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Conventional wisdom dictates that you get what you pay for most of the time. Does that adage hold true for building a website, where it might be tempting to go with the cheapest domain registrar possible to cut costs?
To find out, we'll have to weight the pros and cons that come with doing a cheap domain registration. It has its advantages, for sure, but some downsides as well.
We'll also have to take a look at the different registrars that are out there. We'll be reviewing what they offer and what customers say about them. With any luck, the answers will let us know if going with a cheap domain registrar is just as effective as any other.
The Upside To Cheap Domain Registration
It's clearly the price. Compare the $14.99/year you'd pay for a “.com” with Hover to the $8.88/year it costs with NameCheap. You've got to have a domain name to grow your website into something brandable. Might as well get it for as low a price as possible, right?
The (Potential) Downsides To Cheap Domain Registration
Some registrars employ pricing scams to hook you at an introductory rate that sounds reasonable. That rate, as you may have already deduced, skyrockets later on, leaving you locked in at a price you never agreed on.
Many customers complain about cheaper services hassling them with aggressive upsells. All the client wants is to register a domain, but some registrars are intent on extracting as much money from their customers as possible with “perks” that are of dubious worth.
Some registrars will just tack on hidden fees for services you didn't request. When it comes time to renew, you'll find yourself on the hook for more than you bargained for, and little recourse for excusing yourself from the situation.
Then there are the horror stories. Some about despondent customer service that makes it as difficult as possible to get out of a contract. Others about clients who had their websites or domains stolen after trying to cancel their service. Others still about the endless run-around customers must embark on to get any basic needs handled.
If you are looking for additional services and support, you may find a cheap registrar lacking. Though many will offer basics like hosting and email, they don't all do the job well.
From poor security to barely functional WordPress integration, the list of complaints is long.
This isn't to say bad things can't happen with a more expensive registrar. They do, though, seem to happen more frequently with a cheap one. Is it all the time, however? Surely there must be some hope if you want to go the cheap domain register route?
How Does The Cheapest Domain Registration Stack Up?
You can find bad reviews for any company. It's easy for an unreasonably upset customer to head over to Reddit or PissedConsumer and let a corporation have it.
To see how these services rate, we'll look at some information from the company homepages about what they offer. Then, we'll check out reputable review sites to determine what the consensus is on each service.
One of the biggest and baddest names out there. For domain registration, for a “.com,” they offer an introductory rate of $2.99/year if you sign up for two years. After that, though, the price goes up to $19.99/year.
They do offer some “free extras” like DNS control, domain forwarding, and domain locking.
GoDaddy is also a hosting service. They offer a range of packages to accommodate clients with different usage requirements. They also have email and marketing assistance for those that need it.
What does the public think? PCMag's professional review is rather favorable. The “Editor's Rating” is “Excellent.” They note that GoDaddy is “a feature-packed Web hosting service that boasts rock-solid uptime, excellent customer service, and flexible website-building tools,” qualifying that only “a few omissions keep it from winning an Editors' Choice award.”
Customer reviews also tell a different story. Comments on the PCMag article lambast them for selling out for referral fees. One commenter, Fabio puts it as plainly as possible, “Anyone with some experience in the business will tell you this is probably one of the worst hosts in the world.”
WebHostingGeeks has a total of 578 reviews of GoDaddy. Of those reviews, 233 are one-star, and 196 are two-star ratings.
Choice review titles include, “Dishonest and Dispiteously Avaricious,” and “DISHONEST, SNEAKY, SHYSTERS!” The crux of many customer complaints seems to be that GoDaddy is only in it for the money.
One customer tells a tale of how GoDaddy tried to charge him for someone else's renewal fee. He claims that they went so far as to submit fraudulent documents to his credit card company to support the charges.
Another customer talks about how they tripled his renewal price, set his account to auto-renew without his consent, then made it as difficult as possible for him to get his domain transferred elsewhere.
Author Media has a solid list on why they feel GoDaddy just isn't worth it, titled 6+ Reasons Why Authors Should Avoid GoDaddy. The list mirrors many consumer complaints. Poor service, pricing, and ease-of-use are among the perceived failings.
