Vercel: custom preview domain for free?

April 6, 2023

If you host your app on Vercel, you must be familiar with how preview deployments are a first-class citizen, and each pull request you make gets a preview deployment.

Those preview deployments default to be hosted on, and Vercel provisions two preview domains for it, with the following patterns:

So if you make a PR on an app called my-app in an organization my-org, on a branch called hello-world, and the deployment ID for this commit was lkj8trp27, your URLs would be:

But what if you want, for example, to allow OAuth on your preview domains? Whitelisting is out of the question since it would allow any Vercel website (including an attacker’s website) to be a valid redirect URI for our OAuth provider!

And we can’t typically whitelist a domain pattern like *, not that this would be a good idea anyway because this pattern is not private to your organization. Any random Vercel user can use it in their own app!

Then, it would be useful to use your own domain instead of Turns out Vercel supports this, and charges $100/month for it! Steep.

Steep, but if you’re looking for a turnkey solution, it’s definitely worth it. Otherwise, keep reading.

Using the Vercel CLI

An interesting thing in the Vercel CLI is that it lets us manually associate a custom domain to a given deployment using vercel alias. 😏

Let’s say is part of my Vercel-managed domains:

vercel alias set

This will associate the deployment example from earlier to my custom domain!

We can literally put anything we want under there, and it will happily generate a SSL certificate for that arbitrary subdomain, and associate it to our deployment.

This will work as long you associated a wildcard subdomain on your DNS to Vercel, like * in our example.

This is a good start, but it doesn’t scale!

Using the Vercel API

Luckily, the Vercel API exposes an endpoint to do just the same thing: POST /v2/deployments/{id}/aliases. In our example, we can call it with:

  "alias": ""

How do we find the deployment ID though? We need the full deployment ID, something looking like dpl_hgLKkCqMExSzNpTtA3Dy6sVfWuYj.

Vercel gives us a handy GET /v13/deployments/{idOrUrl} endpoint for this, where we can pass our deployment URL and get the deployment object back, including its full id.

By combining those two endpoints, we can dynamically associate our custom domain to any Vercel preview deployment. 🙏

Getting an API token

In order to call the API, we need to pass a bearer token in the Authorization header. You can create a token from your Vercel account settings.

Then, you can put it in your app’s environment variables, e.g. as VERCEL_TOKEN, so it’s available in your server-side code environment.

Associating the domain on the fly

From there, we can detect when we’re running under a preview domain, call the API to associate our own custom domain, and finally redirect to it. This will add a bit of delay when loading our preview deployments from the domains, but no big deal.

Where you hook in order to do that is up to you. _app.jsx may be a good start, or maybe some component that’s included in all of your pages, maybe just the home page if you don’t expect any deep link on your preview domains, or maybe even somewhere in getServerSideProps?

If you do this client-side, you’ll want to add an API route or go through a SSR page that will be doing the call to the Vercel API (you don’t want to expose your Vercel API token client-side), but if you’re hooking directly in getServerSideProps, you can skip that step.

On the client, you could do something like this:

const router = useRouter()

if ('')) {
  // Preview env

Then, implement a preview-redirect page to associate your custom domain to the current preview environment, then redirect to it.

export async function getServerSideProps (context) {
  const deployment = await getDeployment(

  const domain = `pr-${deployment.gitSource.prId}`

  await associateDomainToDeployment(, domain)

  return {
    redirect: {
      destination: `https://${domain}`

Where getDeployment is a wrapper to GET /v13/deployments/{idOrUrl}, and associateDomainToDeployment wraps POST /v2/deployments/{id}/aliases (writing those is left as an exercise to the reader).

Here, I chose to prefix the domain with pr- and the PR number, but you’re free to construct your preview domains however you want.

You’ll notice this works the first time, but obviously if you open again the preview URL, it will fail because the domain was already assigned! To cover that, you need to call /v2/deployments/{id}/aliases and redirecting to the existing domain if you already associated it before.

We can add something like this in the beginning of our previous function:

const aliases = await getDeploymentAliases(

const existingDomain = aliases.find(alias =>

if (existingDomain) {
  return {
    redirect: {
      destination: `https://${existingDomain.alias}`

After this, you should have your free custom preview domains working, congrats!

About Vercel certificates

However, you may realize this is bloating your domain’s SSL certificates list on Vercel. Every single preview deployment will add a new entry in your SSL certificates list, and because the Vercel UI for this doesn’t really expect an infinitely growing list of certificates, it’ll make it a pain for you to manage your “actual” certificates!

To prevent this, you need to manually create a wildcard certificate for the domain you use for your preview deployments. In the example featured in this post, that would be *

Vercel is smart enough to notice when we associate a new domain to a deployment, that a wildcard certificate covering it already exists, and so doesn’t create an individual certificate for that particular preview. This will keep your certificates list clean and tidy!

You can’t create the wildcard certificate from the dashboard directly, but you can do so with the CLI using vercel certs issue.

vercel certs issue '*'

Note that this will only work if you use Vercel’s nameservers. This means the following won’t work (e.g. in the DNS zone):

*.preview CNAME

But the following will work:

preview NS
preview NS


If you made it here, congrats! You now have everything you need in order to implement your own custom preview domains, without paying Vercel big money for it.

Is going through all of this worth saving $100/month? That’s up to you. But as far as I’m concerned, the joy of putting together this little system was well worth the savings. 😜

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