Choosing the best domain registrar is a tough and often all too confusing process. Whether it be registering your domain or transferring an existing domain name, it’s tough to figure out which is the best domain name provider.
The considerations for a domain registrar include:
- Your budget
- How easy is the checkout process
- Your domain management needs
- One-stop shop for web hosting services as well
- How long you plan on owning the domain
- WHOIS protection for free
- Renewal rates
Based on my experience working with many domain registrars, here are the 10 best domain name registrars that are a fit for most needs.
For each, I’ll outline their key strengths, tradeoffs, and who they are the best fit for, and finish with an overview of what to think through with a domain registrar.
Even though they are the oldest, you won’t see on the list Network Solutions. They offer nothing beneficial other than 100-year registration. There are much better domain registrars available.
While domain names are a commodity, don’t always expect the cheapest domain registration. There are inherent costs built into every domain registrar. Therefore there is a floor in pricing unless they price a domain as a loss-leader to get you in the door.
What Are The Best Registrars?
- What Are The Best Registrars?
- 1. Namecheap
- 2. Google Domains
- 3. GoDaddy
- 4. Dynadot
- 5. Porkbun
- 6. Domain.com
- 7. Hover
- 8. iwantmyname
- 9. Bluehost
- 10. Wix
- Choosing A Domain Registrar
The list of domain registrars is ordered by ranking from my domain reviews.
The Best Place To Buy A Domain Name
I have almost all of my domains registered at Namecheap. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business or an independent contractor. I like them, but they have tradeoffs like any other registrar. But they have been consistent for more than 20+ years.
Promotion: Get A .COM For Just $0.98 From Namecheap
Best web hosting with free domain registration?
Did you know, you can get a free domain with many web hosting companies?
For the first year, many will give away a free domain name.
Promotion: Get A Free Domain Name With Bluehost
Other Best Of Ratings
This isn’t your father’s Network Solutions. Namecheap is an independently owned & operated domain registrar founded in 2000. They are headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, USA.
Namecheap started its business as a domain name registrar focused on price (as in…”cheap names”). They really hit a growth spurt in the early 2010s during several high-profile privacy & security scandals at large domain registrars along with proposed surveillance bills in the United States Congress.
As a company, they have had a long-running relationship with Internet privacy and security organizations along with a commitment to straightforward domain management and pricing.
In the past 10 years, they’ve also expanded their product offering to include complementary products for everything from:
- web hosting
- email hosting
- free logo generator
I’ve written a comparison of other registrars:
Namecheap is the best domain registrar for anyone who wants the best overall domain registrar over the long haul. They are the registrar where I have my personal domains registered.
Namecheap’s primary strength as the best domain registrar is its consistency. As a company, they are positively ancient (over 20 years old) but have always stayed at the forefront of their industry with dependable customer service, competitive pricing, wide selection, and quality products. They are ICANN accredited and provide all essential domain services (WHOIS, forwarding, etc) along with solid complementary products.
Namecheap’s main weakness is that they aren’t really the best on any single domain metric. They don’t always offer the cheapest domain registration. They don’t do the deepest one-year discounts. They don’t have the largest selection. And they don’t have the absolute best usability and domain management. They don’t have the best support.
Instead, they tend to be like #2 or #3 across lots of metrics rather than #1 for one metric and #10 for another.
2. Google Domains
Google Domains is Google’s domain registration service. The service was launched in beta in 2014. The service is Google’s complement to their Google My Business service and their revamped Google Sites Website Builder.
Needless to say, Google did not start as a domain registrar. And I’m pretty sure that very few people at Google even know that they offer domain registration. However, like Google’s other products, Google Domain has Google’s resources behind it along with all the convenience that comes with being a Google product.
If you have a Google account for Gmail, YouTube, etc – then you already have a Google Domains account. It’s ICANN accredited with a simple dashboard and competitive pricing.
I’ve written a comparison of:
Google Domains Pricing
Google Domains is an excellent choice for a domain registrar. You can buy a domain name with no fuss and annoyances. It’s super-convenient and easier than any of the easiest domain registrars because you likely don’t even need a new account.
Google Domains’ overwhelming strength is convenience and simplicity. You almost certainly have a Google account, so there is no new passwords or usernames or anything. You just head to Google Domains and do a domain search.
Their interface is simple & straightforward. It’s clean and usable with no upsells or nagging banners that you’ll see at other registrars. The product has Google’s nice material design with familiar usability. It’s there and functional. You can buy a domain and manage it really well.
Google Domains’ main weakness is that it’s not Google’s main business. It’s a very small business unit buried deep within the Google corporation. They have good pricing, but not the best. They have customer service, but it’s not the best. They have a pretty good selection, but it’s not their priority. They also don’t have lots of integrated, complementary products like premium SSLs, hosting, etc.
Ahh…GoDaddy. You’ve probably heard of them. They were the first domain registrar to go big and go public with domain name registration as a primary service. They run TV ads, banner ads, Super Bowl ads – they are ubiquitous and possibly the most popular domain registrar.
GoDaddy is a publicly-traded company based in Tempe, AZ, USA. They started life as a domain name registrar.
Today, but now are better described as a “web services platform” – they offer everything from bookkeeping to website builders to hosting and everything in between. GoDaddy is ICANN accredited.
Comparisons of other domain name registrars:
GoDaddy is the best domain registrar for anyone looking to buy domains in bulk, resell domains, or is looking for an excellent short-term price.
GoDaddy’s main strength is its size and name recognition. They regularly have incredible short-term pricing sales, along with a large selection. Due to their brand recognition and scale, they have one of the largest & most active secondary & premium domain marketplaces on the Internet. If you are bulk domain buying, you almost have to be a GoDaddy Domain Club member (which brings the best domain pricing on the Internet).
GoDaddy’s main weaknesses are its business structure and corporate history. GoDaddy is a large, publicly-traded company in an investment sector looking for high growth. That means that GoDaddy will have all the annoyances that you’d expect from a large company (phone trees, upsells, cross-sells, price changes, etc). Additionally, even though GoDaddy has a new CEO and new corporate strategy, they have quite a controversial history as a company.
Dynadot is an independent domain name registrar founded in 2002 and based in San Mateo, CA, USA.
They have a focus on new TLDs and aftermarket domain purchases & auctions.
Dynadot is the best domain registrar for anyone looking for a deal on a unique or popular TLD or for a specific premium domain name.
Dynadot has two main strengths. First, they do a lot of promotional pricing on TLDs. If you are a domain investor or on the lookout for a cheap, brandable TLD, then they are an excellent place to look. Second, they have a good aftermarket domain business with lots of domains at auction and available for premium purchase.
Dynadot has two main weaknesses. First, I found their administration panel to be pretty clunky and confusing compared to other registrars. Second, they don’t have a lot of complementary products – they really just do the basics for domains and not much more.
Porkbun is an independent, privately-owned domain name registrar based in Portland, OR, USA. Porkbun was founded in 2014 with a decidedly quirky, memorable brand.
Porkbun started its business as a domain name registrar focused on a quality product with good customer support and no hype. They’ve stuck with that mission over the years with a profitable and solid business.
Porkbun offers several well-priced complementary products, but really just stick to their core service (domain names) paired with obsessive, small company customer service. Porkbun is also ICANN accredited.
Porkbun is best for anyone who likes doing business with a small, quirky company or anyone looking for a cheap domain registrar with phone support.
Porkbun’s main strength is its size and company focus. They are the online equivalent of your local coffee shop. They don’t have the big chain’s fancy drinks, specials, or brand recognition – but they do have everyone’s respect and they are the place where you probably know your barista…and even the owner.
Porkbun punches above their company size for domain TLD (top-level domain) selection (almost as many as GoDaddy or even Namecheap). They have extremely competitive short-term, long-term, and renewal pricing, along with great complementary features (even a free SSL certificate via LetsEncrypt). They do all this with solid customer support. Their size allows them to do all this – and still keep their quality.
Porkbun’s main weakness is its size and company focus. Just like your local coffee shop, they aren’t going to have fancy drinks, specials, or brand recognition. Porkbun does their thing and is good with it. They don’t have a lot of complementary products, etc. They don’t really have many downsides at all.
Domain.com is a domain registrar brand owned by the Newfold Digital corporation. They have been around for a long time with an established and respected brand.
They focus on domain names, including premium purchases and a secondary marketplace. They are ICANN accredited.
Domain.com is a good choice for anyone looking for a sale on a specific TLD / domain extension or just wants a simple, well-known company to purchase a cheap .com.
Domain.com’s main strength is that they are a solid, reliable, big brand with cheap .com’s and good pricing on specific TLDs. They have a good interface without too many of the big company annoyances of other companies.
Domain.com’s main weakness is actually related to their domain name…they don’t really have anything special about them either. They are like standard big company “fine” – they don’t really have good onboarding or good pricing. They aren’t bad, but they also aren’t that great either.
Hover is a subsidiary of the publicly traded Tucows Corporation based in Toronto, OR, Canada, and founded in 2008. They focus on domain registration and bundling value-adds (like free WHOIS domain privacy protection and SSL) to every new domain.
Hover has really built their brand with innovative podcast advertising. You’ve probably heard them on shows like 99% Invisible and Hello Internet. They are also ICANN accredited.
Hover is great for anyone just looking to get a domain with no fuss, no upsells, great security, account protection, and good support when you need it.
Hover excels with a great interface, great usability, and a commitment to data protection. They also have excellent support options.
Hover’s pricing for unique TLDs can be much more expensive compared to other domain registrars. And for all their talk about bundling things like WHOIS protection with every purchase, they don’t really offer some basic domain management options like email and domain forwarding.
iwantmyname is a domain name registrar founded in 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand. They are quirky and exclusively focused on domain names. iwantmyname is an independent subsidiary of the publicly traded CentralNic Internet Services corporation.
iwantmyname is not ICANN accredited themselves, They are a reseller of the domain registrar CentralNic.
iwantmyname is best for anyone who wants a super-simple domain name registrar with no fuss and a bit of help integrating the domain with your hosting / builder / service.
iwantmyname’s main strength is its size and focus on domain names. They don’t offer any complementary products. Instead, the focus on making your integration between your domain name and your hosting / email / server / etc as simple as possible with their directory of DNS records / services (aside, learn how domain names work here).
