I would like to know what is important in your decision making. What makes host X stand out from host Y? Why would you pick host X over host Y? Features? Price? What if prices are the same and features as well, which would you pick?
I've always been a fan of honesty, myself. Talk to the host first and get a feel for what they are like. There are lots of total fewls in this business, but if you know how to read between the lines, it's not really difficult to find someone who's on the up and up.
For me, it is speed of resolution and support when I need it. Many things can be handled in a 'whenever you get around to it' manner, such as some minor thing not working, but there are times when things need to be looked at quickly.
Also, I am very understanding of network, hardware, software failures, etc. I don't post when the server goes down for 10 minutes or a couple of hours. Of course if this happened all the time, then I'd look for another provider. Although hosts guarantee uptime, they should really guarantee downtime as well, since, to put it simply, you will have downtime. These are networks and computers, and people need to understand that $5/mo doesn't buy you bullet proof, mission critical web hosting. Yes, you are paying and yes, the server should be up, however some reasonable understanding is needed.
So it isn't that I expect 100% uptime, but I do expect prompt resolutions to the problem(s) and not a whole slew of lame excuses. If someone screwed up, well then they did, and that's all I have to know. I don't expect refunds, just an honest attempt to keep things groovin' and chugging along. When it don't work, please get on it and fix it ASAP.
Reputation, professionalism, quality of their clients, honesty in interactions with clients. Price - not a big factor, I usually end up paying a little more than the lowest going rate for a level of service.
Make sure the host has excellent support at any time in the day. That is always a plus for anyone. Then you can check if their website has downtime or not by monitoring it with some free service. Then comes prices.
Certinaly price is one of the most important factors, however it is more of a starting point. In other words, people determine a price they are willing to pay, and then look at everything else within that restriction.
Similar to car buying, you first come up with a price. Sure we all want Ferraris, however you can't get a Ferrari on a $16,000 budget, so what can I get for $16,000? Then there are those who need a car and want to get a car for the least money possible so they can get to work.
There isn't one type of consumer and my advice to you is to figure out who your idea customer is. Take a hard look at who bought your most expensive package (they're the ones you forget about because they never email you for support) and find more of them!
I always email them first, to see what kind of response I get. I calculate how professional the response is, and how long it takes them. After that i will look at the other factors such as price and reputation.