In the world of websites, few things are more coveted than the perfect domain name. There are more than 350 million total domain names in existence today, and that number is growing by the millions every year.

Unfortunately, once a domain name is taken, it’s taken. For you, this means your unique domain idea could be snatched up at any minute. So, once you drum up the right name for your business or website, it’s never too soon to get it registered with a domain registrar.

To prepare you for your big purchase, we’ll cover what domain registrars do, explain how to pick the right one for you, and finally list the best domain registrar options available to help get your name out there.

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What Is a Domain Registrar?

A domain registrar is a service that sells and manages domain names. Domain registrars are approved and overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Your website cannot exist without a domain name, so it is essential to be registered through a domain registrar.

There are hundreds of domain name registrars, but each one offers different services and might even have some limitations depending on your needs.

How to Choose a Domain Registrar

Before you type in your domain name and hand over your payment information, you should take the time to weigh the pros and cons of each different domain registrar. These are the main factors to consider.

Pricing

You might find a low-cost option for registering your domain name, but yearly renewal fees could be expensive. Find a domain registrar that allows you to register your domain within your budget. Reasonable options typically range from $10 to $20 a year. Note that you can find free domain registration, but this often comes with limitations to customization.

Keep in mind, too, you might find services like HubSpot’s CMS, which offers custom domain names among many other features you can check out with a free trial.

Available Domain Names

Not every registrar can register every type of domain name. While most provide support for .com registrations, some are restricted by geographical area and may only sell country-specific domain extensions, such as .ca for Canada.

Privacy

When you register a domain name, it will be tied to your personal contact information, including your address. Domain privacy, often called WHOIS protection, shields your information from the public. Some top domain registrars offer WHOIS Protection for free or at a great value in a bundle, so this is something to keep in mind as well.

Domain Transfers

You might one day decide you’d like to switch your domain registrar, or you might later choose to have your website hosting and domain registration all in one place. Either way, you’ll want the smoothest process possible to transfer your domain name if needed. Before you register a domain name, look into the transfer process. Most domain registrars make it easy to transfer domain names, but some might have a complicated process or charge extra fees.

Expiration Dates

Owning a domain name requires regular renewal fees. The minimum required expiration date after registering a domain is one year, but you can also find plans for longer — some up to 10 years. You can set up automatic renewal, but what if your payment fails to go through? Be sure that the domain registrar you choose also offers a grace period so you have a chance to update your payment information without losing your domain name after it expires.

Additional Services

Along with domain registration, most registrars also offer additional services such as WordPress hosting, email hosting, website building tools, and email marketing solutions. The quality and price of these offerings vary. Some providers include them with every domain registration, while others require you to add and pay for each service individually.

Brand Reputation

Reputation matters. Before registering your site, check the provider’s online reviews. See what current and former customers say about its service, support, and overall pricing. Look for red flags like long response times, slow-loading websites, or regular issues with credit card payments.

Since ICANN rules stipulate that domains can’t be transferred within 60 days of registration, you’re stuck with the provider you choose for at least two months. Thus, it’s better to do the legwork upfront rather than suffering through bad service for 60 days.

Now that you know what to look for, here’s our list of the top domain registrars and a summary of their standout features.

1. Domain.com

Domain.com is a popular domain registrar that has been around since 2000, known for its fair prices and user-friendliness. Domain registration rates start at $2.99, with most .com domains sold for $9.99. The service also offers a range of other top-level domains like .org, .tech, and .space, and you can purchase a domain for up to five years.

Unlike with some other registrars, WHOIS privacy protection does cost extra, at $8.99 annually. WHOIS hides your personal information from the public record, so it's highly recommended if you’re purchasing a domain for personal use. If registering with a business name and address, you might get by without it.

In addition to domain registration, Domain.com also offers a host of other services, including website hosting, a website builder, business emails to match your domain, and added security features like SSL certificates and SiteLock to prevent malware and spam.

search page for the domain registrar domains.com

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2. Namecheap

Namecheap is another accredited domain registrar that has been around since the start of the century, serving over two million customers to date. Its affordable $8.88 price for .com domains does include WHOIS privacy protection, which makes for a solid deal.

Along with its competitive pricing, Namecheap makes the entire purchase process quick and hassle-free. Plus, you can purchase a domain for up to ten years. That way, you’ll avoid repeatedly paying the $12.98 renewal charge.

Namecheap has a unique domain marketplace, too, where you can buy or sell domains. Transferring is also made simple, and there’s 24/7 live chat support when you need assistance.

search page for the domain registrar namecheap

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3. Bluehost

Though first and foremost a web hosting provider, Bluehost is also accredited and acclaimed for domain registry services. A .com domain from Bluehost is $12.99 a year. However, if you sign up with Bluehost hosting, you’ll get your domain free for a year.

Bluehost has a stellar reputation in the hosting space, and its prices are unmatched — shared hosting plans start at just $2.95 per month. And, if you’re building a WordPress website Bluehost is a leader in managed WordPress hosting too.

The catch, however, is that privacy protection is an extra charge of $11.88 per year. Again, it’s well worth it if you’re registering a domain with personal information, but definitely something to consider if your budget is tight.

