You want to register an LLC. You have your vision, your business name, and the motivation to make your dream a reality. But you want some help getting started, so you’ve decided to hire a business formation service.
But that leads to a big decision: which service should you use? There are a lot of options available, but they’re not created equal. Two popular LLC formation services are Incfile and Northwest.
In this guide, we’ll give you a side-by-side comparison of these two options. Then you can pick the right service for you.
Rocket Tip: Looking for the best and most affordable LLC formation services? Compare the top 3 options (ZenBusiness vs Incfile vs Northwest) to see how they stack up.
Our philosophy: What makes an LLC formation service “good”?
Ultimately, the “best LLC formation service” boils down to a matter of opinion. Which one is best for you depends on what you want from a service. But that said, there are certain qualities that make one formation service better than another.
When we evaluate LLC formation services, here are some questions we ask:
- Does this service give me a good value for what I’m paying?
- Does this company have a proven record of supplying high-quality service?
- What is the quality of this company’s customer service?
- How easy is it to use this service?
- How quickly will my business be formed?
A good LLC service will receive high marks in these categories. We’ll consider the answers to these questions in our in-depth comparison below.
Incfile vs. Northwest: What’s the difference?
On the surface, Incfile and Northwest seem to accomplish the same purpose: helping you form your LLC. And while that’s true, the difference between them goes deeper than that. We’ll give you our full analysis in just a moment, but here are a few key differences:
- Northwest has been in business longer (since 1998, to be exact), but Incfile has more online customer reviews.
- Both services have excellent customer service, but Northwest has a very unique system. It’s more customizable and personal than any customer service in the industry.
Pricing and packages
Whenever you make a purchase, you want to know that what you’re buying is truly worth the cost. The same goes for Incfile and Northwest. Each service has great price points. But the nuts and bolts of their packages are different. Let’s take a look at them:
- Silver: Incfile’s most basic package starts out at $0; for that price, they’ll file your formation documents with your state. They also throw in a year of free registered agent service, which normally costs $119 a year.
- Gold: The next package costs $149, and that price jump gives you everything in Silver plus a Federal Tax ID and several important documents, such as an operating agreement and a banking resolution.
- Platinum: The top Incfile package costs $299; it adds expedited processing and more to the Gold package.
- Basic: Northwest’s entry-level package is almost exactly the same as Incfile’s Silver—for $49, they’ll file your formation documents for you. They also throw in a year of free registered agent service, but theirs costs $125 after the first year.
- Deluxe: The Deluxe package costs $149. For that fee, you’ll get everything in Basic, plus a Federal Tax ID and an operating agreement.
- Premium: This top-tier package from Northwest makes a jump to $199. That extra $50 gets you expedited processing.
Both Incfile and Northwest have excellent price points; they’re practically identical. If we had to declare a winner, we’d give the victory to Northwest, but only by a narrow margin.
How easy it is to use the service
Any business service is supposed to make your life easier, right? That’s why we always consider how easy it is to use a service when we evaluate them. After all, why would you bother paying someone to file your paperwork if it’s harder to hire them than it is to do it yourself?
We tested both services, and they’re both relatively straightforward. We like Northwest a touch more, though. Here’s the run-down of the two:
- Choosing a package: After you select your business type and state of formation, all you have to do is select which of Incfile’s three packages you want to use. After that, Incfile provides helpful links and extra information to help guide you through the process.
- Up-sells: Incfile does present a few extra up-sells throughout the order process; they’re extras or third-party offers from their business partners. Thankfully, they’re pretty easy to navigate through. And if you do opt-in to one, your price updates automatically to prevent any surprises.
- Order time: With Incfile’s guidance and simple order process, it takes a matter of minutes to complete your order.
- Choosing a package: With Northwest, all you have to do to get started is pick between their Basic, Deluxe, and Premium packages.
- Up-sells: With Northwest, there aren’t any upsells! Their order form is as simple as it gets.
- Order time: There are really only three steps to ordering an LLC formation package with Northwest—choose your package, enter your business details, and pay for your order. That’s all there is to it, so it takes very little time.
Incfile and Northwest both win major points for how simple they are to use. They’re nearly equal. Northwest does have a slight advantage over Incfile simply because they don’t offer up-sells.
Buying a product is one thing. But getting support for that product is just as important. After all, if a company doesn’t stand behind its product, why should you? But when a company helps you throughout the entire process—choosing a product, purchasing it, and keeping that product up-to-date—you’ll be happier with your purchase.
