HostGator review: just cheap or cheap and reliable?
In this HostGator review, I’ll explore the provider’s pricing, ease of use, performance, security, customer support, and more.
HostGator is one of the biggest providers in the web hosting industry. With affordable prices, cheeky marketing, and many promises to make your website a-ma-zing (!!), I’m not surprised that it's attracting a bunch of people.
And some of those people are genuinely happy with the service. Meanwhile, others – not so much. At least that's what several HostGator complaints and appraisals have claimed.
So even though there's a bunch of contradicting stuff, I simply bought a plan and put HostGator to the test. Now, allow me to take you on a wild chase for answers, and let's see whether HostGator's really worth your time?
Because I left no stone untouched, this review is very detailed and long. So if you’re looking for a quick summary, do jump to the conclusion at the end.
|Price:||Prices start at $2.75/month|
|Hosting types:||Shared, WordPress, cloud, VPS, reseller, and dedicated|
|Server locations:||The US|
|Support:||24/7 live chat and phone|
|Current deal:||Get up to 65% OFF HostGator!|
Pros and Cons of HostGator
- Highly stable and reliable web hosting
- Fast website loading time
- Affordable prices starting at $2.75/month
- Free Gator website builder
- Free security tools are limited
- Servers only in the US
Hostgator video review
HostGator hosting plans & pricing
HostGator falls into the cheap hosting services category, with shared plans starting at $2.75/month. On top of that, HostGator also offers other types of hosting packages, such as fully-optimized WordPress hosting, VPS hosting for bigger sites, and dedicated hosting for massive online projects and customization.
|Type of hosting||Best for|
|Shared hosting||Very easy to use for small-to-medium websites. $2.75/month|
|WordPress hosting||Easy to use and optimized for better performance, it's best fit for small-to medium-websites.|
|VPS hosting||Best fit for online stores and high-traffic websites looking for better performance. Need some technical skills.|
|Reseller hosting||Best for those looking to run their own web hosting business or website designers looking to sell their services.|
|Dedicated hosting||Provides complete customization freedom, but explicit technical skills are needed. It is the best fit for enterprises.|
In terms of options, HostGator has something for all types of websites. Plus, the pricing is competitive. Yet, shared hosting solution is what suits almost everyone's needs. Especially if you're just starting out.
For shared hosting packages, HostGator steps forward with 3 options. All of them come with a free SSL certificate, a free domain for a year, and a free website builder. Plus, the unlimited storage, unmetered bandwidth, and unlimited email accounts are there too.
As for how each hosting package differs:
|Hatchling ||Allows hosting a single website||$2.75/mo|
|Baby ||Allows hosting unlimited websites||$3.50/mo|
|Pro ||Unlimited sites, free dedicated IP address, SEO tools, and a free upgrade to positive SSL||$5.25/mo|
Overall, even if you pick the most basic plan, there won’t be any further expenses for the first year, as you already get a domain name included. Also, even the most expensive plan is relatively cheap.
However, when it comes to HostGator hosting plans, I personally think that the Baby plan offers the absolute best value. It’s less than $1 more expensive than Hatchling, but you get unlimited websites for your disposal.
Quick note, take things such as unmetered bandwidth, unlimited disk space, or email addresses with a grain of salt. Just like your device cannot fit unlimited photos, neither does the server. Especially when you are sharing it with a bunch of other people.
To enjoy promotional prices for longer, opt for HostGator's Baby plan with a 3-year subscription. For just $3.50/mo, you'll get the main necessities like a free domain and SSL, as well as the ability to host unlimited sites.
What's worth noting, HostGator has a pretty long 45-day money-back guarantee. The only catch is that the domain name fee will be deducted from the refund. Alternatively, if you already have a domain, you can easily make domain transfers for as low as $7.95.
P.S. To save an extra buck, you can migrate your website before the renewal time and enjoy some prolonged discounts with other providers. Plus, most of them do free migrations, HostGator included.
- Check out all available HostGator coupon codes to get the best deal!
All in all, HostGator remains one of the most affordable options at the moment. It also offers really good value, as it includes everything you need. Just mind the renewal prices and be aware of the extra stuff in your cart when purchasing a plan.
