The Complete Guide to Understanding WordPress Costs

March 19, 2024
By Magee Clegg

Is WordPress Really Free? Quick Answer:
WordPress Core Software: Yes, it’s free. It’s open-source, under the GNU General Public License.
Potential Costs: Hosting, premium themes, premium plugins, custom domain, and potential development costs.

Understanding the Costs Associated with WordPress

When you ask, “Is WordPress free?” the immediate response is both yes and no. Yes, because the core software of WordPress is indeed free. You can download, install, use, and even modify it without spending a penny. This freedom is thanks to the GNU General Public License (GPL), which fundamentally embraces the concept of open-source software.

However, when you look beyond the core software, you start to see where costs can come into play. Things like web hosting, premium themes, and plugins, or opting for a custom domain name can add to your expenses. This duality often leads to confusion for many small to medium-sized business owners looking to establish or grow their online presence.

Our goal here is to demystify WordPress’s cost structure. We’re here to guide you through what’s freely available and what might hit your wallet. So whether you’re setting up a blog, a business site, or an e-commerce platform, you’ll understand exactly where your funds are going.

Detailed Infographic on WordPress Costs Split Between Free and Paid Components - is wordpress free infographic pillar-5-steps

In this guide, we’ll walk you through each aspect, ensuring you’re equipped to make informed decisions about using WordPress for your business needs.

Is WordPress Really Free?

When you hear the question, “Is WordPress free?” it sounds simple, but the answer is a bit like an iceberg – what you see on the surface is not all there is to it. Let’s dive beneath the surface.

At its core, WordPress software is indeed free. This is because it’s released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which is a fancy way of saying that anyone can download, use, modify, and even redistribute the code without having to pay a dime. This aspect of WordPress is what we call “free as in speech” – you have the freedom to do almost anything you want with it.

But, as with many things in life, while the software might be free, using it in the way you want might incur some costs. Imagine you’re given a free plot of land (that’s your WordPress software). You can do whatever you want on it – build a house, plant a garden, or even just leave it as is. However, if you decide to build a house (launch a website), you’ll need to buy materials (hosting, domain name) and maybe hire some help (premium themes/plugins or developers).

The GPL license is a critical piece of this puzzle. It ensures that WordPress remains free and open-source, allowing a community of developers to contribute to its growth and security. This collaborative effort is what makes WordPress so powerful and flexible, enabling it to power everything from small blogs to large e-commerce sites.

So, to answer the question: Yes, WordPress is really free in the sense that you’re free to download, use, and modify it. However, depending on what you want to do with it, there may be associated costs. These costs are related to hosting, domain registration, and optional premium themes or plugins that add specific functionalities or design elements to your site.

Understanding this dual nature of “free” is crucial for anyone considering using WordPress. It’s free to start, but as your site grows or your needs become more sophisticated, you might choose to invest in premium options to enhance your site.

In the next sections, we’ll explore these associated costs in more detail, helping you understand where you might need to spend money and where you can save.

So, keep this in mind: while the WordPress software itself won’t cost you anything, think of it as the foundation of your website. The total cost of building and maintaining your site will depend on how elaborate you want your digital “house” to be.

We’ll examine the various options for hosting, themes, and plugins, and explain why, in some cases, paying for premium WordPress features can be a worthwhile investment for your website’s future.

Costs Associated with Running a WordPress Site

When considering the question, “Is WordPress free?”, understand that while the WordPress software itself doesn’t cost a dime, certain elements associated with running a WordPress site do have costs. Let’s dive into these elements one by one.


Hosting is like renting a space on the internet where your website lives. Think of it as paying rent for your website’s online “home.” There are several types of hosting:
Shared hosting is the most budget-friendly option, where your site lives on the same server as many others.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting provides more control and better performance than shared hosting but at a higher cost.
Dedicated hosting gives you an entire server for your website, offering the best performance but at a premium price.
Managed WordPress hosting is specifically optimized for WordPress sites, offering enhanced performance and security features. Providers like WPEngine specialize in this, offering plans that cater to WordPress’s specific needs.

The cost of hosting can range from a few dollars a month for shared hosting to over a hundred dollars a month for dedicated or high-end managed WordPress hosting.


A domain is your website’s address on the internet, like It’s how people find you online. Domains are registered annually, with prices varying based on the domain extension (.com, .org, .net, etc.) and the registrar you choose. On average, a domain name costs between $10 to $15 per year.

Premium Support

While WordPress has a vast community and plenty of free resources for help, sometimes you need more direct or immediate assistance. Premium support can come from hosting providers, theme or plugin developers, or third-party services. Costs vary widely based on the level of support you need.

Premium Themes

While there are thousands of free WordPress themes, premium themes like Astra and Divi offer more features, customization options, and often come with dedicated support. Prices for premium themes can range from around $30 to $100 or more, depending on the theme and licensing options.

Premium Plugins

Premium plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress site. Popular plugins like WooCommerce (for e-commerce) and Yoast SEO (for search engine optimization) have free versions but offer paid plans with additional features and support. Depending on the plugin, you might pay a one-time fee or a recurring subscription. Prices can range from $50 to several hundred dollars per year.

In Summary

While the WordPress software is free, running a WordPress site comes with associated costs that can add up. These include hosting, domain registration, and potentially premium themes, plugins, and support services. The total cost will depend on your specific needs and the choices you make regarding these services.

Understanding these costs is crucial for anyone looking to start a WordPress site. While you can start with minimal expenses, investing in some premium services can significantly enhance your site’s functionality, appearance, and performance.

We’ll explore the nuances of free versus paid WordPress themes and plugins, and delve into the hosting options available for WordPress users.

Free vs Paid WordPress Themes and Plugins

When you’re diving into WordPress, you’ll quickly find there’s a vast ocean of themes and plugins. These can change how your site looks and functions, from the layout to the smallest features. Let’s break down the differences between free and paid options, and highlight some popular choices.

Free Themes

What They Are: Free themes are, as the name suggests, themes that you can use without spending a dime. They’re available directly from the WordPress theme directory, which means they’ve passed a basic quality check.

Cost-Effective: Obviously, they’re free, which is great when you’re starting out or if you’re on a tight budget.
Quality Control: Since they’re in the official directory, these themes meet certain standards for code quality and security.

Limited Features & Customization: Free themes often come with fewer features and less flexibility for customization compared to their premium counterparts.
Commonality: Because they’re accessible to everyone, it’s likely that many sites will share your theme, making it hard to stand out.

Free Plugins

What They Are: These are plugins available through the WordPress plugin directory or directly from developers’ websites without cost.

No Initial Investment: They allow you to add functionality to your site without any upfront cost.
Variety: There’s a plugin for almost everything, from SEO to social media integration.

Support and Updates: While some free plugins offer great support and regular updates, others may not. This can pose security risks or compatibility issues over time.

Premium Themes (Astra, Divi)

What They Are: Premium themes are paid themes that offer more features and customization options than free themes. Astra and Divi are two popular examples, known for their flexibility and ease of use.

Advanced Features: They come packed with advanced features and customization options.
Support: Access to dedicated support can be a lifesaver if you run into issues.
Regular Updates: Premium themes are regularly updated for security and compatibility.

Cost: The initial investment may be a hurdle for some, especially if you’re just starting out.

Premium Plugins (WooCommerce, Yoast SEO)

What They Are: Like premium themes, premium plugins add advanced functionality to your WordPress site. WooCommerce turns your site into a fully-functioning eCommerce store, while Yoast SEO helps optimize your site for search engines.

Complex Functionality: They can add complex and rich features that free plugins might not offer.
Support and Updates: Paying for a plugin often means you get better support and more consistent updates.

