You’re trying to figure out how to budget for your new website and need an answer to the question of how much a website costs per month. Along with factors like web design and web hosting costs, an important consideration is how much you need to spend on domain registration.
How Much Does Domain Registration Cost?
For most website owners, domain registration will cost in the range of $10-$20 a year.
That’s what most of the people reading this right now can expect, but it’s not the whole answer to what domain registration costs. On the low end, you may be able to register a domain for free (generally as an add-on to another service like web hosting). On the high end, popular domain names have sold for as high as tens of millions of dollars.
That’s a pretty huge range in cost. To figure out what accounts for the difference between the extremes and what you can expect, this post will share the most important information you need to know about what domain registration costs.
What is a Domain Name?
Before you spend money on something, you need to understand what you’re actually paying for. A domain name is the address you type into a web browser to bring up a specific web page. It’s the thing that starts with https or www and ends with something like .com or .org.
Some high-profile examples of domain names include www.google.com and www.nytimes.com. While every website technically has another address—the IP address that machines use to recognize it—as far as humans are concerned, the domain name is a website’s address on the web.
Why Do I Need a Domain Name?
Nobody wants to spend money on something if they don’t have to. But for many people, registering a domain name is downright necessary. For others, it can be a smart decision.
There are three main instances where someone would want to buy a domain name:
1. You’re starting a website.
A domain name is one of the expenses required in starting and running a website. It’s non-negotiable. If you want people to be able to see your website, you need a domain name.
2. You’re considering a business or website idea.
If you’ve got a great idea for a business or website you want to start and a name you like in mind, nabbing the domain name sooner rather than later is a smart idea. If you register a domain name before someone else thinks of it, you’ll stake your claim on it in advance while it’s still available.
3. You want to use it as an investment.
Buying domain names for investment purposes was more common in the early days of the internet, when there were more .coms with popular keywords still available to claim. Now that most are taken, it’s hard to find domains at a good price that make a solid investment. Nonetheless, if you think you have the skill spot a domain name likely to go up in value, you can buy it now in the hopes of selling it later.
6 Factors That Influence the Cost of a Domain Name
How much you spend on domain registration depends on a few main choices you make.
1. The domain registrar you choose
A domain registrar is a business that sells domain names and handles the business of registering them. There are hundreds of domain registrars, and each can set their own pricing for the domain names they sell. If any registrar you consider seems overly expensive or untrustworthy, don’t worry, you have other choices.
The best domain registrar to go with is one that’s registered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has a strong reputation within the industry, and sells domains at reasonable prices based on industry standards. Even better if your registrar packages the domain name with other services you need, like a website builder. Then you can save on additional costs of WordPress hosting and other services.
2. Your top-level domain
A top-level domain (TLD) is the extension you see at the end of a domain name. The most popular option is .com, but you’ve probably also seen websites that use .net, .org, .gov or .co, just to name a few of the most popular.
Top-level domains often communicate something about a website. In particular:
- Country top-level domains tell you where a website is based
- Websites with .org are non-profits
- Websites with .gov are governmental organizations or departments
- Websites with .edu are associated with educational institutions
In addition, many of the newer TLDs like .biz or .co signal that a website is for a business. And some like .io or .tv say something about the specific industry a business is in.
TLDs are one of the main factors in what registering your domain will cost. Those that aren’t as well-known or popular, like .xyz or .site will tend to be cheaper than the common options that are more in demand.
3. Length of contract
Many domain registrars will offer different annual rates based on how long you register a domain for. You may be able to save money by committing to a few years upfront, versus paying annually.
For any website owner certain they intend to keep the website running for the long term, this is a good deal. If you’re registering a domain because you have an idea for a possible future business that may or may not get off the ground, it might make sense to stick with a shorter contract to start.
4. Domain name privacy
Everyone who registers a domain is required to provide personal information, including their name, email, and physical address. That information goes into the ICANN WHOIS database to ensure that if a website owner breaks any laws, authorities have a way to find and hold them accountable.
While there’s a practical reason for the database, having your personal data listed means giving up more privacy than many website owners are comfortable with. For that reason, many domain registrars offer domain name privacy as an add-on for an additional cost. You provide your information to the registrar, and they pass theirs along to the directory to publish instead. You keep your privacy, but still manage to stay within all the rules.
Domain name privacy will typically add $10-40 a year or so to the cost of your domain registration.
