HostGator is among the best-known, largest, and oldest web hosts available in the industry. Even with a rich history, the company seems to be constantly improving. For example, in the last 24 months, the web host has had 99.98% average uptime.
Opting for one of the basic plans with shared hosting will give you a free domain for a year, a free SSL certificate, and unlimited storage and bandwidth. HostGator also stands out for its top customer service, including live chat with nearly instant responses.
On the other end of the spectrum, HostGator’s page loading times leave plenty of room for improvement with an average of 1,191 ms. You will also find yourself with extra fees for multiple services, including security and backups. HostGator also has the industry-standard pricing structure that increases dramatically when you renew.
To help you decide whether to use HostGator, we completed hands-on testing and utilized third-party data.
A Quick Overview
Before getting into the pros and cons of HostGator, here is a quick snapshot. In 24 months, we noticed an average speed of 1,191 ms and an average uptime of 99.98%. There is also 24/7 live chat and support for more than 75 apps. You get a single email account, unmetered storage and bandwidth, and a free domain for the first year. Hosting plans include Shared, WordPress, Cloud, Dedicated Servers, and VPS. You get just one free site transfer. The most affordable plan starts at $2.75 per month but bumps up to $6.95 per month at renewal.
Advantages of HostGator Shared Plans
We’ve already touched on some of the pros associated with HostGator, from its uptime to fast and friendly customer service to free site transfers and beginner-friendly options. Here are the best traits of HostGator in more detail.
1. Uptime of 99.98%
In the past 24 months, HostGator delivered an average uptime of an impressive 99.98%. To make this even better, the last several months have had consistent uptime of 99.98 to 100%.
An excellent uptime guarantee supplements the impressive uptime. If HostGator’s uptime goes below 99.90%, you will get a free month of service. Of course, hacks that are impossible to predict and planned maintenance do not count. You also have to explicitly ask for the credit by contacting the billing department in 30 days or less after the downtime. Even so, the presence of a guarantee is another strong point in favor of HostGator’s uptime.
While more companies are starting to offer similar guarantees, there are still not too many that do, giving HostGator an advantage.
To put that average uptime of 99.98% in perspective, here are the monthly average uptimes for the past 12 months:
- February 2019 – 100%
- March 2019 – 99.99%
- April 2019 – 99.98%
- May 2019 – 99.95%
- June 2019 – 99.99%
- July 2019 – 100%
- August 2019 – 99.99%
- September 2019 – 100%
- October 2019 – 100%
- November 2019 – 100%
- December 2019 – 99.89%
- January 2020 – 99.97%
2. Money-back Guarantee – for 45 Days
While most web hosts offer a 30-day guarantee, HostGator takes this a step further with 45 full days. This guarantee applies to VPS hosting, reseller, and shared hosting packages. It adds more than two weeks to the most common guarantee policy from competitors. You can use HostGator for nearly a month and a half and still get your refund.
Unsurprisingly, there are some exceptions to the money-back guarantee, but they are the most common exceptions that most competitors also include. You will not get refunds on administrative fees, installation fees on custom software, or dedicated servers. You will also get a deduction of $15 from your refund in cases of plans with a free domain name.
While the length of the guarantee is impressive, you should keep in mind that HostGator has 90 days to issue your refund. You also cannot get a refund on the money order, bank wire transfers, Western Union payments, or checks. Additionally, only new accounts or plans can get refunds, so there are no refunds for renewals.
3. Strong Customer Support
In our experience, HostGator does an excellent job providing clients with customer support. You can use the knowledge base or contact support via live chat, email, or phone. Live chat gave us an incredibly quick response as we were connected to a service rep in around 15 seconds.
We asked those service reps a range of questions on all topics, and they always gave us prompt answers in a friendly manner that made them seem well-trained and knowledgeable.
4. Incredibly User Friendly
HostGator is set up to be highly intuitive and user-friendly, even for those who are new to websites, such as webmasters or bloggers. You will find numerous walkthroughs and tutorials in that knowledge section. There are even additional beginner-friendly features if you want to set up your site but do not want to hire someone to manage, design, or build it.
Among the most noteworthy features is Gator by HostGator, the company’s website builder. This is among the best website builders we have seen, and it includes a domain name and free hosting in a single account.
You will find numerous modern, customizable templates, as well as the ability to drag and drop features to customize their appearance further. It also includes a free SSL certificate to keep your visitors’ data safe and site analytics for free.
You can even take advantage of the eCommerce plan that comes with Gator by HostGator. This lets you set up an online store with all of the functionality you need, including inventory and payments, without adding tech or plugins.
5. Free Migration
One of the value-added features that make HostGator’s plans more appealing than its competitors is free migrations, including sites and cPanels. To take advantage of this feature, you need to use it within 30 days of signing up.
Once you get in touch with HostGator, they will gladly help you move a domain name, scripts, site files, and databases for free. They will even deliver a free full cPanel transfer, which is ideal for those with multiple site installs, including subdomains on a larger site.