Cost: Again, the cost can add up, especially if you need several premium plugins to achieve your desired site functionality.


Choosing between free and paid themes/plugins depends on your needs, budget, and the level of uniqueness and functionality you want for your site. Free options can be a great starting point and may suffice for basic sites. However, investing in premium themes and plugins can elevate your site, offering more customization, better security, and dedicated support. The right tools can make all the difference in growing and maintaining your WordPress site.

As we delve into the hosting options for WordPress in the next section, keep in mind that the foundation of your site’s performance is not just the themes and plugins but also the hosting service you choose.

Hosting Options for WordPress

When it comes to running a WordPress site, one of the first questions people ask is, “Is WordPress free?” While the WordPress software itself is free (thanks to its GNU General Public License), the hosting of your WordPress site is not. Let’s break down the hosting options available for WordPress, as the right choice can significantly impact your site’s performance, security, and scalability.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is like living in an apartment building; your website resides on the same server as many others, sharing resources. It’s an affordable option, perfect for beginners and small websites with low to medium traffic. However, the downside is that high traffic on another site on the same server can impact your site’s performance.

– Affordable
– Easy to set up
– Suitable for beginners

– Limited resources
– Potential performance issues due to shared resources

VPS Hosting

VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting offers a middle ground between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. It’s like owning a condo; you have your own space without the high costs. Your site is stored on a server with fewer sites than shared hosting, and you have allocated resources. This option is great for websites that have outgrown shared hosting.

– More resources than shared hosting
– Better performance
– Scalable

– More expensive than shared hosting
– Requires more technical knowledge

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is akin to owning a house. You have a server all to yourself, offering maximum control, security, and performance. It’s ideal for large, high-traffic websites but comes at a higher cost and requires significant technical expertise to manage.

– Maximum performance and security
– Full control over server settings
– Exclusive resources

– Much more expensive
– Requires technical skills to manage

Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress hosting is a concierge service where all technical aspects of running WordPress are managed by the host. This includes security, speed, WordPress updates, daily backups, and scalability. Companies like WPEngine, Bluehost, and SiteGround offer managed WordPress hosting, ensuring optimal performance and security for your site. This option is excellent for those who prefer to focus on their content or business rather than managing a website.

– High performance and security tailored for WordPress
– Automatic updates and backups
– Expert support

– More expensive than unmanaged options
– Less control over server settings

Hosting Providers

  • Bluehost: Known for its excellent customer service and reliability, Bluehost is a great option for beginners and offers a seamless WordPress installation process.

  • SiteGround: Praised for its superior customer support and high-performance hosting, SiteGround is a favorite among WordPress users.

  • WPEngine: A leader in managed WordPress hosting, WPEngine is ideal for those looking for top-notch security, speed, and scalability without the hassle of managing it themselves.

Choosing the right hosting option for your WordPress site depends on your budget, technical expertise, and the size and traffic of your website. While shared hosting may be sufficient for a small blog or portfolio site, a growing business or a site with high traffic will benefit from VPS, dedicated, or managed WordPress hosting for better performance and reliability.

As we move into discussing the aspects of WordPress that aren’t free in the next section, investing in quality hosting is crucial for the success and security of your website. vs

When you’re starting a WordPress site, you’ll come across two options: and Understanding the differences between these two can significantly impact your website’s future, especially when considering costs and functionalities. Let’s dive into what each platform offers, and why you might choose one over the other. Free Plan

Starting with, it offers a free plan that’s appealing for beginners. This plan includes basic features suitable for personal blogs or portfolios. However, it comes with limitations:

  • You get a subdomain (e.g.,, which might not project the professional image you want.
  • displays ads on your site, and you don’t get any revenue from these ads.
  • Customization options are limited; you can’t upload custom themes or plugins.

