The main differences between web hosting services Bluehost and HostGator are price and features. Bluehost provides everything you need to create a professional website, including a domain, email accounts and SSL certificate. HostGator charges separately for these. Server performance is roughly the same, although HostGator can perform better with a more advanced hosting subscription.
Bluehost vs. HostGator Winner: Bluehost
We recommend Bluehost for web hosting because they include all the essential business website features in one package, making it significantly less expensive than HostGator. This includes 50GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, a domain name, business email accounts, and an SSL certificate.
Bluehost vs. HostGator Summary Table 2018
($7.99/month after renewal)
($6.95 after renewal)
(requires upgrade & additional purchase)
Best Small Business Web Hosting: Bluehost
The reason we recommend Bluehost over HostGator is because they include a domain, business email and SSL encryption, all in one price. These are essential ingredients to create a professional website and build an online brand. HostGator requires separate purchases, which results in a significantly higher annual cost.
In addition to being the best-priced, Bluehost is a reliable hosting service with good server performance, easy WordPress setup, and 24/7 customer support.
Best Web Hosting for Speed: HostGator
In head-to-head competitions, HostGator routinely emerges as the fastest hosting service and the most reliable in terms of uptime. While both of these qualities are very important in a web hosting provider, we did not feel that it was enough reason to rank HostGator above Bluehost. There are three reasons for this:
- You have to use a more expensive hosting plan to notice a difference. HostGator’s lowest cost plan (“Hatchling”) has a throttled speed.
- Bluehost ranks very close behind on page load speed and uptime, only ranking slower by fractions of a second.
- We feel that price and features are more important than minimal differences in performance. HostGator does not include any of the same perks as Bluehost, like business email, domain name and SSL encryption.
While both Bluehost and HostGator have low-cost hosting plans, Bluehost includes a domain name and SSL encryption, which are necessary for a professional website. As a result, Bluehost costs much less—as little as $35 in the first year compared to $132 for HostGator:
|Cost of Domain|
|Cost of SSL Certificate|
Dedicated IP: $5.99/month
Dedicated IP: $4/month
|Total cost first year (not incl. optional costs)|
*The prices above are for shared hosting. Bluehost and HostGator also offers cloud hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, and a huge range of other products. We decided to focus on shared hosting, since this is what most small businesses will use.
Bluehost: Bluehost starts at $2.95/month, and renews at $7.99/month after the promotional period expires. This plan includes everything you need for a professional website: unlimited bandwidth, 50GB of storage, WordPress installation, a dot-com domain, SSL encryption, and even five professional email accounts.
You may consider upgrading to Bluehost’s “plus” plan if you want to set up more email accounts or want to set up more than one website. The plus plan costs $5.45/month and renews at $10.99/month.
HostGator: HostGator actually has the lowest cost plan starting at $2.75/month. However, this plan lacks add-on features and has significantly slower website speed, to the point that their sales rep cautioned against using it.
The “Hatchling Cloud” plan starts at $4.95/month and renews at $9.23/month. This plan has good stats in terms of loading speed, bandwidth and storage, which are both unmetered. On the flipside, it does not include an SSL certificate. You need to upgrade to the business plan, which starts at $9.95/month. You also need to purchase a domain separately, which costs $12.95/year.
An SSL certificate changes your URL to “https,” and adds a padlock icon with the word “secure” next to your website on the address bar.
This means your website is encrypted. It’s safer to share private information (like names, phone numbers, and credit card numbers). It’s also preferred by Google, and a factor in their search engine rankings. In fact, Google is increasingly penalizing websites that do not use HTTPS.
Bluehost: Bluehost includes a free, shared SSL certificate with all their hosting plans. This means your URL will change to https and a padlock icon with “secure” will appear on the address bar. For an extra $50/year, you can make it a private SSL certificate. This adds your website name to the certificate, should anyone inspect it, but otherwise does not have any SEO benefit.
HostGator: To get an SSL certificate with HostGator, you’ll need to upgrade to Baby Cloud ($7.95/month), then buy a private certificate for $39.99 per year. Or, you can upgrade to Business Cloud ($9.95/month) and a private SSL certificate is included for free.
HostGator advertises that a shared SSL certificate is included free with many of their plans, but this is misleading. What you actually get is a temporary HostGator URL that does not use your custom domain.
How Important Is SSL Encryption?
SSL encryption makes your website more secure for visitors, and helps ensure your search rankings are not compromised. It’s not a requirement to launch a website or to appear on Google, but it is becoming increasingly important.
Google has begun displaying warnings next to non-https URLs, and full-page warnings are rumored to be coming in the near future. While your website would still be accessible, it would dissuade some users and reflect poorly on your brand. It’s also a lot easier to start out with https than to switch later, as all of your links must be changed.
SSL Shared vs. Private Certificate
Bluehost includes a shared SSL certificate for free with the option to buy a private certificate for an additional sum. There really isn’t any difference besides the fact that a private certificate displays your business name instead of Bluehost’s name.
To be certain, however, we asked website and SEO expert Seth Steinman of Upserve for his take on it:
“It’s been my experience that as long as the SSL certificate is set up properly, there’s no difference between shared and private certificates from an SEO perspective. One of the most important indicators that a certificate is set up properly is verifying that you can see the green lock and ‘secure’ symbol in the URL bar of your browser.”
If you don’t see a padlock, enter your URL on whynopadlock.com for a free report.
Server Speed & Performance
Another important indicator was how fast websites load and how reliable they are in terms of staying online. Uptime is the percentage of time a website is accessible to users. So, for example, an uptime of 99.97 percent means a website is down 0.03 percent of the time, or roughly 13 minutes in a given month.
Bluehost: Bluehost has an average page load time of 3.05 seconds and an uptime of 99.94%. This means websites are down an average of 26 minutes per month.
HostGator: HostGator has the fastest page load time at 2.82 seconds and an uptime of 99.97%. This means websites are down an average of 13 minutes per month.
Bluehost: Bluehost provides a free domain for one year. After that, domains renew at $15.99/year. Domain privacy protection, which shields your contact information from the public domain registry, costs $14.88/year.
HostGator: HostGator does not include a free domain with their plan. The cost for a dot-com domain is $12.95/year, and privacy protection costs an additional $14.95/year.
Customer support also factored highly in our decision, since this is very important for web hosting. If your website goes down, you need to be able to contact somebody immediately to solve the issue. You may also want someone who can help you install your CMS to get your website up and running.
Bluehost: Phone support and live chat support are available 24/7/365. Online user reviews seem pretty split between people loving or hating the customer service they received. However, in our own experience, support has been swift and helpful.
HostGator: HostGator has 24/7/365 phone, live chat, and email support. They also have a very comprehensive self-help knowledge base. When looking at user reviews online, it seems that customers are mostly satisfied with HostGator’s customer support.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to deciding between Bluehost vs. HostGator, the little things add up. Domain, email accounts and SSL security are included free with Bluehost, but require a monthly/annual charge through HostGator. This brings your total annual bill over $100 for HostGator, yet as little as $35 through Bluehost. See for yourself by checking out their hosting packages below: