A lot of people think they have to spend a fortune on their web host.
But here’s the thing. There are plenty of great web hosts that cost less than $5. Cheap hosts don’t always suck!
In fact, some of the best hosts have introductory prices as low as $1.99, and you’ll still get all their top features. They’re willing to lower their entry price to attract customers, and you can take advantage.
Of course, there are also some bad hosting companies hiding in the same price range. The tricky part is separating the good from the bad.
I’ve come up with 6 easy criteria to help you identify the best hosts at a cheap price, so you can have the best of both worlds. But if you are in a hurry, here are the top 5 cheap web hosts that I recommend (& their renewal price):
6 Important Practices for Cheap Web Host Hunting
1. Check their features
A good web host will pack in all their top features as part of the package. Things to look out for include:
- Storage and bandwidth
Most quality hosts now come with unlimited storage, but some still have a 5GB limit or less.
- How many addon domains?
Most web hosts should give you space for up to 25 additional domains, but we’ve seen poor options that only give you one, or even none at all.
- How many email addresses can you create?
Some hosts don’t include a single email address in their package.
- What control panel do they use?
The control panel user experience can make or break a web host for me. Check if they use cPanel, Vdeck or a customized alternative. Pick the one you feel most comfortable with. (pro tip: if you’re unfamiliar with their control panel, ask for a demo.)
- Do they support pre-installed website scripts?
Check if they support WordPress, Drupal, Joomla installation. If you need any specialised features like PHP or ecommerce integration, make sure they support that too.
2. How fast is their server speed?
Server speed is simply how quickly (or slowly) your web server to responds to a request.
In other words, when someone clicks on your website, it’s the time taken for your server to wake up and start sending files. Google suggests a server speed of 200 ms or less.
It matters because every request must be lightning quick on your website, especially if you’re an ecommerce seller and you expect quick order processing. A fast server response is essential for good user experience.
Unfortunately, many of the lousy web hosts overload their servers, which means your website is competing for speed. Others simply aren’t using efficient hardware, so the response is slow.
On the other hand, the best web hosts will still make sure you get a fast response time, even on a shared server.
You can test server speed using our speed checker tool. Simply enter the website URL, and you’ll see how fast the server responds around the world. Below are some of the tests we did. (Click on the image to see the full report.)
InterServer Server Response Test
Inmotion Hosting Server Response Test
A2 Hosting Server Response Test
iPage Server Response Test
3. What is their uptime?
There’s nothing more frustrating than your website going down. So your web host’s uptime figure is crucial. The better their uptime, the more reliable the host.
Quite simply, anything less than 99% uptime should be avoided, and 99.9% should be your target.
You might think that even 98% sounds quite good, but think of it like this: 98% uptime means your site could be down for 3-7 days of the year!
You can track a web host’s uptime with a free tool like uptimerobot.com. Uptime Robot checks your website every five minutes for signs of life, and it alerts you if anything is wrong. We use Uptime Robots to monitor our site, and power our uptime figures.
4. Talk to their tech support before you buy
Tech support is one of the main things that separates good web hosts from bad web hosts. A good company will have an expert team that answer queries quickly and effectively. Bad hosts often neglect their customer service.
If something goes wrong on your website, you want to know there’s a friendly voice on the other end of a phone who can fix it for you. If you prefer online chat or email, look for a web host with that contact preference.
There are a few ways to test a web host’s tech support without actually buying it. Try submitting a ticket for the following reasons:
- Ask for a control panel demo.
- Ask about the refund policy and renewal price (more on this shortly).
- Ask about the storage limit.
- Ask about site script availability.
A good web host should reply quickly and efficiently to these queries.
5. Are there any hidden catches in their terms-of-service?
Most web hosts use strong marketing language, like ‘unlimited storage and bandwidth’ or ‘unlimited CPU’. Unfortunately even ‘unlimited’ has a limit! And you’ll find it in the web host’s terms of service.
In some cases, web hosts reserve the right to suspend or even disconnect a website that overloads these limits.
Below are some real life examples from reputable web hosts that show these restrictions:
(Inmotion Hosting CPU Policy)
Additional reasons for termination:
(iPage SPAM Policy)
Specifically, look for the following hard limits:
- How many files (regardless of size) can I host? (aka inodes)
- What are the storage and bandwidth hard limits?
- How much CPU resources can I use?
It’s also worth checking the terms-of-service for their refund policy. Sometimes, you’ll try out a web host, and then realize it’s not right for you. The good web hosts understand this, and they’ll offer a fair refund policy.
(HostMetro Money Back Policy)
Unfortunately, the bad hosts often have no refund policy at all, and they’ll even charge an additional cancellation fee.
If you can’t find these numbers in the terms of service, ask their support team
6. What’s the renewal price & are there any hidden costs?
The $5 web host is usually an introductory figure, and the renewal price will be a little more. Check to make sure the figure doesn’t jump to an outrageous price!
You’ll also notice that most web hosts offer a discount if you sign up for a longer period. However, it’s best not to lock yourself into a long contract if possible. You may want to expand or change things in two years.
Lastly, some hosts try to up-sell certain add-on products like daily backups or server security scanning. If you don’t want these extras, be sure to uncheck any boxes before you buy.
(Bluehost Additional Features)
How Bitcatcha can help you find the RIGHT cheap web host
Our website exists to help you find the best web host, and allow you make an informed decision. Here are some of our tools you can use right now to help you decide:
- Server speed checker
Run speed tests on different web hosts to see which delivers that fastest response time. (Pro tip: we test server speed from 8 different points on the globe, so look for the server that delivers high speed to your target audience).
Another tip: don’t test the web host’s website. Find a website using that host, and test theirs. (The web host themselves are probably using a much more expensive private server for their site). For example, if you want to test iPage’s server speed, I’ve made a list of nine websites using iPage hosting, so you can test them.
- Uptime records
To save you the time of tracking uptime yourself, we have been tracking and recording the uptime of various web hosts for months, and present them to you. Head to our review pages, and you’ll see the overall percentage uptime of each host, and how many days it’s been since the last down period.
We speak to website owners and ask them about their hosting plan. Is it fast enough? Is their tech support responsive? Read these interviews for real, impartial, and first-hand accounts.
- Best host for
We’ve categorized each host by their specialities. Find the best host for blogging, ecommerce, portfolio sites or forums.
Top 5 Cheap Web Hosts
Considering all the factors (server speed, uptime, tech support, ease of use, and price) here are six of the best options out there to try.
Don’t forget: Match your web host to your website needs
Unfortunately, there is no outright best web host. Only the one that is right for you and your needs. Different web hosts are suited to different priorities.
A simple portfolio site, for example, only needs a small, shared web host. But, if you’re running a blog or website with more than 30,000-40,000 visitors a month, you’ll want additional storage, and the ability to upgrade to VPS when the time is right.
If you’re looking to start an ecommerce site, you’ll need a web host that allows payment integration and additional security measures.
As you can see, cheap web hosts don’t always suck! But do check out their features and performance before you buy. Good luck! And if you still have further questions, feel free to get in touch, and I’ll be happy to answer your questions.
Now, if you have a deep pocket and are looking for some premium stuff, check out these Managed WordPress Hosting platforms.