Hostgator Review

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HostGator was founded in Florida in 2002. By 2012 their success had exploded. EIG (Endurance International Group) picked on that and acquired them for $225 million.

EIG is a massive corporation that owns brands like Bluehost, Constant Contact, iPage and HostGator. Being 100% honest, I am usually not too excited to test their products, they all seem to follow a discouraging pattern:

  • Overpriced
  • Disappointing support
  • Missing features
  • Aggressive marketing
  • Hidden fees and expensive add-ons

However, I am excited to review HostGator as their online reputation seems better than sister company iPage and their prices don’t seem too bad. I could not wait to get my hands on HostGator.

Let’s check out what HostGator has to offer and when (and when not) to use it. For a quick overview, check out HostGator’s video-review below:

What Products Does HostGator Offer?

Almost everything hosting related, that’s why their catalog can be confusing at times.

  • Domain names can be purchased at HostGator, although they aren’t a leading domain name registrar. For the first year a .com domain costs $12.95, but upon renewal you’ll be charged $17.99 – there are indeed cheaper options like Namecheap.
  • Their shared hosting plans are meant for small and medium projects that don’t get hundreds of thousands of visitors per month. This type of service hosts different clients (websites) under the same server, similar to living in a shared house. Most likely the one you should get, at least to start with. Their prices go from $8.95 to $16.95.
  • WordPress hosting: For those looking for a shared hosting that’s optimized for WordPress. These go from $12.95 for one site, all the way up to $81.95 per month. Personally, I think there are better alternatives for WordPress users (e.g. SiteGround).
  • VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. You can think of this as a shared hosting server that has been divided into smaller sub-servers using a specific software configuration. These are great for smaller and medium sites that need a particular server configuration (e.g. need to use a different programming language). VPS plans at HostGator start at $80 per month.
  • If your project gets tens of thousands of visitors per month or needs a powerful server, you’d probably be better off with a dedicated server. You’ll have your own server and won’t share its resources with anyone else. At HostGator you can get your own dedicated server starting at around $190 per month.
  • You can think of cloud hosting as a network of connected servers, meaning your website won’t only be hosted on one server but several. Resources (e.g. more memory or CPU) can be added or removed according to your needs. At HostGator cloud hosting starts (too cheap?) at $10.95 a month.
  • On top of these, they also offer a website builder called Gator for users looking to create their own website easily – no technical knowledge required. Although it’s not a bad product, it’s still under development and other site builders offer more at similar prices.

This HostGator review focuses on their shared hosting plans, so from now on I’ll be referring to those.

HostGator Pricing: What Do Their Shared Plans Include?

The first thing to notice about HostGator pricing is that they come with big discounts for the first term. A free domain name is also included in the first year (for yearly or longer plans) Be aware that the costs at renewal are much higher. I always mention both prices so you don’t get any nasty surprises.

HatchlingBabyBusiness
Allowed sites1UnlimitedUnlimited
Support24 hours24 hours24 hours
Max. number of Inodes

(similar to number of files)

200,000 inodes200,000 inodes200,000 inodes
StorageUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
DatabaseUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Backup *

Weekly

(only 1 available)

Weekly

(only 1 available)

Weekly

(only 1 available)

Backup restore cost$25 per restoration$25 per restoration$25 per restoration
Dedicated IPNoNoYes
First-term prices for 1-year deals$3.95 a month $5.00 a month$7.25 a month
Renewal price for 1-year deals$8.95 a month$11.95 a month$16.95 a month

* If your inodes count goes over 100,000, your account won’t be backed up. They only keep 1 daily, 1 weekly and 1 monthly backup.

If you go for longer deals (e.g. 36 months), the first term prices drop even further. But expect a high increase when the renewal time comes around.

Are you looking for an extra discount?

If you use the code “TOOLTESTERS” during check out, you can get further discounts – from 25% up to 60% depending on the duration of the contract. Follow this link to apply the discounts.

The Hatchling Plan is interesting for those who have only 1 website, as even if its storage is unlimited you can only have 1 domain name (website) per hosting plan.

With the Baby package, you can host unlimited websites. And the Business tier is recommended for those looking to have a dedicated IP address.

Be aware that HostGator’s purchase process always tries to sign you up for the longer deals (e.g. 36 months), and pushes you to get extra add-ons (e.g. SiteLock) that you may not need.

Sadly, their default backup features are almost non-existent, they only keep a 1 weekly, daily and monthly copy of your site. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’ll also charge you $25 extra each time you ask them to restore from one of their backups – I see these as an unacceptable hidden fee. However, they offer an extra backup add-on at around $25 extra per year – sneaky.

HostGator Pros & Cons

Let me quickly tell you what I think are the most important advantages and disadvantages of HostGator shared hosting:

ProsCons

  • Plenty of storage: All plans come with unlimited storage, although all your files combined should not be more than 200,000.
  • Flexible terms: Hosting plans can be purchased on 1, 3, 6, 12, 24 or 36 months base.
  • Many programming languages: One of the hosting providers that supports more languages. PHP, Ruby On Rails, Perl and Python are all allowed.
  • Unmetered bandwidth: They don’t limit the traffic your site can get.

