WP Engine vs Bluehost: is shared hosting better than managed?
In this article, join me as I dive deep into the comparison of WP Engine vs Bluehost, two of the biggest names in the world of hosting. Here you’ll find all the information you need about their pricing options, ease of use, performance, security, and customer support.
WP Engine and Bluehost are two names you will almost certainly come across when you’re looking at hosting options for a WordPress site.
WP Engine is one of the most popular managed WordPress hosting providers. The provider focuses on WordPress hosting exclusively. Its target audience seems to be various businesses and sites of a larger scale. It can simply be seen as a more premium, worry-free hosting option.
At the same time, Bluehost is among the most popular shared hosting providers in the market. Its ease of use and good performance are what draws in beginners looking for a simple and cheap start. It's also highly WordPress-oriented, just not as exclusive as WP Engine.
As you may have figured out already, WP Engine and Bluehost have slightly different approaches. However, that makes comparing the two even more interesting. So let’s look over their summaries first.
WP Engine vs Bluehost: general info
Even though both WP Engine and Bluehost are hosting providers that target clients in need of WordPress hosting, the two couldn’t be more different. WP Engine is a managed hosting provider, while Bluehost is best known for its highly WordPress-oriented shared hosting services. WP Engine has much better performance metrics and is more advanced, while Bluehost is a lot friendlier to your wallet.
Here is a quick look at both providers. As this article is quite detailed, you can go straight to the final verdict if you want to know my final thoughts.
|Pricing:||from $3.95/mo||from $22.50/mo|
|Ease of use:||Modern native dashboard with the classic cPanel integration||A native hosting management panel|
|Performance:||99.99% uptime and 361ms response time||100% uptime, 489ms response time|
|Security:||SSLs and server monitoring||Free SSL, daily backups, server monitoring|
|Support:||24/7 live chat and phone||24/7 live chat, ticket, and phone|
When it comes to pricing alone, WP Engine is much more expensive than Bluehost. WP Engine offers 4 plans + a custom one, with prices ranging from $22.50/month to $217.50/month. Bluehost’s cheapest plan is $3.95/month, with its most expensive one costing $13.95/month. Additionally, Bluehost has managed WordPress plans starting at $9.95/mo, yet the only perk is that it makes scalability a little easier.
Sure, the prices are cardinally different between the two. But what matters is what you get for that price point. For better understanding, let’s compare the cheapest providers’ plans.
To begin with, there are a few similarities between the two. WP Engine and Bluehost both include a free SSL certificate and CDN in their entry plans, as well as allow you to host 1 website. This, however, is where the similarities end.
|WP Engine||Startup ($22.50/mo)||No||Yes||10GB||50GB|
By just comparing the entry plans, we can see that Bluehost offers bigger storage, a free domain, and unlimited bandwidth.
While WP Engine does no such thing, it hosts its websites on Google Cloud servers, offers staging, daily backups, and custom caching.
So really, the choices lie with you. If you’re looking for a cheap plan for a small website, Bluehost is the better option. If you’re looking for a more business-oriented approach, WP Engine’s daily backups and extra tools like staging or custom caching might sway you.
Despite all that, the promoted prices apply only for the first payment. The renewal rates most of the time are significantly higher:
|Provider||Plan||Billing period||Total initial price||Total renewal price|
|WP Engine||Startup||1 year||$270||$300|
All in all, Bluehost is much cheaper than WP Engine. WP Engine is considered more of a premium choice after all. However, both providers offer pretty good deals for the price you pay.
Now that we know what the cheapest WP Engine and Bluehost’s plans have to offer, are they the best overall? Or is there a plan with a better value-money ratio? After some more digging, this is what I’ve discovered.
WP Engine has 4 managed hosting plans ranging from $22.50/mo to $217.50/mo with a 1-years billing period.
However, not all plans bring the same value. That’s why I suggest you consider:
- Startup ($22.50/mo) if you’re looking for a powerful website for your blossoming business. The price point is very reasonable for the resources included.
- Scale ($217/mo) if you’re offering website building, designing, or management services to your clients. If you’d host all 30 websites, each website would cost $7.25/mo.
