Free vs. Paid WordPress Themes: Best Pick for New Websites

Are you new to the wonderful world of WordPress? Are you overwhelmed by the vast array of customizability options at your fingertips? Okay, we got you.

But, before you go beast mode and try out every WordPress theme on the internet, I will show you whether you should choose a free vs. paid WordPress theme.

While customizability is critical to the website, knowing where your project, experience, and expectation stand is quite important (if not everything).

That’s where choosing the perfect theme comes in. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between free and paid themes on WordPress, so you can decide to take your website to the next level.

Plus, for our indecisive beginners out there, we narrowed it down to the three most popular and basic WordPress themes so you can jump right into installing a theme and kickstart your website!

Main Difference between free and paid WordPress Themes: Comparison Table

The main differences are that paid themes often have more impressive designs and more features (plugins, header and footer options, customer support, etc.) than free ones.

Paid WordPress themes also come with dedicated support and documentation from the developers. In addition, paid themes are updated more frequently to keep them secure and compatible with the latest WordPress updates.

However, some paid themes could come with more restrictive licensing terms and may have limitations on usage. The most significant difference is that free themes are free, while paid themes require payment.

Let’s break down the differences using theme features:

What sets free or paid WordPress themes apart? Aside from money…

Here is a side-by-side comparison between free vs. paid WordPress themes.

Free WordPress Themes:Paid WordPress Themes: 
●  No cost and easy to find and download ●  Generally affordable and come with advanced features and more customization options 
●  Free WordPress themes have fewer features, but they can make your website faster●  Higher quality and more reliable, with better support and documentation from the vendor 
●  Easy to browse and install from the official WordPress directory●  Regular updates to ensure security and compatibility, but still may have discontinued products with long-term vulnerabilities
–   It could be a trial period to upgrade to paid themes. When you start with free themes, it’s an intelligent option to get an upgrade later.●  Available from many independent shops and marketplaces

Deciding on the project objective before choosing a WordPress theme would be best. 


Free WordPress themes are perfect for beginners who are just starting with their website and have a limited budget. 

These free themes are easy to use, with a simple layout (but often not creative) and no complicated features. However, they may lack support and updates, leaving your website vulnerable to security risks.

In contrast, paid WordPress themes provide users with advanced customization options, pre-built templates, and premium plugins, allowing users to create a more professional-looking website. 

In addition, paid themes often come with dedicated support, regular updates, and better licensing terms. 

However, the cost of these themes can be a drawback for some users.

Updates and Security

Paid themes are usually updated more frequently to address security vulnerabilities and compatibility issues with the latest WordPress updates. Licensing and Usage: Free themes are typically released under the GPL (General Public License), which means they can be modified and edited freely. 

Paid themes, however, usually come with more restrictive licensing terms and may have limitations on usage.


As the name suggests, free WordPress themes are free to download and use, while paid themes require a one-time or recurring payment.

Most paid themes we’ve reviewed on WPHub fall into $59 – $89 annually. If this price is reasonable for you, we don’t see any issue with jumping on premium WordPress themes.


Regarding performance, it’s difficult to say whether free or paid WordPress themes perform better, largely depending on the specific themes you’re comparing. 

Generally speaking, free themes have a leaner codebase and fewer features, which can result in faster loading times and better performance. 

However, this is only sometimes the case, as some free themes may need better-optimized code or excessive features that can slow down your website.

On the other hand, paid themes often come with more advanced features and customization options, making them more resource-intensive and potentially slower. 

However, paid themes are typically created by experienced developers and undergo more thorough testing, which can result in better overall performance.

Ultimately, a WordPress theme’s performance is influenced by the theme’s code quality, feature set, and compatibility with plugins and WordPress updates.

Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly research and compare different themes, whether free or paid, to ensure you choose one that offers good performance for your website!


Regarding design, there can be noticeable differences between free and paid WordPress themes. For example, free themes often have limited design options and may be less visually appealing than premium themes.

 On the other hand, premium themes often offer more advanced customization options, allowing you to tailor your website’s design to your exact necessities. Paid themes include options for changing fonts, colors, layouts, and more.

Also, premium themes often come with high-quality images and graphics that make your website look more professional and polished. Ultimately, the design differences between free and paid WordPress themes will depend on the specific themes you’re comparing. 

However, it’s important to consider your website’s design needs and goals when choosing between free and paid themes.

Paid WordPress themes often have more advanced plans and features than free themes. They may offer more customization options, premium plugins, and better support for various devices and browsers.

When you are new to website building, you can’t see how much pain it could be when restricted to simple features like header customization.

It is an incentive for new users to subscribe to paid plans. 

With Astra Pro or Elementor Pro, you can easily customize and design your website, which is a great help if you build a website alone.

Theme Support

Every few months, we get a massive update to WordPress, which could be a new feature or a security upgrade.

But here’s the catch: Whenever WordPress gets an upgrade, you’ll usually need to update your plugins and theme. That’s because your theme needs to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress.

Keep your WordPress and theme up-to-date for security and functionality, so remember to check for updates regularly!

Paid themes usually come with dedicated support and documentation from the developers, often needing more free themes.

Themeisle did fantastic documentation for their themes, like their Hestia free and pro plan. When we first reviewed Hestia, we found that the documentation and support greatly help anyone!

Not every theme comes with detailed documentation, so be aware of that!

