3 Options for Domain Registration in 2020

I’ve registered hundreds of domain names over the years.

During that time, I bought a domain from virtually every platform in existence. Some experiences were great, others were awful, and the majority fell somewhere in the middle.

Whether you’re buying a domain for the first time or looking for an alternative solution from your last registration, you need to understand that you have options.

Where can you register a domain name? The choices can be segmented into three categories:

  1. Domain Registrars
  2. Hosting Providers
  3. Website Builders

I’ll show you the difference between these options and point out the top platforms within each category. Use this guide to learn the best way to buy a domain name.

1. Domain Registrar

As the name implies, a domain registrar’s primary function is domain name registration. There are some registrars that provide additional services as well, such as hosting plans or website builders. But the best domain registrars specialize as platforms to buy a domain name.

Let’s review four of the top domain registrar services on the market today.

Domain.com

Domain.com

Domain.com is the best domain registrar for first-time and experienced buyers alike. The process is simple, straightforward, and the registrar provides exceptional service.

You can register a .com domain for just $9.99 per year with Domain.com.

During the checkout process, this registrar gives you the ability to buy your domain for up to five years. I love this feature because you won’t have to worry about renewing every year.

When you register a domain, your name and address become available to the public. Domain.com offers privacy and protection for $8.99 per year per domain. If you’re registering a domain under a company name (that’s what I do), you can skip this. Otherwise, you’ll definitely want to add the privacy and protection.

Some domain registrars offer this for free, but it’s worth paying a little extra for the personal privacy.

Domain.com hits with you additional upsells throughout the checkout process. This is pretty standard practice in the domain registrar industry. I’d skip the add-ons. Things like an SSL certificate and SiteLock should come standard from your web hosting provider.

Registering a domain from Domain.com takes less than a minute. It’s the perfect registrar for those of you who plan to buy multiple domain names.

Domain.com also has exceptional 24/7 customer support, making it a top choice for domain transfers as well.

Namecheap

Namecheap

Namecheap is another top choice to consider for domain registration. More than 10 million domains have been registered through this platform.

The process is easy for someone who has never bought a domain before.

Namecheap has .com domains available for $8.88 per year. They also offer free privacy and protection, which is a nice bonus since it’s something you’ll likely need to have.

Like most domain registrars, Namecheap offers a wide range of upsells during the checkout process. Since you’re getting privacy and protection for free, you can skip everything else.

Namecheap has an excellent knowledge base of resources if you need some assistance. Live chat is available 24/7, and their support team provides ticket response times under two hours.

With a simple process, free privacy protection, and outstanding support, Namecheap delivers everything you want and need in a domain registrar.

NameSilo

NameSilo

If you’re looking for a no-frills domain registrar, NameSilo has you covered. As you can see from the screenshot above, their website is very outdated. But this hasn’t stopped them from becoming one of the most popular domain registrars in the world.

Buying a .com domain from NameSilo starts at $8.99 per year. You’ll benefit from bundle discounts if you’re registering more than 50 domains in a single order.

NameSilo lets you search for up to 500 domains simultaneously. You can even upload a list of domains from your computer to save you time.

If the outdated interface doesn’t bother you, NameSilo will be a top choice for those of you who want to buy multiple domains at the same time.

There are barely any upsells during the checkout process. WHOIS privacy and protection is free, and ICANN fees are included in the total. You can be out the door for $8.99 per year per domain.

NameSilo allows you to enable auto renew as well, so you won’t have to worry about the name lapsing if you forget to do so manually.

2. Web Hosting Provider

Every website needs to be hosted. So once you register a domain name, the next step is finding a web hosting provider. With that said, some hosting providers let you register a domain directly from through their platform.

If you’re planning to register multiple domains over time, use a domain registrar. But if you just need one domain, you can save some money by bundling your hosting and registration together.

Bluehost is the best web hosting provider for domain registration bundles. It’s what I recommend the most.

But if you’re set on using another hosting provider, there are a few other platforms that deliver decent deals and service for hosting and domain registration.

Bluehost

Bluehost

Even though Bluehost is a web hosting provider, you can still purchase a domain directly from them without using their hosting services. However, I don’t recommend this.

A .com domain from Bluehost is $11.99 per year. Privacy and protection is $11.88 per year. For the same price, I can register two domains from a domain registrar and still have change to spare.

