Comparison Review: Bluehost or HostGator?
The time to buy Bluehost or HostGator website hosting is now. Both web hosting companies are competitively priced and there are plenty of incentives to join either network.
I’ve extensively reviewed both Bluehost and HostGator in the past, and have been a paid client of both services for over a decade. I do have a relationship with both vendors, and as such am able to offer my readers a substantial discount on their hosting plans. Both hosting providers are currently priced at less than $3 per month, which is an outstanding deal to host your website. Bluehost Basic is only $2.95 per month, with the HostGator Hatchling plan at $2.78.
So which web host is right for you? While there are subtle differences between each service, the pricing, support, uptime and performance statistics are comparable. That said, here are the details you should know to ensure you’ll be able to make an educated decision when purchasing web hosting.
Bluehost is a private web hosting company, founded in 1996 and headquartered in Provo, Utah, USA. Along with it’s sister companies, Bluehost hosts over 2 million websites, accounting for an estimated 2.3% of US web hosting market share.
HostGator is a publicly traded web hosting company founded in 2002 and headquartered in Houston, Texas, USA. HostGator hosts over 9 million websites, with more than 400,000 customers worldwide. HostGator has an estimated 4.0% market share of web hosts in the USA.
Endurance International Group: Bluehost & HostGator Parent Company
Both companies are owned by Endurance International Group (EIG), a web hosting conglomerate that owns dozens upon dozens of hosting companies, most of which continue to operate under their original name.
Testing Bluehost vs HostGator – Who is Best?
Uptime – SLA Guarantee
Bluehost: Unfortunately Bluehost does not have an uptime guarantee or SLA. However, their Network / Server Uptime Agreement offers two concessions: most issues are resolved within 15 minutes (but it does not indicate how often these issues may occur), and the second, that you will not be charged for leaving your hosting agreement early due to server downtime.
HostGator: If your shared or reseller server has a physical downtime that falls short of the 99.9% uptime guarantee, you may receive one (1) month of credit on your account. The Uptime Guarantee only applies to Shared and Reseller web hosting accounts. VPS and Dedicated Servers are covered by a separate and unique Network Guarantee.
Testing Website Speed
International Distributed Performance Testing with Chrome Browser – Full Page Download
|Web Host||Successes||Failures||Avg Load Time||Load Time STD Dev||Fastest Hr/Day||Slowest Hr/Day||Fastest Day/Wk||Slowest Day/Wk|
USA Only Distributed Performance Testing – Server Response Times
|Web Host||Successes||Failures||Avg Load Time||Load Time STD Dev||Uptime|
Over the course of 2-weeks of testing at a 15-minute monitoring interval, the USA zone average showed Bluehost to load nearly 25% faster than HostGator. When testing browser response time, fully downloading element on my WordPress test site, the results showed a 38% difference between speeds of both hosts, with Bluehost coming out the winner for both page load time tests.
It was interesting to note, however, that Bluehost achieved a perfect 100% uptime, even though they do not offer their clients a formal uptime guarantee or SLA. HostGator achieved a 99.9X% of uptime, successfully meeting their 99.9% SLA guarantee.
While there is a discrepancy between the server responses of Bluehost and HostGator, both show strong performance for their basic shared hosting plans, and either company will provide great performance. Bluehost, however, is the clear choice if website speed tops your list of criteria when choosing a web host.
Setup & Ease of Use
While both Bluehost and HostGator utilize cPanel for their admin dashboard, they each have a customized design that makes the system even more intuitive and easy to setup. HostGator’s system looks a little more like the out-of-the-box standard cPanel dashboard, but stylized a bit better. Using each dashboard, I found the HostGator interface to be a bit more distracting, while the Bluehost interface with clear icons and section grids on a white background was easier to navigate.
Both web hosts do have upsells and cross-promotion ads throughout their systems, but this is to be expected when purchasing a budget shared hosting provider. Throughout the systems I did find the Bluehost ads to be less obtrusive and actually rather helpful, as the give the user a sense of confidence in the system and it’s support. The HostGator ads appeared more “flashy” and distracting during my workflow and dashboard navigation.
