It’s easy to think of a registered agent as a glorified P.O. Box, but the truth is that they can be critical to the success or failure of your small business.
Your registered agent will protect your personal information and assets, handle your most important legal documents and serve as your point of contact with your Secretary of State.
These aren’t responsibilities you should entrust to just anyone.
A negligent registered agent could reveal your personal information, mishandle a key legal notice and ruin your good standing with regulatory agencies.
In order to help you find the best registered agent for your business, I closely examined the top registered agents, rated them according to four key factors and ranked them. Here are the results of my investigation.
My Top Pick: Northwest Registered Agent (4.8/5 – Best Overall)
After all my legwork, I can say with confidence that Northwest Registered Agent is the best registered agent for any budget.
They offer the most comprehensive registered agent package at a great value, with a customer support team experienced enough to guide your small business through just about anything.
Northwest Registered Agent comes in at $125 per year, just a shade higher than the budget options like Harbor Compliance and substantially less than premium registered agents such as LegalZoom.
When you consider the quality and range of services they offer plus the support you’ll receive from the industry-best customer service team, $125 is a really good value.
Northwest Registered Agent has mastered the essential tasks of a registered agent service. They provide the required street address in whichever state you are filing and can be trusted to receive service of process or other important legal notices on your behalf.
Northwest is also very quick to forward any correspondence your business receives. They physically forward your mail through the post office but also scan and upload the most important documents to your online account, allowing you near-instant access.
Add-on services that cost extra at other registered agent services are all included in the base package at Northwest. Compliance alerts and a personalized filing calendar are two examples and both are great tools to keep you on top of your filing obligations.
Outside of their registered agent service, Northwest also offers LLC formation services and other business services, as well as several free legal forms plus guidance on how to file them.
But the ont thing that really separates them from the rest of the field is their Corporate Guides. Instead of having a customer support team made up of off-shore call centre operators with no practical business experience (especially in the US), their support team is made up of former lawyers and accounts that used to work with small business owners as well as small business owners and entrepreneurs that have faced the same challenges that you’re facing.
This means that they don’t just answer your questions about how to log into your mail account or where to find your billing details, but they will also answer any questions you have about running your business.
If you have issues with hiring new staff or the best 401k plan or how to negotiate with suppliers, they can share their personal experiences and help you find a solution.
Most business advisors charge more than $1,000 per day for their advice or even ask for equity in your company, but Northwest Registered Agent are the only registered agent service to include it in their registered agent package.
Northwest Registered Agent has also streamlined the signup process and you can be enrolled within minutes. That probably doesn’t seem like such a feat unless you’ve endured the painful, lengthy signup process of some of their competitors. Northwest has made a sprint out of what other registered agents seem to think should be a marathon.
Once you’ve signed up, your Northwest online account is very easy to navigate. Simple tasks like viewing your incoming documents and downloading legal forms are exactly as simple as they should be.
Northwest Registered Agent’s staff is what truly puts them above and beyond their competition and cements their spot as the best registered agent. While other registered agent services have cut costs by automating or outsourcing customer service teams, Northwest has gone in the opposite direction.
As I said before, their customer service team is made up of former lawyers, accountants and small business owners. Together they make up the most knowledgeable and experienced customer support team in the business.
You probably won’t need to make use of your registered agent’s customer service department very often, but when you do it is probably because something has gone awry. These are the times when you will truly appreciate a customer support team who knows what they’re doing. They just might save your business.
Northwest Registered Agent earned my highest ranking by offering a wide array of products at a competitive rate, mastering the basic registered agent tasks and providing great customer support.
They are responsible and trustworthy enough to protect your personal information and assets, maintain your relationship with your state and handle even the most sensitive legal documents.
If you want your small business to be protected and guided by the most dependable, supportive and registered agent service, signup with Northwest Registered Agent now.
Second Choice: Harbor Compliance (3.9/5 – Reliable Budget Option)
If you’re operating under an extremely tight budget, Harbor Compliance is a reliable registered agent service that will save you a few bucks at the expense of great customer support.
At $99 a year, Harbor Compliance offers the best price point of any registered agent service that made my list.
At this point you may be thinking, “But what about the google ad I just saw for Jim’s Registered Agent and Discount Tire Service? Their rates start at just $39.99 per year!”
