Finding and Buying Expired Domain Names

Domain names expire on different schedules, depending on the original Registrar they were registered with. Since desirable domain names can be grabbed in seconds once they become available, the only way to have a chance of securing a domain name of value is to be prepared by arming yourself with the knowledge of exactly when it will become available.

There are several sources of expired domain name information, some free and some that require the payment of a subscription or membership fee.

One of the best free resources is JustDropped.com. From this site, you can research which domain names have expired in the last 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days or 60 days.

Always bear in mind that crawling for interesting expired domain names requires effort, whether it’s thinking up search terms and feeding them into a search engine, or painstakingly stepping through a long list of expiring names. With over 20,000 domains expiring some days, the hunt for quality names can often feel like searching for a very small needle in a towering haystack, but the effort can be worthwhile should you succeed in tracking down and registering a highly desirable expired domain name.

Which Domain Names To Look For

One assumes you’re hunting down expiring domain names for one of two reasons:

  1. To use the name yourself.
  2. To invest in the name for possible resale later.

If you’re hunting for names to use in building a site or service, you’ll already have a list of criteria as to what makes a good name, including suitability to the product or service it is intended to represent.

When hunting for expiring names, you also need to bear in mind who the previous owner of the name was and what they were using the name for, if anything. While most expiring names can be considered “fair game” (meaning they are available to be registered by anyone), you clearly wouldn’t wish to run afoul of the legal department of a giant corporation such as Microsoft or IBM. Even if you’re eventually proved to be in the right, always watch out for trademarks.

Many times, a simple WHOIS search is sufficient to reveal the current owner of a domain name that has been placed on hold and ready for deletion. However, there can be times when the ownership information is not as readily available, such as when the original Registrant’s information has been deleted in the domain record and substituted for information provided by the Registrar.

This is where the “Wayback Machine” offered by Archive.org can come in handy. This site allows you to view stored “snapshots” of millions of sites around the web as they appeared at different points in time. To check for information on the expiring domain name you’re interested in, enter “www.ExpiringDomainName.com” into the search box at Archive.org’s main page and see if any snapshots have been recorded for an old site at that domain. If some snapshots exist, you can browse the snapshots to get an idea of who the previous domain Registrant was and what they were using the domain name for.

Buying Expired Domain Names

While it is still possible to manually register some expiring domain names near the moment they become available, the competition surrounding the most desirable names has become so heated that manual methods alone are unlikely to be successful.

An entire mini-industry has sprung up around the backordering, or grabbing, of expiring domain names. While none of the solutions below provide an infallible solution to the problem of securing expiring domain names, they can help even the playing field.

The biggest firm in the expiring name acquisition game, and perhaps the most well-known, is SnapNames.com. For a fee, SnapNames will register expiring domains on your behalf, but if it’s a good domain there will likely be some competition. If two or more people attempt to “snap” the same expiring name, the name will be placed up for auction between the interested parties the moment SnapNames acquires it.

There are other such services that help you register expired domains in addition to SnapNames. Browse our Domain Backordering section of our Domain Resources for additional companies.

To maximize your chances of getting an expired name, it can be helpful to backorder the name at several of the automated services simultaneously. Since most of them charge only for successful registrations, you won’t be charged for any unsuccessful attempts.