A lot of people miss out on the opportunity to create their own website because they think it would cost them a lot of money. Sure, that’s definitely the case if you hire a professional designer to do all the work for you, but that’s not really necessary because creating a website is easier than you might expect. Building the website itself doesn’t actually have to cost you anything, however, you will often need to spend some money in order to host it. How much? Usually as little as a couple of bucks per month, though you can also find plenty of companies that offer free web hosting services.
Technically, anyone can build and host a website absolutely for free but, of course, there are some downsides to doing so. If you don’t spend any money on your site you can’t expect it to look good or perform smoothly, so investing a little does go a long way. Not sure whether you should take the free route or the paid route? Don’t worry because we’re here to help. We looked closely into the matter of free vs paid and found that there are plenty of companies out there that offer both types of hosting.
Things to Consider Before Choosing a Free Host
While free hosting may sound very appealing, we want to start off by introducing you to some cheap alternatives instead. All the companies listed in this first section are reliable, include lots of great features with their hosting plans, and most importantly, charge very little for their services. Free hosting is great for simple blogs and other small personal projects but if you’re looking to launch a robust website that can handle a lot of traffic, we recommend checking out these extremely cheap hosting services below.
- SiteGround – Excellent performance and many great features with all plans.
- Dreamhost – Very customer-friendly provider that charges fair prices for hosting.
- Bluehost – One of the most popular hosting providers on the market. Always a solid choice.
In addition to price, we also took into consideration the features, performance, and customer support offered by these companies. The benefit of paying for your hosting is that you get a lot of useful tools and you can always reach out to your provider in case you need help with your site. That’s usually not possible when signing up for a free hosting plan. But if you do want to start with free hosting, we recommend going for one of the following services:
- Wix – Arguably the best website builder around with plenty of templates to choose from.
- Weebly – An easy to use structured site editor with a pretty impressive app marketplace.
- Site123 – Another great service that offers a lot of guidance to newcomers.
- WordPress – The most powerful content management platform on the market right now.
- Strikingly – Lets you set up a simple online store even with the free plan.
- Webnode – A great choice for websites that require multilingual support.
- Jimdo – A good alternative to Webnode that gives you more resources to work with.
The Best “Almost-Free” Hosting Services
Even though there are a lot of cheap hosting services to choose from these days, we decided to stick with just three options. These three companies are some of the most popular hosting providers on the market in 2020 and all of them just so happen to be recommended by the folks over at WordPress. While you don’t necessarily have to build your website using WordPress in order to get the most out of these providers, you will benefit from a variety of special features and tools if you do decide to work with the CMS.
SiteGround is hands down the best cheap hosting provider at the moment in our opinion. The company currently has a very special offer for newcomers and offers plenty of options for those who want to scale up their business or take their website to the next level. SiteGround plays remarkably well with WordPress and has a few special hosting packages that make working with the CMS a lot less intimidating for beginners. Alternatively, here you can also get a great deal if you’re looking to build an online store for cheap. SiteGround’s eCommerce hosting plans are based on WooCommerce, a popular WordPress plugin used by countless businesses around the world.
Users who want to take advantage of a truly incredible offer need to look no further than SiteGround’s StartUp shared hosting plans. As of this writing, you can get three whole months of quality hosting for only $0.99 by choosing one of these packages. Quite a bargain. You can pick between regular shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting or managed WooCommerce hosting. These plans renew at $3.95 per month if you sign up for a long-term contract so you’re still getting a good deal even after the first three months. The special deal will only be available for a limited time so you’ll want to hurry if you want to take advantage of this generous offer.
Why Should You Choose SiteGround?
SiteGround is an established hosting provider and one of the biggest players on the market. Even with its basic plan, the company offers everything you need to get started on the right foot. This includes an easy to use drag-and-drop website builder, unlimited bandwidth, free email accounts and databases, SSL certificate, automated daily backups, and more. The StartUp plan can only support a single website and the storage is a bit limited but you can always upgrade to the next tier, later on, to get rid of those limitations.
If you decide to pick the shared plan aimed at WordPress users, you’ll receive a few extra features designed specifically for the CMS. First off, SiteGround will automatically install the platform on your site and you will receive access to a special tool known as WordPress Starter. This tool allows you to pick from a varied selection of designs and features that can be installed automatically on your site. Simply choose the template and features you want and SiteGround will take care of all the heavy lifting for you.
