I still remember the first time I was looking for a cheap web host: all these competing online offers came up and didn’t know which one to go for. I took ages to decide and in the end, I didn’t really choose well.
Concepts like databases, bandwidth, maximum inodes and FTP accounts really confused me. I also had no clue about their performance and which provider was trustworthy.
Luckily, after a couple of mistakes (please, don’t ever sign up with Strato!), I found a couple of reliable hosting providers I was pleased with.
To help you choose better than I did, I gathered all my findings in this guide. Let’s look at (the right) cheap web hosting for your project. Shall we?
Table of Contents
Affordable Hosting Overview Table
Note: the above prices are for 1-year deals after renewal. Some providers may offer juicy discounts during the first term.
What To Expect From a Cheap Hosting Provider
Before I dive into what each provider offers and tell you all about their pros and cons, let me explain to you what affordable hosting providers normally offer.
There are several types of hosting (e.g. VPS or dedicated hosting), but the most economical one is shared hosting. It’s called shared because you share a server (and its resources) with other clients (websites). Similar to co-living in a flat, your rent will be cheaper but you may need to wait longer to access the shower.
Linux and Windows are the two favourite operating systems among web hosting servers – Linux being the most popular one and the one you most likely need (e.g. to use PHP and WordPress). But some providers also offer Windows-based hosting (e.g. to use Microsoft’s ASP.net). MySQL is normally the default database management system.
One way or another, a domain name will be given. Most providers will offer a free domain name for the first year (e.g. SiteGround or Bluehost), after that you’ll be prompted to pay for your domain name. Generally speaking, domain name registrars like Namecheap have better rates.
All hosting providers come with a control panel where you can manage your settings (e.g. choosing a PHP version) and access the hosting features (e.g. backups). Most affordable hosting plans use cPanel as a visual interface to manage your hosting. However, others like DreamHost have their own solutions (previous screenshot).
Every web host will have some kind of support, as we’ll see later on, this is a crucial aspect when choosing a hosting provider as it can save time and money.
There are many types of affordable shared hosting services, but you can expect to pay between $7 to $30 a month after renewal – big discounts are often offered during the first term.
Top Cheap Web Hosting Providers
I am really impressed by this Los Angeles based hosting provider. DreamHost has been around since 1996 and it currently hosts over 1.5 million websites.
They offer a rounded hosting service that’s suitable for beginners and larger projects. On top of that, their products have a fair price.
- Shared Starter: $3.95 a month for 1 website. Email is paid separately starting at $19.95 per year.
- Shared Unlimited: $9.95 a month for unlimited sites, storage and email accounts.
The above prices are for 1-year deals, and you can purchase monthly and 3-year plans too. Unlike other providers, DreamHost won’t do cheaper offers for the first term of your purchase.
Who should use DreamHost?
If the bulk of your traffic comes from North America and you want a hosting provider that offers great value for your money, DreamHost is your best option.
Try DreamHost: www.dreamhost.com
This Bulgarian provider launched its hosting services back in 2004. SiteGround has more than 400 employees and hosts over 2 million domain names.
I am really impressed with their product (performance, support and features), and we’ve been using them for a couple of our own projects here at Tooltester (e.g. ChatToolTester is hosted on SiteGround). If they aren’t at the top of this ranking it’s because they are a bit more expensive than average – but the quality also increases.
- StartUp: $11.95 a month for 10 GB of storage and 1 website.
- GrowBig: $19.95 a month for 20 GB of storage and unlimited sites.
- GoGeek: $34.95 a month for 30 GB of storage, unlimited sites and higher performance.
The above prices reference 1-year deals, but be aware that the full amount needs to be paid in advance. On top of 12-months deals, you can also purchase 24-months and 36-months deals. SiteGround offers incredible discounts for the first purchase term – around 3x cheaper. So it might be a good idea to lock in the lower rate as long as possible.
Who should use SiteGround?
Anyone who wants the best quality and is happy to pay a bit more. I think it’s a good match for hosting-dependant projects like avid bloggers or digital agencies. If you are a developer, SiteGround’s advanced features may make your life easier. And online store owners will be glad to hear that SiteGround’s higher plan is PCI (compliant with recommended e-commerce security standards) .
