I did a full review of InMotion Hosting, which you can read here. However, I wanted to specifically look at InMotion Hosting vs. HostGator. I use an InMotion VPS server to host this website, which used to be hosted on a HostGator server. I also use HostGator as my primary side-project and personal website hosting company. In other words, I use both and want to compare them head to head to highlight the best fit for new customers.
Note – This review was originally published October 6, 2013. It has been revised for 2017.
2nd Note – I also have a simple, fun hosting quiz to help you figure out which host is the best fit for you if you’re looking to run a share hosting (ie for WordPress).
HostGator has been one of the fastest growing web hosts since 2002. They’ve built their reputation on good pricing, fast servers, and great service. They were acquired by Endurance International (a holding company for several other popular hosting brands including BlueHost & JustHost) in 2012. I’ve been a HostGator customer for quite a while. I run most of my websites on it (including my personal website), along with several development sites.
And InMotion is a rapidly growing, but still independent hosting company out of Los Angeles that has recently generated a good bit of press and won several awards for their hosting services.
That said – let’s dive in and look at InMotion Hosting vs. HostGator Web Hosting.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned in this post. All opinion and data is based on my experience as a paying customer.
If you’re in a hurry – you can check out InMotion Hosting’s plan with current 53% off discount here.
You can check out HostGator’s hosting plans w/ a 45% off discount here.
Aside – I am comparing their shared hosting plans (HostGator just calls it “web hosting” and InMotion calls it “business class hosting”), but it’s the same product. I won’t be talking about VPS or dedicated server plans. If you are considering those, then you should really have a professional developer working with you, or be looking at a managed solution like WP Engine. I use an InMotion VPS, but also included those tradeoffs in both my WordPress hosting quiz and my general shared hosting quiz.
Plan per plan, HostGator appears to be a shade cheaper (with a discount). But really – you’re just counting dimes at each tier – not nearly enough to worry about unless you are actually counting dimes (and actually, InMotion makes up these dimes by giving a free domain with hosting purchase).
But for pricing there’s a couple things to keep in mind.
First – HostGator has more billing flexibility. You can sign up for as short as a month or as long as 3 years depending on your needs. InMotion requires you to sign up for at least a year, or a 2nd for a further discount.
Second – it’s easy to quickly scan through the feature checklist – they are of course engineered to build value and sell the plan. However, the primary feature that you need to look at to figure out value – and best fit for your goals are databases, disk space, and websites (domains) allowed. These are what you are actually paying for when you are choosing hosting. If hosting were a car, those would be the engine, and everything else is like the cupholders and seat covers.
Web hosts simply own the server where the files of your website live. It’s job is to deliver those files to whomever requests them as fast as possible, every time they ask for them. So here’s a quick run through of definitions. Databases are where the information that makes up your website is stored. The number of databases allowed is roughly how many “websites” you can have on your server.
Websites (the lingo on InMotion) or domains (the lingo on HostGator) refers to the number of domain names that you can route to your hosting account. Confusingly, this is different than databases because you can have a infinite distinct websites on 1 “website” or domain. For example, you could have blog.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com – that would be 1 domain/website…but actually be 2 websites and run off 2 databases. Make sense?
So HostGator’s Hatchling plan allows 1 domain, but unlimited databases. If you were building an event site – you could use this plan and have 2013.yourdomain.com, 2014.yourdomain.com etc, etc. InMotion’s cheapest plan allows 2 “websites” and 2 databases – so you are limited to 2 websites.
HostGator’s Baby & Business plans both offer unlimited domains & databases while InMotion Hosting caps both on all its plans (we’ll get into what that means in Features).
That said – choosing a host is by no means solely about price & value. Both HostGator and InMotion are affordable choices. It’s also about whether or not your host has what you need and can deliver on what they promise for that price. Let’s move along to features.
Even though databases, storage, and domains allowed are the key features that you should use to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – other features of course do matter.
In general, web hosting companies do a great job at simply repeating and re-emphasizing the same features in different ways so that you come away with the perception that 1 is different…when really they just re-framed a standard feature in a certain way.
Explaining every feature would take 20,000 very boring words, so instead here’s a brief rule of thumb that you can use to compare.
InMotion Hosting and HostGator have pretty much the same standard features, though each might offer a slightly better deal on a certain feature. For example, HostGator offers unlimited email addresses, and has a bigger focus on offering more available technical features (such as running a wide variety of programming languages, listservs, and autoresponders from their servers.
InMotion puts defined caps and limits on many of their features. InMotion would argue that HostGator’s “unlimited” features are still limited by the shared server resources. And that is true. If a shared server runs out of resources, it will crash. So InMotion focuses on the wide availability of features that will actually work.
Without access to internal data of each, I can’t say who’s right. I’ve a blog post go viral on a HostGator shared server and it handled the load fine. I also know plenty of people have tested HostGator servers and have evidence of overbooking the server.
Either way – make sure you define exactly what features you need, and don’t get oversold just because something is unlimited (in the case of HostGator) or has a specific marketing name / guarantee (in the case of InMotion).
