EDIT 01/11/2018 This post was originally published March 31, 2013. I’ve made changes throughout the post to make it relevant for 2017 / 2018.
Notes: If you are just looking for discounts, coupons, or promo codes – here’s what I’ve got for you. I’ve got links with promo codes built in from both GoDaddy & NameCheap. I get referral fees from any companies mentioned in this post, but any opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer.
Still with me? Great! Let’s dive into the full review! Because you’re already the type of person who knows that your domain name is your name on the Internet – and that it matters who provides it – I’ll break the review down into 6 categories that actually matter – price, user experience, interface, extras, upsells, and principles based on my experience as a consultant & owner of (way too many) domains.
Domain name providers are pretty notorious for having intro pricing…then raising the price on you to make money ongoing. So for me, the best way of judging apples to apples is to look at their 1-year renewal pricing for .com domain names.
GoDaddy runs at $14.99/yr for .com domains.
Namecheap runs at $10.69/yr for .com domains.
Ok…but suppose you really just want to save money right now. In that case, GoDaddy wins with their deep discounting.
So – GoDaddy or Namecheap? Well, if you are planning on running your website for more than 2 years – Namecheap. But, if you are just trying to claim a name fast, and don’t mind transferring it later – then GoDaddy will save you a few bucks.
Additionally, a reader recently pointed out the GoDaddy Domain Discount Club. It’s $120/yr to join. But after you join, you get .com renewals at only $8.29/yr plus the ability to bid on auctions. If you own hundreds of domains – the program may very well pay for itself. But if you own less than a hundred domains or so, then NameCheap will still give you the lowest long-term price.
But, as you may have guessed – there’s more to a domain name provider than just price.
*Quick note – the pricing comparison only looks at domains. They both do the whole range of email, hosting, etc. Those combinations get tricky, of course. But the pattern is usually NameCheap is cheaper at renewal (especially with WHOISguard and Email hosting) while GoDaddy runs cheaper upfront pricing. I’ve reviewed NameCheap’s hosting here and have compared GoDaddy to Bluehost here.
Here’s the NameCheap Account Page:
Compared to the GoDaddy Account Page:
When choosing between Namecheap or GoDaddy (or any domain provider, really) – I always consider the overall experience of purchasing, using, and navigating the site. I’ll dive into a couple specifics, but I want to list out some things I like and don’t like about both Namecheap and GoDaddy.
- Has trouble with auto-renewal on occasion (this seemed to be associated with their old reseller setup, so is less of an issue now)
- Very straightforward checkout process
- Good suggestion engine
- Knowledgebase is pretty well put together
- Chat support is super-fast but lacks phone support
- Bare bones design (for good and bad)
Now for GoDaddy –
- Confusing (ie, the obstacle course of upsells) checkout process
- Domain manager opens a separate window – and feels weird… like the domains are off-site
- Suggestion engine that has a bias toward TLD rather than actual names
- Clean color scheme – but cluttered with upsells
- Knowledgebase is very extensive
- Email and chat support are ok – phone support exists and is fairly decent
Overall – I have to give experience points to Namecheap, which is partly pure subjectivity, but also partly from GoDaddy‘s constant upsells and cluttered layout. For some – upsells & crossells are just part of the game. If you are in the market for those products – they can be a good thing. But for claiming a domain, I’m not a fan.
Sometimes I feel like I go in to buy a domain name from GoDaddy and feel like I’m not allowed to buy it unless I buy an email, photo, and accounting package. (Note – Namecheap includes forwarding for free).
Their domain interface could be included in overall experience – but I broke it out because it is a bit different, and more specific…and more important than the overall experience. The domain interface (also known as DNS Manager) is where you’ll actually configure your domain name. A bad interface can lead to frustrating evening while an easy interface can mean a one-time easy setup…and a rare visit.
Here are pictures of my domain/DNS managers in Namecheap and GoDaddy.
GoDaddy DNS Backend:
NameCheap Domain Manager:
Just to explain – the domain manager page is what you’ll use to actually configure your domain name (such as routing your DNS to your hosting company, setting up your email, setting up any subdomains, etc). Hopefully, you’ll just be diving in here once or twice to reroute your DNS to your hosting company (which you should do BTW) and maybe make an occasional edit.
Anyway, it’s also a place where you don’t want to make mistakes (which can take your site down, and changes take a while to fix), so you want it to be straightforward.
