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HostGator Web Hosting review

Great value and feature-packed hosting for home and business users

HostGator web hosting homepage
(Image: © HostGator)

TechRadar Verdict

A likeable web host with responsive support and fast, feature-packed and great value shared hosting plans. We'd like more choice in the VPS and dedicated ranges, but overall HostGator has appealing products for home and business users alike. HostGator has some of the best shared hosting plans around, speedy, great value, with a pile of features and responsive support on tap when you need it. Its high-end VPS and dedicated plans can't match the power of the best of the competition, but there's still a huge amount to like here for both home and big business users.

Pros

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    Speedy shared hosting plans

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    Low starter prices

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    45-day money-back guarantee

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    Helpful live chat support

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    Easy-to-use website builder with ecommerce support

Cons

  • -

    Some downtime during the review

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    Underpowered VPS and dedicated hosting plans

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    US-only data centers

HostGator is a hugely popular Texas-based web hosting (opens in new tab) provider who has been helping customers get online since 2002.

These days the company is owned by Newfold Digital (previously Endurance International Group), the hosting giant who also runs Bluehost (opens in new tab), iPage, Domain.com (opens in new tab), Web.com, SiteBuilder.com and more.

HostGator's cartoon mascot, cheerful website and low headline prices might leave you thinking it's mostly for consumers and hosting newbies, but in reality the service offers a full range of products for all levels of user.

It's a winning recipe which delivers great results. Datanyze' Web Hosting Share report (opens in new tab) puts HostGator in 5th place with 5.71%, ahead of all but the largest of web names (GoDaddy (opens in new tab), Amazon AWS, Google.)

What hosting plans does HostGator offer? 

HostGator's range starts with low-cost shared hosting (opens in new tab), simple to manage, but with all the features many sites will ever need.

If you don't have a website already, HostGator's website builder (opens in new tab) helps you create a starting design in minutes. Editing can be as easy as typing in some text, and dragging and dropping images, contact forms and anything else you need onto the page.

More powerful VPS and dedicated products deliver extra speed and reliability, and are better suited for large or business-critical sites.

There's also a capable managed WordPress (opens in new tab) range, reseller hosting (opens in new tab), domain registration and more.

Next, we'll talk about some of HostGator's most important hosting products, their pros and cons, who they'll suit best and any alternatives you might want to consider.

HostGator shared hosting homepage

(Image credit: HostGator)

Shared hosting

Sign up for a shared plan and HostGator places your website on a single server which also hosts many other accounts. With everyone using the same CPU, hard drive and network connection, speeds aren't the best. But they're enough for many sites, and with the cost of the server spread across many users, prices are low.

HostGator's shared hosting starts at just $2.75 a month over three years ($6.95 on renewal). It only supports a single site, but still delivers everything we'd hope to see: free domain, free migration, unmetered storage and bandwidth, one-click WordPress installs (via the excellent Softaculous (opens in new tab)), free SSL (opens in new tab), the powerful cPanel (opens in new tab) control panel and 24/7 support via phone, live chat and email, all protected by a generous 45 day money-back guarantee (most hosts only offer 30).

Upgrading to the top-of-the-range plan gets you support for unlimited websites, along with a dedicated IP and a free Positive SSL certificate (a higher grade of SSL which allows you to display a Trustlogo® Site Seal on your website). This could be a smarter choice for businesses, but it's still very reasonably priced from $5.25 a month for the first three years, $14.95 afterwards.

Overall, HostGator's shared hosting is a capable product which has loads of features, but still remains very easy to use.

If price is key, iPage (opens in new tab) shared hosting starts at only $1.99 a month over three years. But although it more than covers the basics, the service doesn't match HostGator for quality and speed, and it's more expensive on renewal at $7.99.

Hostinger's shared hosting is an interesting HostGator alternative. Its Premium plan is priced similarly to HostGator's starter package, for instance, but it has similar performance, supports up to 100 websites, and adds useful WordPress and other tools.

Power users or anyone with large and advanced sites should look at A2 Hosting, too. Its top shared hosting packages are far more expensive ($12.99 a month over three years, $25.99 on renewal), but they get you more RAM and CPU time, high-speed storage, a faster web server and assorted other performance-boosting tech.

WordPress hosting

WordPress is a powerful and configurable platform which can help you build anything from a simple single-page website, to a personal blog, a professional business site or (with help from add-ons like WooCommerce (opens in new tab)) a full-featured web store.

HostGator's shared hosting plans are the most cost-effective way to try WordPress. The bundled Softaculous installs WordPress in seconds, and you can begin building websites right away. That could be the smart choice for simple sites, or if you’re just looking to learn the WordPress basics.