Keep in mind that all the shared hosting plans from HostGator include a free migration for a single site or the cPanel. If you opt for a reseller plan, you can get as many as 30 migrations included.
While just one site migration may not seem like much, it puts savings right in your pocket, especially compared to competitors that charge $100 to $150 for a single transfer.
6. Available Site Security
There is good and bad news when it comes to site security for HostGator. The good side of this is that you can supplement your bare bone shared hosting plan with additional security features. However, these do come with fees and are not included in your plan.
Even so, the option to add SiteLock monitoring, which runs daily to look for potential breaches or hacks and instantly notifies you of them, is a very appealing security feature. So is Spam Assassin on the email plans. We’ll go into more details about the fees, but SiteLock, for example, costs $1.67 per month or $19.99 a year.
Disadvantages of HostGator Shared Plans
The uptime and uptime guarantee from HostGator are strong positives, as are the great customer support and beginner-friendly features. However, there are some less than stellar features that you should be aware of. The following are the most important problems to consider.
1. Slow Page Loading
Probably the most important con we noticed during our testing of HostGator was the slow page loading speed. While our site was always live, it was also consistently slow. The average page loading speed in our 24 months of testing was 1,191 ms. To put it in perspective, that is more than one second. Many competitors halve this figure, if not better.
Even simple content pages that were text-based took more than a second to load. That gets even worse when you add in multiple images with high-resolution and even more text.
Remember that a slow loading speed will increase your bounce rate as people are unlikely to wait around for your page to load. This can hurt your bottom line by reducing conversions or sales.
While you will be able to maximize your website’s speed with some strategies, like minimizing file sizes, you cannot overcome a slow server.
To show just how troubling the loading times were during our experience with HostGator, consider the following monthly averages over 12 months. You will notice that many months were significantly worse than the average.
- February 2019 – 1,107 ms
- March 2019 – 1,068 ms
- April 2019 – 957 ms
- May 2019 – 931 ms
- June 2019 – 1,331 ms
- July 2019 – 1,763 ms
- August 2019 – 1,494 ms
- September 2019 – 1,328 ms
- October 2019 – 1,423 ms
- November 2019 – 1,378 ms
- December 2019 – 1,640 ms
- January 2020 – 2,189 ms
2. Price Jumps at Renewal and Discounts for Longer Plans
Unfortunately for those who don’t like them, HostGator follows two of the incredibly common pricing tricks in the industry, along with most of its competitors. You pay less per month with a longer plan, and your price will always jump up at renewal.
You can see this easily by looking at the most basic plan. You see that pricing is from $2.75 per month, but then realize this rate only applies if you sign up for 36 months. Signing up for 24 months increases it to $3.58 per month, while a 12-month plan is $5.95 per month, and anything less is $10.95 per month.
Then, look at the renewal rate for that same entry-level plan. It goes up to $6.95, instead of $2.75, for the same service.
Like most web hosts, HostGator assumes that you will not want to hassle with switching hosts in the future.
3. Extra Fees for Features
As we touched on before when mentioning the security features available, HostGator offers plenty of features, but you have to pay extra for them. This is one of the ways that the web host makes up for its low introductory pricing.
The cheapest plan, called Hatchling, includes everything you truly need for a full website, but there are some things missing. You get a domain, one-click installation for apps, unlimited storage, unmetered bandwidth, and the free SSL certificate, but what’s missing?
You will have to pay more for SEO tools, SiteLock monitoring, Gmail access, and backups. To make this even more disappointing, HostGator is careful with its wording, letting you know that these features are “available” for the plan without telling you that it is included. While some competitors do this as well, others include these features.
We already mentioned that SiteLock costs $19.99 per year. Gmail costs $5 per month per user or $60 per year. CodeGuard, which is the option for backing up your site, costs $23.95 per year and does not include as many previous site versions as some competitors.
Because of this, when you consider pricing, be sure to factor in everything instead of relying on the low introductory rate.
Overview of HostGator Plans and Pricing
Let’s take a look at what’s included in the three shared hosting plans from HostGator.
This plan gives you a single domain, one-click WordPress installs, a free WordPress or cPanel website transfer, a free domain, a free SSL certificate, unlimited subdomains, and unlimited storage and disk space. It starts at $2.75 per month.
The Baby Plan starts at $3.95 per month and upgrades to include unlimited domains in addition to the Hatchling features.
The Business plan’s pricing starts at $5.95 per month. It builds on the Baby plan with a free upgrade to Positive SSL, free SEO tools, and a free dedicated IP. You also get a toll-free number.
Our HostGator Recommendation
Our review and recommendation of HostGator are fairly mixed. We appreciate the improved uptime, excellent customer service, and user-friendly options, including for beginners. However, you have to put up with extra costs for features you likely want and slow speeds.
The good news is that HostGator offers an even better choice than its shared plans. The WordPress Cloud hosting plan from HostGator costs more initially, but it overcomes the performance challenges and includes more features. We suggest examining that plan and comparing it to the above shared plans before making a decision.