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WP Engine, Flywheel or Kinsta – Which Offers The Best Managed WordPress Hosting?

WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta are three of the biggest and most well-established names in the high-quality managed WordPress hosting space. If you’re looking for a fast and secure host for your WordPress website, regardless of its size and audience, Flywheel, Kinsta, and WP Engine should be on your shortlist.

While the three hosts provide the same core offer — fast and secure hosting that’s optimized for WordPress websites with premium support – there are some differences between them that you should be aware of before making a decision.

In this comparison, I’ll help you decide whether WP Engine, Flywheel, or Kinsta is right for your website by exploring their features, evaluating the user experience, and comparing their performance. The results from the paid load handling and site speed tests reveal which host is the fastest and most resilient.

Let’s get started…

Quick Facts:

WP Engine were the fastest in the speed tests, with Kinsta coming second.

👍 However, Flywheel came first in the load handling tests, with Kinsta coming second.

😀 Flywheel had the cheapest entry-level plan ($13/mo). WP Engine came second ($25/mo) and Kinsta third ($30/mo).

WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta Quick Overview

If you haven’t got time for a detailed comparison of WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta, here’s a quick overview of their entry-level plans followed by my thoughts on these three hosts after trying them out.

HostLowest Price*SitesStorageVisitsBandwithSpeed Rank†Average Speed† 
Flywheel$13/mo15 GB5,00020 GB3rd1.24 s
Kinsta$30/mo110 GB25,000100 GB2nd881 ms
WP Engine$25/mo110 GB25,00050 GB1st550 ms
* When paid annually.
† Based on the average speed of both tests. Click here for a breakdown of the load time test results.

Price

All three hosts provide similar value. The Flywheel and WP Engine $25-a-month plans and the Kinsta $30-a-month plan have the same visit, storage, and bandwidth allowances, and each plan supports one WordPress website.

If you’re on a tight budget or have modest visit, storage, and bandwidth requirements, Flywheel have a lower-priced plan that starts at $13 a month.

However, Flywheel and WP Engine customers get access to nine premium WordPress themes from StudioPress, while the Kinsta plans don’t include any themes. As premium themes usually cost upwards of $50, this could save you some money.

Performance

WP Engine vs Flywheel vs Kinsta Load Times
Comparison of the Flywheel, Kinsta, and WP Engine load time test results.

When it comes to site speed, WP Engine achieved the best results in my week-long Pingdom load time tests.

The results for second place were mixed, with Flywheel doing better than Kinsta when a lightweight theme was used on the test site and Kinsta doing better when a heavyweight theme was used.

Based on the average load times, though, Kinsta were faster than Flywheel in my tests.

In the load handling tests, Flywheel were able to handle a surge in traffic better than Kinsta or WP Engine.

Features

FlywheelKinstaWP Engine
Website Setup GuideNNY
WP Site MigrationsPlugin & ServicePlugin & ServicePlugin Only
Daily BackupsYYY
Managed WordPress UpdatesPaid ExtraNPaid Extra
Staging SiteYYY
Disallowed PluginsYYY
Included WordPress ThemesYNY
CDNYYY
Multiple Data CentersYYY
24/7 SupportYYY
Average Load Time*1.24 s881 ms550 ms
View Full DetailsView Full DetailsView Full Details
* Based on the average speed of both tests. Click here for a breakdown of the load time test results.

As for features, all three hosts are evenly matched on the essentials.

The customer experience of each host is good. However, WP Engine have a useful feature that guides you through the process of starting a new WordPress website – something new WordPress users might appreciate.

If you want all the benefits of premium managed hosting – speed, features, and support – on a budget, the entry-level $13-a-month Flywheel plan is a good option, as long as the plan limits work for you. However, the Flywheel load times weren’t as impressive as WP Engine, and to a lesser extent Kinsta, for the test site using a heavyweight theme.

If you need the allowances of the $25-a-month Flywheel and WP Engine and $30-a-month Kinsta plans and above, WP Engine are my pick due to their load time test results, although their load handling results were the weakest of the three.

