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Bluehost vs DreamHost: there's only one winner


Bluehost vs DreamHost

In this Bluehost vs DreamHost comparison, I’ll reveal the similarities and differences between the two providers. I analyzed multiple factors, such as pricing, ease of use, performance, security, and customer support. These are the key things to consider when deciding which provider is best for your website.

If you’ve been around the block for a while, you know that putting Bluehost and DreamHost together, is like putting Ares and Mars in the same boxing ring. They are two major WordPress-focused hosts, and each promises to be the best. Heck, they even have the same WordPress recommendation under their belts. So while comparing two hosting providers to two gods of war from different mythologies may be overkill, I really wanted to make a point.

Consiquently, this comparison is not "which one is good and which one is bad" sort of thing. We have 2 very strong competitors here.

To that effect, I purchased plans from Bluehost and DreamHost and made sure to really put some pressure on the pair. Let's finally see, which one holds up better.

Bluehost vs DreamHost: general info

At first glance, Bluehost and DreamHost share many common features. They both focus on WordPress and WP optimization but support other CMSs too. Prices are not that different either, especially when it comes to renewals. Nevertheless, the difference is that while Bluehost accommodates beginners and offers many business-focused features, DreamHost is more of a universal option.

I've put all of their features into a nice little showdown. However, since this article turned out to be quite a long one, you can just jump to a conclusion altogether.

BluehostDreamHost
Rating:
4.2
4.2
Pricing:from $3.95/mofrom $2.59/mo
Ease of use:Modern native dashboard with the classic cPanel integrationNative control panel
Performance:99.99% uptime and 361ms response time>99.99% uptime and 231ms response time
Security:SSLs and server monitoringSSLs, daily backups, server monitoring, domain privacy
Support:24/7 live chat and phone24/7 ticket support and 5:30AM - 9:30PM PT live chat
Website:www.bluehost.comwww.dreamhost.com

Winner:

Pricing comparison

Bluehost shared hosting that starts at $3.95/mo is a little bit more expensive than DreamHost's, which is priced at $2.59/mo for an entry-level plan. Additionally, both providers offer similar scalability options for quite similar prices. Managed WordPress, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers are among the choices.

Shared hosting is definitely the go-to option for the majority of users. Quality hosting providers will be able to host both the smallest personal sites and medium-sized business websites on their shared servers. So that's the option I'm focusing on in this article.

Both providers include a free domain, SSL certificates, unmetered bandwidth, and the same 50GB SSD storage space for a single website in their entry plans. However, other features are different:

  • Bluehost's Basic ($3.95/mo) will allow you to add unlimited email accounts alongside the basic features.
  • DreamHost's Starter ($2.59/mo) does not include email accounts at all but adds daily backups and domain privacy.

Apart from the lack of email accounts, DreamHost is both cheaper and offers better features. Daily backups and domain privacy can easily be worth $30 extra per year.

But just like everything nice, Bluehost and DreamHost prices come with certain conditions. That is, you have to pick the longest billing term to get the cheapest price, and it will increase after that billing term is over. Here's a quick cheat sheet on what to expect:

ProviderPlanTerm requiredTotal initial priceTotal renewal price
BluehostBasic36-mo$142.20$323.64
DreamHostStarter36-mo$93.24$215.64

DreamHost is cheaper no matter where you look – advertised or renewal pricing.

In any case, no matter how good the features look on these cheap plans, they are very limiting. What if you need to add a second website? If that's your case, it's best to consider other plans too.

In total, Bluehost has 4 plans that range from $3.95/mo to $13.95/mo. Starting with the second one, you get to host unlimited sites with unlimited storage.

Bluehost shared hosting prices

Looking for the most bang for your buck, my eyes skip the most expensive plan entirely. For a steep price and even steeper renewal, it isn't offering anything special. So the 2 options we are looking at are Plus and Choice Plus.

  • Plus is a great option if you'd like to stick with Bluehost for a long time. $5.95/mo initial price and relatively affordable $11.99/mo renewal make it a good long-runner which you buy and forget.
  • As for Choice Plus, an extra $1 for $6.95/mo adds domain privacy and automatic backups for the first year. Unfortunately, the renewal is quite high at $16.99/mo, so the plan is good if you'll switch the hosts after the initial term.
Best Value

To get the best price with Bluehost in the long run, pick the Plus plan with a 36-month subscription. Unlimited websites and storage are quite affordable at $5.95/mo initially, and renewal is not as steep as with other plans.

