How to Find a Reliable Domain Registrar?
A good registrar will have the following characteristics:
An established reputation
No hidden fees (such as a fee for transferring a domain out to another registrar)
Comprehensive administration capabilities (for nameserver, mail, who-is, etc. settings)
Reasonably priced registration fees
Accredited by a governing body (such as ICANN)
Registrars we Recommend
Examples of registrars that meet these criteria, for specified domain extensions:
Primary extensions (.com, .net., .org, .info)
Godaddy - one of the more popular domain name registrars out there. They run a solid domain registration service with a comprehensive user interface, competitive pricing schedules, and a wide array of available domain extensions. Note that we do not recommend them for their hosting services.
Special: Godaddy is running a limited time (through 9/25/12) domain registration special. Get a .COM domain name for only $4.95 (regularly $12.99)! Click here for details.
Dotster - for a limited time, click here and use promo code SUMMERSAVE20 for a 20% discount on new products and services from Dotster.
Fabulous - An excellent domain registrar that focuses on high volume clients. Fabulous offers comprehensive domain registration, management, and research capabilities and backs it up with superior customer support. Note: Fabulous offers only .com, .net, .org., .info, and at the time they are only accepting applicants via invitation.
Namecheap - excellent registrar, slightly higher priced than Fabulous, offering excellent admin and support as well with no hidden fees. Namecheap offers more extensions than Fabulous.
European extensions (.co.uk, .de, .fr, .it, etc.)
EuroDNS - EuroDNS offers affordable pricing, intuitive admin interface, and backs it up with reliable support. Use the search box below to search for a domain name via our integrated EuroDNS interface right now.
INWX.de - one of the absolute best - most functionality, including no-fee transfers, are automated, which is rare for European registrars. Prices are also by far the best for most extensions. Only drawback is that the site is German only.
United Domains - Prices and administration are not quite as good as EuroDNS, but these folks run a tight ship. One thing to watch out for is that domains renew automatically and you need to cancel in advance via fax (not unusual for European registrars).
Finding a Reliable Registrar
One way to research whether a registrar you're considering using is reliable or not is to conduct a "[registrar name] sucks" vs. "[registrar name] rocks" type of search in Google. Replace "sucks" and "rocks" with various synonyms and antonyms to find users' reviews of the registrar. If neither result returns much, or if the number of results for the search "[registrar name]" is minimal, stay away.
Web Hosting Reports
Visit Webhosting.info and generate a webhosting report. You want to use a registrar who has a large number of domain registrations, and make sure the quantity of those registrations is not decreasing. If the number of registrations is decreasing, this is a sign that the registrar is a very small, and potentially risky registrar. Read on for details on registrars to avoid.
Registrars to Avoid
Avoid registrars that promise rock-bottom prices. Anything below $5.00/ year is suspect, unless it's a one-year promotion. While they may honor the lower price, in all likelihood you will either a) have difficulty administering the domain, b) have difficulty canceling it (you will end up with overdue invoices from the domain's registry office) or c) not be able to transfer it out without going through hassles and paying fees.
Avoid registrars with crappy looking sites, poor grammar, misspellings, etc. A reputable registrar will have the capital to invest in quality web design.
Want an example of a poor, downright fraudulent registrar? Look no further than EuroDomains.com. One of the worst registrar experiences we've ever had has been with them. Needless to say, since the writing of this article they have gone out of business. So, fortunately, you won't have to worry about getting ensnared by them.
[9.13.12 Ed: you'll notice that EuroDomains.com went out of business. Their website is now merely a parking page.]