A registered agent is required – by law. No way around it, so minimizing this burden is the name of the game.
For most entrepreneurs, the best way to get a reliable registered agent is to hire a professional registered agent service. They have the means to handle these duties in all states and can save you quite a bit of hassle.
But which one of the services should you pick? Finding the right one can be difficult… especially when every service claims to be the best!
We compared more than a dozen different registered agent services in order to find the one that offered the best value. Below are our findings.
Our Top Picks for 2021
1. Northwest Registered Agent – Best overall registered agent service
Northwest Registered Agent is our overall winner. They provide a reliable and professional service with no upselling or hidden fees. They also boast an excellent track record and have a strong focus on privacy. Operating under the slogan “We’re just not annoying,” they have been specialists in the registered agent business for decades.
2. ZenBusiness – Great for small businesses
ZenBusiness is a public benefit corporation with great pricing, amazing customer service, an easy-to-use online interface, and an overall customer rating of 4.8 out of 5. Their service is a perfect fit for small businesses looking to avoid bureaucratic hassles.
3. Harbor Compliance – Best price for bulk purchases
Harbor Compliance is a reliable specialist company in the field of corporate compliance. Their services are particularly suited for enterprise clients looking to buy registered agent services in advance, as they offer the best price point when purchasing multiple years’ worth of service at once.
1. Northwest Registered Agent – Best overall Registered Agent service
- Self-provided service
- Mail forwarding
- Reliable and trusted
- Great customer service
- Many years of experience
- Refunds possible within 90 days
- They handle all RA change paperwork and fees
- Some other services are cheaper
Northwest Registered Agent is our #1 recommendation.
We believe they provide the best overall package in terms of reliability, features, customer support, and simplicity.
What sets Northwest Registered Agent apart from many other service providers is that they maintain their own network of local offices, where they receive and scan legal mail on behalf of customers. Most alternative providers use third-party services to do the heavy lifting and only handle the customer support themselves.
By keeping all parts of their service in-house, Northwest Registered Agent helps protect their customer’s privacy and ensures a consistent level of quality. We believe that these qualities alone place them far ahead of the competition.
Another point that makes Northwest Registered Agent stand out from the competition is the free basic mail forwarding service that comes with their registered agent subscription – they will scan up to five non-legal documents per year, with further documents incurring a small fee.
Most other services we reviewed have specified in their terms of service that they do not process non-legal mail as part of their registered agent service.
Having been in business since 1998, Northwest Registered Agent’s service is backed by many years of experience and a well-earned reputation for reliability.
Choosing a dependable registered agent is vital for any business, especially when you consider the possible consequences of missing important documents, such as court summons.
With more than 200 employees, Northwest Registered Agent has a well-developed team of in-house business experts, who are titled “Corporate Guides.”
They can help you with any issues regarding your registered agent service, corporate compliance, and even the establishment of new business entities. Their customer service staff are knowledgeable, helpful, and always quick to reply.
We reached out to many of the companies in this article to ask about refund policies. Northwest Registered Agent scores well in this regard too – they allow customers to cancel their service within 90 days of signing up. You will receive a prorated refund if you decide to cancel.
In the event that you are switching your RA from a different provider, Northwest Registered Agent will handle all the paperwork with the state and even pay the filing fee for you.
As a minor note, we also want to mention that we liked that the terms of service on Northwest Registered Agent’s website are written in clear and simple English, rather than obscure legalese.
What we didn’t like:
There isn’t much to complain about with Northwest Registered Agent. The only minor criticism we have is that the cost of their service, priced at $125 per year, is slightly higher than the cost of some competitors.
Nevertheless, we believe their registered agent service to be well worth the cost and recommend them strongly!
2. ZenBusiness – Great for small businesses
Pricing: $99/yr or $149/yr
- Great pricing
- User-friendly website
- Online dashboard with email notifications
- Very highly rated by customers
- Great, fast customer support
- Option for annual report filing
- Doesn’t offer prorated refunds
- No mail forwarding
ZenBusiness is a major formation company that specializes in helping entrepreneurs and small businesses deal with bureaucratic tasks and red tape in a hassle-free way.