HostGator also offers managed WordPress hosting for more demanding users. Valuable extras include CodeGuard's daily automatic backups and 1-click restores. And SiteLock Fix doesn't just scan for your website files for malware, like most of the competition; it grabs any affected files, removes the threat and uploads a clean version back to your site.

Other benefits are less visible, though also important. Managed WordPress servers are optimized for WordPress, delivering more speed and higher security. And the support team has more WordPress expertise, helping you solve tricky WordPress-specific issues.

Despite these advantages, the managed WordPress plans are only a little more expensive, with prices starting at $5.95 a month over three years ($9.95 on renewal) for a single site account.

This looks like a good deal to us. CodeGuard backups and SiteLock Fix are top-quality, industry-standard tools which are premium extras with most web hosts, and getting them bundled with even the cheapest Managed WordPress plan is a real plus.

Bluehost's managed WordPress range is relatively costly, with a starting price of $17.95 a month, but support for unlimited bandwidth and websites, free domain privacy protection and bonus marketing and other tools could make it a worthwhile alternative for business users.

If you can't decide what level of WordPress support you need, take a look at InMotion Hosting (opens in new tab). A huge range of plans from a $3.99 a month standard hosting option to specialist VPS and dedicated WordPress options ensure there's something for every level of user.

VPS hosting 

VPS (opens in new tab) (Virtual Private Server) hosting, like shared hosting, has multiple accounts on the same server. But there aren't as many, and every VPS gets its own resources. If you buy a VPS with two CPU cores and 2GB RAM, for instance, no other account can use them, ensuring your site delivers higher and more consistent speeds. While shared hosting might run into trouble if you have tens of thousands of visitors a month, a good VPS can handle hundreds of thousands.

HostGator has only three VPS plans. The starter product gives you 2GB RAM, 2 CPU cores, 120GB SSD storage, free domain, free SSL and 2 dedicated IPs from $23.95 a month for 12 months, $79.95 on renewal. 

The top-of-the-range plan offers 4 cores, 8GB RAM and 240GB storage for $59.95 a month over 12 months, rising to $149.95 on renewal. 

(cPanel is available, but only as a paid extra: add $10 a month to each of those plans if you'd like a copy.)

These are capable products, all fully managed (which means HostGator offers full support to keep the VPS updated and running smoothly), and should deliver solid and speedy hosting for larger, resource-hungry websites. But other providers typically have a far wider range of plans, and if you're looking for something cheaper, more powerful or configurable, it's well worth checking a few alternatives.

Hostwinds has ten VPS plans rather than three, for instance. It has unmanaged plans (no software support, you run the server yourself) from only $4.99 billed monthly.) The top-of-the-range VPS has far more resources, with 16 CPU cores and 96GB, and all plans are available with Windows (opens in new tab) as well as Linux (opens in new tab). Plus, there are network and power uptime guarantees of 99.9999%, equivalent to 31.56 seconds of down time a year.

Dedicated hosting 

Opt for shared or VPS hosting and you'll share your server with other accounts, limiting your site's speed. Choose dedicated hosting and the server, the CPU, the RAM, the network connection is all yours, ensuring you'll never be affected by other site's behavior.

Another big plus for experienced users is the ability to set up the server just as you'd like. You can choose the hardware specs, the operating system, web server and more, and tweak them to suit your precise needs.

HostGator's dedicated server hosting (opens in new tab) products (like its VPS range) is limited, with only three server configurations. 

These start with a 4-core, 8GB RAM and 1TB HDD system, priced at $89.98 a month over three years, $189 on renewal. 

The top-of-the-range is an 8-core, 30GB RAM and 1TB SSD system for $139.99 a month over three years, $289 on renewal.

Both systems support Windows as well as Linux, a welcome option you won't see with most web hosts.

These are decent mid-range systems, fully managed with 24/7 support, and good value for what you're getting. But with three plans only, your choice is very limited. If you're looking for something outside of this middle ground, a cheaper or more powerful server, there are many more options available.

IONOS' dedicated server range doesn't have the most powerful hardware, but there's some amazing value. Managed entry-level servers start at $45 a month (billed annually) for the first six months, then $65, and we’ve seen special deals as low as $33 billed monthly.

Alternatively, Hostwinds (opens in new tab) and A2 Hosting (opens in new tab) support far more powerful servers, are supremely configurable (you can install up to ten drives in some systems), and allow you to choose your operating system (Hostwinds supports Windows as well as Linux).

HostGator control panel

(Image credit: HostGator)

Does HostGator have a website builder?

Website builders are just about the easiest way to start a site. Choose from a selection of designs, drag and drop elements like text blocks, photos, maps and video onto the page, then customize the content to make it your own. Even newcomers could have a good-looking site online within hours.

All HostGator's shared hosting products include a free version of the Weebly site builder. This limits sites to six pages and displays a HostGator link in the footer, but it might work for kids or just learning what a website builder can do.

