Free vs Paid WordPress Theme | Which to Pick?

Perhaps one of the most pleasant features of WordPress is the wide range of themes. Because of so many options, most newcomers to WordPress face with question free vs paid WordPress theme – which one to go with. Well, the solution is very obvious. If you are willing to pay then go for paid/premium WordPress theme. If not, then free it is.

In comparison to any other CMS like Joomla or Drupal, none of them comes even close when it comes to the availability of ready-made themes and templates. Not only does WordPress have numerous free themes, but it is also well supplemented by premium themes. But that availability comes with its price.

Picking one WordPress theme from thousands available is not an easy task. Especially if you are waging free vs paid WordPress theme. You probably think: “Why should I pay for a theme when there are so many free ones?” I thought that myself when starting.

But free is free for a reason. Free often lack in options and settings. Sometimes you even have to add or know HTML and spend time fumbling around with code. Of course, if you intend to use WordPress for blogging from time to time or don’t need any fancy settings, then just go with a free WordPress theme. You can always upgrade by buying premium.

Finding good free theme is just as hard as finding good premium WordPress theme.

If you are looking for free WordPress theme, then I suggest Astra, OceanWP or GeneratePress. If you are looking for paid theme, then I suggest those same themes but their pro versions. To see differences between paid and free versions you can check my posts Astra free vs Astra pro, OceanWP free vs pro and Astra vs GeneratePress. Deep theme is another great paid theme. Check Deep theme review for more info.


Free vs Paid WordPress Theme

If you intend to go serious or open online business, premium WordPress theme is must have. Free WordPress themes are often basic in style and follow the same structure. A free theme is ideal for your demands if you simply desire to write content.

When it comes to modifying, free themes are restricted. Paid WordPress themes are advanced and come with options panel/theme settings which can be configured quite easily.

Additionally, it is common that a premium theme comes pre-packaged with several styles so that you can alter the look of your site and much more. Having premium theme comes with a price which usually goes from $20 to $60 or more.

While free themes don’t require any money investing, you may find yourself adding many plugins to compensate lack in features.

The biggest problem with free WP themes is the lack of updates and support as most theme developers release free version and use it to sell pro/paid version.

Motivation is a problem. You will rarely find the person who will spend the time to update and support something that doesn’t bring him anything in return.

  • Free WP Theme
  • Wouldnt count on that much
  • Maybe after some time
  • None or basic
  • Very Limited
  • Cant know for sure
  • Limited
  • Mostly
  • Rarely
  • Free
blank page comparison
  • Responsive
  • Paid WP Theme
  • Lots of options and settings
  • Cant know for sure
  • Various
  • Less
  • Mostly
  • Price depends from theme to theme


Factors To Consider When Choosing Free vs Paid WordPress Theme

There are several factors you need to take into consideration when choosing WordPress theme. These options separate free from paid themes:

1. Theme Support

WordPress is constantly changing and upgrading to keep up with modern technology. Every couple of months, we see a significant upgrade in WordPress. It can be security update or new features.

After every WordPress update, you will mostly need to update many of your plugins or theme. The theme should be compatible with the most recent version of WordPress.

When you buy a premium theme, it’s the responsibility of developer/company to release an upgraded as well as appropriate variation of a theme. Free theme creators use their theme as a side task. Because of that, you will probably need to wait for a week or month before the update.




With paid themes comes free support whenever you need. Don’t expect the same with the free theme. You are mostly on your own there. Support and lack of updates can also happen with premium themes. Please check reviews or inform yourself about company or person selling them.

In most cases, if theme sells well then it is in author interest to optimize, update and provide support for the theme.


2. Theme Optimization

WordPress theme plays a big part in overall SEO of your site. In free themes, you may find many structure bugs or bad coding. While most free themes are released with good intentions authors may not be as well-versed in coding standards as some premium theme authors.

Hence, the potential for security issues is greater with free themes. At least with premium themes, one can rely (hopefully) on the theme support forums for updates or to ask questions related to such topics. Purchasing premium theme also doesn’t guarantee you will get the well-optimized theme.


