Domain names are considered the real estate of the cyber world. But unlike real-world real estate, anyone can buy a domain name — or a hundred of them if you wish — without breaking the bank. This can open the door to limitless online opportunities; commercial and otherwise.
There are literally thousands of companies that offer domain registration services to the public. Each has different prices and different features that are bundled with every domain registered with them. While both the initial registration fee and the yearly renewal fee should be taken into account when searching for a domain registrar, it’s not very wise to base your decision on price alone.
What is more important is finding a reliable company that implements proper safeguards to protect your valuable domains from unauthorized changes, fraudulent transfer attempts and accidental expiration. If any of these things happen and you lose control of your domain, you will likely never be able to get it back.
You should stick with registrars that have an established presence and reputation in the industry, a competent support team, strong security measures, and of course, reasonable prices that can be justified by the level of service provided. Another important feature to seek is Whois privacy protection. This is a must-have for individual registrants because you don’t want all your personal contact details publicly published in the Whois database.
Several companies meet these criteria and we’ve selected a few of the most outstanding ones to discuss in this post. So, let’s have a look at five of the best domain registrars where you can buy a domain name at a fairly low price and with free Whois privacy.
Quick List: Top Domain Registrars
- Dynadot — Best account security and prices
- NameCheap — Regular discounts on many TLDs
- NameSilo — Best for bulk registrations
- GoDaddy — Lots of features and tools for business sites
- Google Domains — Cloud DNS (free) and professional email (paid)
Below we discuss each one of these companies in more detail and highlight the main features they offer.
This California-based company was launched in 2002, and they have since built a solid reputation for being a reliable, secure and affordable domain registrar. They keep their prices competitively low and rarely hike them up, unless in case of a price increase by the registry of a certain TLD. For example, they’ve recently had to slightly increase the registration fee for .com domains after Verisign (the central registry for .com) decided to raise the price, which in effect forced all registrars to increase their retail price.
One of the unique security features Dynadot has is the Account Lock feature. This is different from the standard domain lock feature, and it prevents any domain transfers or critical changes to your account while it is in “locked” state. Unlocking your account requires entering your birthday, which they ask you to provide during the sign-up process. It doesn’t have to be your real birthday, so you can provide any random number but you must remember it because you’ll need it later.
Each domain registered with Dynadot gets free Whois privacy by default. This is only available for TLDs that support privacy, which include most of the generic TLDs like .com, .net, .org, etc. Email messages sent to the private email address that appears in the Whois record get forwarded to your email after spam filtering.
You get email forwarding service for free with each domain (up to 10 forwarding email addresses). If you want to create full email inboxes, they do offer custom email hosting but it comes with limited storage (1 GB).
If you choose to use Dynadot’s free DNS service, you’ll be able to create custom records, subdomains, domain forwarding, and a few other options.
Live chat is available most of the time and they usually respond within minutes. Phone support is available during business hours (US pacific time). For complex technical requests, email support would probably be your best bet and you can normally expect a reply within a few hours.
Dynadot is straightforward and transparent with their pricing. They clearly list both the first-year registration price and the annual renewal price whenever you perform a domain search. The current registration cost for a .com is $9.99, and the renewal cost is exactly the same.
They have “cheap” in their name and they really live up to it. For more than 20 years now, these guys have been a top destination for those on the hunt for bargains on domain registrations. They usually run massive sales on different TLDs, especially new generic TLDs. But keep in mind that those discounted prices only apply to the first year and then the registration renews at the regular price, so take note of that before you rush to place an order and get surprised later.
NameCheap also has a range of web hosting services, including a managed WordPress hosting solution called EasyWP. Now, generally speaking, domain registrars aren’t particularly recommended for hosting serious websites, however, this company seems deeply invested in their hosting solutions and they’re worth giving a shot. Alternatively, check out some of the solid hosting providers we recommend further down this page.
