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Struggling with how to buy a domain name?
Your domain name is the permanent address of your website on the internet. Ours is codeinwp.com. Apart from using the domain for your website, you can also set up custom email accounts on it (like [email protected]), and more.
But before you can do all that, you need to purchase a domain name, which is what this post is about.

How to buy a domain nameHow to buy a domain name

We’ll start by quickly introducing you to how domain ownership works so that you know what’s going on. Then, we’ll show you step-by-step how to buy a domain name from some of the most popular domain registrars:

Let’s get started!

How domain ownership works
To buy a domain name, you need to use a service called a domain registrar.
Why do you need to use a special service? Well, it has to do with making sure the internet keeps functioning.
Only one person can own a domain at a time. For example, you can’t go out and buy facebook.com because Facebook already owns it. You can check if a domain name is available using a tool like Domain Wheel.
To keep track of everything and avoid conflicts (like two people trying to own the same domain name), there are centralized services that manage domain names (ICANN is a big one).
To purchase a domain name, you need to use a vendor that’s accredited by those centralized domain management services – that’s what a domain registrar is.
The domain registrar lets you purchase your domain name. Then, once you’ve purchased it, the registrar also lets you manage your domain name, such as pointing it to your web hosting or email account.
The basic process works like this:

  1. Go to the web registrar.
  2. Enter the domain that you want to use. Then, the registrar will tell you whether it’s available or not.
  3. If available, purchase the domain name.

When you buy a domain name, you pay for one year of ownership. After that first year ends, you can either:

  • Renew the domain to maintain ownership. You always have the first right to renew – no one can take the domain from you as long as you renew it before it expires.
  • Let the domain name expire, in which case it goes back into the pool of available domain names (after a waiting period) and someone else can purchase it in the future.

If you’re worried about forgetting to renew your domain name, there are two things you can do:

  • Most domain registrars allow you to enable automatic renewal, so your domain registration will automatically renew every year even if you forget about it.
  • You can pay for multiple years upfront. For example, you could pay for five years at a time so that you don’t need to think about it again until those five years are up.

What to consider when buying a domain name
Before I show you how to buy a domain name, it’s important to run over a few important considerations for making your purchase:

  • Initial purchase prices – different domain registrars charge different initial purchase prices for different domain extensions. Typically, a “good” price for a .com domain name is $9-$12.
  • Renewal prices – some services charge a higher cost when you renew (GoDaddy does this – so watch out). Namecheap and Google Domains are nice because they don’t charge higher renewal fees.
  • Domain privacy – by default, your contact details are available in something called a Whois database. Anyone can use this to look up who owns a domain name. If you want to make your details private, some services offer Whois privacy, which completely anonymizes your contact details. Google Domains and Namecheap both offer free domain privacy, while some other services charge extra for it.

How to buy a domain name from popular domain registrars
Now that you know how domain ownership works, let’s get into the actual nuts and bolts of how to buy a domain name at some of the most popular domain registrars.
We’ll show you how it works at six different providers. If you already know the registrar that you want to use, you can click on the link in the list below to jump straight to that section:

If you’re not sure which domain registrar to use, I personally like Google Domains for .com domains or Namecheap for other extensions.
On the other hand, if you want both hosting and a domain name, we think Bluehost can be a great option because they give you a free domain for your first year, which lets you save some money.

Namecheap
Namecheap is a popular domain registrar that offers low prices, no added renewal fees, and free Whois privacy on all purchases. This makes it a great all-around domain registrar.
To get started, go to the Namecheap website and enter your desired domain name and extension in the search box and click Search:

How to buy a domain using the Namecheap domain searchHow to buy a domain using the Namecheap domain search

Namecheap will now show a list of results, including the domain name extension that you searched for as well as other domain extensions using the same words.
If your domain name is available, you’ll see a green check box and an option to add it to your cart. If it’s not available, you can repeat the search to find one that is or purchase a different extension:

Available domain at namecheapAvailable domain at namecheap

Once you’ve added it to your cart, you can open your cart by clicking the cart icon in the top-right corner – just like when shopping at an eCommerce store.
You should see a summary of your order. By default, Namecheap will have you purchase the domain for one year, but you can also:

  • Purchase multiple years up front.
  • Enable auto renew.

⚠️ Make sure to leave Domain Privacy enabled. It’s 100% free and this is one of the perks of using Namecheap.
Namecheap will give you the option to add some other extras at the bottom (like hosting), but you can feel free to totally ignore those.
Once you’ve made your choices, click Confirm Order:

How to buy a domain name at NamecheapHow to buy a domain name at Namecheap

Now, you’ll be prompted to create a new account (or log in if you already have one). Enter the basic details to create your account:

Login to accountLogin to account

Then, you’ll need to enter your billing details – click Continue once you’ve done that:

Enter billing detailsEnter billing details

You’ll then see a summary/confirmation screen. If everything looks good, click Pay Now to finalize your order and purchase your domain name:

Confirm your Namecheap domain orderConfirm your Namecheap domain order

That’s it! You now own your domain name.

Google Domains
As the name suggests, Google Domains is Google’s own domain registrar. It makes a great option for .com domains because you’ll pay just $12 now and in the future (no added renewal costs).
However, its prices for less common extensions can be a little high, so I recommend only using it for .com domains.
You can also use your existing Google account to manage your domains, which is convenient. In fact, I’ll assume that you’re already signed into your Google account.
To get started, go to Google Domains and search for your desired domain name and extension:

Google Domains searchGoogle Domains search

If it’s available, you can add it to your cart:

How to buy a domain name at Google DomainsHow to buy a domain name at Google Domains

Then, go to your cart. Make sure to leave the free privacy protection enabled. Then, you can also choose if you want to enable auto-renew and/or if you want to set up a custom email using Google Workspace.
Then, click Check out:

Configure add-onsConfigure add-ons

Now, you just need to enter your billing and payment information. Once you finalize your purchase, you’ll officially own your domain name:

Enter billing detailsEnter billing details

GoDaddy
GoDaddy is the most popular domain registrar in the world. However, it’s important to pay attention to GoDaddy’s renewal prices as they can be very expensive. For example, a .com domain costs $11.99 for the first year, but $18.99 after that. For that reason, Namecheap and Google Domains are usually cheaper in the long-term, though it depends on the extension.
To get started, go to the GoDaddy Domain Search page and search for the domain and extension that you want to use:

Search for domain name at GoDaddySearch for domain name at GoDaddy

If your domain name is available, you’ll see a prompt to add it to your cart. GoDaddy will also try to upsell you various hosting services, but you can just ignore those:

Add to cartAdd to cart

⚠️ Be aware that the price GoDaddy shows is per month, but you’ll need to pay yearly.
Then, open your shopping cart to make your purchase.
When you open your shopping cart, GoDaddy will try to upsell you a lot of services again, including full domain name privacy. If you don’t want these services, make sure to choose No Thanks and uncheck the Start your website for free box. Then, click Continue to Cart:

Skip add-onsSkip add-ons

By default, GoDaddy will sign you up for two years instead of one (which includes the higher renewal price).
If you only want to purchase a single year, change the drop-down to 1 year and then click Checkout:

How to buy a domain name at GoDaddyHow to buy a domain name at GoDaddy

Now, you’ll need to create an account:

Create accountCreate account

Then, you’ll need to enter your billing details, followed by your payment details.
Once you finalize your purchase, you’ll officially own your domain name.
It’s important to be aware that GoDaddy turns on automatic renewals by default. To disable auto-renew, you can follow these steps.

Domain.com
Domain.com is another popular option that offers affordable prices. However, it doesn’t offer free Whois privacy, so the prices are higher if you want to enable Whois privacy.
To get started, go to Domain.com and search for your desired domain name and extension:

Search for domain at Domain.comSearch for domain at Domain.com

If your domain name is available, you’ll see a prompt to add it to your cart. However, you should note that Domain.com will automatically add domain privacy to your purchase ($8.99 per year). You can disable this by unchecking the box.
Domain.com will also sign you up for two years by default – you can change this by using the drop-down in your shopping cart:

How to buy a domain name at Domain.comHow to buy a domain name at Domain.com

Once you’re happy with your choices, click Continue to check out.
Domain.com will then try to upsell you an email account or website builder – to skip this, just ignore the prompts and click Proceed to Billing:

Proceed to billingProceed to billing

Then, you’ll need to enter your billing and payment information. Once you’ve done so, you can click the Purchase Now button to finalize your domain purchase:

Check out to purchase domain nameCheck out to purchase domain name

OVH
OVH is the most popular domain registrar in Europe, though they don’t have a big presence in North America.
To get started, go to the OVH domain page and search for the domain name and extension that you want:

How to buy a domain name at OVHHow to buy a domain name at OVH

If your domain name is available, you can click to add it to your cart – you should then see a summary on the side of the page. You’ll get free DNS security as part of your purchase:

Select domain nameSelect domain name

Click Continue Order to check out.
On the next page, OVH will try to upsell you with DNS Anycast and other services. Unless you’re interested in other services (none of which you need to purchase a domain name), you can just click Skip this step to skip past the upsells:

Ignore add-onsIgnore add-ons

Then, you’ll need to create an OVH account (or log in to an existing one) and validate your email address.

Create accountCreate account

Once you’ve done that, you can add contact details and finalize your account:

Enter contact detailsEnter contact details

Then, you’ll see another order summary. Click the Pay option to finish things out:

Order summaryOrder summary

You’ll need to enter your payment details. Then, you’ll officially own your domain name:

Enter payment detailsEnter payment details

Bluehost
Bluehost is one of the largest web hosting companies in the world, but they’re also a popular domain registrar.
There are two ways to get a domain name through Bluehost:

  1. You can purchase web hosting from Bluehost, which gets you a free domain name for your first year. This is a good bargain if you’re also in the market for web hosting.
  2. You can purchase just the domain name – it works like any other domain registrar. I don’t recommend this, though, because it’s exactly the same as Domain.com, but with higher prices (Domain.com is owned by the same company that owns Bluehost).

I’ll show you how both options work…
How to get a free domain name from Bluehost
To get a free domain name from Bluehost, you can go to the hosting page and choose the package that you’re interested in – you get a free domain name no matter which plan you choose:

Choose Bluehost hosting planChoose Bluehost hosting plan

On the next page, enter the domain name that you want to use in the Create a new domain box and click Next:

Choose free domain name from BluehostChoose free domain name from Bluehost

Bluehost will tell you if the name is available. Then, you just need to enter your billing and payment information to purchase the web hosting and you’ll get your domain name for free:

Enter Bluehost account informationEnter Bluehost account information

How to buy a domain name from Bluehost
To buy a standalone domain name from Bluehost, go to the domains page and enter the domain name that you want to use:

How to buy a domain name from BluehostHow to buy a domain name from Bluehost

Then, you’ll see the exact same interface as Domain.com – again, this is because Bluehost and Domain.com are owned by the same parent company:

Disable domain privacyDisable domain privacy

Bluehost will try to upsell you with 30 days of free hosting – you can skip that if you don’t want hosting:

Ignore the hosting trial if you don't want hostingIgnore the hosting trial if you don't want hosting

Then, you just need to enter your billing details and payment information to purchase your domain name:

Enter payment detailsEnter payment details

Bluehost will enable auto-renew by default – you can turn it off by following these instructions.

Next steps – how to set up your domain name
Now that you’ve learned how to buy a domain name, the next step is to start actually using that domain name for your website, email, or whatever else you want to use your domain name for.
To help you do just that, we have plenty of guides to help.
First off, if you want to connect your new domain name to your web hosting, you can follow our guide on how to change domain nameservers. Changing nameservers is what lets you “point” your domain name to your web hosting, so it’s an essential topic to understand.
If you don’t have web hosting yet, you can check out our roundup of the best web hosting providers for some ideas.
Second, you can follow our guide on how to set up a professional email address to create your own custom [email protected] email address using Google Workspace. Or, check out some other email hosting providers.
Finally, if you want to use your domain name to make a website but you’re not sure how to get started, you can follow our guide on how to make a website with WordPress. 👈
Do you still have any questions about how to buy a domain name? Let us know in the comments


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Layout and presentation by Chris Fitzgerald and Karol K.