Do you want to incorporate but don’t know which incorporation service is the best choice to help you handle the paperwork?
This comparison guide walks through the five most important factors that you need to keep in mind when selecting your incorporation service. Let’s find out if ZenBusiness or Northwest Registered Agent is the best option for you.
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.
As you’ll see in this comparison review of ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent, they are both very good incorporation services. In fact, they’re our two recommended options if you’re incorporating online and want the best overall value.
That said, since they both scored a 9/10, we recommend choosing between them based on your personal preferences. We think you’ll be happy either way.
Overall Pricing and Value
ZenBusiness: There’s only one company we know of in this industry that offers business formation service for the low rate of $39, and that’s ZenBusiness. Not only is this an excellent price point, but it’s a fully featured package as well, including registered agent service, corporate bylaws, and a CPA assessment. If you want to also bundle in annual report service and compliance monitoring, along with a federal tax ID number (EIN) and a banking resolution, their $149 Pro plan is also a good value.
Northwest Registered Agent: Northwest will form your new business entity and provide one year of registered agent service for just $49 (plus state fee), which is a tremendous bargain. After that first year, the registered agent is renewable at a rate of $125 per year, which is quite reasonable. The only issue we have with Northwest in this area is that their $199 Premium package isn’t really worth the money.
Winner = ZenBusiness
Both of these companies impressed us with their entry-level packages, which both come with a year of registered agent service. However, ZenBusiness edges out Northwest Registered Agent in this category, thanks to the fact that they charge $10 less, while also including some additional features. No other company in this industry can compare with this solid deal.
Company Track Record & Experience
ZenBusiness: ZenBusiness has only been around for a few years, as they formed in 2015. Even though they’re a relatively new addition to the industry, they’ve already served thousands of customers with business formation services. They also receive excellent customer feedback, with hundreds of positive reviews and minimal negative feedback.
Northwest Registered Agent: Founded in 1998, Northwest has formed around two million business entities, which is a truly impressive volume of clients. On their website, they also note that they’re currently working with 200+ new businesses every day. With such a high volume of clients, you might expect to see more reviews, but we were only able to find just over 100 of them. Still, nearly all of those 100+ reviews are positive in nature.
Winner = Northwest Registered Agent
ZenBusiness does have a slight advantage when it comes to reviews, simply because they have a larger volume of positive feedback. However, Northwest has much more experience than ZenBusiness does, so we’ll award this category to Northwest.
ZenBusiness: With ZenBusiness, you can access their customer support team via phone, email, or web chat. We have experience with all of these options, and we’ve found that no matter which one you choose, you’ll receive timely, accurate, and friendly service from their representatives. They typically reply to emails within one business day, and we’ve never waited for more than a few minutes by phone or chat.
Northwest Registered Agent: This category is actually Northwest’s biggest strength. Northwest assigns a dedicated representative (which they refer to as a Corporate Guide) to each client account, and that employee assists you with every step of your formation process. They even provide you with their direct contact info so that you may call or email them whenever you encounter a question or concern.
Winner = Northwest Registered Agent
ZenBusiness has perfectly acceptable customer support, but they’re no match for Northwest’s high degree of personalization in this area. Out of all the companies we’ve tested/reviewed, they have by far the most helpful reps around.
Ease of Use
ZenBusiness: Ordering business formation service from ZenBusiness is simple. You start by selecting which incorporation package you’d like to build from, then you provide some basic information about yourself and your business, before choosing which add-on features you want. It’s a streamlined process that never gets confusing, except for the third-party partnership offers and upsell attempts you’ll encounter as you work your way through their order form.
Northwest Registered Agent: It doesn’t get much easier than ordering business formation service from Northwest. We were able to make it from the beginning of their order form through the payment screen in around 10 minutes, and we didn’t notice any third-party info-selling attempts or upsells throughout the entire process.
Winner = Northwest Registered Agent
Both of these companies provide services that are easy to use. However, the main con with ZenBusiness in this area is the fact that they have a handful of upsells and third-party offers to navigate through, whereas Northwest doesn’t. Therefore, it’s another category and another win for Northwest Registered Agent.
