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How to Buy a Domain Name Forever: Is It Possible?

If you’re building a website for a business you plan to run for the rest of your life or even pass on to your children, it makes sense to learn how to buy a domain name forever. But is it possible?

This guide will answer all of your questions about how to keep a domain name long-term.

Let’s get started!

How to buy a domain name forever: is it possible?

The unfortunate truth is that it’s not possible to permanently register a domain. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) limits domain registration to a maximum of ten years [1].

Why can’t you buy a domain name forever?

The thing about registering a domain name is that you don’t actually gain ownership of it. In fact, it’s a bit misleading to say you “buy” a domain name. The more accurate description is that domain registration is similar to a lease agreement on an apartment: your money gives you control over the thing being leased for a set period of time – whether that’s an apartment or a domain name. If you want to keep it, you need to renew the agreement.

πŸ‘‰ There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Infrastructure cost. As the internet grows, it becomes more expensive to maintain. Domain registration fees help ICANN offset those costs. Keeping these registrations temporary makes it possible to bring in money on a regular basis and adjust costs as needed to meet inflation and the rising needs of internet infrastructure.
  • Democratization. Limiting registration terms reduces the odds of users hoarding domains. It also means that domains will return to the domain pool upon someone’s death, preventing them from being permanently removed from the internet. This gives newcomers to the internet more opportunity to get the domains they want.

In short, limiting the amount of time a person or company can keep a domain name helps the internet run more smoothly and fairly for all users.

How to buy a domain name (almost) permanently

The good news is that you can take a few steps to keep a domain name for as long as you’re alive:

1. Choose a long-term registration ⏳

The standard domain registration term is one year, but many domain registrars let you register for the maximum duration of up to ten years. You can typically choose the length of your registration during the checkout process.

Namecheap domain registration with an arrow pointing to "10 years".

Benefits of using this method πŸ’

  • You won’t have to worry about paying a renewal fee every year.
  • You won’t have to worry about the price of domain renewal going up for a full ten years. This can save you money in the long term.
  • You’ll get guaranteed control over your domain name for a whole decade (unless you break some other part of the registration agreement, such as using your site for banned activities).

Drawbacks of using this method 🧐

  • The initial cost is significant. For example, at the time of writing this article it costs just $10.28 to buy a .com on Namecheap for one year, vs $136.10 for a ten year registration. This cost can be prohibitive for new businesses on a shoestring budget.
  • Aside from the upfront cost, there is also the reality that perhaps your website, blog, or business isn’t going to be as successful as you initially thought. You may simply lose interest in it, or you might get pulled into other projects. Regardless of the specific reason, the point is that permanently buying a particular domain name might lose its initial appeal, which will render your ten year investment a waste of money.

2. Set up auto-renew πŸ”„

Auto-renew is exactly what it sounds like: a service that automatically renews your domain shortly before your current registration expires.

In order to set up auto-renew, you’ll be required to keep a credit or debit card on file for the registrar to pull payment from when renewal time comes around. If you plan on using this strategy with your of domain registrar, make sure your payment information is kept up to date.

Benefits of using this method πŸ’

  • You can typically set it up with a single click of a button.
  • You get the reassurance of being able to keep your domain name without having to worry about the initial cost of a ten year term (although you can also set up auto-renew on a ten year registration plan).

Drawbacks of using this method 🧐

  • Your domain name may still expire if your payment information changes and you forget to update it with the registrar.

3. Expiration protection πŸ›‘οΈ

Expiration protection holds your domain for you for a pre-set “grace period” after your domain expires. This may be three days, one week, or one month. Some domain registrars may offer an even longer grace period.

The good news about this is that many domain registrars offer built-in expiration protection. For example, Namecheap automatically keeps domains registered on your account for 30 days after your official expiration date.

Some registrars may require you to pay for expiration protection and/or offer an expanded version of expiration protection as a paid add-on during registration. Be sure to research what’s available with the registrar you’re considering if you’re concerned about what might happen when your domain expires.

Benefits of using this method πŸ’

  • This method keeps your site online for a period of time after your domain expires.
  • Most domain registrars offer some level of this protection for free.

Drawbacks of using this method 🧐

  • The grace period is a danger zone; if you don’t notice it in time, your domain will expire and your site will go down.

What about companies that promise lifetime domain registration?

There are some companies that purport to offer lifetime domain name registration. However, like the idea of buying a domain, the idea of lifetime registration is a bit of a misnomer. These companies are limited to ten year registrations just like any other registrar.

The difference is that these companies allow you to “register” and pay up front for the number of years that you think you’ll be alive. For example, you could set the number to 100. You’ll then be required to give the company the money to renew your ten year registration ten times. When each ten year term ends, the company will pull the money for renewal from these prepaid funds.

In theory, this is a great investment if you’ve got the money to pay for 100 years of domain registration up front. You’ll never have to worry about renewing your domain, and you’re locked into whatever the company’s current registration process is.

However, you’re not the one whose name is on the registration. The company is the one buying it on your behalf. This means you’re at risk of losing your domain or your investment if the company closes or is bought out. For this reason, we recommend sticking with the domain purchase strategies outlined in the previous section to keep your domain for a long period of time.

Final thoughts on how to buy a domain name forever 🏁

You can’t buy a domain name forever, but you can keep your domain secure for decades to come through the use of long-term registrations, auto-renew features, and expiration protection.

Taking advantage of these tools provided by regular registrars is a much safer option than a “lifetime registration”, which is typically done by a company on your behalf, leaving you vulnerable to losing your domain if the company folds.

πŸ‘‰ Now there’s only one question left: what company should you turn to for registering your domain (almost) forever?

Check out our guide to the best domain registrars of 2024 to find out!