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:
Inc Authority vs LegalZoom: Verdict
In our side-by-side comparison of Inc Authority and LegalZoom, Inc Authority came out on top.
Though neither company really wowed us, Inc Authority stood out with its free LLC formation bundle and its reasonable pricing on basic formations, full formations, and registered agent service.
Inc Authority also had an impressive review history, sporting over 6,000 reviews between Google Reviews and Trustpilot and achieving averages over 4.5 out of 5 on both platforms.
LegalZoom has a solid website and boasts deep expertise and experience, but is too pricey and has very slow turnaround times.
Inc Authority was not without its own issues, though. Its website was poorly built and requires customers to call a rep to get pricing info on – or even order – certain services. The company’s turnaround times weren’t particularly great either.
|Ease of Use||2/5||5/5|
|Help & Support||3/5||5/5|
If you want to read more in-depth about some of our highest-rated companies, head over to our ZenBusiness, Northwest Registered Agents, and Active Filings reviews. All three of these companies scored much better than both Inc Authority and LegalZoom.
Or, do you still have questions about whether forming a limited liability company is the right move for you? Maybe you’ve got some big-picture questions about the whole process? Before reading our service provider reviews, you may want to check out our How to Start an LLC article.
If you want to learn more about how we reached our conclusion in this particular service provider match-up, read on!
Inc Authority vs LegalZoom: Pricing
Price is normally one of the most – if not the most – important factors that new business owners consider when looking for a suitable formation company.
Every dollar counts when you’re in the startup phase, and the differences between prices of formation services can be significant.
Part of this is due to the fact that some services simply charge more than others. But there’s also usually a difference in the actual services provided across bundles too.
When you’re just starting out, all the terminology can be a bit bewildering.
Do I need to file for a tax ID number (aka Employer Identification Number) with the IRS? What about a business license package? Do I need an annual report filing service too? Will I need to file for an S-election?
With all the different add-ons to consider, apples-to-apples comparisons can be tough in this industry. Simply looking at a bundle’s price tag isn’t enough – you have to consider what’s in that bundle, i.e., its overall value.
That’s why we’ve tried to boil things down here, comparing the three costs we think are the most relevant: the cost of a “basic” company formation, the cost of a “full” formation, and the cost of an annual registered agent service.
Here’s how Inc Authority and LegalZoom stacked up:
These listed prices do not include state fees, which can vary considerably. Usually, though, state filing fees fall in the $50 to $150 range.
|Registered Agent||$99 per year||$299 per year|
Not sure what the difference between a basic and a full formation is? Here’s how we define each:
Basic Formation: Covers the essential 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.
Full Formation: Additionally includes – at minimum – a registered agent service, which most LLC owners will find essential.
Inc Authority is one of only a handful of companies to offer truly free formations and incorporations. They make this offer through their Entry bundle. That free package includes the filing of your Articles of Organization, a business name availability search, and an optional S-corp election filing. It also comes with free registered agent service for one year.
To get what we consider to be a “basic” formation, you’ll need to get an Operating Agreement drafted too. Inc Authority offers that as an add-on service for $89, which is how we arrived at our $89 basic formation price point.
Since you also get one year of registered agent service for free, even with Inc Authority’s already free Entry bundle, $89 is also the price of a “full” formation. Customers should note, however, that they’ll have to pay $99 per year for this service after the first year is over.
Inc Authority’s Entry bundle presents an excellent value. Eighty-nine dollars for a full formation is a great deal, and $99 per year on registered agent service (after the first year) is quite inexpensive as well.
Where Inc Authority starts to lose us is their premium packages.
Their Standard bundle, Executive Bundle, and Tycoon bundle – priced at $399, $499, and $799 respectively – are extremely expensive and provide few valuable services to justify their high prices.
Their add-on service lists are mostly filled with “fluff” like company seals, record books, and ownership certificates – stuff that looks nice but is totally unnecessary.
Inc Authority has several expensive formation bundles, but LegalZoom is expensive across the board.
A basic formation with LegalZoom will require you to purchase their “Economy” package as well as their Operating Agreement drafting service as an add-on – together, this will run you $178.
That’s pretty pricey for a basic formation, but things really get expensive when you add in the registered agent service necessary for a full formation. That tacks on another $299, for a grand total of $477.
LegalZoom’s registered agent service comes with a couple of added features, such as a compliance calendar with alerts and unlimited cloud storage for your compliance and legal documents. Still, $299 is double or even triple the price point we see for most registered agent services. And a free year of service is not included.
LegalZoom’s add-on services, such as DBA filing, Foreign Qualification filing, and Annual report filing also tend to be on the pricey side too.
Pricing Winner: Inc Authority
Inc Authority is the resounding winner on price. They offer far more affordable options for both basic and full formations, and their registered agent service is a third the cost of LegalZoom’s.
We recommend staying away from Inc Authority’s pricier, premium LLC formation packages, but their Entry bundle represents one of the best values we’ve seen.
Inc Authority vs LegalZoom: Turnaround time
New small business owners use online formation services to spare themselves both time and effort. Why deal directly with government red tape and regulations when you can let the experts handle things for you?
