Free VS Premium WordPress Themes: Which is Best?

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Should you use a free theme or a paid theme?

Does it even matter?

In this guide, you’ll find answers to these questions so you can select the right theme for your site without any doubt.

Benefits of a free theme

There are three main benefits to selecting a free WordPress theme for your website.

It’s free!

If you don’t have a budget or any income being generated from your site, a free theme is a great way to get started.

With a new website, it’s common to change your focus or brand after the first few months. It would be a pain to pay a lot for a theme and then realize you need something totally different.

You can follow along with our WordPress site creation guide if you haven’t made your first site yet.

Easy to preview

When choosing a premium theme, you have to carefully review your options before making a purchase. You could get a refund if you don’t like the theme you buy and then purchase another one, but that’s pretty tedious.

If you’re browsing free themes, you can try a bunch out on your site without needing to buy anything first. In fact, WordPress has a feature that lets you preview free themes on your site before you even install them.

Here’s how you can live preview free themes: How to Preview a Theme Before Activating It

Carefully reviewed code

The only place you should download a free theme is from the official WordPress theme repository.

Otherwise, make sure you trust the source because there could be malware or other malicious code inserted in the template.

No themes get listed on without first being manually reviewed by a member of the Theme Review Team. They take a look at the code and test for errors, and then the theme gets looked over once more by an admin member of the review team.

This doesn’t guarantee every theme will be bug-free, but you don’t have to worry about installing a theme that breaks your site.


Free themes usually have a pretty concise set of features.

This could be an issue if you wanted to make a more complex or highly branded site. However, a simpler set of features means your site will be quick to configure so you can get back to creating content.

Benefits of a premium theme

If you know exactly what you’re looking for, a premium theme can be the better choice. Here are the top three reasons for choosing a paid WordPress theme for your site.

More flexible

Premium themes almost always come with more features and customization options.

For instance, it’s standard for a Themeforest or TemplateMonster theme to come with comprehensive settings in the Live Customizer, dozens of shortcodes, and also a complete page builder for custom template creation.

High-quality design

In general, premium themes tend to have a higher design quality.

Free themes have come a long way and look a lot nicer these days, but the standards for premium themes are pretty intense. You’ll usually find some great use of typography, color, and composition when browsing through paid themes.

We review lots of premium themes in our best theme collections.

Bundled plugins

Another benefit of buying a premium theme is that many of them bundle plugins. For instance, lots of themes on Themeforest will include plugins like:

  • WPBakery Page Builder
  • Slider Revolution
  • Essential Grid

You can usually save $50+ buy getting these plugins with the theme.

What about freemium?

Free themes often get criticism for things like a lack of customer support or updates, but if you look at what’s out there, you’ll find this is inaccurate.

I took a quick look at the 20 newest themes on and 18 of them were freemium. This means the free theme you use is most likely going to be maintained by a company, not a hobbyist designer who made the theme and has no incentive to continue supporting it.

With a freemium theme, you still get to test it out and use it as long as you want for free. And if you want more options to customize your site, there’s a premium upgrade available.

Finding a theme

If you want an awesome new theme for your blog or website, we’ve got 18 free themes with fast and responsive designs. Plus, premium upgrades if you want some more functionality added to your site.

Our guide on choosing the best WP theme will give you more guidance and great options for finding the right theme for your site.

If you have any questions or feedback about this article, post a comment below.

Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley
Ben Sibley is a WordPress theme designer & developer, and founder of Compete Themes.