A domain name registrar is a company that allows you to purchase and register domain names. All domain name registrars are accredited by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a non-profit organization responsible for managing domain names.
Domain names make the internet easy to use for everyone. Without domain names, you’ll have to enter long strings of numbers called IP addresses to visit websites.
Domain names solve this problem by allowing websites to choose addresses using easy to remember words, for example, wpbeginner.com or google.com.
To learn more, see our beginner’s guide on what is a domain name and how does it work.
To make domain names widely available, ICANN allows companies to apply for accreditation and become a domain registrar.
These companies then compete with each other to sell domain name licenses which allows you to get better service and tools when you purchase your domain name.
What Domain Registrars Really Do?
All domain name records are stored in a centralized database called registry. For a domain name to be recognized, it needs to be added into that database with all related information about it.
A domain name registrar is given permission by ICANN to make changes to your domain name’s information in the database on your behalf. A domain name registrar also provides easy to use tools to make those changes using your web browser.
That being said, let’s take a look at how to easily choose the best domain registrar for your website address.
How to Choose The Right Domain Registrar
Not all domain registrars have the license to sell all domain name extensions. For example, some domain registrars can only sell domain names with country-specific extensions (like .io, .in, or .ly).
Each domain registrar may offer different services along with the domain name registration. Some registrar may offer cheap domains as their promotional offer while others may give free add-ons to attract customers.
When choosing the best domain name registrar, we look at the following four criteria:
1. Pricing and Registration Period
The first thing you want to check is the domain name prices. For example, some domain registrars may offer low prices upfront for the first year registration, but their renewal prices can be different and significantly higher.
You can register a domain name for a minimum period of 1 year. However, some companies may require a higher registration period like 2 years minimum. You can register a domain name for up to 10 years at a time.
If you are buying a new web address, then we recommend registering your domain name for 1 year. You can turn on automatic renewal, so your domain does not expire.
You also need to check for any additional fees for domain transfers, renewal, and other charges.
2. Domain Transfers
Domain names can be moved from one domain registrar to another. Normally, you wouldn’t need to transfer your domain name right away, but if you’re unhappy with your domain registrar, then this option should be easily available.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you cannot transfer a domain name during the first 60 days of the registration. This initial period is decided by ICANN. After that, you are allowed to move it to any other registrar that you want.
Most domain registrars make it easy to transfer domain names without any extra fee. However, some may try to make it complicated or charge an extra fee to remove domain lock.
Make sure that you review the domain transfer policy before you buy a domain name from a registrar.
3. Domain Expiration Policies
Domain names are registered for a specific duration. You can renew your domain registration before its expiration date. However, if you forgot to renew your domain name, then it expires and anyone can register it.
For businesses, this means someone can take over their domain name. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, you can set up auto-renewals for your domain name.
Even if you use the automatic renewal feature, it is a good idea to check your domain registrars expiration policy. Some domain registrars offer a grace period even after the expiration. This grace period allows you to renew your expired domain name.
Whereas bad domain registration services will immediately auction your expired domain to the highest bidder.
We have heard dozens of horror stories of business owners losing their domain name because their credit card expired, and their registrar did not have a grace period. This is one of the many reasons why it’s extremely important to choose the right domain name registrar.
4. Add-on Services
You may also want to review what other services are offered by your domain registrar. While you may not need these services right now, it is good to know that they have them.
These add-on services may include domain privacy, domain parking, extended expiration protection, and more. Some domain registrars may even sell WordPress hosting service, email hosting service, website builders, email marketing services, and more.
Top 3 Things to Watch Out for When Choosing a Domain Name Registrar
Due to the competition in the domain registration business, you will come across companies with some very attractive offers. While these offers may look good, there may be some downsides that you may not notice right away.
Following are a few things to watch out for when choosing a domain name registrar.
1. Add-on Pricing
Some domain name registrars can automatically pre-check add-on services when you purchase a domain name. If you don’t uncheck those options, then this would increase your bill significantly. Typically a .com domain name should not cost you more than $14.99 / year. If it does, then it should raise a red flag.
You must pay attention to the checkout page and uncheck any add-on registrar services or upsells that you don’t need like WHOIS Guard. On top of that, it’s always a good idea to double-check the total amount you are charged in your credit card statements.
2. Bad User Experience
Most domain registrars try to make their website easy to use, so they can keep you as a customer. However, some domain registrars do the exact opposite.
This would make it difficult for you to change your domain name settings like nameservers. You will need to do that if you wanted to transfer domain to a new host, or a new domain registrar.
The easiest way to look for this is by searching for domain registrar’s online reviews. Keep in mind, that very few happy customers leave online reviews, so it’s important to read the reviews thoroughly.
3. Hidden Fees
You may also need to look for the hidden costs and fees when choosing a domain registrar.
Some domain registrars may have special offers for cheaper domains for first-time registrations. Most beginners don’t realize it, but the renewal cost of the domain are often quite different and even higher.
All good domain registrars make it easy to transfer your domain name to a different company. However, some will put an additional fee.
That being said, let’s take a look at some of the best domain name registrars, and how they compare against each other.
Best Domain Registrars to Buy a Domain Name
Choosing the right domain registrar saves you from possible future problems. It not only helps you protect your brand name but also makes it easy to move your website to a new host or service provider.
Based on the criteria we discussed earlier, these are the top domain registrars to buy your domain name from.
Started in 2000, Domain.com is one of the most popular domain name registrar on the planet. They allow you to register all top level domain name extensions (TLDs) and even dozens of country code top level domains (ccTLDs).
Domain.com has a quick domain search tool that you can use for your domain name research. Their search also shows you premium domains as well.
You get access to all domain management tools that you would expect from a top domain registrar including private registration, whois privacy protection, free whois, bulk registration, easy transfers, easy DNS management, email account, email forwarding, and other additional services. You can even purchase web hosting from them if you like.
If you have any questions, then you can contact their helpful customer support team via live chat or email. They also have an extensive knowledgebase with helpful guides.
Domain.com is offering WPBeginner readers 25% off discount on domain products. All you have to do is either click on the link from our website, or use our domain.com coupon code: nameboy
If you only need to register a domain name without web hosting, then we highly recommend Domain.com. However, if you’re looking to start a blog or website, then option #2 might be better for you because you can get a free domain name.
Bluehost is one of the largest hosting companies in the world, and they are an official WordPress hosting partner. As part of their web hosting service, they also offer domain name registration.
With our Bluehost coupon code, WPBeginner users can get a free domain name, free SSL certificate, and a discount on web hosting which is a perfect deal for anyone looking to make a new website.
Basically, you can get started for $2.75 per month, and get a free new domain name.
We use Bluehost as our web hosting provider for several of our small websites. Their interface is intuitive for beginners, it comes with WordPress pre-installed, and their chat support is very helpful when needed.
They also have many features that website owners need such as ability to add unlimited subdomains, malware protection for websites, professional emails through G Suite (Google Workspace), and more.
In case you need help with anything, you can always contact them through live chat support or call their 24/7 phone number.
3. Network Solutions
Network Solutions is one of the largest domain registrars on the planet with over 7 million domains registered with them. You can register a wide variety of domain extensions including the popular .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, and basically all other niche TLDs.
Since Network Solutions is one of the biggest domain registrars, their services offering include web hosting, website builder, website security tools, business email address, online marketing, SEO services, and even IT support.
Basically as a small business, they can be your one stop shop for your online web presence.
You can get started by using their domain name search tool to quickly see available domains. They also show you premium domains in their results as well.
Their platform comes with all the domain features that you’d expect such as DNS management, private registration, WHOIS privacy, etc.
Network Solutions is offering our readers 25% off discount on domain names. You will need to use our link from their site, and our Network Solutions coupon code: WPBEGINNER during checkout.
Note: the promo coupon code is case sensitive all uppercase.
You can also get a free domain from Network Solutions when you purchase their WordPress hosting plans or other website / eCommerce hosting packages.
