Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affliliate links
I love free products and services for my websites, and many of the tools we recommend are in fact free. So why am I telling you to say no to a free domain at your web host?
First let's mention what the free domain offer actually covers and does not cover. Then I'll explain why this can land you in difficulties later down the track.
The typical free domain deal
Most web hosting companies offer a free domain name for you at the time that you sign up for a hosting plan. It's a one-domain offer, only at the time you sign up, not later. This is typically around a $10 value.
Hosting companies which do this typically just cover the registration for the first year (the $10) but not renewals, which are have to be done yearly by you ($10 for each additional year). Some companies may cover renewals too, so long as you are still hosting that domain with them.
Below is an example of a reputable deal for a free domain from a web host. Although this particular deal is legitimate, I recommend turning down the free domain no matter how reputable the web host is:
Above: a reputable deal for a free domain name; I still recommend turning it down.
Why is this such a bad deal?
The free domain deal from any web host is not in your best interests. First off, I should assure you it's a perfectly legitimate and legal deal, so it's not a scam and you're not breaking any laws or anything like that. But the problem here is the answers to the following questions, which most hosts do not spell out clearly beforehand:
If you get the free domain deal....
- In whose name is the domain name registered: yours, or the hosting company's? Even if the hosting company is letting you use a domain registered in their name, I can assure you that this is not a situation you want to be in. You'll want the domain to be registered in your name only.
- If you later switch to another host, will you be able to transfer the domain easily?
- What if you decide you want to sell the domain name later? Do you easily have control over the selling of that domain?
The trouble is that most hosts don't make the answers clear beforehand. And as you can see, these questions are highly important for your future. Therefore I would strongly recommend against getting a free domain with your hosting package. Instead you should first register your domain at a reputable domain name registrar; we recommend NameSilo or Namecheap as the top two options for this. You should be able to get your domain for under $10. Using either of these registrars will ensure that the domain is registered in your name and that you have full control over it. Spending the extra $10 now can save you hundreds of dollars plus heartache at the other end.
The issues above that I brought up are problematic even if you register at a reputable web host. But at a less reputable hosting company, they may even try to actively take advantage of people. They promise them a free domain name that turns out to have so many restrictions and conditions that you're forced to use that host if you want to use that domain, even if they're a terrible host.
Keep your web host and your domain name registrar separate
It's not just web hosts offering domain name registrations; the reverse is also true. Many reputable domain name registrars also offer web hosting. Again, giving any one company control over both is not in your best interests. There is simply too much that they can "hold hostage" in the event they deem that there is a problem with your account.
We've already mentioned reputable domain name registrars above; the reputable web hosts we recommend are SiteGround, A2 Hosting, and People's Host. For multiple sites, People's Host is a great deal because even their starter plan allows multiple domains, unlike most other hosts. The other two are also great options; we use A2 Hosting for some of our own sites and love it. SiteGround is perfect for the beginner. You can't go wrong with any of these. But even with these 3 top-notch hosts, I'd recommend keeping your host and your domain name registrar separate.
It's hard to turn down free stuff, but in this case it's the right thing to do. First register your domain with a domain name registrar like NameSilo or Namecheap. Then sign up for a hosting account at SiteGround, A2 Hosting, or People's Host. It's more than worth it for the peace of mind you'll have later on down the track.