Theme Code 

The selection of a WordPress theme can significantly affect SEO. However, in free themes, you may encounter various issues related to coding standards, leading to structural bugs and security problems.

Not all coders are the same. For example, many free WordPress themes could be coded poorly, and if you are not a coder, trust the paid themes!

Even though most free themes are released with good intentions, the authors may need to gain the coding expertise of some premium theme authors.

Using free themes can increase the likelihood of security issues. In contrast, premium themes offer better support forums for updates and addressing security concerns. 

Nevertheless, purchasing a premium theme does not guarantee a well-optimized theme.

Considering the benefits and drawbacks of free and premium WordPress themes is essential. While free themes may be more affordable, they may need more features and support. 

On the other hand, premium themes may offer better support and advanced customization options but come at a higher cost.

Free vs. Paid WordPress Themes Pros & Cons

Free WordPress themes are cost-free and provide basic design and features but may need more support, updates, and customization options. Paid WordPress themes offer advanced designs and features, dedicated support, regular updates, and better licensing terms but require payment.

Free WordPress Themes:

Cost-freeBasic design and features
Easy to find and downloadLack of support
Beginner-friendlyLimited customization options
A wide range of options is availableIt may not be updated regularly
Often open-source and community-drivenSecurity vulnerabilities may go unaddressed

Paid WordPress Themes:

Advanced designs and featuresRequire payment
Dedicated support and documentationMay have more restrictive licensing terms
Regular updates to address security and compatibility issuesMay not be affordable for some users
More customization optionsMay require more technical knowledge
Better compatibility with various devices and browsersNot all paid themes are of high quality
Often come with premium plugins and extrasLimited options if seeking a specific feature or design

Ideas for Free WordPress Themes

Okay, now that you are settled with free vs. paid WordPress themes, it is time to get down to specifics!

We tried and reviewed dozens of WordPress themes before, but we settle on the three most beginner-friendly, reliable, and popular themes: Astra, OceanWP, and Hestia.

You can try them out for free or pay for their premium plans! 

1. Astra: A fast and customizable theme suitable for various websites and with pre-built templates.

2. OceanWP is a lightweight, SEO-friendly theme with many customization options, including multiple header styles and page builder support.

3. Hestia: A modern and stylish theme perfect for business and portfolio websites, with built-in compatibility for popular plugins like WooCommerce and Yoast SEO.

Bonus: We also reviewed Kadence vs. Astra if you want a more in-depth comparison between the most popular and beginner-friendly WordPress themes! Both are lightweight and fast.

Is it worth paying for a premium WordPress theme?

It is worth paying for premium WordPress themes because they secure your website and help it run smoother, not to say that designing a website will be easier too.

Investing in a premium WordPress theme can provide numerous benefits for your website that free themes can’t match.

Firstly, premium themes are typically more secure and regularly updated, ensuring that your website stays protected from security vulnerabilities and runs smoothly. 

Additionally, premium themes usually offer a more comprehensive range of features and customization options, allowing you to create a more unique and tailored website that stands out. 

Finally, many premium themes also come with excellent support and documentation, saving you time and frustration when setting up and maintaining your website.

Moreover, a premium theme can positively impact your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. Paid themes are often designed to be optimized for speed and usability, providing a better experience for your visitors and helping your website rank higher in search results. 

Finally, a premium theme can help you establish a professional and credible online presence, which is crucial for any business or individual looking to make a lasting impression on their audience. While there may be some great free WordPress themes out there, investing in a premium theme can be a worthwhile investment for the long-term success of your website.

Can I use free WordPress themes for my business?

It is generally not recommended to run your business on free WordPress themes. Generally, you are better off with premium themes because they are safer and faster and include features you need for payments, lead sign-ups, etc. 

Suppose you want to stick with free themes. In that case, Astra is one of the best ones to try. – Even then, I assume you will switch to its premium version after a while.

First, decide whether the free theme has the features and customization options you need to create a professional and effective website for your business. 

Some free themes may need to be improved in functionality or design options, impacting your ability to create a high-quality website that effectively showcases your products or services.

Also, free themes may offer a different level of security or support than paid themes, leaving your website vulnerable to security breaches or technical issues.

Ultimately, choosing a free WordPress theme for your online business will depend on your needs and priorities. If you are comfortable with the limitations and potential risks associated with a free theme, and it meets your basic requirements, it may be a good option for your business. 

However, you may need more advanced features, customization options, or security measures. Then, consider investing in a paid theme or hiring a professional web developer to help you create a custom website.

Takeaway: Paid or Free WP Themes

In conclusion, the debate between free and paid WordPress themes is complex and depends on your business model and budget. Free themes can be a good option if you’re on a tight budget and don’t need advanced features or customization options, but they may come with limitations, security risks, and less support. 

Paid themes, on the other hand, generally offer more advanced features, better support, and higher quality code but can come with a higher price tag.

When choosing a WordPress theme, it’s essential to consider your website’s goals and needs, as well as your budget and technical expertise. 

Take the time to research and compare different themes, read reviews, and check the developer’s track record before deciding. If you are here already, be sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and browse through our WordPress tutorials.

Ani Hoang
Ani Hoang

Ani has been managing WordPress websites and optimizing different affiliate sites. She is also passionate about digital marketing and branding. She joined WPHub to plan and execute the backend operations to support your experience on our site.

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