To have a successful web presence, it’s necessary to launch a website. However, to do so, a domain name is needed so that people can navigate to the website using their web browser.
Domain administrators are required to keep a log of all domains registered for the top-level domain (TLDs) that they administer. As such, there is a different registrar that manages all the records for the .com domains (Verisign) versus the .biz domains (Registry Services, GoDaddy). Also, the same is true for country-specific domains and other types too.
Early on, some people took the opportunity to register single-word domains for themselves or companies. This later led to some companies pursuing claims to the right to ownership based on existing trademarks. Some have been successful, others not as much. Musicians have also seen challenges to existing registrations – British singer Sting lost an arbitration case because of the generic use of his chosen musical persona.
Along with branding, it’s also useful to have a respectable domain because it can be used to send and receive emails too. This avoids needing to use a Gmail address or similar that looks far less professional to conduct business.
So, registering a domain with a domain registration service for yourself or your business is needed to look the part. They take care of registering the domain with the respective administrator (Verisign, etc.) to ensure the registration is completed. Once done, it can be confirmed a few hours later using a WHOIS search look-up using a service that provides that.
Our Top Picks for Best Domain Registrars
When considering which is the best domain registrar and why, we examined various criteria to get a good perspective on what’s valuable and features that don’t matter as much. There are hundreds of registrars each trying to get a piece of the domain registration market, especially lucrative annual renewals, so we’ve worked hard to narrow it down to the Top 5.
While price is worth favouring, other factors also play into our decision too. Because when managing a domain or changing the setup is overly complicated, it can require more time and make the registrar less attractive. Other considerations such as registrar reputation, extra services, technical support, ease of domain name searching, and management all play a role too.
Reputation requires a special mention here. A registrar that goes out of business because of financial difficulties will present problems accessing the domain to move it to a different domain registrar. Also, reconfiguring the domain for a different web host will become problematic, as will renewing it to avoid losing it after the official expiring date.
So, sticking with major players in the domain registering market, rather than fly-by-night operators providing dirt-cheap pricing for a few months, and then seemingly disappearing is worth considering here. Especially if the domain is for a business venture – you cannot afford to take undue risks. ICANN will often be able to fix the issue, but it’s not guaranteed.
To avoid the above situation, it’s best to stick to tried and true domain registrars. That way, the potential headache is avoided.
Namecheap.com – Best Overall
Namecheap Best Domain Registrar Review
Our top pick is Namecheap.
The privacy protection with each mainstream domain purchase is a major factor for people using this registrar. They were one of the very first to do so; before it was an added cost per registration which substantially increased the cost. This saves buyers $10 or more annually per domain. It only applies to TLDs and a few other types – some domains do not allow private registrations, or they’re administered differently. However, it certainly works for .com, .org. and .net registrations at a minimum.
The Namecheap customer services and technical support team are excellent. The former is quick to refer complex cases including difficulties with domain name server (DNS) management to the technical team. The latter are excellent at solving problems where hosting isn’t resolving because the domain’s DNS records are misconfigured.
The site is also quick and easy to use. It does have an odd quirk with emails and messages accessed from the top-right corner of the dashboard. These are difficult to hover over and get the dropdown list to stay in place to click on the messages. It’s finickity and needs a tweak, but otherwise, the dashboard works flawlessly.
Premium add-ons you can likely omit are:
- Gmail update ($5 per user)
- Private email (First 2 months at no charge, $9.88 to $49.99 per year thereafter)
- Shared hosting ($2.88 per month)
- EasyWP (WordPress web hosting at $1 per month)
Cost: Domain prices move around. Currently, it’s $8.88 for a 1-year dot com registration and the standard $0.18 ICANN registration fee. Renewals cost more at $12.98 for both dotcom and .org domains. They also have “Agent 88” for extensions to alternative TLDs like .press, .io, .tech, etc.). These are $0.48 for one year but may rise later.
Domain.com – Best Affordable
Domain.com Best Domain Registrar Review
Domain.com features high on many ratings as a domain registration service because its feature set is strong, and there are hosting options including WordPress sites.