Then there was Forbes' scathing takedown, “5 Reasons You Should Leave GoDaddy (And How)”. They detail the company's “unethical business practices” and provide alternatives to using the service.
WhoIsHostingThis? has some positive reviews, but the median rating over there is still only three-stars. There are still plenty of gripes about poor customer service experiences and terrible support.
A pro review from BestHostNews is mostly positive. They praise NameCheap's reliable service and support. They liked the upsell and integration options. They even gave them an “Editor's Choice.”
They were also quick to point out some negatives, like the money back guarantee and value plan limitations. They noted that it wasn't a “WOW, you must host with them” company, but it was difficult to find much of anything negative to say about them.
Customer reviews seem to support most of these claims. A majority of WebHostingGeek's ratings are positive, with the average sitting at 3.5 stars. Many clients enjoy the ease-of-use and simple domain registration process.
It's not all glowing reviews though. A sticking point seems to be some of NameCheap's billing practices. In particular, there is an abundance of complaints about the hard-to-shake “auto-renew,” spikes in fees, and holding domain names hostage.
Reviews from WhoIsHostingThis? corroborate this. They are mostly positive, with a few gripes about billing and fees.
1&1 promises users the “perfect domain.” Per their site, they offer a “.com” domain for $0.99/year as an introductory offer for new customers. The fine-print reveals that the price goes up to $14.99/year for subsequent years, however.
PCMag seems to have a fine opinion of them. They rate the service as “excellent.” From their review:
“1&1 is an affordable Web host that offers rich website-creation tools, solid support, and impressive uptime. It's our top choice if you need WordPress hosting.”
There must be something of a trend with overestimating the value of certain domain registrars and hosting services at PCMag, though, for the comments aren't nearly as favorable.
“This is the WORST domain register company online today,” says one commenter. “Avoid these idiots completely,” remarks another.
WebHostingGeeks reviews are equally biting. The average score is barely two-stars. Again, unscrupulous billing and shady business practices have earned the ire of many.
“DO NOT GET INVOLVED WITH THESE CROOKS!” one emphatic reviewer states. Apparently, they wouldn't let him cancel his account. When he refused the charges, they set a collections agent after him.
Another notes that they are “Cheap For A Reason.” They claim customer service was rude, unhelpful, and plain dishonest when it came to their dealings.
Past users have even taken to Consumer Affairs to air their grievances. 43 reviews, and an average rating of one-star.
Compare More Expensive Services
Perhaps getting domain registration at the cheapest price isn't your speed. There are plenty of other services that, while they may seem more expensive up front, may offer their customers more.
Comparakeet's professional review notes that while the service has some minor issues (the language barrier), the pricing is fair, and the commitment to staying clear from annoying upsells and ads seems genuine. Gandi.net also made LifeHacker's list, Five Best Domain Name Registrars.
Customer reviews of Gandi are mostly positive. They comment that the service is straightforward. Customers seem pleased that they can get what they want without any drama.
FirstSiteGuide notes that they are one of the oldest registrars approved by ICANN. They rank their pricing as middle-of-the-road. The average rating is currently 4.5/5.
PCMag approves, stating that InMotion is “a feature-stacked Web hosting service that offers many attractive features.” They aren't sure if it's the best of the best, though, as they claim “a few issues keep it from being the top dog.”
Customers, for their part, seem to enjoy InMotion. Though they freely admit the service suffers from issues from time to time, they happily report that customer service is friendly, and the issues are often resolved quickly.
“Courteous, professional support make InMotion a great choice,” appears as if it is the most common sentiment.
Over on WebHostingGeeks, the average rating is 4.5. Many customers believe that, if anything, InMotion is underrated. They consistently praise the high level of customer support and professionalism.
WhoIsHostingThis, another well-known review site agrees, with their consensus rating sitting at 4/5. Though users have noted some issues with more advanced features, if you're just trying to get a domain registered, this option seems solid.
There are plenty of cheap services you can use if you're just trying to register a domain in short order. Just be careful not to go with one that has been plaguing customers with shady practices.
In some cases, the seemingly more expensive services will end up costing you the same as ones marketed as more affordable, so do your research beforehand to find the one that is going to suit your needs best.