Domain Buying Guide: How to Purchase a Domain Name from Registrar or Existing Owners

Updated: Nov 02, 2020 / Article by: Azreen Azmi

* Updates: Facts checked and new industry stats added.

It was back in 1985 when the first domain name was registered and since then, the Internet has seen an exponential growth of active domain names.

Verisign’s report notes that the domain industry in 2019 (Q3) experienced a 5.1 percent annual growth, netting in almost 360 million registered domains, and will continue to grow.

It was back in 1985 when the first domain name was registered and since then, the Internet has seen an exponential growth of active domain names.

Verisign’s report notes that the domain industry in 2019 (Q3) experienced a 5.1 percent annual growth, netting in almost 360 million registered domains, and will continue to grow.

Given how important a digital presence is in today’s technologically inclined society, it makes sense for a brand, be it a large conglomerate or a one-man digital agency, to own domain name.

If you don’t have one yet, or just need a little guide on domain names, then keep on reading. We’ll share the details on how to buy and register a new domain for beginners!

What is a domain name?

When you want to start a website, you need to have a domain name. But what the heck is a domain name anyway?

It’s basically a string of recognizable words that, when typed in the browser, redirects the user to your server IP.

You see, when a website is created, it often comes with a unique address known as a Domain Name Servers (DNS) which often looks like this:

NS1.VD345.NETHOST.NET
NS2.VD345.NETHOST.NET

That’s really hard to memorize and type. Which is why a unique domain name will be easier for users to remember and type.

For more technical details about domain name, please read Jerry's guide.

Domain Name Suggestions

Your domain name is your identity. It’s how people find you, the name clients pass to others.

Needless to say, nothing is more important.

Give your businesses a step in the right direction for picking the perfect domain name – here are a few tips on how to find cool domain names.

  • Keep it short and easy to remember (our domain “Web Hosting Secret Revealed” is a bad example!)
  • Avoid trademarked names
  • Get a .com or .net whenever it's possible
  • Don't be afraid to make up a word or use a compound word (think – FaceBook, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn)
  • Write it out and read it repeatedly before purchasing (example – be very cautious if your business name is “Dickson Web”)

Naming a website can be quite hard, especially if you’re new to the whole website and branding thing. And if you’re just like me, you might spend hours brainstorming for a name, only to end up with a list of crappy ones.

Here are a few domain name generators to help you brainstorm domain name ideas.

How to buy a new domain name from registrar?

Getting your own domain boils down to two ways:

  1. Buying and registering an entirely new domain, or
  2. Purchasing one that's currently owned by someone else.

There are pros and cons to both ways but ultimately, it's up to you whether you prefer to pay for expensive but well-known addresses (domains that are active) or cheaper but lesser-known ones (brand new domains).

One thing you need to consider is how to name your domain.

As mentioned earlier – A really good domain name can be the deciding factor that makes or break your brand, so choose one wisely.

1. Check for domain availability

Now that you’ve decided on a really awesome domain name, it’s time to check whether the domain name you want is available or not.

Checking on whether a domain name’s availability is easy enough. You can do a simple search with one of the domain registrars; or, use a Whois search engines such to verify whether your domain name is available or has been taken.

If the domain name you want is not available, try to see if different extensions are available instead.

Hover - registering a domain name.
You can check if a domain name is available using Hover.

2. Register your domain name with a registrar

The domain name you’ve chosen is perfect and you’ve verified that it is available, now it's time to actually register the domain name itself.

Just add your desired domain to cart and proceed to payments; and the domain is now yours.

Register a domain at Hover
Register the domain if it's available.

How Much to Pay for a New Domain Name?

NameCheap Domain pricing
A domain registration and renewal cost depends very much on its extension (known as TLD). In this example with NameCheap, a .com domain costs $10.98/year and renews at the same price. On the other hand, a .store domain costs $4.99/year to register but $48.88/year to renew.

A lot of factors that can determine the price of a domain name. Some of those reasons could be:

  • The extension of the domain name (example: .com, .shop., .me)
  • Where the domain name is purchased from (different registrars different offer prices)
  • The length of the term or any other add-ons you might want (example: adding domain privacy, going for multi-year terms, etc.)

While it’s hard to narrow down specifically how much a domain name can cost, you can generally expect to pay anywhere between $2 to $20 per year, depending on any discounts or specials the platform is offering.

A good rule of thumb is that newer domain extensions (.global, .design., .cheap) can be slightly more expensive than the normal domain extensions (.com, .net), as they’ve only been recently put on the market.