I’m sorry to inform you that Jim probably isn’t being completely honest and $39.99 is almost certainly not what you’ll end up paying on an annual basis. There are a lot of registered agents out there that offer very low rates, but if you read the fine print (lawyers always do), you’ll discover that the $39.99 is an introductory rate and you’ll actually end up paying more than $100 annually.
So if you’re budget shopping, you have a choice — go with Jim and end up paying $100+ anyway, or go with Harbor Compliance that is completely upfront about their annual fees. For me it’s a pretty easy call. If I can’t trust that Jim will be honest with me about his prices, I don’t think I’d trust him to handle my most important legal documents, or sell me tires either for that matter.
For a budget registered agent service, Harbor Compliance offers an excellent array of services including all the basics like a physical in-state address, mail forwarding and scanning and uploading of critical documents to your online account. They will even give you a phone call should something especially important hit your mailbox.
Harbor Compliance also offers compliance alerts to keep you from missing key filing deadlines.
They might not offer all the products of some of the premium services, but, in general, it is a very comprehensive package, especially for such a good rate.
This is one of the areas in which you’ll probably feel like you hired a discount registered agent service rather than sprung the extra $26 for Northwest.
Harbor Compliance’s signup process isn’t particularly awful, but their website has a few kinks that could be ironed out. It just doesn’t feel very efficient. Simple tasks all seem to take one more step than they should. Not a dealbreaker by any means, just kind of annoying.
This is the other area in which Harbor Compliance lags behind its more expensive competitors. The customer service department won’t steer you in the wrong direction, but responses can take a while. It’s clear they don’t have the same level of experience as their competitors at Northwest.
If your budget is your only consideration, Harbor Compliance is a good choice. They’re reliable and offer an excellent product mix for such an affordable registered agent service. They won’t necessarily impress you, but they won’t let you down either.
You do, however, get what you pay for. The customer support at Harbor Compliance isn’t terribly efficient and the website is in need of some upgrades.
If you are unable to scrape together the extra $26 for Northwest Registered Agent, Harbor Compliance is a really solid but unimpressive alternative.
Third Place: ZenBusiness (3.8/5 – Good for LLC and RA)
ZenBusiness has become an industry leader in LLC formation thanks to their outstanding customer service and affordable pricing. Their registered agent service still has some kinks but shows a lot of promise.
ZenBusiness became such a phenomenon in the LLC Formation business because they offered rates that were substantially lower than their competitors. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with their registered agent service.
For whatever reason, ZenBusiness has chosen to offer a two-tiered pricing system for their registered agent service. They offer what they call “Standard Coverage” for $99 per year and “Complete Coverage” for $149. The difference boils down to compliance alerts, which are included in the Complete Coverage.
The problem is that for $99 you can get more comprehensive registered agent service with Harbor Compliance, and Northwest Registered Agent offers what would be considered “Complete Coverage” by ZenBusiness for $24 cheaper
If you judge ZenBusiness by their Complete Coverage package, their product is quite good. It includes all the essential registered agent services plus compliance alerts plus a program to get you back in good standing should you miss a deadline (although your compliance alerts should prevent that from happening in the first place).
ZenBusiness earns high marks here. Everything from their signup process to completing essential tasks on their website seems very streamlined and efficient.
ZenBusiness is another of the few registered agent services that seem to truly value their customer service department. Anyone you talk to who has used ZenBusiness for their LLC service or as a registered agent service raves about their customer service.
They are straightforward, reliable and experienced.
If ZenBusiness abolished the two-tiered pricing system and just offered one comprehensive product at a more competitive price, they would give Northwest some competition for the spot of best registered agent.
Their great business formation service makes ZenBusiness an appealing option if you have yet to complete that step in your company’s journey. Registered agent service is included with your LLC formation service and, depending on what package you select, could present a real value.
Fourth Place: LegalZoom (3.2/5 – Good for a big brand name)
If you haven’t done a lot of research on registered agent services, LegalZoom might be the only name on this list you recognize. If you want to go with a dependable giant that’s been around forever and has a good reputation, LegalZoom is a good choice.
Just know that that reputation is going to cost you. At $299 per year, LegalZoom is the highest- priced registered agent service to make my list (tied with CSC Global).
LegalZoom’s array of legal services means they can be a one-stop-shop for all your legal needs, but they also suffer a bit from the jack-of-all-trades syndrome. They have so many products that finding specific information regarding your registered agent service can be a challenge.
