After choosing a name for your website, the next thing you have to do is choose a domain registrar.
The process of registering your domain isn’t difficult, but it’s essential. Your domain is the unique address for your site. Each domain name is actually a series of either four or six numbers, separated by periods or dots, such as 126.96.36.199.
The domain registrar handles the technical part of setting up your name. Of course, you’ll also need a web hosting service to store your files for others to retrieve on the internet. You’ll find many registrars available for buying cheap domains. However, it’s not just about the price. It’s also about the ease of its setup and the support you receive afterward.
Our guide will cover everything you need to know about making an informed choice for domain registration. We’ll discuss the things to look for when comparing different services. We’ve also provided detailed reviews of some of the best services available to make your decision easier.
The role of the domain registrar
Setting up a website begins with choosing a name and finding a domain registrar to register it with the overall domain database known as the registry. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the system. It ensures compliance with the guidelines and guarantees that every website has a unique domain name.
You can think of the domain registrar as the go-between who makes changes for you in the registry. These services are accredited by ICANN to fulfill this role. Each one offers a specific selection of domain name extensions, such as .com, .net, or .biz, and other top-level domains (TLDs). Of course, this list has grown in recent years to include a variety of industry-specific domains and domains for different countries.
Things to look for in a domain registrar
Not all domain registrars are the same. Pricing and the services they offer vary. Some work independently of hosting services while others work exclusively with web hosting companies for a more seamless user experience. You can find a domain registrar that offers what you need. That’s why you will want to consider these features when choosing a domain registrar:
- Ease of use
- Associated services
You’ll find that prices for domains vary widely, often dependent on the extension. Some extensions are more desirable than others, hence the higher cost. Even if they seem unfamiliar, it’s often wise to consider one of the lesser-known extensions. Since they’re newer, you may luck out and get a really cool domain name for branding purposes and SEO.
The prices for domain registration can range from $0.99–$20 per year on average. Demand plays a significant role in the price. Some so-called premium domains, such as .auto or .jobs, can run even higher. That’s another reason you should give careful thought to your choice of an extension with cheap domain names.
The other pricing factor is the availability of a domain name. Just because you have your heart set on a certain domain name doesn’t mean you’ll get it, especially if you’re trying to score a .com domain. Luckily, most domain registrars will offer other suggestions that may include the name you want with different domain extensions.
One thing you should check is the price difference between buying a new domain and its renewal cost. Often, you’ll find that the first year is reasonably priced and that subsequent ones are quite expensive in comparison. Look for what the cost includes, such as an SSL certificate, available hosting packages, and ecommerce offerings.
Pro tip: Stick with a name that is short and memorable instead of a long one for the best domain. Lengthy URLs are harder to remember, so you could miss out on potential visitors.
Ease of use
Consider how easy (or difficult) it will be to set up your new domain or transfer one if it exists elsewhere. This is one area where you want to pay attention to any hidden fees. Some domain registrars may charge extra for either of these services. The cost you see may only be the ICANN fees combined with the cost to register the domain name, not transfer it.
Usually, once you’re good to go, you won’t visit the domain registrar’s website until it’s time for renewal. Some sites are less user-friendly than others. However, you should be able to find what you need to do with a decent, well-written tutorial to walk you through the renewal process.
When you first register a site, you’ll need to provide contact information for the administrator of the website. It’s an ICANN requirement to put the contact info in the Whois database, so don’t get put off by having to provide your name, address, and phone number. Every domain has this information available publicly. Unfortunately, it’s one thing that hackers exploit.
You’ll find that domain registrars offer varying degrees of Whois privacy with ICANN. Some provide this service for free as long as you keep your site with them. Others will provide it free the first year and charge for it afterward. Some treat it as an add-on service for a price.
Pro tip: You’ll also receive notifications to verify your info every year. Make sure that it is current, otherwise you may miss your renewal and domain name. That’s a pain if it happens. Trust us.