Surely, your personal needs are what drive the choice, so knowing all that you should pick what works best for you.
The cheapest option with WP Engine is the Startup plan with a 1-year billing period. The plan is $22.50/mo, which totals $270 for the initial payment. After the renewal, the price goes up to $300 for the next year.
Bluehost also has 4 plans to choose from. Prices here range from $3.95/mo up to $13.95/mo with a 3-year billing plan.
Unlike WP Engine, Bluehost recommends the best plan, which is Choice Plus. Yet I personally think Plus offers much greater value in terms of offered resources for the price you pay.
- Plus ($5.95/mo) offers unlimited websites and SSD storage compared to Basic.
Now talking about Choice Plus and Pro plans, both offer some useful features like domain privacy and automatic backups. However, if you don’t have a specific need for these features, these plans are way too pricy. And the renewal rates make the price point even steeper.
The most attention-worthy Bluehost’s plan is Plus. By choosing a 36-month billing period, you will get the lowest monthly rates. This makes the plan $5.95/mo or $214.20 in total. The renewal rates bring the total up to $431.64.
If at this point of reading my article you’ve already made your mind up, just because of the price difference, I don’t blame you.
However, keep in mind that WP Engine is a managed hosting provider, meaning you won’t have to worry about automatic updates, managed upgrades, daily backups, or continuous website monitoring. The host takes care of that for you.
Additionally, WP Engine offers a generous 60-day money-back guarantee, which means you get plenty of time to test it out. On the other hand, Bluehost has the typical 30-day money-back guarantee.
As far as the pricing comparison of Bluehost vs WP Engine goes, Bluehost offers lower prices. Yet, if we keep in mind that Bluehost offers shared hosting and WP Engine offers managed hosting services, WP Engine's prices aren’t crazy high either.
Hosting management: ease of use
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to user interfaces and control panels. And let me tell you, WP Engine vs Bluehost match is very head-to-head here. Both providers made sure that their UI and control panels would be intuitive and easy to use.
Account management dashboard
WP Engine has a completely custom dashboard. And while WP Engine management is more advanced than the typical shared hosting, its dashboard requires almost no effort to use effectively.
Much of the essential information is found in the main dashboard.
All the way on the left, the menu has all the tools and features needed to manage your sites, such as billing, tools, and sites. On the right, you can find your site's statistics, which can help you manage your storage and track the number of visitors.
Bluehost similarly has its own custom user panel. This dashboard functions as hosting management and site control panel. From here, you can install WordPress, set up your domains and email accounts. Simply manage your whole site. All of those tools can be found in the left side menu.
Another thing I absolutely love about Bluehost’s dashboard is a to-do list right in the middle of it. While it’s pretty much useless for advanced users, it’s extremely helpful to new ones and helps with maintaining order when creating a website.
In sum, I find both providers’ dashboards to be easy to use. Both dashboards are very straightforward and well organized. Yet, Bluehost seems more beginner-oriented.
Control panel comparison
While Bluehost has integrated a customized cPanel alongside the native management panel, WP Engine has chosen to create its own control panel.
Once you click on the site you want to manage, you’ll find a menu on your left where you can manage all 3 environments (Production, Staging, and Development). Each of them has its own menu options like SSL, Domains, CDN, and many more and can be managed independently from each other.
Keep in mind that WP Engine takes care of performance, automatic updates, and security measures, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Now talking about Bluehost, it has integrated a custom cPanel alongside the native management panel.
I must note that the native management panel is still the main control area. cPanel is left as a more advanced management tool like file, databases, and free email accounts management.
This means you might not even end up using it as all the features such as installing WordPress or any other apps can be found in the main management panel. Even domain management can be found in Bluehost’s native management area, under the Domains section.
Picking a winner between the two here is a very subjective matter. Both WP Engine and Bluehost provide the user with a very user-friendly, intuitive experience, which makes their services that much more attractive. Although, Bluehost also has integrated cPanel, which some users may be more familiar and comfortable with.
Extra hosting management features
Alongside the extremely easy-to-use dashboards, both providers offer some very useful extra features.
WP Engine has implemented Production, Staging, and Development environments into its services. WP Engine’s 3 environments are among the main reasons why people choose its services.
