I’m frequently asked how much does WordPress cost? Is WordPress free?
The answer is yes; WordPress is free. It’s free both in terms of cost and in terms of what you can do with the software.
WordPress is open source software. That means you have complete control over any website you build with WordPress. You can modify your site and WordPress itself it in any way you desire. And because of the open source software license, no one can ever revoke your right to use WordPress.
Your WordPress website is not at the mercy of someone else’s business model.
That being said, unless your needs are very basic it’s likely that you will spend at least a small amount of money on your WordPress-powered website.
In this post, I present a few common usage scenarios along with associated costs. All costs are ballpark estimates intended to give you a rough idea of what you can expect to spend. Your actual mileage may vary.
Totally Free WordPress
If you are a casual blogger, a hobbyist, or just a curious beginner eager to see what WordPress can do, I recommend that you start with WordPress.com. Before you do, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
That’s the hosted version of WordPress. It’s entirely possible this free service is all you will ever need.
Getting started is easy. Just create your free account at WordPress.com and start your blog. In fact, you can start as many blogs as you like. If you’re blogging about radically different topics — raising llamas and skydiving, for example — you can set up a free blog for each topic. Or make one blog about skydiving llamas. It’s entirely up to you.
There are a few limitations to the free account that you should be aware of. You’re limited to the design options that are pre-installed on WordPress.com, and you won’t have the ability to install plugins. There’s also a good chance that WordPress will run advertising on your website. Those ads offset the cost of running the free service — so don’t expect to see any of the ad revenue.
Also, your site name will include WordPress.com as part of the URL. It will look something like this: http://myllamablog.wordpress.com.
Despite the limitations, this is an excellent way to get a taste of WordPress and discover if it’s right for you. Just understand that you’re not getting the full-blown WordPress experience that you’ve probably heard so much about.
Nearly Free WordPress
Beyond the free level service, WordPress.com offers some add-ons at a small additional cost. For example, you can use your own domain name for just $18 per year. That price includes the domain name registration and hosting of your website. You can buy a domain name when you sign-up for WordPress or use an existing name if you already own one.
I recommend the domain name option for anyone using WordPress.com on a long-term basis. If the free service meets your needs, it’s worth it to pay a few extra dollars to establish your unique identity on the web. If you decide to move to your own web hosting account in the future, you can take your WordPress content and your domain name with you.
For just $3 per month, you can signup for a Personal WordPress.com account. That gets you a domain name, email and live chat support, six gigabytes of storage, and removes ads from your website.
There are a couple of additional account levels available, but at $8/month and $24/month you would probably do better to go with your own web hosting account (more on that below).
There is one big advantage of hosting your site on WordPress.com: you never have to worry about things like server maintenance, backups, and software updates. WordPress.com takes care of all of that for you.
Want everything that WordPress has to offer, including access to thousands of free themes and plugins that extend your website to do just about anything you can imagine?
For that, you’ll need to get your own web hosting account. And you’ll have to pay for that. How much you pay depends on where you host your website. There are thousands of web hosting companies, and finding the right one can be challenging.
WordPress Web Hosting Examples
For this cost estimate, I’m sticking with web hosting companies that I’ve used and have personal experience with. And even then I’m sticking with the companies I recommend. That means I’m ignoring a slew of web hosting companies that are not so great. Without getting into specifics, I’ll just say that $5 per month web hosting accounts are a bad idea. If your web hosting budget is that limited you’re better off using WordPress.com.
WP Engine — from $29/month
WP Engine is my main web host. They have consistently offered super responsive support for every issue I’ve had. Their servers are optimized for WordPress, which means sites hosted on WP Engine load very quickly. WP Engine is also security conscious — they offer malware scanning and cleanup as part of their standard service. Moreover, WP Engine’s nightly and on-demand snapshots are a great way to keep your site backed up and provide you with a simple way to restore your website when things go wrong.
You can host a single for $29/month, or up to 10 sites for $99/month. That might sound expensive, but when you factor in things like free malware scanning, an integrated backup service, and top-notch support, it’s a small price to pay for piece of mind. Oh, and you’ll get a two-month discount if you pre-pay a year in advance.
DreamHost from $11/month
DreamHost is another hosting company I’ve used for a very long time (over a decade!). If you’re looking for the lowest price available, try a DreamHost shared plan. You’ll pay $11 per month (less if you pre-pay a year in advance). The shared hosting accounts intended for very low traffic sites. While the shared plan works with WordPress, they’re not optimized for WordPress. That might actually be a good thing if you need to host some other application besides WordPress.
But since you’re looking for a web host for your WordPress site, I recommend DreamPress. That’s DreamHost’s WordPress optimized hosting service. It’s closer (but not identical) to what WP Engine has to offer and starts at $20/month for a single website.
Besides web hosting, there’s a whole ecosystem of commercial products and services designed to extend WordPress. From plugins to themes, to third party services there are plenty of things you might spend some cash on to improve your website.
A few examples for reference:
BackupBuddy (from $80) – If your hosting account doesn’t have a tightly integrated backup service as WP Engine does, you’ll need a way to automate your site backups. BackupBuddy provides a simple and reliable way of ensuring that your site is secure when something goes wrong.
CSS Hero (from $29) – This plugin allows anyone to customize any theme’s stylesheets — without having to know anything about the complexities of CSS. That makes this the ultimate tool for WordPress theme customization.
Beaver Builder (from $99) – This visual page builder simplifies the process of making complex and attractive page layouts. Beaver Builder is a great tool for anyone who’s frustrated by the limitations of the standard WordPress post editor.
Of course, there’s no obligation that you buy any commercial WordPress add-on. There are thousands of WordPress plugins and themes available for free. Just be aware that you might eventually choose to spend some money on a commercial WordPress product.
Calculating the Real Cost of WordPress
As we’ve seen, WordPress is free. And that’s not just a technicality. It’s possible to make a great WordPress website without spending a dime. But, depending on your needs you might end up paying anywhere from $20 for a domain name and hosting, to hundreds of dollars for more advanced hosting, plugins, and a commercial theme.
If your budget is limited, it’s best to start small — with WordPress.com. Then add features as needed.
If you’re using WordPress to make a business website start by identifying your needs first. A little up-front planning will help you identify your costs and budget for the future. Whatever you end up spending it will likely cost far less than the thousands of dollars that a custom website typically costs.