As part of our ongoing journey to find the best web hosting out there, we’re comparing two of the biggest names in the business: SiteGround and HostGator. Both have accolades, with SiteGround earning a spot in our best web hosting for WordPress guide and HostGator taking the crown in our best web hosting for small business guide.
There’s only one way to know which is best for you, though, and that’s pitting them against each other in a SiteGround vs. HostGator showdown. We’re going to compare the two providers over a series of rounds to see which is the best for your dollar. That said, HostGator is similar to Bluehost, so we imagine it’ll go like our SiteGround vs Bluehost match did.
Our comparison is meant to find the best web hosting provider of the two options, not the best in general. If you want to see how our competitors perform against the entire hosting market, read our SiteGround review and HostGator review.
Setting Up a Fight: SiteGround vs. HostGator
We usually score web hosting providers in eight categories. Though that’s great for thoroughness during our reviews, it makes for a long, and rather boring, comparison. Instead, we’ve condensed our review criteria into five rounds, not only for brevity, but also so the comparison is equally weighted.
Each round is worth a point, and whichever provider has the most points at the end wins. Earning a point in hosting types isn’t as valuable as winning a point in speed, so we’ve combined rounds.
The five rounds we’ll compare HostGator and SiteGround in are features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security.
The only missing category is support, which, in this case, isn’t a big deal. Some providers, such as Hostinger, provide excellent support, while others, such as FatCow, don’t (read our Hostinger review and FatCow review). Thankfully, SiteGround and HostGator are evenly matched in support.
First up is features. Though the term can define a lot when it comes to web hosting, we’re looking for a few things in particular. An easy way to build your site, be it WordPress or a website builder, is essential, as are daily backups and solid-state drive storage. Anything else will make a provider stand out from the pack.
SiteGround stands out with its excellent list of features. The essentials are covered across plans, including daily backups, a website builder and SSD storage, but certain plans come with specific features, too. Unlike, say, Bluehost, SiteGround establishes a solid baseline of features and builds upon it with more expensive plans (read our Bluehost review).
The website builder stands out, especially. Plenty of web hosts include website builders with their plans, but they’re often mediocre afterthoughts rather than full-fledged tools (read our GoDaddy GoCentral review for an example). With SiteGround, you get one of the best website builders out there in Weebly.
As you can see in our Weebly review, it gives you the tools you need to build a beautiful website. The free version is included, with the domain you registered, but you can upgrade to a higher tier if you need more media storage or expanded ecommerce features.
If you don’t want to use a website builder, WordPress is offered through cPanel. SiteGround is the best way to get managed WordPress hosting for cheap because it includes WordPress staging, a proprietary caching plugin and managed updates for free. That’s on top of the automated daily backups, Cloudflare integration and free SSL/TLS certificate.
HostGator offers just as many features as SiteGround, if not more. That said, it’s missing an important aspect of SiteGround’s lineup. Though features are available, the essentials aren’t included across plans. That leaves those pinching pennies with a web hosting plan that lacks in core function.
Starting with the good, though, you get access to Weebly, no matter which plan you choose. In fact, HostGator includes two website builders with your plan. You can build on Weebly or HostGator’s Gator. We recommend going with the former, though, because Gator leaves a lot to be desired (read our Gator review).
There are extra goodies, too, including $200 in ad credits split between Bing and Google and 52 one-click installers. As we’ll get to in round three, those installers are through the MOJO Marketplace, which has caused us issues in the past (read our JustHost review for an example).
Those goodies take the place of essential features, though, including automated daily backups, SSD storage and malware scanning. That $200 in ad credits won’t get you far, and if reach is what you’re after, having a fast website with SSD storage will attract more users. HostGator is focused on all the wrong things, leading to a disjointed and unbalanced features list.
Round One Thoughts
HostGator and SiteGround offer impressive features, but HostGator seems misguided in its approach. SiteGround gives you the essentials on all plans and builds on that with the more expensive tiers. HostGator, on the other hand, hides features such as SSD storage and daily backups behind a paywall, making the winner for this round clear.
Web hosting pricing isn’t as simple as it is with, say, our best VPN services. In a clear attempt to appear to be cheap web hosting, providers advertise misleading prices, which can lead to devastating consequences when it’s time to check out (read our Arvixe review for an example). This round isn’t only about the price of the web host, but it’s also about how clear that price is.
SiteGround has a no-nonsense pricing scheme that we can get behind. Though not as clear as DreamHost — few are, as you can see in our DreamHost review — SiteGround doesn’t try to deceive users when it comes time to check out. Even better is the fact that SiteGround is cheap to begin with.
