NameCheap and GoDaddy are big names when it comes to domain name registration (and perhaps hosting). GoDaddy was founded in 1996 followed by NameCheap in 2000, so they’ve both been in the industry for around two decades. In this blog post, I will try to break down the pros and cons of NameCheap vs Godaddy and give you a solid recommendation at the end.
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging, wondering where you should go like some other articles do!
Understanding the difference between a web host and a registrar
Before we delve into the specifics, it’s important to understand some key concepts because we’ll build on them later. To put it simply, a web host lets you rent a “space on the web” where your website will be “hosted”.
That is only one part of the puzzle though, as your website remains pretty hard to reach until you get a domain name. A top-level domain name (TLD) is simply the “yoursite.com”, “yoursite.net”…etc. Obviously, the .com is the most popular.
To launch a website, you need both, web hosting and a domain name.
So how is this relevant and why is it important?
Both GoDaddy and NameCheap provide domain name registration as well as web hosting services. They’re known to most people as registrars but a lot of people who like to have everything in one place or aren’t very technical decide to take advantage of their hosting services as well.
Should you also host with GoDaddy and NameCheap?
This is relatively subjective, but I can tell you that I’m a big advocate of two concepts: specialization and not putting all your eggs in one basket. Not putting all your eggs in one basket has another major advantage other than obvious, and that is: it makes it harder for companies to “lock you in”. GoDaddy is notorious for this. More on that later.
As for specialization, there are a lot of companies out there that specialize in web hosting. They’ve started off as web hosts and all their resources and expertise lie there. That’s certainly not the case with NameCheap and Godaddy even though they’re big enough now to run decent web hosting services, they’re still not dedicated web hosting companies.
Our top recommendation for web hosting here at Niche Pursuits is BlueHost, their plans start at $3.95 and they have a solid service and support. For more information, check out Spencer’s post comparing BlueHost to another industry leader, HostGator.
I should also point out that having your domain registered somewhere and hosted somewhere else is simpler than you think and does not require a lot of technical expertise. Say you registered your domain name at GoDaddy and chose to host it at BlueHost, it basically takes 10-15 minutes to complete the configuration at both companies and get your domain up and running. You usually go through that set up once and in most cases, you can leave it as is for years. Here’s a good article on how to do exactly that.
What makes a good registrar?
I do not generally recommend NameCheap and GoDaddy for hosting because I think there are many better alternatives, hence why the main focus of our NameCheap vs GoDaddy comparison will be on their domain registration services.
One important thing to note here is that in reality, it doesn’t really matter that much where you get your domain from. Practically all domain registrars have access to the same pool of domains and their prices are relatively close.
I believe your web hosting provider is a much more important choice because this is where issues related to website slowdowns, downtimes, errors…etc happen. Nevertheless, I’ll break down what I think should be the most important points to look for when choosing a domain registrar below:
- Pricing. Although most registrars are very close in terms of price ranges, fees can add up quickly if you have a bunch of domains registered and renew them every year. Price is an important factor and it’s easy to be “tricked” by upfront, temporary discounts.
- Ease of registering and moving domains. Is it easy to register new domains? Is the process straightforward? If you want to transfer a domain from another registrar to the current one or vice versa, are there any hidden fees?
- Domain control panel. Visiting your domain control panel to change settings like DNS, forwarding…etc won’t be a daily chore. In fact, you’ll rarely find yourself inside that control panel. However, when you’re there, you usually want to set up something critical related to your domain. It can be really frustrating if the control panel isn’t friendly and helpful enough, especially because domain name settings tend to already be technical and a bit complex on their own.
- Additional services. I tend to have private whois enabled on most of my domains (hides your personal data from public lookups). Some registrars charge ridiculous (in my opinion) fees for these services. This one, as well as email/URL forwarding, are the most common additional features I use and having these available for free is a big selling point for me.
- Support. You might prefer phone support, chat support or email support. For me, it really doesn’t matter. I prefer the written forms of communication so that there’s always a “paper trail”. However, what’s most important here is for the support personnel to actually be knowledgeable and capable of resolving issues with minimal back and forth and automated/scripted responses that do not even address the issue at hand.
Pricing is an area that GoDaddy likes to play games with. Honestly, this reason alone discourages me from using GoDaddy. They have a new domain price, a renewal price and promo code prices available for new domains. They also have the “GoDaddy Discount Domain Club” where you pay $120/year and get $8.29 .coms.
The retail renewal for .coms is $14.99 and new .coms are $11.99. There are also promo codes that get you a $0.99 .com for the first year. The $0.99 .com can be very intriguing but first off, it’s limited to one domain per customer. Second, you’re stuck with the $14.99 renewal. Third, if you want private whois or any other add-on services, you have to pony up.
These fees add up quickly and make you realize that the $0.99 .com wasn’t worth it after all. I honestly hate the complexity of GoDaddy’s pricing but they’re often a good choice if you want to grab a cheap domain for a single year then drop it or move it to another registrar later on. The headache that comes with moving domains around is definitely not worth it for me, though.
