How do you do this? You go to a company called a domain name registrar, and you pay them to make sure a particular name is registered with you. You become the owner of that domain for as long as you’re paying for it, however, the terms of the contract work out.
A domain name registrar is exactly what it sounds like: it’s an organization that manages the registration of domain names. To be official, a registrar has to be accredited by a generic top-level domain registry—don’t confuse the two—and a registrar will operate in accordance with the registry.
Registries are an article for a different time, but briefly: registries are databases of domain names and all the information of the people who registered them. Registries are managed by an organization called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which is a huge deal for domain registration.
Basically, you can only register from companies that have been accredited by ICANN. This won’t narrow things down for you, because there are still a lot of ICANN-accredited options.
So now we know what a domain name registrar is.
In case if you are in hurry, here are my 10 Best domain registrars:
- NameCheap (Get your .com at $5.88/1st year, Promo code: NEWCOM)
- Bluehost Domains
- Google Domains
- 1&1 IONOS
What makes a registrar good? What makes one bad? What are the things you should watch out for?
I’m sure you can guess that this question is not as simple as it sounds. Everyone has different needs. Some people are interested in buying domains in bulk, and other people just want to buy a single domain for their blog.
Even others might be in the middle, perhaps small businesses who want to make sure no other business can take their name. And of course, there is a lot of variation between all of these examples.
While price is of course going to be one of the main things you look at (and that we will look at as well) it’s not everything. Particularly for smaller buyers, prices are fairly consistent across companies and you’ll probably save or lose a few bucks a year depending on your choice. You should still do what’s best for you financially, but it’s unlikely to bankrupt you.
There are a few other things that matter when taking a look at domain name registrars:
One very important thing to keep in mind is the distinction between hosting and domains. This can be confusing because many domain registrars are also hosting companies. Briefly, hosting is the house itself (the supply of your internet space/resources) and domains are the address (the name of your internet house).
Many companies offer packages that include both hosting and domain registration, and there is a lot of variation between them.
I’ll be taking a look at those options in this list, as well as straightforward domain-registration-only options.
Even as far as registering domains alone goes, not all registrars are licensed to sell all domain name extensions. For example, you might be able to buy a .com anywhere, but maybe not a .uk. And of courses, prices vary—we’ll take a look at how good companies are at offering these options.
Another important thing to look out for is Whois privacy. Basically, part of ICANN’s job is to maintain a list of registrants.
This list is called Whois, and its publically available—meaning anyone can search a domain to find the information of the registrant.
Naturally, this might be a frightening prospect for a lot of customers. Pretty much every domain name registrar offers tools to block your specific details from the list (usually replacing it with the company’s details).
They key question is whether the companies include this for free, or if not, the price at which they sell this often desirable service. I’ll be taking careful note of that as well.
You’ll also want to be wary of a company’s specific domain expiration policy. If your domain expires and you fail to renew it, someone else could take it, which is annoying for small time users who found a good name for their poetry blog, and threatening to businesses.
Another few items I’ll be taking a look at, and which you should too if you’re doing your own research: add-on services, customer support, and renewal prices.
Many companies offer some additional services for free, and/or additional services at additional costs. Each company tends to have its own combination of these. And yes, these often include the hosting services and Whois privacy protection I mentioned earlier.
Customer support is self-explanatory, and I’ll only comment on it if it is particularly good or lacking.
As for renewal prices many companies offer low prices for the first year, and then renewal of the domain for subsequent years will see a price jump.
It’s a lot of information, but don’t worry—we’ll put these ideas into practice by looking at this list of domain registrars. As always, there’s some subjectivity, and towards the upper end of the list, you’ll have to do some digging on your own.
Nonetheless, in my experience, these have been the best domain name registrars.
Here’s a company that’s surprisingly easy to forget. They don’t perform poorly, but the name is easy to confuse with a lot of other domain registrars…chief among them, domains.com.
Domain.com is (I assume) a smaller registrar, because you can’t find a ton about it. Domain.com, like many names here, offers hosting services. Unlike many of the names here, it is known for domains first (it’s in the name, after all).
I’ll be honest—I haven’t tested out Domain.com for hosting yet, so I can’t say whether it’s a solid bet getting a domain through a hosting package (an option Domain.com offers).
Domain.com is not usually a name that will come up when one considers hosting—on the other hand, I don’t want to be biased against a smaller company.
