The Best Cheap Web Hosting Companies
Most of the 15,000 web hosts out there offer crazy-low introductory prices, and then spike their fees when you renew. So, to find the best cheap web host, we didn’t look at price alone. We measured uptime, did a Siege test, talked to numerous customer service agents, and then compared prices to find the best hosts under $5/month.
Subsidy of web host mogul Endurance International Group
Starting at $3.45/month
Independently owned and eco-conscious
Starting at $3.96/month
It’s been said that the website is the new business card — an essential tool for marketing yourself, your brand, and your business. Unfortunately, creating an online presence is a bit more complicated than printing up a stack of calling cards. Websites need to be hosted on rented server space, and that means finding a reliable hosting provider at a good price. With over 15,000 web hosting companies to choose from, the prospect of finding a good deal in an ocean of options can be dizzying. Fortunately, server space isn’t all that expensive to begin with.
When we scoured the industry to find the best overall web host, we found that most shared web hosting packages (the best option for small-scale sites) sell for $10 a month or less. Better still? Hosting is almost always on sale, creating a buyer’s market for new customers on a budget. That said, don’t let price alone dictate who you rent server space from. The best cheap web hosts don’t skimp on the necessities: reliability, top-tier features, and great customer support. For our money, that puts Bluehost and GreenGeeks in the winners circle.
How We Found the Best Cheap Web Host Companies
We started our quest to find the best cheap web host by putting the emphasis on “best” rather than “cheap.” This meant holding our contenders for affordable web host to the same standards as our review for best overall web host. We put 200 highly rated web hosts through a rigorous features-based elimination process before even looking at price. It’s only after they met those criteria that we looked at the price tag. On top of being a good value, hosts had to offer a clear upgrade path, maintain an independently reported server uptime of 99.95 percent or higher, and provide users with excellent, 24-hour customer service.
That may seem a little demanding for bargain hunting, but it turns out that the old adage rings true: You get what you pay for. There are plenty of hosts out there that will rent you server space for significantly less than our (already affordable) top picks, but those savings come with compromises. Hosts offering space for $1 or less a month usually did so by cutting back on customer service or by imposing strict storage, transfer, and bandwidth limits on users that put their sites at risk of being taken down after an unexpected spike in traffic or, worse, being hit with overage fees. Most of these bargain-basement hosts failed to meet our server-uptime requirements as well.
Web hosting isn’t terribly expensive to start because it’s always on sale. That’s not bad — what’s not to love about a sale? — but it does mean the prices you’ll see at sign-up aren’t the same prices you’ll see when you renew your contract. Web hosts all lure in customers with low-low introductory prices and then jump the rate down the line. Our top picks do this, too: Both Bluehost and GreenGeeks charge about $3/month to start and pop their prices up to $7–9/month for long-term renewals. You can mitigate this by buying longer contracts, but a price hike is inevitable. Don’t skimp on quality in favor of a splashy introductory rate.
For the purpose of this review, we define the best cheap provider as a high-quality hosting platform that starts at $5 a month or less. That took our original Best Web Hosting winner out of the running, but left us with two moderately inexpensive hosting companies with strong track records, excellent reliability, and all the features you could ask of a good server provider.
It’s worth noting that both of our recommendations are shared hosting packages, a simple, inexpensive form of web hosting that “shares” a single server’s resources among hundreds of potential customers. This is fine for a lot of websites, but if you expect to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors per month, you may want to look into higher-end VPS or dedicated server packages. Luckily, both of our top cheap web hosts offer viable upgrade paths should you ever need them.
Our Picks for the Best Cheap Web Hosting Companies
Bluehost If you want a reliable host with great service, fast servers, and a good reputation, you’ve found it. Shared hosting plans start at $3.45 with 50 gigabytes of storage space and unmetered bandwidth.
With shared hosting plans starting as low as $3.45 a month, Bluehost is easily one of the most affordable high-quality webspace providers that made it to our final shortlist, but price isn’t why it won our highest accolade. It was the company’s outstanding reliability, comprehensive customer service, and excellent benchmark scores that pushed it to the top. In fact, Bluehost almost won our Best Overall Web Host review, but narrowly lost to InMotion Hosting’s superior customer support.
Bluehost is almost an ideal web host, boasting a third-party-verified 99.99 percent server uptime rating; a straightforward cPanel backend with all the trimmings; a clear upgrade path for users who may need to move to a VPS or dedicated server in the future; and 24/7 phone-, web-, and ticket-based support options. It was also one of the top performers in our original Siege server performance benchmarks, outpacing every other shared service we tested. With its easy-to-understand interface, a 30-day money-back guarantee, standard free domain offers, and one-click WordPress installation, it’s easy to recommend Bluehost as an excellent web host for both beginners and professionals looking for a good deal. That said, there is a reason we didn’t pick Bluehost as the top webspace provider in our main review and it’s a little weird.
What is cPanel? cPanel is a standard graphical user interface for managing a website. This backend control panel lets users create email accounts, configure domains, set up databases, and manage files with just a few clicks. It’s not the only administration interface in the world of web hosting, but it is the most common.
The support agents at Bluehost may be knowledgeable, helpful, kind, and available at all hours, but they won’t help you unless you give them the last four characters of your password. It’s a completely bizarre and backward policy. Almost every major company out there assures its customers that it will never ask for their password. This is to protect users against would-be hackers and phishers posing as customer service in hopes of stealing their account information. By having legitimate customer service agents require a partial password before offering assistance, Bluehost opens its customers to attack.