Alright then – Namecheap or GoDaddy? If you can see anything from the screenshots above – it’s obvious to me that the winner is Namecheap. GoDaddy is fine – and a lot better than other domain name providers, but it’s really no match for Namecheap.
Namecheap has all your options laid out on the sidebar, and no clutter or unnecessary settings in the actual DNS settings. Many of the extra settings in GoDaddy are actually because of how they upsell email/hosting/services – and want to make it hard to leave.
The only upside to GoDaddy’s interface is that it’s so widely used that you will be able to find support for it out on the Internet or in GoDaddy’s knowledgebase.
Namecheap’s interface is one of the primary reasons I switched most (but not all) of my long-term domains from GoDaddy.
When you purchase a domain name – you usually get a few extras thrown in. These extras sometimes are expected (like security) and sometimes are quite valuable (like privacy settings). Here’s how they are different…
- Reliable DNS – GoDaddy’s DNS was hacked, and Namecheap’s hasn’t been. This is a huge deal. It was a concerted attack…but still
- Email – Namecheap’s forwarding is 100% free, while GoDaddy pushes upsells for their own email product
- WHOIS Guard – Namecheap bundles this privacy feature for the first year while GoDaddy charges
- Hosting – GoDaddy gives you a limited hosting package for a year, along with photo storage space, while Namecheap offers a range of shared hosting services.
- Custom DNS – Namecheap gives free custom nameservers, while GoDaddy doesn’t
As you can tell – Namecheap tends to focus on more technical giveaways, while GoDaddy focuses on extras like photo storage and hosting. I tend to like companies that take care of the basics over bells and whistles, but GoDaddy still does a decent job on the technical front if they are more of a fit for you and your site. However, if extras determined whether you should go with Namecheap or GoDaddy – then Namecheap would still win.
Upsells – those times when you are offered a complimentary product to whatever you are purchasing. It can be annoying, but it can also be really helpful. And in the domain name selling world upsells are really quite obvious.
Unless it’s 1997 and you bought something like pizza.com or walmart.com – you aren’t going to make money just buying domain names (though GoDaddy does run one of the larger domain auction platforms). You’ve got to have a website to go along with it, so on and so forth.
I strongly think it’s a good idea to separate your domain name (your website’s address) from your hosting (where it lives) – the jobs are very different, and for a multitude of reasons (probably a different article) a good idea to keep separate.
Anyway, both Namecheap and GoDaddy offer upsells to hosting and storage packages. Namecheap offers a neat upsell for a One-pager website that would be useful if you are just trying to get something up quick. They also offer an upsell for a discounted SSL package (useful if you are building an eCommerce site). GoDaddy has similar upsells.
Overall they are a tie here. GoDaddy offers attractive pricing…but is more aggressive and almost annoying to me. Namecheap also offers some good deals (including for shared hosting), but usually for products that I would want to buy elsewhere.
I want to do business with companies that do right. In the case of Namecheap or GoDaddy – the business values winner goes hands down to Namecheap. In fact, values are what originally made me switch most of my domains to Namecheap back in 2012.
At the time – the fight over Internet regulation (SOPA) was going on and before doing an about-face, GoDaddy had staked out a position in favor of more regulation and less openness of the Internet (presumably because as the largest domain name provider – they would be able to increase their market advantage).
Namecheap created a partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help fight the legislation. It was a controversial, but clear and admirable stance. It won me over. They still do a lot of activism in favor of an open Internet.
GoDaddy too has been a controversial company in other ways (that are not admirable). They famously exploit sexuality in their marketing, playing on gross stereotypes to sell their hosting products. Their former CEO / Founder (now Chairman) is an infamous elephant hunter. And they are notorious for trying to “lock” their customers in. They’ve tried to shift away from this brand image in recent years, but it’s been hard to shake the customer-acquisition-at-any-cost culture.
Namecheap or GoDaddy? Conclusion.
As I said at the beginning – where you buy your domain name does matter. GoDaddy is a really good fit for many people – especially anyone who wants many cheap domains upfront and wants phone support.
However, I think that if you are building a website for the long term – your best bet is to go grab a domain name from Namecheap. If my experience has been correct, you won’t regret it.
If you are also looking for web hosting, be sure to check out HostGator’s plans (for a focus on price) or InMotion Hosting (for a focus on support). Or explore my Buzzfeed-style hosting quiz to find the right hosting company for your needs.
And lastly, you might also find my step by step guide to setting up a WordPress website useful as well.
*note comments are closed due to the overwhelming amount of spam this post attracts. Feel free to contact me with any questions!