Domain Names: Free vs. Paid and How Not To Get Ripped Off
The Truth About Free Domain Names
You’re ready to have you own website with your own .com name. By itself, a domain name doesn’t make a website. You’ll need web hosting. It’s the service that allows your web pages or blog to be seen on the internet. Many top hosting companies will give you a free domain name if you purchase a hosting plan from them. That’s a hard offer to resist if you’re trying to keep your expenses low. But not so fast. Free comes with a price if you don’t do it right.
Who Owns The Free Domain Name?
The hosting company will allow you to make up your own domain name and use it for your site. They will register the name for you, but did you know that the hosting company will be the Registered Name Holder? Legally, the hosting company is the owner and not you. You only get use of the name for free in exchange for buying a web hosting plan. That means you won’t have access to the name’s control panel to make any modifications like switching to another web hosting company if it turns out they have horrible service.
Canceling Your Web Hosting Account
If you cancel your web hosting account, you’ll forfeit that free domain name unless the web host will do a transfer of ownership from themselves to you so you can keep it. Most hosts will do it, some won’t. Truth be told, they don’t have to because they own it. Domain name transfers come with a price. It’s usually the same amount as buying a new domain. However, since you had no control over which registrar they used and weren’t able to shop the price, you’ll more than likely pay more for the name than if you had registered it on via a cheaper registrar of your choice.
Domain Name Ownership Transfer
If you take ownership of the domain name AND you stay with the same registrar, they can usually do the change immediately. However, once you take ownership and then would like to transfer it to your own, cheaper registrar so you don’t have to keep paying those high renewal costs, it can’t be done within the first 60 days of the initial registration. That can be a problem if you’re trying to cancel your web hosting within a 30 to 60-day money-back guarantee period. That’s an ICANN policy, not the web hosting or registrar’s policy.
How Much Will That Transfer Cost?
First let me say this, you will not get any type of refund on “unused months” on a domain name from any registrar. You pay upfront for a specific term and that’s it. About transfer costs, mileage may vary, but a ballpark estimate would be around $15-$20 to transfer ownership, but you’ll also pay another transfer price when you sign up for your preferred and hopefully cheaper registrar. Yup, you’ll pay twice, once to get the name and once again if you want to move it to a cheaper registrar.
Just Keeping It Free
If you decide to go with a free domain name, is it free only for the first year or free for the life of your web hosting account? If it’s free only for the first year, be prepared to pay around $15/year, plus or minus a few bucks, for annual renewal.
Using Your Own Domain Name
There is always the option of using your own pre-purchased domain name and not using the free one when signing up for a web hosting account. However, that has some caveats, too.
If you already have an established website and you want to get a new hosting account for it, you’ll need to get your files from the current host and put them onto the new host. However, what if you do all that and the new hosting service sucks due to excessive down time or horrible customer suppor or you don’t like the control panel or they don’t support something you need for your site? Wow! What a mistake that would be. That’s like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Here’s how I do it without risking a perfectly good domain name or website.
Using A Free Domain Name Without Any Risk
Every web hosting account must have a primary domain name as its root. But the cool thing is, you don’t have to use that domain name for anything. Just leave it undeveloped and use it as a testing sandbox to make sure you like the service and to try out new ideas before you unleash them on the public or your real website.
- You’ll need to get web hosting that allows you to host multiple domain names on a single hosting account, sometimes referred to as “unlimited domains” on a hosting plan.
- Go ahead and accept the free domain name offer. Make sure it’s free for the life of your hosting account. This free domain name is ONLY going to serve as a dead zombie drone for the primary domain on your account. You will not use it for anything except testing and development. It will be a disposable name. That means if you lose it, you don’t care. Make up a name for it. One like tom74382.com. NEVER use a free domain name for your live website. Don’t anchor any domain name you value to be the primary domain on the account. Ok, I think you get it.
- Once you test out the new account and you’re ready to put a real website onto it, buy a new domain name for cheap. I use NameCheap. There’s a coupon code on that page.
- Go into your web hosting control panel and create a new add-on domain for the new domain name.
- Go into your domain name registrar control panel and change the DNS name servers to point to your new hosting account.
- Wait for the DNS to resolve, then build your site as usual.
- If you already have a live website that you want to transfer, here is a checklist that I created to . The process is pretty much the same for getting the files from the old account to the new account.
When you do it this way, you’re not involving any of your live domains as the primary domain. This allows you to test out the new host without dragging a live site into the mix. That way if the hosting isn’t going to work out for you, you didn’t risk a thing and you’ll be able to cancel within the 30, 45 or 90-day guarantee period to get your money back.
If you’re going to be running WordPress blogs then I recommend reliable, cheap web hosting from WebHostingHub. WordPress runs hella fast on my Hub account and their WordPress tech support ROCKS!
Another option is. They’ve got a super deal going on right now for only $2.95/month. Other good choices are BlueHost and .
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