Despite these limitations, the free plan on could be a good start if you’re testing the waters or running a personal blog. Paid Plans

For more features and control, offers several paid plans. These plans allow you to use a custom domain name (e.g.,, remove ads, and access more customization options. However, even with the paid plans, you’re still limited compared to a self-hosted WordPress site. For instance, plugin and theme installations are restricted to the selections provides.

Self-hosted WordPress (

Moving to, this is where you download the WordPress software for free and host it on your own server. It’s often referred to as “self-hosted WordPress.” Here, the world is your oyster:

  • Complete Customization: You can install any theme or plugin you like.
  • Monetization Freedom: You have full control over how you want to monetize your site.
  • Maintenance and Security: You’re responsible for updates, security, and backups, which gives you ultimate control but comes with its set of responsibilities.

Self-hosted WordPress requires you to purchase a hosting plan and a domain name, which leads to ongoing costs but offers much more flexibility and control over your site.

Custom Domain

Both (on its paid plans) and self-hosted WordPress sites allow you to use a custom domain, which is crucial for branding and creating a professional image. While includes a domain in its higher-tier plans, with, you’ll need to purchase one separately. This freedom enables you to choose the best domain registrar that fits your budget and preferences.


Choosing between and boils down to your needs, skills, and budget. If you’re looking for a hassle-free platform and don’t mind the limitations, and its paid plans might serve you well. However, if you’re aiming for full control, customization, and you’re ready to handle the maintenance tasks, going for a self-hosted site will be worth the investment.

As we move into discussing the aspects of WordPress that aren’t free in the next section, choosing between and is a critical decision that will influence your website’s future capabilities and costs.

How to Get a WordPress Site for Free

So, you’re wondering, is WordPress free? The short answer is yes, and no. Let’s dive into how you can get a WordPress site for free, what comes with it, and what doesn’t. offers a free plan that allows you to create a website without spending a dime. It’s a good starting point for bloggers, hobbyists, or those just dipping their toes into the web world. You get access to a decent range of features without having to worry about hosting or maintenance.


When you create a free site on, your website’s address will look something like This is called a subdomain. It’s great for personal projects or if you’re just testing the waters. However, for a more professional look, you might want to eventually upgrade to a custom domain like

Design Options

Even with a free site, you have access to a variety of design templates, or ‘themes’. These themes can help make your site look good without having to know any code. The catch? Your options are limited compared to paid plans, and you can’t upload custom themes.


Here’s where the ‘no’ part of ‘is WordPress free’ comes in. The free plan on has several limitations:

  • Ads: will display ads on your site, and you won’t make money from them.
  • Functionality: You can’t install plugins, which are tools to add more features to your site.
  • Customization: Your ability to change your site’s design and functionality is limited.
  • Storage: You get 3GB of space, which is plenty for starting out, but you might need more as your site grows.

Despite these limitations, a free site might be all you need when starting. It’s an excellent way to learn the ropes and understand what you might want in a website without initial costs.

It’s essential to weigh these limitations against the benefits of investing in a paid plan or moving to a self-hosted site. Each choice comes with its own set of features and freedoms, so consider what’s most important for your website’s future.

In the next section, we’ll explore why paying for WordPress hosting might be worth the investment for those ready to take their website to the next level.

Why It’s Worth Paying for WordPress Hosting

When you’re diving into WordPress, you might wonder, “Is WordPress free?” Well, while the WordPress software itself is free thanks to its GNU General Public License, running a WordPress site often involves costs that can significantly enhance your site’s quality. One of the primary investments you can make is in WordPress hosting. Let’s break down why paying for WordPress hosting is a decision that can pay dividends in the long run.


Paying for WordPress hosting unlocks a suite of benefits that free hosting solutions simply can’t match. You gain access to robust tools designed to make your website faster, more secure, and easier to manage. It’s about getting a tailored experience that aligns with your website’s needs and goals.


Performance is king in the digital world. A slow website can drive visitors away, hurt your search engine rankings, and negatively impact user experience. Paid WordPress hosting providers invest in high-performance servers, caching, and sometimes even content delivery networks (CDN) to ensure your website loads quickly for anyone, anywhere.