In addition to that, the company also offers free WordPress website transfers so if you’re switching from a different provider, you won’t have to pay anything in order to get your website up and running on SiteGround. The free migration service can also be used to transfer online stores based on WooCommerce.
The second cheap hosting service we recommend you look into is Dreamhost, a very experienced provider that has been around for well over two decades at this point. As we mentioned in our Dreamhost review, this is a great choice for newcomers and veterans alike. On one hand, the company has a very straightforward and fair pricing model along with a custom control panel that novice webmaster will find very intuitive. If you’re already an experienced user, on the other hand, you’ll find that Dreamhost offers plenty of advanced tools for optimizing websites, especially with its VPS and dedicated hosting plans.
The Starter shared hosting plan comes in at $2.59 per month on a 3-year contract or $4.95/mo if you decide to pay on a month-by-month basis. Most hosting providers either charge a lot more than that for monthly plans or don’t support monthly billing cycles at all with their basic packages. Dreamhost is quite customer-friendly in this regard and we really appreciate that. Once you outgrow the basic plan, you can upgrade to the Unlimited one for only a few extra bucks per month or transition to a different type of hosting altogether. Cloud hosting starts at just $4.50 per month while a VPS plan will set you back as little as $10 per month. Very good prices all around.
Why Should You Choose Dreamhost?
Dreamhost has fair prices and is very easy to work with. There are also plenty of scalability options here and the customer support team is always very helpful, as evidenced by the consistently positive reviews the company is getting on Trustpilot and elsewhere. The basic hosting plan comes with 50 GB of SSD storage, unmetered bandwidth, a free domain name for 1 year, SSL certificate, drag-and-drop website builder, automated daily backups, and a very generous 97-day money-back guarantee. Upgrading to the next tier will grant you access to unlimited everything, including storage, databases, email accounts, and subdomains.
Just like SiteGround, Dreamhost is an excellent choice for users who want to host WordPress websites. The CMS comes pre-installed even with the shared hosting plans but you can take it one step further by opting for a managed or VPS WordPress package. The managed version comes with helpful features like WordPress staging environment, on-demand backups, built-in caching, automatic updates, pre-installed JetPack plugin, and more. Meanwhile, the VPS plans come with dedicated and scalable resources along with support for various scripting languages like PHP7, Perl, and Python.
As far as the cloud solutions are concerned, you can get access not just to cheap web hosting but also to a cloud storage service known as DreamObjects. The service starts at only $0.95 per month and is infinitely scalable. You can check out DreamObjects for free for 30 days and decide afterward if this type of cloud storage solution is your cup of tea.
The third cheap web hosting service is one you’re likely already familiar with. Bluehost is one of the most popular hosting providers on the market, powering well over 2 million websites as of 2020. This is the quintessential jack-of-all-trades provider that has something to offer for pretty much anybody. Shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting, VPS, dedicated servers, domain registrations, you name it. Just like SiteGround and Dreamhost, Bluehost is officially endorsed by WordPress and would make a great fit for anyone who likes working with the CMS. If you’re not sure which hosting provider to pick for your next project, Bluehost is always a solid choice.
The company charges $2.95 for a basic shared hosting plan, a bit more expensive when compared to Dreamhost but cheaper than SiteGround’s usual rate. The starter pack is a good choice for newcomers but you’ll want to check out the next two tiers – Plus and Choice Plus – as they are both priced at only $5.45 per month. The Choice Plus plan is quite a bit better than its counterpart but renews at a higher rate. You can, however, sign up for a 3-year contract right off the bat to get the most out of Choice Plus and then downgrade once the first term expires if you feel like the renewal rates are a bit too high. Of course, you can just as easily stick with the basic plan instead if you don’t mind the limitations.
Why Should You Choose Bluehost?
Bluehost gives you everything you need to set up a new website, making it a good option for beginners. Similar to other hosting providers, the basic plan only supports one website and comes with limited storage (50 GB) but you get a free domain name for 1 year, an SSL certificate, unmetered bandwidth, website builder, and even a 30-day free trial to Microsoft Office 365. Domain privacy, automated backups, access to website analytics and dedicated IPs are also available with the higher-tier plans. Even though this is shared hosting, Bluehost uses special technologies to ensure that your chunk of resources is protected at all times and that your performance isn’t affected by the activity of other users n your server.