HostGator has a far better option in its stand-alone Gator Website Builder (opens in new tab) plan. Instead of asking you to choose a template, then drag and drop page blocks, Gator Builder asks you some questions and then automatically builds a site to suit your needs. 

Prices start low at $3.84 a month over two years, $7.68 on renewal, which gets you hosting, a free domain, free SSL, the Gator Builder, and even support for a tiny three-product web store.

The top-of-the-range Gator Builder plan lifts the product limit, helps encourage customers with up to ten email campaigns a month, includes an appointment booking system and allows taking payments with no transaction fees. Those are some valuable e-commerce extras, yet it's still cheap at $9.22 a month over two years, $18.45 on renewal.

Put it all together and Gator Builder is well worth a look, especially for newcomers looking to take their first steps into the web design waters. 

If you're looking for more features, try Wix (opens in new tab). It's just as easy to get started, but gives you many more design and website tools, and you can try it out and build your first site for free.

GoDaddy's Website Builder also has a surprisingly capable free option (there's email marketing, an appointments system, even the ability to sell online with GoDaddy Payments), along with some business-friendly paid plans. And Bluehost's WordPress-based website builder has 300+ appealing templates, a custom image library and support for unlimited websites, but starts at only $2.95 a month.

Can I build a web store with HostGator?

HostGator doesn't have the same ecommerce-focused products as the likes of Bluehost and GoDaddy, but as we've discussed above, the Website Builder's Express Store plan is a simple solution for smaller web stores. 

This is an appealing option for ecommerce newbies. Creating your site is easy; there's a free domain and free SSL, and you can add as many products to the store as you like. Many e-commerce hosting products take a share of every sale you make, but not this one: Express Store has no transaction fees. That's great value at only $9.22 a month over two years ($18.45 on renewal).

If you're looking for more power or features, then opting for a specialist WooCommerce hosting plan could make more sense (WooCommerce is one of the best ecommerce platforms around). 

Bluehost's baseline WooCommerce plan includes tools to simplify building your site, take payments and collect customer reviews from only $12.95 a month on the annual plan ($24.95 on renewal). InMotion Hosting gives you even more choice, with optimized OpenCart and Magento (opens in new tab) software, bonus features and a pile of performance-boosting tweaks.

HostGator's GTmetrix grade

HostGator's GTmetrix grade (Image credit: GTmetrix)

How fast is HostGator?

We assess web host performance by signing up for a shared hosting package, using a standard WordPress template to create a basic site, then watching how it performs in different situations.

Uptime - the proportion of time a website is available to visitors - is a vital factor in hosting success. We test this by using Uptime.com to try to access our test site every five minutes over 14 days, and logging any failures. HostGator managed 99.63% uptime, and although that sounds like a high figure, it's a little disappointing for a short test (most providers manage 100%.)

We measure website load speeds by using GTmetrix to access our test site, then calculate how long it takes to display the main content (a value known as Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP.) The lower a site's LCP, the faster and more responsive it feels.

This time HostGator trampled all over the competition, with an LCP of 0.551 seconds earning it first place out of our last 15 tests. The lead isn't huge - most providers score between 0.600 and 0.800 seconds - but this is an important stat, and a good result for HostGator.

HostGator's performance overview

(Image credit: HostGator)

We're also interested to see how a site performs when it's busy. The service k6 helps us figure this out by unleashing 20 simultaneous visitors on the site and monitoring what happens. This time the results were typical of most providers, with our HostGator site handling a very acceptable average of 15 requests per second.

HostGator's web account control panel

(Image credit: HostGator)

How easy is HostGator to use?

HostGator's customer portal has a helpful Create Website guide which walks hosting newcomers through their first site-building steps: installing WordPress, choosing another CMS (opens in new tab) or app, maybe uploading files via FTP. This doesn't do very much, but it's still a welcome touch which could be very handy if you're still finding your way around.

The rest of the portal is little more than lists of links. Click here to open the WordPress dashboard, there to create email accounts, and over there to manage your domains. There's even a Search box to find relevant support documents without opening a separate tab at the HostGator knowledgebase.

This is useful, but HostGator spoils the effect by regularly trying to sell you more stuff. At least eight of the control panel links were mostly about pushing other products. You'll quickly learn which links to avoid, but we don't think that should be necessary.  If you've spent maybe hundreds of dollars on a hosting package, we expect its dashboard to focus on helping you use that, not selling you even more.

Fortunately, once you identify the useful links, they point you to some top-quality hosting tools. HostGator's shared hosting plans all come with cPanel, for instance, a very popular platform which has all the features you need to manage domains, emails, web space, databases and more.

Put aside the over-enthusiastic marketing, then, and HostGator is relatively straightforward to operate, even for newcomers to the hosting world.

