Outstanding hosting from just $2.95/mo Free site transfers on most plansVisit Siteground > X

Expert Guide To Buying A Registered Domain Name In 2020

Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more

How to Buy That Domain You've Always Wanted (But's Not For Sale)

Selecting the right domain name for your website is one of the most critical aspects of establishing yourself online. Your domain name has to be engaging enough to catch the eye, evoke your business in the mind's eye of anyone who sees it, and memorable (and pithy) enough for easy recall.

What to Do When Your Perfect Name Is Taken?

What do you do when you've picked out a name and selected a hosting provider, but your perfect domain name's already been registered by someone else? Sure, you may have access to other domain suffixes like ".biz" or ".net" or even ".tv", but if you've got your heart and mind set on getting YourSite.com when someone else already owns it, you'll need to enter the world of aftermarket domains.

Registered domains that don't have a website associated with them have often been purchased by speculators who are banking on making a profit from buying a name they hope will be irresistible to a future purchaser. In the early days of the Web, speculative purchases gave rise to such shenanigans as URL (uniform resource locator) hijacking and "typosquatting."

These terms refer to the purchase of a domain name in order to strong-arming a company or person into purchasing a site with their name (or the name of one of their properties), as well as the (slightly) less nefarious practice of purchasing domains with spellings that are very close to, or deliberate misspellings of, well-known domain names in order to collect information, install malware, or—yet again—force a business owner into purchasing the domain. Thankfully, these and other cybercrimes have become the target of serious prosecution.

Domain Brokers and Auction Sites

Today, domain names have reached a level of commoditization that means most folks who buy up a bevy of names are more likely seeking a modest profit than malicious mayhem. Domain brokers and auction sites are as easy to access and use as eBay, and using one is, for most, much more attractive than trying to track down the individual owner of a domain on their own and work out a deal. These sites add some much-needed security and accountability to the process, protecting both you as a customer and the domain vendor from fraud or other chicanery. You may also be able to access after-market domains through your hosting provider, depending on the features they offer.

If your chosen domain name is an essential part of your brand and company, then it's worth the time and effort to investigate these services in order to obtain it.

Buying a registered domain

Also See: Our Guide to Buying Dropped Domains

Editor's note: Reply All did a few podcast episodes (here related to the topic of tracking down and buying domains that are already registered. Worth a listen for the sleuthing tips.

Transcript of the above graphic:

How to Buy a Domain that's Already Registered

Domains once registered by another user are referred to as aftermarket, or secondary market domains. They become available for purchase when they expire, or when the owner decides to sell it. These domains often hold great inbound link, traffic, and branding value. Some have sold for millions. Before getting started in the market, it's best to know the landscape. Here are the basics.

How It Works

Some aftermarket domains are put on auction via marketplace sites such as:

Think of it like eBay for domain names.

Escrow.com offers domain names on escrow - where they're held by a third party until the transaction is complete.

On JustDropped.com, you can research which domain names have expired in the last 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days or 60 days.

SnapNames.com will register expiring domains on your behalf. If two or more people attempt to "snap" the same expiring name, it will be placed up for auction between the interested parties.

According to iGoldRush.com, there's sometimes more than 20,000 domains expiring on one day.

Why It Works

A good domain name can be hard to come by - many are already taken. It's worth researching if the domain you really want is up for auction.

A great domain name that is memorable and brandable allows you to "punch above your weight."

Measuring Domain Value

Domains are valuable Internet real estate because unlike a search engine, there's no middleman between you and the visitor.

Domain price trends are not detached from the rest of the economy, they are comparable to the fluctuations of stock prices.

According to Sedo.com, prices tend to run parallel to the NASDAQ 100 index, the stock prices of Google, or total revenues from online marketing in the U.S.

Sedo research shows that domains rapidly gained value between 2006 and 2007 with prices peaking at a 76% YoY increase, before falling by 34% in the subsequent five quarters.

They have steadily regained their strength since, with average sales prices climbing to an all-time high in May 2011 at a total sales volume of $84.4 million.

Sedo.com is among the world's largest global domain name marketplaces, selling 3,500 domains per month for a total of approximately $6 million in transaction volume.

In July 2013, $2.3 million of domain transactions took place on Sedo.com and Afternic.com withinone week.

Prices vary depending on factors such as keyword use, search engine ranking, traffic, etc. Generally, the higher the bid price, the higher the commercial value of that domain.

According to DomainNameSales.com, most domain name re-sales occur between $5,000 to $80,000.

The average price of a common phrase ending in .com hovers between $9,000 and $30,000.