Hosting management – is cPanel easy to use?
During this HostGator web hosting review, I had a very bittersweet experience with the user interface. On one hand, the combination of the native customer portal with a cPanel is very simple and functional. On the other, some things just don’t work how they should.
HostGator uses a now standard mix of a customized dashboard and cPanel. The dashboard allows you to use the most basic features, while the more advanced configurations can be found in cPanel.
Here is what you’ll see once you log in:
It has all that you might ever need – SSL management, WordPress installation, Email Accounts, Databases, File Manager, and the convenient button that will launch cPanel. Plus, the dashboard looks great!
But let’s continue this quick overview. Here’s what cPanel looks like:
HostGator uses the traditional cPanel with just a smidge of personal touch. Everything is very well categorized and easy to find.
cPanel remains one of users’ favorite for its ease of use. Sure, you can easily set up your site using HostGators native hosting management dashboard. However, you’ll be able to find more options in cPanel when it comes to setting up email accounts or managing domains and subdomains.
It also can be very useful if you choose to install any other content management system than WordPress. Just scroll down to the Softaculous Installer App section and take a pick.
In summary of the interface – it’s very intuitive and has a wider selection of options to choose from.
Is HostGator good for WordPress?
HostGator pays a lot of attention to WordPress and the simplicity around it. For that reason, installing WordPress with HostGator is very easy. You just need to follow the “Install WordPress” link that’s directly on your dashboard and fill in the needed information.
You’ll find the "Install WordPress" button straight on your dashboard, in the Control Panel column.
Now there's no need to go to cPanel, as it will redirect you to the installation window directly. Although, you can choose to install WordPress from cPanel too. To do so, you'll have to click on the “WordPress” icon located in the Software section.
Either way, it will redirect you to the Softaculous one-click install option. It also has other apps like Joomla and Drupal, if you’re interested.
While I’m a big fan of WordPress, the number of providers that are focusing entirely on it is just too much. So I’m glad that HostGator is not hiding other content management systems under 9 locks.
Usually, WordPress installation is very smooth. However, I have heard quite a few stories where there was an error involved. If that happens to you, just try clearing your cache or checking if VPN is on/off. That seems to help in most cases.
Now if you choose to install WordPress, this is what you should be seeing on your screen.
Just click on the “Install Now” and fill out the needed information. That is your domain name, username, password, and any other required information.
Now, Softaculous will do the rest for you. In less than a couple of minutes, you’ll have your WordPress site ready.
Quick note. If you happen to go through Marketplace > One-Click Installs in the main HostGator dashboard to install WordPress, the installation will be outdated. I tried it, and it installed the WordPress version from back in 2019. Not that it's difficult to update it, but I'm just not sure why HostGator needs to have it.
So while the WordPress installation was very easy, there could be some issues. It’s a little bit weird that HostGator has 2 ways of installing WordPress, one of which is outdated. Regardless, all issues can be easily resolved. Alternatively, cPanel's Softaculous module has more than WordPress – other content management systems are available too.
Is my SSL automatically activated with HostGator?
If you took the free domain from HostGator, your SSL certificate should be ready and active. However, it’s best to check if all is working correctly.
On your dashboard, there’s a button SSL Management. Click on it and it will lead you to the page where you can see all your domains and their SSL statuses:
Most of the time, the certificate will be activated automatically. However, if your domain is hosted at another registrar, the HostGator tool may not be able to activate the SSL automatically all the time.
If that’s the case, your certificate status will be Pending rather than Active. To solve that, you can contact HostGator’s support team, and they will do it manually for you.
Overall, SSL activation should not cause you problems, especially if you chose to take the free domain from HostGator. At the same time, it's easy to check if everything working the way it should.
Can I set up a professional email with HostGator?
No matter which shared hosting plan you choose, HostGator will give you free unlimited email accounts. Nevertheless, it is up to you to set up the email client. Rest assured that the setup process is easy, even for beginners, and it takes only a few minutes.
To set up an email client with HostGator, you can simply click on the “Email Accounts” button on your HostGator dashboard. Alternatively, you can reach that from the cPanel by clicking the “Email Account” icon in the Email section.
