Bitcatcha's content is reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Is WordPress Free? Well, Sort Of

Avatar
WRITTEN BY
Timothy Shim
UPDATED
September 29, 2022
is wordpress free

You use WordPress for free. However, building and running a WordPress website may incur hidden costs that can quickly add up. Much depends on what you want to achieve.

 

Most of us are familiar with WordPress, the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS). After all, it powers over 40% of websites online today!

 

 

There are many reasons why WordPress is well-received, and one of them is the price tag. It can cost you nothing to download, install, run, and customize WordPress websites. However – that’s putting things simplistically.

 

Websites are a mix of several components, and WordPress is just one ingredient. The critical thing to remember is that the CMS is free.

 

WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com: Are they both free?

 

wordpress.org vs wordpress.com

 

The simple answer is that you can create a free WordPress website using either WordPress.org or WordPress.com.

 

But, these websites are perhaps the most misunderstood in history.

 

While both offer a path toward free WordPress websites, the intent behind these sites differs.

 

Understanding WordPress.org

 

The WordPress Foundation maintains the WordPress.org website. It’s a charitable organization started for the express purpose of keeping WordPress free. The foundation continues WordPress development and publishes documentation.

 

Most importantly, WordPress.org is the official repository of the WordPress application. Here you can download an official copy of the CMS and deploy it on a web hosting plan of your choice.

 

You can get a free WordPress website by downloading the installer from WordPress.org. Next, you need to find a free web hosting provider like 000Webhost. This combination will allow you to build and run a WordPress website for free.

 

WordPress.com does include free website hosting

 

Automattic, the company that initially developed and released WordPress, runs WordPress.com. This website is the “commercial arm” of WordPress. It provides a one-stop WordPress website hosting solution similar to Kinsta and WP Engine.

 

Here you can choose a hosting plan that will come with WordPress pre-deployed. It will be ready to use, and you can start your WordPress website reasonably quickly.

 

WordPress.com offers a free WordPress hosting plan. It comes all-inclusive, so you get some resources, a subdomain, and ready-to-use WordPress.

 

 

So how does WordPress make money then?

 

As you can see, the two different entities run WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The WordPress Foundation is a non-profit organization supported by donations and sponsorships. That’s their means of further development of this amazing CMS.

 

WordPress.com earns money by selling WordPress as a service. It’s like most other web hosting companies, except they are 100% dedicated to the WordPress ecosystem. It’s a simple yet effective split of duties.

 

 

Can anyone modify the WordPress CMS freely?

 

WordPress is open-source software distributed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). Richard Stallman created the license in 1989 due to the complexity of legal issues surrounding software copyright and intellectual property.

 

The primary intent of the GPL is to protect programmers’ freedom to share and modify software. It does this by stipulating that any code created under the terms of the GPL must be made freely available to others who wish to modify and redistribute it.

 

This licensing essentially helps ensure that the WordPress CMS is kept “open.” The terms of the GPL allow you to modify, build upon, and even redistribute WordPress. The critical thing to remember is that if you do so, the modified version must follow the same license as WordPress (GPL).

 

 

What Aspects of WordPress are Free?

 

wordpress.org

 

WordPress is free for all users for personal websites, blogs, business websites, and more. There is also no cost to download it from WordPress.org, install it on your server, or host it through a web hosting company.

 

For most people, this is enough flexibility to build a site without paying anything extra. However, for businesses with complex needs, WordPress is even more powerful. They can freely customize the application in any direction.

 

Compare that with the licensing nightmare of proprietary applications like Microsoft Word, and you can see how appealing the freedom of WordPress becomes.

 

 

Aspects of WordPress that aren’t free

 

It’s important to understand that running WordPress isn’t always free. In many scenarios, you can quickly rack up millions of dollars running a WordPress website. While you can use WordPress for free, other aspects can come at a high price.

 

Here are some of the main potential costs of running WordPress:

 

1. Web hosting

 

While there are some free WordPress hosting options, these are generally limited to small personal websites. WordPress hosting can vary significantly in cost. At the lower end of the scale, providers like Hostinger provide budget-friendly WordPress plans for as little as $1.99/mo.

 

Business users will likely need the increased performance and stability of VPS hosting or dedicated servers. These plans can cost considerably more. For example, a dedicated server at A2 Hosting can easily cost hundreds of dollars each month.

 

Note

Learn more in our guide to the best web hosts for WordPress sites.

 

2. Managed WordPress hosting

 

If you don’t want to handle the technical aspect of your WordPress website, you’ll need a Managed WordPress host like DreamHost or Kinsta . These hosts will keep your WordPress website updated and secure.

 

Managed WordPress hosting plans are often much more expensive than standard plans. Aside from not having to manage technical issues, they also often offer WordPress-specific support. As an idea of pricing, DreamHost plans start from $2.59, whilst Kinsta plans start from $35/mo.

