If you’re about to register a new domain name for your web project, you’ll quickly realize that your domain’s initial sign up price may be nowhere near the final domain name cost & expenses that you’ll need to shell out.
This is just how the domain registration market works, and understanding it is your key to not overpaying for optional upgrades that you probably don’t need.
Here’s how we’re going to break down the common domain name cost & expenses in this article:
Each section comes with an explanation of what a given domain name cost is all about, how to minimize it, and whether it’s something you actually need.
Let’s get the list started:
Cost of Registering the Domain Name Itself
There are countless companies that can register a domain name for you. Those companies are usually referred to as domain name registrars.
The main product that every registrar sells is the same – a domain name. Domain bought from one registrar is no different than the same domain bought from another registrar.
Despite that, even though they all sell the same thing, the prices between registrars can (and will) vary. This is why it’s important to do your research and not overpay when it comes to the main domain name cost.
Apart from the price differences between registrars, different domain extensions come with different price tags too – even from the same registrar. For example, a
.shoes domain (popular for online shoe stores) is going to be more expensive than the traditional TLDs such as
On top of that, you’ll also find that each domain extension has a different price tag with each registrar, which adds a whole new level of complexity to this pricing puzzle.
To make this more approachable, we’ve done the research for you. Here’s a comparison of the registration prices for the most popular domain extensions with the most popular registrars:
Domain Renewal Costs
This is often a surprise to many first-time domain name buyers – the initial price of a domain name is nearly never the price at which the domain is going to renew every year.
The differences between the initial prices and renewing haven’t been too huge with traditional domain name extensions, such as
.net. The average cost is usually $2-$5 more on top of your original price to renew them.
However, for more premium domain extensions like
.doctor and so on, the renewal prices can increase a lot. You need to be careful with those extensions because you can often find them at a bargain $2 for the first year, but then the price can increase even 10 or 20 times. For example, buying the
.store domain from Hover is $4.99 for the first year, but then the price rises to $64.99 every year after that.
Before making a purchase, make sure always to check what the domain name cost is going to be to renew the domain once the initial registration period is up.
Again, here’s a quick comparison table of a handful of popular domain name extensions from a couple of registrars and their initial vs renewal prices:
Length of Initial Registration vs Price
The last factor that can play a role in the initial cost of your domain name registration is how long you want to register the domain.
With some providers, the longer your initial registration period, the cheaper the domain name is going to be per year. However, you will have to pay for the entire period upfront, so it’s a higher investment walking in.
Here’s an example comparison of yearly prices for .com, .net, and .org domain name extensions by provider:
with 1 year upfront
with 2 years upfront
with 5 years upfront
with 1 year upfront
with 2 years upfront
with 5 years upfront
with 1 year upfront
with 2 years upfront
with 5 years upfront
ICANN, which stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the main body regulating the domain name market as a whole.
Long story short, for any domain name to exist, ICANN has to know all about it. Apart from that, they don’t play any other role from a domain user’s (website owner’s) point of view.
What’s important for you is this:
For each year that your domain exists, ICANN will charge an annual fee of $0.18.
Depending on the domain name registrar you’ve chosen, you might be charged this fee directly, or it might already be included in the price of the domain.
The annual fee charged by ICANN is mandatory.
Whenever registering a domain name, you have to provide your personal information to be associated with the domain name and stored in the domain’s records. Basically, ICANN needs to know who owns the domain name.
By default, this record is publicly available and can be looked up by what are commonly called “whois” tools. There’s a load of those; all you have to do is google the term “whois” to find them. Here’s an example of what a tool like that returns when asked to lookup
What you can see here is the actual address and phone number of the Microsoft headquarters. Of course, in the case of a big corporation like Microsoft, having contact data like this available is no problem. However, if you’re registering a domain under your own name – using your personal address and phone number – then you might not want to have these things out in public.
This is where WHOIS privacy comes into play.
Domain registrars will allow you to make your personal info invisible in whois lookups. If you do enable this, a common whois result will look like the following (looking up our own
The info you see here isn’t our own company info but instead info of the body registering the domain name.
Whois privacy comes at different prices from different registrars. Usually, you can get it for anything between $0 and $10 a year.
Here are the prices from a handful of popular registrars:
- GoDaddy – $9.99 a year
- Domain.com – $8.99 a year
- Namecheap – free
- Hover – free
Even though this upgrade is fully optional, it’s a true must-have. You don’t want your personal info out there.
Although it remains somewhat under the radar, domain theft is a serious issue, particularly for websites that have begun to gain traction or own domains that contain valuable keywords.
The domain lock upgrade can protect your domain from being stolen. You get an additional layer of security on top of your standard authentication with the domain registrar.
Basically, domain lock prevents unauthorized attempts to delete your domain, transfer it to another registrar, or to change the contact details on record.
