Are you looking to form a limited liability company, corporation, or nonprofit but are stuck trying to settle on the best formation service to use?
Choosing the right service can be difficult. That’s why we’ve evaluated over a dozen of the top services, looking at metrics in a number of categories, such as pricing and turnaround time, in order to give you a clear idea of each services’ strengths and weaknesses.
Here are our results:
BizFilings vs LegalZoom: Verdict
BizFilings edged out LegalZoom in our side-by-side comparison.
LegalZoom performed better on several key metrics, including ease of use and customer satisfaction. They have a very well-built website that’s filled with useful information for new business owners.
But their rating took a huge hit due to their prices – LegalZoom has some of the most expensive full formation and registered agent costs we’ve seen.
BizFilings’ formation and registered agent prices were more affordable, and they did include six months of their registered agent service for free with any of their formation bundles. But, BizFilings is hardly at the head of the pack when it comes to pricing – several of their competitors provide the same service at a much lower price.
Neither company wowed us with their turnaround times, and both charged for internal prioritization, a practice that we don’t like to see.
In the end, both BizFilings and LegalZoom had unimpressive across-the-board scores.
We focus on BizFilings and LegalZoom in this article, but if you would like to get a more complete picture of the options available to you, be sure to check out our Best LLC Formation Service and Best Incorporation service articles.
If you are looking for more info on the first steps of forming a business, we recommend taking a look at our How to start an LLC article.
|Ease of Use||4/5||5/5|
|Help & Support||3/5||5/5|
If you want to learn more about how we reached our conclusions in this particular service provider match-up, read on!
BizFilings vs LegalZoom: Pricing
Every penny counts when you’re starting a new business. And, as you’ll quickly find out while browsing for online formation services, there’s a huge range of prices for business formation bundles.
In reviewing dozens of services, we’ve found bundle prices that have ranged from free all the way to $800 and more! So what’s going on here? Why the dramatic range?
Well, a portion of this variation is simply due to some companies being more reasonable than others. There’s lots of unnecessary overcharging in this industry.
Another big reason for the variation, though, is that not all formation bundles are created equal. Some bundles are truly bare-bones, offering only business name searches and the filings of your Articles of Organization with the state.
Other “premium” bundles may include tons of add-ons, ranging from the very useful (registered agent service, annual report filing, compliance alerts) to the not-so-useful (EIN filing with the IRS, corporate record books, customized shares).
When reviewing formation companies, we try to look not just at price but at value. We try to find who offers the most bang for your buck.
And to help draw comparisons across companies with different bundles, we compare the prices of some key services: “basic” formations, “full” formations, and annual registered agent service.
Here’s how BizFilings and LegalZoom did:
Since BizFilings only includes half a year’s worth of their registered agent service for free with their formation bundles, we tacked on half the price of that service to get our “full” formation price.
Not sure what a “Basic Formation” or a “Full Formation” is? Here’s how we define each:
Basic Formation: Covers the essentials of business entity creation. Includes – at minimum – filing of Articles of Organization and the drafting of an Operating Agreement for an LLC or corporate bylaws for a corporation.
Registered Agent (standalone): PriceIf you’re only looking for a registered agent service.
Full Formation: Additionally includes – at minimum – a registered agent service, which most owners will find essential. Price includes one year of registered agent service.
BizFilings bare-bones bundle is its Basic formation package, which costs $99. That package includes the drafting and filing of your Articles of Organization (the documents which officialize your business with the state). It also includes BizComply (an online compliance management tool), a business name search, and half a year of BizFilings’ registered agent service.
We were a bit disappointed to see that BizFilings didn’t include a full year of their registered agent service for free – many of their competitors do exactly that. Plus, the Basic bundle does not include Operating Agreement drafting, a service we consider to be essential. That’ll cost $39 as an add-on, bringing your basic formation total to $138.
The cost of BizFilings’ registered agent service is also quite high at $199 annually – most service providers charge somewhere in the $100 – $150 per year range.
To come up with our full formation price for BizFilings, we took the price of a basic formation and added half a year’s worth of registered agent service (since only six months are free), giving us a grand total of $237.
BizFilings also offers three “premium” packages: a Standard package for $229, a Complete package for $359, and an International package for $399.
We are wary of most premium packages, as they are usually filled with unnecessary add-ons or upsells. This is the case with BizFilings, and we don’t recommend any of their more expensive packages (which you can read about in more detail on our BizFilings review).
