It’s safe to say your domain name is the most crucial part of your online presence. Your domain name is what people type in when they want to find you, your virtual storefront, and your brand’s essence.

However, what’s wild is that when you purchase your domain name, you’re essentially renting it from a registrar. It’s yours to keep forever, so long as you continue to pay your renewal fees. If you forget to pay your fees within the allotted grace periods, you forfeit your opportunity for using that domain name, and anyone can come in and snag it. Fair game.

If your domain name has ever expired, or if you know someone who has had their domain name expire, you already know how devastating the consequences are.

This article will cover what happens when a domain name expires, and some tips for helping you stay on top of your domain name registration.

What happens when a domain name expires?

Your domain registrar will do everything in its power to remind you to renew your domain. Here is an overview of what happens before, during, and after your domain expires.

Automated email reminders

Before your domain expires, most web hosting companies or domain registrars will send you a series of automated emails. These emails will remind you that your domain name is set to expire and that you need to submit a payment for renewal. 

domain name expiration email reminder from hostgator

When you first set up your domain name with a registrar or web hosting company, make sure that the email address in your profile is accurate and up-to-date, and that you put emails from the registrar company in your contact lists.

Domain expiration and grace period

If you renew your domain name before your expiration date passes, you will continue to own the domain name. If you don’t renew your domain name before the expiration date, most registrars will give you a grace period to renew your domain.

Typically, the grace period is 30 days. You can renew your domain name during this time frame without paying extra fees or losing your domain name entirely.

While you have 30 days to pay for and keep your domain name, it’s critical to know that if you let your domain name lapse, your domain name will be deactivated, and your website will be replaced with a parked page. It might look something like this:

example of a website with expired domain name

Grace period expiration and registrar hold

If your 30-day grace period passes and you have not renewed your domain name, all is not lost. Your registrar will typically save your domain name for you and give you another 30-day grace period to renew. This grace period is often called the registrar hold status.

The difference between this grace period is you may have to pay both a renewal fee and a redemption fee to get your domain name back.

Domain auction or closeout sale

As soon as your domain name has entered the registrar hold status, your registrar will start trying to auction off your domain. 

The good news is that even if someone bids on your domain and buys it, the potential new owner will still have to wait 30 days before they own the domain. 

If you renew during the second 30 day grace period and pay the associated fees, you will get your domain name back.

If you don’t renew your domain during this period, the highest bidder will own your domain.

If no one bids on your domain name at an auction, and if you don’t renew your domain, then the registrar will list that domain name for a lower price in a closeout sale.

Anyone is eligible to purchase the domain name during a closeout sale. However, if someone else buys it during this sale, they still have to wait for the remainder of the thirty days to make sure you don’t renew until they take ownership.

Domain released back to the registry

If you don’t renew your domain, and if no one purchases it at an auction or during a closeout sale, the registrar will release it back to the registry.

When a domain is released back to the registry in the redemption period status, no one can delete it or change it for 30 days. You can still pay the redemption and renewal fee during this time.

After the registry grace period

If you do not renew the domain name during the registry grace period, it will be placed on a pending status to be deleted. If the original owner or the registrar doesn’t buy the domain, it will be deleted and released for general registration.

While it’s devastating to lose your domain name, the good news is your registrar provides several renewal notices and opportunities for you to buy back your domain.

Let’s take a quick look at the reasons why your domain name may expire and how you can make sure you don’t lose your domain name.

How to ensure your domain name doesn’t expire

It’s critical to understand that domain name registration is always temporary and contingent on paying renewal fees. No matter who you are and what your domain is, you’ll have to pay renewal fees to keep your domain name.

Here are some ways to avoid domain expiration.

Turn on your renewal reminder notices

When you first purchase your domain name, you can pay your fees for different periods of time. 

Let’s say you paid for your domain name for three years upfront. After those three years go by, it’s unlikely that you’ll remember to renew your domain name on your own.

A better option is to switch on your renewal email notices and keep your email address up-to-date.

Enable auto-renew

An even safer way to ensure your domain doesn’t expire is to set your account to auto-renew

This means when your domain name is about to expire, your registrar will automatically charge your account the renewal fee, and your website won’t be in jeopardy of disruption.

how to set up domain auto renewal with hostgator

If you set your account on auto-renew, remember to check your billing information every so often. If your credit card expires, or if you have to replace it for any reason, your renewal payment will decline.

Most registrars will email you if your credit card information is old or expired, so you have time to update it before your renewal date.

Register all your domains with the same registrar

If you have more than one domain name, it can be challenging to keep track of them. An excellent way to make sure that none of them expire is to transfer all your domain names to one register and one account. This way, your domain names will be in one safe place and connected to the same credit card.

Take advantage of the grace periods

If you fall behind and your domain name expires, don’t worry. All is not lost. You can always rebuy your domain during one of the grace periods. 

While it’s true you sometimes may have to pay additional fees if you let your domain expiration date pass, it’s much cheaper to pay a redemption fee than it is to rebrand.

Wrap Up

As you start your new website, remember you are paying for your domain name rental for a period of time. Every so often, you will have to pay a renewal fee to keep your domain name.

The best way to avoid losing your domain name is to keep your credit card up to date, choose to auto-renew your domain name and keep your contact information current in your account.

For more information about getting a domain name and starting your website, check out HostGator. Our hosting plans come with a free year of domain name registration.

Ashley R. Cummings is a professional freelance writer specializing in SaaS, tech, and advertising/marketing. In a previous life, she was a Russian teacher at Brigham Young University, a corporate trainer, and a grad student—all at the same time. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world with her 2 kids and husband, reading poetry or taking a deep dive into the fabulous world of comedy. Connect with her on Twitter at @ashleyrcummings.