The most popular and biggest registrars offer this feature for free, and most of the time it’s even enabled by default (Google Domains, Namecheap, GoDaddy, Hover). However, it’s still worth checking how your registrar handles domain locking. You can find this info on every registrar’s website.
Domain lock is a must-have if you have a valuable domain name or your website generates revenue.
Premium SSL Certificate
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a web authentication method that ensures communication security between the parties. Or, to say this in another way, an SSL certificate makes sure that every piece of data that’s sent back and forth between a website and its visitor is encrypted.
This is particularly important when dealing with online banking websites or eCommerce stores (where people often share their credit card numbers).
Long story short, if you want to build a website with the new domain name that you’re registering, then you’ll need to get an SSL certificate installed as well.
However, this is where it can get complicated.
Most of the time, buying a premium SSL certificate from a domain registrar isn’t necessary. You can get an SSL later on from your web host – the company that will store your website.
More than that, web hosts will often enable an SSL certificate on your website for free, so in the end, you might not have to spend a dime.
Premium SSL certificates offered by registrars can add to your domain name cost anything from $10 a year to $25 a month.
Domain locking and SSL certificates are not everything you can do to protect your domain name from wrongdoing. Depending on your registrar, you might have other options available, too. For instance:
- Protection against domain expiration due to billing issues .
- Automatic malware and virus scans, security monitoring, notifications, and alerts on certain security-related events.
- Search engine monitoring to see if your domain is on a blacklist.
- Blocking bot attacks and DDoS attacks.
- Web Application Firewalls, and more.
Some registrars offer these services by their own means and some partner with third-party companies like SiteLock.
Most upgrades are also sold in bundles, so you can pick which specific things you need and select your tier accordingly.
The prices range from $14.99 a year to even $49.99 a month (highest tier with SiteLock).
Our advice is to think about these upgrades when you have your website running. There’s no reason to get them at the stage of domain name registration.
DNS servers are responsible for guiding visitors to your website by translating your domain name into a numeric web address (called an IP address), which computers can actually understand.
Some domain registrars will try to upsell you on a premium DNS service. While there are some benefits to it, like improved response time and faster IP address resolution. Those differences are not that noticeable to the end-user.
Oftentimes, as part of the premium DNS package, you’ll get something called DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions). As the definition says, “DNSSEC strengthens authentication in DNS using digital signatures based on public-key cryptography”. In plain English, it makes your domain more secure by making it harder for attackers to step in the middle and impersonate you.
On its own, these DNS upgrades are not worth the hassle. The benefits are minimal – unless you’re going to be running a big website with lots of traffic.
The only problem here is that some domain registrars will force the DNS upgrade onto you, and you won’t have a choice to skip it. Unfortunately, this is something you’ll find out in the shopping cart, just before going through the checkout.
This sort of DNS upgrade can cost between $0-$7.
Upsells on Web Hosting, Email, and Other Software
The last group deals with upsells, these often come after the domain registration. Most people need domains for either of two things: (1) they want to create a custom email address, or (2) they want to build a website. Or both.
Domain name registrars know this, so they will try to help you out and sell you their own services that cover these needs.
Most commonly, you can expect upsells like:
- Email hosting. This gives you server space to handle your email inboxes and allow you to create a custom email under your own domain; like
[email protected]. This can cost from $1 per inbox a month, all the way to $10 per inbox a month.
- Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) integration. This is also about email hosting, but this time, your emails will be hosted on Google’s servers. Starts from $6 per user a month. As an alternative to Google, you can also find offers for Microsoft 365, a similar service.
- Web hosting. Server space for your future website. Starts from $1 a month for basic server space for one site and go up to hundreds of dollars. On a good side, in some cases web hosting providers offer free domains for the first year.
- Website builders. These tools make it easy to build a website on your own by using a simple visual interface – no coding required. Your experience with them can vary, so it’s probably not worth buying a builder bundled with your domain.
Whether you should opt for any of these hosting upgrades is up to you.
Getting your domain name and email hosting from the same company will simplify the setup, especially if you’re a beginner to these things.
For example, adding an email inbox to a Namecheap domain costs $20 a year, which is quite a bargain.
Where to Get Your Domain Name
As you can see, there are quite a few domain name costs and expenses lurking in the dark and the initial cheapest price can turn out to be many times higher during or after the purchase. The good news is that most of the extras are not mandatory, plus you can choose to get them later on as well.
- Cost of Registering the Domain Name Itself
- Domain Renewal Costs
- Length of Initial Registration vs Price
- ICANN Fee
- WHOIS Privacy
- Domain Lock
- Premium SSL Certificate
- Security Upgrades
- DNS Upgrades
- Upsells on Web Hosting, Email, and Other Software
If you’re looking for a good company to register your domain with, here are our favorites: