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Stick with cheap domain name registrations

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Domain prices are sold wholesale by Verisign ($6.86 on July 1, 2010) and then a 25 cent ICANN fee is added on. Since you can't buy directly from Verisign, you'll have to buy from a reseller.

There are countless companies who offer domain registration services for new .com, .net, .org and other domain name types. These are called "registrars". Make sure you select one of the many ICANN-accredited registrars (here is a list) so you can safely register your name there. 

You should expect to pay something more than the Verisign + ICANN price ($7.11 as of July 2010) so the reseller can make a profit. However there are some cases where they might be willing to give you a better deal. If you buy other "products" with reseller, such as hosting services, then some are willing to give you the domain for free or cheap.

Other registrars will offer a really good deal to transfer your domain name, since they want your future business. However in future years you will pay their higher price so make sure you look ahead. If you don't mind the hassle, switching your registrar each year can save you some extra dough.

For most people who just want a basic domain registration, there is no reason to spend a lot at a pricey registrar so stick with cheap options:
  • GoDaddy is the market leader and one of the cheapest options. LOZO recommends them for most needs as their registration also includes free basic hosting, email, and more. They have a lot of optional add on services but these are not required in order to secure your name. GoDaddy constantly has promotions so there's no reason to pay full price (check the LOZO coupons section for the latest or this list on Fatwallet.com). If you get a really good price ($6-8 per year for .com or .net) you might want to lock in multiple years. Otherwise, if you are paying $9-10 you can probably do better when it's time to renew so stick with 1 or 2 yr registrations.
  • Netfirms offers free privacy with registration, an option that can cost $8 or so with GoDaddy unless you are registering 5+ names. 
  • 1&1 offers inexpensive web hosting options that include free domain names, so they are a good option if you need a place to host your site and don't want any ads on the page (GoDaddy offers free hosting with your domain, but with ads).
  • NetworkSolutions is the original domain name provider, and still a very reliable registrar.  Their $6.99 promotion, when available, makes them price competitive.
  • Moniker is another popular, low-cost option.
Want to quickly check if your name is available, or see who owns it? LOZO recommends Who.is

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