This would have knocked Bluehost out of the running if it didn’t offer an alternative. Fortunately, it does; security-conscious users can opt to set up a special PIN to use in lieu of revealing sensitive data. We fully recommend taking this step if you choose Bluehost as your service provider. Bluehost may suffer from an odd (and thankfully avoidable) security quirk, but it’s still a solid overall hosting choice.
GreenGeeks beat our rigorous vetting process with no less grace than our top pick. That’s the problem with high standards: When it comes down to the wire, all of your options look good. To separate the wheat from the chaff, we added one more attribute to our evaluation process: parent company. Most of our second-place candidates matched Bluehost with 24/7 customer service, reliable servers, and all the backend features a user could want. Unfortunately, most of them are also owned by Endurance International Group (EIG), the web hosting mogul that controls some of the industry’s best known hosts, Bluehost included.
There’s nothing wrong with picking a host owned by EIG. It just seemed prudent to choose a runner-up cut from a different cloth. After all, we’d be remiss to recommend another EIG company when we’ve already called Bluehost its best option for affordable web hosting. That took companies like FatCow, Arvixe, and A Small Orange out of the running and left us with GreenGeeks, an independently owned web host that claims to be the world’s most environmentally friendly hosting company.
At first blush, GreenGeeks’ environmentally friendly pitch sounds like a gimmick, and it sort of is. According to GreenGeeks, hosting companies are responsible for up to 1,390 pounds of CO2 every year, just for consuming the power they need to run their servers. GreenGeeks counters this by buying three times as much green energy as it uses and pumping that clean, wind-farm energy back into the local electrical grid. For this, it gets to claim that it’s a 300 percent green company.
GreenGeeks doesn’t let its planet-friendly slant get in the way of its services. The host ticks every box in our evaluation checklist. In addition to boasting an independently verified 99.98 percent server uptime, GreenGeeks sites are hosted on high-speed solid-state drives, have access to multiple one-click install interfaces via the standard cPanel backend, boast unlimited webspace and bandwidth, and enjoy free nightly backups.
Like Bluehost, it’s not the “cheapest” host you can buy, but with a focus on quality, we think it stands out as one of the best for its price range. Plus, it’s doing a little something nice for the planet. How many web hosts can say that?
Free Web Hosting Companies to Consider
As confident as we are that the two above choices are among the most reliable, high-quality web hosts available for under $5 a month, for some budgets even that is too expensive. If your site is little more than an online resume, it might not be worth the expense of a traditional host. For these situations, a free hosting option might be a good choice, but be warned — free options usually come with strict storage and transfer limits, little to no support, and almost no extra features.
- Awardspace: This fully featured web host almost made it to our final contender list, but lost just enough points in the customer service department to get cut. Despite this, it’s a good free option. Awardspace’s free tier offers the same 99.9 percent server uptime as its paid plans, packs in a web-based email client, and even includes one-click installation for WordPress and Joomla blogs. That said, you’ll want to keep things simple; Awardspace’s free account limits storage to 1GB and bandwidth to 5GB. With those limits, you won’t be able to host large files like videos or sustain more than a few thousand visits a month. Awardspace will also try to upsell you to its paid packages pretty much non-stop.
- GitHub Pages: GitHub technically isn’t a web host, but if all you need is a basic landing page for your resume and contact information, it can get the job done. The service is actually a repository for open-source project code, but the GitHub Pages feature allows anyone to publish basic HTML pages for free. Unfortunately, it’s going to be very DIY: You’ll need to design your own web page, manually upload it, and configure the repository to serve the HTML files as a public page. If you know what you’re doing, it’s a useful resource, but it’s not a good option for the uninitiated.
- Wix, Weebly, and SquareSpace — The easiest way to build a free web presence is actually to avoid traditional web hosts altogether and use a site builder. These are services that not only provide web hosting, but also help you build beautiful, robust websites in mere minutes. All three of the top site builders — Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace — offer freemium options. They’re not perfect, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of managing your own web space, they’re a good option. Check out our website builder review to see if they’re right for you.
Did You Know?
There are ways around renewal price hikes.
Steep renewal prices may be industry standard, but it doesn’t mean you have to pay them. You could always move to another host to take advantage of another new-customer-discount. Many hosts offer free migration to make this easier. But before you make any drastic decisions, try simply asking your current host for a cheaper rate. These companies want to keep your business. Tell it you’re thinking of moving to another host, and, if you’re lucky, it may offer you a modest discount on your renewal. It’s worked before and the worst the company can do is say no.
You may need to upgrade.
If you’re looking for a cheap web host, you probably don’t need much power right now, but you might some day. Both of our top picks were chosen partially because they offer an upgrade path for sites that garner too much traffic for a simple shared server to handle. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for when to upgrade, but if your site grows in popularity and starts to slow down, consider talking to your host about upgrading to a VPS or dedicated server.
If you do need to upgrade, be ready to pay for it: The cheapest VPS hosting packages start above $10/month, and can stretch beyond $50/month depending on how much storage space or RAM you need. Dedicated servers are more flexible, but are even more expensive. We’re talking $100/month. Hopefully your website will be paying for itself before you need that kind of power.