NC was one of the first registrars to offer free privacy protection, which is enabled by default for each new domain you purchase from them. They use an anonymized email address in the public Whois record, which forwards messages to your protected email address. You can set the anonymous email address of each private domain to automatically change from time to time in order to further combat spam.
Using NameCheap’s nameservers allows you to take advantage of free email forwarding for up to 100 custom addresses per domain. If you are interested in having custom inboxes that can send and receive email, you can sign up for their business email hosting.
You can choose between free Basic DNS and paid Premium DNS. The latter is more recommended for business sites as it comes with advanced features, improved security and 100% uptime guarantee.
The support team is available 24/7 via live chat and email/tickets. Besides that, they have a comprehensive knowledge base with lots of helpful articles, practical guides and how-to videos. You can usually find answers to most of the questions you may have with a quick search of the help center.
NameCheap offers promotional prices for new customers as well as discounted prices on first-year registration of certain TLDs for both new and existing customers. You can snatch a new .com domain for just $9.16 (including ICANN fee) for the first year, and then you’ll be charged $13.98 for annual renewal.
NameSilo is a relatively lesser-known registrar, but not in the domaining community. With very attractive discounts on bulk registrations and transfers, they are especially favored by domainers looking to register multiple domains. But even if you just want one domain, you will not find many cheaper places that can serve you better than NameSilo.
Another reason that makes this registrar appealing to a wide base of customers is that they accept numerous payment methods including credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, Amex, UnionPay, etc.), digital wallets (PayPal, Skrill, Venmo, Alipay), and Bitcoin.
Free-of-charge Whois privacy protection is automatically added to each eligible domain in your shopping cart. Messages sent to the anonymous email address that replaces yours in the Whois database get redirected to the email address listed in your account’s settings.
Custom email forwarding is included for free (up to 100 addresses). And in case you are interested in professional email hosting, you get two providers to choose from: Google Workspace (G Suite) and Titan — each offering different plans and features.
The free DNS manager allows you to easily modify DNS records for your domains, either manually or by automatically applying one of many pre-configured DNS templates.
The support team is very helpful and available 24/7 via live chat and email.
A .com will cost you $9.95, which is also what they charge for renewal. You can get it at an even lower price if you join the discount program (requires a minimum deposit of $50 into your account funds).
GoDaddy is one of the oldest and the single largest registrar serving millions of users from all over the world. They offer different services aimed at small business owners and web professionals. The price point is a little higher in comparison to other companies, but you still get a good bang for the buck with around-the-clock live chat and phone support in different languages.
The official GoDaddy website comes in different localized versions that display content in the user’s local language and use local currency for billing. Some customers find that helpful, but if you prefer the US English/USD version, you can change the location and currency settings from the drop-down (or to be more precise, drop-up) menu at the bottom of the page.
There are three levels of privacy protection offered by GoDaddy: Basic, Full and Ultimate. The Basic plan is included for free and it hides your personal contact details from the Whois database, except for your country, state and organization name (if available). The Full and Ultimate plans provide complete Whois anonymity with additional security features that protect against unauthorized transfer and changes to your domain.
GoDaddy used to offer free email forwarding, but that’s no longer the case. You can get professional email services if you order a Microsoft 365 email plan or a more advanced email + Office plan.
Standard DNS management is included for free. If you want better security and reliability, you can opt for the premium DNS add-on.
Customer support via live chat and phone is available 24/7. Waiting time can be quite long at times. They seem to be more reliant on outsourced support lately and there have been some complaints about less-than-helpful support by some of their agents.
A new .com registration will run you $11.99 for the first year and then it’s $19.99 per year for renewal. They currently have a promotional offer where if you subscribe to a 2-year billing term, you get a .com for $20 for the first two years and then it renews at $39.98 for another two years.
You probably don’t need me to tell you about this one — it’s Google! Yes, they have recently tapped into the domain market and they are quickly becoming a top contender in this field. Whether you like the company or not, there is one thing you cannot deny: Their services are rock-solid reliable.
