Are you looking for the best online incorporation service, but you’re not sure which one is the right choice for you?
In this comparison, we’ll walk through the five main factors you need to consider when choosing between these services. Which one is the better overall option?
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.
That said, as you’ll see in our comparison below, Northwest Registered Agent wins out as the better incorporation service. They are $100 more affordable, have better features and very positive customer reviews online. In fact, they’re one of the top services to incorporate online.
Overall Pricing and Value
LegalZoom: LegalZoom is one of the most popular incorporation services available, but we found that does not translate into better value for their customers. While LegalZoom does offer a $149 package to incorporate, the number of upsells can get overwhelming — and expensive. Furthermore, they do not include registered agent service with any of their formation packages, and it costs a variable fee of $159-299 per year to add on.
Northwest: In comparing many of the best incorporation services available, Northwest ended up topping our list as one of the top options. At $49, they’re dead even with Incfile as the most affordable service that provides a full year of registered agent service. Once the first year is up, the registered agent service will renew at $125 per year.
Winner = Northwest
Northwest’s prices are much lower than LegalZoom’s, and Northwest also includes a full year of registered agent service with all of their formation packages. This is a big win for Northwest, as they manage to include more valuable features along with their far more affordable prices.
Company Track Record & Experience
LegalZoom: LegalZoom was founded in 1999, and they’ve served 3.6 million customers since then. While their focus isn’t solely on business formation services, they have helped form over one million businesses to date. If you look through LegalZoom customer reviews on any third-party site, you will almost always find a large number of one-star ratings and equally as many five-star reviews, resulting in a decidedly more mixed bag of feedback than many competitors have.
Northwest: Northwest was founded in 1998 and has helped form around two million businesses. They share on their site that they are currently working with over 200 new LLCs and corporations each day. While there aren’t too many reviews online for the company, most of the ones we found were very positive, and aligned with the mission and values promised by Northwest.
Winner = Northwest
These two companies serve roughly similar volumes of customers, and they both have a ton of experience. However, Northwest scores some points with their positive customer feedback, whereas LegalZoom is more of a mixed bag in that regard.
LegalZoom: LegalZoom offers phone and email support. We reached out twice via the email form on their site, but it took them a full week to respond. The response we received was generic – thanking us for reaching out, but not answering our question.
When we contacted them via phone, our question was answered very thoroughly. The representative went into detail about our different options, and then sent us an email with their direct extension so that we could reach out directly with questions. Overall, while their customer service via phone is great, their online support could be improved.
Northwest: Northwest offers phone and email support. We first tested their email support, and while it took nearly 24 hours to receive an email back, the response was detailed, and the rep went beyond simply answering our question and checking off an email response. We also called and received similarly impressive service. The representative who answered the phone took the time to ask for details so that he could give us the most accurate answer.
Winner = Northwest
There’s nothing wrong with LegalZoom when it comes to customer support, but Northwest really goes above and beyond. Their Corporate Guide system is highly personalized, as opposed to the less customized approach of LegalZoom (and the vast majority of other competitors, to be honest).
Ease of Use
LegalZoom: Unlike most competitors, LegalZoom doesn’t give you your package options to begin the application. Instead, you enter your personal info first, then navigate through a series of rather costly upsells before you select your formation package. It’s a bit convoluted, and it can result in some surprisingly high price points by the time you work your way through the order form to the package select screen.
Northwest: The application process with Northwest is streamlined and easy to follow. You simply select your package, enter your personal info and business details, and pay for the order. It doesn’t get more straightforward than this.
Winner = Northwest
Northwest wins again, thanks to their simple and no-fuss system for ordering business formation service. The lack of upsells is a big advantage, and we’re just not huge fans of LegalZoom’s backwards application that makes you select your add-ons before you even decide what you’re adding them onto.
Speed of Formation
LegalZoom: Unlike most competitors, their turnarounds are based on which package you order, rather than which state you’re forming in. With their most expensive package, you could receive your finalized business formation documents in 7-10 business days, but their cheaper packages take as long as 30 business days (six weeks).
Northwest: When you select your state from the dropdown menu of the application, an estimated turnaround time will display on the screen. Most states have expedited service available for an additional fee, so you’ll see two turnaround times on the order form. It’s worth noting that they only include their same-day processing feature in their most expensive package.
Winner = Northwest
LegalZoom’s turnaround times can be really long if you don’t purchase their top-tier package to speed them up a bit. On the other hand, Northwest’s turnarounds are based on the actual requirements of your formation state, which is a much more consumer-friendly method.
At the end of the day, we think it’s a pretty easy decision between LegalZoom and Northwest.
Northwest has $100 lower prices for their formation packages and more valuable features included as well. Their customer feedback is more positive, their turnaround times are better, their customer service is out-of-this-world, and their ease of use is basically unrivaled.
Northwest is just a fantastic option for any entrepreneur looking to incorporate, and we believe they’re a better choice for nearly every one of our readers.
What Is the Biggest Advantage of Each Service?
LegalZoom doesn’t have many advantages over Northwest, but one that is noteworthy is their brand power and name recognition. If you place a high value on using the most well-known service provider, LegalZoom is an easy choice thanks to their robust advertising budget.
Northwest has a handful of significant advantages in this comparison, but overall we think their highly personalized customer support is the most important. There are very few competing services that offer this level of customization when it comes to support, and most of the companies that do (like Harbor Compliance) charge far higher prices than Northwest does.
Which Is the Best Package From These Services?
When it comes to maximizing your value-per-dollar ratio in the incorporation services industry, look no further than Northwest Registered Agent. Their Basic package is available for $49 plus state fee, and it includes everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Along with the full preparation and filing of your articles of organization/incorporation, Northwest’s Basic plan includes 12 months of registered agent service. To get a comparable combination of features from LegalZoom, you’ll need to pay several hundred dollars.
Which Company Offers More Help With Ongoing Compliance Requirements?
Both LegalZoom and Northwest Registered Agent have plenty of features to keep your company in good standing with your state, although of course there are differences in their pricing models.
Northwest has a huge advantage when it comes to registered agent, as they not only include a full year of service with every package, but they also charge just $125/year after that, compared to LegalZoom’s variable fee of $159-299. On the other hand, LegalZoom only charges $55 for annual report service, whereas Northwest’s price point is nearly double that, at $100.
Can I Get a Refund if I Need One?
Northwest and LegalZoom both give you 60 days to decide whether you want a refund or not. They both provide refunds with no questions asked if you make your request within the refund window.
The only major difference between them in this area is the fact that LegalZoom has no processing fees for refunds, whereas Northwest will keep a $25 cancellation fee, which they refer to as a “You changed your mind fee.”
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.
Neither of these companies offer to take care of your publication step, but Northwest at least does provide a set of comprehensive instructions to help you complete your own publication requirement. Still, Northwest and LegalZoom are both unimpressive in this regard.
Do Either of These Services Go Overboard With Upsells or Third-Party Partnerships?
One of the reasons we appreciate Northwest Registered Agent so much is that they almost entirely avoid upsells, and they have zero third-party offers.
They’re so invested in your privacy that they run their own servers and write their own code, specifically to avoid sharing your information with any third-party companies. LegalZoom impresses us with their lack of third-party partnerships as well, but they do have a ton of upsells. In fact, there are over $1,000 in upsell attempts to navigate through as you work your way through their order form.
Am I Required to Use a Formation Service?
There is no legal requirement that dictates the use of a professional formation service. In fact, if you’d rather try to form your own business entity, we have how-to guides for both corporations and nonprofits that can help walk you through the process.