 

Note

Learn more in our guide to the best Managed WordPress hosts.

 

3. Domain name

 

Unless you get a free subdomain, any custom domain name will cost money. Domain name fees are also recurring for as long as you want to hold the name. There may also be other associated fees like domain privacy or private DNS.

 

How much you pay for a domain name depends on the extension. Prices will also vary depending on where you purchase the domain name. For example;

 

  • Namecheap sells .com domain names for $13.98/yr but often provides steep discounts.
  • IONOS charges $1 for your first year of a .com but renews at $20/yr.
  • Domain.com sells .blog domain names at $6.99 for the first year but charges an additional $8.99 for domain privacy.

 

Note

Check out our top picks of domain registrars.

 

4. Website development

 

If you don’t want to build your website, you’ll need to pay a developer to do it. While WordPress is free, web development fees can be considerably high. Even freelance web developers can charge between $30 and $100 per hour.

 

5. Plugins and Themes

 

Many developers build and sell WordPress plugins and themes. Customizing your website with these options can rack up your bills considerably. WordPress Themes often come with one-time fees, but most plugins incur recurring costs.

 

Because of plugins’ wide range of functionality, they can quickly become a massive financial black hole. Most WordPress plugins employ a freemium pricing model. That means you can use essentials for free but must pay to unlock full functionality.

 

For example:

 

  • Elementor provides powerful design features, but only the essentials are free. Other features require a paid plan with a minimum cost of $49/yr.
  • WP Fastest Cache helps speed up WordPress websites for free, but paid plans will cost at least $49.99/yr.
  • Elegant Themes sells access to its theme repository for $70/yr or $199 as a lifetime subscription.

 

6. eCommerce

 

WooCommerce is the official free add-on for WordPress eCommerce features. eCommerce plugins fall under a similar category as the plugins discussed above. However, WordPress’s most expensive aspect of eCommerce is generally the payment gateway or processor. For example:

 

  • PayPal charges 3.49% plus a fixed fee that varies by location for every transaction.
  • Stripe charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per card charge.
  • Authorize.net charges a $25/mo fee plus transaction fees starting at 2.9% plus 30 cents.

 

 

Why It’s Worth Paying Separately For Hosting

 

You can get free web hosting for your WordPress website. However, these options are often very restrictive. For example, the free plan on WordPress.org doesn’t allow you to install plugins and forces ads on your website. The same restrictions typically apply to most free hosting plans.

 

Even running a personal website or blog, it’s much better to consider paying for a decent web hosting plan. There are several factors to consider here:

 

1. Resources

 

Free hosting plans usually come with minimal resources (such as memory and storage space). It’s enough to run a small website and can support a few visitors. Anything beyond that, and the site either crashes or becomes insufferably slow.

 

2. Performance

 

Even among paid hosting plans, site speed relies heavily on server performance. I’ve tested many web hosts over the years, and many turned out to be subpar. Choose a host wisely if you want a website that loads reasonably fast.

 

There are some excellent options for every need. For example:

 

  • Hostinger is a good budget option that provides decent performance.
  • Websites serving high traffic volumes can consider big names like DreamHost or SiteGround.
  • If reliability is more critical, opt for cloud infrastructure with someone like Kinsta.

 

3. Support

 

Regardless of where you host your website, you will need some technical help. Most free options omit this part, or at the least push you towards a low priority. It’s business, after all.

 

 

How To Start A WordPress Website On A Budget

 

start wordpress website budget

 

If reading up to this point has you worried about cost, fret not. There are ways to get you started cheaply yet reliably. And if you’ve been paying attention so far, then yes – Hostinger tends to be our top recommendation for building WordPress websites on a small budget.

 

As well as being one of the world’s leading web hosting providers, Hostinger supports millions of customers worldwide and offers some of the best prices for quality hosting. Despite the low cost, you get a broad range of features that work great with WordPress.

 

To start your WordPress website with Hostinger, you don’t need to download the CMS. Sign up for a Hostinger WordPress account for just $1.99/mo, and it comes pre-installed. The plan includes several useful tools, including a site-building wizard, server-level cache, managed updates, and more.

 

I recommend you look past the cheapest plan and get the next plan tier for $3.99/mo. It includes a free domain name, saving you more on overall costs.

 

 

Wrap up – Realistically, WordPress Sites Aren’t Free

 

WordPress’s most significant advantage isn’t the fact that it’s free. Instead, it offers a great deal of agility. You can build simple WordPress websites at no cost or massive feature-filled websites that cost a bomb.

 

The choice is in your hands. Keep in mind, though, that web hosting is a vital part of your WordPress website experience. There’s no point in using a free host if it can’t meet your needs.

 

 

 

Avatar

About The Author

Timothy Shim is a former tech journalist who has turned his experience towards his business as a writer, editor and content strategist. Today, he helps businesses craft compelling messages and advises on SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy.