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HostGator review: just cheap or cheap and reliable?

HostGator review

You either love or hate it. But looking at all HostGator reviews, it seems that this hosting provider does not leave a soul indifferent. So I decided to do an unbiased take on the provider, analyzing its prices and features, testing ease of use, performance, security, and customer support. 

HostGator is one of the biggest and most popular providers in the web hosting industry. With affordable prices, cheeky marketing, and a gazillion of promises to make your website a-ma-zing (!!). I’m not surprised that it is attracting a bunch of people.

And some of those people are genuinely happy with the service. Meanwhile, for others, everything just seems to go wrong. At least that’s the impression that several HostGator complaints and appraisals I found made.

So even though I’ve heard a bunch of stuff before, I decided to throw all my misconceptions out of the window. I went in, analyzed HostGator’s prices, and bought a plan that seemed to offer the best value. At least for me.

Now, allow me to take you on a wild, wild chase for answers. Is HostGator good, or is it just another hyped-up corporation? 

In my HostGator review, you’ll find all the answers before entrusting your website to it. 

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, or pick a topic of interest:

Feature4.2 Cheap and fast hosting provider
Pricing★★★★HostGator is on the affordable side of things with shared hosting starting at $2.75 a month.
Ease of Use★★★★★A combination of native account management dashboard and cPanel is easy to use.
Performance★★★★★HostGator performed very well with an uptime of >99.99%.
Security★★★SSL certificates and an integrated server-level firewall are free, but other tools are paid.
Support★★★★HostGator has support available 24/7 via phone and live chat.

Pros and Cons of HostGator

Pros

  • Highly stable and reliable web hosting
  • Fast website loading time
  • Affordable prices starting at $2.75/mo
  • Free Gator website builder

Cons

  • Free security tools are limited
  • Servers only in the US

HostGator pricing

HostGator falls into the cheap hosting category, with shared hosting starting at $2.75/month. Other options are also affordable. WordPress hosting starts at $5.95/month, VPS is $19.95/month, and dedicated hosting is $89.98/month. But these are introductory prices and will increase after renewal.

Hosting optionPriceBest for
Shared hosting$2.75/moVery easy to use and is best fit for small-to-medium websites.
WordPress hosting$5.95/moEasy to use and optimized for better performance, it’s best fit for small-to medium-websites.
VPS$19.95/moSome technical skills are needed, best fit for online stores and high-traffic websites looking for better performance.
Dedicated hosting$89.98/moProvides complete customization freedom, but explicit technical skills are needed. It is the best fit for enterprises.

In terms of options, HostGator has something for everyone. Plus, the pricing is competitive.

Regardless, shared hosting is what suits the needs of the majority of websites. I also always recommend starting from there. 

For shared hosting, HostGator steps forward with 3 plans. All of them come with a free SSL certificate, a free domain for a year, and a free website builder. Plus, the storage, email accounts, and bandwidth are unlimited.

HostGator shared hosting pricing

Now, let’s explore the individual traits of each plan.

  • Hatchling ($2.75/mo) – with this plan, you can host 1 website. It is best for personal blogs or portfolio websites.
  • Baby ($3.50/mo) – you can connect an unlimited number of websites. It is the best plan for small business or small-to-medium-sized blogs.
  • Pro ($5.25/mo) – this plan allows hosting an unlimited number of websites and includes a free dedicated IP and a free upgrade to positive SSL. Pro will be the best fit for small-to-medium business websites, requiring higher security.

What I like is that even if you pick the cheapest 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. Other providers usually charge way above $10 for the same features.

But in any case, not all plans are of equal value.

I personally think that you should skip on Hatchling. It only allows you to create 1 website. What if you need two at some point? That will be an extra cost.

Meanwhile, the Baby plan seems to offer the absolute best value. It’s less than $1 more expensive than Hatchling, but you immediately get unlimited websites.

At the same time, Pro might look like a good deal, but neither dedicated IP nor Positive SSL is essential to websites. So unless you personally have use for these features, it’s cheaper to stick with Baby.