- Production - is the actual live version of your website all users interact with.
- Staging - makes a copy of your site and is used for testing updates or debugging errors.
- Development — can also make a copy of your site, and it is used for building and development.
These environments allow you to experiment, build, and test your site before pushing everything to the live website.
Bluehost also implemented a staging functionality for WordPress sites. The creation process is very easy.
To create a staging environment, you’ll have to find a pre-installed Bluehost plugin in your WordPress Admin section and choose Staging.
All it takes is a couple of clicks, and you can start experimenting with your site. Well, a copy of your site, and experiment safely.
Additionally, Bluehost allows you to access its marketing tools such as Google Ads and Google My Business.
With these, you can easily set up and manage a small marketing campaign right from your dashboard. You can push out ads or place your business on Google Maps for indirect queries like “best pizza place.”
So it seems that both providers offer staging options. And both make staging as easy as possible. Additionally, Bluehost offers a marketing tool, which can help you boost the site’s visibility.
Overall, both providers are very easy to use and offer intuitive and simple to navigate native panels. However, Bluehost has cPanel as well. More so, WP Engine and Bluehost offer the staging feature, with Bluehost additionally offering marketing tools.
WP Engine vs Bluehost performance
When it comes to performance, WP Engine vs Bluehost had one winner. WP Engine is both faster and more reliable than Bluehost. Its uptime was higher, the loading speed was quicker, and it handled bigger traffic. However, Bluehost also demonstrated good results and quicker average response time than WP Engine’s.
Uptime and response time
Let me run you through how I like to judge these metrics. An uptime between 99.9% and 99.95% is fine. Anything above that is amazing, and anything below is not that great. 100% uptime, of course, is perfect.
The average response time of 200-450ms is great, anything over 1s is pretty bad, and everything in between is fine.
Both providers were examined for a similar period - around two months.
In that time, WP Engine demonstrated very impressive results. Even though it gives an uptime guarantee of 99.95%, what you actually get is much better. During those 2 months, WP Engine did not have even one outage, which resulted in a perfect 100% uptime.
Its average response time was 489ms. Yet, I expected better. By no means is the time bad, yet it could be better. Especially knowing that the market’s average response time stands at 600ms.
To be honest, Bluehost’s performance is very good too. In fact, it stands among some of the best-performing shared hosting providers.
In 2 examination months, it had 6 outages which summed up to 11 minutes of downtime. Still an amazing 99.99% uptime. Especially when it gives you no uptime guarantee at all. Bluehost's average response time of 361ms is also very good!
In short, WP Engine showed slightly better results. The uptime was reliable, standing at 100%. The response time was very good too. Alternatively, Bluehost was just as impressive with its slightly better average response time and a still very reliable 99.99% uptime.
To test both WP Engine and Bluehost’s speed, I ran a loading speed test. I’ve created identical circumstances: I’ve installed identical templates on both providers. Also, both are hosted and tested from the US.
To better the performance results, you can choose to host your website on the server, closest to your target audience. WP Engine has servers in the US, Belgium, Germany, the UK, Taiwan, and Australia. On the contrary, Bluehost has data centers only in the US.
Before we talk about results, let me point out 3 measures to concentrate on:
- Time to First Byte (TTFB) - the time it takes for the server to react to the request to open a website. Best if it’s under 200ms.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - the time it takes to load the biggest (heaviest) file on your site (image, video, etc.). It should be under 2.5s for the best results.
- Fully Loaded Time - the time it takes to load a website. Any longer than 3 seconds, and it’s considered bad performance.
So having this in mind, WP Engine did a pretty good job. Its LCP is just 938ms. Which easily fits within the norms.
The Fully Loaded Time stands at 1.1s, and it’s an amazing result. Quite far from the dreaded 3 seconds mark.
Now looking at the TTFB, which is 140ms, it is clear that WP Engine had managed to fit into all the recommended times. Great loading speed and very responsive server. Simply put, great performance.
Bluehost showed slightly less impressive results. In this case, its LCP and Fully Loaded Time are the same 1.8s. While it’s not as good as WP Engine, this is definitely a reasonably good result.
