To form a limited liability company (LLC) in the Golden State, you should find the best LLC formation service to work for you as a liaison between your California LLC and the state authorities.
In the past, forming a company was a time-consuming and expensive process. Companies had to wait months for their legal entity to be established. They also had to hire lawyers and fill out a lot of paperwork.
However, not everyone can afford a lawyer, and many people are hesitant to file documents on their own.
What’s the solution? Online business formation services. They are a growing trend for entrepreneurs.
I’ve analyzed and ranked the best LLC formation services in California. This article will provide the results of my findings, including the good and bad among the various pricing plans and features of the top ten best California LLC formation services.
My Top 10 Picks for Best LLC Service in California
- Northwest Registered Agent
- Harbor Compliance
- Rocket Lawyer
- Swyft Filings
Online LLC services have made it easy for anyone to form a new business entity. Only a few data points about your company will be required by the service provider. Online filing services can prepare and file your California entity documents with the California Secretary of State for you and they can provide California registered agent services if needed.
Online incorporation services are quick and inexpensive, allowing you to establish a legal business entity in California and assist with ongoing compliance matters.
#1 Northwest Registered Agent – (Best LLC Service for Privacy)
I think Northwest Registered Agent’s LLC formation service provides the most features and best prices compared to any of the other California LLC services.
They were the first to offer local scanning for all documents they received as national registered agents service providers. Competitors scan only those government documents that are legally required.
Northwest is also my top choice in California for registered agent services
Northwest Pros and Cons
#2 Incfile (Best Budget LLC Service)
Incfile is one of the market’s best and most experienced incorporation and business formation platforms. Incfile was launched in 2004 and has been used to create more than 500,000 businesses.
Incfile is quick, simple, and affordable.
Incfile allows you to add premium services such as EIN services and operating agreements to your base package. You can also upgrade to a package to get your plan’s benefits. Prices can vary from one state or the another.
Incfile Pros & Cons
#3 – ZenBusiness (Best Worry-Free LLC Service)
ZenBusiness allows anyone to quickly and easily start a business. They offer California LLC services, incorporation, and registered agent services. ZenBusiness also provides DBA services (doing business under) names, EIN services, and business name reservations.
They assist customers from naming their LLC to selecting a registered agent, applying for an EIN, and filings for the Certificate of Formation and Articles of Organization.
Plans start at $49 plus state fees. The rates may vary based on the state you are located in and your business type. It is worth noting, however, that the Entry-Level ‘Starter Plan’ does not include an EIN filing. However, it is available with the Pro and Premium plans. ZenBusiness offers registered agent services as an extra add-on for an additional price of $99/year.
ZenBusiness Pros & Cons
#4 Harbor Compliance (Best Comprehensive LLC Service)
Harbor Compliance guarantees that your documents will arrive within 24 hours of receiving them. This is an expedited turnaround service if you have an urgent requirement. A variety of compliance services are also offered by the platform.
This platform is great for companies with multiple licensing or compliance requirements who want everything to be in one place.
Who can use their services? Harbor Compliance is a great choice for California companies requiring compliance and registered agent services.
Harbor Compliance Pros and Cons
#5 LegalZoom (Best Branded LLC Service)
LegalZoom is another contender for the best California LLC service. Their impressive customer base is a testament to this. LegalZoom allows you to connect with a company that has extensive experience in the legal services industry.
They charge more for registered agent services than any other options in this guide. LegalZoom does not offer registered agent services with any of its formation packages. Express Gold ($349) does not offer registered agent services. They charge $299 per year for registered agent service.
LegalZoom Pros & Cons
6. Rocket Lawyer
Rocket Lawyer is similar to LegalZoom, but it’s not as expensive. I could not find anything to get excited about with Rocket Lawyer. Nothing stands out as exceptional.
Rocket Lawyer charges $99 for basic LLC formation services in California.
InCorp is similar to Harbor Compliance, they charge $117 to file your Articles of Organization and assist with drafting your California LLC Operating Agreement.
The computer system they use is complicated to manage. For such a complicated system, their customer service is inadequate. They have room for improvement.
8. Swyft Filings
Swyft Filings offers full-service registration and can help with your Certificate of Formation. You can also receive legal mail from the California Secretary of State through the company’s California business address.
LLC formation prices are $49 plus $149/yr for registered agent service. That’s $198 + state fee—nothing interesting here. Northwest provides the same services for $39 + state fee.