Now, let’s discuss how to get the best deal for this plan.

Pricing need to know

While HostGator prices look affordable, you do need to pre-pay to get what’s advertised. Also, extra stuff will be added to your shopping cart, and there’s a fine print saying that the prices increase upon renewal. Nothing unusual, but worth keeping in mind.

I’m purchasing Baby, as I think it’s the best value of all the plans. To get the most out of the advertised offer, you need to go with the longest billing period, which means higher pre-payment, but a lower monthly rate.

Best Value

Baby costs $3.50 a month with a 3-year subscription. That’s $125 in total for the first term. The plan will renew at $9.95/mo or $358.20 in total. Just keep in mind that extra stuff can and will be added to your cart. Simply throw that away – everything is replaceable by free alternatives.
Check HostGator Pricing Now

The first payment doesn’t look really steep but the renewal does. Unfortunately, that’s nothing unusual, this is the case with every single hosting provider out there. 

Here’s what the prices would look like if you’d like to get a similar plan with other hosts for a 3-year period:

ProviderPlanTotal initialTotal renewal
HostGatorBaby$125$358.20
BluehostPlus$196.20$431.64
InMotion HostingPower$215.64$539.64
DreamHostShared Unlimited$142.20$395.64

So even with a steep increase, HostGator is still one of the most affordable options to pick. 

It also has a pretty long 45-day money-back guarantee. The only catch is that the domain name fee will be deducted from the refund. On the other hand, you’ll get to keep that domain. 

P.S. This will be our little secret, but just know 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. 

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 HostGator easy to use?

During this HostGator review, I had a very bittersweet experience with the user interface. On one hand, the combination of native interface with 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:

HostGator hosting management panel

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 cPanel

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 it easy to install WordPress with HostGator?

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. 

WordPress installation through HostGator hosting management panel

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.

HostGator Software section in cPanel

Either way, it will redirect you to the Softaculous installer. 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.

WordPress installation on HostGator

Just click on the “Install Now” and fill out the needed information. That is your domain name, username, password, and any other required information.

WordPress installation information fields

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:

HostGator SSL certificate activation

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. 

HostGator email section in cPanel

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:

Creating an email account with HostGator in cPanel

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. The builder is simple and easy to use. Plus, you can create up to 6 pages for free with your hosting account.

HostGator website builder pricing

Mind you, the free option is okay for representing your business or creating a portfolio. However, you’ll have little ways to monetize as the eCommerce capabilities simply are not there. So if you’re looking for more advanced features like 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.

HostGator website builder templates

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.

HostGator website builder editor

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. In that time, it experienced 3 outages, which have resulted in 5 minutes of downtime. That’s a whooping >99.99% uptime. The average response time came up to 525ms, which is slightly better than the hosting market average.

HostGator uptime monitoring

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 on 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.

HostGator 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 server we go.

HostGator loading speed test from different locations with GTmetrix

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 chances of ranking higher within the search results.

In this regard, HostGator 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.

Good To Know

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, 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.

HostGator fully built website loading speed test with GTmetrix

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, or 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.

HostGator stress test

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 another test was passed 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 other features.

For starters, know that SSL certificates are included in all plans, 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.

HostGator safety tools for an extra charge
  • 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.
  • Backups cost $32.95/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.

Customer support – will HostGator help me?

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.

HostGator contact us page

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 the HostGator’s website, you can see the button on 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 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.

HostGator live chat support about name servers

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.

HostGator live chat support

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.

HostGator knowledge base

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?

Feature4.2 Cheap and fast hosting provider
Pricing★★★★HostGator is on the affordable side of things with shared hosting starting at $2.75 a 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 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

Hostinger is a slightly cheaper alternative to HostGator, with prices starting at $0.99/mo.

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.

DreamHost

In terms of price, DreamHost costs almost the same as HostGator, with DreamHost’s cheapest plans starting at $2.59/mo.

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. It also offers an extended 97-day money-back guarantee. Pick DreamHost for added security.

HostGator FAQs

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.

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