Let’s leave that at a bit of an unknown: for domain registration alone, however, Domain.com is alright. The Whois privacy protection fee is annoying, but common, and Domain.com also offers a lot of top-level domain extensions and overall decent prices with some neat default add-ons.
- Domain.com has a wide selection of unique top-level domains at decent prices. HostGator (also on this list) in fact uses Domain.com to allow its users to purchase such domains when HostGator does not offer them directly.
- Pricing is average, but a little bit on the lower side. For example, a single .com is $9.99.
- Every domain name registration comes with Let’s Encrypt Free SSL, email forwarding, DNS management (pretty common), and transfer lock (which protects you from unauthorized transfers). In my opinion, these free additions make the price a little more worth it, even though it wasn’t too high to begin with.
- Whois privacy is an extra $8.99 a year, which, depending on the amount and type of domains you’re buying, can double or quadruple your price tag.
- While Domain.com isn’t technically worse than Hostinger when it comes to upselling, the additional products are displayed more largely and are less integral to your name registration. So I would say that Domain.com can have a mildly annoying checkout process.
- Because of its size and lack of brand-name power, you might have a little more trouble finding a community of users online to consult when you have issues. Domain.com does have support (including phone support), which hopefully should be fine, but some people like having a large community of fellow customers as a resource.
HostGator is another company particularly known for hosting. Naturally, HostGator also offers domains, particularly because many of its hosting products come with them. The latest total is Another fun fact: HostGator’s parent company is EIG (Endurance International Group), which also owns Bluehost.
Although HostGator is less of a massive force in hosting, it still services hundreds of thousands of customers and manages 9 million domains.
To put HostGator’s place here simply, it’s on the pricier side of things and could perhaps use some more default features. However, HostGator’s quality of service is pretty good, and users get good control over their domains.
- As with some of the other options listed, HostGator is good at integrating domain registration with hosting. This is unsurprising, as HostGator is primarily a hosting company.
- Every domain registration comes with domain locking (prevents the unauthorized transfer of the name) and auto-renewal. This last point might be a weakness for some, but it can be turned off. Remember: it’s generally a good feature to have if you’re concerned someone else will take the name.
- Comprehensive control panel and options for managing your domain name. However, you might find the user interface a little clunky.
- Whois privacy is an extra $14.95 a year, one of the pricier additions. Additionally, the prices themselves are slightly higher than average. It’s not going to break the bank, but for those searching for a simple and cheap domain registration, HostGator may not be best.
- HostGator is a little more limited in their directly available selection of top-level domain extensions, however they work with Domain.com to sell more unique extensions.
- HostGator can have iffy customer support at times; personally, I find their support pages and knowledge base lacking. At the least, they could use some updating and redesigning. The representatives are fine, however.
Hostinger is, like many of the names on this list, primarily known as a hosting company.
However, Hostinger is one of the more unique hosting companies, for two main reasons: first, Hostinger is employee-owned, and second, it owns a free hosting service called 000webhost.
Uniqueness hasn’t stopped Hostinger from becoming one of the more popular names in hosting, with a current count of 29 million users (though in fairness, I’m sure many of them are using 000webhost).
Nonetheless, Hostinger does provide a good domain registrar service. The gist: an overall solid registrar with lower than average pricing and a generally straightforward checkout.
- Hostinger’s prices are on the cheaper side. A single .com is $8.99, for example, and subsequent years are $10.99 (which is close to the industry average).
- Many of the hosting companies on this list have good integration with hosting packages for those who desire them. Hostinger is one of the best choices for this: their shared web hosting packages start at $0.80 a month (for the first year). For people looking for simple and affordable websites, Hostinger is a great option for packaging domains and hosting together.
- Hostinger takes a ton of payment methods at checkout. Many registrars only take card, or at most, card or PayPal. Hostinger accepts these as well as a multitude of popular crypto-currencies.
- I can’t say that Hostinger is free of upselling, but what they have isn’t too bad. They’ll only try to sell a few add-ons, which are pretty normal for people to buy with domains anyway, and some you might be genuinely interested in. The checkout process itself is very quick and easy.
- Whois privacy protection is an extra $5 a year. This isn’t too bad, considering that some companies charge twice as much, but at the same time, other companies barely charge for it.
