Top 5 Most Expensive Domain Names Ever Sold
When it comes to domain names, accessing the best ones can require some serious spending.
Website owners all around the globe spend millions on domain names each year. In the U.S. alone, the market size of web domain name sales is worth a whopping $6.7 billion (USD).
In an industry valued in the billions, it’s easy to guess that there have been some major sales of domain names over the last couple of decades. Some of the priciest domain name sales have even topped $300 million for the rights to a single domain.
Keeping this in mind, this article will discuss why domain names are so expensive and why a business would want to purchase such a pricey asset. Plus, keep reading to learn about 5 of the most expensive domain name sales in history.
What Makes a Domain Name Expensive?
For anyone unfamiliar with the domain name industry, it may seem silly that something as simple as a website address could be worth millions. Yet, there are many domain names available on the market at extraordinary price points – and businesses willing to buy them.
The reality of the matter is that domain names can be extremely valuable or totally worthless, all depending on several key factors. These factors include:
- Relevance: Website owners are searching for domain names that are highly relevant to their business. The more relevant a domain name, the higher value it becomes to that particular website owner. If many competing businesses are looking for a similar name, the value increases further.
- Length: Domain names need to be as short and catchy as possible, ideally under 15 characters. This helps to avoid misspellings and makes it easier for visitors to recall. Thus, domain names that are both highly relevant and short tend to outrank other names in terms of pricing.
- Memorability: When you run a website, your flow of web traffic matters. Having a domain name that is easy to memorize helps you increase the amount of web traffic of returning visitors. This is especially useful if the domain name describes what your business has to offer, as this may come up in a person’s mind when they are looking for a specific service or product.
In addition to these three factors, a domain name’s value is also greatly affected by its domain extension.
These domain extensions – also called Top-Level Domains (TLD) – include .com, .org, .net, and more. In most cases, .com is perceived as the most valuable TLD as it is the most widely known and trusted by internet users.
Why Do Businesses Buy Expensive Domain Names?
When looking at the most expensive domain name sales of the past, you may find yourself wondering why a business would fork over such a hefty investment for a digital asset.
As we have covered, there are many aspects of a domain name that can boost its value, such as relevance, length, and memorability. These factors matter greatly, as they can affect not only how much web traffic a business receives but also how a business brands itself.
By purchasing a domain name that fits in with your existing branding, you show a level of consistency that inspires trust and confidence in your customers.
Additionally, some entrepreneurs will buy valuable domain names as investments to hold on to as they accrue more value. Building this kind of domain name investment portfolio can be incredibly profitable – albeit risky – and can result in big sales.
Top 5 Most Expensive Domain Names!
In general, a domain name can range pretty drastically in price depending on the type of domain name and where you buy it from. Domain names can be sold for as little as a few dollars or up to hundreds of millions – with the top 5 sales all reaching more than $30 million.
With this in mind, let’s look at these 5 most expensive domain names and the companies that bought them:
In 2010, the marketing company QuinStreet purchased the domain name CarInsurance.com for a smooth $49.7 million.
Before purchasing this domain, QuinStreet had also purchased Insure.com for $16 million and Insurance.com for $35.6 million, showing the company’s interest in snatching up insurance-related domain names.
The company is quoted in a 2010 article as saying:
“This acquisition completes our near-term program to identify and acquire the best of the largest independent online organic media properties in the Insurance vertical.”
While current valuations of QuinStreet cannot be attributed to domain name investments alone, the company currently has a market cap of $517.7 million as of May 2022.
Today, CarInsurance.com is a website dedicated to helping web visitors find insurance quotes in their area. The website is an all-in-one type resource center that includes insurance comparison tools, recommended insurance companies, and guidance for non-U.S. citizens on car insurance.
The year is 2006, still in the early days of the internet, and a bidding war for the domain name Business.com has sprung up between 3 parties: Dow Jones, the New York Times, and a directory company known at the time as R.H. Donnelley.
R.H. Donnelley won the battle for the domain name, purchasing it for an incredible $350 million – one of the largest sums of money paid towards a domain name to date.
Business.com was originally sold for $7.5 million just 8 years earlier in 1999 – meaning R.H. Donnelley purchased the domain for 47 times its original sale value.
Nowadays, Business.com is a digital media and B2B company that focuses on delivering business news and content to its online followers and web visitors. According to the Business.com site, the website reaches more than 10 million readers every sing month and has helped to facilitate more than 1 million annual sales for its business partners.
LasVegas.com was purchased by VEGAS.com, LLC in June of 2005 for up to $90 million. This purchase was split into a few different payments which included a $12 million one-time payment upfront, followed by smaller monthly payments.
VEGAS.com, LLC is still working to pay this domain name off and is estimated to have paid off around $30 million of the $90 million owed as of 2015. Per the terms of the sale agreement, the company has until the year 2040 to fulfill the total payment for the domain.
Currently, LasVegas.com – also called the Official Las Vegas Travel Site – is a directory website that helps visitors and tourists search for shows, hotels, flights, tours, and attractions in Las Vegas.
As a private jet company, Nations Luxury Transportation, LLC, was looking for the ideal domain name to represent their company’s services.
In 2012, National Luxury Transportation found their ideal domain name – PrivateJet.com – which was owned at the time by the IP holding company Don’t Look Media Group. To make this purchase, National Luxury Transportation paid the media group more than $30.1 million in both cash and stocks.
When buying this domain, the company planned to turn the website into a go-to source for resources and information on the private jet industry. However, the domain name does not currently appear to be in use, instead redirecting to the 2012 Just Luxe news article on the sale as of May 2022.
The vacation rental industry is massive, with the global market size valued at more than $74 billion in 2021. With this level of potential profit, businesses have flocked to domain names that are highly relevant to the vacation rental industry.
One such domain name is VacationRentals.com, which was purchased by the company HomeAway in 2013 for an impressive $35 million. Interestingly, a 2013 article reporting on the sale states that the founder of HomeAway was quoted as saying the company’s only purpose in buying the domain name “was so Expedia couldn’t have it.
Today, the VacationRentals.com domain name redirects to VRBO.com, a vacation rental company and platform that helps homeowners rent out their properties short term. VRBO was acquired by Homeaway in 2006, and – ironically enough, Homeaway was later acquired by Expedia in 2015.
There’s no denying that the domain name industry is flush with high-price names sought after by major companies. The five above examples highlight the financial lengths a competitive company is willing to go to acquire a valuable domain name.
Of course, it is important to note that not all domain names will be as expensive as those listed here.
For many businesses, there are plenty of domain names available through various marketplaces and registrars that offer them at more reasonable prices.
Additionally, highly unique domain names based on the name of a specific company (i.e. Google, Amazon, etc.) tend to be much more affordable if the brand has not yet established too much name recognition yet or if the brand name is not too similar to any other business names.
Whether you opt for a brandable domain name or a name with more specific keywords (like CarInsurance.com and VacationRentals.com), remember that purchasing a highly relevant domain name can be an excellent investment in your business and brand.