HostGator is another popular company offering website owners a one-stop shop for domain names and shared website hosting. They offer a nice selection of extensions, domain privacy, and easy to use DNS management tools.
They have an easy to use domain search tool that helps you quickly find a suitable domain name for your business. Their domain management area is beginner friendly and well documented which makes it easy to transfer domains if you need to.
Aside from domain name and hosting, they have also introduced a brand new drag & drop website builder called Gator. They’re offering free domain name and hosting with all of their website builder plans.
In the early days of WPBeginner, we used HostGator as our web host. We were on their VPS hosting plans until our website got much larger, so we had to switch to the Google Cloud platform.
GoDaddy is one of the oldest and most popular domain registration company. They manage more than 84 million domain names for over 20 million customers.
They offer a wide variety of popular domain name extensions to choose from. Their prices are highly competitive, and you may even get a significant discount on the first year of your domain’s registration.
For professionals, GoDaddy offers premium Domain club membership that offers discounted domain pricing. This makes sense if you’re registering or managing hundreds of domain names.
GoDaddy has a powerful easy to use domain management interface which allows you to transfer your domain name, change name servers, update contact information, manage bulk domain renewals, and customize various other domain settings.
GoDaddy also has a suite of other web services including hosting, website builder, email marketing, and more.
Related: See 7 best GoDaddy alternatives that are cheaper and more reliable.
Namecheap is another top domain registrar on the market. They have a powerful domain search tool that helps you find the right domain name and makes suggestions when your preferred domain name is not available.
They also offer domain add-on services like domain privacy and premium DNS. Their domain management area is clean, but it’s not as user-friendly as GoDaddy’s new interface.
One nice thing about NameCheap is that they offer free whois privacy with all their domain names.
We used to use NameCheap but ended up transferring our main domains to other providers because we simply had too many issues logging into their domain management panel.
Also we’ve heard way too many complaints about their managed WordPress hosting plan because it doesn’t support popular plugins like AIOSEO and the platform isn’t ready for scale despite what their support tells you.
DreamHost is another popular domain name registrar and web hosting service provider. They are offering our readers a free domain name with domain privacy included for anyone signing up for their Shared Unlimited hosting plan.
You can also register a domain name without buying hosting through them for $8.99 / year which also includes free private registration.
DreamHost offers 400+ TLDs and comes with all domain management tools that you can expect from a large domain provider like DreamHost.
Aside from shared hosting, Dreamhost also offers managed WordPress hosting called DreamPress which is great for larger websites.
Bonus Premium Domain Registration
BuyDomains allow you to search for premium domain names matching your search terms. Premium domain names are domain names that are already registered but are available for sale from third-party. These domains are often more memorable, shorter, and brandable which is why they are more expensive.
If you cannot find a suitable domain name, and you have the budget, then you can use BuyDomains to search for a premium domain name.
Final Thoughts – Best Domain Registrar
There are literally hundreds of other domain registrars and resellers in the market that we have not included in the list including Hover, Google Domains, Tucows, 1&1 Ionos, Shopify, eNom, Name.com, Namesilo, etc.
The reason is because they all primarily offer the same services, and we want to make it easy for our users to pick the best and most secure domain registrar without causing choice paralysis.
In our opinion, Domain.com is the best domain registrar in the market for small businesses as well as large companies. They offer the most reasonable pricing and has all the features.
If you’re looking to build a website, then you can get a free domain name from both Bluehost and HostGator when you signup for their web hosting.
They both are among the best web hosting companies on the planet, and they also offer step by step website set up for any type of website including real estate, small business site, online store, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions About Domain Name Registrars
Having helped over 670,000 users pick the best domain registrar, we have answered quite a lot of questions. Below are some of the answers to the most frequently asked questions about domain name registrars.
Does it matter which domain registrar I use?
Yes, it does because not all domain registrars are created equal. They may have different domain name extensions, features, prices, etc. Above all though, you want to choose a domain registrar that has good support and offer a reliable network infrastructure.