Regardless, it will lead you straight to the email account management area, there just click "Create" and this is the form you should see on your screen:
Just fill in the required information like the mailbox name and new password. You can also set a storage limit or keep it unlimited. And, bam! You’re done.
Once you do that, your email is ready to use. It’s the same as using Gmail. You log in, check your email, and you’re out. Simple as that. You can do that by clicking Webmail on your main dashboard.
However, HostGator uses Horde and RoundCube email clients. They are pretty basic, plus hosted on the same server as your website. This means that they are good to use for casual mailing but not big volumes of outbound emails.
The bottom line is that setting up an email client with HostGator is incredibly easy. It takes only a few minutes, nothing is confusing about it, and you should be able to start using your address right away. Just keep in mind, if you’re hoping to use your email for big marketing campaigns, you’ll be better off choosing a paid email client that won’t be hosted on your server.
HostGator website builder
HostGator’s hosting itself might be fine, but I noticed that one thing is hiding in plain sight that’s worth attention. Gator Builder is one of the nicest and simplest website builders if trying to grasp WordPress seems too much at the moment (check out our Gator Website Builder review for details). It is simple and easy to use. Plus, you can create up to 6 pages for free with your hosting account.
Mind you, the free option is okay for representing your business or creating a portfolio. However, you’ll have fewer ways to monetize as the eCommerce capabilities simply are not there. So if you’re looking for more advanced features like an online store, appointment booking, or no transaction fees, it's best to master WordPress. Or buy a paid website builder instead of hosting.
In any case, all plans come with the same choice of 149 (at the moment of writing) templates. There are modern ones, there are classic ones, there are clean ones. Basically anything, you could imagine.
The templates are also responsive so you will immediately get a mobile-friendly version of your website too.
Once you have a template selected, it’s easy to customize it. You can either switch the demo content to your own. Or, you can do more customizations by adding your own elements and reshaping the template to look unique.
Each element has its own settings so it’s quite easy to play around with.
At first, it might be confusing to find so many settings, but that’s not much more difficult than a PowerPoint presentation. Just take your time and you’ll have a beautiful and successful website.
Overall, it is extremely easy to use and comes with a very wide range of templates to choose from. Due to its many functions, it may seem confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time. One thing to note though is that the free version will have HostGator’s banner at the bottom of your site. It’s not huge, but worth noting.
The bottom line about HostGator’s ease of use and interfaces is that it’s remarkably straightforward. All the essentials are located in the main dashboard. You can easily avoid using cPanel if you wish, although it's there and accessible. The free website builder is also very intuitive and easy to use for simple websites or coming soon pages.
Performance – is HostGator fast?
To see what kind of performance I can expect, I have put HostGator through a few speed and stability-related tests. Throughout the testing period, the provider was very stable, the uptime was much better than guaranteed, and the website’s loading speed was very fast. For more details, let’s look at these tests individually.
HostGator uptime and response time
To prepare this review I have monitored HostGator for almost two and a half months. During that time, it experienced 3 outages, which resulted in 5 minutes of downtime. That’s a whopping >99.99% uptime. The average response time came up to 525ms, which is slightly better than the hosting market average.
Now let’s explore in more detail what these numbers really mean.
To start with, HostGator gives a standard 99.9% uptime guarantee, no surprise here, as most hosts do. However, I did end up being surprised, as this was a downplay of what’s really in store. Typically, 99.9% uptime means that you can expect your website to be down for no more than 2h 11m 29s every quarter. I advise you to sit down because HostGator might blow you away with its expected quarter downtime of 6 minutes.
The average response time may not be as surprising as uptime, yet it didn't disappoint either. HostGator’s average response time is slightly better than the market’s average time of 600ms.
All things considered, HostGator presented great results. It proved to be very, and I mean very reliable in terms of uptime, and the response time was satisfactory.
Next in line for testing is the website's loading speed.
My website is hosted in a data center that’s located in the US, so the quickest load time is expected in the US – with the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) at only 431ms. And let me tell you one thing, this time is really impressive. When you look at different locations, don’t be surprised to see LCP much higher. It’s only natural for the time to increase the further from the physical server we go.