- Hostinger doesn’t pack many default features/services with the domain registration. When you buy the domain, it’s basically just the domain, and anything else is an extra. Whois privacy protection is just one notable example. Hostinger excels in many ways, and I like Hostinger as a hosting company, so I wish they could throw in more along with the domain purchase for free.
Register.com might be a little less well known, and it’s one of those domain registrars that I often fail to remember (ironically) because of its own domain name. Register.com, name.com, domains.com, domain.com…and plenty of others along this line can get a little difficult.
I was surprised to learn Register.com in facts manages over 2.5 million domains. Digging into it, I found Register.com It has much more of a reputation than I would have expected.
The main appeal of Register.com is its low prices. However, their website is not very good: it is difficult to find pricing and some pages seem out of date. I would advise contacting a customer service representative first to double check instead of simply purchasing from the site.
- Register.com has some of the lowest prices I’ve seen. Prices range, but many single .com registrations would be only $5 a year. Prices can go as low as $2.95 a year depending on your add-ons. Register.com also has one of the cheapest hosting and domain bundles, with a starting price of $1.95 a month.
- Register.com is also pretty good at handling bulk domain purchases.
- Register.com has a lot of good add-ons. Unfortunately, not many are included by default with the purchase of a domain name.
- Register.com’s website is a little out of date and the pricing/features are difficult to find on-site. Unless it’s just my luck, visiting their domains page displays a prominent list of top-level domains for which “pre-registration (is) closing soon.” The extensions (.forsale, .delivery, etc) all say the pre-registration “closes” in early 2015. If they have failed to update that, the other stuff on their website could possibly be outdated, and you’d probably need to speak to a representative to be safe.
- Whois privacy protection is an extra $11 a year, so if you want that, Register.com isn’t the cheapest option.
6: 1&1 IONOS
1&1 IONOS is a popular hosting company and domain registrar—particularly popular in Europe. This is only fair: 1&1 IONOS is one of the oldest hosting companies and domain registrars, having been around since 1988. As a matter of fact, 1&1 IONOS is the largest hosting company in Europe and manages over 12 million domains, certainly making it a major force in domain name registration.
1&1 IONOS’ hosting products are known for being inexpensive and feature-packed. Is the same true for its domain registration? Somewhat. The initial prices are low, but the renewal prices are unfortunately pricier. However, 1&1 IONOS still excels with what it includes for free.
- 1&1’s prices are on the cheaper side of average for the first year, and sometimes are simply inexpensive. The renewal prices are hefty (see below) but for limited use, 1&1 IONOS offers very good prices.
- The following come default with a domain registration: One SSL Wildcard Certificate, a professional email address with 2GB of space, and up to 10,000 subdomains.
- Customer support is 24/7, but it’s not perfect.
- While 1&1’s prices for the first year are on the cheaper side, renewal prices are significantly higher. For example: a .com is $9 the first year, then $15. A .me is $5 for the first year, but $20 a year after that, and so on. So if you use 1&1 for more than two years, you might find it less cost-effective.
- A little bit of upselling is involved. Nothing too serious, but it might get a little frustrating. As with GoDaddy, this has to do with 1&1’s nature as a hosting company.
- Customer support can sometimes be frustrating, particularly when navigating your account/website it might be difficult to find certain things.
Ah, here’s a name no one here hasn’t heard of: Google. Although we must admit, Google Domains is less well known. Google Domains is a more recent venture, having been around since June 2014. As a matter of fact, Google Domains is still in its beta stage.
It’s a curiosity for sure. Google has a reputation for stepping into every type of internet service possible. Moreover, they are known to generally succeed, but also have quite a few failures that never caught on.
Google Domains is surprisingly solid. It’s very simple and straightforward, but many will appreciate the Google user interface applied to domain registration and management.
- As with most things Google, Google Domains is very easy to use. Imagine how simple most of the Google tools you use are, and then apply that to purchasing and managing a domain name. An added bonus of this is there are almost no upsells in place to bother you, or special deals or coupons or anything of the sort.
- The G Suite add-on: while email is sometimes a free extra with registrars and hosting companies, G Suite is an extra $5 a month. At first, this sounds bad, but the G Suite is more than email: it includes Google Docs/Drive, Calendar, video conferencing, and more. Some might find this unnecessary—can’t you just use your free Google account to use Google Drive with coworkers? Maybe so, but for those who want to contain things within their business’s platform, this a useful addition. Plus, it’s 30GB of storage, not 10GB.