HostGator support page

(Image credit: HostGator)

How good is HostGator's support?

Run into any issues at HostGator and its web knowledgebase could be the quickest route to an answer. 

Searching for common hosting terms brings a huge number of hits, but that's partly because there are duplicates or not-so-relevant articles in the list. 

When we searched for 'subdomain', the top result was an article called '[Featured] HostGator Datacenter Migration', for instance: not something we'd expect to come first. And the next three articles were titled 'What is a subdomain name and how to create one', 'Please read before creating a subdomain' and 'How to create a subdomain' (a blog post.) What we really want is a single comprehensive page, but here we'd probably open and read all three.

The various articles mostly have a lot of helpful content, and they can also be filtered according to their category. If you're only interested in cPanel guides, say, or video tutorials, you can view those results only with a click.

When you finally reach your chosen article, there's usually a lot of helpful content, but we found this wasn't always well maintained. The How To Create a Subdomain  https://www.hostgator.com/blog/how-to-create-subdomain  piece has broken image link icons where its screenshots used to be, for instance, making it less than useful as a tutorial.

If you can't find what you need, there's real live help available 24/7 via telephone, live chat and email.

Our experience with HostGator support has been excellent over the years, and it was broadly positive in this review. Email queries received speedy and accurate replies, and although we waited a lengthy 19 minutes to get a response on one live chat session, once the agent arrived he did a good job of identifying our fictional test problem and pointing us to the best and easiest solution.


HostGator FAQs

Post-payment confirmation from HostGator

(Image credit: HostGator)

What payment types does HostGator accept?

HostGator accepts payment via card or PayPal.

Does HostGator offer refunds?

HostGator offers a better-than-most 45-day money-back guarantee for managed shared, VPS and reseller accounts (most providers only give you 30 days.)

It's not all good news. The guarantee doesn't apply to dedicated servers, or monthly-billed hosting plans, which are covered by some hosts.

There are other exclusions, but they're more typical. For example, domains, setup fees and third-party products and services aren't protected by the guarantee, much the same as we see with other providers.

HostGator's uptime score

HostGator's uptime score (Image credit: Uptime)

Does HostGator have an uptime guarantee?

HostGator's shared and reseller hosting servers have a 99.9% uptime guarantee, much the same as the rest of the shared hosting competition.

The company also says you could receive a credit of one month's fees if this target isn't hit. How might this work? The small print simply says if the service falls short of the 99.9% figure, you 'may' receive one month of credit. But you also may not, presumably. All you can do is talk to the Billing department and ask.

That's better than nothing, but we prefer a guarantee to spell out how this works. Scala Hosting, for instance, says you get 0% credit for downtime of 0.1% or less; 10% if downtime is up to 0.2%; 20% if downtime is up to 0.3%, and so on. The company still gets to define what 'downtime' means, but it's still doing a better job of defining your rights.

Dedicated servers are covered by a separate guarantee where you're credited depending on the amount of time your server is down, a simpler and more straightforward scheme.

Where are HostGator's data centers?

HostGator has two main data centers in Provo, Utah, and Houston, Texas. The company says there are 'some [servers] residing in other locations.'

We like to see hosts provide more data centers, ideally spread around the world. GoDaddy, for example, can host your website in North America, India, Singapore or Europe. This means customers have a better chance of finding a data center close to their audience, giving their site an immediate speed boost.

Where to find IP Address on HostGator

Where to find IP Address on HostGator (Image credit: HostGator)

What is my HostGator IP address?

Sign into HostGator's customer portal (portal.hostgator.com).

Find your hosting package in the list, and click its Launch cPanel button.

The IP address for the server hosting your IP address is displayed as 'Shared IP Address' in the right-hand General Information box.

HostGator nameservers

(Image credit: HostGator)

What are HostGator's nameservers?

If your website domain isn't managed by HostGator, you may need to set it to use HostGator's nameservers to connect the domain to your new web space.

Unlike some providers, there aren't fixed values such as 'ns1.hostgator.com' and 'n2.hostgator.com' which you can use everywhere. The names you need, and how to find them, vary depending on your product and where it's hosted.

To find the details you need, log into HostGator's customer portal (portal.hostgator.com).

Click Hosting in the left-hand sidebar.

Click Manage for your website domain, then the Settings link.

Your nameservers are displayed in the 'Server Info & Settings' box.

How to cancel a product on HostGator

(Image credit: HostGator)

How do I cancel a HostGator product?

To cancel a HostGator product, first log into the company's portal (portal.hostgator.com.)

Find your hosting package in the list, and click Manage Package.

Click Billing, scroll down and click Cancel Package.

Read and follow the instructions carefully to cancel your HostGator plan.

Mike Williams
Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.