They are also a public benefit corporation – that means having a positive impact on society is one of their legally defined goals. ZenBusiness, for instance, provides grants and loans to randomly selected customers every year.
Unlike most other providers on our list, ZenBusiness offers two registered agent pricing plans. Their “Standard Coverage” plan is priced affordably at $99 per year and includes the registered agent service itself, online document access and storage, and access to ZenBusiness’s business formation experts.
Their “Complete Coverage” package is priced at $149 per year. It includes all of the above, as well as ZenBusiness’s business compliance service. That service will remind you about, and file, your company’s annual reports with the state, thereby ensuring your company maintains its good standing at all times.
Customers who receive service of process are notified electronically and can immediately find the content of the notification in the documents tab of ZenBusiness’s dashboard.
ZenBusiness provides top-notch customer support for all their services – something that is of particular importance for registered agent services.
We tested their claims ourselves when we contacted them with a handful of questions about their offerings. A friendly customer service agent responded to our message within less than an hour and provided answers to all of our questions. ZenBusiness was the fastest to respond among all the services we wrote to.
Most of ZenBusiness’s customers seem to share our feelings on the matter. The company holds a 4.8 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot with more than 5,900 reviews – that’s one of the best rating averages on our list.
Most reviewers praised ZenBusiness’s service across the board, though special attention was paid to their intuitive website and the helpfulness and knowledgeability of their staff.
What we didn’t like:
With ZenBusiness, there is little to dislike. They provide a solid and reliable registered agent service at a good price. One improvement we can think of would be the inclusion of a basic mail forwarding service with their more expensive plan.
3. Harbor Compliance – Best price for bulk orders
Pricing: $89/yr – $99/yr
- Great pricing with multi-year discounts
- Annual report notifications
- Same-day document scanning
- Online access to documents
- Very responsive customer support
- No physical delivery of mail
- No refunds if service is cancelled
Founded in 2012, Harbor Compliance is a company that specializes in providing a variety of corporate compliance solutions to businesses and non-profit organizations. Their services are generally geared toward larger organizations with more involved compliance needs, but they can also be used by small businesses.
Harbor Compliance’s registered agent service is priced at $99 per year and state. Notably, they provide a discount of 5-10% if you sign up for multiple years. Paying for three years or more up-front will reduce the cost to $89 per year, which is the lowest price for a full year’s service of all the competitors we evaluated for this ranking.
You may receive further bulk discount rates if you purchase registered agent services for multiple business entities at once, although you will have to contact them directly to discuss exact price points.
Harbor Compliance is one of the few companies that operate their own local offices in all 50 states, rather than outsourcing all of the legwork to partners. They even list the exact addresses of their offices in all states on their website.
Incoming legal mail is scanned on the same day it is received and made available to customers. The representative we spoke to informed us that Harbor Compliance does not provide any physical delivery of correspondence. Instead, scanned contents are uploaded to customers’ online accounts and can be retrieved electronically.
The service also includes annual report reminders about the due dates of important filings in the state(s) where your company operates.
Harbor Compliance has fewer online reviews available than many of their competitors. Nevertheless, most customers seem happy with the company’s performance – Harbor Compliance sports an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 on Google.
What we didn’t like:
Harbor Compliance’s refund policy is less generous than some of the competition.
When we asked about their cancellation policy, we were told that they do not offer prorated refunds if their service is cancelled. Customers can only receive a refund if the service is terminated shortly after ordering and before they have been designated as a registered agent with a given state’s Secretary of State office.
4. Swyft Filings
- Online Dashboard
- Immediate access to scanned documents
- Help with compliance
- Many positive reviews
- Refund possible if cancelled within 60 days
- High costs
- May not be available in all states
Founded in 2015, Swyft Filings is a relatively new, privately held Houston-based company specializing in various business services. Among their offerings is a registered agent service, which is priced at $149 per year.