They also have a really wide selection of TLDs.
iwantmyname’s main weakness is its lack of complementary products and higher pricing than direct competitors.
Many domain owners will likely also need either web hosting service or email hosting (or both!). Since a domain name and web hosting are two different things, you will likely need to purchase hosting from either your domain registrar or a hosting provider.
In this article, I’ve been looking at the “best” domain registrars…but sometimes the best domain registrar for you is actually your hosting company.
If you are looking to set up a website or an email hosting account, you can almost always get a domain name from your web host. In fact, many hosting companies will offer you a free domain name for a year when you purchase a hosting package – better than any pricing at any domain registrar.
There are many other web hosting companies that offer a free domain name as well. I’ve found Bluehost is a good fit for the first-time website owner who also wants to register a new domain.
The .com, .net, .org, .biz & .co domain extensions are free the first year when you order web hosting.
Buying a domain with your hosting company is great for anyone who wants to buy just a single domain for a website or just prefers the convenience (or free first year) of having a single account.
Buying a domain from your hosting company has a few strengths. First, you are likely to get your domain for free for the first year of your web hosting plan. Second, integrating your domain with your website will be seamless and convenient. Third, you only have to manage a single account – it’s simpler. Now, every host is different and some will have better (or worse) upsides than others.
Now, buying a domain from your hosting company comes with a few downsides. First, their renewal pricing is usually higher than a domain registrar. Second, their selection of TLDs is almost certainly narrower. And third, your services aren’t as diversified, which can make it harder to move different services (like email, hosting, etc) around to different providers. Now, every host is different and some will have better (or worse) downsides than others.
In a similar fashion to buying a domain from a hosting company, you can also often register a domain name at your website builder of choice such as:
With any Yearly Premium Plans you can get a free domain name with Wix. For the following domain names: .com, .co.uk, .net, .org, .art, .be, .biz, .club, .coach, .fit, .fitness, .info, .live, .nl, .online, .pictures, .rocks, .space, .shop, .store, .studio, .training, .xyz, .yoga, and .de (Germany only).
Unfortunately, Wix is not transparent in its pricing. Other than .com, pricing for the other domains is unknown, and could not find specific pricing.
Wix does not offer the ability to transfer in existing domains and in my opinion you are best to register and renew with a better registrar.
Buying a domain name from a website builder is a great option for anyone who just needs a single domain and values convenience, pricing, or selection.
The main strength of buying a domain name from your website builder is straightforward convenience. Your website builder is already handling your hosting, website software, and software extensions – so why not bundle the domain also? Most website builders make it simple and straightforward – and sometimes free for the first year.
The main weakness here is that you can’t really go beyond a single domain or manage others. Most hosted website builders have poor renewal pricing and poor selection since they are likely just reselling domains from an ICANN accredited domain wholesaler like eNom.
Choosing A Domain Registrar
A domain name registrar is any company that has a relationship with ICANN (the institution that governs Internet addresses) to reserve & manage domain names.
It sounds simple – like anyone and everyone could do it. But like retailers of a product, there are tradeoffs, choices & considerations that you make to choose the best domain name registrar for you. Here are the considerations that I look at.
- Number of Domains
Are going to be managing 100 domain names or 1? And even if you are starting with 1, do you plan on expanding? If so, you’ll want & appreciate customer service and efficient management.
- Length of Domain Ownership
Domain name registrars are trustees in a way. Are you buying a domain name for a quick side project – or projects that you hope to last years into the future?
- Domain Management
Some websites owners log into their domain registrar exactly once, change a setting, and never log in again. Others need to change settings more frequently for multiple domains; manage administrative contacts and add products to multiple domains – they’ll value a clean, efficient domain management interface more.
- Customer Support
Customer service costs money to do well. How much do you value it? Is live chat enough or do you want phone support?
- Company Reputation
Your domain provider is like a trustee for your name on the Internet. Do you trust them to protect it, secure it and generally not screw you over? Do the company’s values say something about its internal culture? Does the company value privacy and security – or are they just trying to get the next upsell?
The only required fee in domain registration is the ICANN fee. Everything else is up to the domain name provider’s business model. Are you looking for rock bottom discounts or overall value? What does the domain name’s renewal price? Are you buying short-term or long-term? Do you want to pay separately for WHOIS privacy protection or do you want it bundled?
- Domain Transfers
If you decide to leave, how easily do you want to leave? How simple do you want the process to transfer a domain in? Is there special domain transfer pricing? Is there a straightforward process for the domain lock?
Often there is a tradeoff between design and features. Do you want raw features or better design? How much do you value user-friendliness? Do clear buttons and a friendly tone matter to you – or do you just want solid functionality? Do you also want complementary products like email, website builders, or WordPress hosting?