When I first started playing around with building websites the hosts I used were the free ones. I can’t even remember their names at this point, it was literally years ago.
It wasn’t until I friend on a forum (GaiaOnline.com) let me use a domain on her web host that I discovered the magic of paid hosting. A while later I signed up and haven’t looked back.
Currently all of the websites I run are hosted with DreamHost. I know there are cheaper hosts out there, and I know that the debate over which is the best continues. But I’m happy with them, I get the control over my sites that I like in an easy-to-use manner. I’ve never had a problem that they’ve been unable to resolve.
(Ad moment. If you’re interested on signing up, you can use the promo code codyatfiny to get a$97 discount (the max possible discount, I don’t get any bonus from it)) for the first year).