Having owned and operated hundreds of websites for longer than a decade, I’ve come to know a variety of different domain registrars and have used many of the main ones. I’ve bought domains through registrars and through expiring domain auctions, so I have used lots of registrars as a result.
This is a simple guide into selecting a quality domain registrar that provides all the bells and whistles (private registration, customer support, etc) while also being economic. Below, we look at some of the popular registrars and their renewal rate, which leads us to recommend a lesser known, but equally good registrar that has consistent pricing–even at renewal.
Let’s start by looking at what separates the good from the bad:
This is my number one factor. I’ve purchased hundreds of domains from a variety of different sources and while the initial registration is generally reasonable, the renewal price can be double (sometimes even more, depending on the registrar) the original price. There is a wide spectrum in renewal costs for a particular domain extension (such as .com, .net, .org).
Renewal pricing is important, because if you’re going to maintain a domain for a long period of time the difference in original price vs. renewal price can add up, especially if you have multiple domains.
For a business, private registration may not be necessary; however, if you own a domain, there must be a way to contact the domain owner. You can provide this information, but it becomes publicly available. Most of us don’t want our name and address available for anyone to see, and I’ve made the mistake of not having private registration on a domain. The consequences are often that I get solicited and far more scam calls than I would otherwise receive. Companies also try to use this information to send mail-marketing, geared at having you renew your domain at exorbitant rates.
The information that is associated with every domain, commonly referred to as “whois” info, is general in nature and includes things like phone, address, and the date the domain was registered and expires. Private registration obscures your personal information and displays proxy information instead. This means that if someone contacts the e-mail listed, the correspondence will get forwarded to you as part of the private registration service.
TIP: Some domain registrars will include private registration service free for the first year, but then charge upon renewal.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet. (I’m not going to mention any registrars that are not ICANN Accredited).
Best and Worst Picks
Best Choice: Namecheap
I’ve been using Namecheap for at least a decade and currently have 40-50 domains registered with them. What I like about Namecheap is that the initial registration is reasonably cheap compared to other domain registrars and, importantly, includes private registration. Where Namecheap shines is they have very good customer service (such as a live chat); their renewal prices are not massively inflated over the first year price (often only $2-3 more per year); and most importantly, their private registration service is free (compared to somewhere like Godaddy, Bluehost, Domain.com, and many other that charge between $6-12/yr on top of the renewal fee).
I’ve transferred most of my domains to Namecheap from places like Godaddy, Name.com, Namebright, Network Solutions, and many other registrars because they did not meet the above criteria for me. Simply put, Namecheap provides the best service and pricing.
Best Choice Alternative: Namesilo
Technically, Namesilo is going to be the overall cheapest registrar, and I personally have about 30 domains registered with them. One big feature is that their renewal price is the same as their initial price. They also offer free private registration like Namecheap. One draw back is that the user interface is not as clean as Namecheap. I can’t really comment on their customer support, aside to say, that in addition to live chat, they also have a contact phone number.
Worthy Mention #1: DreamHost
I think DreamHost was the first company I ever hosted a website with that was not free. I always valued their customer service while I hosted with them (I don’t currently use them for hosting, but that’s an entirely different topic). Their registration services are similar to both Namecheap and Namesilo in that private registration is always free and their renewal price is not much higher than their initial price (and is the same for some domain extensions).
Worthy Mention #2: NameBright
NameBright is okay from a pricing perspective; however, they do charge for private registration– although the fee ($2.95/yr) is nominal compared to some other registrars (like Godaddy). I recently had a domain with an issue and tried to use their support system which left me unimpressed to the point where I eventually just moved the domain to Namecheap.
Worthy Mention #3: Dynadot
I don’t see Dynadot getting much love on other lists of the best registrars for domains. The have great pricing which is super transparent: they display the renewal price in addition to the initial price and most importantly, their private registration is free. The area where Dynadot could improve would be on the user interface of their domain management panel; it’s not as intuitive as some of the other registrars. Although I’ve never had to use their support, they offer online chat, as well as a phone option and boast short wait times.
Other Option #1: Godaddy
Godaddy is well-known, and the only advantage they have is their website builder, which is not something Namecheap provides. However, if you are planning on using a CMS like WordPress, or other website creation platform like Wix or Shopify, then the website builder isn’t worth the extra cost of going with Godaddy. Like Namecheap, Godaddy provides good customer support; however, upon comparing the live chat wait times, I found that Godaddy’s wait was more than 5 times longer than Namecheap’s wait.
Also, although Godaddy provides great promotions to register a domain initially, the promotions usually don’t include the cost of private registration (which is $9.99 the last time I checked), making the cost on par with Namecheap. Where Godaddy gets expensive is on the renewal, which is several dollars higher than their initial registration price (not the promotional price), and then they charge you $9.99 for the private registration making the overall cost about twice that of Namecheap.
Other Option #2: Domain.com
This option is mentioned a lot by other websites if you search for “best domain registrar” or similar terms. The reason it is highly ranked is because they provide one of the best affiliate commissions. Nearly all websites we have found (including ours) that provide these sort of reviews make use of affiliate links which means that if a user clicks on a link and makes a purchase, then the affiliate receives a small commission (this commission doesn’t require you to pay more either).
Domain.com is good as an initial registrar in terms of their pricing. However, like Godaddy, they charge annually for private registration. Some people get around using private registration by registering all their domains under a company, but you still need to provide contact information for the company.
Worst Option: Network Solutions
I’ve purchased a lot of domains at auction. These are domains that people let expire for one reason or another, and a lot of these end up at Network Solutions. Network Solutions is one of the oldest domain registrars, but their pricing is very predatory in my opinion. Their renewal price for a .com extension is $37.99–and that doesn’t even include private registration (which they charge a separate fee for). In fact, they also charge for stuff that other registrars provide completely free, like domain forwarding. Any domain I’ve had on Network Solutions gets immediately transferred to either Namecheap or Namesilo for the reasons mentioned above.