These days, you have hundreds of options when it comes to web hosting. There are plans that cost less than $5 per month, to those that reach well into three or four figures. With so much variety, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed if you’re looking to start your first blog.
If you look around, you’ll find several providers that offer free WordPress hosting. However, those plans aren’t always your best bet. In some cases, saving a few bucks on hosting can cost you dearly down the road.
In this article, we’re going to tell you what you can expect from both premium and free WordPress hosting. I’ll walk you through the costs of starting a WordPress blog and then break down if free hosting is worth your time. Let’s talk money!
Free vs Premium Hosting Compared
There are several tiers of service when it comes to hosting plans. At the very bottom, you have shared hosting, which means multiple users share servers to cut down costs. The upside of this approach is hosting providers can offer starting plans at much lower prices than what you’d imagine.
Nowadays, some of the best hosting providers around offer shared hosting plans that start at less than $5 per month (such as Bluehost). That’s pretty darn reasonable, whichever way you cut it.
However, what happens if you can’t even spare $5 per month on hosting, but you still want to launch a blog? In that case, you might be tempted to turn to a free hosting provider. These usually come in two varieties:
- Platforms that offer free tiers to lock you into their ecosystems (i.e. Wix, Squarespace, WordPress.com, etc.).
- Hosting providers that offer free plans with very limited resources.
Both of those varieties come with their own set of downsides. Platforms such as Wix and WordPress.com, for example, limit the features you get access to with their free plans. That way, you’ll feel compelled to upgrade when you need more advanced functionality:
Others, such as a Squarespace, just offer you a free trial to entice you into paying. Finally, traditional web hosting providers that offer free plans usually let you do whatever you want with them, but severely limit the resources you can access:
In practice, that means you may be able to set up a website using a free hosting plan, but it won’t be able to handle much traffic. After all, the way that providers can afford to offer free plans is by cramming all those users into just a few servers. That way, they hope to be able to convince you to pay to get access to better performance.
How Much WordPress Web Hosting Really Costs
In the past, I’ve talked in detail about the average costs of WordPress hosting. Let’s break down the very basics of what you need to set up a basic WordPress blog and how much each element costs:
- Domain name: Around $10 per year for a .com domain.
- Web hosting: Basic plans start at around $2-5 per month.
- WordPress software: Self-hosted WordPress is open-source software, so it won’t cost you a dime.
If you go with a basic hosting plan, you could spend as little as $15 (or less) to get your WordPress blog up and running. In a year, you might spend around $70, assuming you paid $10 for a domain name and $5 per month for hosting.
To be fair, there are often additional costs to running a WordPress blog, such as premium themes and plugins. In my experience, using premium themes is a whole different ballgame. There are plenty of decent free options, but some of the top premium themes around pack so much functionality it feels like using WordPress on steroids.
Arguably, you don’t need all those bells and whistles to run a blog using WordPress. In fact, it may even be better to stick with a free theme at the start, so you can focus on content creation, and get the hang of using WordPress.
With plugins, it all depends on what functionality you need. There are thousands of WordPress plugins available for free. That means it’s usually possible to find a free plugin that does whatever you want unless you’re looking for incredibly specific features.
Is Free WordPress Hosting Worth It?
The short answer to the above question is no – free WordPress hosting isn’t worth your time in almost any case. I’d only recommend using free hosting if you want to use it to set up a test WordPress website. That way, you can learn how to use the platform, so when you’re ready to launch a blog for real, you can hit the ground running.
If you can’t spare money for hosting at the moment, yet you still want to get to work on a blog, my recommendation is you use WordPress.com’s free tier. It doesn’t pack anywhere near all the features self-hosted WordPress does, but it offers you excellent performance:
More importantly, exporting content from a WordPress.com website to a self-hosted WordPress install is relatively straightforward. That means, when you’re ready to play in the big leagues, it should only take you a few hours to move all your content to a ‘real’ web host. Then, you’ll be able to have some fun trying out new plugins and themes to customize your blog in any way you see fit.
Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that applies to hosting as well. In most cases, the providers that offer free WordPress hosting plans severely limit the resources you get access to. That, in turn, leads to shoddy performance and plenty of headaches while trying to run a blog.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great options that offer WordPress hosting at budget prices. In fact, some of my favorite providers offer plans that start at less than $5 per month and offer enough performance to handle small to medium blogs.
Do you have any questions about free WordPress hosting? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.