How to buy a domain name that is already taken

female hand typing on laptop, internet extensions flying
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Morrowind)

So you’ve come up with a short, sweet, and catchy domain name that will perfectly match your online project only to find out somebody already took it. You could search for decent alternatives and find the second-best thing, but that’s not what you want, right?

Having the right domain name can help you attract more traffic to your site, build your brand, and set your business for success right from the start. So, why should you settle for a second choice while there’s still a chance you can get the first one?

You could find out who has registered the domain name you wish to get, get in touch with them, and try getting them to sell it to you. After all, many people offer their own domains for sale and sometimes it’s cheaper than you might think.

However, if you’ve never purchased an owned domain name, you might be confused about where to start. So, we’ve come up with a simple guide that will walk you through the complete process of buying a domain name that is already taken.

How to check if a domain name is taken 

There are a couple of ways to check a domain name's availability and all of them are surprisingly simple. For starters, you could do a basic web search by typing in the domain name in your web browser and checking the search results. 

However, it’s smarter to visit some of the best domain registrars and check if a domain you wish to use is available. If it is, you can purchase it right away since these registrars work as one-stop solutions.

Another way to check if your dream domain name is taken is to search through the WHOIS public database. If it’s taken, you can use it to find out more about its owner.  

macro view of group of color cubes with domain names on laptop or notebook keyboard

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Oleksiy Mark)

Steps on buying a domain name that is already taken 

If you’re still smitten with a domain name that’s taken, here’s what you can do to get it from its current owner. It might not work, mind you, but it’s worth a try. 

1. Visit the domain name you want and check how it’s being used

The first thing you’ll want to find out is if there’s a website with a domain name you want to take. If there isn’t one, you might be in luck and looking at a parked domain. In this case, you can confidently contact its owner - chances are, they’re just waiting for someone to make the right offer. 

If there is a site, carefully check to see whether it’s been updated in the past couple of years. If it’s been collecting dust, its owner might be interested in selling it. On the other hand, if the site seems to be alive and kicking, there’s a slim chance you’ll get it unless you’re willing to pay a pretty penny - and still, your dream domain may simply not be for sale. 

2. Find out who owns the domain and contact the owner

The simplest way to find out who owns a domain name is to search for it in the WHOIS database. In it, you can dig up registration information about every registered domain and find out how to get in touch with the owner.  

Simply go to WHOIS’s official site, type in the domain name (or the IP address) into the search box, and hit Enter. In an instant, you’ll get all the important information including the contact details such as the owner’s phone number or email address. 

However, we should note that some web hosting services provide proxy registration services to keep their client’s privacy private. In such cases, you’ll see the host’s contact information instead of the owner's.

3. Work out what you’re willing to pay for a domain name

Before contacting the owner and starting negotiations, you’ll want to work out your budget. To find out how much the domain is worth, consider all the factors that affect its cost, such as type of TLD, length, catchiness, keywords, age, and so on. 

Also, while you don’t want to bust your budget, don’t go down the bargain-basement routes either. If you offer anything less than $100, you’ll likely get ignored by the owner.  

4. Contact the owner and negotiate a price

Now it’s time to get in touch with the owner and negotiate the price of the domain. To stay on the safe side, make sure you’re speaking to the right person and not some scammer.

After this, you’ll want to negotiate the price of the domain, the way it will be transferred to you, and any regional law that may apply to the sale. However, if the owner is using a domain broker service, you will have to negotiate through a middleman.

5. Use an escrow service to secure the payment

To make sure the transaction goes smoothly and securely, you’ll want to consider using an escrow service. While it isn’t free of charge - it's not expensive either - it will make the transaction worry-free for both parties.

Instead of sending your money straight to the domain owner, you’ll give your money to the escrow service provider which will hold it until you confirm you’ve received your domain. Once you do, they will hand the money to the old owner.

6. Wait for the old owner to transfer the domain ownership to you

Once you’ve secured your payment through an escrow service, your only task is to sit back and wait for the soon-to-be-old owner to transfer ownership of the domain to you.

What to do if everything else fails  

If the domain owner is ignoring your emails but the domain itself is on the edge of expiring, there’s still a slim chance you can get it. After all, lots of domain names expire without being renewed or registered each day. So, you could wait for the domain to expire - or get a domain backorder service to do the watching for you - and grab it as soon as it becomes available for registration.

However, if the domain owner isn’t interested in selling the domain - and won’t be anytime soon - it’s time to go back to your second-best choice. Whether it’s picking out another domain extension or adding a word to your domain name, make sure it matches your site.  

  • Some of the best web hosting services on the market come with a free domain for a year

Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.