Many domain registrars offer add-on services — for an additional fee, of course. Some are useful, such as domain privacy and WordPress hosting. Others are money grabs. We suggest that you review the charges carefully before you hit Pay Now. Some may include these add-ons by default. And check the renewal costs of any services that you decide to get before choosing a domain registration service.
Tech support is a big deal if you have issues with a domain name. We appreciate an extensive knowledge base, but it’s also essential to have a means to contact a live person. We suggest checking out the options for getting help, whether it’s email, phone, or chat. After all, customer support is paramount, whether you’re trying to change your nameservers or configure your DNS.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to check the support hours. While many domain registrars provide 24/7 help, others may have set times that can leave you hanging if you need help on a weekend.
Hidden fees are the biggest source of complaints about domain registrars, especially the cheapest domain offerings. That’s why we suggest taking your time through the checkout process. Another annoying gotcha is the auto-renewal for your domain name registration. Be sure to check if it’s turned on by default. Also, find out if the registrar reminds you before they run your credit card.
We’ve seen some services that kindly let you know 30 days, 15 days, and just before your domain expires, which we appreciate in domain name registrars.
Best cheap domain registrars
Here are some of the best cheap domain registrars to consider.
Namecheap offers several benefits that will catch your eye as a potential domain registrar, starting with its low prices. The first-year costs are quite affordable for TLDs. Namecheap also offers free goodies that many will appreciate, including privacy protection for life — no one can access your Whois information. It also provides DNSSEC to protect the security of your website and its DNS.
Namecheap will give you a free professional email address, but it’s just for a two-month trial. After that, you’ll have to pay for one of their three subscription plans. The beginner tier doesn’t offer a lot, making it a poor choice for businesses. While Namecheap doesn’t have phone support, chat is available 24/7 if you have any problems with your domain name.
- .com: $7.98 per year
- .net: $8.98 per year
- .org: $7.48 per year
- Excellent live chat support
- Free WhoisGuard privacy protection
- Intuitive user interface
- A decent slate of additional services, such as a VPN
- No phone customer support
- Higher renewal costs for ongoing domain registration
GoDaddy offers a complete website solution with both domain registrar and web hosting plans at several price points. It also has name recognition going for it since it’s been around so long. While its prices are more expensive, GoDaddy does offer a decent lineup of domain extensions to choose from and three levels of privacy protection, including malicious domain transfers.
GoDaddy allows up to 100 subdomains, making it an excellent choice for small businesses. You can also purchase domains in bulk. The domain management interface has improved in recent years. The company has 24/7 phone support but limited live chat. GoDaddy also offers Linux servers for experienced users. One thing we didn’t like is the nickel-and-dime approach to additional services on its hosting packages.
- .com: $11.99 per year
- .net: $14.99 per year
- .org: $9.99 per year
- Complete solution
- Easy checkout process
- Extensive selection of domain extensions
- Extra costs for additional services
- Pushy upsells
- Higher priced renewals
3. Google Domains
Google Domains offers only the service its name implies, so it’s not a great choice if you’re in the market for hosting, too. This service has the advantage on the user interface front because it’s familiar to most people who have used other Google products. That makes navigation easy-peasy for managing your domain. Unlike many services, your renewal price won’t increase.
Your site rests with Google’s Cloud DNS, which offers another layer of security. You’ll get free Whois privacy protection and two-factor authentication, which we appreciate in a domain registrar. Google Domains has an okay selection of domain extensions that cover some of the most popular ones. Perhaps its strongest selling point is its integration with other Google products with a cheap domain.
- .com: $12 per year
- .net: $12 per year
- .org: $12 per year
- Free domain privacy protection
- Low prices
- Free email forwarding with up to 100 aliases
- Google Workspace integration
- Auto-renewal by default
- Limited extensions
The name only scratches the surface of the services that Domain.com offers. They start with domains and branch out into much more. The domain registrar has over 300 TLDs, making it an excellent choice if you have a small, niche market. They also offer web hosting with a DIY website builder interface that is easy to use.
The downside is that the checkout process isn’t streamlined. The sales pitch for other add-on services is pushy and annoying. If you do opt to use Domain.com’s web hosting, you can bundle it with your domain. That’s one reason you need to consider both pieces when choosing a domain registrar, especially if you don’t have tech experience.