Check Bluehost Pricing Now

As for DreamHost, the choice is much simpler. It only has 2 plans – Starter for $2.59 and Unlimited for $3.95/mo.

DreamHost shared hosting pricing and plans

The Unlimited plan comes with unlimited storage, websites, as well as professional email accounts for just a little bit more than $1 extra. This immediately looks like a way better value than Starter.

Best Value

If you know that you'll need more than 1 website, DreamHost unlimited plan offers the best value. Pick it with the 36-month in advance payment. The total will be $142.20 – the price of Bluehost's entry plan. On the other hand, renewal is steep, at the total of $395.64/mo.

Check DreamHost Pricing Now

DreamHost renewal for the Unlimited plan brings it much closer to Bluehost's pricing. So you do get the better deal initially, but renewals won't be much different. And that is why pricing alone is not enough to decide on a provider.

By the way, DreamHost has a 97-day money-back guarantee on its shared hosting plans. That is the longest refund period available. Bluehost, on the other hand, allows you to cancel and get a refund just 30 days after the purchase.

The bottom line is that initially, DreamHost is way cheaper than Bluehost. Especially if we look at the entry plans. On the other hand, when it comes to renewing, pricing differences are not too high. More so, if you are looking at more expensive options.

Hosting management: ease of use

From the get-go, what I can tell you is that Bluehost is far more beginner-friendly than DreamHost. It has two dashboards – one for regular settings and the other (cPanel) for advanced tools. DreamHost, on the other hand, delivers a dashboard that requires getting used to.

Now, don’t get me wrong. DreamHost’s dashboard comes with all the necessary tools. However, if you’re a first-time user, you’ll need some time to learn to navigate it.

Of course, ease of use can mean several things, which is why I plan to analyze the user interfaces, the control panels, and the website builders separately. That way, you can have a clearer picture of what to expect.

Default user dashboard

When it comes to user interfaces, Bluehost and DreamHost are not that different. All the main management, such as installations and domain configuration, is done in the main interface. In fact, both providers will install WordPress upon your first login. If that's what you'd like.

At the same time, Bluehost might be just a little more beginner-friendly. The first time you log in, it prompts the WordPress installation process, which basically creates a website for you.

Bluehost website setup

You can skip it or follow through. In any case, you'll soon see the main dashboard.

Bluehost main dashboard copy

The menu on the left has all the management tools. The My Sites area is by far the most useful one. It lists all your created websites and is the navigational spot to reach the management areas of each of those websites. That's another useful interface for performance, security, and even plugin settings.

Basically, you don't even need more advanced settings to get your website up and running with Bluehost. However, the Advanced tab takes you to cPanel.

The process with DreamHost starts similarly and WordPress installation is even easier. It's enough to just click the button and it will be done automatically.

DreamHost initial setup in control panel

At the same time, DreamHost's user management dashboard is the control panel. So navigating here becomes a bit more complex.

There is nothing confusing about the Home and Domains tabs. What’s confusing is that there is no tab like My Sites that allows me to see my websites. So, if I click on WordPress, where will I go? To my WP website? Or will I go to another management interface? In fact, you will go to neither of those places as WordPress menu item is there just for WordPress installation and advertisement of Managed WordPress plans.

But you will get used to DreamHost’s user interface. There’s no doubt about that. Although right from the start, you can tell that it’s a bit different from what you may be used to.

Ok, so we’ve established that Bluehost wins the User Interface round. Let’s see who wins the Control Panel round, shall we?

Control panel comparison

While Bluehost integrates the classic cPanel control panel, DreamHost control panel is the main user dashboard. If you’re familiar with cPanel, then you know how powerful it is. DreamHost’s control panel, on the other hand, while powerful, may give you a bit of a headache in the beginning.

Bluehost did this useful thing and integrated cPanel right in its dashboard. I find it incredibly convenient. All you have to do is to click on the Advanced tab, and voila! Let there be cPanel! 

Bluehost cPanel control panel

cPanel is great for creating free email accounts, accessing databases, or file manager. At the same time, Bluehost tweaked it a little.

Bluehost version of cPanel does not feature such standard modules as domain management or Softaculous app installer. Domains is now integrated into its own native dashboard. As for the apps... Well... You can install WordPress in My Sites or scroll all the way to Marketplace bottom to find a couple of other options.

These omissions are a bit too much. By trying to make your life easier, Bluehost might have just tried too hard.