Neither hosting control panels are bad, I just give the better design to the Bluehost layout. I’ve literally seen hundreds of web host admin panels and dashboards over the years, and consider Bluehost to be one of the best. Their integrated walkthroughs, prompts and custom labeling are extremely helpful, and it’s a system I’d be comfortable recommending to anyone – from the novice to the power user.
Who has the Best Support? Bluehost or Hostgator?
Beyond uptime, availability and performance, comes the need for quality support from your web host.
The research suggests that Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.
In my personal web hosting experience I tend to agree with this data. I only use phone support for urgent website downtime type issues, and email support or ticketing system for requested server tweaks (such as turning on a feature that isn’t standard, or requesting a memory upgrade, for example).
For all other inquiries, I prefer chatting with the support representative via their instant messaging service or live chat. That way I can continue to work on other projects while I wait, and I can easily implement their suggestions while they’re on the line (works great if they copy a file or code path as well).
Naturally, I took the liberty of analyzing the support times of Bluehost and Hostgator to see who will provide you with the best service. 10 calls were placed at staggered intervals to each host on each day of the week (50 calls each), with 10 calls placed to each on each weekend day (20 calls each). All in all, 140 phone calls were made (I do apologize to Bluehost & HostGator customer service teams!), and the time was recorded for each. Below is the average of all the calls for both weekday and weekend.
|Estimated Wait||Actual Wait|
|Bluehost - Weekday:||6min||4:38s|
|Bluehost - Weekend:||4min||3:21s|
|HostGator - Weekday:||n/a||7:03s|
|HostGator - Weekend:||n/a||8:46s|
I found the estimated wait time feature with Bluehost to be helpful, as I could plan accordingly. I found it interesting that their estimated wait time was overestimated by an average of 31%, which set the expectation and then beat it, leaving a positive perception of Bluehost support in my mind. This must be an internal customer service metric that they choose to instate – much like a hostess at a restaurant claiming the wait time to be 45min, then you are pleasantly surprised to be seated in “only” 30min.
Bluehost phone support was 48% faster than HostGator. No one likes to wait, especially on the phone… and Bluehost knows this.
Live Chat Support
|Estimated Wait||Actual Wait|
|Bluehost - Weekday:||3min||2:13s|
|Bluehost - Weekend:||5min||2:27s|
|HostGator - Weekday:||4min||1:56s|
|HostGator - Weekend:||5min||1:43s|
HostGator live chat support’s response times were nearly 50% faster than Bluehost. What HostGator lacks in phone support they certainly make up for in live chat response times!
Through the course of testing the actual wait time varied significantly between each individual chat session. While Bluehost had some of the quickest response times over the testing period, the averages left a significantly quicker average overall response time from HostGator.
Who has the better support all comes down to whether you prefer speaking with an expert on the phone, or chatting on the computer while you work on other projects.
Hosting Plans: Best Value for the Price
Bluehost’s introductory plan (Basic) offers support for 1 website, 50 GB of SSD storage, unlimited bandwidth, a free SSL certificate, 25 sub-domains, and 5 email accounts with 100 MB of storage per account. All this can be had for the current promotion of $2.95/month (that’s over 60% off!). To activate this deal, click here.
HostGator’s intro plan (Hatchling) offers resources for 1 website, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, and unlimited email addresses. They often throw in $100 Google Ads credit, and $100 for Bing Ads – a nice perk for HostGator customers! HostGator’s current promo price is $2.78/month (also 60%+ off!) and can be activated here.
Comparing price to feature set, both hosting companies are nearly identical, however with unlimited storage and the free marketing dollars for Google and Bing Ads, HostGator stretches your hosting dollars a little further than Bluehost.
Conclusion: Bluehost or HostGator
OK, so we have the data on Bluehost vs HostGator; but which one is best? For the 6 factors analyzed, including: Uptime & Availability, Website Speed Test, Setup & Ease of Use, Phone Support, Live Chat Support, and Pricing, Bluehost edges out the winner. However, HostGator is a very close second. Personally, I weight website performance and server response times as the highest value, so even though HostGator wins out in several categories, and is slightly cheaper with some nice marketing incentives, I have gone with Bluehost for more websites over the years than HostGator. But as mentioned, I am a paying customer of both services, and have no complains about either of their shared hosting plans. Whichever host you choose, you’ll be in good hands, with solid performance and very affordable pricing to back it up!
This post was last updated October, 2018.