However, if you read the rest of this comparison, you might have a different opinion based on the features and user experience of these three hosts.

All of the hosts have money-back guarantees so you can try them out risk-free.

If you’re still not sure, or you want to know more, read on for my in-depth thoughts on WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta. Alternatively, jump to the end of this comparison to get my final thoughts.

About WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta

These three hosts are competitors who at first glance offer similar services at similar prices. However, Flywheel are now actually owned by WP Engine after an acquisition in 2019, while Kinsta is still independently owned.

Despite this, Flywheel and WP Engine still have enough differences to make choosing between them a decision that’s worth spending some time on. Throw Kinsta into the mix, and that decision needs even more thought.

While there are some key differences between these hosts, one thing they do have in common is that they all use the Google Cloud Platform as a key part of their infrastructure. Thanks to this, your website will be hosted in the Google Cloud data centers but managed by WP Engine, Flywheel, or Kinsta.

About Google Cloud Platform

Google Cloud Platform information
All three hosts use the Google Cloud Platform.

With Google providing the servers and data centers, and Flywheel, Kinsta, and WP Engine optimizing the hosting environment for WordPress, you should be getting access to some of the fastest load times around.

Also, thanks to the global coverage of the Google Cloud platform, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to host your website in a location that’s physically close to your audience for even faster load times. Uptime, redundancy, and security should all be improved by choosing a host that uses the Google Cloud platform.

Kinsta data center locations
The hosts, including Kinsta (pictured), have data centers around the world.

As you’ll see in this comparison, my test sites hosted by WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta did perform differently when it came to load times and their ability to handle lots of visitors at once.

So while the underlying infrastructure of these three hosts might be similar, the levels of performance, hosting features you get access to, and how you interact with your account are different. Let’s find out how different by looking at the best features of each host.

WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta Key Features Compared

As WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta are managed hosts, they have some useful features designed just for WordPress users, such as free WordPress website migrations, automatic backups, and staging sites. Here’s a look at those features…

WordPress Website Migrations

If you already have an existing WordPress website, each host will help you transfer it to their servers.

WP Engine have a plugin that you can use to handle the migration yourself. Flywheel and Kinsta have a plugin, too, but they will also migrate your site for you.

Verdict: Flywheel and Kinsta win as they will migrate your site for you.

WordPress Website Backups

To ensure you don’t lose any data should something go wrong, all three hosts will automatically back up your website once a day. You can also create backups on-demand with each host, but Kinsta limit this to five a month.

Each host keeps the backups for a set number of days, but they all let you download the backup for safekeeping. You can also use the Kinsta external backups add-on to store them with Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage for a monthly fee, starting from $2.

WP Engine backup system
All of the hosts, including WP Engine (pictured), have easy-to-use backup systems.

When it comes to restoring the backups, your only option with Flywheel and Kinsta is restoring the entire backup. WP Engine give you the option of restoring the files with or without the database.

As all three hosts give you server and database access, you could manually perform a partial restore if necessary.

Verdict: All of the backup systems work really well, but WP Engine win as they give you more restoration options – something you’ll find useful if you only need to restore the database or website files.

WordPress Software Updates

In the past, WordPress software updates were a key feature of managed WordPress hosting and something that separated it from cheaper shared hosting.

Now though, automatic updates of the WordPress software, themes, and plugins are part of WordPress itself.

However, for a monthly fee, Flywheel and WP Engine will manage plugin updates on your site, with Flywheel charging $8 a month per site, and WP Engine $10.

One benefit of paying for this add-on, instead of using the built-in functionality of WordPress, is that the plugin updates are tested.

WP Engine Smart Plugin Manager
WP Engine (pictured) and Flywheel can manage plugin updates for a fee.

Visual regression testing is used to compare your site before and after the update is applied. If any issues are detected, your site will automatically be rolled back to before the update was installed. The hosting support staff is then notified and will look into the issue.

Kinsta don’t have a similar feature, so you’ll have to either let WordPress handle the updates or install them yourself. You can manually create a backup of your site before installing any updates so if something does go wrong, you can restore your site to how it was before.