However, you can get a free domain name from Bluehost if you bundle your domain registration with their hosting services.

The process is extremely simple. Just choose your web hosting plan, and Bluehost will prompt you to register a new domain. If you follow these steps, your domain will be free for the first year.

You’ll still have to pay $11.88 per year for privacy and protection. Bluehost provides a free SSL certificate, one-click WordPress installs, and 24/7 support.

Bluehost is the best web hosting provider on the market today, and it’s the only web host I actually recommend for domain registration.

Dreamhost

dreamhost

Dreamhost is another top consideration for web hosting. While it’s not as popular as their web hosting products, Dreamhost does offer domain registration services.

You can get a .com domain with Dreamhost for $7.99 per year. This includes free privacy and protection. Furthermore, Dreamhost has more than 400 TLDs, with .xyz extensions as low as $0.89 per year.

While $7.99 for a .com domain is definitely a great deal, there is a catch. Your domain will renew at $15.99 per year.

I really can’t justify this price, especially from a platform that specializes in web hosting, not domain registration.

HostGator

HostGator

HostGator is another well-known web hosting provider. In fact, they rank high on my list of the best cloud hosting services.

In addition to web hosting, HostGator offers a wide range of other services, including a site builder and domain registration.

You can register a .com domain with HostGator for $12.95 per year. While it’s a bit high compared to the domain registrars we reviewed, it’s just the introductory offer. The price actually jumps up to $17.99 per year upon renewal.

Privacy and protection is an additional $14.95 per year. So your initial registration comes to $27.90 and will renew at $32.94 per year.

I could get three domains from Domain.com, Namecheap, and NameSilo, for the same price.

So can you get a domain name from HostGator? Yes, the option is available. But I really don’t see any reason why you would.

SiteGround

SiteGround

SiteGround is one of the most popular and well-known web hosting providers on the market today. The platform also has domain registration services, although I can’t say I recommend it.

You can register a .com domain from SiteGround for $15.95 per year.

That’s nearly double the price of Namecheap’s registration, and there’s still a catch. You’re only able to use SiteGround for domain registration if you have a SiteGround web hosting plan.

So if you wanted to buy a domain from SiteGround and host your site elsewhere, that’s not an option.

For those of you looking to bundle domain registration with web hosting, you’re much better off using Bluehost. With Bluehost, you’ll get a free domain for the first year, which is not available with SiteGround.

3. Website Builder

Most people don’t associate website builders with domain registration.

Similar to web hosting, I normally wouldn’t recommend buying a domain from anywhere other than a registrar. But with that said, there are a handful of site builders offering domain registration services.

These are some of the best website builders to consider for buying a domain name.

Wix

Wix

Wix is best known for its simple drag-and-drop website builder. If you don’t know how to code and you’re creating a website from scratch, Wix is a top choice to consider.

You can’t exclusively buy a domain using Wix. You’ll need to bundle your domain registration with their website builder.

With that said, there are two ways to get a free domain with this platform.

Every Wix site comes with a free Wix subdomain. Without spending anything, you can have a domain in the following format:

wixusername.wixsite.com/yourdomain

I don’t recommend this to anyone unless you’re just experimenting with the Wix platform. Once you’re ready to take things to the next level, you’ll need to register your own domain.

Wix also offers a free domain for one year with all paid site builder plans. Privacy and protection is included free as well. You could even bundle your web hosting through them, although I can’t endorse that option.

Squarespace

Squarespace

Squarespace is another one of my favorite website builders. It’s great for beginners and people with an eye for great design.

But like Wix, getting a domain from Squarespace means you’ll have to bundle it with a site-building plan.

All Squarespace annual plans come with a free custom domain name for the first year. WHOIS privacy and protection is included. Additional domains can be purchased between $20 and $70 per year, depending on the extension.

Those prices are outrageous if you compare them to the domain registrars that we reviewed earlier. If you need to buy more than one domain, this is not the platform to do so.

I would only consider registering a domain with Squarespace if you need one domain, you’re using the site builder, and you think it’s easier to purchase everything from one provider. Just know that you could run into problems if you need to transfer your domain and website to another platform in the future.

WordPress

WordPress

WordPress is the world’s largest CMS platform. We use WordPress here at Quick Sprout to power our website.

This website builder is best for those of who are comfortable with coding and want to get the most out of your site’s content. Although WordPress does have plugins that allow drag-and-drop building capabilities.