When you sign up, you’ll get an introductory rate that’s cheaper than renewal, which is standard for most web hosts. That renewal price doesn’t change based on duration, though. Most web hosts charge a higher monthly fee the shorter you go in duration, which, thankfully, SiteGround doesn’t do.
You also get the flexibility to choose the duration that’s right for you. It offers one to three years of hosting, as well as a monthly plan. The monthly plan comes with a $14.95 setup fee, which is annoying, but the price is the same. SiteGround is one of the few to offer month-to-month pricing on shared plans, which is good.
If you try the service and decide it’s not for you, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee on shared hosting. Cloud hosting only has 15 days, which is disappointing, and dedicated hosting doesn’t have a guarantee. Even so, the 30-day window covers most of SiteGroud’s lineup.
Glancing at HostGator’s website, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s cheap. It does the opposite of what we like to see from web hosts, though. It isn’t clear about what price you’ll pay until it comes time to check out, often making plans that appear to be less than $3 a month add up to more than $100.
The price you see on the website is if you purchase three years of hosting upfront. HostGator isn’t alone in multi-year discounts — read our Hosting24 review to learn about a service that does it right — but it is alone in hiking the price when you go for a shorter duration. If you’re interested in less than a year, the price of shared plans more than doubles.
In the end, you’ll pay more than you would with the competition. The most inexpensive shared plan, which is advertised at $2.75 per month, is $11 per month if you go with less than a year. Despite the fact that one, three and six month plans are offered, the price is the same between them, which doesn’t make sense.
That said, HostGator is more generous with its refund window. You get 45 days to cancel your plan and receive a refund, which is better than SiteGround but not as good as InMotion Hosting. As you can read in our InMotion Hosting review, that service gives you 90 days to request a refund.
Round Two Thoughts
Flat out, HostGator is more expensive than SiteGround. That’s ignoring the issues with deceptive pricing, too. Though HostGator gains a slight edge with a longer money-back window, SiteGround is more consistent and transparent with its pricing, securing a second win in this matchup.
Ease of Use
Web hosting ease of use is mostly focused on checkout and setup. After launching your website, you won’t have to deal with the web host much, putting more emphasis on getting your website up and running. In this section, we’ll look at how easy it is to get through checkout, as well as how much power is available for setting up your website.
SiteGround has a streamlined and inviting website. There are only a handful of hosting types in the top menu, making it easy to find what you need. Once you find the type of hosting you want, picking a plan is simple, too. SiteGround provides the most relevant differences between tiers right away, with all the gritty details buried in a comparison chart.
The clear price helps ease of use a lot, too. Moving through checkout is simple, as is setting your account credentials, but things start to fall apart after that. SiteGround moves from the modern and exciting to the dated and drab once you pass the login screen.
After logging in, you’ll land in your account control panel — not cPanel — which is dated. Though usable, SiteGround could use a facelift when it comes to managing your service. We much prefer the streamlined account dashboard that A2 Hosting offers (read our A2 Hosting review).
cPanel isn’t much better, and getting to it is a nightmare. The implementation isn’t as offensive as HostPapa’s — few implementations are, as you can read in our HostPapa review — but it’s not the modern cPanel we’ve come to know with other web hosts. SiteGround is usable, but it feels more like a chore than anything.
HostGator is the inverse of SiteGround. Its control panel is excellent, but signing up is difficult. There are a few reasons for that, including the deceptive pricing and many plans, but the biggest issue is that there are different login areas. If you’re using a website builder, you’ll need to go to different areas of the website to log in to Gator or your regular hosting dashboard.
We had even more problems when trying to get there. After you sign up, HostGator sends you your account credentials, including a randomly generated password. We don’t care for that approach, not only because it’s annoying, but also because it can comprise your login information (read our LunarPages review for more on that).
Plus, we couldn’t use the password that was generated. We copied the password directly and stored it in LastPass (read our LastPass review), but it didn’t work, even after checking the stored password against the email. Unless HostGator sent us the wrong information, there’s no reason why the password wouldn’t have worked.
Thankfully, we forgot many of those issues after resetting the password. HostGator earned a spot in our best web hosting with cPanel guide, and for good reason. It has a modern and intuitive interface that makes managing your website and purchasing additional services a breeze.
Everything about managing your site is simple, which makes up for many of the issues we had during sign-up.
Round Three Thoughts
HostGator had issues getting setup, while SiteGround was straightforward. That said, once it came time to manage the service, HostGator had the edge. Though SiteGround is still just as usable, it isn’t as inviting or as intuitive as HostGator.
Speed and Uptime
While other sections are mostly opinion, speed is concrete. We test services using two tools: Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact. Our tests are run using the most inexpensive shared plan with a blank version of WordPress installed so we can get a baseline reading for how well the web host performs.