Domain registration with Bluehost includes auto-renewal and domain lock, which prevents your domain from being transferred without your authorization. If you encounter any issues, live support is available 24/7.

search page for the domain registrar bluehost

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4. HostGator

Another hosting provider, HostGator also sells domain names and offers free domains bundled with its hosting plans. Alone, a .com domain starts at $12.95. If your preferred domain isn’t available with .com or .org, HostGator will provide alternatives with other top-level domains.

Like other options here, HostGator automatically locks your domain names from being taken and renews your domain registration. WHOIS privacy protection is also available for an additional $14.95 annually.

Because it offers domains, hosting, and even website building services, HostGator can be a one-stop-shop if you want to handle most of your website needs all in one place.

search page for the domain registrar hostgator

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5. Google Domains

Purchasing a domain is generally pretty straightforward, but if anything complicates the process, it’s the upsells. It can seem like there’s always some extra add-on to purchase when all you want is a simple .com domain.

In 2015, Google launched its domain registry service, Google Domains, to solve this problem — the entire domain search and registration process is as simple as it gets. Its .com domains are available for $12 a year, complete with free WHOIS protection and auto-renewals. The only additional offer is a custom email through Google Workspace, which is $12 per user per month.

A couple of things to keep in mind, however: Google Domains is still in the beta phase, so there might be more functionality and options in the future. Also, if you’d rather not share your data with the tech giant, it’s best to look elsewhere.

search page for the domain registrar Google Domains

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6. Hover

Hover is another easy-to-use domain registrar, no matter if you are purchasing, transferring, or renewing a domain. A .com domain is $12.99 annually, and WHOIS privacy protection is included with your domain registration.

Hover is also notable for its search tool — if you can’t find the exact domain you want, Hover provides an extensive list of similar names paired with your preferred top-level domain and other domain extensions too. You can even filter Hover’s suggestions by business category to narrow your domain search.

If you are registering multiple domains, Hover offers bundled discounts. There aren’t a lot of added services here, but you can choose to add on custom email to match your domain.

One more thing to keep in mind with Hover is the limited customer support, available only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET on weekends.

search page for the domain registrar hover

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7. GoDaddy

You’ve probably heard of this one — GoDaddy has a huge presence online, managing over 80 million domains used by nearly 19 million customers, and has made a name for itself with catchy advertising.

First-timers on GoDaddy’s website will also notice there’s no shortage of sales and deals. GoDaddy provides benefits like 30% discounts on new domain extensions such as .online, .store. and .world, and 50% discounts on popular domains like .com, .co, or .org. Keep in mind that the price you see might only be temporary.

GoDaddy’s .com domains tend to sell for $11.99 per year, but beware of the $17.99 per year renewal fee. Full domain privacy and protection is an additional $9.99 per year. You can also choose from more than 100 subdomains to find the perfect web address for your site and use real-time monitoring tools to check your site’s registry status.

search page for the domain registrar GoDaddy

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8. Name.com

Name.com offers domain registration for $9.99, or for free if bundled with its website hosting service. However, annual renewals cost a bit more at $12.99. You can also create email accounts to match your domain, or boost privacy with SiteLock and an SSL certificate.

WHOIS protection is an additional charge at $4.99 annually, and it’s and not available for all domains — keep that in mind before any purchase. Live support is also limited to specific business hours, although a knowledge base is available when phone and chat support are unavailable.

search page for the domain registrar name.com

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9. Hostinger

Hostinger makes it easy to get your website up and running with low-cost domain and hosting options combined with fast, secure servers and a comprehensive website. Hostinger also stands out with its 24/7 chat support and an intuitive user control panel that’s powerful and WordPress optimized. Most .com domains are $8.99 per year, and privacy protection is an additional $5 annually

However, you can claim a significant discount on your domain cost if you sign up for a Hostinger hosting plan. Hostinger offers plans that scale up with the size of your site, so you don’t have to go through complex transfer processes as your business grows and develops. Start with their shared hosting plans and upgrade to dedicated hosting plans as you see fit.

search page for the domain registrar hostinger

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10. DreamHost

Another reputable option, DreamHost delivers fast and secure domain registration and website hosting to help your business build consumer trust. With DreamHost, you’ll find competitive domain pricing ($8.99/year), and your domain purchase includes free private WHOIS registration. DreamHost will provide its contact details in lieu of yours to ICANN for the WHOIS listing. Additionally, domains and security are automatically renewed.

DreamHost also has unlimited subdomains with options for shared, dedicated, and VPS hosting and single page domain management for DNS record editing, domain forwarding, and transfers. These features make it easier to add more sections to your website without having to repeat the entire registration process.

search page for the domain registrar Dreamhost

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11. HostPapa

HostPapa underpins more than 500,000 websites across the U.S. The site features a custom domain name finder and services for website building, hosting, and email. It also provides more than 400 applications — including shopping carts and blogging tools — that come free with its web hosting packages.

HostPapa supports common .com and .net domains along with new variations such as .online, .cloud, and .business. It also has easy-to-use tools that make creating websites and email addresses quick and simple.

search page for the domain registrar hostpapa

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Leave Your Mark By Registering a Unique Domain Name

Your website doesn’t come to life until you’ve secured a domain name, so be sure to choose a domain registrar that makes this process simple, safe, and affordable.

Keep in mind the services you want from a domain registrar, and be sure to consider pricing, expiration dates and renewals, domain transferring, and privacy when deciding which domain registrar is the best for you and your business.

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Originally published Nov 13, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated November 13 2020

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