There are quite a few numbers, but I have only mentioned LCP, why?
Simply put, LCP is one of the measures used by Google when ranking websites on its search result page. It states that if your page’s LCP is lower than 2.5s your site has good chance of ranking higher within the search results.
In this regard, you can rest assured, 431ms is a great time. Even the furthest location managed to compile within the set norm, which is more than I can ask for.
HostGator operates its data centers in two locations - Utah (US) and Texas (US). This provider will perform best if your audience is located in the US too. Also, keep in mind, that you do not get to choose between the two.
Everything looks pretty good so far, right? Well, I wonder if there will be a massive change if I’ll put a fully built website through the same test.
As expected LCP has increased to 1.1s.
And as you can tell, that’s still a very good time.
However, there’s another measure that matters a lot. It's the time that it takes for the visitor to be able to interact with a fully loaded site. This is better known as the fully loaded time. For best website ranking results and visitor satisfaction, it is best to keep this time under 3s. You can tell that I don’t have to worry about that as the Fully Loaded Time is just 1.2s.
Now that we’ve seen that HostGator’s loading time is just fine, let’s put it under some fire. We shall see if increased traffic on the website will be dealt with just as easily.
HostGator stress testing
For this test, I’ve sent 50 virtual visitors to my site. Keep in mind, 50 visitors is a big number. These 50 users are on the website at the same time, for an extended time. This puts a lot of pressure on the server, as there are thousands of requests coming in. This could possibly slow down the server or overwhelm it entirely.
Seems like HostGator made sure no such thing will happen. At this point, it’s almost not even surprising how well HostGator is crushing my tests. It looks like 50 visitors made very little difference. An increase in the number of visitors (grey line) had very little effect on the response time (blue line). One visitor, or fifty - the response time remained stable with very few noticeable jumps.
Looks like HostGator passed another test with flying colors.
Overall, HostGator can withhold the added pressure and handle some serious traffic, which can be expected in small-to-medium-sized websites, or small online stores.
All things considered, HostGator's performance is impressive and reliable. The website won’t have any issues regarding outages, and the fast loading speed is something that was not promised but is very welcomed. It is very well suited for small-to-medium-sized websites that get occasional traffic increases.
Security – is HostGator secure?
On the security front, HostGator tends to be on the basic side. You do get the ultimate essentials such as SSL and a server-level firewall. But be ready to break your piggy bank for any additional features.
For starters, know that all plans include SSL certificates, which is always a plus.
You’ll also get a server-level firewall that can protect your website(s) against unwanted or even malicious traffic.
So far, so good, but every other security feature you may want to implement is going to cost extra. And HostGator comes with quite the list.
- Positive SSL upgrade for $39.99 a year. In the checkout cart, it seems like a necessity, but if you read the fine print, you’ll see that it’s just an upgrade and a free SSL is already included. I’m skipping on this as it’s only useful for websites that operate tons of transactions or sensitive data. By the way, the Business plan will get you this upgrade for free.
- SiteLock Essentials costs $23.88/year, which is not exactly cheap. It checks your website for malware and signs of hacking. The reason why I’m disappointed about it is that many providers will give you this for free.
- Automatic backups cost $23.95/year, and it’s truly sad. Problems can arise at any time, and it gives you a certain level of comfort to know that you can just restore your website with one click. So if you want to have that peace of mind, you gotta pay.
The bottom line is that when it comes to security, HostGator is quite greedy. You get the most basic features for free, but anything else will cost you extra. Individually, it’s not much. But you know how it is. A little bit here and a little bit there will make you dig deeper into your pockets.
HostGator for business
HostGator is great for small business web hosting, but also has a bunch of scalability options for business, including cloud, dedicated servers, and reseller hosting, among others. After all, shared hosting is often not enough when your website gains popularity or you need to start hosting your clients' websites as a developer or agency.
In this part of HostGator review, I overview Cloud, private servers, and reseller hosting to help you pick the right one for your business.