In terms of reliability and customer satisfaction, Swyft Filings scores well among customers. With more than 35,000 customer reviews across major review sites, they hold a rating of 4.6 out of 5 on Trustpilot and a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on Sitejabber.
As with many of the services we list in this article, Swyft Filings provides their registered agent service in partnership with a third party – in this case, LegalCorp Solutions.
To their credit, Swyft Filings makes it clear who they have partnered with within their terms of service, rather than forcing customers to do their own research.
If you decide to go with Swyft Filings, you will be provided with access to a secure, personal online dashboard. Whenever new legal mail or service of process is received, they will scan it and make it immediately available to you through your online dashboard.
Your legal mail is stored securely in the cloud, so it will be available 24/7.
We liked that if you choose to cancel Swyft Filings’ registered agent service early on for whatever reason, you can receive a full or partial refund.
The customer service representative we spoke to informed us that if the service is cancelled within 30 days, customers can receive a full refund for the cost of the first year. If it is cancelled within 60 days, customers will receive a prorated refund instead.
As an added bonus, Swyft Filings will also monitor various deadlines for important filings in the states in which you operate. They’ll also periodically send you reminders for important items, such as your annual reporting obligations.
What we didn’t like:
While Swyft Filings provides a solid registered agent service, their price is higher than we’d like to see. At $149 per year, you will be paying 50% more than what some of our top-rated competitors charge.
When we reached out to Swyft Filings with a few questions regarding the service, we were surprised to be told that the service provided by LegalCorp is available in only 47 out of 50 states (they did not specify where the service is unavailable).
This was unexpected, considering that the LegalCorps website states that they operate in all 50 states.
Pricing: $149/yr for non-members; $111.99/yr for members
- Good customer reviews
- Reliable company
- Additional features with paid membership
- Poor web presentation
- No full or prorated refunds if cancelled
- Not the cheapest option
RocketLawyer is one of the largest and most recognized names in the online legal aid business. They operate a registered agent service alongside their other online legal services, and it’s available to both members and non-members.
RocketLawyer’s registered agent service costs $149.99 per year for non-members. A paid membership reduces this cost to $111.99 per year, however, the membership itself is priced at $39.99/mo.
We think that you should only consider RocketLawyer as your registered agent if you plan on using their paid membership for its other services (such as online legal advice) and consider the RA services as an add-on.
Without a membership, the service is too expensive for what it offers, and you might want to consider one of our other top-rated services instead.
Still, with a rating of 4.6 out of 5 and more than 3,000 reviews on Trustpilot, RocketLawyer is certainly well-liked by the vast majority of its customers. We could not find any piece of customer feedback where a client was specifically dissatisfied by RocketLawyer’s registered agent service.
RocketLawyer also doesn’t make it easy to contact them with questions, with no contact email address being listed on their website. Instead, potential customers are limited to a message form with a maximum of 250 characters. They can definitely do better here.
What we didn’t like:
The webpage advertising RocketLawyer’s registered agent service prominently advertises a “100% satisfaction guarantee” and states that customers who are dissatisfied with their service can receive a full refund in case they cancel.
Yet the terms of service state the exact opposite: “RocketLawyer does not offer full or prorated refunds for cancelled services.”
Well, which one is it?
Another thing we disliked is how little information about Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent service is available on their website.
The registered agent page itself does not even provide any information regarding the price of the service. To find out more, customers have to either provide their contact information or find the price on a different page. We would prefer to see a bit more transparency here.
- Self-provided service
- Online compliance tool included for free
- Customer support is quick to reply
- Service of process is sent within one day
- Physical delivery of necessary documents for free
- Can be cancelled anytime with prorated refunds
- No standard mail forwarding
BizFilings (known also as Business Filings Incorporated) is a Wisconsin-based business formation and compliance company that primarily caters to small businesses. The company is owned by Wolters Kluwer.
BizFilings is notable for being one of the few companies on our list to provide their registered agent service directly, rather than through a partner.
BizFilings registered agent service costs $199 per year, which is definitely on the higher end of the scale.