Verdict: Flywheel and WP Engine win as they offer a paid plugin update feature that Kinsta do not.

Staging Sites

When it comes to testing new versions of plugins or other changes you want to make to your site, Flywheel, Kinsta, and WP Engine give you a staging site or testing environment to work on.

Once you’ve created a staging site – which only takes a few clicks – you can start with a fresh installation of WordPress or quickly copy the contents of your live site to the staging site.

Start new WordPress website
WP Engine (pictured), Flywheel, and Kinsta all give you a staging site to work on.

Now you can work in private without worrying about any work you’re doing affecting your audience. When you’re ready, you can transfer a copy of your staging site to your live site.

Kinsta staging tool
Kinsta (pictured), Flywheel, and WP Engine make it easy to transfer content between sites.

While all of these hosts have a staging feature, WP Engine goes one step further by giving you a third environment, which is the development environment. According to WP Engine, the development environment is intended for building and development, the staging environment for testing updates and debugging errors, and the production environment for the live, public-facing site.

Verdict: It’s a draw as all three hosts have good staging features, although WP Engine does have an extra third environment.

Disallowed Plugins

Each of these three hosts has a list of disallowed or unsupported plugins that you can’t use on your site due to performance or conflict issues.

Some of the functionality of these plugins is provided by the hosts, such as backups and caching. You can view the lists of disallowed plugins on the relevant pages on the Flywheel, Kinsta, and WP Engine websites.

Verdict: A draw as each host bans some WordPress plugins.

WordPress Themes

Unlike plugins, there are no restrictions on which themes you can use. However, the Flywheel and WP Engine plans include access to nine premium WordPress themes from StudioPress.

StudioPress WordPress themes
The WP Engine and Flywheel plans include access to nine WordPress themes.

As mentioned, premium WordPress themes start at around $50, so this is a good saving if one of these themes is suitable for your website.

The StudioPress themes are well designed, but they’re a little basic compared to multipurpose heavyweight themes like Avada or Divi. Due to this, though, they should load much faster. Plus you can always add any extra features you need via plugins.

Verdict: Flywheel and WP Engine win as Kinsta don’t provide you with any themes.

User Experience

All three hosts are very easy to use, and creating a new WordPress website is very straightforward.

Kinsta user experience
It’s very easy to create a new WordPress website with all three hosts.

As well as starting with a fresh installation of WordPress or copying content over from an existing site, WP Engine also give you the option of using their guided service to help you launch a new site.

WP Engine Starter Guide
WP Engine Site Starter Guide

If you choose the WP Engine guided experience, some editable sample content will be added to your site to kick-start your project. You also get access to groups of editable pre-designed sections and layouts to help you add additional pages to your site. Other helpful content is added to the WordPress dashboard, such as links to relevant documentation and guides that identify tasks you might want to complete when setting up your site.

When it comes to the account dashboards, the Flywheel account area user interface is really nicely designed. If you appreciate an aesthetically pleasing user experience, Flywheel could be the host for you.

Flywheel account dashboard
The Flywheel account dashboard is very well designed.

Kinsta keep things simple with a clean and minimal design. The relatively compact layout makes it very easy to find things as there’s little need to scroll around or do much expanding and collapsing of menus to see what’s available.

Kinsta account dashboard
The Kinsta dashboard is very easy to navigate.

The WP Engine user interface doesn’t look as nice as either Flywheel or Kinsta. It’s fine though, just not as attractive. The layout isn’t quite as user-friendly, either. Perhaps because there are more menu items and sub-menus to find your way around it feels a little cluttered and slightly clunky compared to the others.

WP Engine account dashboard
The WP Engine dashboard has lots of settings, options, and tools.

Verdict: Overall, the user experience of all three hosts is very good. Everything is relatively easy to find, and the interfaces load quickly. When it comes to the best account dashboard experience, Flywheel win, as their interface looks very visually appealing. However, the optional guided experience of WP Engine makes this host ideal for anyone new to WordPress as well as those that would like a bit of guidance and inspiration when building their site.