Most business owners rely on their domain registrars for DNS which basically helps route users to your website. If your domain registrar has network issues, then even if your web hosting server is online, your users will not be able to reach your website.
Furthermore, you want to ensure that domain registrars have a good support and reputation because that comes in handy in case of emergencies.
This is why we recommend using Domain.com, Bluehost, or GoDaddy because they all have a reliable infrastructure and security.
Also we strongly recommend avoiding domain registrars like NameBright who use deceptive business practices to lock users in from transferring domains away.
Which is the cheapest domain registrar?
When it comes to price, nothing beats free. So the cheapest domain registrar is Bluehost or Hostinger since they offer you a free domain name with web hosting.
With that said, WPBeginner users can use our Domain.com coupon code to get additional savings on Domain.com which makes the prices very attractive.
What is a reasonable price for a domain name?
Domain name prices will vary based on the type of domain extension and registrar you choose, but a typical domain should cost between $9 and $14.99 per year.
We have a detailed guide discussing the costs of a domain name, and how to evaluate premium domain value.
But as a quick guide, here is how much a new domain registration costs with different registrars:
- Bluehost – Free domain with hosting $2.75 / month
- Domain.com – $7.45 for .com domain names with our coupon code
- Network Solutions – $7.49 for .com with our coupon code or FREE with their web hosting package.
- HostGator – Free domain with hosting $2.64 / month
- GoDaddy – $11.99
- DreamHost – Free domain with hosting $2.59 / month
Can I buy a domain name forever (permanently)?
No, you cannot buy a domain name permanently. Domain name registration is done on a yearly basis. However, you can pre-pay for up to 10 years which guarantees that you will have a domain name for 10 years.
As long as you continue to pay the annual renewal fee, you can own the domain permanently, and no one can take it from you.
The folks at Unstoppable domains are offering NFT domains for crypto wallets, and those you can buy permanently.
These Web3 domains currently do not work on all browsers natively, but we believe with the evolution of blockchain, in the future business will likely be able to own their domains forever even with popular registrars above.
Why is domain renewal more expensive?
Often domain registrars offer aggressive discounts on first year domain registration fee, and the renewals happen at the regular price.
This is why to maximize your savings, we recommend pre-paying the registration fee for 2-3 years, so you can lock-in your domain registration discount.
Who is the safest domain registrar?
All domain registrars have to follow ICANN policies, so technically they are all safe. However there are additional steps, you can take to protect your domain name from being stolen.
Such as implementing Domain Lock which prevents unauthorized domain transfers.
Furthermore, you want a domain registrar that offers two-factor authentication and security.
In our experience, both Bluehost and GoDaddy are the safest domain registrars.
If you’re looking for enterprise solutions, then many businesses trust Cloudflare Domains and MarkMonitor for safety.
Can someone steal my domain name?
Yes, domain name theft (also known as domain hijacking) is a common crime. Losing your domain can be devastating for small business owners. This is why it’s important that you choose a well-known domain registrar with a good reputation.
The way hackers can steal your domain name is by obtaining access to your domain registrar account. It’s important that you use a strong password and setup 2-factor authentication.
We also recommend small business owners to use an identity theft protection service to get near-real time alerts of identity fraud because generally domain theft, domain hijacking, and domain ransomware are often a byproduct of another hack.
Can I use multiple domain registrars?
Yes, you can absolutely use multiple domain registrars if you like. We have different domains registered across various registrars including Domain.com, Bluehost, GoDaddy, NameCheap, Name.com, and many more.
This is primarily because we buy / sell domains, and it’s just easier to transfer the domain from one account to another in the same registrar.
When you transfer domains to a different registrar, it can take up to 7 days.
Who determines if a domain is premium?
Premium domains are often domains that an existing business/entrepreneur owns. That person will determine the price of their premium domain.
Sometimes the domain registry themselves will hold back some premium domains and only release them at premium prices. In this case, the prices are determined by their sales team.
For example, we acquired a two letter am.co domain for our company Awesome Motive, and this was a premium domain.