SiteGround is one of the best performers we’ve seen among web hosts. It was fast, according to our Pingdom Speed Test results, though it didn’t appear that way at first. It took 2.98 seconds to load our blank WordPress website, but 2.4 seconds were spent on DNS resolution. The connect and wait metrics, which are more important, accounted for only 280 milliseconds.
In the end, Pingdom Speed Test gave the blank website a 96 out of 100, which is the best score we’ve seen outside of the fast but overpriced Pagely (read our Pagely review).
We also ran the website through Load Impact, which sent 50 virtual users to the server over five minutes. In addition to testing the response time for each virtual user, we made note of errors that popped up along the way. In some cases, there’s a 0-millisecond load time, meaning the website isn’t responding.
Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue with SiteGround. It stayed consistent throughout the test, minus a bump toward the beginning. Plus, there’s a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee that ensures your website will stay live. If your website falls below 99.9 percent, SiteGround will compensate you with a free month of hosting for each percentage point.
HostGator performed much worse in our speed testing. Pingdom Speed Test awarded it an 83 out of 100, and though a B- doesn’t seem too bad, it’s important to remember we’re loading a blank version of WordPress. When we dug into the details, we found that many requests were blocked, leading to a bloated response time.
We normally turn to our how to improve website loading times guide for improving speed, but that won’t get you far with HostGator. Its wait time is already excellent, meaning caching and compression are unlikely to help much. More concerning are the connect times and blocked requests, which are out of your control.
As we did with SiteGround, we ran HostGator through Load Impact next, using the same 50 virtual users over five minutes. Though not as inconsistent as GreenGeeks (read our GreenGeeks review), HostGator struggled to stay in one spot during the test. There are probably many contributing factors, but we suspect the lack of SSD storage is the main culprit.
There’s a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, too, which is similar to SiteGround’s. If your shared or reseller plan falls below that threshold, you’ll receive a free month of hosting. However, unlike SiteGround, it stops there. Whether you have 99.8 percent or 0 percent uptime, you’ll only get one month of compensation.
Round Four Thoughts
HostGator isn’t the worst performer we’ve seen, but it’s far from the best. SiteGround, on the other hand, is near the top of the list, with excellent speed, consistent performance and a solid uptime guarantee, to boot. Any one of those areas would give it the win in this round, but, thankfully, you get all three.
Security and Privacy
Our final round will focus on security and privacy. We’ll examine which security features are present, including malware scanning, a web application firewall, daily backups and a free SSL/TLS certificate, as well as how the web host handles your personal information.
Like its regular features, SiteGround’s security features are excellent. There are multiple layers of protection, including isolated websites on shared servers, a web application firewall, AI-driven anti-bot system and automated daily backups. Plus, you can use SpamExperts to protect your email.
There’s also a free SSL/TLS certificate included across plans, rounding out the security package. SiteGround includes everything we look for, and even goes further by offering excellent spam filtering for email and isolated server space. Though the security features are excellent, the privacy SiteGround offers is even more impressive.
SiteGround says it “will not… sell, rent, share or otherwise disclose personally identifiable information for commercial purposes in any way.” Most web hosts can’t say that, and in a world where web hosting services care little about your privacy, it’s nice to see SiteGround stand above the rest.
HostGator is part of Endurance International Group, which isn’t a good thing for privacy. Before getting to that, though, let’s talk about the positives. HostGator includes a decent spread of security features with your plan, including a free SSL/TLS certificate. Read our how to install an SSL certificate on WordPress guide if you’re getting started there.
That said, automated daily backups and malware scanning are missing. SiteLock is also under the EIG umbrella, and it includes malware scanning as well as a web application firewall. Though we couldn’t confirm that a WAF wasn’t included, it would seem that HostGator wants to hide those security features behind a paywall.
In addition to “the media, industry observers, marketing and advertising partners, vendors, customers, potential customers or partners,” EIG has a list of third-party partners, which includes WPBeginner, Google Ads, Bing, Amazon Web Services and more. You can find the full list here.
Round Five Thoughts
Few web hosts are concerned with your privacy, meaning any amount of care is almost an automatic win in this round. SiteGround not only demonstrates a clearer dedication to privacy, it also comes with the more robust list of security features.
With four round wins, SiteGround is our champion in this competition, which should come as little surprise. It sits near the top of our ratings and took down Bluehost when we compared the two. In almost every way, it’s the superior host.
HostGator has redeeming qualities, including multiple website builders, many hosting types and an attractive control panel. Those areas aren’t as important to us, though. Much more important are the features included with your plan free of charge and how well you and your website are secured. In those regards, HostGator falls behind.
Do you agree that SiteGround is the better option? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.