There are two important features where they slightly differ – and first is data backups. They both regularly back up your data, though InMotion will restore your data for free, whereas HostGator charges $20. Now, that is only a plus for InMotion if you continue to backup your own data despite the safety net. Never depend on your hosting company to keep a backup of your site – especially if it’s free to restore.
If you are a slacker, and need the threat of $20 to make sure you do your own backups – then it’s HostGator’s plus. Otherwise, kudos to InMotion on that – it’s rare in the industry to see regular backups, much less free to restore data.
The second important feature – and one that everyone overlooks – is the amount of memory they dedicate to each account. Web hosting companies are infamous for promising the world – and then providing the bare minimum of actual resources on your server.
Memory is what your server uses to generate the webpages from your database when someone visits your site. The more the better. If you are running your site on WordPress – you really should have at least 64M on your account. And more if you are running a lot of plugins or ecommerce.
This is a bonus if you are uploading a lot of photos or video to your site, but is unrelated to how well the page loads – which is determined by the total memory dedicated. In HostGator’s defense, this setting is editable. However, ever since they were bought by Endurance International, I have noticed a downward change in default allocations.
The last notable feature that differentiates them are SSD hard drives. SSD hard drives are drives that store data in memory instead of spinning magnetic tape. If you’ve ever compared a MacBook Air vs. a MacBook Pro – you’ll know that’s the main difference. InMotion has SSDs, and HostGator does not. That feature should lead to better performance, which should show in the next section.
Comparing InMotion Hosting vs. HostGator on features, I’d say goes to InMotion Hosting. However, that’s different if you can’t have hard caps on features (and still plan on staying within resource allocations). That’s the main reason I still use HostGator for all but ShivarWeb.com right now – I have a lot of sandbox and dev sites that use very little resources, but still all need their own database. But the server that only has 1 site that needs a lot of resources (shivarweb.com) is at InMotion.
One of the core functions of your hosting account is to deliver your website to every visitor as quickly as possible – every time someone asks for it.
There are a lot of factors that go into how quickly you website loads – and much of it relates to how your website if configured. But one of the biggest factors is how well your hosting account can perform.
For shared hosting one metric that you can look at to judge performance is Time to First Byte (TTFB). This measures the time from when your website first gets a request to when it acknowledges the request and starts to return the data.
Imagine you go to a warehouse and walk up to a stock picker. TTFB is how long it takes for him to take your slip, read it, and start running to get your stuff. The stuff may be scattered everywhere in the warehouse – and it might be super huge, but the time it takes for him to just get going is still critical.
Here’s the results I got by testing a site that I have on HostGator and a test site I have on InMotion’s shared hosting with the same setup each. I tested both with the same software from the same requesting server. TTFB is the first metric you see.
InMotion Speed Test in 2017:
HostGator Speed Test in 2017:
It’s very close – and they are both above average for shared hosts (despite the ominous “F” grade) . Historically, I’ve found InMotion to be consistently better. But as you can see in the 2017 results – they are very close. In 2016, HostGator was slightly better and in 2015 InMotion was better.
The other part of the performance equation is that your hosting account must deliver your site every time someone asks for it – otherwise known as “uptime.”
They both advertise 99.9% uptime. I’ve never had a problem with either – and have never experienced significant downtime on my websites ever with HostGator in my several years as a customer.
Looking through InMotion forum posts – it looks like its a metric that they historically take very seriously.
One situation that gives InMotion Hosting an edge in this area is the Endurance Group International event of August 2013. In 2012, HostGator was purchased by Endurance Group International – a holding company for many other brands such as BlueHost and JustHost.
Each brand is run independently, but they have all been slowly merging infrastructure to cut costs. In August 2013, a large portion of HostGator’s infrastructure was migrated to the Provo, Utah data center…and ended causing quite a SNAFU. Actually – a really bad SNAFU that hurt all of Endurance’s brands. Some websites were down completely for 36+ hours, and not a ton of information was forthcoming from Endurance corporate.
HostGator still claims that they aim for and achieve 99.99% uptime outside of the isolated incident. I personally stuck with HostGator for most of my sites, since I figured that it was an incident that Endurance will learn from – and that even the biggest data providers hit trouble occasionally (ie, Google & Amazon).
However, a lot of people were really frustrated with the industry, and it’s something that certainly benefits independently run hosting companies like InMotion Hosting (and something that drove HostGator’s growth until it was acquired).
On consistently good performance – I still feel more comfortable with InMotion.
A hosting account should not require a degree in computer science, but it also shouldn’t be limiting to customers who can find their way around. And that’s where usability comes in.
It’s a tough line to walk between being super-easy for first time users and allowing regular users to find the information they want, and make the changes they need.
InMotion Hosting and HostGator both run their backends on the exact same platform – cPanel, which is industry standard, open-source, and though it’s not very pretty – and can be a bit daunting for first timers, it’s fairly straightforward to operate. There’s tons of documentation and tutorials for it as well. Here’s what it looks like…
Where HostGator and InMotion differ is in their account management & software bundling.