Ok, so now it’s DreamHost’s turn. The provider chose to create a native control panel that's integrated together with the man dashboard. Everything looks amazing at first, with the menu on the left accommodating common management tools for domains, WordPress, email, and FTP.

DreamHost control panel

But inside of these menu items, there are some weird navigational choices. For example, under the Domains, there's a Websites button where you can see all your sites. I wouldn't even think to look for a general website management area under the domains. So it takes a little while to get used to DreamHost's weird UX choices.

Apart from that, the control panel is functional, and that's what's important.

In the end, I think that both providers are on the same level when it comes to actual control panels. Bluehost emitted some of the important stuff while DreamHost confused itself with some navigational choices. Nonetheless, both control panels are perfectly functional, and you'll be managing your website like a pro in no time.

Extra website management features

To help you out building and managing websites, Bluehost allows creating staging environments and using its WordPress-based website builder. DreamHost, on the other hand, includes not one, but 2 website builders. Although site staging is not available.

First things first, Bluehost staging is one of the best features of this provider. Integrated directly into WordPress, the provider allows you to create a copy of the website that's only visible to you. If you'd like, you can use it to make and test changes (or fix bugs). Once everything is working as it should, you'll be able to publish those changes to the live version in one click.

Bluehost website staging tool

This feature can be a life saver. Imagine if you want to update a plugin but you're not sure if it will not break the site. Do that on the staging copy and test it out!

Another WordPress related feature that Bluehost has is the website builder. It's a simplistic tool that creates a website for you based on a couple of questions.

You can change Bluehost's demo content into your own, adjust some design choices, colors, and you're good to go.

Bluehost website builder layout choices

What's exceptional about this builder, is that it functions as a WordPress plugin, and turning your simplistic site into a powerful WordPress one will be easy once you're ready.

DreamHost also has a similar builder, but this time, you know from the beginning that you're working with WordPress.

BoldGrid website builder allows you to choose from dozens of templates as well as choose what pages you need to design. It's much more powerful from the start, as you can add additonal plugins to design your own templates and other website elements.

DreamHost Boldgrid website builder

Of course, for pure simplicity, just change demo content into your own – there's no easier way on creating a website.

Another website builder, Remixer, is not as powerful. I'd personally only use it for a temporary "coming soon" announcement.

DreamHost Remixer website builder templates

You get to choose from 6 themes and a couple of templates for each design element. It really does not get any more simple than this.

So while both Bluehost and DreamHost have some additional tools to help you out, Bluehost wins. 2 DreamHost website builders cannot beat the convenience of the staging tool.

In the end, both providers are easy to use, causing no issues whatsoever when it comes to website and hosting management. However, I'll give more points to Bluehost here, as its dashboard is a little easier to navigate, and it includes staging.

Bluehost vs DreamHost performance

Performance is the area where DreamHost is more reliable, faster, and stronger. It showed slightly better uptime when monitored for the long term, loaded a website faster, and was able to handle more traffic than Bluehost.

In this part of Bluehost vs DreamHost comparison, I took a detailed look at the performance of the 2.

Uptime and response time

When monitored for 2 months, both providers came out with high reliabilty scores, although DreamHost had fewer outages than Bluehost.

Bluehost uptime stands at 99.99% with a total of 11 minutes of downtime caused by 6 outages. This is a very good result for shared hosting.

Bluehost uptime and response time

Speed considered, Bluehost server is also fast. It averaged 361ms response time. At the same time, the speed improved only for the second half of testing, which shows a connection to the outages that all happened at the same time. The clear line of improvement is encouraging – Bluehost is fixing issues without causing trouble for the users.

Meanwhile, DreamHost uptime was better than 99.99%, with only one outage that lasted for a mere minute. Coming from a provider that promises 100% uptime, this result is excellent.

DreamHost uptime and response time

As for response time, DreamHost was also faster, averaging at 231ms. This is one of the best results for shared hosting that you can expect.

Overall, both providers show good reliability results, with DreamHost being slightly faster and more reliable.

Website speed

Comparing website speed, DreamHost again comes out slightly on top. In this comparison, there're 3 measures that are the most improtant to us:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) shows us when the biggest piece of content on the page is loaded. This is the point of time when users think that the website is loaded. Keeping it under 2.5 seconds is advised.
  • Fully Loaded Time – that's when the website has officially stopped loading and is fully functional.
  • TTFB – initial server reaction to request to open the page. It's the measure that helps us decide whether it's the provider that's slow or if the theme is not optimized.