Try SiteGround: www.siteground.com
A2 Hosting has been around since 2001 and even if it’s not as popular as other providers like GoDaddy or Bluehost, it has a relevant market share. They claim that 97% of their customers are satisfied with their service and promise to have 20x faster servers.
A2 Hosting Prices:
- Lite: $8.99 a month for 1 website, 25 email accounts and unmetered bandwidth and storage.
- Swift: $10.99 a month for unlimited sites, email accounts, storage and bandwidth. Backup restores are included.
- Turbo: $20.99 a month for all Swift features plus HTTP/2 and speed optimization options (e.g. WordPress and Magento plugins).
The above-mentioned prices are for 12-months deals, be advised that the full contracted amount needs to be paid in advance. On top of 1-year deals, you can purchase monthly, 24-months and 36-months deals.
Who is A2 Hosting for?
Since their prices are affordable and they come with advanced hosting options, it may be suitable for those looking for a (cheaper) SiteGround alternative. However, be aware that SiteGround offers a bit more.
Try A2 Hosting: www.a2hosting.com
According to BuiltWith, GoDaddy has a 6% global market share. This may not sound too impressive, but 6% of all websites out there must be actually account for several millions.
This US hosting provider has over 9,000 employees and the financial muscle to pour millions into marketing campaigns (e.g. Super Bowl ads). But of course, not everything that shines is gold, or is it?
GoDaddy Hosting Prices:
- Economy: $7.99 a month for 1 website, 100 GB of storage and unmetered bandwidth.
- Deluxe: $10.99 a month for unlimited traffic storage, websites and bandwidth and a maximum of 25 databases and 500 email accounts.
- Ultimate: $16.99 a month for the same features as the Deluxe plan plus unlimited databases and email accounts.
- Maximum: $24.99 a month for superior performance.
Note that the prices above are for 1-year deals and the full amount is expected to be paid in advance. For the first term, GoDaddy offers interesting discounts (over 40% off). GoDaddy shared hosting plans can be purchased for 3, 12, 24 and 36 month deals.
Who is GoDaddy Hosting for?
I would recommend GoDaddy for those who need a Windows-based hosting. The lack of backups, SSL certificates and high prices at renewal may put some users off.
Try GoDaddy’s Hosting: www.godaddy.com
InMotion Hosting has been around since 2001 and currently employs 3000 people, undoubtedly one of the most popular providers in the US.
I’ve got mixed feelings about them. Whilst I appreciate a lot their plans’ generosity (e.g. unlimited storage and bandwidth) and love their ease of use, I am a bit disappointed by their performance.
InMotion Hosting Prices:
- Launch: $8.99 a month for 2 websites, 2 databases and unlimited storage and bandwidth.
- Power: $10.99 a month for 6 websites, 50 databases, unlimited storage and bandwidth. 2x more performance.
- Pro: $15.99 a month for unlimited sites, databases, storage and bandwidth. 4x more performance.
Like many other competitors, InMotion Hosting offers incredible discounts for the first-term. The above prices are for 12-month deals but you can also purchase 24-month deals. The full amount of the deal you purchase is expected to be paid in advance.
Who is InMotion Hosting for?
It is for those looking for a reliable hosting at a decent price that offers generous plans in terms of storage, bandwidth and email accounts. If you are looking for their closest competitors, check SiteGround or DreamHost.
Try InMotion Hosting: www.inmotionhosting.com
HostGator, as well as Bluehost, iPage and dozens more, is part of EIG (Endurance International Group).
Personally, I am not a big fan of EIG products as they are usually overpriced and underperforming. However, I think HostGator is my favorite (or least unfavorite) as they perform a bit better than other EIG services.
HostGator Shared Hosting Prices:
- Hatchling: $8.95 a month for 1 website and unlimited storage, databases and bandwidth.
- Baby: $11.95 a month for unlimited storage, databases, sites and bandwidth.
- Business: $16.95 a month for unlimited sites, storage and bandwidth. Dedicated IP is included.
The above-mentioned prices refer to 1-year deals, but with HostGator you can choose between 1, 3, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months deals. The full price amount is expected to be paid in advance.
Who is HostGator for?