BizFilings, another California LLC provider, charges $99 for the basic package. This includes assistance in filing your formation documents and a year of their registered agent services. Compliance alerts are also included.
They do not offer other essential services such as business tax assessment, your Operating Agreement assistance, or an online document storage portal. So, for $99, you get less value for your dollar.
Despite being a specialized service with more than two decades of expertise, BizFilings failed to impress us because of various factors, including their overall cost, processing speed, and practice of enrolling customers with their registered agent service with no opt-out opportunity when signing up online.
Incorporate.com provides business services, including business formations and registered agent services. For $99, they assist with filing your Articles of Organization and offer an online portal. CSC Global is the company that owns and operates them. This company has a long history.
Additional California LLC Services
MyCompanyWorks has a basic package that costs $79 and includes assistance with Articles of Organization, Operating Agreement assistance, an online account to store legal documents, compliance alerts, and assistance with registering with the California Secretary of State.
They have 3,900+ online reviews on the ShopperApproved website, most of which are positive.
You will need to buy their premium package for $279 if you want California registered agent service. This is quite expensive compared to the other LLC services on the top of my list.
Inc Authority likes to promote its “free LLC” service, but things get very pricey when you add the needed features.
Both Inc Authority and IncFile promote their “free LLC,” but between the two LLC services, I prefer Incfile.
You will need to buy their $399 basic package if you require assistance drafting an Operating Agreement, accessing an EIN, or a company seal. You will also need to buy their premium $799 package if you want to receive a year of their commercial registered agent service.
Tailor Brands is a bit different than the others on my list. Like their name says, they ‘tailor’ business brands. Tailor Brands promotes itself as a company that provides a complete service to business owners, including compliance and LLC formation, logo design, and branding features. Tailor Brands offers one $49 formation plan. Additional services like registered agent are $199/yr, and assistance with getting an EIN they charge $99.
Incorporate Fast offers California LLC formation services at a low $99 price. This includes assistance with filing documents, and they provide an LLC Operating Agreement template. They also provide sample documents that can be used to help you set up your California LLC.
Their best feature is that they will process and file your documents within 24 hours of receipt. This is something other LLC services can’t promise.
Although they don’t offer a business tax assessment or an online document storage portal, you can upgrade to their $199 package and get an EIN.
CorpNet has been in the business formation space for over 20 years. CorpNet will file the California LLC documents and provide compliance alerts in order to maintain good standing with the Secretary of State. CorpNet’s pricing starts at $79.
Direct Incorporation offers LLC formations that include a banking resolution as well as an Employer Identification number. They charge $174 for these services. If you need an LLC operating agreement, you need to get the next package at $297. They also offer logo design, trademarks, a business website, and email.
How I found the best LLC formation service in California
Some important things to remember when evaluating these different LLC formation services. These are the factors I used to rank and rate the top LLC services in California. I used these rating factors to eliminate the weaker competing services from my list.
These rating factors can be guidelines when searching for California LLC services.
Type of business entity
What type of business are you planning to start? Which type of business do you plan to start?
Although most LLC services are able to work with all types of entities, some are more suited for one type than others. An LLC may not require the same LLC formation service as an S-Corp. Some LLC formation services are better suited for nonprofits.
You can do some research to find out which type of entity the LLC formation service works with. If they are similar to yours, it might be a good fit.
A good LLC service will make sure that you comply with all applicable laws.
You can make sure you meet deadlines and fulfill requirements by looking for California LLC services that send reminders via email or SMS. You may also receive compliance guides or additional materials from some services.
It is easy to determine who distinguishes between those who only do the minimum and those who go above and beyond.
Security and privacy
Privacy is one of the top benefits of an LLC service that provides registered agent services. The LLC formation service’s address will be public but not your home or office address.
An LLC formation service in California can help with legal documents and correspondence. Many registered agents offer mail forwarding rather than mail storage. Others will securely upload your documents to an online dashboard you can access remotely.
It’s important to ask the LLC service if they plan to sell your private information. Free LLC services might make money by upselling additional services, including accounting, website hosting, and insurance.
Business formation and registered agent service in California
It is a good idea for LLC formation and registered agent service to be the same company.
Many business formation companies offer incentives like a free year of registered agent service with LLC formations.