For people new to using the internet and creating a site, it can be a great one-stop-shop for a domain and hosting too. This avoids the more complicated approach of registering a domain with a registrar and setting up the DNS to host at a separate web host.
The registrar has been around for over 20 years, so there are no worries about it disappearing overnight. Registrations are handled professionally with many extras available to customers.
Search features include bulk searches, premium domain searching, and auction domains available through brokers. DNS management is possible, plus hosting with unlimited disk space and tools to help market the site too.
Cost: Dot com domains are $9.99 annually with a $12.99 charge to renew them. Privacy protection on the domain record isn’t free and costs an additional $8.99 annually per domain. This is a deal-breaker for some people who prefer to use registrars like Namecheap that do not charge for it. Some discounts and coupons are sometimes provided including bundled services and new hosting accounts at a lesser charge.
BlueHost.com – Best for WordPress
BlueHost Best Domain Registrar Review
BlueHost is one of the best-known web hosts due to promotional efforts through affiliates. It isn’t well-known as a domain registrar as it’s more of a side business. The company provides a free TLD with each new hosting account, which is where it’s handy in saving money if you need both a domain and a hosting account to get a new site online.
Due to the size of the company, they’re able to offer 24/7 customer support across multiple channels including live chat, support ticketing, and the phone (they also respond on social media). For people who like to fix problems themselves, their knowledge base is extensive too.
For anyone looking for a starter site with minimal traffic, then BlueHost can provide discounted hosting in the first year and a free domain.
Cost: Purchasing a new dot com domain and without a hosting account, they charge $11.99 per year. Privacy protection isn’t free, but it’s only $0.99.
Domains.Google – Best Google Integration
Domains.Google Best Domain Registrar Review
A new domain registration service from Google that’s still in the beta phase.
Being with Google is either seen as a good thing or a bad thing. There are truly little shades of grey here. The perception is that a domain registered here will be good for SEO and ranking in Google. It certainly could help get new sites noticed sooner than they otherwise would, but there are zero guarantees of that.
Good access to Google products with additional support, including Google Workspaces (formally G Suite).
On the services side, while it’s not the cheapest, free privacy protection does sweeten the deal. Also, for those tired of upselling, currently, there is none here. Also, if you’re a lover of the simplistic Google interface design, then this follows that edict making it an easier domain registrar to learn how to use.
Cost: Domains begin at $12 a year and include automatic renewals. Email alerts are sent out before a domain is about to expire. This process may help to avoid losing a domain when away or forgetting to renew it. Lower rate domains for .dev are possible for developers at between $12 to $15 per year.
Register.com – Best Reliability
Register.com Best Domain Registrar Review
The company began pretty much as soon as the internet was started. Trust in the brand follows its longevity in the domain registration space. It is unlikely to disappear on you.
Domain registration and transfer are easy enough. There are plenty of extra tools available that are either free or at affordable prices to launch the first website. Privacy protection is charged on top of affordable domain registration, so the total can be more than at some competing services.
Cost: Domain registrations can be as low as $5 for 1 year. However, WHOIS privacy protection adds $11 to each domain registration annually, so the total is $16 and sometimes more for unusual TLDs or other alternatives.
The Three "Rs" of Domain Registration: What is Their Meaning?
You may come across the registry, registrant, and registrar. These are called the three Rs of domain registrations.
The registry is where top-level domains are held, and the details are stored for them. The domain extension helps to identify which registry will manage it. Verisign manages all dot com domains, for instance. Other registries are managed by different companies.
The registries are managed by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Fees commonly apply to the former when registering or renewing a domain.
When “purchasing” a domain, the registry is essentially giving you’re the right to use that domain for the term of the registration period. The domain registrar (Namecheap, etc.) notifies the appropriate registry when a domain is registered that they will administer.
While we think of domains are something we own, exclusive rights are granted similar to a lease arrangement for the registration period. Therefore, while we never technically own it, it works as if we do.
After the domain expires and various cooling-off periods have been run through, the domain usually becomes available for repurchase. Some services exist to attempt to robotically grab choice domain names upon expiry within a nanosecond of their becoming available.