However, a little concerning here is TTFB, which is at 1second. This means that the server could be just a little speedier. So if it wasn’t for the slow server response, the site might load faster.
In summary, WP Engine showed noticeably faster results. The loading time was very speedy, and the server responsiveness was great. However, also Bluehost demonstrated very good results that overpass the market’s average.
Stress testing results
Finally, I wanted to see how well both providers can handle increased traffic. So I sent 50 virtual users to the site for five minutes to roam around all at once.
Simply put, 50VUs on the site at the same time is pretty intense traffic. If this kept up throughout the months, it could result in up to 50 000 monthly visitors.
So I don’t expect every provider to be able to handle traffic as such. If that seems too much, I decrease this number by 5 until I succeed.
The first pass with WP Engine is at 30VUs. And that’s very expected. The provider itself says that its cheapest plan can uphold up to 25 000 monthly visitors.
It seems like it’s telling the truth. What’s nice to know is that even with such high traffic, the response time (blue line) remained very stable and had no over-exaggerated reactions to the visitors’ increase (grey line.) This means that the server is more than capable to handle that many visitors without slowing down.
On the other hand, Bluehost handled 15VUs.
And it seems that the response time (blue line) is much more dependent on the number of visitors (grey line.)
And even though the server slowed down to accommodate all the visitors, 15VU is still quite a lot. Approximately 15 000 unique monthly visitors.
In short, WP Engine handled bigger traffic. Its plans suggest an approximate number of monthly visitors, and that’s exactly what it can handle. Alternatively, Bluehost handled pretty intense traffic without any failures.
All things considered, when you compare WP Engine and Bluehost’s performance, one stands out significantly more. WP Engine is much faster, more reliable, and can handle bigger traffic. If you seek premium performance, going with WP Engine is definitely the better option.
Talking about security, it seems that this WP Engine vs Bluehost faceoff may have an obvious winner. WP Engine offers a way more secure platform with daily automatic backups, proprietary firewall, and automatic threat detection, among other features. At the same time, Bluehost includes only basics - SSL certificates and CDN integration.
WP Engine does quite a lot when it comes to security. For starters, it has all the basics - SSL certificates, one-click CDN activation, daily backups, and multi-factor authentication.
More so, WP Engine adds other security features without any extra fee.
- You get constant monitoring and threat detection, so the security team is always notified if something happens and can take proactive measures to prevent any trouble.
- A proprietary firewall is also included so as little to no malicious software can reach the server.
- Certain plugins that might leave websites vulnerable to threats are also banned.
At the same time, Bluehost offers - SSLs, Cloudflare CDN integration, and two-factor authentication. However, if you’d like to have automated backups and protection against malicious attacks with Bluehost, you’ll have to pay extra.
- Backups with Bluehost cost $2.99/mo.
- Protection against malicious attacks (SiteLock security) is another $2.99/mo.
Naturally, the higher price point that WP Engine comes at offers more security features. At the same time, Bluehost does provide security measures against the most common threats. Yet it should consider including more measures to keep its clients more secure.
In the security department, WP Engine is a clear leader offering very strong security features. Bluehost lags behind and offers additional security measures at an extra cost.
Both WP Engine and Bluehost have similar support options that include 24/7 live chat and phone support as well as vast knowledge bases. However, WP Engine goes a step further and adds email ticket support to the package.
I typically prefer opening a live chat whenever I have questions, as I have found this is usually the fastest way to get them answered. So that’s exactly what I tested for this WP Engine vs Bluehost comparison.
I was curious to know a little more about each provider’s money-back guarantee. And that’s exactly what I asked.
First, I contacted WP Engine’s sales team and I got connected almost immediately.
The replies were very quick. Each time the agent took less than a minute to reply to my message.
Although the conversation was short, it was pleasant. My question was answered then and there. No links to terms and conditions or any attempts to sell me a plan. So I must say I was very pleased.
When I contacted Bluehost with the same question, I got connected in a blink of an eye, and the reply was immediate.
The agent gave me a detailed summary of the money-back conditions. Once again, no links, no pushy advertising. Just a quick and simple answer which is exactly what I was looking for.