California LLC formation service services typically cost $100 per year. Some might charge $50 less or more. However, you shouldn’t have to pay more unless you go with a brand name like LegalZoom.
While some businesses might use an attorney to assist with an LLC formation, it will likely cost more than the services provided in this guide.
Combining your LLC service with a good registered agent is often the best way of getting the most value for your money.
California LLC services should be able to help you if you have any questions.
This is an important part of a service assessment for LLC services. This can be done by phone, in person, or online.
Before you make any decisions, it is a good idea to read customer reviews. Many customer reviews will contain comments about the support they received. These remarks can help you make a decision if you aren’t sure which option you should choose.
My research and testing of the best California LLC formation services
When I began my initial research into California LLC services, I came across more than 20 available services. When trying to find the best California LLC formation services, I found the internet useful for researching customer reviews.
Customer reviews contained hundreds of negative comments. Some were unhappy with the lack of basic services, while others were dissatisfied with high prices and poor customer service.
I was able to get rid of most of the bad LLC services and left with 10 promising businesses. I avoided companies that were brand new and lacked experience.
I visited the websites of the remaining agents to see what claims they made and the promises they made. I was able to find enough evidence for me to evaluate them thoroughly.
Many newcomers are entering the LLC formation service market. I established criteria that experience must be at least five years. ZenBusiness is one of the newer companies, but they have been in business for a little over five years now.
Most of the services in my top five have nearly 20 years of experience.
I also looked at reviews of the company before the pandemic. While LLC services filed documents and worked with understaffed state government agencies, the delays were numerous. This resulted in more negative reviews than normal. Most of these processing delays began in early 2020 and ended around mid-2021.
I evaluated the customer reviews for several years up to the most current ones.
For 16 years, Incfile received an A+ rating from the BBB. This is remarkable, but Incfile lost its BBB rating in 2020-2021 and is no longer rated by BBB.
From my research, I could narrow down a list of 10 good LLC services to review.
These are my Findings and Final Results of the Top California LLC formation services
After weeks of research and eliminating many top LLC formation services, I finally settled on a list of the top five services. My top choices were Northwest, Incfile, ZenBusiness, Harbor Compliance, and LegalZoom.
My original research into LLC services began over one year ago when my wife and I searched for a good LLC service to assist us with forming a new business entity for our online business that we both owned and operated. My wife and I agreed that Northwest would be our top choice, so with guidance from Northwest Registered Agent, my wife and I created an LLC for our online business.
Northwest assigned a friendly and knowledgeable ‘Corporate Guide’ to assist us and answer any questions we might have. The formation process was a breeze. I found the price of $39 reasonable and affordable, and I liked that Northwest placed a lot of importance on customer privacy.
The Winner – Best California LLC formation service: Northwest is the Winner
Northwest LLC formation service is the best California LLC formation service. From my own experience, I’m pleased to recommend them. They provide reliable, affordable services that ensure compliance with California laws. Their customer service is unmatched in the market for both LLC formation services.
My Experience with Northwest
The Northwest LLC formation service has all the features you require. Northwest has 50 offices in 50 states. Their motto is ‘Privacy By Default.’
They ensured that my Certificate of Formation was filed with the Secretary of State. I was also provided with a physical address to use in order to make sure that no personal information was published.
They uploaded all relevant legal documents, scanned them, and sent them to me via my online document portal. Compliance alerts reminded me of important filing deadlines. They ensure that my company is in compliance with the state.
The company’s greatest asset is its customer service from its ‘Corporate Guides.’
Before choosing Northwest, I often received generic responses from the support teams while shopping for an LLC service. Before I asked them a question, I could guess their answers. Northwest is a completely different story.
The Northwest ‘Corporate Guides’ are California business regulations and compliance experts.
They were there to support me at every step of my business creation. They helped me create a company marketing plan and recruit the best employees.
My recommendation for California LLC formation service
Anyone looking to start a business in California should consider Northwest Registered Agent. I found them to be a trustworthy professional service.
They will ensure that your California LLC (Limited Liability Company) is in good standing with the California Secretary of State. The Corporate Guides are available to provide compliance and formation advice to assist you with any issues that might arise in your business.
They are very competitive in pricing compared to LegalZoom; Northwest is much cheaper.
Jeff Beckley is a business expert, journalist, book author, and founder of the website Best Inc Services. Jeff can be reached at, email@example.com