Online formations can quickly become more trouble than they’re worth, though, if your service provider takes too long to process your formation documents or, worse, make errors. To new business owners eager to officialize their operations, a delayed or rejected application can be a huge setback.
That’s why we pay very close attention to companies’ turnaround times. You have every right to expect a prompt and correct filing of your important documents.
Here’s how Inc Authority and LegalZoom did on some of our key turnaround time metrics:
|Paid internal rush option||Yes||Yes|
|Overall turnaround time||Average||Slow|
Inc Authority does not make their turnaround time estimates as accessible as we’d prefer to see. For most services, you have to click your way through checkout – a turnaround time usually pops up right before the final purchase page.
We found Inc Authority’s turnaround times, though, to be decent. For most states, they estimate a 10-15 business day wait (that time can vary considerably by state, though).
There’s no mention, however, of how quickly Inc Authority actually processes your documents and sends them along to the relevant authorities.
The only way to get a guaranteed time in that regard is to purchase Inc Authority’s “Express Processing” option for $49. That option guarantees next-day filing.
It’s very important to note that this is not the same as expedited filing with a given state.
Some states let you pay an extra fee to jump the line and get your application processed quicker. Here, though, Inc Authority is charging you to internally prioritize your application – essentially, you’re jumping to the front of the “Inc Authority Line”.
Generally, we don’t like seeing companies charging for internal prioritization. Same or next-day filing should be the norm, and you should not have to pay extra for it.
LegalZoom has some pretty unimpressive turnaround times, which is particularly disappointing given the company’s large size and many resources.
If you go with LegalZoom’s most reasonably-priced formation bundle, their Economy package, you can expect a total processing time of 30 days. With a wait that long, it may be more worth it to just file yourself.
Even expedited filing through LegalZoom’s (much pricier) “Express Gold” package is stated to take a full 10 – 15 business days. Compared to our top-rated business formation services, these times fall woefully short.
LegalZoom is at least more upfront than Inc Authority about their turnaround times – they’re clearly listed on relevant service pages.
Turnaround Time Winner: Inc Authority
Inc Authority easily takes this category.
Their turnaround times may not be blazin’ fast, but they’re considerably faster than LegalZooms’. And, although we do not like having to pay anything for expedited filing, $49 is not a crazy price point, especially considering that Inc Authority’s Entry bundle is free.
Still, if both price and turnaround time are of great importance to you, though, there are better options out there.
Inc Authority vs LegalZoom: Customer satisfaction
We wish we could take the claims of all the formation companies we review at face value. But that just wouldn’t be wise.
There are too often wide gulfs between what businesses say they will do and what they actually do, and it’s no different in the formation and incorporation industry. Luckily, we have customer reviews to help us out.
Reviews give us a better idea of what it’s really like to do business with a company. We can analyze websites and talk to customer service reps, but we can’t form a new LLC, corporation, or nonprofit with every business that we look at. That’s why descriptive, real-world reviews are so helpful.
When looking at customer satisfaction, we consider not only the overall average of ratings, but also the volume of ratings. We’re much more willing to trust a company with three thousand good reviews than we are a company with three good reviews.
We also try to pick out phrases and patterns that crop up again and again – these help highlight companies’ particularly good, or bad, features.
Here’s how Inc Authority and LegalZoom did on customer satisfaction:
|Stand-out mentions||“Quick service”“Very impressed”||“Very knowledgeable” “Made things easy”“Polite and professional”|
Inc Authority boasts a truly stellar customer satisfaction record. Between Trustpilot and Google Reviews alone, we found over 6,300 individual Inc Authority reviews (with overall averages of 4.8 out of 5 and 4.6 out of 5, respectively).
The vast majority of those reviews were positive. Many satisfied customers mentioned their specific service rep, and we saw many comments referring to both the quickness and smoothness of Inc Authority’s overall formation process.
And, since Inc Authority is a formation specialist, we can be confident that most of these reviews are related to services (formations, incorporations, registered agent service, etc.) that will be highly relevant to new small business owners.
LegalZoom has a decent review record, although it’s not nearly as impressive as Inc Authority’s. Overall, their average sits near 4.0 out of 5.
LegalZoom’s review volume is in the thousands, with many of those reviews being found on either Trustpilotor Sitejabber. These are generally positive, and we found lots of references to the professionalism and knowledgeability of LegalZoom’s support staff.
As LegalZoom offers a wide range of legal services, though, we cannot be as confident about all these reviews specifically applying to formations, registered agent services, etc.
Customer Satisfaction Winner: Inc Authority
With higher review averages, more overall reviews, and more reviews specifically mentioning their formation services, Inc Authority is the clear winner on customer satisfaction.
Given the relative difficulty we had dealing with their website (see “Ease of use” below), we were somewhat surprised by this result. But the evidence is overwhelming – Inc Authority customers seem to be very satisfied with the company’s support staff and with their service as a whole.
Inc Authority vs LegalZoom: Ease of use
When ordering an online formation, customers should expect things to be clear and easy to follow.
