Blog Menu

I write and curate content for Bluehost. I hope this blog post is helpful.
Are you looking at creating a blog, website or an online store? Bluehost has something for everyone. Get started today.

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates have become an essential element for all websites these days. They ensure that the traffic exchanged between your web browser and the website is encrypted. Without this data encryption, information is transmitted as plain text that anyone can read, so it is important to add an SSL certificate to your site.

Both free and paid SSL certificates are available online. To help you decide which SSL certificate is right for your website, we’ve covered everything in this detailed guide.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL is a digital certificate that helps authenticate a website and encrypt the information exchanged between a website and its users. You can check if a website has an SSL certificate by going to the address bar.

The web address of a website using SSL certificates starts with ‘https://‘, where ‘s’ stands for secure. It also has a padlock icon.

On the other hand, a website without an SSL has a URL starting with ‘http://’. When you try to visit such sites, your web browser may show a warning to let you know your connection to this site is not secure.

Why do you need an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is an essential component of any website, especially for businesses that want to build trust, ensure security, and improve their search engine rankings. There are three main reasons businesses need an SSL certificate for their websites.

  • Provide Security: An SSL provides end-to-end encryption to ensure visitor information is safe on your website. This means that malicious third parties can’t intercept sensitive data like login credentials, credit card numbers, and personal information.
  • Build Trust: A website with an SSL certificate has a padlock icon and HTTPS in the URL. Customers are more likely to visit and engage when your site displays signs of security, which can result in increased conversions, sales, and customer loyalty.
  • Improve SEO: Search engines, like Google and Bing, give higher priority to secure websites within their ranking algorithms. This can improve your website’s visibility and traffic.

Free vs Paid SSL Certificates: Pros and Cons

Here is the summary of the pros and cons of free SSL vs paid SSL certificates:

Pros of a Free SSL Certificate

  • Ideal for businesses with a tight budget as it doesn’t require any financial investment.
  • Provides the same level of encryption as paid certificates.
  • Installation is simple and some even provide automation.
  • Can be a good fit for personal blogs, small businesses, and websites that don’t collect sensitive data.

Cons of a Free SSL Certificate

  • Often provide only domain validation to help verify ownership but not the identity of website owner or organization.
  • May have shorter lifespan, needing renewal every 90 days.
  • Don’t come with warranty.
  • May not include trust indicators like seals, green address bar, or business name on certificate.
  • Technical support can be minimal, making troubleshooting more challenging.

Pros of a Paid SSL Certificate

  • Offers various levels of validation including domain validation (DV), organization validation (OV), and extended validation (EV).
  • Includes warranty that covers financial loss in the event of security breach.
  • Has longer validity periods, reducing the need for frequent certificate renewal.
  • Offers dedicated customer support, ensuring prompt assistance if any issue arises.

Cons of Paid SSL Certificate

  • Can be expensive, depending on the level of validation and features included.
  • Setting up the certificate may require time and technical expertise.

Free vs Paid SSL Certificate

When choosing between a free or paid SSL certificate for your website, there are five key things to consider. Whether you are a blogger, run a personal site, or own an eCommerce business, choosing the right SSL certificate is vital to safeguard your website against cyberattacks and protect customer information. Here are the important points to keep in mind when choosing an SSL for your website:

Issuing authority

At Bluehost, free SSL certificates are issued by ‘Let’s Encrypt’ and paid SSL certificates are issued by ‘Sectigo’. Let’s Encrypt is a free, open certificate authority provided by the nonprofit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG). Whereas Sectigo, formally known as Comodo, is one of the world’s leading certificate authorities and is trusted by some of the world’s largest brands, like McAfee, Intel, and more.

Validation type

There are three types of SSL certificates available today: domain validation, organization validation, and extended validation. While the encryption levels are the same for each certificate, the vetting and verification processes needed to obtain the certificate differ for each one. Only a Domain Validation (DV) Certificate can be obtained from Let’s Encrypt, but all three are available from Sectigo.

  • Domain Validation SSL certificates provide the quickest and most cost-effective way to receive industry-standard encryption. You must provide proof of ownership for your domain, then you will get the certificate within minutes. While DV SSL certificates are easy to get, they’re not the best choice for websites that collect personal information or credit card payments.
  • Organization Validation SSL certificates are one step up from Domain Validation. You need to show that you own the domain and confirm that it is a legit business. Once your organization name, phone number, and location have been verified, the certificate will be issued in 1-3 days. While OV SSL certificates are more suitable for commercial websites, they are still not ideal for a site that collects any sensitive information.
  • Extended Validation SSL certificates provide the highest level of security and trust, making them the industry standard for eCommerce websites. You must meet all authentication requirements of an OV SSL. But the vetting process is stricter as it is performed by a human specialist which takes 1-5 days. This validation process gives site visitors more confidence in your site’s legitimacy because it is more difficult for a phishing company to get validation with an EV certificate and impersonate a legitimate company.