Other Features

Here are some more features of the WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta hosting plans:

  • Content Delivery Network (CDN): Each host includes CDN access to distribute your website files around the world. Find out more at WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta.
  • Data Center Locations: There are multiple data center locations to choose from with each host. View the options at WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta.
  • Transferable Sites: Each host lets you create sites that you can transfer to other people who can then subscribe to a hosting plan to make their site go live. Find out more at WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta. Flywheel also have a billing transfer feature aimed at web designers and developers as well as their Growth Suite service for agencies.
  • Local Development Tools: WP Engine and Flywheel have Local, and Kinsta have DevKinsta for creating local WordPress installations and conveniently transferring the sites between your computer and your hosting account.
  • Support: All hosts provide 24/7 support via live chat. WP Engine also offer telephone support on all plans above their entry-level Startup plan. Flywheel also offer telephone support on all plans priced over $250 a month. Kinsta don’t offer telephone support.
  • SSL: All three hosts provide free SSL certificates as well as offering paid options.
  • PHP: All three hosts use PHP version 7.4 while WP Engine also support 8.0, and Kinsta 8.0 and 8.1.
  • Performance Tools: Kinsta have an Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tool available on all plans. WP Engine also have an APM tool but only on their higher-priced plans. Flywheel have a paid Performance Insights add-on.

With the features covered, let’s take a look at the performance test results of these hosts.

Site Speed and Performance

Site speed is one of the main reasons to choose premium hosting over cheaper alternatives, so who is faster, WP Engine, Flywheel, or Kinsta?

To find out, I created two WordPress websites at each host. On one website I installed a lightweight theme and created a basic page.

On the other, I installed a multipurpose theme and imported one of its heavyweight demos. I then put the sites into Pingdom. After seven days of recording the speed of the sites every 30 minutes, I had their average load times.

Here are the results…

Lightweight Theme Load Time Test Results

After activating the free and popular Twenty Twenty-Two theme, Pingdom was set to monitor the load time of a basic page that consisted of an image and some text.

Twenty Twenty-Two Theme
Twenty Twenty-Two is a free and popular lightweight WordPress theme.

If you plan to use a lightweight theme or create a site with a minimal design, these tests show you which host should deliver the fastest load times.

Flywheel Lightweight Theme Load Time Test Results
Pingdom Flywheel load times
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 484 milliseconds for the site hosted by Flywheel.

The basic page on the site using a lightweight theme hosted by Flywheel had an average load time of 484 milliseconds according to Pingdom.

Kinsta Lightweight Theme Load Time Test Results
Pingdom Kinsta load time test
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 581 milliseconds for the site hosted by Kinsta.

Pingdom recorded an average load time of 581 milliseconds for the basic page on the site using a lightweight theme hosted by Kinsta.

WP Engine Lightweight Theme Load Time Test Results
Pingdom WP Engine load time test
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 285 milliseconds for the site hosted by WP Engine.

According to Pingdom the average load time of the basic page on the site hosted by WP Engine using a lightweight theme was 285 milliseconds.

Lightweight Theme Load Time Test Results Summary

Here are the load times recorded by Pingdom of the page on the sites using a lightweight theme:

  • Flywheel: 484 milliseconds.
  • Kinsta: 581 milliseconds.
  • WP Engine: 285 milliseconds.

WP Engine were the fastest when using a lightweight theme, followed by Flywheel and then Kinsta.

Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results

Avada is a very popular and feature-rich multipurpose WordPress theme, making it a good choice for finding out how these hosts handle websites with large page sizes and lots of different elements.  

For the heavyweight theme load time tests, the Avada Digital Agency demo was imported, and the homepage was monitored by Pingdom.

Avada Digital Agency demo
The speed of Avada Digital Agency demo homepage was tested by Pingdom.
Flywheel Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results
Pingdom Flywheel load time test
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 1.99 seconds for the site hosted by Flywheel.

The homepage of the site using a heavyweight theme hosted by Flywheel had an average load time of 1.99 seconds according to Pingdom.

