WP Engine may have only been founded in 2010—less than a decade ago—but that’s not to say that the company isn’t as good as some of the older and better-known hosting companies. In fact, the company pulls no punches and has wasted no time in establishing a great name for itself over the last few years.
WP Engine is, by far, the biggest brand in terms of being a WordPress-focused hosting solution.
Founded by Jason Cohen, a US entrepreneur, WP Engine was launched to fill a gap in the market for specialized WordPress hosting during a time when the WordPress CMS was rapidly growing in popularity.
Does WP Engine live up to all their hype? Or, as we so often see in the hosting space, are all WP Engine’s good graces and positive reviews nothing but hot air?
That is what we have set out to find out in this WP Engine review. In it, we have covered the “pros” and “cons” to help you, a prospective webmaster, decide whether their plans are worth your money or not.
So, without further ado, let’s get to our review.
What’s Unique About WP Engine
As you may have guessed from their name, WP Engine specializes in WordPress hosting and WordPress hosting only. This should mean that they provide a market leading hosting service for WordPress webmasters.
After all, it’s better that a company specializes in and does a fantastic job of one thing than specialize in and do an average job of many things.
WP Engine’s focus on WordPress hosting is what differentiates them from all the other hosts. They are the go-to choice when it comes to premium WordPress hosting.
What We Love About WP Engine
These are some of the things that made a good impression on us.
Managed Premium WordPress Hosting
You’re at a point where you need the best of the best. Whether you’re out to build a perfect website from the start or want to scale your exiting WordPress-based website to a top-tier hosting solution, WP Engine is it.
Over 90,000 customers pay a premium subscription fee to use WP Engine. They see the value in using the best tool available.
In the case of the best WordPress hosting, WP Engine is definitely the right choice.
This premium subscription comes with a reliable up time, optimized loading speeds, extremely helpful customer service team and literally all the tools, themes and plugins you need to run a successful WordPress site.
60-Day Money Back Guarantee
WP Engine offers a very generous 60-day money back guarantee. This is a whole 30 days longer than the industry-standard duration of 30 days.
This lets you try out WP Engine’s hosting plans and decide whether or not one is right for you and your website. 60 days is a decent amount of time that lets you get set up, comfortable, and take everything for a spin.
If you do decide that WP Engine isn’t for you, all you need to do is email WP Engine’s customer support team and ask for a refund and cancellation of your account. This money back guarantee, however, only applies to certain plans, namely the Personal, Professional, and Business ones.
Some deductions, where applicable, can be made. These may include:
- Domain registration fees;
- Administrative fees;
- Setup fees; and
- Add-ons, among others.
Free Automated Website Migration
One of the benefits of being a WordPress-only platform is that WP Engine has the ability to provide some pretty cool features. One of these features is the automated migration tool that will move your website from your old host to WP Engine with just a few clicks of a mouse.
Of course, this only applies if you are a webmaster who is currently managing a WordPress website.
You can either opt to configure the tool yourself or ask WP Engine’s team of WordPress specialists to do it for you. Either way, the service and tool are completely free of charge.
Free SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate is a must-have for any website these days. They mark your website as being safe and secure; without one, Google may label your website as the opposite and this can have a detrimental impact on not only your rankings, but your overall image.
Even if you don’t process any personal or financial information on your website, you still need an SSL certificate.
Internet users are becoming increasingly aware of today’s security concerns online and the first thing that people are told to look for to gauge a website’s security is an SSL certificate.
Some hosts will charge for an SSL certificate—sometimes as much as $149.99 or more per year—so it is great that WP Engine offers it for free.
Great Customer Service
WP Engine has a huge support team. At the time of writing, there are over 100 seasoned WordPress experts that provide support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
These support agents can be reached over the phone, through a live chat, or an email-based ticketing system. Phone-based support is available 24/7 for paying customers only. Enterprise-level customers can access 24/7 email support, too.
Everybody, regardless of whether you are a customer or not, can access the 24/7 live chat.
WP Engine uses a content delivery network (CDN) called MaxCDN to make their hosting service a lot faster and more reliable. The CDN is available with all their hosting plans, from the very basic plan to the enterprise-level ones.
A CDN ensures that your website’s content—hence the name—can always be displayed and delivered around the world even during times of technical hardship.
Lots of Free Premium Themes
WP Engine previously acquired StudioPress, a premium WordPress theme design house. This means that all StudioPress’ themes, and there are almost 40 of them, are available for free to all WP Engine customers on all plans.
This provides thousands of dollars’ worth of additional value on top of everything else you get, completely free.
In fact, this very website you’re on (HostInspection) is using StudioPress’ theme right now!
Things We Didn’t Like About WP Engine
While there were plenty of good points, there were a few bad ones, too.
WP Engine is Not Cheap
In comparison to some of the other hosting providers we have reviewed, WP Engine seriously is not cheap. Their basic Startup plan (the cheapest plan they have) will set you back $35 per month and only includes a single installation of WordPress.
If you go with other providers such as Bluehost or SiteGround, for example, you can get a shared hosting plan for a few dollars per month. On these shared hosting plans, you get more storage, can handle more visitors, and can run more than one WordPress installation.
That being said, WP Engine delivers amazing total value and if you factor in your time and everything that WP Engine does for you, their pricing is great. WP Engine is a comprehensive WordPress that handles everything for you, including updates.
If you don’t want to deal with technical issues (and you likely will need to with a shared hosting plan) and the best of everything else, then WP Engine is a fantastic choice.
Not Entirely Suitable for Low Budget Websites
We won’t stop you if you want the best platform for your small website. WP Engine can be used by smaller websites and blogs for sure. You’ll probably get the best start this way.
However, if you have no budget and want to start a website, maybe you shouldn’t go after one of the most expensive option?