Try HostGator: www.hostgator.com
Bluehost is the largest EIG hosting provider and they’ve gathered a lot of popularity. They are recommended by WordPress, perhaps because they were one of the first providers to implement 1-click WordPress installations.
Bluehost Cheap Hosting Prices:
- Basic: $8.99 for 1 website and up to 50 GB of storage.
- Plus: $12.99 for unlimited storage and websites.
- Choice Plus: $16.99 for unlimited storage and websites. Better backup options available.
- Pro: $25.99 Choice Plus features and higher performance.
The aforementioned prices are for 12-month deals. Be aware that the full amount is expected to be paid in advance. With Bluehost, you can also purchase 24 and 36-months deals – the longer the deal the cheaper price. Like many other providers, Bluehost offers important discounts (over 50%) for the first term.
Who is Bluehost for?
It’s true that those looking for a cheap hosting provider with cheap first-term deals may find Bluehost interesting. However, other providers like A2 Hosting or DreamHost offer more for the same amount of money (or less).
Try Bluehost: www.bluehost.com
Founded in 1998, this American hosting provider powers more than 1 million sites. Like Bluehost and HostGator (and others), iPage is owned by EIG.
Their pricing is a bit different from other providers, they only have 1 plan. You can decide to purchase it for 1, 2 or 3 years, obviously the longer the deal the cheaper it will be for you.
Their first-term prices are very low, for example, you can lock iPage for 3 years at $1.99 a month. However at renewal, your prices will be much higher (e.g. $9.99 a month for 1-year deals).
Who is IPage for?
I would stay away from iPage even if (at first) their prices are really low, they are just not good enough. DreamHost or A2 Hosting are better affordable solutions.
Try iPage: www.ipage.com
Things To Consider With Cheap hosting
In the hosting industry, it is common to get massive deals for the first purchase term. For example, SiteGround offers over 50% off the first time you purchase one of their plans. Whereas there’s nothing wrong with this, you should consider the renewal price before you go ahead.
For many, the storage is a big criterion when choosing a cheap web hosting and panic if they don’t have unlimited webspace. Unless you are planning to create a massive website with hundreds of images and videos you won’t need a lot of space. For example, take the website you are on right now, it has thousands of pages and files and it takes less than 4 GB. Plus as we’ll see later on, unlimited storage isn’t always that unlimited.
Most providers will offer 24-hour support by chat, email or even phone. Personally, I think good support is key and not all providers get it right. For example, I’ve had bad experiences with EIG products like Bluehost or iPage and I am happy with InMotion’s, DreamHost’s and SiteGround’s support.
If your project grows will your hosting provider be able to scale things up for you? You should double-check what other types of hosting they can offer: VPS, dedicated servers, cloud hosting, CDN, etc.
Many hosting providers like to call one of their plans Unlimited. But being 100% honest, virtually all hosting providers have some sort of limitation. Let me walk you through the most common ones:
- Storage: The amount of webspace that your hosting account has available can be limited. 10 or 20 GB of storage should be enough for most shared hosting users.
- Bandwidth: Some hosting providers will cap the amount of traffic that your website can get. If you go over that, you’ll be asked to pay an extra fee or upgrade your hosting package to a more expensive one.
- Domains & Websites: It’s pretty common that the entry-level plan of a hosting service is limited to 1 or 2 websites. This means that if you are planning to host more projects you’ll need to purchase a higher tier.
- Databases: Limiting the number of databases you can create is an indirect cap on the sites you’ll be able to host – e.g. for each WordPress site you’ll need at least 1 database. The size of the databases can also be limited (e.g. with Bluehost they need to be smaller than 3 GB).
- Email accounts: Some providers limit the email accounts that you’ll be able to create and the maximum size that each email account can have. Normally, higher plans offer unlimited email accounts.
- Inodes: You can understand the inodes as the total number of files that you have on your hosting account. For example, even if HostGator says that they offer unlimited storage, this is not 100% true as all your files (and folders) combined should not total more than 250,000 – a sneaky way to offer (limited) unlimited plans.
- Performance: Things like RAM, CPU or concurrent processes are limited to ensure that (shared) hosting accounts don’t consume too many server resources.