5. Domain name availability
Most of the factors we’ve discussed so far can cause a difference of a few bucks here and there to your domain registration. This one is where the differences can get big.
If you register a domain name that’s already available, your costs will be relatively low. If you decide you really want one that someone already owns, you’ll probably be paying much higher prices. That’s where the multi-million dollar domain name sales we mentioned earlier start to come into play.
Most of the domain names that someone already owns won’t cost in the millions. Although you should know, many of them won’t even be for sale. If you set your sights on a domain name someone’s actively using, don’t get your hopes up. They’ll probably want to keep it.
But a portion of the domain names already owned were bought by investors with the specific intention of selling them. If the domain you want belongs to an investor, they’ll be interested in selling, as long as you can agree on a price.
6. Keyword popularity
If you’re buying a domain off an investor, a big factor in how they set their price will be keyword popularity. URLs are one factor in search engine optimization (SEO). Having a domain name that incorporates valuable keywords can therefore make your website easier for people to find in the search engines.
If the domain you want consists of a keyword phrase that gets a lot of searches on Google, be prepared to spend more because of it.
How Much Should I Pay for a Domain Name?
All of that information may be good to know, but what you really care about is how it applies to you and the domain name you want. If you can come up with a good domain name for your business that someone hasn’t already bought the .com for, then you can register your preferred option for less than $15 a year.
If you’re okay with considering a less common TLD, you can potentially get your domain for less than $10 or, in some cases, less than $2 a year (at least to start).
If you’ll be buying your domain name from an investor though, it will all depend on who owns it now and how valuable they believe it is. As the owner, they get the set the price and you’ll have to decide what it’s worth to you.
How to Buy a Domain from an Investor
Registering a domain name that’s available is easy enough, you just search for it at HostGator and check out. But buying a domain name from an investor is more complicated.
If you’re lucky and the domain owner is actively trying to sell it, you can easily find out how to buy by simply visiting the URL.
If that doesn’t work, then you need to figure out who owns the domain. You can try the WHOIS directory for this. If they’ve opted for domain name privacy, the information listed should still go to the domain registrar who can pass it along.
Once you’ve found contact information for the owner, reach out with an offer. You can do this directly, or consider going through a domain name broker. A broker can help manage the negotiations and provide you some protections when it comes time to pay for your domain name.
Once you and the owner come to an agreement, pay for your domain name through a secure site (ideally a third-party site that provides you both some level of protection), and get your domain name.
How to Find an Available Domain
Buying a domain name from an investor is both more complicated and inevitably more expensive than finding one that’s already available. If your heart is set on a specific name, the owner has all the power to set the price and you have to accept it or be willing to move on.
You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you’re willing to come up with a new domain idea that no one’s bought yet. And by getting a little creative, you can probably figure something out you like nearly as much as your original idea.
Do some brainstorming. Think about keywords, synonyms, and words in other languages that mean something similar to what you have in mind. Consider animals or characters you can add to your domain name to give it some more personality (hey, it worked for this gator-loving website).
Plug lots of ideas into our domain search tool, and then look at the available suggestions the tool generates.
By opening your mind to new ideas, you may come up with a domain name that’s not only available (and thus affordable), but also more unique and memorable than the one you thought you wanted.
How to Find the Best Domain Registrar for Your Money
Domain registrars are not all created equal. To make sure you choose the best domain registrar for your needs, consider the following:
- Do they have the proper accreditation? All legitimate domain registrars will be accredited by the ICANN. You can double-check a company’s accreditation by seeing if they’re listed here. In some cases though, the name listed may be different than the name of the company you register your domain with. For example, HostGator’s domain registrations go through the registrars LaunchPad and eNom.
- Are their prices fair? Check and see if what a registrar is charging is in line with what’s typical from other companies. You don’t want to end up paying considerably more because you didn’t compare your options.
- Do they offer other services you need? This isn’t required for a registrar to be worth considering, but it can make your life easier. If you can manage your domain name in the same place that you manage your web hosting, website builder, or other website services, it’s one less account you have to deal with.
HostGator’s domain registration is easy, the prices are fair, and you can take care of your domain management and renewals in the same place you manage your web hosting services and website updates.
Domain registration doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Simply use our domain search tool to find the domain you want, and it can be yours within minutes. Still looking for a hosting provider to help you build your online presence? HostGator is a leading hosting provider that offers a number of different hosting packages so you can build your perfect website.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.