There are already so many factors to consider when forming your business, and dealing with a confusing or poorly-built website adds another, totally unnecessary, layer of difficulty.
We have found in our many reviews that not all formation websites are created equal.
Far from it, in fact.
Some are excellent – easily navigable, intuitive, chock full of helpful context information that can allow business owners to make smart decisions. And some are… let’s just say unimpressive.
There are several factors we consider when looking at ease of use. Here are a few of the main questions we ask ourselves:
- Is the order process smooth and intuitive?
- Is there plenty of information available on the various services provided, so customers understand both what they need and what they’re buying?
- Are prices clearly displayed, or is a lot of digging needed to find them?
And here’s how Inc Authority and LegalZoom did on these important metrics:
|Clarity of instructions and prices||Poor||Great|
The first thing you’ll notice upon visiting Inc Authority’s website is that there are no prices listed. Anywhere.
We’ve seen several sites where prices are hard to find, but Inc Authority takes this opacity a step further. They only present prices to you by the time you’re most of the way through the checkout process – and with some packages, you have to call a representative to order or get more information.
Inc Authority also hits you with a lot of third-party upselling when you try to check out.
The additional services they offer include everything from business credit lines to business funding analyses to tax planning consultations to business bank accounts. While they do boast some reputable partners (e.g. Bank of America), we prefer seeing companies keep third-party deals to a minimum.
Context articles are also lacking on Inc Authority’s website. Instead of detailed descriptions of services, accompanied by info about when and why business owners may need them, Inc Authority provides only very brief descriptions and a “call now” button.
For many non-bundle add-on services, you can’t even order online. You have to call a rep.
Now, according to the reviews we looked at, Inc Authority does seem to have a solid customer service staff. But still, we don’t believe you should ever have to call in to order a simple service – most competitors’ websites let you order solely online and in minutes.
LegalZoom is a huge company with a lot of resources at their disposal – and with their website, it shows. Boasting one of the best websites we’ve seen, LegalZoom does well across all our key metrics.
Prices for services are clearly listed on their respective pages. Ordering is easy, intuitive, and can be done in minutes for most formation-related services. Plus, there are tons of helpful tables, charts, articles, and FAQs, all of which are well-written and informative.
Ease of Use Winner: LegalZoom
Not much of a contest in this category – the winner, by far, is LegalZoom. Their website is superior to Inc Authority’s in just about every way. They are upfront about their prices, they don’t make you call a rep to order anything, and they provide excellent context information for new business owners.
Inc Authority vs LegalZoom: Help & Support
If all goes according to plan, most business owners will never need to contact their formation company’s help and support line. But we know that things don’t always go according to plan.
Confidence in a formation company’s customer support can help give you some peace of mind. If an issue comes up, it’s great to know that accessible, professional, and knowledgeable help is available.
Plus, some formations are more complicated than others. Even after reading plenty of context articles, you may still have some questions about your formation. In that situation, being able to talk to a real human – an expert, ideally – can make a tremendous difference.
These are all reasons why we look carefully at companies’ help and support options in our overall reviews. Here’s how Inc Authority and LegalZoom stacked up on a few key metrics:
|Live Chat Support||No||No|
|Extended business hours||No||Yes|
|Website help section||No||Yes|
Inc Authority does have a phone number and email address clearly listed on their contact page. We like seeing that – some companies bury their email address and have clients fill out online forms instead.
On the other hand, Inc Authority lacks a web chat feature, and their contact hours (8 am – 5 pm, PT) are limited. We like seeing contact hours that extend past normal business hours, as startup owners tend to be plenty busy with their own work during the business day.
And, although they have a general FAQ page and a contact page, Inc Authority lacks a consolidated help section. We prefer to see websites with such sections, as they let customers address their issues faster and more effectively.
LegalZoom has an easily accessible phone number, but their email address requires some digging to find (it’s [email protected]). And though they have a chat feature, it does not instantly set you up with a rep.
What sets LegalZoom apart, though, is its hours of operation. Their ‘customer care’ line is open from 5 am – 7 pm PT on weekdays and 7 am – 4 pm on weekends. Those extended hours are a huge plus – they mean that busy new LLC owners don’t have to shift their weekday schedules to accommodate a support staff call.
LegalZoom also has a ‘Customer Care’ page, with FAQs that are focused on logistical issues (e.g., When will my order arrive? How do I cancel an order or subscription?), instead of the formation process as a whole.
Help and Support Winner: LegalZoom
Though their help and support offerings are not especially impressive, LegalZoom takes this category. They sport a better-organized help section, and, more importantly, offer extended support hours.
In general, though, reviewers seemed pleased with the help they got from the support staff of both companies.
Do We Recommend Inc Authority or LegalZoom?
No, we do not.
Though they have great reviews and offer a solid, free formation bundle, Inc Authority has some issues that are hard to look past. Their website lacks pricing transparency and forces you to call reps to learn about many services. And their turnaround times are middling, unless you’re willing to fork over a fee for expedited filing.
LegalZoom has a great website and offers an impressive range of services, but they’re just way too expensive. Their turnaround times are also quite slow, and their review record is fine but not great.