Like many of its competitors, LegalZoom offers formations through a set of three formation packages.
The first and most basic is their Economy package, which is priced at $79 for formations (i.e., for LLCs) and $149 for incorporations (i.e., for c corporations). The Economy package is truly bare-bones. All that is included is a name availability check (which most people can do themselves anyway) and the filing and sending of your Articles of Organization.
Notably, neither Operating Agreement drafting nor a registered agent service – both services which we consider to be essential – are included. For the former, you’ll need to pay an additional one-time fee of $99. That’s how we reached our “basic” formation price of $178 for LegalZoom.
That’s definitely on the pricey side. But where things really get expensive is when registered agent service is factored in.
LegalZoom charges $299 per year for their registered agent service. That’s about three times the going market rate.
For more info on our top-ranked registered agent service providers, be sure to check out our in-depth Best Registered Agent Services article.
Now, this particular registered agent service does come with some added perks, including a compliance alert system (to help you maintain your good standing with the state) as well as unlimited storage for online business and legal documents. And, everything is done in-house.
Nevertheless, we consider a nearly $300 annual registered agent service to be beyond the pale, and these added services still don’t justify the high price.
We have similar notes about LegalZoom’s Standard package, priced at $329, and their Express Gold package, priced at $349. We won’t go too in-depth here – check out our LegalZoom review for that – but we’ll just say that neither of these packages contains enough value-added services to justify their costs.
When it comes to add-on services, such as DBAs (Doing Business As), Foreign Qualifications, and annual report filing, LegalZoom also tends to be more expensive than the market average.
Pricing Winner: BizFilings
To set the record straight, we were not impressed with the pricing of BizFilings or LegalZoom. Both have very expensive registered agent services, which contributed to their high full formation costs. We were not thrilled with the cost of add-on services either.
BizFilings won out here, however, because their basic and full formations, as well as their registered agent service, were all less expensive than LegalZoom’s.
BizFilings vs LegalZoom: Turnaround Time
Forming your business is an important event in and of itself. But it also opens the door to lots of other key milestones for your business – hiring employees or opening a business bank account, for instance.
Most startup owners are eager to get their businesses growing as soon as possible. That’s why we consider turnaround time to be such an important factor when reviewing formation companies.
When forming your business, a large chunk of the overall processing time – the time your documents spend at your state’s Secretary of State office – will be out of your formation companies’ hands.
But, we still expect formation services to do everything in their power to quickly and accurately review your materials, promptly send them off, and promptly return them to you. And “accurately” is a key term here, as incorrect or incomplete filings can cause weeks or even months of delays.
Here’s how both BizFilings and LegalZoom did on some major turnaround time metrics:
|Paid internal rush option||Yes||Yes|
|Overall turnaround time||Slow||Slow|
BizFilings, unfortunately, doesn’t offer up much info on how quickly they process documents and send them over to state authorities. All that is provided is a general, total processing time estimate: four to six weeks, for most LLCs and corporations.
To us, that’s unacceptably slow.
With turnaround times like that, you’re better off saving yourself some costs and just filing yourself.
BizFilings does offer a “rush” filing option with some of their premium packages. That’ll bump your processing time to just one to two weeks. You can also purchase rush filing as an add-on for $60.
But what’s important to note here is that BizFilings is offering internal expediting. That just means they’re prioritizing your application within their own system. This is different from state expediting (offered by many states, which allows you to pay an extra fee to jump the state processing line).
We don’t think small business owners should have to pay an extra fee just to receive a reasonable turnaround time, especially when they’re already paying more than the going market price with BizFilings’ pricey packages.
Unfortunately, we were quite unimpressed with LegalZoom’s turnaround times as well.
Filers going with their Economy package can expect a turnaround time of 30 business days.
Though comparable to BizFilings’ turnaround time, this is way slower than average. It again puts business owners in a situation where filing on their own may be preferable.
Also, like BizFilings, LegalZoom offers “express” filing through one of their more expensive packages. Such orders have an expected turnaround time of 7-10 days.
Given how expensive LegalZoom’s services are, and how large and well-resourced the company is, we were very disappointed to see such slow turnaround times.
Turnaround Time Winner: Tie
This tie is more a tie for last place than a tie for first place. We were deeply unimpressed with the turnaround times offered by both BizFilings and LegalZoom.
