It’s not long ago since the internet started. But there was a flaw in the system. Businesses required domain names for their websites, and they had to be unique. So, when the internet started gaining traction and more people had access to it, domain names became a hot commodity that could be bought and sold even in the secondary market.
For those who’re new, here’s how the domain market works. There are a few parties involved:
- ICANN: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is the governing body that oversees domain name registration. Consider it to be the SEBI of domain names.
- Registrars: These are the companies that provide the technical and user interface for registering, buying and selling domain names. For example, Godaddy, Namecheap or BigRock.
- Registrants: This is who you become when you register a domain name. You can be an individual or business entity with a valid address and contact information.
But three new parties have come into the equation:
- Domain Brokers/ Flippers: These individuals buy domain names and then resell them through auctions, brokerages or private portfolios. They purchase domains initially registered by someone else to place them back on the market for a higher price.
- Secondary Market: This is where domain brokers/ flippers resell their domains. They post them in auctions and brokerages or build a portfolio of domains to offer potential buyers. Dan, Flippa, Godaddy auctions, Sedo, and Afternic, are popular sites for reselling domains.
- Escrow Companies: These companies act as intermediaries in a domain transaction. They hold the funds from both the buyer and seller until all conditions of the sale have been met, ensuring that both parties remain safe during the transaction process. This is especially important when buying or selling expensive domains.
So, how expensive a domain name can get? Let’s look at the top 10 most expensive domains ever sold.
Cars.com – $872 million (2014)
Confirmed to be the largest domain sale to date, Cars.com was sold by a media conglomerate, Classified Ventures, LLC, in 2014.
The story goes like this: the cars.com domain name and website were owned by Classified Ventures, LLC, a joint venture among several major media companies, including Gannett Co., which owned 27% of the business. In 2014, Gannett decided to buy out other partners in a $2.5 billion deal and acquired the cars.com domain name as part of this purchase.
The SEC filing noted that the total purchase price allocated to the domain name was $872 million, making it the most expensive domain name ever sold.
Business.com – $345 million (2007)
Business.com saw two major acquisitions in its history, the first being an acquisition by eCompanies Ventures, LLC back in 1999 for $7.5 million and then by a yellow pages company, R.H. Donnelley Corp. in 2007, for a whopping $345 million.
And R.H. Donnelley Corp. wasn’t the only one bidding for the domain name; Business.com was reported to have received multiple offers from Dow Jones, New York Times and even News Corp.
The sad part about this story was that R.H. Donnelley Corp. The third-largest print and online Yellow Pages publisher went bankrupt within just 2 years of buying the domain.
LasVegas.com – $90 million (2005-2040)
The famous casino destination got all the attention in 2005 when its domain name, LasVegas.com, was bought for a whopping $90 million by VEGAS.com, LLC.
The payment terms were unique and spread out over 35 years. According to the contract, an initial payment of $12,000,000 was to be made, along with monthly payments of approximately $83,000 for the first 36 months, $125,000 for the next 60 months, and then $208,000 till June 30, 2040.
Even though the domain hasn’t been fully transferred and the payment is still in process, it’s already one of the most expensive domain purchases ever made.
CarInsurance.com — $49.7 million (2010)
The insure.com and insurance.com owner, Quinstreet, bought CarInsurance.com in November 2010 for a whopping $49.7 million, saying it’ll expand its proprietary media and traffic in the insurance industry.
Today, the website offers comparison services for auto insurance quotes and coverage through its partner companies. According to Similar Web, its revenue could be between $5.0M – $10.0M for a year.
Insurance.com — $35.6 Million (2010)
While not an “only domain” sale, insurance comparison website, Insurance.com was sold for a reported $35.6 million in 2010 to Quinstreet.
Like other insurance-oriented domain acquisitions by Quinstreet, Insurance.com was purchased further to expand the company’s reach in the insurance market. With millions of visitors per month, Insurance.com is now one of Quinstreet’s one of main sources for leads generation and comparison services.
VacationRentals.com — $35 million (2007)
Considered one of the most expensive domain name sales in the 2000s, VacationRentals.com was bought by travel giant HomeAway for $35 million in 2007.
The funny part is that the company acquired this domain to prevent Expedia from buying it, even though the two companies eventually merged in 2015.
Nevertheless, HomeAway was still able to monetise VacationRentals.com by using it to drive organic leads and traffic towards their platform.
Today, VacationRentals.com redirects to VRBO.com, which was acquired by HomeAway in 2006.
PrivateJet.com — $30.18 million (2012)
Nations Luxury Transportation, LLC (Nations) bought PrivateJet.com from privately held Don’t Look Media.com, in 2012 for a hefty $30.18 million. The deal involved both cash and stock.
This domain was especially useful for Nations as the company provides luxury and private jet services. PrivateJet.com had a very high value due to its potential to attract organic search traffic and its brand recognition opportunities.
Voice.com — $30 million (2019)
One of the recent big-ticket domain sales was Voice.com, which sold for $30 million to Block.one, a blockchain software development firm based in the Cayman Islands.
The best part about this domain sale is that it is the most expensive publicly-disclosed domain sale in history. That is, even though numerous other domains have been sold for much higher amounts, they were not exactly publicised.
Today, Voice.com is being used by Block.one as an NFT platform where they aim to give voice to emerging artists from under-represented communities.
360.com — $17 million (2015)
Vodafone-owned 360.com was sold to Chinese gaming company Qihoo for an impressive $17 million in 2015. This was the highest publicly disclosed domain sale until this year when Voice.com broke its record by a landslide.
The buyer wanted to upgrade their brand from 360.cn to 360.com and used this domain name to promote their products and services related to search, gaming, security apps and mobile phones.
Other Notable Domain Name Sales
Domain investing is a lucrative business, and several other high-profile domain name sales have made the news. Here is a quick look at some of those expensive domains:
- Insure.com ($16 million): The company that bought insurance.com and carinsurance.com also bought insure.com for a whopping $16 million in 2009.
- Sex.com($14 million): Considered to be one of the most valuable web addresses in the world, sex.com was sold twice, first for $14 million in 2006 and again for $13 million in 2010, making it one of the most expensive domains in history.
Whether you’re a brand owner, domainer, investor, or just someone curious about the domain industry, it’s clear that domains can be incredibly valuable.
Your hunt for a domain name starts with understanding the market and researching what prices have been paid in the past for domains like yours. If you’re looking for a domain to invest in, it’s important to research how many domains similar to yours can be sold for.
At the end of the day, these top 10 most expensive domains ever sold are just a few of the many domains that have been sold for large amounts of money over the years. The domain name market is growing and becoming more competitive, so it pays to do your homework before investing in a domain.
A startup consultant, digital marketer, traveller, and philomath. Aashish has worked with over 20 startups and successfully helped them ideate, raise money, and succeed. When not working, he can be found hiking, camping, and stargazing.