Saving Tips on New Domain

  1. You can get free domain from some hosting providers, including GreenGeeks, InMotion Hosting and Hostinger. To attract new customers, some hosting companies give out free domains to their first time customer. If you are hosting a website for the first time, you can save some money by hosting with these web hosts.
  2. NameCheap runs special promotions every month – you can check out their website page before you buy a new domain.
  3. Also check out Best place to search and register a domain name

How to buy an existing domain name from its owner?

What if you wanted to purchase a domain that’s already active instead?

You can choose to purchase active domains and transfer ownership through services such as a domain name escrow.

What’s a domain name escrow?

A domain name escrow basically an independent third-party agent that assists in the selling-buying process of domain names on the internet. These sites provide a safe way for buyers to purchase domain names from sellers who want to let go of their domain name.

There are a number of domain name escrow services available, but here are a few that you can check out: Escrow.comSedo, and BuyDomains.

How to Purchase Domains Using Escrow

Let’s say you found a domain name and both you and the seller have decided on the amount. The conundrum becomes: How do you safely pay the money and make sure the owner transfers the domain ownership to you?

That’s where escrow comes in. You can use escrow services to make sure that the transaction goes about smoothly. How do you actually do that? Here’s how:

  1. Set up an escrow transaction between you and the seller
    Register an account at an escrow service site, and determine the terms of the transaction between you and the seller, which includes the domain name(s) and sale price.
  2. Make your payment to the escrow company
    Once you decided on the amount, you make your payment (via wire, credit card or any other method) to the escrow company.
  3. Domain name is then transferred from the seller to you
    When the escrow company receives and verifies the payment, they will then instruct the seller to transfer the domain name to you.
  4. Confirm that you’ve received the domain name ownership
    You’ll need to confirm with the escrow company that the ownership of the domain name has transferred to you. Use WHOIS or WHSR Tool to check if the owner profile has been updated or not.
  5. The seller receives the money from the escrow service site
    The escrow company will verify that the domain name has been transferred and they will then give the money to the seller, minus their fee. (You can decide beforehand which party pays the fee or have it split down the middle.)

How to determine the value of a pre-owned domain name

When you’re looking for a pre-owned domain name, which can usually be found on aftermarket services, private sellers, and auction houses – you’ll notice that their value can range anywhere from a few dollars to as high as a six or seven-figure range.

These might not be the best place to get a domain name if you’re just starting out.

How an existing domain gets its price can be determined by a number of factors such as length, language, trends, and demographics. There’s no one single method that can give you a perfect asking price. There are ways, however,  to give you a ballpark estimate of a domain name and it requires a little bit of researching on your part.

1. Using Recent Domain Sales

A good rule of thumb to understand how domains are valued is by looking at the recent sales. A look at the recent sales can give you an idea of what type of domains are being purchased and for how much.

DNJournal posts a domain sales report which they regularly update and in it, they list out domain names that are recently sold from multiple premium domain services. When looking through, pay attention to the domain’s keywords, length, and other related factors to get an idea of how a domain name is valued.

Screenshot of DN Journal domain sales report.
Domain sales report published on DN Journal (May 2018)
Screenshot of DN Journal domain sales report.
Screenshot of DN Journal domain sales report.

It’s important to note that the report only covers a small number of domain names, so it’s not exactly the most comprehensive list.

2. Using Online Domain Valuation Tools

The other way to determine a domain’s value is through a domain appraisal service or an online valuation tool. These sites will allow you to enter a specific domain name and will give you a suggested asking price for it.

A few of the sites that you can check out are Estibot, WebsiteOutlook, and URL Appraisal.

These sites determine the value of a domain using SEO-related factors like search ranking, keywords, Alexa rank, monthly searches, number of searches, and cost per click.

One thing to note is that different sites can give you different estimations. A good plan would be to use several different sources and compare them to give you a better estimation of a domain name value.

Again, there are no definitive prices for buying a domain name and you can expect them to fluctuate quite often. If you want a general idea of domain name prices, you can go to sites such as Afternic or Buy Domains to get a feel for the cost.

Settle on a domain, then get to work

By now, you should have enough information to help you register a custom domain name for your brand or business by yourself.

Whether it’s through website builders or domain registrar sites, owning a domain name should be the first thing you complete before going live. Once you’ve got that down, it’s time to focus on building your website.

About Azreen Azmi

Azreen Azmi is a writer with a penchant for writing about content marketing and technology. From YouTube to Twitch, he tries to keep in touch with latest in content creation and finding out the best way to market your brand.