While some of these companies’ competitors offer same or next-day filings standard with all orders, neither LegalZoom nor BizFilings offers up any info on their specific processing times. Their overall turnaround times are very slow, and you have to pay significant fees just to get your company formed in a reasonable (not even fast) timeframe.
BizFilings vs LegalZoom: Customer Satisfaction
We wish we could believe everything we read on formation companies’ websites. It would make our jobs a lot easier. And it would make your shopping experience easier too.
Alas, you can’t trust everything you read! Luckily, we have customer reviews to help us verify the service claims that companies make.
Customer reviews not only give us a sense of whether or not a company is easy to deal with – they give us a deeper understanding of the real formation experience (we can’t start a new limited liability corporation, c-corporation, or nonprofit with every company we review, after all).
When we’re looking at reviews, there are a few factors we consider. First, we look at overall averages. Numbers in the 4.3+ out of 5 range are usually a good sign.
We also look at review volume. Seeing more reviews, across more independent review sites, gives us greater confidence that those reviews are accurate and really reflect customers’ experiences.
Finally, we look for patterns in reviews. If we see specific phrases, praises, or issues come up again and again, we take note.
Here’s how BizFilings and LegalZoom did on customer satisfaction:
|Stand-out mentions||N/A||“Very knowledgeable” “Made things easy”“Difficulties canceling”|
BizFilings presents a very unusual case for us. The company has barely any online review presence to speak of. They don’t have any reviews on popular sites such as Yelp, Trustpilot, or the BBB.
All we were able to find, at the time of writing, was about 15+ reviews on Google. While these reviews were overwhelmingly positive, this review volume is simply too small for us to glean any valuable information from them. Plus, Google reviews tend to be the least reliable and independent (we’re more prone to trust them when there are hundreds of reviews and when they line up with review records on other independent sites).
Because of their scant record, we made the decision to hold off on assigning a customer satisfaction score to BizFilings. We hope to be able to update their score as more reviews come in.
Our weighted average for these reviews came out to be about 4.1 out of 5. Unfortunately, because LegalZoom offers such a wide range of services, many of which are totally unrelated to business formations, a large portion of their reviews won’t be relevant to new business owners.
And indeed, some cracks started to appear when we looked at the reviews of customers who specifically used LegalZoom’s formation service. Though we saw plenty of positive notes about knowledgeable customer service staff, we also saw complaints about delayed filings and difficulties canceling certain ongoing services (e.g., registered agent service).
Most reviews were still positive on balance. But we’ve certainly seen other companies with much stronger customer satisfaction records.
Customer Satisfaction Winner: LegalZoom
LegalZoom’s customer satisfaction record may not be amazing, but at least they have one to speak of. With decent averages across thousands of reviews (even if many of these weren’t in regards to their formation service), LegalZoom is the winner of this category.
If BizFilings is able to garner more reviews on independent websites, we may revisit this category’s head-to-head comparison.
BizFilings vs LegalZoom: Ease of Use
When reviewing formation companies’ websites, we want to see ordering experiences that are easy and intuitive. Though forming your company may involve plenty of legalese and red tape, online formations need not be complicated or cumbersome.
Customers should be able to quickly determine whether or not a provider offers a specific service. They should also be able to see the price of that service without having to call a rep or click through a checkout cart.
And, as formations and formation-related services can get complicated quickly, especially for the uninitiated, we also like to see plenty of context information. That may take the form of charts, articles, FAQs, or all of the above. Essentially, we want to see companies make an effort to ensure their clients are making smart and informed decisions about their businesses.
So, in sum, here’s what we’re looking out for when reviewing companies’ ease of use:
- a simple step-by-step sign-up process, with no unnecessary upsells
- clear pricing information
- informative and educational content on the website
- terms and conditions that are easy to understand
- …and any other features that make it easier to use a service.
Here’s how BizFilings and LegalZoom did:
|Clarity of instructions and prices||Average||Great|
BizFilings’ website didn’t do much to wow us. We think this is in large part due to the fact that BizFilings doesn’t really have its own website – instead, the “BizFilings” service is a subsection of the Wolters Kluwer website.
Wolters Kluwer is an information services company that is based in The Netherlands. If you’re trying to navigate the BizFilings site, many links will take you away from BizFilings entirely, sending you instead to Wolters Kluwer service pages.
