Are you in the process of forming a new corporation, and you’re seeking some assistance with your formation?
There are so many online incorporation services available that it can be tricky to figure out which one has your best interests in mind.
This comparison guide takes a look at the five key points that help us analyze business formation services. Does LegalZoom or Harvard Business Services hold an advantage that makes them a better choice for you? Let’s find out.
Key Comparison Points
In our review and comparison of each online incorporation service, we performed a “stress test” on each based on 5 key factors:
- Compared pricing and features to determine overall value.
- Researched their track record.
- Assessed the quality of customer service.
- Tested their ordering process and service’s ease of use.
- Reviewed the turnaround times for incorporating online.
Overall Pricing and Value
LegalZoom: LegalZoom is an undeniably popular company (as we’ll explain a bit further in the next section), but that doesn’t mean they provide more value than their competitors. They charge $149 for incorporation services, but none of their formation packages include registered agent service. You’ll need to spend anywhere from $159 to $299 per year to add it on, depending on the circumstances of your order.
Harvard Business Services: It’s important to make sure everyone understands that Harvard Business Services only forms businesses in the state of Delaware. If you need to form a business in any other state, they cannot help you. Their Green formation package costs $89 and includes a year of registered agent service, which costs just $50 per year after that, the lowest rate in the industry. This package also has their compliance alert dashboard that helps you keep track of important filing deadlines. Unfortunately, their $139 Basic and $239 Standard plans are not good bargains.
Winner = Harvard Business Services
As long as you’re forming a business in Delaware, Harvard Business Services is very obviously the better option in this category.
They undercut LegalZoom’s baseline price points while also including registered agent service, and if you want to renew your registered agent after your free year, they have the lowest price we’ve seen anywhere. This category is a huge win for Harvard Business Services.
Company Track Record & Experience
LegalZoom: LegalZoom opened their doors in 1999, and over the years they’ve served 3.6 million customers. While not all of those are business clients (LegalZoom also offers a variety of personal services, like wills), they specify that they’ve formed over one million businesses, which is an undeniably impressive volume. However, their customer feedback isn’t great, as they have roughly equal amounts of positive and negative reviews available online.
Harvard Business Services: They’ve been serving Delaware businesses with quality formation services since back in 1981. Since then, they say they’ve formed over 170,000 business entities in this state. You can find thousands of customer reviews for Harvard Business Services across the internet, and nearly all of them are perfect scores.
It’s a tie!
LegalZoom clearly has a significant advantage when it comes to experience, as their client volume would be impossible to match for a company that only operates in one state. On the other hand, Harvard Business Services has a massive advantage for customer feedback.
Depending on your preferences, you might value one of these aspects over the other. In general, we’ll call this category a tie.
LegalZoom: LegalZoom has customer support available by phone or email, and we’ve tried both of those options. We think their phone support is quite strong, as we’ve always spoken with knowledgeable and friendly representatives, but their email support is definitely lacking. When we’ve emailed them, we’ve waited several days to hear back, and even then they only send a form email that doesn’t address our concerns. Their extended support availability is a big pro though, as they’re available from 8am-10pm ET weekdays and 10am-7pm ET on Saturdays.
Harvard Business Services: In our opinion, Harvard Business Services provides top-notch customer service. You can access their support team via phone, email, or chat, and they even have Skype support available. No matter which of these choices you go with when contacting them, you’ll receive quick replies from well-trained support reps. We also really appreciate the way they list every employee’s direct contact info on their website.
It’s a tie!
Each company has an advantage in this category, which makes it a tie overall in our eyes. Harvard Business Services has an edge thanks to the many ways you can contact them, and for the consistency of their support, while LegalZoom’s extended support hours are a great feature as well.
Ease of Use
LegalZoom: We’re not crazy about the way LegalZoom structures their ordering process, because it feels like they have the entire thing backwards. You need to provide them with your personal info, and then navigate through a ton of upsells, before you even get a chance to select your formation package. Not only is this confusing, but it also results in some surprisingly high price tags by the time you reach the end of their order form.
Harvard Business Services: It took us less than ten minutes to complete their entire order form, which makes them one of the quickest and easiest formation services we’re aware of. They also avoid third-party partnerships and upsells for the most part, although they do have one minor upsell late in the ordering process that honestly doesn’t bother us in the slightest.