Kinsta Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results
Pingdom Kinsta load time test
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 1.18 seconds for the site hosted by Kinsta.

Pingdom recorded an average load time of 1.18 seconds for the feature-rich homepage of the site using a heavyweight theme hosted by Kinsta.

WP Engine Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results
Pingdom WP Engine load time test
Pingdom recorded an average load time of 815 milliseconds for the site hosted by WP Engine.

After seven days of monitoring, Pingdom recorded an average load time of 815 milliseconds for the homepage of the site hosted by WP Engine, using a heavyweight theme.

Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results Summary

Here are the load times recorded by Pingdom for the sites using a heavyweight theme:

  • Flywheel: 1.99 seconds.
  • Kinsta: 1.18 seconds.
  • WP Engine: 815 milliseconds.

When using a heavyweight theme, WP Engine were the fastest again. However, this time, Kinsta were faster than Flywheel.

Load Time Tests Results Summary

Lightweight ThemeHeavyweight ThemeAverage
Flywheel484 ms1.99 s1.24 s
Kinsta581 ms1.18 s881 ms
WP Engine285 ms815 ms550 ms

According to Pingdom, my test sites hosted by WP Engine were the fastest, regardless of which theme was installed.

Therefore, if you’re looking for the fastest host out of WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta, WP Engine is for you. Flywheel were second fastest when using a lightweight theme, and Kinsta were second fastest when using a heavyweight theme.

For each test, I chose the testing location in Pingdom that was closest to where the site was hosted. I didn’t make any effort to optimize the sites, although the CDN was enabled at each host.

Verdict: WP Engine win as they had the best load times in both tests.

Load Handling Tests

As the test sites don’t receive any traffic, I also used K6 to simulate multiple visitors accessing them to see what impact this had on their response times.

Although response times are different to load times, they do give a good indication of how performance might suffer when a site gets busy.

For the tests, K6 simulated multiple visitors accessing the sites at the same time. During the five-minute test, the number of virtual users accessing the site increased. While the test ran, K6 recorded the response times of the sites. For the tests, I used the sites with the heavyweight Avada theme installed.

Load Handling Test Results

In the charts below, the gray area shows the number of virtual users accessing the site as it increases over the five-minute test duration.

The blue line represents the response time, measured in milliseconds. The red bars show the failed requests rates.

Failed requests and an increase in response time give a good indication that the host is struggling to handle the simultaneous virtual users.

Flywheel Load Handling Test Results

Flywheel performed the best in the K6 load handling tests. I was able to set the number of simultaneous virtual users to increase from one to 1,000 without any issues occurring.

As you can see from the blue line in the chart below, the response time stayed relatively consistent. It was also the lowest response time of the three hosts. There were no failed requests, either.

Flywheel K6 load handling test
The test site hosted by Flywheel was able to handle up to 1,000 simultaneous virtual users.

As Flywheel performed so well compared to Kinsta and WP Engine, I did contact the K6 support staff to check I wasn’t missing anything in the results. I also contacted Flywheel support to check that the traffic from K6 wasn’t being blocked or diverted, and they confirmed it wasn’t.

Kinsta Load Handling Test Results

Kinsta wasn’t as robust as Flywheel. After some experimentation, I found 150 to be a suitable maximum number of virtual users. If I set it much higher, the test would fail.

As you can see from the red bars on the chart below, there were some failed requests. This started happening once the number of simultaneous virtual users reached 126. The response time also spiked at around 105 simultaneous virtual users but then returned to the baseline shortly after.

Kinsta K6 load handling test
Failed requests began once 126 simultaneous virtual users were accessing the Kinsta-hosted site.
WP Engine Load Handling Test Results

WP Engine struggled more than Kinsta, with failed requests starting at around 43 simultaneous virtual users.

Furthermore, if the maximum simultaneous virtual users was set to above 55, then the test failed.

The results below show the response time (blue line) remaining relatively stable as the number of virtual users increased from one to 55 (gray area). The red bars indicate the failed requests.

WP Engine K6 load handling test
The WP Engine-hosted site started experiencing failed requests at around 43 simultaneous virtual users.

