If you want to keep your domain name, the best policy is to renew early. You do not lose any time by renewing early. For example, if the domain expires on Jan 1 2006, and you renew 1 month before that, the new expiration date is Jan 1 2007.
This article examines the lifecycle of a typical domain name, from registration to deletion
|03/01/05||after 60 days, the domain can now be transferred to another registrar, if desired||ACTIVE|
|11/01/05||most registrars start sending renewal notices around this time||ACTIVE|
|01/01/06||the domain has expired; most registrars will HOLD the domain, which means your website and email will no longer work; you can still renew your domain name for the regular price; you can no longer transfer the domain unless you renew first||REGISTRAR-HOLD|
|02/09/06||after 40 days, most registrars delete the domain; to get the domain back after this point you have to restore it which costs a lot||REDEMPTIONPERIOD|
|03/11/06||after 30 days, the domain can no longer be restored; the only way to get the domain back is to wait until it is dropped from the registry; of course anyone else can also register the domain at that time||PENDINGDELETE|
|03/16/06||after 5 days, the domain is dropped from the central registry and can now be registered by anyone, first come first serve; if the domain is valuable or has lots of traffic it will be snapped up seconds after it has dropped; Google "expiring domain names" for more information; to get a valuable domain back consider using a service like Snapnames.com.|