Choosing a web hosting company can become quite overwhelming quite fast... search for hosting in your favorite search engine and you will see what I mean!
So what to look for?
First, you need to know what you need... is your site already built? If yes, then you might need the host to support a specific platform, or something else you are familiar with, say: cPanel. If you are not sure, ask customer support; they are here for that (and also it can help you test them!)
If you don't have a site ready yet, you may want to look at the ease of building a website with their building software: some hosts have pre-made templates and easy-to-use tools that will let you build sites without any technical knowledge.Then, you need to know how much space and bandwidth you need. Is your website big and already popular? Are you just starting out? Chances are, if you are simply starting out, your website is small and you do not have much traffic yet. In this case, basic hosting plans will definitely suit your needs.
WARNING here: nowadays, most hosting sites advertise "unlimited this" and "unlimited that"... Be careful! You probably ought to read the terms and conditions. As a matter of fact, their definition of unlimited is usually something like « fair utilization of the resources »... and we all know that « fair » is vague enough to be interpreted in many different ways! But, again, if you are starting out those will be just fine for you as you will most likely not use more than your fair share...
Now, if you have an established professional website with lots of traffic though... then you might want to check out VPS hosting or dedicated servers.
Also, if you are selling things on your site, you might want to add optional security features, both for you and also to help build trust from your potential customers.
Thirdly, depending on how savvy you are, you need to make sure whether transfer or installation is included, how prompt and helpful the tech staff is, if they have the latest software and if their platform is secure.
Most of the time, getting the best deals (i.e. cheaper) will require you to commit to a certain length of time (e-g: 2 years and pay upfront) so you need to read the terms and conditions carefully (yes again, never trust the welcome page of a site, it is their commercial window! - always look for terms & conditions, especially when there is a * or anything of the kind (just like in commercials, when they say FREE* and then in very tiny letters they say « simply pay shipping and handling »).
A golden rule is truly that famous « if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is! »... if you go by this rule and always scrutinize the fine prints and anything you have to agree to, then you will be allright since you will always know exactly where you are going.
Finally, the last recommendation would be to « Google it » (or 'Bing it' or 'Yahoo it', but it doesn't sound as great, does it?)
For example, you can searcg for host-name + review or host-name + scam and read what they write about it. But be careful, some people seem to overuse the word 'scam' and it is slowly losing its real meaning – i.e. Someone really trying to con you! We have also seen completely fake "scam" warnings that seem to have been set up by competitors!
Any hosting service (and anyone in general for that matter) will have both good and bad reviews... it is inevitable, you cannot please everyone, and noone is perfect, so problems will happen... However, what really matters is: HOW THE PROBLEM WAS HANDLED!
For example, I had a personal experience with a hosting site... they billed me the wrong amount. I was very furious at the time. But in the end, they worked with me and we fixed the problem, and I was refunded. Mistakes happen. Just like that coffeemaker everyone was rating 5 stars on sites, and you buy one and it doesn't work! :( well it happens and will happen to everyone, the important thing is where you bought it and did they help you fix the problem (exchange, refund...)