  • Tricky prices and fees: Very cheap prices the first term and expensive upon renewal. $25 is charged if you need to restore from one of their backups.
  • Constant upsells: Like many other EIG products, their backend is packed with unnecessary upsell options.
  • Speed could be better: They should improve their speed.
  • Poor backups: Unless you pay for an add-on, the backup options are very limited.
  • Missing advanced features: For example, you don’t get staging areas and it doesn’t have a built-in server-side caching system.
  • Unreliable support: At times, I found myself waiting over 30 minutes to be connected with the support team.

When to Use HostGator Hosting?

HostGator’s shared hosting is for those looking for a provider that doesn’t measure the bandwidth and is generous with the storage.

It’s also a great fit if you are looking to use other programming languages to PHP. Using Perl, Python and Ruby On Rails is allowed.

Personally, I think HostGator offers the best EIG hosting service I’ve tried. However, I do think there are better alternatives you could be using at similar prices (e.g. SiteGround or DreamHost).

When Not to Use HostGator?

Despite having an easy-to-use interface, I’m afraid it’s not suitable for larger projects. Neither for hosting-dependant projects like online stores nor avid bloggers.

Their low uptime levels and slowish speed can punish your SEO efforts and support can be, at times, frustrating. But for me, the most worrying fact is that they don’t include a backup system – sorry, but one weekly backup does not cut it for most.

HostGator Shared Hosting Details

Let’s now explore HostGator’s specifications in detail:

criterion rating comments

Ease of Use

As customary with EIG products, their registration process is confusing and packed with expensive add-ons you most likely don’t need.

Their backend is modern-looking and intuitive. If you’ve used a cPanel hosting service before, you’ll find HostGator’s system familiar. There are many ads for their add-ons and plan upsells.

Be aware that if you cancel your account, it will have an immediate effect and your hosting package (and website) will be gone even if you have some months left on your contract.

Domain Names

HostGator includes the domain name free only the first year. A .com domain name costs $12.95 the first year and a whopping $17.99 after the renewal date.

You are allowed 1 domain name (1 website) with the Hatchling plan, and unlimited domain names with the Baby and Business plan. Subdomains are unlimited with any of the 3 plans.

Email Rating

All of HostGator’s plans come with unlimited email accounts and email storage. * However, it’s not suitable for sending bulk emails as you’ll be restricted to 500 emails per hour.

Databases

You can have as many databases as you need. The size of your databases isn’t limited either. *

Applications

You’ll be able to install the most popular content management systems like WordPress, Magento, Drupal or Joomla with their easy-to-use installer.

Webspace Limit

The storage is another aspect that HostGator doesn’t limit. However, be aware that you can’t just store anything, you are only allowed web files, emails and user-generated content. For example, forget about using HostGator as your cloud storage for your thousands of HD holiday pics. *

Monthy Data Transfer Limit

Bandwidth isn’t limited either.

FTP Accounts and Secure FTP

Unlimited FTP accounts are allowed, FTPS (secure) is also possible. Having SSH access is possible too.

Server Location

HostGator has all its data centers in the US: Texas and Utah. This isn’t ideal for projects with a non-US audience.

Security Features

HostGator has a custom firewall to protect you from hacker attacks (e.g. DDoS). But they don’t disclose too much about what they do, I guess they don’t want to give it away. They provide SSL certificates for free and SSH access.

If you want extra security, an external paid app (SiteLock), can be added. This tool will scan and monitor your files to find security issues.

Server Speed

At HostGator, they use PHP 7, it’s a faster solution than the old and clunky PHP 5, but having PHP 8 wold be better. They also have SSD drives for their shared hosting. However, HostGator’s shared hosting doesn’t seem to use HTTP/2 or a custom caching system – all very important to improve speed. As you can see below, the speed results in our tests were pretty disappointing.

Uptime

After months of monitoring their uptime, I think HostGator offers reliable uptime. They have averaged an uptime of 99.99% during the last 12 months.

Backups

HostGator will backup your site once a week, but only if your account is less than 20 GB (and 100,000 inodes). Sadly, they only keep one backup – crazy. Most other providers offer a smarter approach to backups. With HostGator, you’ll need to purchase a 3rd-party solution (CodeGuard based). Via cPanel you can create and download your own backup, but this solution is cluncky.

CDN

HostGator doesn’t provide a CDN. However, you can connect an external solution like Couldflare.

Server Features

With their server, you’ll be allowed to use PHP 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3, and have MySQL databases. Perl, Ruby On Rails and Python are allowed too. However, some other features like staging areas or server-side caching systems are missing. More advanced features like staging areas or Git-ready servers aren’t available. Windows hosting plans are also available.

Refunds and Guarantees

HostGator comes with a 45-day money back policy. Be aware that this will only apply for hosting services, you won’t get your money back for domain names. They also ensure that your uptime won’t be lower than 99.9% and if it goes below, you’ll be compensated.