We appreciated that the price of both bundles and add-on services were clearly listed on BizFilings’ service pages. But those pages were, unfortunately, tricky to find in the first place.
Articles and FAQs meant to give context to services were pretty shallow. We don’t think they’ll be particularly helpful to new business owners.
And on top of all this, we also ran up against several 404 error pages while browsing BizFilings’ site.
LegalZoom, on the other hand, boasts an excellent website. Although they offer a huge range of services, we found their site to be easily navigable – we were quickly able to find any formation-related service we were looking for.
Each of these services has its own dedicated page which is accompanied by either FAQs, a chart, or both – these are well-written and highly detailed, offering business owners the context information they need to make smart decisions. Prices are also clearly listed on service pages – you don’t have to click through a shopping cart or call a rep.
LegalZoom’s extensive “Resources” section includes several hundred legal articles on formation-related topics. Though their subject matter is sometimes dense, these articles are written in easy-to-understand language.
LegalZoom’s order process is simple and straightforward. Using a mock company, we were able to finish the process in just a few minutes.
Ease of Use winner: LegalZoom
LegalZoom is the hands-down winner on ease of use. While a lot of thought has clearly been put into their website, BizFilings’ site feels more like a forgotten-about subsection of Wolter Kluwer’s larger, less well-organized site.
LegalZoom provided tons of useful background information, clearly listed all their prices, and sported an intuitive ordering system.
Nolo vs LegalZoom: Help & Support
We hope that you never need to contact a companies’ help and support in the first place. Formations should be a smooth, stress-free process – and in most cases, they are!
But, if an issue does come up with your application, it’s important to be able to count on a professional, and available, help and support staff.
Having real people to talk to can also be a huge plus if you have questions about your formation or other formation-related services. Even after reading through tons of helpful articles, you may still have a query or two, and that’s okay! Chatting with a small business expert for even a few minutes can help you make decisions that will positively impact your company for years to come.
When we review companies’ help and support options, there are a few main factors we look at. We like to see lots of contact options – phone, email, webchat, snail mail, etc. – and we like to see that contact info clearly displayed.
We’re also big fans of extended business hours. And, finally, we prefer to see companies consolidate their help and contact info on one convenient webpage.
Here’s how BizFilings and LegalZoom did when it came to help and support:
|Live Chat Support||Yes||No|
|Extended business hours||No||Yes|
|Website help section||No||Yes|
BizFilings has an easily accessible phone number, and they do sport a web chat feature as well. They do not, unfortunately, list their support email anywhere – instead, they make you fill out an online form if you want to send them a message.
Support staff at BizFilings are available are from 8 am through 7 pm, CT, on weekdays. While we appreciate seeing extended business week hours, we prefer to see some weekend availability too.
BizFilings also lacks a consolidated help page. Instead, FAQs, contact info, and service explanations are spread across many pages. And, as we mentioned above in the “Ease of Use” section, these pages are not very easy to navigate.
Like BizFilings, LegalZoom support can also be contacted via an online form.
Where LegalZoom’s customer service stands out is on overall availability. Staff can be reached between 5 am and 7 pm PT or between 7 am and 4 pm PT on weekends.
We really appreciate seeing extended weekday hours as well as weekend hours, as we know how busy new startup owners can be. Having to move important work around to talk to customer support is not ideal.
LegalZoom’s help section is also well-developed. It includes a long list of relevant, frequently asked questions, plus links to the company’s massive library of help articles.
Help and Support winner: LegalZoom
Although they don’t provide as many easily accessible contact methods as we would like to see, LegalZoom is the winner on help and support. The company has a better help page than BizFilings and, even more importantly, their support team offers extended business week availability plus weekend availability.
Do we recommend BizFilings or LegalZoom?
No, we do not.
LegalZoom has a lot of resources and expertise at its disposal – it’s one of the largest players in the business formation space. But although the company sports a great website and has a decent track record, their services are far too expensive, and their turnaround times are way too slow, for us to be able to recommend them.
BizFilings is slightly more affordable than LegalZoom, but they remain expensive when compared to the competition. Their turnaround times are also too slow, and their website is not particularly impressive or intuitive.
To find out more about some of the services that we do recommend, check out our Best LLC Services or Best Incorporation Services articles, as well as our individual reviews of some of our top choices.