HostGator has 3 affordable Cloud plans that start at $4.95/mo. The provider's Cloud hosting service is a step up from shared plans – it's affordable, easy to use, and slightly more powerful, thanks to the infrastructure. By the way, HostGator doesn't actively advertise these plans, so you'll find them listed in the footer section of the website.
All cloud plans will get you a free domain for a year, an SSL certificate, integrated caching, and free email accounts.
The resources go from a single domain hosting, 2GB RAM, and 2 CPUs to unlimited domains, 6GB RAM, and 6 CPUs.
HostGator also promises better performance and less downtime when compared to shared hosting. Plus, you still get the same ease of use.
So if you're looking to host an online store that's getting popular – it's one of the most affordable options that don't require advanced technical knowledge.
HostGator is among the cheapest dedicated hosting providers, with prices starting at $89.98/mo. The advertised rate includes server management and a cPanel control panel, so it's a good option if you've never managed dedicated servers before.
All dedicated hosting plans come with unlimited bandwidth, choice of Linux or Windows OS, DDoS protection, firewall, and full root access. Be cautious about the bandwidth – there's no such thing as unlimited. At the same time, it's dedicated hosting, so the chances that you'll get penalized for using too much are slim.
Nonetheless, other server resources go from 4CPU, 8GB RAM, and 1TB HDD to 8 CPUs, 30GB RAM, and 1TB SSD, which is plenty.
Overall, HostGator's dedicated hosting looks like a very good value for money. So if you have a large project that requires its own server – my advice is to consider what this provider is offering. It's especially good for business owners that might want to learn to manage a dedicated server themselves.
HostGator reseller hosting plans start at $19.95/mo, with 3 options to choose from. It's a hosting solution if you would like to a) start your own hosting company, and b) host your clients' websites as a developer/agency.
All plans include the essentials: unlimited domain hosting, cPanel, Web Host Manager (WHM), and WHMCS Client Management and Billing software. To put it shortly, HostGator offers one of the best reseller hosting options you can get.
Meanwhile, server resources can go from 60GB disk space and 600GB bandwidth to 140GB disk space and 1400GB bandwidth. One thing that's not amazing is that HostGator does not specify how many cPanel accounts you get with each plan, making it difficult to plan your business growth.
Also, keep in mind that while entry prices of Copper and Silver are the same, the renewal of Silver will be much higher than that of Copper.
Nonetheless, HostGator offers excellent reseller packages with only a couple of quirks, so you can easily choose them for your business.
All things considered, HostGator has all kinds of hosting types for scaling your projects. It's only a matter of personal choice left.
Customer service – are there any complaints?
In terms of customer support, HostGator gives you two channels. I’m talking about 24/7 phone support and live chat. Plus, the provider has a pretty extensive knowledge base. There you can easily find guides, video tutorials, and other detailed articles.
It seems peculiar that a ticketing system is not available by default, but it can be in particular circumstances. For instance, if an issue is too complicated, a ticket can be opened for senior members to solve.
However, my personal favorite method of contacting the support team is via live chat. Every time you access HostGator’s website, you can see the button in the upper right corner. The same goes for your dashboard.
During this HostGator review, I contacted the support several times. Each time, I was quite happy with the results. The wait times were minimal and the agents were helpful.
The first time I tried the chat, I asked an agent to help me locate the nameservers. Usually, providers use the same nameservers for all shared hosting accounts but that’s not the case with HostGator. Each account gets its own nameservers.
The agent took a couple of minutes to find my name servers, but that’s alright. 9 minutes in total – in and out and my problem is gone.
Next up, there was an issue in my dashboard – for some reason, I had two hosting plans although I only paid for one. I asked the agent to resolve this, and they did.
There was some waiting around as it’s probably not a thing you get every day. Nonetheless, the issue was resolved. The agent even offered me to activate the domain I got with HostGator as I wasn’t using it. That was very nice of them to offer!
In all, my experience with HostGator support was excellent. Quick answers and productive problem-solving. However, other HostGator reviews often describe the experience as awful.
And I get it. Not every agent I interacted with had perfect English skills. Miscommunication happens in such cases. Also, HostGator’s support team is outsourced, so not all agents may be invested equally.
As an alternative to live chat or phone support, you can also use a knowledge base. HostGator has a ton of articles and even videos on every topic imaginable.