The internet can be a wild place, with threats lurking in the shadows. Paid hosting services often include enhanced security measures such as regular malware scans, firewalls, and SSL certificates to protect your site from unwanted intruders. This peace of mind is invaluable, especially for businesses and e-commerce sites where data breaches can have severe consequences.


Imagine hitting a technical snag and having nowhere to turn. With free hosting, support options are often limited or non-existent. Paid hosting changes the game by offering dedicated support teams who can guide you through challenges, offer advice, and keep your site running smoothly. This support can be a lifeline for those without technical expertise.


Your website today might not be your website tomorrow. As your site grows in popularity or complexity, you’ll need a hosting solution that can grow with you. Paid WordPress hosting offers scalable options that can accommodate increased traffic and more demanding website features without skipping a beat.

Investing in paid WordPress hosting is about setting your site up for success. It’s not just about avoiding the limitations of free services; it’s about embracing a platform that gives you the tools to excel online. With benefits like enhanced performance, robust security, dedicated support, and scalability, the value of paid hosting is clear. As we continue to explore the costs associated with running a WordPress site, quality hosting is an investment in your website’s future.

Aspects of WordPress That Aren’t Free

While the WordPress core software itself is a free, open-source project, running a professional or personal website often involves costs that aren’t immediately obvious to newcomers. Let’s dive into the aspects of WordPress that aren’t free, such as hosting, domain registration, premium themes and plugins, development, and updates. Understanding these costs will help you budget for your website effectively.


Hosting is like renting space on the internet for your website. It’s where all your website files live. While there are free hosting options, they often come with limitations that can impact your website’s performance and security. Paid hosting plans offer more resources, better security, and support. Prices vary widely but expect to pay anywhere from $2.99 to over $29.99 per month depending on the type of hosting you choose (shared, VPS, dedicated, or managed WordPress hosting).

Domain Registration

Your domain name is your website’s address on the internet, like Domains aren’t free because they’re unique to your site and need to be registered annually. Costs can range from $10 to $15 per year for standard domain extensions like .com or .org. Premium domains with popular keywords or short names can cost significantly more.

Premium Themes

While there are thousands of free WordPress themes, premium themes like OceanWP and Avada offer more customization options and dedicated support. These themes can help your site stand out and provide a more professional look. Prices for premium themes typically range from $30 to $60 for a single-site license, with some offering lifetime updates for a higher one-time fee.

Premium Plugins

Premium plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress site. For example, MonsterInsights allows you to easily integrate Google Analytics, while SeedProd offers advanced landing page building capabilities. These plugins offer more features and dedicated support compared to their free counterparts. Prices vary widely, from a yearly subscription of $39 to $199 or more, depending on the plugin and plan you choose.


Customizing your WordPress site or developing custom plugins can require professional development services, especially if you lack the technical skills to do it yourself. Hiring a developer or agency can significantly increase your website’s cost, with prices ranging based on the complexity of the work and the developer’s expertise. For small customizations, it might cost a few hundred dollars, while more extensive development projects can run into thousands.


While updating WordPress core, themes, and plugins is technically free, managing these updates, especially for premium themes and plugins, can require a subscription to continue receiving updates and support after the initial purchase period. These updates are crucial for security and compatibility, so it’s important to factor in the cost of maintaining your site’s software over time.

In summary, while WordPress offers a free platform to build and manage websites, the reality is that there are associated costs to consider if you want a professional, secure, and unique online presence. From hosting and domain registration to premium themes, plugins, and development work, these costs contribute to the overall investment in your website. Investing in these aspects of your WordPress site ensures a better experience for your visitors and can save you time and money in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress Costs

Is WordPress suitable for e-commerce?

