Are you looking for the best online incorporation service, but you’re not sure which one is the right choice for you? LegalZoom and Northwest are both services that can form an LLC or corporation on your behalf.
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?
Comparison Based on the Five Key Points
In our review of each online incorporation service, we performed a “stress test” on each based on five key factors:
- Compared pricing and features to determine the overall value of each service.
- Researched their track record based on how many businesses they’ve formed.
- Assessed the quality of customer service based on customer reviews, as well as our own personal experience.
- Walked through the ordering process to determine each service’s ease of use.
- Reviewed the turnaround times for LLC and corporation formations.
Overall Pricing and Value
LegalZoom: LegalZoom is one of the most popular LLC and incorporation services available, but we found that does not translate into better value for their customers. While LegalZoom does offer an affordable $79 starting package to form an LLC and a $149 package to form a corporation, 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 $159 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 elite 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.
Customer Service Comparison
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 in-person customer service 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.
Northwest’s big claim to fame regarding customer service is their Corporate Guide system that connects each of their clients with one of their highly trained representatives. This means that whenever you have questions, you can direct them to the same person every time, rather than explaining your situation to a different rep each time you call or email.
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: LegalZoom doesn’t specifically explain their own turnaround time for processing and filing your paperwork with the state, but they do offer an estimated total turnaround time. 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 seven 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 better 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.
It’s not that LegalZoom is a bad company, because it isn’t. They’re one of the most popular online incorporation services for a reason. The issue is that Northwest is just a fantastic option for any entrepreneur looking to form an LLC or corporation, and we believe they’re a better choice for nearly every one of our readers.