- .com: $8.99 per year
- .net: $12.99 per year
- .org: $8.99 per year
- One-stop solution
- Unlimited subdomains with all hosting plans
- Over 300 TLDs
- Annoying add-on push during checkout
- Poor support team response
- Higher renewal prices
- Extra cost for privacy protection
BuyDomains’ name says it all. That’s their business model, which includes snatching up and selling premium domains. This site is great if you want to get a specific name for SEO and are willing to pay the price. It’s not so good if you’re the person that lost their domain because it expired. BuyDomains will handle transfers — for a price.
That said, BuyDomains isn’t like other registrars. They’re in the secondary market as a reseller. That means the pricing is variable, depending on the domain name and its popularity. You can easily pay into four or more figures for the right domain. They also offer web hosting services if you want an all-in-one solution for small business owners researching registration services.
Pricing: Varies by domain
- Excellent customer support
- Ideal for users in search of a particular name
- History of buying up expired domains sometimes inappropriately
Hover isn’t the best source of cheap domain names, but they are more transparent than a lot of domain registrars. They increase prices for renewals but not as drastically as GoDaddy. Hover throws in free Whois privacy protection, which takes the sting away from the uptick in the renewal price. The domain registration process is simple with upfront pricing to make it even more straightforward.
Unlike many other services, Hover goes the extra mile to help you set up your site with third-party hosting packages. They also offer bulk pricing, which is a boon if you want to buy several domains at one time. They score high marks on the support front, too. Their support team offers an online ticket system, chat, and phone options.
- .com: $12.99 per year
- .net: $15.49 per year
- .org: $13.99 per year
- Simple checkout process
- Sales on domain extensions
- Free Whois privacy protection
- Bulk pricing
- No additional services available
- No WordPress support
HostGator is one of the older domain registrars — and for good reason. They strive to make a user-friendly experience right from the start. They also offer website hosting, which can score you a free domain if you go with them. If you’re new to running a website, it’s an attractive offer. Like many services we reviewed, the discounted pricing is good for one year.
HostGator offers several support options, making it easy to get answers to your questions, which beginners will appreciate. However, domain prices are a bit high when you consider the renewal increase. While HostGator offers domain locking, privacy comes at a cost. There are tons of upsells through the registration process and hosting if you opt for it. However, there is a 45-day money-back guarantee if you bundle your purchase.
- .com: $12.95 per year
- .net: $12.95 per year
- .org: $12.95 per year
- User-friendly interface
- Excellent knowledge base
- Free domain with a hosting plan
- 24/7 year-round support
- Higher renewal costs
- No free Whois privacy protection
Bluehost is another all-in-one solution for small businesses if you’re starting from the ground up with your website and need a web host, too. One thing that makes Bluehost stand out from the competition is the endorsement by WordPress. WordPress doesn’t endorse just anyone, so that makes it worth a look. The prices are a bit expensive, given the higher renewal. However, Bluehost goes the extra mile to make things user-friendly.
Bluehost offers web hosting plans that are value-priced. Their DIY website builder is a breeze to use, too. Your domain is free if you choose any of their subscriptions. Managing your domain is easy with its cPanel interface to handle things like nameservers. Plus, Bluehost’s hosted websites are monitored 24/7 — so you can rest assured that your domain is safe.
- .com: $12.99 per year
- .net: $14.99 per year
- .org: $9.99 per year
- A decent lineup of other services
- Affordable web hosting plans with a free domain
- Unlimited subdomains
- No pushy add-on sell
- So-so support
- Higher renewal prices
Finding the right domain registrar for your needs
As you can see, domain registrars vary immensely. Some are more user-friendly than others. Transparency is another feature that stood out for us when it came to renewal pricing. Of all the registrars we reviewed, only Google Domains offered one price for both initial registration and renewals. Our advice is to check out the fine print no matter which one you choose. The best domain name registrars make the process seamless without a pushy sales pitch.