If you want Bluehost to do most of the heavy lifting for you, we recommend checking out the WP Pro packages. These managed WordPress hosting plans start at $19.95 per month and are ideal for professional websites. One of the best features of these plans is the marketing center, an all-in-one dashboard that lets you manage your social media presence, SEO, emails, and traffic sources. The marketing center also gives you a detailed overview of your site’s statistics and can be integrated with Google Analytics for even better results.
Bluehost also offers WooCommerce-based plans that are a bit more expensive at $6.95/mo than those found at SiteGround but include set up assistance and a few other bits and baubles. It’s a bit harder to recommend the eCommerce plans because they don’t offer anything to write home about, but you should definitely check out the shared hosting if you’re looking for a good alternative to our first two picks.
Top 7 Free Web Hosting Services
Now that we went over a few very good cheap web hosting services it’s time to take a look at some free ones. Services that are completely free are often unreliable so we decided to focus on companies that offer both free and paid plans. That way, you can start off for free with a trustworthy provider and upgrade to a paid plan further down the line if needed.
Wix is a very popular platform that launched back in 2006 and currently powers more than 100 million websites. Unlike the companies listed earlier, Wix’s main selling point is its fantastic site builder, with the web hosting being included as a bonus. The platform comes with a powerful drag-and-drop editor and an artificial intelligence system that lets you create great looking websites quickly and with very little effort. As you might expect, most of the best features are only available with the paid packages but you can definitely build a nice website with the free plan as well.
Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, most of which can be used even with the free plan. The only exceptions are the special templates designed for online stores. You can’t unlock eCommerce functionality with the free plan and you can’t connect a custom domain to it either, so you’ll have to settle with the free subdomain provided by the company, which comes with the extension ‘.wixsite.com.’ Another drawback is that storage and bandwidth are both capped at 500 MB.
Why Should You Choose Wix?
The free plan clearly comes with quite a few limitations but it’s definitely not all bad. You can still use the site editor to its fullest extent and install apps from the marketplace to your site. Wix’s marketplace contains over 200 apps, including plenty of free ones. As far as the editor is concerned, it can take a bit to get used to but once you wrap your head around how it works, you’ll find that you can use it to build pretty much any type of website you can think of. And thanks to the unique on-page support system, you’ll have access to information regarding various elements and tips on how to improve your design without ever having to leave the dashboard.
If you decide to switch to a paid plan at some point, and you can do it at any time, you’ll be able to purchase a premium package for as little as $4.50 per month. There are six other plans to choose from in addition to that, each with increasingly better features and tools, so there’s something for everyone here. Some of the main advantages of going premium include free domain names, more resources, free premium apps, and eCommerce functionality. Even more importantly, though, none of the paid plans force you to display Wix-branded ads, with the exception of the cheapest one. The free plan also displays ads and that’s a problem that you’re going to come across often with these types of services.
Weebly is another all-purpose website builder that shares quite a few similarities with Wix. In fact, Weebly ranked first on our list of top Wix alternatives and vice-versa. If you’re familiar with one of these platforms you’ll automatically know what to expect from the other. That said, the two aren’t exactly identical and there are a few reasons why you may want to pick Weebly over Wix as your free web hosting service. For one, Weebly has better integration with traditional hosting providers like Bluehost. That means you can practice building websites with the free version of the builder and import your site to Bluehost if you ever decide to switch to paid hosting.
Weebly only offers around 50 themes but gives you access to a lot more apps. Roughly 350 of them as of this writing. Another thing that sets Weebly apart from Wix is its site editor. While both platforms offer editors that support drag-and-drop functionality, Weebly’s editor is easier to work with in some ways thanks to its structured nature. Granted, the editor’s block-based approach does make it feel less flexible when compared to platforms like Wix, but it also gives you fewer opportunities to mess up. This makes Weebly a good choice for novices who require a bit of hand-holding in the beginning.
Why Should You Choose Weebly?