If you are looking for professional email hosting for your domain, you can simply select the Google Workspace add-on during checkout. In addition to custom email addresses, it also includes cloud storage and a handful of professional tools that may be useful for your business.
It should be noted that Google Domains, which has only recently come out of beta, does not accept customers from all countries at this point. It’s only open to certain countries and it may take them a while to start accepting customers from other locations (login to find out if yours is accepted).
No new company can effectively compete in today’s domain registration market without offering free Whois privacy, and sure enough, that’s what you get from Google. Just add any domain name to your shopping cart, and if the extension (TLD) is eligible for Whois privacy, the option will be turned on by default.
Google Workspace is one of the most popular solutions for professional email, and you can add it with one click when you check out your order. If you think forwarding email addresses will do, you get 100 aliases at no extra charge.
You can take advantage of Google’s highly reliable and secure cloud DNS service free of charge.
Customer and technical support can be reached 24/7 via live chat or email. Additionally, you have access to a thorough collection of how-to articles in the help center.
Google Domains has plain and simple pricing with no special promos or any other gimmicks. The price for registering a .com, a .net or a .org is currently $12.
Need Reliable Web Hosting, Too?
Although most domain registrars also offer web hosting, you probably wanna pass up those. The top registrars that have outstanding domain services are usually much less impressive when it comes to web hosting, which is often treated as a secondary service.
Most experienced webmasters register all of their domains at one or two registrars that they trust and then go look elsewhere for suitable hosting services. Keeping your domains in one safe place makes it much easier to manage and keep track of all of them. This is especially helpful for those who own multiple websites and use a different host for each.
In case you haven’t yet settled on a particular web hosting company, the following are three highly reliable providers to check out.
KnownHost: This web host has a wide range of low-end and high-end plans. Both of their shared and managed WordPress plans come with the fast LiteSpeed web server and cache, advanced security protection by Imunify360, free SSL certificate, 99.99% uptime, and lots of other features. On top of that, they have a team of competent US-based support agents who can actually understand English and give you useful answers (if you are familiar with outsourced support that most other companies have, you’d know what I mean!)
ScalaHosting: If you are going to host a large or a very active website, you probably need a powerful virtual private server (VPS) with dedicated and scalable resources, and that’s what ScalaHosting excels at. They offer managed VPS hosting powered by robust and flexible cloud technology. You can build your own custom server with any amount of CPU, RAM and SSD storage, and you can later scale any of these resources as needed. The support team is very helpful and available 24/7 via live chat.
Rocket: This is one of the fastest fully managed hosting solutions for WordPress and WooCommerce. If you are running a small business WP site, these guys will make your life much easier with their fully managed and optimized platform. All essential features, such as security, caching, CDN, backups, automatic updates, staging, and others come pre-configured right out of the box. And the 24/7 live chat support is impressively quick and knowledgeable. The only potential negatives is that they don’t provide DNS or email services, but you can easily manage those through third-party providers.
How We Chose The Best Domain Registrars
In addition to the author’s own personal experience with the companies listed above, our selection and ranking methodology took the following criteria into account:
This is arguably the most crucial aspect of any domain registering company. Account hacking and unauthorized domain transfers happen time and again, and you definitely don’t want to be the next victim.
Registrars that respect and value their customers’ domains should have different layers of security in place in order to detect and prevent any unauthorized access or changes. Standard security measures include domain lock, account lock, two-factor authentication, and additional verification steps for processing critical changes, such as transferring a domain out to another registrar.
Almost all domain owners nowadays prefer to keep their personal contact details private and hidden from the public, and they have every right and reason to do that. Having your personal details publicly displayed in the Whois database can bring about many needless risks. If you’re not getting free Whois privacy, you better move on to the next registrar.
We only chose registrars that are accredited by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). But that alone is not enough to establish trustworthiness, so we also looked at each company’s history in the industry and narrowed down the selection to the ones that have a proven track record of reliability.