I also tried running the test on the site using the lightweight theme hosted by WP Engine, but I experienced very similar results.

Load Handling Test Results Summary

Flywheel did the best in the K6 load handling test results. They did so much better than WP Engine and Kinsta that I had to query the results with K6 and Flywheel. However, after being assured nothing untoward was happening, I’m happy to crown Flywheel the winner.

Despite not matching the performance of Flywheel, Kinsta did well, handling up to around 125 simultaneous virtual users before any failed requests were recorded.

WP Engine started to struggle at around 43 simultaneous virtual users. However, the performance wasn’t too bad, considering how much traffic a site would need to be receiving to have 43 visitors accessing it at the same time.

Verdict: Flywheel win as the comparatively low response time remained stable with up to 1,000 visitors accessing the site at the same time.

Now that we know how well these hosts perform, let’s take a look at the pricing options…

Pricing

WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta have multiple hosting plans.

Flywheel TinyFlywheel StarterKinsta StarterWP Engine Startup
Lowest Price$13/mo$25/mo$30/mo$25/mo
Websites1111
Monthly Visits5,00025,00025,00025,000
Storage5 GB10 GB10 GB10 GB
Bandwidth20 GB50 GB100 GB50 GB
View PlanView PlanView PlanView Plan

If you’re on a tight budget or have modest requirements, the Flywheel Tiny plan makes it possible to get all of the best features of managed WordPress hosting for a relatively low price. As we saw in the performance tests, the load times are pretty good, too.

The prices listed as monthly are only available when signing up for 12 months of hosting. If you choose to pay monthly, the rates are higher.

Hosting Additional Websites

If you want to host more than one website on your plan, you have a few options.

With each host, you can upgrade to their higher-priced plans. With Kinsta, that would be the $58-a-month Pro plan that lets you host two websites.

With WP Engine, it’s the $49-a-month Professional plan that supports three websites.

The next plan from Flywheel is their $96-a-month Freelance plan that lets you host up to 10 sites.

With Flywheel and WP Engine, you also have the option of paying an extra $20 a month for the additional site add-on. If you purchase the add-on, you’ll have to share the visit, bandwidth, and storage allowance of your plan with the additional sites.

Overage Fees

All three hosts have monthly visit, storage, and bandwidth allowances on their plans. If you exceed these limits, the charges for extra visits are as follows:

  • Flywheel: From $1 per 1,000 monthly visits.
  • Kinsta: $1 per 1,000 monthly visits.
  • WP Engine: $2 per 1,000 monthly visits on the entry-level plan, $1 on higher-priced plans.

All hosts have money-back guarantees so that you can check them out without risk.

Final Thoughts

WP Engine were clearly the fastest in the Pingdom tests I ran. While you might get different results depending on your site setup, configuration, and audience location, it’s hard to overlook the load time differences of these three hosts. However, their results in the K6 load handling tests were relatively disappointing.

Aside from performance, the hosts all had similar features and functionality on their $25-a-month plans. There were some differences, but nothing big enough to make one the obvious winner over the other two.

However, if features like PHP 8.1 and a performance monitoring tool on all plans are important to you, then Kinsta might be best for you.

On the other hand, thanks to their site transfer features, Flywheel might be your preferred option if you’re a web designer or developer creating sites for clients. Despite WP Engine and Kinsta now also having their own site transfer tools, Flywheel still do have some unique features designers and developers should appreciate, such as client billing transfers, site blueprints, and demo sites.

So if the Flywheel agency, designer, and developer features are of use to you, then you should definitely consider this host. Also, if you’re on a budget, and the constraints of the $13-a-month Tiny plan are enough, then Flywheel is a cost-effective way to get access to high-quality managed WordPress hosting.

However, if fast loading times are your main priority, WP Engine are the obvious choice.

Which host is best: WP Engine, Flywheel, or Kinsta?

By Joe Fylan

Joe is an experienced WordPress user who enjoys sharing the tips and knowledge he's picked up from using this fantastic platform for many years. You can find out more about Joe on his website.

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