Bluehost's Largest Contentful Paint on a fully-built website is 1.8 seconds, meaning that the provider fits into the recommended 2.5 seconds just fine. At the same time, that's not exactly the fastest result possible.

Bluehost page load speed

While LCP is not exceptional, there's no further delay till the website is fully loaded. So I'd say that to have your site loaded in 1.8 seconds is excellent result.

However, TTFB indicates that the server could be faster. It takes a full second to react to the initial request. If not for that delay, we'd see Bluehost loading websites in less than a second.

Our contender number 2 shows slightly better results. DreamHost's Largest Contentful Paint is 1.4 seconds, making it faster. Again, that is not the top result in the industry, but it is perfectly fine.

DreamHost website loading speed

As for Fully Loaded Time, there's a short delay as it stands at 1.6 seconds, making a very similar result to Bluehost's.

One thing that mostly separates DreamHost from Bluehost here is the TTFB. DreamHost is way faster to react to the initial request.

Once again, DreamHost shows slightly better results than Bluehost in terms of speed, but the actual difference is not that big. What I can tell you is that a human's eye cannot see the difference between the 2.

CyberNews Pro Tip

Website speed also depends on where your website is hosted. The closer the server is to your visitor, the more chances it will load fast. Both Bluehost and DreamHost have servers in the US. So the speed of your website will be best for visitors that are coming from the North American region.

Stress testing

The stress test is where the real difference shows, skyrocketing DreamHost to the next level. I've sent 50 bots to each website I created with the providers to see if they can handle the traffic. After all, websites are meant to be visited, right?

Bluehost felt like I did when it was the first time I realized how much taxes I'll have to pay. No joke, it was way too much for Bluehost (or me) to even think about.

While Bluehost did not handle all 50 bots, I tested how much it would feel okay with. Turns out, it's 15.

Bluehost stress testing results

Even with 15 visitors, Bluehost speed (represented by the blue line) increased together with the bots (the grey line). This shows that the provider slowed down slightly to support all the traffic coming in.

But let's not bash Bluehost too much. Even 15 visitors is quite a lot for any shared hosting server, as you know... It's shared. This means that you have to be friendly and leave some precious server resources to your neighbors.

On the other hand, DreamHost did not have such a problem. It was able to greet all 50 bots that decided to visit.

DreamHost stress testing

This time, the blue line representing speed does not follow the grey line representing bots. There are occasional bumps here and there, but overall, the speed remains the same.

That's what I mean by next level. DreamHost truly outperforms Bluehost when it comes to server power.

All in all, regarding website speed and reliability, Bluehost and DreamHost are quite similar. Nonetheless, DreamHost is slightly better in these regards and completely outpeforms Bluehost when it comes to server power.

Website security

A Bluehost vs DreamHost comparison is not complete without a security analysis. In this department, DreamHost does a better job because it offers more security features than Bluehost. Features that Bluehost makes you pay for.

When you purchase a Bluehost plan, you get a basic security package that includes an SSL certificate and server monitoring. Backups are taken as well, but the provider does not guarantee their restoration. Plus, if that was possible, a fee would be charged.

So it is recommended you take care of backups yourself or buy a third party solution. If you're willing to pay, you can get:

  • Daily backups via CodeGuard for $2.99/mo
  • Monitoring and prevention of malicious software and attacks via SiteLock for $2.99/mo
  • Domain privacy for $0.99/mo
Bluehost paid security features

So, while Bluehost provides the bare necessities for security, you must pay for the rest. And that is where DreamHost takes the lead.

No matter which DreamHost subscription you purchase, you get

  • Free SSL certificates,
  • ModSecurity as a web application firewall
  • Domain privacy protection, and 
  • Daily automated backups (mystery-free)
DreamHost free security features

All in all, DreamHost takes security seriously and doesn’t consider it a money-making opportunity the way Bluehost does. It gives you the minimum, and then it makes you pay for the rest. So, naturally, DreamHost conquers security in this comparison.

Customer support

DreamHost drops the ball when it comes to customer support. It has a “working hours only” live chat, a 24/7 email ticketing system, and paid phone support. Whereas Bluehost has 24/7 live chat and phone support. Both have extensive knowledge bases, though.

There is no way you will go through your hosting experience like a hot knife through butter. You’ll need help at one point or another. That is why customer support is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a hosting provider.

Testing the customer support service in a comparison between providers is easy. Give them the same problem and watch them squirm (evil laugh.) And that’s precisely what I did.