Assistance and Support

Support is available 24h by live chat, email and phone. In my experience, the waiting times were long and they didn’t always solve my issue/questions – not even sales questions were solved at times.

Overall Rating

3.9/5

HostGator comes with almost no limitations and their speed is good. On top of that, they have an intuitive system. However, their low uptime results, iffy support, lack of backups and constant upsell pitches make it not a top choice.

* Even if HostGator doesn’t have specific limitations (e.g. for storage), all your combined files from your apps, emails and databases should be under 250,000 files (inodes).

HostGator Performance Tests

In order to know if HostGator’s performance is good, I’ve done a couple of interesting tests: speed and uptime.

Let’s check the results out.

HostGator Speed Test

Everyone wants (or should want) their website to load as fast as possible, and a reliable hosting provider is crucial for this. A faster website will provide better user experiences and give you extra SEO points.

HostGator turned out to be OKish in my tests. I replicated the same test webpage for several providers and then measured their speed using 3 different tools and different worldwide locations.

ProviderGTmetrixPingdomWebpage testPageSpeed InsightsTotal
SiteGround0.710.711.782.941.54
GreenGeeks0.811.491.792.21.56
Namecheap0.991.401.922.081.6
Hostinger0.972.071.771.621.61
WP Engine11.991.462.21.65
Cloudways0.801.391.892.841.73
Kinsta0.782.182.171.981.77
DreamHost1.161.722.561.921.84
GoDaddy1.142.272.232.11.94
IONOS1.212.081.742.781.95
A2 Hosting0.961.403.781.92.01
InMotion2.022.862.613.522.75
iPage1.762.822.733.742.76
HostGator2.45.211.871.652.78
Bluehost1.744.52.422.822.87

Results in seconds 2021

As you can see, HostGator didn’t do pretty well, it average a loading time of 2.78 seconds when the test winner (SiteGround) loaded in 1.54 seconds.

Is HostGator’s Uptime Good?

Hosting providers have some service interruptions, for example, when they need to restart the servers to complete an update.

If those service interruptions are not often and short, no problem. But, if your hosting provider is constantly down and they take forever to be back up, you will be negatively affected – bad user experiences mean lower conversion rates and downtime also disappoints search engines.

Your uptime should be 99.95% or higher. In other words, your hosting provider should be down less than 0.05% of the time – around 4 hours per year.

Provider2019 Uptime2020 Uptime2021 UptimeStarts at
KinstaNo data100%100%$25/month
CloudwaysNo data100%100%$10/month
SiteGround99.98%99.97%100%$14.99/month
NamecheapNo dataNo data100%$2.40/month
WP EngineNo data99.99%99.99%$25/month
Bluehost99.98%99.96%99.99%$9.99/month
HostGator99.94%99.91%99.99%$8.95/month
A2 Hosting99.93%99.99%99.98%$8.99/month
GreenGeeksNo data99.98%99.98%$10.95/month
DreamHost100%99.99%99.96%$6.99/month
GoDaddy99.97%99.9%99.96%$8.99/month
InMotion99.97%99.73%99.95%$17.99/month
IONOS – Uptime test 2 monthsNo dataNo data99.93%$4/month
Hostinger99.62%99.48%99.92%$5.99/month
iPage99.66%98.45%99.85%$8.99/month

To monitor uptime I use StatusCake, a tool that checks each website every 5 minutes.

HostGator’s uptime, as you can see in the table above, was impressive and had good results.

HostGator Review: Do I Recommend It?

Your website will be safe being hosted at HostGator, their uptime is good, but the speed should be better. Good enough if you aren’t hosting a super serious project with them. If you do have a more professional project, I’d encourage you to check out SiteGround, GreenGeeks and DreamHost.

Even if HostGator restricts the number of files that you can have, they are pretty generous with their storage, email, bandwidth and database limitations. Probably a good option for those valuing quantity over quality.

But, and this one is big, be aware that their backup features are extremely poor, in my opinion, as bad as it gets. Personally, having a proper backup system has saved me hours of work and loads of money. Their $25 extra fee for each backup restore that you request makes me very angry.

Another downside is their support. At times, I had to wait over 30 minutes to be connected with a support agent and I always have the feeling they only half-read my questions.

However, you can try HostGator 45 days for free and see for yourself. Who knows, perhaps is a great option for you.

HostGator Alternatives

By now you’ve probably realized that HostGator isn’t my favorite provider. However, I think their performance isn’t too bad – especially their speed. But let me name several alternatives you could use for several scenarios:

But, if you still want to use HostGator, remember that you can try HostGator for free for 45 days.

 

Note: If you are looking to compare Bluehost and HostGator, please read this detailed article.

Review Updates

17 Sep 2021: Performance and general update. New rating.
5 Feb 2021: Discount cupon added
9 Oct 2020: General update – worse uptime and speed than in 2019
2 Jul 2019: First review

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