When you sign up for HostGator, you get a login for your billing/account management and then you get your direct login info for your cPanel hosting account. Two sites – pretty distinct purposes. Here’s a HostGator email for example – note the billing system link.
InMotion gives you access to your Account Management Panel, which serves as your hosting account frontend, your billing area, and the place you go to get into your cPanel.
They advertise it as an easier setup. In 2013, I found it to be quite confusing when I first logged in – partly because it has a good many upsells, and I couldn’t find some very specific information that, as an advanced user, I really wanted immediately.
InMotion has dramatically improved their backend in the past few years though.
Here’s a shot of their Account Management Panel in 2016…
Both HostGator and InMotion have simple QuickInstall functionality for software like WordPress, Joomla, etc. The one thing that HostGator has changed is software bundling.
When you do a WordPress QuickInstall, HostGator automatically installs their theme marketplace software with WordPress. Some people might find that convenient – and some might find it annoying. Here’s what it looks like (from a recent site setup – ignore the markup).
See the “MOJO Marketplace”? – that’s HostGator software. You can uninstall it from the Plugins sections easily enough. Nevertheless, it’s not ideal from my perspective.
I’d say that InMotion wins the usability category. I like HostGator’s minimalism, but InMotion’s single account management is also very convenient – and the zero QuickInstall add-ons reduces bloat in my opinion.
Customer service often gets overlooked when choosing hosting companies. It’s easy to not factor it in because it’s hard to imagine the problems that might come up.
The thing is that when you need customer support you often really need it.
However,the problem with rating customer service is that almost all reports are anecdotal – and typically it’s the bad experiences that get reported more often while outstanding service is taken as typical. No one has a “big picture” view of customer service levels except the companies themselves…who of course bias towards their own awesomeness.
I’ve had readers of this original review email me with bad experiences from both HostGator and InMotion. I’ve had readers tell me about great experiences I’ve had with both. A lot of people say that HostGator hasn’t been the same since Endurance International bought them.
So I tried to look for a “proxy” to judge which direction the companies’ cultures are going. The proxy I looked at was their Knowledgebase – where users can go to research and do DIY troubleshooting.
From everything I see, InMotion consistently invests more in keeping their Knowledgebase up to date than HostGator. InMotion actually treats their knowledgebase as a support channel where they use a topic to kick off a conversation with customers about questions that aren’t even directly related to their hosting account.
InMotion Knowledgebase – End of W3 Total Cache Article:
HostGator Knowledgebase (Same article as InMotion Example)
The HostGator article in this example is fine. You could install the WordPress plugin with it. But InMotion goes further. Their piece includes screenshots and timely responses to comments, which in many cases provide more clarity than the original piece.
Additionally, I’ve found InMotion to be more willing to solve software problems that technically aren’t their problem whereas HostGator will point me in the right direction while still leaving me up to myself.
For example, I had an issue with my WordPress install timing out when uploading media. It was a WordPress problem (aka my problem) but InMotion not only provided direction, but actually gave me the code to implement. When confirming with HostGator, they were able to point me to a tutorial, but not the actual code. Both were fine – but InMotion seems to go a bit further.
There are of course other factors that come into play when looking at hosting providers. These are kind of a grab bag, but they should at least be known.
For better or worse, InMotion Hosting is independently owned, and HostGator is owned by a big corporation. InMotion does a lot of WordPress event sponsorship – that’s cool. HostGator has been around for a long time, and has won a lot of awards & press.
InMotion Hosting offers web design services – I think that that is odd, and not related to their core competency of hosting, but it also can be a convenient feature for some customers.
If you are doing many integrations – I (and several readers) have found InMotion to be more flexible with getting integrations right. For example, I’ve had complex apps that I wanted on my site. They were blocked by HostGator by default. It took quite a bit of work to get it fixed, whereas InMotion provided direct access to my php.ini file along with support to get it right.
I’ve had two readers mention HostGator’s issues with Google Apps. Now that’s only if you also have your domain with them, but it does fit with the general story.
They both offer virtual private servers, dedicated servers, and managed hosting if your site ever needs an upgrade in resources.
Here’s the deal – I try to never declare a “best” choice in any hosting review. Different products and providers can be a better fit for different people depending on their goals. That said, both HostGator or InMotion Hosting are good choices. I actively use them both on websites. I recommend them both to clients.
I think that if you are only going to be working with 1 or 2 websites, have a slightly more flexible budget, don’t mind pre-paying for a year, and you are focused on worry-free features (such as free data backup) and customer service – then you should check out InMotion Hosting here.
If you are going be operating several websites, and/or you are mainly focused on good performance on a budget, and/or need monthly billing then HostGator is going to be a better fit for you.
If you plan on using WordPress – you might also be interested in my WordPress Website Setup Guide here – I use InMotion for the screenshots, but they also work for HostGator as well.
Lastly, if you still aren’t quite sure, check out my simple, fun hosting quiz to figure out the best fit for your project.
Good luck with your project!