how much is a website domain name

If you’re looking to build a website, then one of the first things you’ll need to do is buy a domain name for your new project. But, how much is a domain name actually going to cost you?

Well, that depends upon a bunch of factors, as the cost of a domain name can vary based on several factors. For example, be prepared to spend a bit of money on domains that someone else already owns.

Some older domains have gone for millions of dollars, specifically domains that are very broad such as single word domain names like insurance.com, hotels.com, and investing.com

So, if you want a single word, used domain, then be prepared to spend a lot of money on your domain name.

On the other side of the equation, you have new domains. The average cost for a brand new domain will typically be anywhere from $10-12, depending upon the registrar you choose and the length of your registration contract.

Below you’ll learn why some domains are more valuable than others, the average costs for getting a domain name, and some tips to help you get started.

register domain name

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. 

How Much Does a Website Domain Cost?

If you’re just getting started online, then the best course of action is to choose a new domain. A new domain will be cheaper, and allows you to build your own brand from scratch.

Typically, you’ll be paying around $10-$12 for a new domain, depending upon the domain name extension you choose.

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, read on for the most important information you need to know about domain registration costs.  

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. 

top-level domain registration costs

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. 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.

Buying a New Domain Name

For most people, they go with the option of purchasing a new domain name. It’s the quickest and cheapest option, and with a little creativity, you can find a solid domain.

First, you’ll need to choose a domain registrar. For the sake of example, let’s say you’re going to register your domain with HostGator.

  1. Navigate to our domain page.
  2. Type in your domain of choice. This will let you know if the domain, along with your desired extension is available.
  3. If it’s available, then follow through with the purchase.

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. 

buy a domain name from hostgator

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.

visit domain name to see if it's for sale

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. 

domain name search tool shows domain availability

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. 

Domain Name Fees to Watch Out For

Sometimes you might not be getting as good a deal as you think when registering your domain name. Below you’ll learn about some hidden charges you’ll want to watch out for:

  • Hidden fees. A lot of times what might seem like a good deal up front won’t actually be a good deal. Sometimes fees will be buried within the terms of service. Look out for things like transfer fees, increased renewal fees, long-term domain contracts and more.
  • Short-term discounts. Some domain registrars will offer seemingly good discounts, but this discount will only apply if you register for a long-term contract, or pay for multiple years up front. Short-term coupons can help you get a cheap domain up front, but make sure the costs won’t increase drastically after the first year.
  • Scams. Some domain registrars that offer ridiculously cheap, or even free, domain names will end up charging very high administration fees, or even manipulating your Whois records. Make sure you’re only buying your domain name from a reputable seller.

Which Option is Best for Me?

For most people, buying a new domain is going to be the preferred route to take. You’ll not only get the best deal, but the registration and purchase process will be the simplest.

In time, as your experience and online assets grow it might make sense to negotiate for a domain or purchase an expired domain.

But, when you’re just starting out make it easy on yourself and find a solid new domain.

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. 

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.