Launched all the way back in 2010, WP Engine is one of the oldest managed WordPress hosts out there. They offer plans starting at just $29 for personal websites and ranging up to $249+ for more enterprise-focused plans.
Since its founding, WP Engine has also added the adjective “biggest” to go along with “oldest” and remains one of the most well-known players in the managed WordPress hosting industry.
In our WP Engine review, we’ll dig into this WordPress hosting behemoth and see if its performance and features match up with its popularity.
In general, we’re fans of WP Engine’s performance and development workflow features. But don’t let that little synopsis spoil the review – let’s look at things in a bit more detail so that you understand why we feel that way.
8 Things We Like About WP Engine Hosting
Before we dig into the things we didn’t like about WP Engine, let’s talk about the many things we did like about our WP Engine experience…
1. Fast Page Load Times – Well Under 1 Second For Our Test Site
To test WP Engine’s performance, we set up a site on the $29 per month Personal plan, which is WP Engine’s cheapest tier and the most accessible plan for casual WordPress users.
As with all of our hosting reviews, our test site consists of a full landing page template from Elementor. Beyond WP Engine’s default caching, we didn’t perform any manual performance optimizations on our test site.
Let’s put it through the paces!
First, we ran it through a Pingdom page speed test, where our 1 MB page with 43 requests loaded in a blazing 751 ms for Pingdom’s San Jose server:
Then, to give it a different look, we ran it through GTmetrix, where our test site loaded in 0.9 s for GTmetrix’s Vancouver, Canada server:
How does that compare to other hosts? Kinsta is probably the most applicable comparison, based on price, so let’s look there first.
Our test site at Kinsta loaded in 643 ms. So Kinsta was a little bit faster in our tests, but not drastically so.
As you’d expect, WP Engine scored better than all of the cheap WordPress hosts we’ve tested. Here’s how some of those cheaper hosts did, for comparison:
Finally, we wanted to see if WP Engine’s quick-loading performance held up under a bit of stress, so we ran a Load Impact test simulating 50 active visitors over 5 minutes. This basically tells us if our test site would load as quickly for the 50th visitor as it would for the first visitor.
Here are the results:
Essentially, this chart shows that as the number of visitors increases (the blue line), the page load times stay rock steady around 390 ms (the green line). That’s a good thing because it means that high traffic doesn’t lead to any drop in performance.
2. Easy Live Chat Support With No Wait Times
One of the perks of hosting your WordPress site with WP Engine is that all of the support technicians are WordPress experts (because that’s all WP Engine does).
Another perk is that you can get pretty much instant live chat help whenever you need it:
All you need to do is select the install that you need to chat about, click a button, and you’re off to chatting with a real human person:
3. Automatic WordPress Installation + Easy Migration
Because WP Engine just works with WordPress, they automatically install WordPress on your site from the get-go.
So if you’re just getting started with WordPress, that’s obviously a pretty big perk.
But if you need to migrate your site to WP Engine from an existing host, WP Engine also makes that pretty dang easy with its dedicated migration tool:
4. Easy Staging + Development Workflows
A staging site is basically a replica of your actual website that you can safely test changes on.
It’s an awesome tool that makes it a lot simpler to tweak your WordPress site. And it also comes built-in with all WP Engine plans.
The simplest way to interact with your staging site is right from the WP Engine tab in your WordPress dashboard:
But WP Engine also gives you more advanced workflows inside the WP Engine dashboard. These can get a little complicated – but if you’re a developer or power WordPress user, you’ll appreciate that you can quickly deploy installs from one environment to another right from the dashboard:
And you can also spin up new installs as needed (the warning in the screenshot below only applies to live installs – not development sites):
5. Easy Backups And Restores For Production And Staging Sites
WP Engine automatically backs up your site every day. And you can always view these backups right from your WP Engine dashboard.