Winner = Harvard Business Services
LegalZoom has loads of upsell attempts, perhaps more than any other competing service. They also structure their order form in a befuddling manner that makes no sense to us. Harvard Business Services wins this category in a landslide.
Speed of Formation
LegalZoom: For the vast majority of competitors, formation speeds depend on the capabilities of each state to process formation orders. For LegalZoom, your turnaround times are instead based on which package you purchase from them. Their most affordable package has a turnaround time of 30 business days (six weeks), whereas their most expensive formation plan typically takes between 7-10 business days.
Harvard Business Services: Harvard Business Services’ focus on forming Delaware businesses allows them to process formations in this state faster than most competitors. Even with their standard processing, they can complete the formation process in just 3-5 business days, and if you add expedited processing for a $150 upcharge, they provide same-day service (if purchased before 1pm ET, or next-day if purchased after that).
Winner = Harvard Business Services
Harvard Business Services can form a Delaware business entity much quicker than LegalZoom can. Even if you purchased LegalZoom’s most expensive formation package, it would still be 2-5 days slower than Harvard Business Services’ standard processing speed.
Considering the fact that LegalZoom failed to win even one category in this comparison, Harvard Business Services is clearly the better option for Delaware business formations. Their overall value is far superior to LegalZoom, and they also have faster turnaround times, better ease of use, and outstanding customer feedback.
If you prefer LegalZoom for any reason, we wouldn’t blame you for wanting to use their services instead, as they are a reputable and trustworthy company.
Obviously, if you’re forming a business in any state other than Delaware, they can help you whereas Harvard Business Services cannot. For all Delaware formations though, we think Harvard Business Services is the easy choice.
What Is the Biggest Advantage of Each Service?
LegalZoom has a huge advantage when it comes to experience and client volume. With millions of clients served, it’s clear that LegalZoom is an incredibly popular company with more of a track record than Harvard Business Services has.
On the other hand, Harvard Business Services has far superior overall value for their business formation service, as they have lower price points but still include more valuable features than LegalZoom does.
Which Is the Best Package Available From These Services?
Whenever we’re shopping for business formation service, we always choose the most affordable package that includes registered agent service, and we recommend this same combination of features for most of our readers. With these two companies, your best option is the Green package from Harvard Business Services for $89 (plus state fee), as this plan combines formation service with a year of registered agent.
If you would like to purchase formation and registered agent for a lower overall price, you can look to Incfile or ZenBusiness, as these two companies both provide this combination for $39 or less.
Which Company Offers More Help With Ongoing Compliance Requirements?
Either of these companies can provide a significant level of ongoing assistance to keep your business compliant and in good standing with your state.
LegalZoom has registered agent service available from $159/year to $299/year, depending on whether you purchase it separately or in conjunction with your formation package. They also offer annual reports for $55, which is an excellent price point.
Harvard Business Services has the cheapest price tag for registered agent service in this entire industry, as they charge just $50/year after the complimentary year included in your formation package. They can also assist you with your Delaware annual report and franchise tax payment, but you’ll need to contact them to get a pricing estimate.
Can I Get a Refund if I Need One?
Both of these services have excellent refund policies that are among the best in the business. Harvard Business Services has a 30-day refund window, and they will grant a refund for any reason as long as you request it before that window closes. They do have a 5% cancellation fee, but other than that they will provide a full refund of your service fees.
LegalZoom is even more impressive in this area, because they give you 60 days to decide whether you’d like a refund, and they don’t have any cancellation or processing fees of any kind.
Which Is the Better Option if I Need Publication Service?
In some states, you need to publish your company’s formation in a regional newspaper. For example, Arizona and Nebraska require publication for LLCs and corporations, New York requires it for LLCs only, and Pennsylvania and Georgia have this requirement for corporations only.
LegalZoom does not provide assistance with publication requirements, and because this is not a requirement in the state of Delaware, Harvard Business Services doesn’t offer this service either. If you’re looking for affordable publication service, we recommend ZenBusiness.
Do Either of These Services Go Overboard With Upsells or Third-Party Partnerships?
Harvard Business Services really impressed us in this area. Unlike so many of their competitors in this industry, they don’t have any third-party partnership offers, and they also don’t get pushy regarding upsells either.
While LegalZoom doesn’t share or sell your information to third parties either, they load up on the upsell attempts to an extreme. They actually have in excess of $1,000 in upsells as you traverse their business formation service order form.