LegalZoom offers a very interesting product mix that includes all the basic registered agent services plus compliance alerts and a free insurance policy guarding you against identity theft. I believe LegalZoom is the only registered agent offering identity theft insurance as part of their service and as cybercriminals get more and more sophisticated, this policy could give you great peace of mind.
In the end, their offerings don’t completely justify such a high price, but if you value a big name and your company is successful enough that your budget isn’t an important factor, consider LegalZoom.
Fifth Place: Rocket Lawyer (3.2/5 – Useful additional services)
Rocket Lawyer is similar to LegalZoom in a lot of ways. Both companies make the bulk of their money through legal services and offer registered agent services as an extension of their main focus.
Rocket Lawyer charges a much lower price ($149) than LegalZoom, but they also have a much less interesting array of services. Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent package consists of the necessities plus compliance alerts but nothing beyond that.
There are cheaper registered agent services that are much more focused and provide better customer support.
Sixth Place: InCorp (3.1/5 – If they just updated their website…)
InCorp Review should be much higher on this list except for the fact that they’ve overlooked one critical part of doing business in the 21st century — the worldwide web.
Everything else about their registered agent service checks out – they’re trustworthy, offer a comprehensive service and have a competitive price ($99), but their website seems designed to test your blood pressure by pushing you past the point of mere frustration.
If you are a severe technophobe who is reading my rankings on paper because someone else printed this out for you, go ahead and give InCorp Review a call.
Seventh Place: IncFile (3.0/5 – Better for LLC than RA)
IncFile Review priced themselves into no man’s land. They charge $119 for a reliable but very basic registered agent service that doesn’t even include compliance alerts.
You can probably find enough change in your couch cushions to make up the extra $6 it would cost to hire Northwest Registered Agent instead. And if you no longer have a couch because you sold all your earthly possessions to fund your new business, you can save $20 a year and hire Harbor Compliance which provides a much better budget service.
Eighth Place: Registered Agents Inc. (2.7/5 – Good name, I guess)
Registered Agents Inc. is a reputable registered agent service that has been around for a long time and prides itself on its quick, electronic delivery of your incoming mail. Unfortunately, they don’t bring much else to the table.
They’d be a fine budget alternative, but at $200 per year, you can find cheaper and better. A more creative name would also be nice.
Ninth Place: CSC Global (2.4/5 – Great at other things)
I’m including CSC Global on this list just because I’m amazed at their audacity. Their price point, a staggering $299, seems to indicate that they consider themselves an elite registered agent. And yet their product offerings and customer support are worse than budget options like Harbor Compliance.
For their sake, I hope other aspects of their business services are successful because I can’t imagine anyone trying out their registered agent service at that rate. Maybe if they give out free t-shirts with their registered agent service? They’d have to offer 20 free t-shirts (100% cotton) for me to even consider their service at this price point.
Here’s why you can trust me and how I went about researching and rating the registered agents.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve become an expert on registered agents. This is certainly not something I brag about at cocktail parties. I’d much rather be an expert on architecture or distilling whiskey or something, but here I am.
It all started when I had to hire my own registered agent. Corporate lawyers hear their share of complaints about unscrupulous registered agents, so I knew what damage a disreputable registered agent service could do. In an effort to avoid that happening to me, I tried to be as diligent as possible, but found there was a real lack of reputable resources to help me make my decision.
I turned to members of my small business network for guidance and found that most of them were just as clueless as I was. I couldn’t believe that so many business owners were making such a big decision without truly analyzing their options.
Your registered agent is, after all, responsible for handling your company’s most critical legal paperwork, maintaining your compliance with your state’s corporations division and protecting your personal information and assets. That’s a lot of responsibility to entrust to a stranger. I wanted to know exactly who I’d be dealing with.
Since there wasn’t a resource that thoroughly broke down my registered agent options, I developed it myself, both to help me make my own decision and to help other small business owners make theirs.
Over the next year and a half or so, investigating registered agents was my primary side project. I spent more time on the internet than my conspiracy theorist father-in-law and more time on the phone than my suddenly bored mother-in-law. I dare say that most registered agents spent less time talking about the registered agent universe than I did.
The result of all that work is this list which I’m confident will guide you in the right direction when it’s time to choose your registered agent service. I hope my work saves you some time which you can redirect towards the more enjoyable aspects of running your business.
Step 1: Initial Registered Agent List
I started my search for the best registered agent with a good sense of the leading registered agents, but in the name of due diligence, I wanted to create a large list of registered agents and work my way down to the best.