NameCheap’s pricing is much more straightforward. I’d rather have that even if the initial upfront cost will be higher. Here’s the pricing table for NameCheap:
Here’s the one for GoDaddy:
When you transfer a domain name to a new registrar, you typically get an additional year of renewal. GoDaddy charges you in accordance with their “new domain” pricing, while NameCheap charges you their normal yearly pricing. So it’s possible to save a few bucks with GoDaddy over NameCheap for the first year when transferring a domain name to them.
The domain transfer process, in general, is not very robust. It’s outdated and hasn’t seen any improvements for decades. This is the case regardless of which registrar you’re transferring from/to. For an overview of what to do to transfer a domain name from one registrar to another, take a look at this article by NameCheap.
Domain Control Panel
Both GoDaddy and NameCheap have good looking control panels that help you change your domain name settings. GoDaddy’s control panel, in particular, has improved over the years considerably and got a “fresher” look.
That said, I still prefer NameCheap’s control panel because of its cleanliness and clutter-free experience. When you’re actually editing domain DNS settings or other technical domain settings, you’ll find that GoDaddy fills up the page with other “settings” that are nothing but “masked upsells”. This is one of the biggest reasons I hate GoDaddy, their approach to upsells!
As you may already know, when buying a domain name, your personal details become automatically available in the domain whois database. Practically anyone can look up your domain to find your name, email, address and phone number. This is why I almost always enable whois privacy for my domains. This feature is essential in my opinion.
With GoDaddy, this is $7-9 per domain name. With NameCheap, it’s free. Disregarding GoDaddy’s “first-year” prices, this means a .com would cost you $22/year with GoDaddy with private whois and $11 with NameCheap. Double the price.
I have not ventured into many other addon/extra services, to be honest, but I also know that NameCheap provides free email forwarding services.
Principles and Ethics
GoDaddy has a history of not-so-nice public incidents. This alone may not be enough reason for people to leave GoDaddy behind, but it certainly does add to the aforementioned issues.
In 2012, the internet was fighting a restrictive law that advocated less openness and more regulation for the internet. GoDaddy supported this regulation while NameCheap fought it alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
I thought about adding this section to the “Ethics” section above but I felt it would be unfair since upselling isn’t exactly “unethical”. However, the way GoDaddy generally does it is appalling. Their control panel is filled with messages everywhere enticing you to add this service or that one. When buying a new domain name they auto-add privacy protection to your purchase and then try to explain to you why they did that and put the fear of God into you so that you’d take them up on the upsell. Some people may think it’s all okay but I just feel they’re way too pushy.
At some point, you just can’t help but think that their only purpose is to get more money out of your pocket. You’re not even sure whether they care about what you need and what you don’t need. You feel their advice and the way their upsells are structured all stem from THEIR need to get more money out of you, not your actual need for the service they’re pitching.
I have no issues with getting pitched upsells, but only when a service provider is pretty sure of its added value for my business purposes. Even then, it should be done in a subtle manner without shoving it down my throat everywhere.
With NameCheap, I was able to get to the checkout page in a couple of steps, and they only added $0.18 to my domain price (ICANN fee). I would’ve liked it better if they had factored in the fee on their list price before I added the domain to cart but nevertheless, at least they didn’t “auto-add” any add-on service for me except whois protection which is free there, so it didn’t affect my total checkout amount.
They do have upsells but they’re all inserted below all the essential features and they’re not nearly as prominent as on GoDaddy. With GoDaddy, you have to scroll through all their upsells to continue with your purchase while NameCheap has a “Confirm Order” button right above the fold that allows you to complete your purchase without even knowing that there are potential upsells.
This feels much more like a company that cares about keeping your experience “frustration-free” more than they care about taking money out of your pocket.
Both GoDaddy and NameCheap offer live chat email support. To be honest, my experience with their support has been limited and did not include any challenging issue so I can’t judge who offers “better” support. GoDaddy does have phone support available in addition to the live chat and email though.
So I know you might think this review is biased and I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise. The important thing to note here is that I’m not biased because I work for NameCheap or have a personal grudge against someone at GoDaddy. I simply tried them and hate them, and I’m not the only one at that. If you do some Googling you’ll find a lot of articles like this sharing my opinion.
I hate how they’re pushy, I hate the way they try to take advantage of people who aren’t technical or have limited knowledge in how domains and hosting work. I hate their clunky control panel and tiring checkout process. I hate their history with ethical issues.
The only reason I’d use GoDaddy is probably to take advantage of some promo code and grab a $1 domain for a year. But like I said, for one year it’s not even worth it for me.
I want to add another interesting point which is neither of these registrars is actually my registrar of choice.
My favorite two registrars are internet.bs and namesilo.com. Not much to say about them except $9 .com domains (didn’t find cheaper ones anywhere else), no hidden fees, free whois privacy, email forwarding (and more), powerful control panels and solid support. I’m willing to bet you’ve probably never heard of them before reading this article, but try them out.
I tried them since 2011 and never looked back since. If you still want to go with a “big name” registrar and are comparing between GoDaddy and NameCheap, well, you know my answer. Definitely go for NameCheap.
I hope you found this blog post helpful. What is your registrar of choice and why? Let me know in the comments and don’t hesitate to ask any questions!