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 to 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…
⏱ WP Engine was 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 a month). WP Engine came second ($25 a month) and Kinsta third ($29.17 a month).
Table of Contents
- WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta Quick Overview
- About WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta
- WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta Key Features Compared
- WordPress Website Migrations
- WordPress Website Backups
- WordPress Software Updates
- Staging Sites
- Disallowed Plugins
- WordPress Themes
- User Experience
- Other Features
- Site Speed and Performance
- Lightweight Theme Load Time Test Results
- Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results
- Load Time Tests Results Summary
- Load Handling Tests
- Final Thoughts
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.
|Host||Lowest Price*||Sites||Storage||Visits||Bandwith||Speed Rank†||Average Speed†|
|Flywheel||$13 a month||1||5 GB||5,000||20 GB||3rd||1.24 s|
|Kinsta||$29.17 a month||1||10 GB||25,000||100 GB||2nd||881 ms|
|WP Engine||$25 a month||1||10 GB||25,000||50 GB||1st||550 ms|
† Based on the average speed of both tests. Click here for a breakdown of the load time test results.
All three hosts provide similar value. The Flywheel and WP Engine $25-a-month plans and the Kinsta $29.17-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 has 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.
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 was faster than Flywheel in my tests.
In the load handling tests, Flywheel was able to handle a surge in traffic better than Kinsta or WP Engine.
|Website Setup Guide||N||N||Y|
|WP Site Migrations||Plugin & Service||Plugin & Service||Plugin Only|
|Managed WordPress Updates||Paid Extra||N||Paid Extra|
|Included WordPress Themes||Y||N||Y|
|Multiple Data Centers||Y||Y||Y|
|Average Load Time*||1.24 s||881 ms||550 ms|
|View Full Details||View Full Details||View Full Details|
As for features, all three hosts are evenly matched on the essentials.
The customer experience of each host is good, but WP Engine has a useful feature that guides you through the process of starting a new WordPress website — something new WordPress users may appreciate.
If you want all of 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’s, and, to a lesser extent, Kinsta’s for the test site using a heavyweight theme.
If you need the allowances of the $25-a-month Flywheel and WP Engine and $29.17-a-month Kinsta plans and above, WP Engine is my pick because of its load time test results, although its load handling results were the weakest of the three.
However, if you read the rest of this comparison, you may 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 is 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 they all use the Google Cloud Platform as a key part of their infrastructure. Because of this, your website will be hosted in the Google Cloud data centers but managed by WP Engine, Flywheel or Kinsta.
About 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.
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 may 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
Because 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. Let’s take a look at those features and see which host has the best offering…
WordPress Website Migrations
If you already have an existing WordPress website, each host will help you to transfer it to their servers.
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 limits 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.
When it comes to restoring the backups, your only option with Flywheel and Kinsta is restoring the entire backup. WP Engine gives 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 wins because it gives 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.
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 doesn’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 does not.
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.
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.
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, because all three hosts have good staging features, although WP Engine does have an extra third environment.
Each of these three hosts has a list of disallowed or unsupported plugins that you can’t use on your site because of 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.
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.
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 with multipurpose heavyweight themes such as Avada or Divi. Because of 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 because Kinsta doesn’t provide you with any themes.
All three hosts are very easy to use, and creating a new WordPress website is very straightforward.
As well as starting with a fresh installation of WordPress or copying content over from an existing site, WP Engine also gives you the option of using its guided service to help you to launch a new site.
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 to 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 may 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.
Kinsta keeps things simple with a clean and minimal design. The relatively compact layout makes it very easy to find things, because there’s little need to scroll around or do much expanding and collapsing of menus to see what’s available.
The WP Engine user interface doesn’t look as nice as either Flywheel’s or Kinsta’s. It’s fine, but just not as attractive, and 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 with the others.
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 wins, because its 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 who would like a bit of guidance and inspiration when building their site.
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 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 has a billing transfer feature aimed at web designers and developers, as well as its Growth Suite service for agencies.
- Local Development Tools: WP Engine and Flywheel have Local, and Kinsta has 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 offers telephone support on all plans above its entry-level Startup plan. Flywheel also offers telephone support on all plans priced over $250 a month. Kinsta doesn’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 has an Application Performance Monitoring (APM) tool available on all plans. WP Engine also has an APM tool, but only on its higher-priced plans. Flywheel has 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.
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
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 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
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 of the page on the sites using a lightweight theme, recorded by Pingdom:
- Flywheel: 484 milliseconds.
- Kinsta: 581 milliseconds.
- WP Engine: 285 milliseconds.
WP Engine was 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.
Flywheel Heavyweight Theme Load Time Test Results
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 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
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 was the fastest again. However, this time, Kinsta was faster than Flywheel.
Load Time Tests Results Summary
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 was second fastest when using a lightweight theme, and Kinsta was 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 wins as it had the best load times in both tests.
Load Handling Tests
Because 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 from load times, they do give a good indication of how performance may 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 a thousand 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.
Because Flywheel performed so well compared with 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.
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.
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. It 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 wins as the comparatively low response time remained stable with up to a thousand visitors accessing the site at the same time.
Now we know how well these hosts perform, let’s take a look at the pricing options…
WP Engine, Flywheel and Kinsta have multiple hosting plans.
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 were 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 its higher-priced plans. With Kinsta, that would be the $58.33-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 its $96-a-month Freelance plan that lets you host up to ten 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.
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 thousand monthly visits.
- Kinsta: $1 per thousand monthly visits.
- WP Engine: $2 per thousand monthly visits on the entry-level plan; $1 on higher-priced plans.
All hosts have money-back guarantees, so you can check them out without risk.
WP Engine was clearly the fastest in the Pingdom tests I ran. While you may 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 comparative plans. There were some differences, but nothing big enough to make one the obvious winner over the other two.
However, if features such as PHP 8.1 and a performance monitoring tool on all plans are important to you, then Kinsta may be best for you.
On the other hand, thanks to their site transfer features, Flywheel may 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 has 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 is the obvious choice.
Used WP Engine, Flywheel or Kinsta hosting? Thoughts/opinions on each?