The main reason, of course, is that you can use Weebly to build a website for free and there are no time limits to this offer, so you’ll never have to spend a penny on your hosting. A pretty big selling point of Weebly is that the company offers customer support even to free plan users, which is rarely the case with these types of services. Free users can’t contact support agents via phone but they can get in touch with them via chat and email. In addition, the free plan also comes with an SSL certificate, SEO tools, and contact forms. As far as the drawbacks are concerned, they are similar to the ones we’ve discussed earlier. Namely, branded domain name, ads, and very limited resources.
Upgrading to a premium plan removes these limitations and unlocks many nice features. The cheapest paid plan will set you back $5 per month and will allow you to connect your custom domain name. A major advantage of Weebly is that you can use the platform to build extremely robust online stores with relative ease. Some of the features supported by Weebly online stores include automatic tax calculator, shipping labels, inventory management, the ability to sell physical and digital goods in unlimited quantities, abandoned cart recovery, coupons, and more. Unfortunately, eCommerce functionality isn’t available with the free plan but you can unlock for as little as $12 per month.
Site123 is a site builder that’s been getting increasingly more popular lately, to the point where it is now giving even Wix and Weebly a run for their money. The company has a very simple business model with only two plans to choose from – a free one and a paid one. The free plan comes with most of the same pros and cons you would expect while the paid one is marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution for creating, hosting, and managing websites. Site123 is mainly targeting private users but the platform is also a good fit for small business websites and simple online stores.
Site123 gives you around 200 templates and over 75 apps to play around with. Creating a new website on the platform is extremely easy and only involves 3 steps. You start by choosing your website’s niche, which can be anything from photography to music, transportation services, blog, online store, and many more. Step 2 involves picking a name for your website while the final step is singing up for the service. What’s great about Site123 is that you can create a new account without having to give out any sensitive information. You just need a username, password and email address and you’re all good to go.
Why Should You Choose Site123?
The platform greatly simplifies the process of creating a website. In fact, you don’t even have to do anything because you will be granted a demo website based on your specifications as soon as you sign up for the service. You can then edit this website to your liking before publishing it. The editor is section-based and very easy to work with. Every page comes with a pre-configured set of sections that you can customize to a certain degree. While not as flexible as other editors, it still allows you to create beautiful looking websites, thanks in no small part to the stylish templates. If you ever get stuck during the customization process, all you need to do is click the “Need Help?” button and you’ll be able to chat with a support agent without having to leave the dashboard.
Site123 is free to use for as long as you want and comes with 1 GB of bandwidth and 500 MB of storage along with a subdomain that has the extension “site123.me”. As always, you can get a lot more resources, get rid of ads, and connect a custom domain name by becoming a premium user. Site123 used to have multiple paid plans not too long ago but as of this writing, there’s only one package priced at $7.80 per month. With this plan you get a free custom domain for 1 year, 10 GB of storage, 5 GB of bandwidth, and eCommerce functionality. So pretty much everything you’ll need to run a website, regardless of whether it’s a blog, events page or even a small online store.
WordPress is widely known as being by far the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world right now. Under normal circumstances, you would use the platform to build a website and let a provider like Bluehost or SiteGround host it for you. However, some of the people behind the CMS launched their own hosting service a while back, so you don’t necessarily need to look for a third-party provider anymore. The hosting plans offered by WordPress are pretty similar to the ones found at Wix or Weebly but instead of a custom site editor, you would be using the popular CMS to build your website.
Working with WordPress’s hosting service is quite a different experience when compared to working with free software. You need to register an account in order to start building your website and you’ll need to deal with a number of restrictions if you decide to stick to the free plan. However, you would be getting access to a slightly more streamlined version of the platform that allows you to build websites with ease even if you’re a complete novice. By comparison, the free CMS is known for being a bit intimidating to newcomers and can take a long time to master.
Why Should You Choose WordPress?
Although we think you would be getting more out of the platform by downloading the free version and pairing it with one of the cheap hosting services listed earlier, picking this alternative version does have certain advantages. The main one, of course, is that this is a completely free web hosting service. While there are paid packages, you can choose to stay with the free one for as long as you want. The free plan comes with 3 GB of storage, which is pretty generous when compared to similar services, along with an SSL certificate, free subdomain, a great multi-purpose plugin known as JetPack and dozens of free themes.
