When it comes to starting a business, there are quite a few housekeeping items that must be taken care of before a business owner can get to actually running the business.
One such housekeeping item is choosing a registered agent. There are quite a few services out there that will be your entity's registered agent, and it can be unclear at times which ones provide true value and which ones cause headache.
We've tried to make the decision easier for you with our round up of the best registered agent services that will truly help your business from day one, and are well worth the cost.
Each business has different goals, so we've included different types of services in this list - some are more budget friendly, some are known for excellent customer service, and some are in between.
Read on to see which online registered agent services we chose as the best of the best for keeping your business compliant.
Best Registered Agent Service - Quick Look:
There is no shortage of online services that would love to take a fee each year to be your registered agent. Since there are so many out there, it can be hard to sort out which ones are legit and which ones might be problematic.
The best registered agent service for you is also dependent on the type of legal entity you own and the needs of your business. So with that in mind, here are our choices for the all around top online registered agent services that can handle just about any type of business and set of needs.
Best Registered Agent Services
ZenBusiness has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years as an entity formation and registered agent service - and for good reason.
They check all of the boxes when it comes to things to look for in the best registered agent services. You'll find excellent pricing, great customer service, and a full suite of service offerings if you choose to go with ZenBusiness.
Specifically, their registered agent service is priced at $99 per year - which is definitely one of the more affordable baseline prices in the industry.
They also offer a free year of registered agent service with any of their LLC formation packages, which begin at only $49 + state fees. On a long term basis, their pricing model is one of the most friendly in the industry.
The ZenBusiness Registered Agent service comes with everything you'd want to see as a business owner. They send annual filing reminders, have great customer service, and have an easy to use and intuitive dashboard for document management.
ZenBusiness was founded in 2015, so compared to some of the other services on this list they haven't been around for a super long time. What they might lack in longevity they definitely make up for in reputation. In that short span of time, they've formed over 70,000 businesses and average a 4.7/5 star rating on customer feedback they receive via TrustPilot.
Northwest Registered Agent
When it comes to pure registered agent services, Northwest Registered Agent is the best of the best. So if you're in need of only a registered agent and don't need an entity formation service too, Northwest is probably the best choice out there.
They are well known in the industry for their top of the line and extremely capable customer support team. There is unlikely to be a question you have or a situation you come across in business that they won't be able to help out with.
One of my favorite features about Northwest Registered Agent is their online account platform. From the portal, you can access your business documents and mail with ease.
Many registered agent services only will scan highly important documents (like formation documents and service of process). Northwest will scan every single document you receive so that you can access it from your account - which is above and beyond what other services will do for you.
Included in their packages are unlimited cloud storage, free mail forwarding, business expert guidance, filing reminders, and data protection.
Northwest Registered Agent does provide entity formation services as well if you are in need of that - however we think their core competency is in their elite registered agent service.
Swyft Filings has a wide offering of business services, and their registered agent service is without a doubt one of the better ones in the industry.
Where Swyft Filings is comparatively a little less attractive than the three services mentioned above is the pricing department. From LLC formation services to registered agent services, Swyft Filings is without a doubt on the more expensive end of the spectrum.
They are definitely more of a full service company though, meaning that you can find some niche services that could be useful to you depending on the nature of your business.
For example, they are a great service for help with obtaining business licenses, filing DBA's, and providing templated company documents.
So if you are in the market for some of the "extras", they could be a great choice for you and worth the bump up in price.
As far as customer service goes, they have a reputation for solid customer service and have an easy to use online dashboard where you can manage your account.
Incfile gets the nod for us as one of the best registered agent services, because they get just about everything right when it comes to being an online service provider for your business.
My favorite part? They put their money where their mouth is. Incfile has a very friendly pricing structure, where one year of registered agent services are included with any of their LLC formation packages.
Furthermore, their core entity formation packages are $0 + state fees - so you can get started with a professional service for the absolute minimum cost. Their more premium entity formation packages are also quite reasonably priced and don't include any unnecessary fluff. As far as up front costs go, you aren't going to find a more affordable registered agent service out there.
The Incfile online dashboard is quite user friendly and allows for you to store and access important legal and business documents at any time. They will also send you reminders and notifications for yearly business filings to help your company remain compliant.
Incfile also offers an extensive list of add-ons and additional business services if you are looking for more out of your registered agent service. Albeit at an extra cost, they can do things like provide business contract templates, an operating agreement, tax consultations, and much more.