The same goes for business formation services. If they help you pick the package that’s right for you, assist you with the paperwork, answer your questions, and make it clear that they want to help you more than make money off you, you’ll keep using them. You might even recommend them to your friends.
In our opinion, both Incfile and Northwest have rock-solid customer support teams. You won’t find better service anywhere else in the industry. Here’s a summary of our thoughts on the customer service of both services:
- Types of support: Incfile offers phone and email support to their customers.
- Availability: Incfile’s support responds promptly if you contact them during their business hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST (weekdays only). After-hours requests are answered in a timely manner, too. For example, when we sent in an email after business hours, we got an answer by 10 a.m. the next day.
- Quality of support: We tested the phone and email support features offered by Incfile, and we found their representatives to be quite helpful. That said, we got a more in-depth response with their email support than we did over the phone.
- Types of support: Northwest also offers support via phone and email.
- Availability: Northwest doesn’t post the exact hours for their customer support department on their website. However, when we tested their support, we received an email within 24 hours. We didn’t wait that long for our phone call, though (thankfully).
- Quality of support: Northwest fully delivers on their promise to provide next-level support. They might not respond as quickly as some competitors, but what they lack in speed they make up in quality. We received an extremely in-depth response. The whole experience was personalized to our needs.
Incfile and Northwest both have good customer support, but we’re partial to Northwest. They truly take their support to the next level.
Company track record
Technically, there’s nothing wrong with using a new company to form your business. But working with an established, trusted brand gives you confidence. You can trust a company that has already served thousands of happy customers.
Incfile and Northwest both have excellent track records, but each service shows that track record in slightly different ways. Here’s how the two stack up:
- Years in business: Incfile was just founded in 2004, so it’s celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year.
- Businesses formed: Incfile has created more than 250,000 businesses since its inception.
- Customer reviews: Incfile has the one-up on Northwest in terms of how many reviews they have online; you’ll find thousands of positive reviews online and only a few negative ones.
- Years in business: Northwest is one of the oldest formation services; they joined the market in 1998.
- Businesses formed: Northwest boasts more than 2 million businesses formed.
- Customer reviews: For as well-established as Northwest is, they have very surprisingly few reviews online.
Northwest and Incfile come up tied in this category because they both have positives to consider. And honestly, it’s up to you to decide which matters more: sheer number of sales and time in business or what other customers say. Either way, both Incfile and Northwest are well-established and trustworthy.
If you ever change your mind about a product you’ve purchased, you want to be able to return it, right? Unfortunately, with any business formation service, a full refund is impossible. That’s because part of the money goes to the state as their incorporation fee, and states do not refund those fees.
But occasionally, a customer changes their mind about a package they purchased. Perhaps they no longer want to subscribe to the registered agent service, or the company completes the process incorrectly. Each company has their own policy for refunds, and Incfile and Northwest are no exception. We’ll summarize those policies here.
If you decide to cancel your services from Incfile, you’ll need to do so quickly; Incfile only offers refunds if you cancel before they transfer payment to the state. So basically, if Incfile has already processed your order, then you can’t get your money back. Your refund will be your full purchase price, minus a $30 cancellation fee.
We’ll let Northwest speak for themselves here: “We will not take your money twice, and if we screw something up, we will give your money back.” Much like they have excellent customer support, Northwest makes it their priority to serve their customers, not get money from you. So if you’re ever disappointed with their service, you can get a refund (minus any non-refundable state fees.
Assistance with ongoing compliance
Starting your business takes a lot of time and effort, but so does maintaining it! Each state is a little different; some require annual reports, some require you to renew your license each year, and more. Keeping track of these requirements can be confusing.
That’s why a lot of LLC services help you with ongoing compliance. But just how much help you’ll get depends on what service you choose.
No matter what package you purchase with Incfile, you receive automatic notifications for important due dates for your business. That said, you do need to keep your email address up-to-date so you’ll receive those notifications.
Northwest offers two separate services for ongoing compliance assistance. One is their registered agent service, which costs $125 annually after your first year. You can also subscribe to their annual report filing service, which helps you meet all your yearly requirements.
So, which LLC service do we recommend?
In all honesty, both Incfile and Northwest get our stamp of approval. We can confidently say that you’ll receive excellent service with either option.
We don’t have a strong preference either way, but if we had to pick our favorite, we’d choose Northwest. They edge out Incfile in terms of customer support and pricing, but only slightly.