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 Registered Agent are both services that can incorporate 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?
Key Comparison Points
In our review and comparison of each online incorporation service, we performed a “stress test” on each based on five 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 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 and a $79 package for LLCs, 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 $249 to add a year to your incorporation order, or $299 if ordered separately.
Northwest: At $225, their price point is higher than many of their competitors. Still, the inclusion of a full year of their premium registered agent service is a great feature that makes their pricing even more attractive. Once the first year is up, the registered agent service will renew at $125 per year.
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Company Track Record & Experience
LegalZoom: LegalZoom was founded in 1999, and they’ve served 6 million customers since then. While their focus isn’t solely on business formation services, they have helped form more than 2 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 positive reviews. LegalZoom has thousands of mostly positive reviews available online, although they do have a handful of negative feedback mixed in.
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.
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 good, 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.
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. They only offer one incorporation package, so all you need to do is enter your personal info and business details, and pay for the order. It doesn’t get more straightforward than this.
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.
What Is the Biggest Advantage of Each Service?
LegalZoom has a few advantages, starting with its 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 its robust advertising budget.
Northwest has a handful of significant advantages, but overall we think their personalized customer support is the most important. There are very few competing services that offer this level of customization when it comes to support.
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 service, 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 $299 annual fee (or $249 for your first year if purchased in tandem with your incorporation package). 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. If you’re looking for a company to handle this step for you, we suggest giving ZenBusiness a try.