Naming your new business is a big deal.
Your name affects your brand, your marketing, and so much more. Sometimes, you might think of the perfect business name before you’re ready to incorporate, so it’s not surprising that some business owners choose to reserve a business name.
But reserving a business name is not always the right decision — there are circumstances when you should and when you shouldn’t. With this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about business name reservation.
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Select your state below to reserve a business name on your own. If you're still looking for the perfect business name, there are naming tools that can help you come up with one that also has a correlating available domain name.
Pros of Name Reservation
The biggest advantage of reserving a business name is that it simply buys you time. Creating the perfect name is challenging, so you don’t want all that work to go to waste.
The reservation prevents anyone else from claiming your name as their own — no one else can incorporate under that name for as long as your reservation period lasts. Most business name reservations are good for anywhere from 30 days to one year, and the most common reservation period is 120 days.
This is really the only pro to reserving your business name. But since the right name plays such a big role in your business — including branding, marketing, and more — reserving your name can be a significant moment for the development of your new business.
Cons of Name Reservation
Reserving a business name does have some disadvantages, however. For one thing, a name reservation is not a fool-proof plan, as the reservation does expire eventually, at which time another entrepreneur could swoop in and take your name as their own.
In addition, reserving a business name in one state only guarantees its availability in that specific state. For larger corporations and LLCs, this is a drawback. You want your branding to be consistent across state lines, which might mean acquiring multiple name reservations, at which point it could feel like quite the hassle.
Finally, a name reservation is an extra, non-refundable expense. The money does not go toward the actual costs of forming your business, either. Typically, we recommend simply going ahead and incorporating your business when you’ve come up with a suitable business name, because in many (or even most) cases, reserving a name is an unnecessary expense.
In some states with inexpensive name reservations, it can be worth it. For example, states like Iowa and North Dakota offer name reservations for just $10, but other states like Pennsylvania charge well over $100, at which point this service loses its value.
Cost of Reserving a Business Name
Each state has its own pricing when it comes to reserving business names. With this in mind, we’ll quickly run down how much it will cost you to acquire a name reservation in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia.
Before we get started, we would like to mention that only one state strictly requires a business name reservation, even if you’re already fully prepared to incorporate your business. That state is Alabama, which requires all entrepreneurs to reserve a business name.
- Alabama: $10
- Alaska: $25
- Arizona: $45
- Arkansas: $25
- California: $14
- Colorado: $25
- Connecticut: $110
- Delaware: $75
- District of Columbia: $85
- Florida: This state does not offer business name reservations
- Georgia: $25
- Hawaii: $33.50
- Idaho: $40
- Illinois: $25
- Indiana: $11.22
- Iowa: $10
- Kansas: $30
- Kentucky: $15
- Louisiana: $55
- Maine: $70
- Maryland: $45
- Massachusetts: $30
- Michigan: $10
- Minnesota: $45
- Mississippi: $25
- Missouri: $25
- Montana: $30
- Nebraska: $30
- Nevada: $75
- New Hampshire: $15
- New Jersey: $100
- New Mexico: $25
- New York: $45
- North Carolina: $130
- North Dakota: $10
- Ohio: $139
- Oklahoma: $10
- Oregon: $100
- Pennsylvania: $140
- Rhode Island: $50
- South Carolina: $10
- South Dakota: $75
- Tennessee: $20
- Texas: $65
- Utah: $22
- Vermont: $20
- Virginia: $20
- Washington: $80
- West Virginia: $15
- Wisconsin: $40
- Wyoming: $50
Business Name Reservation Services
Reserving a name isn’t the most difficult or time-consuming process in the business world, but if you’d rather have a professional business service provider handle it, you do have that option.
Most of these companies offer name reservation service at reasonable price points, so it’s not too much of a commitment to hire out this task. There are quite a few options out there when it comes to hiring a service to reserve your business name, which is why we made a brief list of our two favorite options.
- BizFilings ($35): We’re not aware of any competing services that offer business name reservations at a lower price point than BizFilings does. They also have plenty of experience, as they’ve served over 500,000 clients over the years.
- MyCorporation ($49): While MyCorporation does charge a bit more than BizFilings does, their services are backed by outstanding customer reviews. When you consider their quality customer support network, MyCorporation is a popular choice for business name reservation service.
Should You Reserve A Name for Your Business?
When You Should Reserve a Business Name
There are two main circumstances when you should file an application to reserve a business name. First, you should file for a name reservation when you’ve created a perfect name, but you don’t know for sure what type of business you’re going to create.
On a similar note, let’s say you have the perfect name, and you’ve picked an entity type. But, you have a few affairs to wind up with your day job, so you’re not quite ready to incorporate, so you could reserve the business name instead.
Reserving a business name is a decent option for these circumstances. Reserving the name allows you to protect it for a certain period of time — usually 120 days, although the exact time period does vary a bit depending on your state. During that period, no one else can incorporate under the name you’ve chosen. So in a sense, the name reservation buys you time to make your key decisions without the risk of losing the name you’ve worked so hard to create.
Finally, you should always reserve a business name if you’re forming a company in the state of Alabama, as this state requires a name reservation, even if you’re ready to incorporate your business immediately.
When You Shouldn’t Reserve a Business Name
As helpful as a name reservation can be, it isn’t the right option for everyone in every circumstance.
For example, you shouldn’t reserve a business name when you aren’t going to form an incorporated business. Only the names of formal businesses are protected by the state, so getting a name reservation doesn’t do you any favors if you operate a sole proprietorship or general partnership.
You also should not bother reserving a business name if you are on the verge of incorporating. For example, if you file your articles of incorporation and a name reservation on the same day, they will be processed in roughly the same amount of time.
Filing the incorporation documents is what formally gives you the rights to use your name, not the reservation. Therefore, filing the reservation application would just throw your money down the drain.
Finally, you should not file a name reservation when another incorporated business is already using that name in the state. If someone has already claimed the name, your reservation request will be denied. And since the application fees are non-refundable, you’ll be out however much you spent.
Register vs. Reserve
One quick note: you’ve probably encountered the words “register” and “reserve” when it comes to business names.
The two terms may seem similar, but don’t be deceived, as they’re actually two entirely different terms. “Registering” a business name is the terminology used for officially acquiring a business name. For example, let’s say that a sole proprietorship wants to operate under a name that differs from its legal name. It can register a DBA with the Secretary of State or the county clerk.
In contrast, reserving a business name is the terminology for securing the rights to a business name, but without actually registering it. Reservation is completed by filing an application to reserve a business name. However, it is only a temporary reservation — only by incorporating under the reserved name does the title become exclusive to the business.
Our Final Thoughts
Reserving a name is occasionally the right choice for a business, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good option for you. Other than the state of Alabama, which requires a business name reservation for any incorporation (or other business formation, like an LLC), there is usually not a great reason to reserve a name without actually forming your business entity.
In general, we typically recommend that our readers simply go ahead and incorporate when they come up with a great business name. If you’re going to end up doing it anyway, why wait, while also adding unnecessary expenses to the process?
That said, if for some reason you’re not comfortable forming your business entity yet, a name reservation is the only way you can ensure that the name you want will still be available when you are ready to incorporate.
Rocket Tip: Haven’t incorporated a business yet but you’re ready to get started? There are a handful of good incorporation services that can launch your business and get it registered with the state.