This registered agent service includes access to BizComply – their own online business compliance management tool – at no additional cost. As a stand-alone, this service would cost $75 per year.
BizComply is used to track compliance tasks based on a given company’s home state (and other states where the company is qualified, if applicable). BizComply also includes a company dashboard and a library of state forms.
We contacted BizFilings with a few questions and received an answer to our message within just a few hours. Their customer service was not only quick, but they also provided in-depth answers to all of our questions.
Some of the registered agent services in our ranking only operate electronically. While BizFilings does use an online system to provide scanned copies, the service also includes the delivery of necessary original documents (beyond service of process documents) and the delivery of checks, free of charge.
Based on what we were told, BizFilings has a customer-friendly cancellation and refund policy. You can cancel their registered agent services at any time, provided that you have updated your records with the government or that your company has been dissolved.
Should you cancel the service, BizFillings can issue a prorated refund for the unused portion that you have already paid for.
BizFilings advertises that you can switch your registered agent to their service for no additional cost – they will pay the state’s change of address fee for you.
What we didn’t like:
While we always appreciate services that keep their operations in-house, BizFilings’s registered agent service is still significantly more expensive than our top-rated competitors. The added freebies, like BizComply, are nice. However, other companies offer equivalent services too.
BizFilings also does not offer a standard mail forwarding service along with their registered agent service.
- Good pricing
- Solid customer reviews
- Not a business mail address
- Almost no information on company website
- Did not respond to inquiry
BetterLegal is one of the smaller formation companies we looked at. Among business entity formations and compliance services, they also offer a low-cost registered agent service.
BetterLegal’s registered agent service has the distinction of being one of the most affordable services we looked at.
While most registered agent services are priced at or above $100 per year, BetterLegal’s service costs only $90 annually. If you are simply looking for the cheapest option among professional registered agent services, then BetterLegal may be a good choice for your business.
BetterLegal also scores well with customers. They currently hold an excellent 4.8 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, with more than 200 individual reviews.
While most reviews relate mainly to their business entity formation service, some customers also report using their registered agent service, and without issue. In general, most reviewers seemed pleased with the responsiveness and reliability of BetterLegal’s service.
BetterLegal’s terms of service make it clear that their registered agent service is not a mailing service; if you receive non-authorized mail, their third-party provider may seek reimbursement from you.
What we didn’t like:
BetterLegal provides their service through partners but doesn’t mention, anywhere, who they are. We emailed them in order to clarify this and some other aspects of their service. Unfortunately, we never received any response from them – that’s something that does not reflect well on their customer service in general.
Lowest rated registered agent services
In this section, we will briefly go over some popular services that completely failed to impress us.
Incfile is best known for their free business entity formation service. While they offer a one-year free registered agent service with LLC formation packages, they also provide this service to established companies for $119 per year.
What we didn’t like:
While Incfile’s service isn’t priced too steeply, the company seems to score poorly with customers.
They currently hold a 2.8 out of 5 rating on Trustpilot, with almost half of all users giving Incfile a one-star review.
Common complaints among the users include slow service and difficulties getting in touch with representatives – hardly ideal for a registered agent service.
Nolo has been publishing legal self-help manuals since before the internet existed. Nowadays, they provide a variety of law-related services and publications online, such as connecting customers with lawyers, providing LLC formation services, and selling legal software.
If you are forming an LLC with them, they will offer you a registered agent service through their partner.
What we didn’t like:
We don’t recommend this service, because Nolo appears to mark up the cost of their partner service by quite a bit. If you purchase registered agent services through Nolo’s website during the check-out process, your cost will be $150 per year. Yet if you go to the website of Vcorp (their partner), the exact same service is sold for just $115 per year.
Incorporate.com is a subsidiary company of the Corporation Services Company (CSC).
Incorporate.com’s main business focus is to help customers with the formation of new business entities.
They also sell registered agent services to established companies. Notably, their registered agent service is not provided through a partnered third-party provider, as with most competitors, but through their parent company, CSC.