Everything is neatly organized so finding what you need is easy. Or you can simply use a search bar at the top.
All in all, HostGator’s customer support is quick and friendly. I didn’t have to wait long for replies, and my issues were fixed in just a few minutes. Plus, the knowledge base is extensive and includes video tutorials. That’s excellent if you’re a visual learner.
HostGator review – the final verdict
Throughout all the testing and analysis in this HostGator review, I was pleasantly surprised by how well this provider performed. That’s considering performance, ease of use, and customer support. It’s also one of the cheaper options around. Sure, some drawbacks do exist but nothing major to worry over.
So looking at every single aspect, how did this guy do?
|Feature||Cheap and fast hosting provider|
|Pricing||HostGator is on the affordable side of things with shared hosting starting at $2.75/month. The renewals will become pricier, but that’s nothing unusual. The good thing is that most of the essentials are already included and no other investments may be needed.|
|Ease of Use||HostGator is incredibly easy to use. You can set up a professional website without even reaching the cPanel. However, it is also available for more advanced customizations. The only drawback is that some tools can be a little glitchy but customer support will always be able to help you.|
|Performance||HostGator’s performance was great. The site outperformed the promised 99.9% uptime by a long shot with >99.99%. The host proved to be fast and trustworthy. Also, a big traffic surge was handled just fine.|
|Security||Unfortunately, security is HostGator’s weak side. It includes free SSL certificates and a server-level firewall integrated with all plans, but other tools are paid. That’s just one step behind what other providers are doing.|
|Support||My experience with HostGator’s support via live chat was amazing. They were quick and helpful. However, there are many HostGator reviews stating otherwise so truly it’s a hit or miss. Alongside that, they offer support 24/7 via phone, and an extensive knowledge base is available.|
Who do I recommend HostGator to?
HostGator is a very nice affordable option for beginner users. It is incredibly easy to use. Plans are powerful and equipped enough for almost any kind of website. They are also very fast. So you won’t have any problems hosting anything from blogs and portfolios to business websites or small online stores.
Alternatives to HostGator
HostGator showed some good results. That doesn't mean it's what you're looking for. Fortunately, there are great alternatives that can offer different stuff.
Just look at Hostinger's cheap prices and DreamHost's security options.
Hostinger is a slightly cheaper alternative to HostGator, with prices starting at $2.59/month.
It offers very similar packages to what you can find with HostGator. Hostinger’s performance is just as impressive. Also, it does include free weekly backups even in its cheapest plans among other security tools. That’s an improvement from HostGator, where backups are for an extra cost. However, a free domain is not guaranteed with all Hostinger's plans. Pick this option if you need cheap prices.
In terms of price, DreamHost costs almost the same as HostGator, with DreamHost’s cheapest plans starting at $2.59/month.
With DreamHost, just like with HostGator, you get features like a free domain and a free SSL certificate with all its plans. However, if you’re looking for more security, DreamHost also has daily backups and domain privacy included even in the cheapest plan (see our detailed DreamHost review for more features). It also offers an extended 97-day money-back guarantee. Pick DreamHost for added security.
Is HostGator reliable?
Yes, HostGator is reliable both in terms of performance and as a company. Talking about performance, it stays up >99.99% of the time. Meanwhile, as a company, it’s been around for more than a decade and is still thriving.
Do I get a free domain with HostGator?
Yes, all shared hosting, WordPress, and Cloud hosting plans include a free domain. For that, you must sign up for a 12, 24, or 36 months billing period. If at some point you choose to cancel your plan, a non-refundable fee of $17.99 USD will be applied for the domain name.
What is HostGator's money-back guarantee?
HostGator offers a 45-day money-back guarantee for first-time users. Keep in mind, the domain is non-refundable – the cost will be deducted, but you'll get to keep your website's name.
Is HostGator secure?
HostGator covers security basics as it offers a free SSL certificate and a server-level firewall. Any other security measure is for an extra cost.
Is HostGator good for beginners?
Yes, HostGator is very beginner-friendly. The host offers inclusive packages and simple to manage control panels to appeal to first-time users.