I made an expansive list by cross-referencing different Secretary of State websites to find registered agents that were in good standing in multiple states. I was surprised to find more than 60 registered agents who seemed worthy of further review.
It was a huge field to start with, but I didn’t want to eliminate anyone without due cause.
Step 2: Online Reviews
In order to narrow the field, I took a deep dive into the world of online reviews. I looked through Facebook, Google Business, Trust Pilot, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and more.
I don’t necessarily trust online reviews as they’re easy to manipulate and often skew towards amplifying those with extreme opinions, but if you read enough of them, you can usually find a consensus opinion.
The most common complaint I came across was that many registered agents advertised what appeared to be an annual price but was actually just a signup price. On an annual basis, many customers were charged far more than what they were expecting.
Your registered agent service will be responsible for protecting your identity and handling your critical legal papers. You have to be able to trust them. There’s no getting around that. If a registered agent can’t even be trusted to present their true price, I’m not letting them near my company’s most important documents.
Whenever I read a complaint of this type of pricing scheme, I verified that this was indeed how the registered agent operated and eliminated them from my best registered agent list.
I eliminated a few others due to just overall, horrible, customer reviews or some truly appalling mishandling of legal documents that I could confirm. At the end of Step 2, I was down to the nine agents I have listed above.
Step 3: Product Analysis
Once I’d considerably narrowed the field, I looked long and hard at each of my remaining registered agent services.
It seems like a very simple business, but registered agents offer a wide variety of products and services. Your registered agent package could include just the basics, such as a registered address and mail forwarding, all the way up to more deluxe packages that offer services such as identity theft insurance and compliance alerts.
In total, I came up with a list of 24 distinct services offered by my nine finalists for best registered agent. I rated each registered agent based on how many of the services they offered.
Step 4: Interviews With Real Customers
I wanted to supplement what I’d read in the online reviews with conversations with real customers. For this I relied heavily on my network of fellow small business owners. A lot of them saw the need for this type of investigation, so they were very helpful in answering my questions.
Step 5: Interviews With Registered Agents
After I had a real firm grasp of each registered agent’s strengths and weaknesses, I reached out directly to the registered agents themselves. I called so often, I can tell you the preferred hold music of every registered agent that made my list.
When I called, I tested each registered agent’s customer service department with a few questions to see how they’d respond. I was looking foremost for speed and accuracy.
I also wanted to bring up specific criticisms I had heard about that particular registered agent. How they responded told me a lot about their corporate culture and how much they valued customer feedback, how quickly they corrected mistakes and how eager they were to improve their service.
Step 6: Test Drives
After all that work, I really wanted to take these registered agents for a spin, mainly to test their signup process which some registered agents have turned into a surprisingly arduous task.
I also wanted to judge their websites which I did by performing a few simple tasks such as changing my address, accessing incoming documents and contacting customer service.
Step 7: Ratings
Once I’d finished the bulk of my research, my final step was to rate the registered agent services.
I chose four key factors: Price, Product, Processes and People.
Price is pretty self-explanatory, although I looked at price more in terms of value. I wasn’t necessarily looking at simply the cheapest registered agent, I was looking more at who offered the most bang for your buck.
Product was simply a rating according to the number of services each registered agent offered.
Processes was my measure of how easily I could perform the signup process and get through a series of simple tasks on the registered agents’ website.
Finally, “People” was a measure of the customer service departments and assessing which ones were the most efficient and accurate with their information, with bonus points awarded for courtesy. I also judged what I could glimpse of their corporate culture by determining which registered agents were most open to customer feedback and eager to improve.
Best Registered Agent Review Summary
Choosing a registered agent service might not be high on your priority list, but it is a decision you should take seriously. A good registered agent will keep you in compliance with your Secretary of State, protect your personal assets and handle your most important legal notices.
The best registered agent can do even more and become a true asset to your small business.
I started with more than 60 registered agents and upon completion of my seven-step review process, I found a clear winner. Northwest Registered Agent is hands down the best registered agent.
They’re extremely trustworthy and reliable, they’ve mastered all the essential registered agent tasks and have a lot of handy add-ons such as compliance alerts and a personalized filing calendar.
Most impressively, Northwest has a customer service team that is so thorough, experienced and adept that they felt more like small business advisors than registered agents. I put a tremendous amount of faith in their counsel.
All that for one of the most competitive prices in the business.
If you want the most valuable, supportive and trustworthy registered agent service in the game, hire Northwest Registered Agent today.