You can also use WordPress to buy a domain. The domain will automatically be connected to your website, and renewals get handled through your WordPress account.

While it may be tempting to get a domain directly from WordPress, it’s not the most convenient procedure. You’ll have to go through a six-step process, which includes creating your WordPress account.

Plus, the domain registration is a bit pricey. A .com domain from WordPress costs $18 per year, which is more than double the price of the cheapest domain registrars.

Weebly

Weebly

Weebly is a website builder geared toward ecommerce sites. Compared to some of the other website builders out there, registering a domain name with Weebly isn’t the worst idea.

Two of Weebly’s premium plans (Professional and Performance) come with a free domain for one year with an annual contract. Those plans start at $12 and $26 per month, respectively.

You can use Weebly to register a domain without a site builder plan. The nice part about using Weebly for domain registration is that you’ll save money by registering for longer periods of time.

  • 1 year — $19.95 per year
  • 2 years — $16.95 per year
  • 5 years — $14.96 per year
  • 10 years — $12.57 per year

But even though you can save up to 37% off with an extended registration, the ten-year price is still more expensive than NameCheap, NameSilo, and Domain.com.

How to Find the Best Place to Buy a Domain

With so many options to choose from, finding the best place to buy a domain can be challenging. There are certain features and elements that must be taken into consideration when you’re evaluating a prospective platform to buy a domain.

This is the methodology that we used to narrow the search.

Price and Contract Terms

The price should always be the first thing you look at. If all of these platforms are basically offering the same thing, it makes sense to go with one that’s cost-effective.

Don’t just look at the cheapest extensions. Always compare the prices for .com domains, since that’s what you should be registering.

Look at the length of your contract. Some providers will require a minimum registration period, such as one or two years. Others will offer discounts for long-term registration.

Keep an eye out for additional fees. Most add-ons you’ll be able to ignore. But you’ll definitely want to get WHOIS privacy and protection. This comes free with your registration on some platforms, but others upcharge for it.

Make sure that your contract makes it easy for you to renew your domain. Look for automatic renewals or contracts giving you a grace period after the domain expires, in case you forget to renew manually.

Domain Transfers

If you’re unhappy with your domain registrar, for any reason, you might want to transfer your domain in the future.

You cannot transfer a domain within the first 60 days of registration. However, you’re free to do what you want with your domain after that.

Just make sure that your registrar makes transferring easy for you. Platforms like GoDaddy, have a reputation for throttling down outgoing transfers. So always check customer reviews about the transfer process before you settle.

The best domain registrars make transfers easy and don’t impose any extra fees.

Additional Services

As you’ve seen from this guide, you can get a domain name from a wide range of platforms. Some of those platforms specialize in additional services, like web hosting or website builders.

The ability to bundle multiple services shouldn’t sway you toward one provider over another.

Most providers are better at one service compared to the other. Just because a platform is one of the best website builders, it doesn’t mean they have a flawless domain registration process.

In many cases, domain registration is more expensive from website builders and hosting providers. Some of these platforms let you to buy a domain independently from their primary services, while others force you to bundle everything.

Sometimes it’s worth it to go with a service bundle. For example, Bluehost gives you a free domain for one year when you sign up for a web hosting plan.

Support and User Experience

Registering a domain name shouldn’t be complicated. If a platform is making you jump through hoops, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.

Most of the time, you should be able to register a domain in a minute or two, at most.

If you’re interested in buying dozens or even hundreds of domains simultaneously, look for platforms that support those needs.

In some cases, you may want to request some assistance. Although this usually won’t be required unless you’re transferring a domain. In any event, you’ll want to make sure that the platform provides excellent customer service to assist you with transfers or whatever else you need help with.

Conclusion

There are three main options for buying a domain; domain registrars, web hosting providers, and website builders.

Within each category, you’ll have tons of different providers to choose from.

Buying a domain from a domain registrar will almost always be your best option. These providers specialize in domain registration, so you’ll get the best price, quality, and customer service here. Plus, domain registrars won’t force you to bundle your registration with another service.

Using Bluehost to bundle your domain registration with web hosting is the only time that I’d consider bundling services. That’s because Bluehost gives you a free domain for one year when you sign up for a hosting plan.

Other providers have similar offers, but overall, they fall short in one category or the other.

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