From there, you can:
- Run a manual backup
- Restore from any backup
- Download a ZIP file of a backup to store it on your local computer
And you can also use the toggles to switch between Production and Staging environments:
The backup interface is quite convenient and saves you the trouble and worry of using a third-party backup plugin.
6. In-Dashboard Page Performance Tests
Another nice dashboard goodie that you get with WP Engine is the ability to assess the performance of individual pages on your site right from the WP Engine dashboard.
All you do is click a button to run the test and then WP Engine will email you with recommendations:
It’s a small thing – but it can definitely help you speed up your website.
7. Built-in Caching + Easy Cache Management From WordPress Dashboard
Speaking of page load times, caching is a common performance strategy that both speeds up your site and reduces the load on your server.
With many other hosts, you’d have to turn to a third-party plugin to get access to caching. But with WP Engine, WP Engine handles caching for you from day one.
That means you get all of the performance benefits with none of the hassle.
If you need to clear your site’s cache, you can do it either via the WP Engine tab in your WordPress dashboard or from your WP Engine hosting dashboard:
8. Free HTTPS/SSL Certificate
Using an SSL/TLS certificate both makes your site more secure and might even help you rank higher in Google.
WP Engine makes HTTPS easy by automatically setting you up with a free SSL/TLS certificate. You don’t need to lift a finger to benefit!
2 Things We Don’t Like About WP Engine Hosting
While we think WP Engine’s pros outweigh its cons in most situations, there are two things to think about before you go off and sign up for WP Engine Hosting.
1. WP Engine Has Some Plugin Restrictions In Place
As part of its managed hosting environment, WP Engine completely blocks you from using some types of plugins. While this isn’t unheard of in the managed WordPress hosting industry, it isn’t ubiquitous (for example, Kinsta doesn’t restrict your plugin usage).
Some of these plugins, like caching and backups, are restricted because they’re made redundant by WP Engine’s built-in features. But there are other types of plugins that you might want that are blocked by WP Engine.
- Broken Link Checker
- WP PostViews
- Many related posts plugins
- WP Mailing List
- EWWW Image Optimizer (the Cloud version is allowed)
You can view the complete list here.
If you’re planning to use one of the disallowed plugins, you might want to choose a different host that doesn’t restrict your plugin usage.
2. WP Engine Charges You Based On The Number Of Visits
We should preface this part of our WP Engine review by saying that this approach is fairly common in the managed WordPress hosting industry – so we don’t want to make it seem like this is something unique to WP Engine.
But despite it being a common practice in the industry, we still aren’t big fans of the fact that WP Engine’s pricing plans are based on the number of visits to your site.
That is, you’re charged based on how many people visit your site, rather than how many resources you actually use. While the two do correlate together – they’re not a perfect match.
It’s not a big deal if your site fits neatly within the limits – but it might be something to consider if you have a high traffic, but low resource usage site.
Speaking of pricing…
How Much Does WP Engine Cost?
As we mentioned in the introduction, WP Engine plans start at $29 per month. Here’s WP Engine’s pricing table for the three set plans it offers:
All in all, WP Engine’s pricing is pretty competitive. It’s even a little bit more generous than Kinsta, which starts at $30 per month for 20,000 visits.
WP Engine Review Wrap Up: Is It Right For You?
WP Engine is one of the biggest names in managed WordPress hosting for a reason:
They have rock-solid performance and a bunch of developer-friendly workflows.
With that being said, Kinsta did do a bit better in our performance tests. So if you’re 100% focused on performance, you might want to look into Kinsta instead.
Kinsta’s developer workflows aren’t quite as strong as WP Engine. So if you like WP Engine’s easy Create → Deploy workflow, you might be willing to take that tiny performance hit for easier development (plus, WP Engine’s performance is no slouch).
In the end, you probably won’t go wrong with either Kinsta or WP Engine. So if you liked what you saw of WP Engine’s features, support, and performance, you definitely won’t be disappointed if you sign up.