On top of all of that, Incfile has an excellent track record of happy customers. They have helped launch over 500,000 businesses since 2005 and have over 15,000 customer reviews, mostly positive. All around, Incfile provides one of the best values and overall user experiences of any online registered agent service out there.
LegalZoom is one of the most recognized brand names in the online legal services industry, due mostly to the fact that they were the first to successfully take legal services into the realm of the internet.
So we included them on this list because their brand is easily recognizable, and yes they offer online registered agent services.
Their service isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination - it just doesn't really blow us out of the water in terms of value or quality.
Comparatively speaking, they are the most expensive service on this list with a base pricing of $299 per year for their registered agent service, which is about 3x what you would pay with some other companies.
And it doesn't really seem like you get much extra for the increased price. You get cloud storage, data protection, and filing reminders, but beyond that there isn't much to justify the price tag.
Their customer service is also fine, but could be better. Long phone wait times and email turnaround times are common with LegalZoom, which isn't the best when you need to get something done fast.
With all of that being said, it's still a viable service and might be a good fit for you if you are comfortable with their brand and/or regularly use some of their other legal products.
What Are Registered Agents?
No matter which state you are in, the function of a registered agent is more or less the same. A registered agent is a designated person or business who is essentially your point of contact with the state. You are required to designate a registered agent for your business in your state of formation.
A registered agent helps the business remain compliant with the legal requirements of the state. A good registered agent will forward any legal notices and correspondence from the state (like service of process) in a timely manner. Further, they can send reminders each year when it is time to file tax documents or annual reports with the state.
Depending on the state you are in, you might hear registered agent be referred to by one of the following names. All of the below names refer to the same thing.
- Statutory Agent
- Agent for Service of Process
- Resident Agent
Why Use a Registered Agent Service?
When it comes to the decision of whether to be your own registered agent or to hire a service, it's important to have a firm understanding of what it is exactly that a registered agent service will do for you.
Here are the top advantages that come with hiring a reputable third party to be your registered agent:
The best registered agent service saves you time. Time is a business owner's most valuable resource, and odds are its much better spent focusing on your business strategy and operations instead of focusing on administrative tasks. With a third party registered agent, you're relieved of some tasks that would otherwise be constantly hovering.
Privacy. A registered agent's address becomes part of the public record of the state in which you incorporate or form your LLC. There are plenty of reasons why a business might not want to advertise their address to the world, most of all might be to avoid tons of spam mail sent to your mailbox. If you run your business out of your home, there are even more reasons why you might not want to paste your personal address on the public record.
Registered agent services provide assurance that your company will remain in compliance. Whether it's reminders to file your annual report or secure online storage of important company documents, the best registered agent services are there to take away your administrative burden.
Can I Be My Own Registered Agent?
Yes, you can be your own registered agent. This is one of the decisions you should consider when forming your LLC or corporation - whether you want to be your own registered agent or if you want to use a service to be your agent for you.
You can designate yourself, a business partner, or somebody else you trust to be your entity's registered agent for convenience, as long as you or the person:
- Has a physical address in the state of formation, and
- Is 18 years of age or older, and
- Is physically available during normal business hours
Some folks prefer to be their own registered agent to save a quick buck instead of hiring a third party service to do it instead. Other than short term cost savings, however, there aren't many notable benefits to being your own registered agent.
For the reasons outlined above, we recommend hiring one of the top registered agent services to do this for you.
How Do I Designate My Agent?
The registered agent is designated by you on your state's formation document. If you're forming an LLC, this is called a Certificate of Formation in many states. For corporations, this document is commonly known as Articles of Incorporation.
Many of the best registered agent services also offer LLC and corporation formation packages where this part will be taken care of for you by the service provider.
Does It Matter Which State I'm In?
All of the companies we've listed out above have a presence in all 50 states. So in that regard, the best registered agent services we've listed out above are the top choices no matter which state you are forming your entity in.
With that being said though, every state is different and you should be aware of the nuances and business laws in your state. For more information on this topic, we've created a registered agent guide for every single state that you can access by clicking your state on the map below.
If you still aren't sure about which registered agent service is the right one for you, our advice is to stick with either Incfile or Zenbusiness if you're looking for entity formation services in addition to registered agent services.
If you only need a registered agent, we'd recommend using Northwest Registered Agent.
The reasoning is pretty simple, we think these three companies are clearly ahead of their competition when it comes to value. Each provides an excellent product, outstanding customer service, and are all offered at a reasonable price.