Site seal

All SSLs display a lock icon in the browser once the certificate is issued. However, paid SSL certificates provide an extra layer of public trust with a trust site seal. Trust seals indicate that you are using a more reputable company for your website security, which helps build customer trust and increase conversions.


Free SSL certificates don’t provide any warranty against data theft or other cybersecurity breaches. On the other hand, paid SSL certificates offer warranties to protect website owners against unexpected financial loss.

Technical support

Free SSL certificates don’t come with any technical support, so you may need to invest a lot of time and effort into addressing questions related to your certificate and solving problems as they arise. Whereas paid SSL certificates come with dedicated, hands-on support. If you run into any issues, you have access to a team of experts who can provide tips and guidance on fixing SSL-related problems.

Free vs Paid SSL: Side-by-Side Comparison

Free SSL CertificatesPaid SSL Certificates
Issuing Authority Let’s EncryptSectigo
Validation Type DVDV, OV, and EV
Site SealNoYes
WarrantyNoneUp to $1,750,000
Technical SupportNoneDedicated customer support & assistance

Manage or purchase an SSL with Bluehost

To see the status of your SSL certificate:

  • Log into your Bluehost Account Manager.
  • Select your website from the list provided and click Settings.
  • In the Overview section, you will see the Status of your SSL.

To see your SSL certificate type and upgrade:

  • Log into your Bluehost Account Manager.
  • Select your website from the list provided and click Settings.
  • Click the Security tab.
  • In the SSL certificates section, you will see your SSL type with an option to upgrade to a higher level.

Steps to purchase a new SSL certificate type for an existing hosting plan:

  • Log into your Bluehost Account Manager.
  • Select Marketplace from the left navigation
  • Scroll to the Security section.
  • Select Claim Offer on the Premium SSL tile and choose from the options provided.


Whether you are a small, medium, or large business from any industry, you shouldn’t compromise your website’s security. SSL certificates are one of the safest cryptographic tools to safeguard your website against cyberattacks.

When deciding between free vs paid SSL certificate, the choice ultimately comes down to specific website requirements and security needs. Free SSL certificates can be a good choice for basic websites with low security needs. However, if you deal with sensitive data such as customer information and payment details, or if you want to improve your website security and build maximum customer trust, it’s advisable to invest in a paid SSL certificate.

Paid certificates provide extra security indicators, professional technical support, and warranties. Additionally, they offer more options to best suit your business requirements.

Enhance your website security by upgrading to a premium SSL certificate today!

FAQs for Free vs Paid SSL Certificates

Which SSL certificate does Bluehost provide?

Bluehost provides a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt with all web hosting plans (except Basic, which is only free for the first year). All plans can benefit from upgrading to a premium SSL for additional security, validation, and warranty features.

Is Bluehost’s free SSL certificate secure?

Yes. With Bluehost, you get a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt. While this certificate is secure, it only provides the most basic website security and encryption.

Is a free SSL certificate enough?

For a basic website like a blog where you don’t need to collect data from the visitors, a free SSL certificate may be enough. However, a paid SSL certificate can provide more security, which is important even for a basic website. It ensures strong encryption, protecting sensitive customer information on your site. This not only secures data, but also increases customer confidence, leading to higher sales and increased loyalty.

Are paid SSL certificates worth it?

Yes, there are many reasons why a paid SSL certificate may be the better option for your website. A paid SSL provides enhanced security, technical support, additional security indicators, and options to secure multiple domains and subdomains with a single SSL certificate. Additionally, you get a warranty in the event of a data breach.

What happens when you buy an SSL certificate?

When you purchase an SSL certificate, the browser or server verifies its trustworthiness. If it is trusted, it informs the web server, which then sends back a digitally signed confirmation to initiate an SSL encrypted session. This allows for the exchange of encrypted data between the browser or server and the web server.

How long does free SSL last?

Free SSL certificates are usually valid for 30 to 90 days. If you buy a web hosting plan from Bluehost, you get a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt for at least 1 year and the renewal will be automated every 90 days.

Are there any performance differences between free SSL and paid SSL?

Both free and paid SSL certificates are safe, but paid SSL certificates can offer additional performance optimizations such as HTTP/2 support or advanced caching features, depending on the provider. These optimizations can improve the overall speed and responsiveness of your site, especially under heavy traffic loads.

Do I need a paid SSL certificate if my website doesn’t collect sensitive information?

While SSL encryption is crucial for securing sensitive data like payment information and login credentials, it’s also beneficial for overall website security and user trust. Even if your website doesn’t collect sensitive information, using a paid SSL can protect against data interception, improve SEO rankings, and enhance user confidence in your site’s security.

  • Jyoti Saxena

    Jyoti is a content writer at Bluehost. With 3+ years of experience in the eCommerce industry, she strives to create content that resonates with sellers and resolves their pain points. Being a bookworm, she can be found reading books in her free time.

Learn more about Bluehost Editorial Guidelines

Write A Comment