While I waited a few minutes for Bluehost’s support agent to connect, I received fast answers. I appreciated that.

I asked about the unlimited part of shared hosting, and the agent was not so keen on giving me the answers. Doh! The unlimited trick thing is as old as hosting itself. Who’d be naive enough to spell out that secret? It’s like a magician revealing his secrets. 

With DreamHost, on the other hand, I had to wait a bit more for an agent to connect. Not to mention that I had to use the live chat option during working hours

Live chat with DreamHost

I had this feeling that the agent was playing dumb just so that he doesn’t have to answer my question. I refuse to believe he didn’t actually understand it. Ultimately, I was told what unlimited actually means.

Apart from the issue at hand, both agents were friendly and polite. They didn’t want to be honest, but given the question, I don’t blame them. They’re probably instructed to dodge it. The good news is that they’re capable enough to solve technical issues. That’s where they’re most needed anyway.

Now, if you want to look for answers yourself, know that Bluehost and DreamHost have extensive knowledge bases. They include tons of articles and guides.

In fact, if you go for DreamHost, you’ll want to give the knowledge base the first shot. One thing I noticed during my experience is that you’re sent there in the first place anyway. Just cut the middleman.

Bluehost’s knowledge base is just as equipped. You have several categories, but you can use the search bar if you’re looking for something in particular.

What you need to remember here is that Bluehost and DreamHost have similar customer support services. However, Bluehost’s is slightly better because the live chat is available 24/7. When it comes to knowledge bases, the providers are equal.

Bluehost vs DreamHost: final recommendation

ThisBluehost vs DreamHost comparison turned out to be a very close battle, but some differences are obvious. Bluehost takes better care of its user interface and ease of use together with fast 24/7 customer support. Meanwhile, DreamHost showed better performance and security.

Here's how they compare in each key area:

FeatureBluehostDreamHostVerdict
Pricing
DreamHost is cheaper than Bluehost with the starting price of $2.59/mo. Meanwhile, Bluehost prices start at $3.95/mo.
Interface
Bluehost interface and tools are slightly better. DreamHost is easy to use but certain UX choices and functionalities are not as sophisticated.
Performance
In each testing, DreamHost showed better results. It was slightly more reliable and faster, and much more powerful than Bluehost.
Security
Bluehost covers security basics, while DreamHost includes extra features such as daily backups and domain privacy.
Support
Bluehost 24/7 live chat beats work-hours-only DreamHost customer support. Nonetheless, both providers have quite good support teams.

Altogether, if it's your first time with web hosting, Bluehost is definitely the better option. It's easier to use, and additional tools such as staging and website builder can save your day. Plus, performance differences won't be visible until your website really expands.

At the same time, DreamHost is your guy if you need better performance and security. However, with live chat not available 24/7 and a slightly confusing user interface, you should be ready to do some learning on your own.

Alternatives to Bluehost and DreamHost

Bluehost and DreamHost are titans of the industry. It’s not to say that they’re the only ones. You can find more on our best hosting services top list. Hostinger, for instance, offers excellent performance at incredibly affordable prices. SiteGround shares the titan name with the two, and WP Engine, albeit more expensive, is an icon for managed WordPress.

Hostinger

Hostinger has the lowest possible prices for shared hosting. That, and it also is one of the most reliable providers on the market when it comes to performance. Plus, Hostinger is one of the few hosts left that do not put their entire focus on WordPress. You can easily host other applications as well.

Just to make things clearer for you, the cheapest shared hosting plan from Hostinger costs $1.39/month. Bluehost charges $3.95/month and DreamHost $2.59/month for basically the same thing. So if you're on the budget, Hostinger might be the best alternative to consider.

SiteGround

Just like Bluehost and DreamHost, SiteGround has WordPress endorsement. This means that the provider's entire focus is on WordPress websites. And SiteGround proves that with a custom control panel, site staging, collaboration tools, and speed-boosting technology that focuses entirely on WordPress.

SiteGround is more expensive, starting at $6.99/mo. For this price, you naturally get significantly better performance together with advanced tools. It's one of the best alternatives for business websites.

WP Engine

If you’re looking for high-end WordPress hosting, WP Engine is the go-to provider. When it comes to managed WordPress, it develops its own tools in terms of management, optimization, and security.

Additionally, WP Engine uses Google Cloud infrastructure for its services, meaning top-in-the industry hardware and software are guaranteed. It's quite expensive, starting at $22.50/mo, and is the best alternative if you're looking for professional managed hosting for business projects.

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