Speed of Formation
ZenBusiness: Whereas most companies in this industry have formation speeds that vary depending on which state you’re forming a business in, ZenBusiness has a different approach that is instead based on how much money you spend on their platform. With their Starter package, you should expect a 3-4 week turnaround time, which you can speed up to 1-2 weeks (Pro), or 3-5 days (Premium) with their more costly packages.
Northwest Registered Agent: Northwest’s turnaround times vary depending on which state you’re forming in. Some states can process business formations in just a few days, while others take several weeks. Northwest only guarantees same-day processing in their top-tier formation package, but their turnaround times are usually reasonable anyway, so it’s probably not worth concerning yourself with.
Winner = Northwest Registered Agent
Northwest is roughly in the middle of the pack regarding turnaround times in most states, but that’s still a major advantage over the ZenBusiness model. We simply don’t like it when companies slow down your formation just because you didn’t spend enough money to speed it up.
Conclusion & Final Verdict
Northwest Registered Agent wins four of the five categories in this comparison.
Even though it’s clear that Northwest has more advantages in this battle than ZenBusiness does, we will point out that the one winning category for ZenBusiness was our most important one, overall pricing and value.
If you’re looking for the most affordable overall incorporation package, ZenBusiness is your best choice. Other than that, Northwest has the edge for experience, and their customer support is second to none in this industry.
What Is the Biggest Advantage of Each Service?
It really doesn’t matter who you’re comparing them to, as the biggest advantage of ZenBusiness is the fact that they offer a business formation package for just $39. All you need to do is pay your state fee, and they’ll handle the rest.
Northwest has several significant advantages over ZenBusiness, but the biggest one is their customer support. Northwest Registered Agent has the best support in this industry, with a high level of personalization, which is obviously far preferable compared to the email/chat-only support offered by ZenBusiness.
Which Is the Best Package From These Services?
We typically advise our readers to choose the cheapest formation package that includes registered agent service. In this situation, these companies both have packages including formation service and registered agent for just $39-$49 (plus state fee).
ZenBusiness even sweetens the deal a bit by including a sample operating agreement or corporate bylaws, although of course they can’t compete with Northwest’s customer support. Overall, these are both great formation packages, it just comes down to your priorities to determine a preference.
Which Company Offers More Help With Ongoing Compliance Requirements?
Regardless of which company you choose to form your business, they can both help you when it comes to keeping your business in good standing down the line. ZenBusiness charges $110 per year for registered agent as a standalone service, or $99 per year as part of a formation package.
Either way, their price points are better than the $125 annual fee charged by Northwest Registered Agent. As for annual reports, Northwest offers this service for $100, whereas ZenBusiness has a fee of $75.
Can I Get a Refund if I Need One?
Take a look at ZenBusiness’ refund policy in their own words: “Once ZenBusiness has submitted your business for filing with the State under no circumstances can you charge-back or dispute the fees associated with forming your business. If you contact ZenBusiness before your business has been submitted for filing with the State, ZenBusiness may refund the charge, less a $50 cancellation fee, if certain conditions are met.”
Northwest has a much more generous refund policy, as they have a 60-day window to request a refund. If you request it within that window, they will provide a refund with no questions asked, although they do have a $25 cancellation fee that applies to all refunds (they call it 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.
If you’re forming a business in one of these five states, you may prefer ZenBusiness, because they provide publication service, whereas Northwest Registered Agent does not.
Do Either of These Services Go Overboard With Upsells or Third-Party Partnerships?
One of the many inviting aspects of Northwest’s services is the fact that they don’t push any upsells or third-party partnership offers on their clients. Instead, Northwest focuses on providing their own high-quality services to the best of their abilities, without any distractions. On the other hand, ZenBusiness does have upsells, especially in their cheapest package.
Am I Required to Use a Business Incorporation Service?
There is no legal statute that dictates the usage of a professional formation service to create a new business entity. If you would rather give the DIY option a try, we have how-to guides on this website to help you form a corporation or nonprofit corporation.
That said, we do have some reservations about forming your own business. With LLCs, every state has its own guidelines, so you’ll need to figure out what your specific state requires in this regard. As for corporations, they’re generally a rather complicated business type, and we only recommend the DIY option for those of you who are already comfortable with the incorporation process.