The Hidden Costs of Web Hosting

When shopping for a web host, the costs on a hosting provider’s site typically show just a single number for each plan. That small number is designed to fool you on purpose. Big-box hosting providers want you to think that this one price is all you’ll ever pay. But beware—these bait-and-switch prices can have hidden costs you don’t see until you’re on the checkout page. In this article, we’ll dive into web hosting costs in detail, including those hidden costs that you’ll want to pay attention to.

Hidden Costs They Don’t Tell You About Up-front

In the realm of the big-box and cheap hosting space, unscrupulous providers have taken the low road by enticing you with loss-leader and bait-and-switch pricing that is not really what you’ll be paying at checkout.

You’ll see an ad for “80% Off”, or “$3 per month”, or even “Free Hosting”. But buyer beware, NOTHING is ever “free” or super low-cost without something being sacrificed, and that something is usually good service.

Don’t trust your business-critical operations to a hosting company that is willing to stoop to unscrupulous business practices like underhanded pricing gimmicks just so they can snag you into their sales funnel.

The Infamous Sales Funnel

Beware Bait-and Switch Price Changes

Most of the pricing gimmicks are a form of bait-and-switch price changes once you get into the checkout or sales “funnel”. A funnel is a string of forms that lead you, the consumer, through a series of pages that keep presenting you with more and more “options” or “features”, each one enticing you to upgrade from the super low price that got you into their sales funnel and checkout to begin with. 

And once you finally do get to the “Make Payment” button, the price shown is nowhere near the $3 per month you thought you were going to pay.

At 3AO, when we advertise “per month” we mean, “per month” and not some gimmick price that comes with all kinds of strings attached.

Multi-year Pricing

That low $3 price you see on the big-box web host, most of us have seen them, is not really your per-month price, it’s an average of the annual price, or even multi-year price! When you finally do get to checkout, you discover you’re asked to pay $36 for the year, plus whatever add-ons might have been added to the price, including an over-priced domain.

By the time you’re done, that $3 website you thought you were buying can cost you well over $100 at checkout. Now that web host has your money and they’ve locked you into a one to two year deal they hope you won’t leave them over, even if their super-cheap service is terrible.

Make no mistake, these big-box hosts can have terrible service and slow servers even when they advertise “Fast Hosting”. You’re just another number to them. And when you complain, they don’t care. They already have your money.

Limited Time Offers

The other bait-and-switch gimmick is that you’ll pay the super low price until the promotion is over, then the price will revert back to their normal price which is now not 80% off. Maybe you saved a few dollars over time, but now that “regular price” is way more than what 3AO charges. That’s how they make up for their initial loss-leader pricing.

The reasoning is once the promotion is over, they hope you wont notice they just billed your card for the $300 regular price annual renewal including your overpriced domain.

Loss-leader Promotion

The 80% off does not apply to all plans, just the bare-bones junk plan that has little to no features. But that super-cheap plan is really not the end game of the big-box host; what they really want is your contact and payment information so they can more easily upsell you later; or use your data to sell you other offers from partner sites and third-parties to make up the revenue from the loss-leader plan they just sucked you into.

Yes, you bought into their $3 website and only paid the $60 or so with a new domain and an annual plan, but now that they know who you are, you get inundated with promotional emails every week, not just from the big-box host trying to get you to upgrade, but also from their partner web properties and other third-parties you had no idea even existed. Yes, you can opt out of these promotions, but how to do so is buried somewhere in some setting you’ll have a hard time finding.


Once the big-box host has you in their sales and checkout funnel, you’ll be presented with a veritable boatload of add-on and upgrade options you never knew existed or thought came as standard with most hosting plans. But since you opted for the bottom-of-the-barrel stripped down loss-leader $3 plan, once you start adding back in the options you really need for your business, the plan ends up costing you more than if you had just bought the $30 per month plan from the outset. Or they just get you to abandon ship on that $3 plan altogether. Add-ons are the perfect place to engage in the bait-and-switch pricing gimmick.

Cancellations Will Cost You More

Read the fine print of their Terms of Service. If you cancel before the year or promotional period is up, you get billed the regular price for the time you used the plan and the only refund you’ll see is likely a small fraction of what you paid them to get that $3 website.

Upgrade for Faster Speed

Also, there is no easy way to cancel your service with these big-box providers either. You must fill out some form and/or call them. Once you’re in their “Cancellation Queue” you’ll wait for forever for someone to finally answer the call. Once they are talking to you, they give you a sales pitch that will cost you even more money. In the corporate world, these people are typically called something like “revenue recovery” and they are highly trained sales people who have no other goal but to keep you as a customer, no matter what.

As such, they’ll song-and-dance you into spending more money. For another $25 to $50 they’ll upgrade your plan and put you on faster servers. You’re already into them for way more money than was originally advertised, what’s another $50 bucks for your business? “It will be way more expensive to move your site to another provider—just stay with us,” they’ll plead.

You’re already in their clutches. You pay the extra $50 just to see if the service improves. It most likely will for a while once they move your site to a faster server and not the $3 loss-leader site server you’ve been stuck on. But they sucked you in with a cheap $3 price that ultimates costs you way more than the advertised price.


At the end of the day, that super cheap big-box host is just using loss-leader, bait-and-switch, and other pricing gimmicks to lure you into signing up.

At 3AO, our pricing is straight-forward: what you see is the actual monthly price, not some gimmicky bait-and-switched promotional price that will change on you later.

Your business to too important to rely on some big-box host where all you are is a number and all they really want is your money. Why trust anyone who implements shady pricing gimmicks to lure you into their clutches? That is not the kind of host you really want to trust with your mission-critical business hosting.


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