What we didn’t like:
At $235 per year, Incorporate.com is simply too expensive.
Other companies offer the same service for less than half the price. Incorporate.com also charges a number of fees to new customers if their filing for a change of registered agent is handled by Incorporate.com, rather than the customer.
These fees can amount to more than $120, depending on the state. Some other services cover these fees entirely on behalf of the customer.
LegalZoom is one of the biggest names in the online legal aid business. They are best known for their legal document library, business formation services, and attorney consultation services.
What we didn’t like:
The $299 per year price tag makes LegalZoom’s registered agent service the most expensive option on the market.
We couldn’t find anything about the service that would justify such a high cost. When we emailed the company with a few questions, we received a non-response, directing us to call their sales team on the phone.
What to look for in a registered agent service
Below, we have listed some of the qualities we consider essential for a good registered agent service. We also mention how those qualities affect our rankings.
It should come as no surprise that a service’s price point is the first and most important factor we looked at in our comparisons. Considering that having a registered agent is mandatory and does not directly contribute to business operations, most business owners will likely want to go with the least expensive option.
However, simply going for the cheapest service could end up costing you in the long run – in a worst-case scenario, a bad registered agent could fail to notify you about a court summons, causing you to lose a lawsuit via default judgment.
On the other hand, some higher-priced registered agent services also include helpful additional features with their service, such as annual compliance reminders or mail forwarding.
This is why, instead of just preferring a low price, we weigh the cost of any given service against its reliability and the overall value it provides.
Help & Support
Having a responsive and knowledgeable customer support team should be par for the course for any online service. However, it is particularly important in the case of registered agent services.
Ideally, a high-quality service should not only provide standard customer service but should also be proactive in looking out for their customers’ interests.
For example, if you receive service of process with your registered agent, they should actively try to contact you by email, phone, or post in order to ensure that you are aware of the situation.
Accessibility refers to the manner in which the service provider makes any received documents available to the customer.
Since the content of legal correspondence is frequently time sensitive, it is important that customers have quick access to any delivered mail so that they may take the appropriate next steps.
The services we looked at generally use some form of electronic document delivery; most often in the form of a secure online portal where scanned mail is uploaded and stored.
Good services will keep mail available 24/7 for as long as they are your registered agent. They will also ensure that you are properly and promptly notified. Some services also include physical delivery of original documents when necessary.
Many of the services we looked at include additional features with their registered agent service in order to provide a greater value to your business.
Tools like compliance calendars, with personalized reminders for your company’s filing deadlines regarding items like annual reports are common.
Another add-on is a basic mail forwarding service, which is useful in the event someone tries to contact your company by sending mail to the registered agent address listed on the public record.
These features are not vital, but all else being equal, they can give a service a bump in our rankings.
4 Tips to consider when choosing a registered agent service
Here we have collected a few tips, based on our research, that we think might be useful when hunting for a RA provider.
Cancelling registered agent services isn’t always straightforward
Ideally, choosing and hiring a registered agent should be something that you do once and never think about again. But if you do decide to switch to a different registered agent provider at a later point and would like to cancel your old subscription, you need to be aware of one important limitation.
The majority of registered agent service providers have a clause in their terms of service which states that you cannot cancel the service while they are still listed as your official registered agent on the state’s official record.
If you decide to cancel the service and haven’t appointed a new registered agent (or dissolved your company), your old service provider may continue to charge you their fee.
This can end up being costly for you, as many registered agent services charge their fee in a single annual payment, and not all providers offer prorated refunds should you cancel the service.
Not to mention the hassle of asking for a $30 refund…
In order to avoid unnecessary charges, you should read the terms of service carefully and make sure you appoint a new registered agent, in time, before cancelling.
Not all services provide In-House registered agent services
While all the companies we list in this article offer registered agent services to customers, not all of them actually provide the service themselves. Many of the services listed here hire third-party specialist companies to receive your service of process and other legal notices or government correspondence at dedicated offices in all US states.
