WordPress Hosting Review: HostGator vs. Bluehost vs. 1&1

It’s been said that WordPress powers more than 20 percent of all new websites, so if you’re looking for hosting company reviews, there’s a good chance that what you want is a WordPress hosting review. I am in the slightly unusual position of having hosting accounts with three different companies — HostGator, Bluehost and 1&1 — so I thought I would review the three in terms of their prices and features, discuss my personal experiences and conclude with a WordPress benchmark test using the same domain and settings on all three hosting companies. I had a hunch that one of these hosting companies was slower than the others, but I couldn’t believe just how shockingly bad that company was in one of the benchmark tests. Read on to learn more!

Feature Comparison: HostGator vs. Bluehost vs. 1&1

HostGator

Business Plan

  • Unlimited space
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited domains
  • Unlimited databases
  • cPanel interface
  • private IP and SSL
  • Toll-free VOIP number
  • Monthly payments
  • No free domain
  • Best speed
$1121
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Bluehost

Standard Plan

  • Unlimited space
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited domains
  • Unlimited databases
  • cPanel interface
  • No private IP or SSL
  • No VOIP number
  • Yearly payments only
  • Free domain
  • Worst speed
$695
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1&1

Unlimited Plan

  • Unlimited space
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Unlimited domains
  • 25 databases
  • Proprietary interface
  • No private IP or SSL
  • No VOIP number
  • Quarterly payments
  • Free domain
  • Fair speed
$399
Sign Up

WordPress Hosting Prices

The hosting prices given above are for the account tiers I use, and the price for HostGator takes my coupon code theaffluentblogger into account. The coupon is good for a 25 percent discount. With HostGator and Bluehost, you can decrease the price further by paying for additional months in advance.

HostGator Review

HostGator is my favorite of the three companies in this WordPress hosting review. As you can see by looking at the bottom of this page, The Affluent Blogger resides on HostGator. I always felt subjectively that it was the fastest of the three companies I host websites with, a suspicion that was confirmed when I ran the benchmark tests for this article. There are no real deal-breakers for HostGator. Although the price is higher than that charged by the other two hosting companies in this review, you also get more for your money and you really can’t put a price on a fast, responsive website.

Bluehost Review

Until I conducted the WordPress hosting benchmarks displayed at the bottom of this article, Bluehost was my second favorite of these three hosting companies. Because Bluehost failed the benchmarks so miserably, I may now have to rethink that position. I like the fact that Bluehost uses cPanel, my favorite server interface. Everything works smoothly, and although you can’t pay for less than a year of hosting at a time, the yearly price is just over $80 which is quite reasonable. My only real problem with Bluehost is the speed; under load, the performance is really unacceptable. Bluehost does have an upgraded “Pro Plan” that you can purchase, but it’s $19.95 per month and Bluehost doesn’t go into detail regarding what exactly you receive for your money. The website only mentions a very non-specific “More CPU, memory and resources.”

1&1 Review

Of the three companies in this WordPress hosting review, 1&1 offers by far the best price: just $3.99 per month for the first year if you pay in quarterly increments. The quarterly price for 1&1 hosting is just slightly more than HostGator’s monthly price. Unfortunately, 1&1’s proprietary interface is a significant downside. To make matters worse, 1&1 claims to support automatic WordPress installation on your server, but that kind of feels like a lie in practice because the WordPress installation is completely locked down. It’s not the current version of WordPress, and you aren’t allowed to update it. You also can’t install any plugins or themes. The only way to get full control over WordPress is to install it manually, which is tedious and gets old really quickly if you want to run multiple websites. In addition, 1&1 produced average results up to 14 percent slower than HostGator in my speed benchmarks and up to 44 percent slower in my simulated load tests.

WordPress Hosting Benchmarks

For this section of my WordPress hosting review, I benchmarked HostGator, Bluehost and 1&1 against one another using a basic WordPress installation and the same domain name. My testing methodology was fairly simple:

  1. Point the domain name to the host and configure it as an add-on domain
  2. Install the latest version of WordPress
  3. Activate the Twenty Eleven theme and disable all plugins
  4. Install sample data from WordPress.org
  5. Conduct speed tests using Webpage Test, Website Optimization, Pingdom and GT Metrix
  6. Conduct simulated load test using Load Impact
  7. Point the domain name to the next host and wait for it to propagate

WordPress Benchmark Results: Page Speed

In these five benchmarks, HostGator had an average loading time of 2.554 seconds. Slightly slower was 1&1 at 2.833 seconds, and Bluehost came in last at 3.381 seconds. The greatest disparity among the benchmarks occurred on the east coast; Bluehost was nearly two seconds slower than HostGator in Virginia and New York. The results were closer in the remaining benchmarks; Bluehost was actually .017 of a second faster than HostGator in Los Angeles.

WordPress Hosting Benchmarks Page Loading Speed

Page loading times in seconds. Lower is better.

WordPress Benchmark Results: Load Test

Although I expected measurable speed differences between these three WordPress hosting companies, I didn’t expect any of them to be a dismal failure. Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what Bluehost was. Load Impact is a benchmark test that generates a simulated load of 50 simultaneous users on the URL you select from a server in Brazil. In this test, my Bluehost server was completely unable to handle the load. Keep in mind that this is with a WordPress installation using the default theme, no plugins and just a few posts. Real-word numbers might be significantly worse. Bluehost’s fastest page loading time was 1.25 seconds slower than HostGator’s. To make matters worse, the slowest loading time was 21.22 seconds; does anyone wait that long for a page to load? Worst of all was the fact that two of the attempts to load the page failed completely. In this test simulating a load of 50 simultaneous users, Bluehost failed to deliver my website to two of them. I find this result quite shocking. To make sure that the result wasn’t a fluke, I repeated the test using one of my fully developed websites on Bluehost. The results were worse. I repeated the test a few days later — same result. Now I’m seriously reconsidering my hosting setup.

WordPress Hosting Benchmarks Load Test

Page loading times in seconds. Lower is better.

Conclusion: The Best WordPress Hosting

There is no shortage of WordPress hosting companies out there, and I was only able to cover three of them in this review. When my need for hosting accounts increases in the future, I intend to expand this review with my findings. Until then, I have to say that HostGator is far and away the best WordPress host. The price is quite affordable, the speed is by far the best and I believe that businesses will find some of the included bonuses such as the toll-free VOIP number quite valuable. If you’re on a tight budget or want to place some of your less important websites on a secondary hosting account, 1&1 offers some pretty good speed without some of the bells and whistles of HostGator at a much lower price. Just remember that you’ll need to install WordPress manually or you won’t have a good experience. Based on my WordPress hosting benchmarks, I can’t recommend Bluehost unless you expect all of your visitors to come from the US west coast.