Absolutely. WordPress, when combined with WooCommerce (a powerful, free e-commerce plugin), transforms your site into a fully functional online store. This combo allows you to sell both digital and physical goods, manage inventory, and integrate secure payment methods. BigCommerce is another premium e-commerce solution for WordPress, catering to medium to large-sized brands. The flexibility and scalability of WordPress make it a solid choice for e-commerce.

Can I monetize a free site?

Yes, but with limitations. On a free plan, your options are restricted. You can apply to join WordAds,’s advertising program, once you’ve reached a certain traffic threshold. However, for more control over monetization methods, such as running Google AdSense, affiliate marketing, or selling products directly, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan or consider moving to a self-hosted site. The latter gives you the freedom to monetize your site any way you choose.

How much does a typical WordPress site cost?

The cost of a WordPress site can vary widely, depending on your needs and choices. Here’s a rough breakdown:

  • Hosting: Shared hosting can start as low as $3-$7 per month, while managed WordPress hosting services can range from $25 to $350 per month for high-traffic sites.
  • Domain: A new domain typically costs $10-$15 per year.
  • Themes and Plugins: While there are thousands of free themes and plugins, premium themes can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 (one-time fee), and premium plugins can range from $5 to $100+ per year.
  • Development and Customization: If you hire a developer or designer, costs can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of your project.

A basic DIY WordPress site could cost as little as $50 per year, while a custom, feature-rich site developed by professionals could run into the thousands. A WordPress site is an investment. Starting small and scaling up as your site grows is often the best approach.

In summary, “is WordPress free?” Yes, the software itself is free, but running a website comes with costs. Whether you’re building an e-commerce site, want to monetize your blog, or just need a personal website, WordPress offers the flexibility to start small and expand, making it a cost-effective solution for many users.


In wrapping up our guide on understanding WordPress costs, it’s crucial to reiterate the exceptional value WordPress provides. The core software, under the GNU General Public License, is indeed free. This foundational aspect allows anyone from hobbyists to large enterprises to build and launch their websites without upfront software costs. However, as we’ve explored, the true essence of creating and maintaining a WordPress site lies beyond the initial free offering.

Investing in quality hosting is perhaps one of the most critical decisions you’ll make in your WordPress journey. While the allure of free or cheap hosting is tempting, your hosting choice directly impacts your site’s performance, security, and reliability. Opting for reputable hosting providers like Bluehost, SiteGround, or WPEngine ensures that your site runs smoothly, loads quickly, and remains secure against threats. These providers offer various hosting options, including shared, VPS, dedicated, and managed WordPress hosting, catering to different needs and budgets.

The long-term benefits of choosing WordPress for your website project are substantial. With WordPress, you’re not just building a website; you’re investing in a flexible platform that can grow and evolve with your needs. Whether you’re scaling up your business, expanding your content, or pivoting your online strategy, WordPress’s extensive ecosystem of themes, plugins, and community support means that the platform can adapt to meet your changing requirements.

Moreover, WordPress’s SEO-friendly nature, combined with its robust content management capabilities, ensures that your investment continues to yield returns by attracting traffic and engaging your audience. And with the ongoing development of the WordPress core, you can rest assured that your website remains on the cutting edge of web standards and technologies.

In conclusion, while the question “is WordPress free?” may draw you in, the true value of WordPress is realized through the strategic investments you make in hosting, premium themes, plugins, and possibly custom development. These investments not only enhance your website’s functionality and user experience but also contribute to the long-term success and growth of your online presence.

For those ready to embark on their WordPress journey, the team at Cleartail Marketing is here to help you navigate the complexities of website design and development, ensuring that your WordPress site not only meets but exceeds your expectations. Contact Us Today!

In the end, WordPress isn’t just a platform; it’s an investment in your digital future, offering unmatched flexibility, scalability, and opportunities for customization. With the right approach, the costs associated with running a WordPress site become an investment in your online success, paving the way for long-term benefits that far outweigh the initial expenditures.

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