Every week, the collective domain name industry consistently sells an estimated $5-10 million of domains at prices buyers are more than willing to pay.

Check out Namebio.com, which show historical sale prices, allowing you to judge worth vs. sale prices.

Examples of high-value domains include: HomeLoans.com, CriminalLawyer.com, BusinessSoftware.com, TowerCraneRental.com, and CommercialCoffeeMachines.com.

Some of the most expensive domains ever sold were:

  • Insure.com - $16 million in 2009
  • Sex.com - $13 million in 2010
  • Fund.com - $10 million in 2008
  • Business.com - $7.5 million in 1999
  • HolidaInn.com - $3 million in 1995

Test a Domain before Buying It

Last thing you want is a domain on Google's blacklist.

Do a Google site search (site:yourdomain.com) and check Google's Penalty Tool to verify an aftermarket domain doesn't have any penalties against it.

Check the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (archive.org) to indicate the site's industry and the type of content that was published.

Conduct a search of brand-related queries to identify any issues prior users had, as well as any past complaints that could damage future traffic.

Check UpName.com to see how the domain has changed hands over the years.


Last update: Dec 19th, 2016

WhoIsHostingThis Team

About WhoIsHostingThis Team

Our writing team comes from all over the world with diverse backgrounds in the arts and sciences. But what links them is their passion for the internet. All together they represent many decades of experience working in all facets of it -- from programming and hardware creation to website design and marketing.


Thanks for your comment. It will show here once it has been approved.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Is Your Perfect Domain Name Already Taken? This Infographic might Help You Own It

September 21, 2015

[…] is an infographic giving insights on how to buy a domain name that is already owned by someone […]



November 30, 2016

Ok! I just missed a domain name which I have been thinking to buy for a few weeks and it was available. but I didn’t think it was too intriguing to be captured so I planned to hold on for a few days and buy it later. Today I just hit it again to exactly buy it now (dated: 30-11-2016) but it’s really unfortunate for me that the domain has been registered just yesterday (dated: 29-11-2016). I wonder how many out there have been in just a luck with it but I am.

Now you probably know why would I have ended up on a webpage like this. I just read about the sites like snapnames.com which you also have listed. I have a question – a serious one.

Suppose I submit my desired domain name (which is already registered by a person A1) at snapnames.com.
Isn’t there a chance that SnapNames would try to deal with the original owner A1 as to let them know about a critical buyer of the domain they own? Isn’t it better to wait an unused(but registered) domain name which also has not a chain years being renewed?

Hope I made a point.



January 24, 2017

I am a student. I just checked the domain name of company that I am planning to establish after school. I checked my own name. I checked name of a project that I imagined. They were available and cheap like 10-20 usd but as I said I am just a student. I just thought that I may buy them after I save some bucks. On the other hand I didn’t even know how to make a website so I waited. Then I started to take some e-mails from someone who bought the domain names that I checked. They were trying to sell it to me for 10k-15k usd. I don’t know how do they do it but it is really awful. I feel like my dreams are hijacked.


Frank Moraes

January 25, 2017

@baver: I recommend starting over and coming up with a new domain name. You can always find something great if you work on it. See this article and video, How to Choose The Perfect Domain Name.

It may make you feel better to know that it’s happened to all of us. This is one reason why many of us are addicted to buying domain names for every new idea we have — but which we probably won’t have the time to do. :-(

Good luck with company!



January 25, 2017

In the last couple days, I managed to prove the availability of 100 .com domain names on GoDaddy.com search database.
The names are mostly specifically related to 4 different categories of emerging technologies. My question is

Does the registry site keep a record of all the names that were submitted in the search window at the time of submission? Or if after you log off the site ,those names are erased from their database. I am quite concerned because of a clause that I read on their agreement policy, which you have to agree to if you want to use the site service. Go see Item 3.2 , Titled “no proprietary right”. Kinda scary bullying tactics ..in my opinion
I would welcome any kind of input on the subject…thanks



January 26, 2017

Do a search for “domain name front running” — yes, registrars can and have done this in the past.

Though, my guess is it is more often perpetrated by browser tools & websites in cahoots with scammers (rather than actual big registrars milking money).

Some good reads on the subject:

Personally, I’ve never run into this issue. I use Namecheap & GoDaddy for my domain searches.



March 24, 2019

So the domain I want is taken, but the owner of it made the website blank, provides an email to buy and when I emailed them, multiple times they haven’t replied. What do I do? Obviously they don’t want it but how do I force a buy if they won’t reply?