Although the conversation was very brief, I must note that the replies in between the messages were slightly slower than with WP Engine. Not by much, though, so nothing to worry about there.
Besides the live chat option, both providers have great knowledge bases where you can find plenty of useful articles on different topics of concern.
First, WP Engine’s support center is very well organized. It has different topics with suggested top (most often viewed) articles. If you wish, you can also use a search bar to look for specific tutorials and explanations on web hosting or website management.
Bluehost’s knowledge base is just as organized as WP Engine’s. It’s very clean looking, you can choose a topic of interest or search for a specific query.
Both providers have masses of useful and up-to-date articles on their bases. Yet, I must say I like WP Engine’s look better. That, however, does not mean that Bluehost’s is any less useful or functional.
All in all, WP Engine and Bluehost are very similar in terms of live chat. Both of their agents were quick to reply and were actually impressively professional. However, you can get customer support via email from WP Engine, something that is not an option when it comes to Bluehost. More so, both providers have very impressive and up-to-date knowledge bases.
WP Engine vs Bluehost: final recommendation
As with all things, when it comes to WP Engine vs Bluehost, each has its own pros and cons. WP Engine gets you superior performance and three-environment development. On the other hand, Bluehost is a much cheaper option that still gets you decent performance for the price.
|Price||Bluehost is much more affordable, with prices starting at $3.95/mo, compared to WP Engine’s $22.50/mo.|
|Interface||Both providers use a native hosting management panel, yet Bluehost has integrated cPanel as well. Regardless, both are very easy to use with additional tools included.|
|Performance||WP Engine was faster, more reliable, and handled bigger traffic. Its uptime was 100%, compared to Bluehost’s 99.99%. Yet, Bluehost had a better average response time - 361ms compared to WP Engine’s 489ms.|
|Security||Both providers include SSL certificates and DDoS protection. However, WP Engine also includes a proprietary firewall and automatic daily backups.|
|Support||Both providers have 24/7 live chat and phone support, with WP Engine additionally offering a ticketing system. Both providers have very knowledgeable and speedy agents.|
So for the price, Bluehost has a lot to offer while still maintaining some reasonable performance. It has another distinct advantage over WP Engine - it can be used with any CMS that you like. So if you’re looking to run a personal blog or a small business site, consider Bluehost.
Alternatively, the performance is much speedier, and website development possibilities are more advanced with WP Engine. So if you’re looking for great performance, security, and a more business-oriented approach to hosting, WP Engine might just be it.
Alternatives to WP Engine and Bluehost
If neither WP Engine nor Bluehost seems like a good choice for you, there are other hosting providers you could consider looking into. Probably the most affordable pricing options out there can be found with Hostinger, while Flywheel offers a powerful cloud-based alternative to WP Engine.
Hostinger is one of the cheapest providers out there. Its shared hosting plans are extremely cheap, with prices starting at as little as $1.39/month.
It is also very easy to use and offers fast services, which makes it a very popular option among beginners and advanced users on tight budgets.
Flywheel is on the other end of the pricing spectrum, with its pricing being similar to that of WP Engine. The cheapest Flywheel’s managed hosting plan comes at $13/mo.
It offers an advanced and powerful cloud-based WordPress hosting option if that’s what you’re looking for. It is very easy to use, and you can expect very good performance.
WP Engine vs Bluehost FAQs
Is WP Engine better than Bluehost?
Both providers offer slightly different services: WP Engine offers managed hosting services, and Bluehost provides shared hosting. As far as performance is concerned, WP Engine is better than Bluehost. However, both providers are good at what they offer.
Which is easier to use, WP Engine or Bluehost?
Both WP Engine and Bluehost offer simple and intuitive dashboards and control panels. WP Engine’s dashboard is a completely custom design created with effective use in mind. Bluehost uses a customized version of cPanel, which is also very easy to use and may already be familiar to some users.
Is Bluehost cheaper than WP Engine?
Yes, Bluehost is cheaper than WP Engine. Bluehost’s shared hosting plans start at $3.95/month for the Basic plan, and their most expensive plan, Pro, is $13.95/month. As for WP Engine, its plans start at $22.50/month and go all the way up to $217.50/month for shared hosting plans alone.