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 options are Northwest and Incorporate.com.
In this guide, we’ll give you a side-by-side comparison of these two services. 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 review an LLC 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. Incorporate.com: What’s the difference?
On the surface, Northwest and Incorporate.com 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.
- Incorporate.com is the oldest formation service in the industry: their history traces all the way back to 1899.
Both Northwest and Incorporate.com can help you create a company. We have a strong preference for Northwest. But to give you a better idea of why we say that, 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 Incorporate.com. Northwest has a much better value for their packages. In contrast, Incorporate.com has lackluster package offerings. 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 LLC 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.
- Starter: The first package from Incorporate.com rings in at $99. Unfortunately, though, that price only gets you the bare minimum: they’ll file your formation documents for you and give you online access to those documents.
- The Essentials: Incorporate.com’s next package is a bit confusing. On the surface, it seems to include registered agent service and annual report services for a total price of $249. But that’s actually the base price of the package, not those services. You have to buy those services to truly use the package features, so the real price is $634. That price gets you the following: an EIN, a business kit and seal, access to their compliance dashboard, and annual report service.
- The Works: The top Incorporate.com package is like the Essentials: you have to purchase both extra services to make it worth the trouble. That drives the sticker price up from $349 to $734 in total. For that extra fee, you’ll get a custom operating agreement and a business license research program.
To be honest, we find the pricing model of Incorporate.com confusing. And to make matters worse, their prices are hefty.
In contrast, Northwest has great packages with equally great pricing. We also appreciate the fact that they throw in a free year of registered agent service. You can only get that by paying extra with Incorporate.com. That’s why we give the pricing win to Northwest.
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, Incorporate.com lets you choose between one of their three packages.
- Up-sells: There are seven different up-sells to navigate through with Incorporate.com. It’s easy to wrack up a large tab this way.
- Order time: Since the web design of Incorporate.com is clean, it takes very little time to complete the order. Usually, you can finish the process within ten to fifteen minutes.
Incorporate.com created a clean website that’s easy to use. Their entire order process would be perfect if it weren’t for their up-sells. Their confusing pricing marks them down, too. In contrast, Northwest avoids up-sells entirely, and their form is equally easy to use. Northwest takes another win.
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 company 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 Incorporate.com 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: Incorporate.com offers support via phone, chat, or email.
- Availability: Incorporate.com doesn’t list their exact customer support hours on their website, either. We did find that we got quick responses during daytime hours for phone and chat support. Email usually has a 24-hour turnaround.
- Quality of support: Incorporate.com’s customer support team is prompt and professional. When we tested their customer support experience, we got a knowledgeable answer to our question. They even gave us some additional information, too.
Both Northwest and Incorporate.com have excellent customer support teams. We like the chat feature offered by Incorporate.com, but we also love the personalized nature of Northwest. In fact, personalization is the primary reason we award this category to Northwest.
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.
Incorporate.com 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: 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: Incorporate.com is the only company in the business formation industry that’s been around for more than 100 years; they started out in 1899.
- Businesses formed: Incorporate.com hasn’t formed as many businesses as Northwest, with just 750,000 formations to their name.
- Customer reviews: Oddly enough, Incorporate.com doesn’t have many external online reviews. We could only find a couple dozen, and most of those were negative reviews.
Northwest and Incorporate.com both fall short on the number of customer reviews they have online. That’s a little unusual, especially considering how mature both companies are. It’s a bit tough to declare a winner, but we give the win to Northwest because they’ve formed more businesses.
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 Incorporate.com 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.
The refund policy at Incorporate.com is vague. For example, here’s the wording they include on their website: “If you cancel your order before we have submitted it to a federal, state, or local office, Incorporate.com will refund the total amount paid for such order less a service fee. If you cancel your order after we have already submitted it, we will use our discretion to determine what portion, if any, we will refund.” So do they ever give refunds? How large is the service fee? We’re not quite sure.
Assistance with ongoing compliance
Starting a 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.
Like Northwest, Incorporate.com provides registered agent services and an annual report service. But there’s a big downside: these services are expensive, and they’re not included in any of their formation packages. Bought separately, the registered agent service and annual report service cost $235 and $150 respectively.
So, which service do we recommend?
You’ve probably already guessed our pick: Northwest. In fact, they’re at the very top of our list of formation services. Incorporate.com, on the other hand, falls to the bottom. Their pricing just doesn’t fit an entrepreneur’s budget, and they’re pretty unimpressive in the other categories.
We don’t have much negative to say about Northwest, though. And even if it were a close call between the two, Northwest would win because they win in two of our most important categories: pricing and customer service.