When registering a domain for a business, consider whether it’s worthwhile registering alternative TLDs like a .org or .net version as well. Also, think about whether plural or singular versions are worth grabbing at the same time too.
Some unpleasant people register similar or alternative versions of a name in an attempt to grab “type-in” traffic that was intended to reach your site. Common misspellings and other tactics are utilized here.
It’s more difficult than ever to register two-word or even three-word domains for human-readable words today. Most are already registered. So, it’s necessary to get creative with domain registration ideas or look for premium domains as an alternative if you have deep enough pockets.
Using a respected domain registrar also avoids issues like performing searches for available domains and seeing the registrar themselves scoop them up before you’ve registered them. Big-name registrars keep searches private and don’t pre-emptively purchase domains that their customers look to acquire.
What to Look for in a Domain Registrar
It’s a choice whether to use one domain registrar purely for domain registrations and a web hosting company for hosting your site or to use a single company for domain registration and hosting in one.
There is considerable overlap between registrars that offer hosting and visa versa. It can save money in the short term to take up deals for domains and free (or heavily discounted hosting) from a domain registrar. However, hosts like BlueHost still offer a free domain (at the time of writing) with hosting accounts if you want to go the other way.
We’d probably recommend keeping domain registration with registrars where that’s their main focus and hosting with a company that specializes in that. However, it is a personal choice, and no option is wrong. With that said, if you’ll grow into a larger site or wish to do eCommerce, then we’d suggest keeping domains and hosting separately.
Here are some other factors to ponder:
Terms and Pricing
The price might be reasonable for the first year but be different for subsequent renewals. Namecheap charges more for renewals, for instance.
It’s also sometimes possible to get discounts for multi-year registrations. A few registrars offer coupons for first-year registrations, but many do not for renewals.
Newly registered domains cannot be moved within the initial 60 days per ICAAN rules for TLD domains.
Some domain transfers are free but with other registrars, they charge what amounts to an exit fee to arrange it for you. When you have many domains to move away from, these can add up fast.
What About Expiration?
Some registrars will renew your domain automatically within 30 to 60 days of possible expiration. Others like Namecheap allow their customers to indicate the domains to automatically renew and those to not do so.
Don’t assume that domains will be automatically renewed for you. Check what the registrar does and the settings on your account after setting it up.
Additional Services and Features
Many extras are included with most registrars today either as freebies or as options for premium features.
What to Look Out For
Unclear pricing is not a good thing. Registrations should include the domain name price, the ICANN registration fee for applicable domains, and any sales tax. Nothing more than that.
With premium domains, more care is needed. They often will cost more and have extra fees that you might not expect. Auction domains cost far more and may include additional domain renewal costs and other extras.
Hidden fees aren’t normal and enforced third-party connections shouldn’t be the case either. Also, look out for any negative news relating to a registrar including customer complaints.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here’s our list of FAQs for domain registrars and domain registrations in general:
Here are a few suggestions:
- Clear pricing
- Affordable cost but not necessarily the cheapest
- Easy to manage
- Good DNS services to make changes easily
- An uncomplicated Dashboard
- Good customer service support
- Fewer upsells
- Good long-term reputation
It’s preferred that you register domains with a separate service to your web hosting. That’s even truer when you will grow the site substantially or register multiple domains.
When registering a domain, it is recorded by ICANN.
Using a host that offers free or paid hosting via a sub-domain such as yoursite.ourdomain.com does not register a domain for you. These types of platforms don’t look professional and won’t have private domain email either.
If registering an initial domain for one year, then it will need renewing annually to avoid losing it. Owners can renew a domain for multiple years in a single action or indeed, can register a new domain for multiple years at the outset.
Some registrars will hold an expired domain for 60 days or longer post-expiry or make it available for resale right away. Each registrar has its policies on domain renewal after it has expired.
Picking out a domain registrar and registering a domain name with them isn’t as complicated as it seems. Once you’ve made your selection, then the registration process only takes a few minutes.
Also, be sure to use a quality web host to keep your website online. Together, they form the backbone of your internet presence.
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