner here is quite clear. Despite a lengthy process for email support, Bluehost has a clear advantage over HostGator. The support hub is one of the best we’ve seen, with practical security features included with each site out of the gate.
HostGator’s system isn’t broken, and all the tools are there to make something that works properly. However, in its current state, it simply can’t stand up to Bluehost and what it offers to customers.
After four rounds of duking it out, Bluehost reigns champion over HostGator. However, the battle was certainly close, meaning the right host for you can’t be solely based on this direct comparison.
For a better view, check out our Bluehost review and HostGator review. You’ll get more specifics about each provider so you have a better idea of which is the right fit for you. If neither fit the bill, feel free to check out our other web hosting reviews to find a match.
Do you like HostGator or Bluehost better? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.