Will I Have to Continue to Pay a Fee to Keep My Domain Name After I Buy It?

Can I Change Registrars? Can I Terminate My Domain Name?

Will I Have to Continue to Pay a Fee to Keep My Domain Name After I Buy It?

by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com

One of my visitors wrote to ask me, "what happens after the year for which I paid to own the domain name? Who would I be paying in order to have the right to keep the domain for a second year or more? If my site is successful, am I likely to find the registrar demanding an inflated price for me to keep that name?" This article attempts to clarify the issues pertaining to registering or "buying" a domain name.

It's an Annual Fee

The fee you pay the domain name registrar is an annual fee. In other words, you "own" the domain only as long as you keep paying the yearly fee for it. In this sense, the "ownership" of the name is not like the ownership of a physical object (eg, a car) that you buy, where once you pay for it you own it permanently. Instead, it's more like a rental fee where, as long as you pay the "rent", you can continue to point that domain name to your website.

The good news is that nowadays, because of heavy competition, domain name fees are very low. At the time I write this, prices at most registrars hover around $10 to $15 per annum. Actual prices vary from registrar to registrar, so if you really want an accurate number, please go to the registrar's own site to find out. A list of some well-known registrars can be found on the How to Register a Domain Name page.

You're Not Stuck with Paying Forever If You Want to Quit

You are under no obligation to keep paying for the domain name. That is, if you decide in the end that you want to close your website, simply don't renew your domain name. Normally, when your domain name is about to expire at the end of its registration period, the domain name registrar will send you an email message to remind you that it's time to renew. If you don't want to keep the domain, just ignore the email and don't pay for the next year's fee. Their system will then automatically terminate your domain name at the end of that period, and that's that. When you type that domain into your browser after that date, you will no longer see your website.

Note: if you have originally asked your registrar to automatically renew your domain name, and now don't want it done, you will need to return to your registrar's website to disable the automatic renewal. Otherwise the registrar will go ahead and charge your credit card for the renewal fee when the domain is about to expire (since it won't know that you've decided to quit).

Renewal of a Domain Name: Which Registrar?

Should you decide to keep your domain name, and you did not set it to auto-renew, you will have to return to the same registrar you used before to pay the next year's fee.

This doesn't mean that you're stuck with a single registrar for life. You're free to change registrars if you like. However, don't wait till the last minute to change registrars, or you may run into problems. Transfers take a bit of time to take effect, and often require you to take action on both your new registrar's site as well as your old. I suggest that if you want to transfer your domain, play safe and transfer it long before the expiry date.

(Before you ask, to transfer a domain, just go to the new registrar, pay the usual domain name fee, and initiate the transfer from there. The registrar will provide you with instructions on how to do it. The procedure differs from registrar to registrar, and changes from time to time.)

Will the Registrar Try to Charge Me More When My Site is Successful?

Please bear in mind, as you read my answer to this question, that I'm neither omniscient nor prescient. I don't know the internal workings of any registrar, and thus cannot predict their prices in the future. So take what I say here with a pinch of salt.


Although buying a domain name seems like a big deal to a beginner, it's actually only a starting-up issue, something that bothers you only when you're setting up a website for the first time.

Eventually, you'll find that it's one of the few things where you can fire and forget: that is, after you buy it and point it to your site, you don't have to attend to it any more nor even bother with it (except when paying for renewals). In fact, as time goes on, you'll find that the problem with domain names is that it's so easy to forget to renew it.

Copyright © 2009-2017 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
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