Personal experiences with any support team do vary. An undeniable fact here is that there isn’t a single well-known company out there that hasn’t pissed off a few of their customers! While perfection may be out of reach, you should at least expect a prompt support team that comes to your rescue when things go sideways.
But you have to keep your expectations realistic since, after all, this post is about low-cost domain registration. So don’t expect a senior technician to answer your live chat request when you are paying $10 or so a year — not even $30 will get you that!
You generally shouldn’t expect much from live chat agents other than answering basic questions and helping with simple issues. Advanced technical requests that require handling by an expert technician are mostly resolved through email or tickets, and these should typically take no more than a few hours to be answered.
Offering discounted prices for new customers and new registrations is a common marketing strategy that many companies adopt. In such case, you shouldn’t have to read through a 10-page agreement to learn about any “special” terms and conditions or to find out how much you will be billed when the time comes to renew the registration.
Honest companies should clearly state any and all terms and conditions that apply to promotional deals, and they should list the regular annual renewal price next to the one-time promo price. Hidden fees and surprise charges are the last thing you’d want to be hassling about.
How to Register a Domain Name The Right Way
It’s easy to get too excited when getting a new domain name to the point of making a rushed and unthoughtful purchase that you may regret shortly after. Sometimes you think you’ve stumbled upon a winning domain, but when you do a thorough due diligence it turns out to be otherwise.
To help you avoid ending up in such situation, the following are some general steps to follow and tips to keep in mind.
Step 1: Pick the perfect name
Successful domain names have a few characteristics in common; they are short, catchy, memorable, and easy to pronounce and type. Avoid the use of hyphens, numbers, misspellings and anything that can make your domain name more complex and easy to forget or mistake. Try to come up with a unique and brandable name that reflects the purpose of your website.
Step 2: Pick a domain extension
As for the extension, or top-level domain (TLD), it is often advised to opt for .COM, especially for commercial projects. So, if you could find a nice .COM name that is still available then it would be your best bet. But that’s easier said than done since most worthy .COMs have already been taken.
If you run out of all possible choices, there are now hundreds of new generic TLDs (gTLDs) with plenty of decent available names. Some of these may even look more relevant and appealing, so don’t hesitate to explore other options.
Step 3: Do a trademark search
Not checking your chosen name for any potential trademark conflict may lead to a lot of trouble and frustration later on. Never settle on a domain that even remotely infringes upon the trademark rights of another person or company. Use free trademark search tools like Trademarkia to look up any registered trademarks similar to the name you have in mind.
Step 4: Search for similar website/business names
Even if the domain is available and does not conflict with a registered trademark, it is possible that another business is using the same or a very similar name under a different domain or through social media platforms. It is better to have a totally unique name that cannot be confused with another website or online business. A quick Google search should bring up any potentially conflicting sites or social media pages.
Step 5: Research the domain’s history
There is a good chance that the domain you’re about to register has been used by someone else in the past. Domains that have a dark history associated with spam or other problematic activities may have been blacklisted and penalized by search engines.
Of course, you could always turn the page, but it would save you a lot of time and effort if you start out with a clean domain that has no controversial past. Tools like the free Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine can come in handy for this purpose.
Step 6: Examine the backlink profile
It’s not just the domain’s past content that can affect its usability, the links pointing to it from other sites can also affect its SEO standing. If there are many low quality and spammy backlinks in its profile, you may have a hard time when trying to improve your site’s search engine rankings and increase organic search traffic.
There are some free backlink checking tools out there that provide basic analysis, but most professional webmasters use full-featured, premium SEO tools, such as Ahrefs and Semrush.
Step 7: Find a good registrar
Finally, when you are 100% positive you’ve found the ideal domain name and you’re ready to move forward and acquire it, your last task is to determine which registrar you will entrust your precious domain to. There are a few essential things to look for in a domain registrar, and we’ve walked through those earlier in this post.
Take your time to check out each one of the top domain registration services listed above and choose the one that best suits your technical requirements and budget.
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