- Missing features: A shadier way to limit hosting plans is not to offer certain basic features. For example, providers like iPage, HostGator or Bluehost offer limited backup options, but conveniently have a backup add-on you buy from them. Another stingy way to limit plans is by not offering free SSL certificates so users are pushed into purchasing one from the hosting provider.
Typical Cheap Hosting Issues
in my experience, there are 4 areas that separate reliable cheap web hosting providers from the rest.
If you ask me, this is the most annoying trend among some low-cost hosting providers. They offer poor loading speeds and/or critically lower uptime rates.
You don’t need a computer engineering degree to realize that a slow server will crash your site’s speed. Having a slow site is closely related to poorer user engagement metrics (e.g. conversions or bounce rates) and lower SEO rankings. Generally speaking, experts recommend that your site should load under 3 seconds.
DreamHost speed test with GTmetrix
Another common issue is hosting services interruptions. Some cheap web hosts have constant service cutoffs (e.g. for maintenance reasons) and this can be a massive problem. For example, let’s assume that you have an online store and your server goes down for 1 or 2 hours during Black Friday, I am sure you won’t be happy about this. Businesses relying on their online traffic should aim for at least a 99.95% uptime rate – in other words, your yearly interruptions should be less than 4 hours.
In my experience, there are 2 main reasons why (a few) cheap hosting providers offer poor performance:
- They use old hardware (e.g. servers) to cut down costs
- They overload their servers with too many clients
To me, reliable and responsive support is crucial to (seriously) consider a hosting provider. Most of the time you don’t need to contact a support agent, but when you do (and you will) often your site is in deep trouble (e.g. not loading). So having a responsive customer care team can save you loads of headaches and money.
Sadly, most cheap web hosting providers don’t excel here. In my experience the issues are:
- They take ages to be available for you after you’ve requested their help
- They can’t solve your issue, or even worse, they create new problems when trying to fix the original one.
Hidden Fees & Upsells
Some low-cost hosting services get you onboard for a very low price, I even think some may not make money with your first payment. But their ultimate goal is to trick you to get one of their pricey upsells (e.g. security add-ons) or charge you with fees you were not expecting (e.g. for backups).
iPage’s tricky checkout
Another sneaky tactic is to always offer really long contracts (e.g. 36-months) by default during the checkout. On top of that, unnecessary add-ons (e.g. domain privacy) may be pushed into your shopping cart while purchasing a hosting service.
It’s not unusual to come across some hosting providers that don’t offer some basic features. For example, providers like HostGator or InMotion Hosting don’t offer a (free) system to keep backups – make sure to factor in the backup add-on price when considering these providers.
SiteGround’s on-demand backup system is unique among cheap hosting services
Larger site owners will require advanced features like built-in caching solutions, staging areas or pre-installed Git repositories. Be aware that these are not offered for every hosting service, so double-check the features you need before you commit with one.
Cheap Web Hosting, which one is right for you?
I’ve covered a lot in this guide and hopefully, you have a better idea about what affordable hosting provider you should go for. Let me, however, highlight a couple of aspects.
As we’ve seen several providers come with high reduced first-term fees, but prices can even triple at renewal. Some providers only offer basic features like SSL certificates as paid add-ons. Finally, be aware of hidden costs (e.g. if you need to pay to restore a backup).
But price should not be the only factor to consider when choosing a hosting service. Personally, I pay close attention to their performance (uptime & speed), the quality of their support and available features like built-in caching solutions, staging areas or reliable backups.
And now let me tell you about what provider I’d use for several situations:
- The best overall provider is SiteGround, offering great performance, support and useful hosting features (e.g. staging areas), but it’s not the cheapest hosting service.
- DreamHost is a top-performing provider at a good price, it offers the best value for your money.
- A2 Hosting and SiteGround come with WordPress optimized servers and convenient features for WordPress developers and site owners.
- If you are looking for a Windows-based server, check out GoDaddy and A2 Hosting.
- The best support is offered by InMotion Hosting, DreamHost and SiteGround.
- The best hosting provider for ecommerce projects are SiteGround and DreamHost as their servers can be PCI compliant.
I hope you found this article useful and I was able to answer some of your questions. However, if you still need help choosing a cheap web hosting, please leave a comment.