"Available" is the operative word. A lot of domains are "available" based on how much you are willing to pay. But let's assume you are not on a hunt with a determination and budget to go after your prey like a big game hunt. You are not looking for a trophy to hand in your mansion den. You simply want a name that is appropriate for your business. What you want to know is, is the domain I want available at a reasonable cost? How do I find out?
The simplest test, naturally, is to just place your cursor in your browser's address bar and type it in. But that will only tell you if there's a website attached. It's not necessarily an indication someone does not already own it. Conversely, the fact that someone owns it does not mean it's not available...even at a reasonable price.
The first question to answer is, does someone already own the name I want? For that your search can begin right here:
Simply type the name you want into the search bar on the right. You don't have to put in the dot-com part, but you can. That's called a TLD or top-level-domain. This is especially useful of you are looking for a specific TLD.
The result will let you know if your domain is owned by someone else or not. If it says it is not, that simply means someone already owns it. But it does not necessarily mean it's totally unavailable.
If the result indicates your desired name IS available you can proceed to purchase it from 30fold Domains. The result will usually include other TLDs you can purchase as well. If you are concerned about protecting your brand, this may be a good idea.
What if the search result indicates that the domain name you want is NOT available? You have choices. You can try an alternate Top Level Domain (TLD). Perhaps a dot-club, dot-org, or dot-dentist if they are appropriate. There are hundreds of TLDs that are specific to concepts, professions, and geography to choose from.
Another choice is to find out who the current owner is and see if they are interested in selling the name. Domain names are like property on the internet. People buy and sell them all the time. Speculators will think of a good name, buy it cheaply, then search of businesses they think may buy them and pitch an offer. This is a good time to simply try browsing the site. Sometimes there will be a "for sale" notice on it.
You can also use something called a WhoIs search to find out who the owner is. That's less fruitful these days because people often mask their ownership. In this day of scams, spam, and identity theft, that's not a bad option - something to keep in mind when you do register your domain. 30fold Domains offers domain ownership privacy as an option. If you choose to not add privacy expect emails, phone calls, spam, website and service offers and more to pour in.
Back to the topic at hand. You can use a WhoIs search to try and find the domain owner. If you do find them, simply drop a note or make a call and let them know you have an interest and ask if they are interested in selling. But have a price in mind before you call. Unless you are really going big time, this is a place where you could spend thousands for something that originally sold for $10-20. Like anything you purchase, decide what it's worth to you before going to the negotiating table.
One more place we should not leave out is the auction sites. Just like you can bid on trinkets and treasures on eBay, there are sites set up specifically to handle auctions where owned domains are bought and sold.
But my favorite of all tools for capturing a domain I want without overpaying is a tool we have right here at 30fold Domains. Here's how it works. You pay a set fee for a domain someone else owns. This tool will then sit and watch it just like the tools on your favorite auction site. It will watch for the domain to expire, then immediately grab it automatically and notify you of your prize. It's called Domain Back-ordering. It does have a drawback. It only works well if someone is letting a domain go and allows it to completely expire.