You want to start a Limited Liability Company. 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 services are Northwest and BizFilings.
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 a formation service “good”?
Ultimately, the “best” 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. Whenever we evaluate an LLC formation service, here are some questions we like to 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 formation service will receive high marks in these categories. We’ll consider the answers to these questions in our in-depth comparison below.
Northwest vs. BizFilings: What’s the difference?
On the surface, Northwest and BizFilings 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 the best pricing in the entire industry. You won’t find better price points anywhere else.
- BizFilings is backed by a large compliance firm, Wolters Kluwer. To that end, they offer specialized compliance assistance and even publication services.
Both Northwest and BizFilings can help you make your LLC official. And between the two, Northwest is definitely our favorite. But to give you a better idea of which is right for you, let’s jump in to the specifics.
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 Northwest and BizFilings. Let’s take a look at them:
- Basic: Northwest’s entry-level package rings in at a very competitive $49. For that price, 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.
- Basic: The first package from BizFilings rings in at $99. It’s a pretty simple package, with a name availability search and filing of your business documents. They also throw in six months of free registered agent service. After the six months, registered agent service costs $164 per year, which also gets you access to their compliance tool.
- Starter: BizFilings uses a unique pricing model for their middle package: how much it costs depends on your state. Most states cost $229, but others range from $159 to $244. Regardless of the dollar amount, this package includes everything in Basic and a custom business kit and seal, expedited processing, and sample documents to use in your business.
- Complete: The Complete price also varies based on your state, ranging from $199 to $434. Most states will cost $359. This top packages gets you everything above and a Federal Tax ID (your EIN) and a certified copy of your documents. They also throw in a post-formation informational DVD. A few states get a few other documents, too.
BizFilings has an okay pricing point for their entry-level package. Unlike some of their competitors, they also throw in six months of free registered agent service. The catch is that Northwest has an even better price. And they give you a full year of the same service. Their upper-level packages are competitive, too, making it easy for us to award them the win.
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. Here’s the run-down of the two:
- 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.
- Choosing a package: After you select your business type and your desired state, BizFilings lets you choose one of their three packages. You can also select any add-ons to round out your package if you’d like.
- Up-sells: BizFilings does offer a few up-sells throughout the order process. Thankfully, they’re not in your face. They do offer a few third-party options, too. There are seven different up-sells.
- Order time: Depending on how much planning you’ve done, you’ll need about 15 to 30 minutes to complete your purchase. One thing we really like about BizFilings is the fact that your order is automatically assigned an order number. So it’s easy to get assistance from customer service if you encounter any questions.
Both Northwest and BizFilings are both easy to use. And we have features of both that we like. For one thing, Northwest completely avoids any up-sells. Meanwhile, BizFilings includes a helpful incorporation wizard for their order process. If you’re not sure what type of business you should form, the wizard really comes in handy. So when it comes down to it, this category is a tie.
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 BizFilings and Northwest have good customer support teams, but we do have a strong preference. Here’s a summary of our thoughts on the customer service of both services:
- 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’ll be your contact whenever you have questions, so you’ll get advice from someone who already knows your business situation, not a phone grunt.
- Types of support: BizFilings offers support via phone, email, and a “leave a message” feature on their website.
- Availability: BizFilings has a pretty wide range of support availability; you can contact them on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.
- Quality of support: When we tested the support at BizFilings, we found them to be professional, courteous, and helpful. They also make it really easy to use their phone tree and get through to a real human.
This category is also a close call. BizFilings has great availability. In fact, it’s easier to get in touch with them than most of their competitors. But we really love the fact that Northwest gives personalized support, too. We love it so much that we give Northwest the win here (even though it’s a narrow win).
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.
BizFilings and Northwest both have long-standing track records, but each service has a surprisingly low number of customer reviews online. Here’s how the two stack up:
- 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. They are mostly positive, though.
- Years in business: BizFilings first entered the business formation scene in 1996.
- Businesses formed: BizFilings has formed about 500,000 businesses, so despite being a couple years older than Northwest, they haven’t formed quite as many.
- Customer reviews: Even though BizFilings has formed a lot of businesses, they have a surprisingly small number of reviews online. We can’t even make a fair judgment of what their customers think.
This is another blow-out victory for Northwest. These two companies are pretty similar in how long they’ve been in business and how many reviews they have. That means the tie-breaker is their customer volume, and BizFilings just can’t compete with Northwest here.
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 BizFilings and Northwest are no exception. We’ll summarize those policies here.
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.
BizFilings has a strict refund policy: they’ll only grant you a refund if you request it before they start working on your documents. And even then, they charge you a $50 convenience fee. So for all practical purposes, you may as well not buy a package from them unless you’re absolutely sure it’s right for you.
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 services help you with ongoing compliance. But just how much help you’ll get depends on what service you choose.
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. This service costs $99.
Like Northwest, BizFilings offers registered agent service and annual report services. They charge for $164 for registered agent. The price for their registered agent service varies based on your state. And to top it off, BizFilings can also help you with publication service; they’re one of the best options in the industry for this service.
So, which service do we recommend?
BizFilings is a solid business formation option, but they just can’t measure up when compared to Northwest.
The biggest advantage of Northwest is their pricing; it’s difficult to find better pricing anywhere else. Their customer service model is equally good, so this is a runaway victory for Northwest.