In such a case, your relationship is still with the company you signed up with – they are the ones who will provide customer service and receive payments. Nevertheless, knowing how the registered agent service is organized on the back-end can help you pick the more reliable and affordable option.
Does your registered agent provider offer mail forwarding?
Are you confused what a registered agent service does and does not include? It seems to be one of those concepts everyone, but you, is familiar with.
For example, if your registered agent receives legal correspondence from the state, can they also receive other business mail on your behalf? A mail forwarding service can often be useful for small digital start-ups without any physical offices.
Most registered agent services do not forward your general mail.
If you would like to use your registered agent’s address as a business address, you should make sure that they also offer a mail forwarding service before signing up.
Among the services we contacted, several told us explicitly that they do not offer a mail forwarding service. Those that do often charge an additional fee for it.
Do you need registered agents in more than one state?
When picking a registered agent provider, you should keep in mind that you may need registered agents in multiple states, depending on how your business operates.
For example, if you are foreign qualified in a state other than your company’s home state, you will need a registered agent there as well. The same can be true if you operate multiple business entities.
If you need registered agents in multiple states, you should pay particular attention to the cost of your provider and whether or not they provide bulk discounts.
Registered Agent Service FAQs
What is a Registered Agent?
A registered agent is a person or company appointed to receive all legal correspondence (such as court summons) on behalf of an LLC, corporation, or non-profit organization. Having a registered agent is required by law for all business entities operating in the United States.
What is the best Registered Agent service?
Northwest Registered Agent is our #1 ranked registered agent service. They provide a reliable and professional service at a good price, with a strong focus on customer privacy. We also recommend ZenBusiness as a close-second alternative. Be sure to read our article for more information regarding our top registered agent services.
Do I have to have a Registered Agent?
Yes, you are legally required to appoint a registered agent.
All business entities which operate in the United States must have a registered agent listed with their home state’s government records, as well as states where they are foreign qualified. The registered agent must be available during business hours at their given address. Failure to appoint a registered agent may endanger your LLC or corporation’s good standing with the authorities and lead to penalties.
Who can be a Registered Agent?
As a general rule, any company or person above the age of 18 can be appointed as a registered agent. They must be a resident of the state where the business is based (or foreign qualified) and must be available during business hours at a physical address in order to receive service of process and other legal documents.
Can I be my own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can appoint yourself as your company’s registered agent. However, your address will become part of the public record and will be available to anyone. You will also have to be available during business hours at the listed address, no exceptions. If you operate in more than one state, you won’t be able to serve as your own registered agent in all of them. Many businesses prefer to use the services of a professional registered agent provider instead of taking on this task themselves.
How can I change my Registered Agent?
The exact procedure depends on the state where you would like to change your registered agent. In general, you have to file a document with your state’s office of the Secretary of State. You will also have to pay a small processing fee to the state. If you are switching to a professional service, you might want to check to see if they can handle the paperwork for you. Some services will even pay the state processing fee for you.
How much do Registered Agents cost?
Most registered agent services are paid for on an annual basis and cost between $90 and $200 per year. Some services include additional features, such as business mail forwarding, for an additional fee. If you need registered agents in multiple states, you will generally have to pay for your service in each state separately. Some companies may offer bulk discounts if you are purchasing services for multiple entities or states. You may also have to pay a state fee in order to change your registered agent.
How do I cancel a Registered Agent service?
The terms of service of most providers state that if you would like to cancel a registered agent service, you will first need to amend your paperwork with the state. After you have appointed a new registered agent service, you can contact your old provider and cancel their service.
Do I need a Registered Agent in every state?
Registered agents are state-specific. Generally, you will need a registered agent in your home state and any other state in which your LLC or corporation has filed for foreign qualification. The vast majority of registered agent service providers operate in all 50 states and can take care of your obligations in additional states if needed.
Disclaimer: We try educate our readers the best we can, but we do not provide legal or tax advice and our content is for general information only. If you require legal or tax advice, please reach out to a qualified professional. Our work is supported by affiliate commissions.