- Integrates well with other website builders, such as Wix, Squarespace, WordPress, etc.
- Limited Whois privacy protection for free, and not just for the first year (limited because it depends on the domains you purchase).
- While customer support is generally good (you get chat, phone, and email support), the days are limited to Monday to Friday and the hours are limited to 6am to 9pm PST.
- I wouldn’t consider this a major flaw, but pricing is about normal ($12 a year for a single .com). I expect a little more out of a Google product, but that’s alright.
- Part of the benefit of simplicity is that the service is overall lightweight. Again, it’s still in the beta stage, so we have yet to see what a full roll-out would look like. For now, one of the drawbacks is that domain management tools can be kind of basic for smaller users.
- Some special domains may not be available. This changes so you’ll need to check—certainly Google Domains has offered steadily more domains over the years.
Hover is certainly one of the younger companies on the list: founded in 2008, Hover is not the most famous registrar, but it has been steadily building its name. Although it might be newer as a company, it was formed by Tucows Inc., which is the world’s second largest domain name registrar. So you can feel a little more at-ease if you’ve never heard of it.
To put it simply, Hover is a company that sticks to what it knows. It delivers simplicity and high quality service at average or slightly above average prices.
- Initial registration prices might not be too bad, but it depends.
- Free Whois privacy for as long as you use Hover to manage the domain.
- Hover brings one of the benefits that is often unique to smaller companies: a personality, and in this instance one that is socially progressive. Hover sponsors many projects emphasizing empowerment for marginalized groups, and also supports the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been a major force in pro-internet activism.
- Limited upselling, so the checkout process is very simple.
- Renewal prices are lower if you buy more domains. This is not uncommon, but Hover does a particularly good job at this.
- Good customer support, though phone hours are unfortunately limited. However, Hover makes a point of using real people and not automated systems for their support—which probably makes the tradeoff (in hours) worth it.
- General pricing is on the higher side of average. For example, a single .com is $12.99.
- Adding to this, email add-ons can be on the pricier side. Email forwarding is $5 a year, and a 10GB email account is $20. This is overall pretty well-priced, but some registrars include forwarding for free.
Aside from the email add-ons, Hover doesn’t offer anything else. For some people this is actually a benefit—you can just purchase your domain and be done with the process. Others who wish to couple domains and hosting will find Hover isn’t ideal.
Like NameCheap, GoDaddy’s placement on this list should not come as a surprise. GoDaddy is an undisputed giant in the world of hosting and domain registration. It’s been around for a while—since 1997 to be precise, and has made a big name for itself.
As a matter of fact, GoDaddy is the world’s largest domain name registrar, with a whopping 77 million domain names under management. Big players are attractive for some and turn-offs for others—all I can say is that while GoDaddy seems to be hit-or-miss with most people I talk to, you can’t get to 77 million domain names without doing something right.
- Although it’s not as cheap as NameCheap, GoDaddy is still generally inexpensive. The first year the price of a single .com is only $0.99. Though the renewal price will then jump to nearly $18, if you’re only interesting in holding onto the domain name for a year (or two) GoDaddy might be one of the cheapest options.
- Overall strong service. Don’t let the number of pros/cons here throw you off: the cons are relatively minor, and most of GoDaddy’s appeal is in doing the job well, which is an overall positive hard to list out. Aside from those cheap first year costs, GoDaddy has
- GoDaddy does well with offering popular extras/add-ons such as storage space or limited hosting. While NameCheap has in my opinion, better add-ons and default features, GoDaddy is better if you want to keep your hosting and your domain name within the same platform.
- While the upfront prices might be better, renewal prices can be a little more expensive.
- GoDaddy’s checkout process is frustrating. It’s still easy to finish, but you’ll be pushed at every point to purchase add-ons. This is not surprising, as GoDaddy is known for being one of the biggest hosting companies as well as domain name registrars.
- WhoIsPrivacy protection is at least $9.99 a year, while being free with NameCheap.
- Customer support is hit or miss. I haven’t had bad experiences with GoDaddy’s customer support, but others have.
- The domain management tool can sometimes be slow, and depending on the user, complicated.
Bluehost should be another familiar name to many, particularly those who have looked into hosting. It’s maybe a middle-brother in terms of age, having been around since 2003. There’s not a huge amount of information on Bluehost’s numbers, but they host over 2 million websites.