Unfortunately, installing additional plugins and uploading your own themes isn’t possible with the free version of the service. If you decide to upgrade, on the other hand, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the capabilities offered by WordPress while also getting some nice tools and features in the process. Paid plans start at only $4 per month and the best value package will cost you $8 per month. The prices aren’t too bad all things considered and WordPress websites can easily be transferred to pretty much any other provider if you decide to change hosts further down the road. You can check out our guide on how to migrate your WordPress website to a different provider right here.
Strikingly is a relatively new player on the market that decided to focus on simplicity above all else. The free web hosting service was initially meant for bloggers at launch but nowadays Strikingly can be used to create pretty much any type of website, including simple online stores. The company is pretty generous with its free plan, more so than a lot of others out there. Needless to say, though, the free plan still suffers from the same drawbacks as all the others. You don’t get a custom domain name, your website displays branded ads, and the resources are pretty limited, though to be fair, Strikingly does give you more of them than other providers.
But while there are drawbacks to using Strikingly, there are also plenty of benefits. Strikingly has one of the simplest to use site editors out there and the platform has a very useful tutorial that guides you through every step of the process. If you’re looking for a hassle-free way of building a new website, Strikingly is one of the best options. There are about 60 templates to choose from so the selection isn’t too bad and the builder uses a WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editor to streamline things even further. What this basically means is that you’re working on the front end and that any changes made to a page are reflected immediately on the live version once your update your site.
Why Should You Choose Strikingly?
Ease of use aside, Strikingly has some neat features that make it very appealing for users who want to build websites for free. For starters, the platform allows you to create as many websites as you want, a feature that many hosting services usually reserve for paid customers. Another interesting thing to note is that Strikingly offers 24/7 customer support with the free plan, which again, is something you’d expect to get with a premium package. Perhaps even more importantly, though, Strikingly allows you to set up an online store for free. Granted, you can only list a single product on the store but this is still a nice little feature to have.
But while the free plan is very easy to recommend for obvious reasons, the premium packages are not quite as appealing, mainly due to their price. The cheapest premium plan will set you back $8 per month, which is quite expensive considering that most other basic hosting services revolve around the $4-5 mark. Despite costing $16 per month, the next tier actually offers a lot better value for money. With this plan, you get a lot of useful features, including password protection for your site, the ability to embed code into your site and invite collaborators, extra resources, mobile action buttons, and more.
Webnode is another free web hosting service that’s worth checking out. The service launched back in 2008 and has so far been used to build websites for over 40 million users according to its developers. Webnode shares a lot of similarities to some of the other website builders on this list, but is overall perhaps most similar to Squarespace. Since Squarespace doesn’t offer a free plan, you can look into Webnode as a possible alternative, though the platform can easily stand on its own merits as well.
Webnode brings to the table around 100 customizable templates and a section-based editor that works similar to that of Site123. The free plan includes very little storage (100 MB) and only 1 GB of bandwidth so this builder isn’t really suitable for anything more than simple websites. But, like all the other free web hosting services we talked about earlier, Webnode is a good place to start experimenting with website building and learning more about how the process works. Unlike other builders, Webnode gives you access to website statistics and form builders, two features that can potentially come in handy.
Why Should You Choose Webnode?
Webnode is a very good choice for those of you who want to build multilingual websites. The platform supports a wide variety of different languages and is able to automatically translate your website into any of them with ease. Webnode is also known for having a very solid customer support team with over 100 members from various countries ready to assist you even if you don’t speak English. That said, it’s likely that you won’t need to reach out to customer support often because the service is very easy to use and there are some good step-by-step guides in the knowledge base that will help you get started on the right foot.
Webnode has quite a bit more to offer to users who decide to upgrade to one of the premium plans. The company’s paid packages are quite affordable compared to its rivals, with prices ranging between $3.95 and $19.95 per month. The included resources aren’t great even with the paid plans but you do get access to email accounts, eCommerce functionality, Google Analytics, and AdSense integration, a membership registration, a backup & restore tool, and more. The paid plans also give you the option of using a custom domain name, which isn’t possible with the free version.
