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.
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.
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.
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.
Owning a domain name requires regular fees for renewal. 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.
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.
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.
Best Domain Registrars
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.
Domain.com is a popular domain registrar that has been around since 2000. Domain registration rates start at $2.99, with the most-common .com sold for $9.99. WHOIS protection does cost extra, at $8.99 annually.
In addition to domain registration, Domain.com also offers a host of other services, including website hosting, business emails to match your domain, and added security features, like SSL certificates and SiteLock to prevent malware and spam.
Namecheap is another accredited domain registrar that has been around since the start of the century. Its affordable $8.88 price for domain registration (for .com domains) includes WHOIS privacy, which is a great deal.
Namecheap has a unique domain marketplace, too, where you can buy or sell domains. Transferring is made simple, and there is 24/7 live chat support when you need assistance.
Name.com offers domain registration for $8.99, or for free with its website hosting service. Renewals cost a bit more at $12.99. You can also create email accounts to match your domain, or boost privacy with SiteLock and SSL certificates.
WHOIS is an additional charge and not available for all domains. Live support is also limited to specific business hours, although a knowledge base is available when phone and chat support are unavailable.
Hover is a simple, straightforward 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 free with your domain registration.
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.
Another thing to keep in mind with Hover is the limited support — only available from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 12 - 5 p.m. on weekends.
Although BlueHost is a website hosting provider, it’s also accredited for domain registry. A .com domain is $11.99 a year with BlueHost, although BlueHost does offer a free domain if you purchase a hosting plan.
Domain registration includes auto-renewal and domain lock, which prevents your domain from being transferred without your authorization. Live support is available 24/7.
Another website hosting provider, HostGator offers free domains with a hosting plan. Otherwise, a .com domain starts at $12.95. HostGator automatically renews domain registrations, and WHOIS is available for another $14.95 annually.
Because it offers hosting and website building services, HostGator could be a one-stop-shop if you are interested in handling most of your website needs all in one place.
In 2015, Google launched its simple domain registry service — with which you could save money thanks to a lack of upsells. The popular .com domain is offered for $12 a year, complete with free WHOIS protection.
You can choose auto-renewal with Google Domains, and your domain registration includes a custom email with Gmail. This domain registrar is still in the beta phase, so there might be more functionality and options in the future.
HostPapa underpins more than 500,000 websites across the United States. 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 “.xyx,” “.online,” “.cloud,” and “.business.” It also has easy-to-use tools that make creating websites and email addresses quick and simple.
GoDaddy has made a name for itself with catchy commercials and advertising, but it’s a trusted domain registrar for nearly 19 million customers.
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.” 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.
Hostinger makes it easy to get your website up and running with low-cost domain and hosting options combined with fast, secure servers. This domain registrar stands out with features like 24/7 chat support and an intuitive user control panel that’s powerful and WordPress optimized. Hostinger also has 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.
DreamHost delivers fast, secure, and reliable domain registration and website hosting to help your business build consumer trust. With DreamHost, you can enjoy enhanced domain hosting features like free private WHOIS registration — DreamHost will provide its contact details in lieu of yours to ICANN for the WHOIS listing.
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 registry process.
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.
Originally published Mar 10, 2020 11:01:08 AM, updated April 10 2020