While Bluehost is more famous for hosting (it’s in the name, to be fair), it also deals with domain names. To summarize their place on this list:
Bluehost is good for those who want to have hosting and a domain name within the same platform. It’s affordable and does well at the hosting part. If you’re only looking for a registrar, Bluehost is fine, but it isn’t the best.
- Prices are about normal, at $11.99 a year for a single .com domain. However, with Bluehost’s quality management, it’s a good deal.
- Bluehost has one of the best knowledge bases I’ve seen. In addition, Bluehost’s representatives are available by phone, ticket, and chat.
- As with many options on this list, Bluehost is a very good pick for those who want to keep their domain and hosting under the same roof: Bluehost’s hosting is one of the best options and their plans often include free domains.
- Straightforward checkout process.
- Privacy protection is an additional $0.99 a month. For some this amount is pretty negligible, but for those looking to get a single domain for the cheapest price they can, Bluehost might not be the top pick.
- As a domain name registrar alone, Bluehost is fine but not stellar—not much to set it apart from other well-known registrars. Its appeal lies mainly in those who wish to connect their hosting and domain names within a single platform.
NameCheap is almost always going to be in a list of the best domain name registrars. It’s a highly reputable company that has been around since 2000, and currently manages over 10 million domains.
NameCheap may not be the best option for everyone, but it’s my personal favorite for being very affordable. Individuals and small businesses alike can save a lot with NameCheap, whether you’re buying a single domain for yourself or a purchasing in bulk. NameCheap certainly lives up to its name.
- Prices will vary, but to give you an example of a single domain for an individual: .com prices start at $8.88 a year, .net prices are usually $12.98. These are pretty low, and make it affordable for just about anyone.
- Following the good prices, renewal prices are also pretty good, and for smaller customers, the renewal price will only be a few dollars at most. If you buy the domain for more than a year at checkout, you can save even that.
- Whois protection software is free for the first year.
- Very good customer support, including live chat and a comprehensive knowledge base. Representatives are usually helpful.
- The domain manager page is very easy to use, even for someone without much experience.
- Very good extras/add-on services, such as shared hosting. You also get custom DNS for free.
- The only support options are ticket and live chat, so no phone support.
Uniregistry might be the coolest domain name registrar you haven’t heard of. Uniregistry was founded in 2012, and became ICANN-accredited in 2013—pretty recent for the domain registration game.
Despite only being around for a few years, Uniregistry already counts more than a million domains under its management, and has 423 extensions to choose from.
Now, the reason I separated Uniregistry on this list is because it’s a bit unique. While all the other names listed allow for buying domains in bulk, and while Uniregistry allows for buying small numbers of domains…Uniregistry is particularly aimed at people investing in bulk purchases of generic top-level domain extensions (gTLDs).
I won’t take too much time here bogging you down with specifics, but I do like Uniregistry a lot, to the point I have a separate review of it for you to check out.
- Whois privacy protection comes at no extra cost upon purchase.
- Moreover, Uniregistry has two-factor authentication available at no extra cost.
- Customer support is particularly good: all users get a dedicated account manager who will respond to them. This is in addition to the normal options of phone support, live chat, and ticketing.
- Pricing is custom for larger customers. You’ll speak with them about your needs and get a custom price. In my experience with Uniregistry, it was definitely lower than the current market prices. You’d contact your account manager for that.
- The domain management tool is good. Many of the names here have good domain management tools, but I’m giving Uniregistry special credit because it does a very good job of helping people who are managing a large domain portfolio.
- Uniregistry’s focus on domain names means that it doesn’t offer many add-ons. For some this is alright—maybe you just want to purchase the domains and be done with it, especially if you’re just investing in bulk purchases. On the other hand,
- This is probably one of the more serious drawbacks to Uniregistry. As I’ve said, Uniregistry is geared towards those buying gTLDs, but unlike many other registrars, Uniregistry doesn’t offer pre-order options for extensions that are coming soon. You have to wait until the extension is live before you can place your order, which might make things risky (especially because someone else could have purchased your preferred names with another registrar that allows for pre-ordering).
- If you are only interested in buying a single domain, or an otherwise small number of domains, Uniregistry’s prices aren’t much better than competitors. There are better registrars for those with smaller domain needs.