3. Theme Features

Premium themes are a competitive marketplace. To stand out and survive theme developer needs to offer latest features and web integrations. Free themes have very limited number of features.


4. Theme Design

Premium themes usually have more time invested into the overall design. Given that you have to pay money, it is reasonable to expect that the design of a premium theme overshadows most free themes.

This is not to imply that free themes are not well-designed. Nicely shaped theme with a design that leaves an impact is a plus to maintain or attract visitors.


5. Theme Code

Premium themes are usually well-coded. Sellers need to ensure their themes are bug-free otherwise buyers will ask for a refund or submit complaints.

When it comes to theme quality premium themes are mostly the way to go. There are certainly free themes that are also of high quality, stable and frequently maintained.

But you can’t know for sure before trying. Of course, sellers will highly praise their product. In reality, you can’t be sure if the theme is well coded. That goes for premium themes as well as free.


6. Theme Options

The Options Panel / Theme Settings is a significant difference between free and paid WordPress theme. With most premium themes you can count on the fact that there will be a panel to configure theme settings.

The options panel will provide areas to set categories for different content areas, adding Google Analytics code, add social media settings, add logo and favicon, custom sidebars, style settings, banners, etc.

There are hundreds of possible settings and each theme varies. The theme options panel does make life much easier for non-techies as well as folks who wish just to get their sites online quickly.


Free vs Paid Theme Pros & Cons

  • Premium themes come in several forms to suit your needs. Unique offers depend on the genre of your website.
  • Also, most premium themes are multi purpose and can be used for various types of business.
  • Unlike Free themes, Premium themes are not so common, and this can lend a unique appeal to your blog.
  • Premium themes may come loaded with several features which in reality you may never use.
  • There are no prices to pay for free themes. Just download and use!
  • While there is lack personalized support with free themes, many developers respond to queries and comments in forums.


Paid or Free WP Theme Conclusion

For new bloggers and WordPress users who can’t spend $50 for the theme, a free theme is the way to go. But once your blog starts getting traffic, you should probably switch over to any best possible premium theme.

The big difference between free and premium WordPress themes is their quality, uniqueness, and style. In my opinion, as long as themes are reasonably priced it is a smart choice.

If you are looking for quality themes, check out recommendations in best WordPress responsive themes. If you are interested in Affiliate business, then be sure to check best affiliate store builder WordPress themes.

Free WordPress themes have lack of features, settings, and options but that doesn’t mean they are less worthy.

Developers from the open source community who live by the philosophy that software should be free need to be praised. For their time and effort.


The right theme will save you hundreds of hours.  These extra hours can then be invested in generating content and traffic. Content and traffic build your site.


There is a common perception that when you pay for something, rather than get it for free, the paid version will be better quality. With WordPress themes, it depends. Premium WordPress themes can still have bugs, performance issues, and missing components.

On the other hand, free WordPress themes can be so lightweight and “simple” to have upper hand over bloated premium themes. Your choice of theme comes down to a balance between features and performance.

Often, more features slow down a website so think carefully about whether you’d need that flashy gallery or fancy menu system.

Using WordPress you’ll learn that only because a theme is free, it isn’t necessarily bad, and a theme that costs money doesn’t mean it’s indisputably good. You have to choose from the aspect of your needs and knowledge of WordPress, and budget available.

If you are a beginner and just want to start running your site as soon as possible, you’d better consider using a free theme at first. That way, you’ll be able to learn the small tricks.

In that case, there will be no wasting money unnecessarily during your learning. After site starts to prosper and maybe earn money, consider buying a premium WordPress theme.

DISCLOSURE: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I might get a small commission, without any extra cost to you. Read more about it here.

2 thoughts on “Free vs Paid WordPress Theme | Which to Pick?”

  1. Frankly speaking, I’ve been blogging for almost over a year now and have always tried using free themes because of the cost factor.

    However, lately, I have realized that everyone seriously should consider investing a little bit for a premium theme instead of spending all the efforts on free themes.

    Also, I started blogging just out of a passion and never thought of monetizing. I am currently using various themes and they work well. Yet premium themes are meant something from a blogging perspective, which is what I can think.

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