Last but not least of the free web hosting services we want to recommend is Jimdo. This German company launched in 2007 and has been used to build over 20 million websites since its inception. Just like Webnode, Jimdo offers great multilingual support and a simple to use WYSIWYG site editor. Jimdo mainly targets small businesses, but the platform is also a good choice for blogs and other personal or creative projects, portfolios, and small online stores. There are plenty of paid plans to choose from but like all the other services we listed in this section, Jimdo can also be used for free with no time limits.
Jimdo is a very mobile-friendly platform with dozens of quality templates to choose from. You can find great looking designs for virtually any industry and the platform comes with a built-in SEO tool that makes it very easy to optimize your content. One of the most interesting things about Jimdo is that you can use it to create free professional logos for your company. The logo creation tool is available separately from the site builder so you don’t even have to sign up for the service in order to use it. Simply type in the name of your company or website, choose a niche, and then customize the logo to your liking.
Why Should You Choose Jimdo?
Jimdo is a very good Squarespace alternative that you don’t have to pay for. The platform excels in the ease of use department thanks to its simple editor and is particularly adept at building sites that look good on mobile devices. There’s also good multilingual support and plenty of features designed specifically to help growing businesses. The free plan only comes with 2 GB of bandwidth and 500 MB of storage but that’s more than enough to give you a taste of what the platform has to offer. You are restricted to building websites that have at most 5 pages with the free version and you can’t connect a custom domain to your site, both of which are common drawbacks of these types of services.
The premium plans are fairly expensive, with prices starting at $9 per month and reaching up to $39 per month. The basic paid package grants you additional resources, emails, the ability to create websites with up to 10 pages, website statistics, and access to the Jimdo Boost app, among other things. The app is one of the most useful things here as it serves as an all-in-one solution for improving your SEO, marketing strategies, and even the design of your website. If you’re looking to build an online store with Jimdo, you can do so by choosing one of the specialized eCommerce plans, which start at $15 per month.
Cheap Hosting vs. Free Hosting
There are clearly quite a few differences between cheap web hosting services and their free counterparts. As it’s often the case with these types of things, there are pros and cons to both methods so let’s talk a bit about some of the most important ones you’ll need to keep in mind before choosing a hosting service for your next project.
Unsurprisingly, the main drawback of standard hosting providers is that you’ll need to pay them to host your website. These companies don’t tend to offer free plans, but they almost always charge very little for their basic plans. The only issue here is that you usually have to sign up for a multi-year hosting plan if you want to take advantage of the lowest possible prices. This means cheap web hosting services are generally not a good choice for those who aren’t committed to their websites.
If you don’t mind spending a few bucks each month for your hosting, you’ll find that companies like SiteGround and Dreamhost are a much better solution than companies like, for example, Wix or Site123. Paid hosting plans tend to include a lot more features and resources, more reliable customer support, and the performance is always miles better than with a free plan. If you’re looking to build a website that attracts a lot of visitors or a successful online store, the only reasonable option is to go for a paid hosting plan. Free hosting is for the most part only recommended for small blogs and other simple personal projects.
But are there any advantages to free web hosting? Well, aside from the fact that you don’t have to pay for your hosting, you can expect platforms that offer free plans to be easier to work with. A lot of these services come with very simple site editors that, when coupled with on-page tutorials and instructional videos, can help you create a new website in just a few minutes. This makes free web hosting services great for beginners who want to learn about site-building and working with site editors. But once you get a bit of experience under your belt, we recommend going with a more powerful CMS like WordPress if you want to create truly impressive websites.
If you’ve ever wanted to launch your own website there are plenty of services out there that not only give you all the tools needed to build it, but will also host it for free. However, it should come as no surprise that free web hosting services aren’t really suitable for serious webmasters. Free plans tend to come with a lot of drawbacks like limited resources, forced ads, branded subdomains, missing key features, and more. We do recommend free hosting for small personal projects but if you want to take your website to the next level, you’ll eventually have to invest some money into it.
Once that happens, you have two options at your disposal – upgrade your free hosting plan to a paid one or transfer to a different provider that only works with paid hosting like Bluehost, Dreamhost or SiteGround. The second option is better in our opinion because these types of companies offer superior scalability and performance, however, sticking with an all-in-one platform like Wix or Weebly isn’t a bad choice either, especially if you’re still a novice. The choice is ultimately up to you.