On top of that, you can get the most value out of their service if you have websites that, while small, are growing.
Still, there’s nothing stopping you from using them. For anybody who has a website that would be served well on most shared hosting plans, their Startup plan is more than sufficient. The mid-tier and top-tier WP Engine plans are better for sites that have outgrown their shared hosting roots and don’t want to deal with the technical headaches that come with growth.
No cPanel and More
WP Engine does things differently, and these differences can lead to some complexity.
First things first, WP Engine does not use cPanel. They use their own backend. Given all the optimizations and the way they run their platform, however, using their own backend is a lot better and more efficient. For experienced webmasters getting to grips with it won’t be a problem, however, for people at the “newbie” end of the scale, you may struggle. Difficulty: Easy.
Then we come to DNS nameservers. WP Engine does not host its own DNS so, in order to use your domain name with WP Engine, you will need to update your DNS directly with your DNS provider (likely the company you bought your domain name from, such as Namecheap). Difficulty: Easy.
Once you get over the initial bump, WP Engine’s backend and processes make sense. Thankfully, they have a fantastic customer support team there to help you, however, given that even vastly experienced webmasters have had trouble with WP Engine, it doesn’t give us much hope.
Restrictions on Third-Party Plugins
Another “con” that relates to WP Engine’s unique setup and structure is the fact that their platform isn’t open to third-party plugins.
In order to run their optimized architecture and keep things operating as they should, their platform is rather inflexible and must follow a somewhat uniform order.
This means that, unfortunately, certain plugins are banned, and that WP Engine needs to be able to “predict” use cases and visitor patterns of each of their customers.
Several things are outright banned:
- “Related Posts” plugins such as Contextual Related Posts and Similar Posts;
- Reverb, Outbrain, and Contextly;
- Broken Link Check, Link Checker, and Integrity;
- No Revisions;
- Force Strong Passwords;
- WordFence; and
- Bad Behavior.
These are just some examples of the things you cannot use on WP Engine. Some of these are outright banned because they duplicate security functions provided directly by WP Engine whereas others are banned because they already install and activate the plugin, or a similar one, for you.
If you have a website already with several third-party plugins, make sure to carry out further research and see if they’re compatible (or if WP Engine has a replacement).
Why? Because WP Engine defines a few “use cases” and what you can and cannot do with your subscription will depend on which use case you fall within.
WP Engine Pricing
With WP Engine, pricing works a little differently. Instead of paying a flat fee each month, you generally do not have to worry about price increases.
Because WP Engine’s plans are limited to a certain number of visitors per month, you will have to pay extra if you exceed this number. This isn’t ideal if you are planning a big launch and don’t know how much traffic you are going to get, or if you are a seasonal business whose traffic doubles, triples, or quadruples during the holiday season.
And, again, the plans are a lot more expensive than typical shared hosting plans.
You do get a whole lot more for your money, though, such as true expert-level customer support and a fast, reliable platform that does the best job possible of running WordPress.
There are three plans available: Starter; Growth; and Scale.
There are lots of shared hosting plans that can handle the same, if not a higher, amount of traffic for a smidgen of the price.
Also, you don’t get to run email from your WP Engine server, you have hard limits on visitors, storage, and bandwidth—exceeding which attracts an additional levy—and, finally, you are limited on the number of websites you can run.
If you have a lot of websites or one main website and some side projects, you might not be able to run them all from your server.
In short, WP Engine is a pricey option for what you get.
If it is worth it to you for the customer service element, though, then go for it.
WP Engine’s Starter plan is ideal for starting a small website or blog. Starting at $35 per month, you are protected by their 60-day money back guarantee.
The plan can handle 25,000 visits per month, and you get 10 GB in disk space and 50 GB in bandwidth per month. You can host a single website using a WordPress installation on this plan.
Starter will cost you:
- $35 per month when paid month-to-month; or
- $350 when paid for annually up-front ($70 off—two months free.)
There are no setup fees or endless add-ons—everything is included in the price.
WP Engine’s Growth plan is ideal for a small business or website that is experiencing steady growth. Starting at $115 per month, you are protected by their 60-day money back guarantee.
The plan can handle 100,000 visits per month, and you get 20 GB in disk space and 200 GB in bandwidth per month. You can host five websites using WordPress on this plan.
Growth will cost you:
- $115 per month when paid month-to-month; or
- $1,150 when paid for annually up-front ($230 off—two months free.)
Again, there are no setup fees or endless add-ons—everything is included in the price.
WP Engine’s Scale plan is ideal for websites that have experienced significant growth and need higher capacity to continue scaling up their operations. Starting at $290 per month, you are protected by their 60-day money back guarantee.
The plan can handle 400,000 visits per month, and you get 30 GB in disk space and 400 GB in bandwidth per month. You can host 15 websites using WordPress on this plan.
Scale will cost you:
- $290 per month when paid month-to-month; or
- $2,900 when paid for annually up-front ($580 off—two months free.)
Once again—there are no setup fees or add-ons to pay for.
Our tip: wait a little while you’re on the pricing page. You will soon get a popup with a discount code which will receive 20% off of your first payment. Pay for it in 1 year in advance and you’ll save a significant amount.
WP Engine Final Thoughts
Do we recommend WP Engine?
For those few who have the cash to splash and want the best WordPress hosting solution… If you just want to focus on running your site and would rather leave the technical aspects to people who know what they are doing, and want a host with fast, reliable hardware and infrastructure, WP Engine is perfect for you.
While their plans have a hefty price tag, there is a reason for this—they are simply the best at what they do.
Sure, you can get shared hosting plans for a lot less… but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
If you want something that’s a little more budget-friendly, though, check out some of our favorite shared hosting plans that support WordPress—Bluehost, SiteGround, and InMotion are all great options.