California LLCs and corporations must designate a registered agent to receive documents and important correspondence. There are many options for who you can appoint for this service. From my own experience with forming LLCs, I think the hiring of a professional registered agent is the best way to go for most people forming a new business entity.
From both anecdotal experience, testing, and investigative research, I have ranked my top picks for California registered agent services.
|#1 Northwest Registered Agent|
|#2 Harbor Compliance|
The companies I am reviewing here will act as your registered agent for an annual fee of around $100 to $299. They can keep your business compliant with state law by always being available during business hours and delivering documents such as service of process and important correspondence.
Many reputable companies in California offer registered agents service. I thoroughly reviewed all options to compile this California registered agent services list.
Northwest Registered Agent offers high-quality services that can be easily leveraged by entrepreneurs who want to start a business online. This company is transparent and doesn’t upsell. They also do a better job providing customer service than any other provider.
They offer a straightforward, direct service. A significant emphasis is placed on the registered agent service, one of their most popular offerings.
Although you may be able to find cheaper California registered agents, Northwest offers volume discounts which reduce their cost to $100/year per state for service in five or more states. They started as an agent service company more than 20 years ago and have continuously improved their service.
They were the first to offer local scanning of all documents they received on your behalf as a national registered agent service provider — competitors scan only the government docs that they are legally required to.
Northwest Pros and Cons
Here are some quick facts about Northwest Agent
#2 Harbor Compliance
Harbor Compliance guarantees that your documents will be delivered the same day you receive them. If you have an urgent need, this is a fast turnaround time.
The platform also provides a variety of compliance services. This is a great option for companies with multiple licensing or compliance requirements who want to keep everything in one place.
Harbor Compliance is an excellent choice for businesses that need a registered agent service or compliance services from one platform.
Incfile’s business formation packages include several impressive features, including registered agent service. Incfile offers 12 months of California registered agents service at no extra cost with all of their business formation packages. They also have one of the lowest annual renewal fees.
Incfile is a great choice for a reliable and affordable registered agent service. Incfile is a top choice for anyone looking to create a company online. They offer many additional features, such as customs documents and business contract templates.
Incfile’s customer feedback is another attractive feature. There are thousands of customer reviews online, almost all of them glowing. Incfile has very few negative reviews compared to its customers. Customer reviews are an important strength.
Incfile Pros and Cons
Quick Facts about Incfile
The ZenBusiness claim to fame is their LLC and incorporation services for $49, which is significantly lower than the average price. They also offer a full year’s worth of annual reports service.
Although they do not include this with their LLC formation services, ZenBusiness charges $199 a year for their California registered agent service.
ZenBusiness’s affordable business formation packages are not the only thing that is great about ZenBusiness. Their amazing customer feedback is what makes ZenBusiness stand out. There were more than 10,000 online reviews about ZenBusiness services, almost all positive. ZenBusiness clients love to tell about how much ZenBusiness has saved them and how easy it was to leverage their services.
ZenBusiness: Fast Facts
LegalZoom is another contender to be the best California registered agent service. This is especially true considering their impressive customer base. LegalZoom is a well-known service that allows you to work with companies with extensive legal services industry experience.
We also appreciate their 100% satisfaction guarantee. You have 60 days to ask for a refund and they will refund your fee.
However, they charge more for registered agent services than other options in this guide. LegalZoom doesn’t offer registered agent services as an option with any of their formation packages. Even their Express Gold package ($349) lacks registered agent service. Their pricing is confusing as they charge $159 for a year of registered agents to a formation plan and $299 as a standalone option.
Quick Facts about LegalZoom
6. Rocket Lawyer
Rocket Lawyer basically imitates LegalZoom for business entities and is not much more expensive.
Register agent services are not the area they are best at and are only a part of what they offer. The registered agent services that they provide for LLCs are very limited.
Although they will provide a registered address for your California business, the California Secretary Of State won’t be unhappy. Their customer service isn’t as great as you would expect from a registered agent service. They charge $149 per annum.
InCorp is similar to Harbor Compliance and charges $99 per annum for registered agent services for LLCs. This rate is the lowest.
Their computer system is difficult to use and manage. Their customer service is not adequate for such a complex system. This is why they are so far down on the list.
8. Swyft Filings
Swyft Filings provides full-service registration services and can assist with your Certificate Of Formation. It also has a California business address that allows you to receive legal mail from the California Secretary of State. They offer compliance form filing notifications, which is a difference from other full-service California registered agent services.
They charge $149 per annum for their services, which makes them one of my most expensive agents and lowers their ranking on this list.
9. Registered Agent Inc.
Registered Agents Inc. offers the same full-service registered agent services that Northwest Registered Agent. This includes filing your Certificate Of Formation. They charge $200 per annum and don’t offer the same level of customer support as Northwest Registered Agent.
Incorporate.com is a business services company providing business formations and registered agent services. They are owned and operated by CSC Global, a company with a long history. Incorporate.com provides registered agent services through CSC Global for $235 per year.
My Research & Analysis
I spent two months researching the top registered agents available in California. Here’s how I started and came to my conclusion.
My personal experience with registered agent services began with the formation of my first company. It was a tour business in Austin, Texas. I hired an attorney to form the LLC and a cheap registered agent service to be there to receive correspondence and documents for the business. Many years ago, I didn’t want to do the paperwork myself because I wasn’t sure how to file for an LLC, and I figured that I might cause some delays due to errors, so I hired someone else to do it.
Unfortunately, I later realized that I had overpaid for the lawyer to file the paperwork. The guy probably worked 10 minutes on it and charged me hundreds of dollars. The registered agent I used provided more reasonable pricing but did not have the best customer service. After the formation was completed, my private information got sold and put on several marketing lists because I kept getting junk mail, spam, and phone calls for many months afterward. Other than that, the LLC formation was finalized and went smoothly.
The second venture into creating my LLC was simpler than the first. I began researching the various online LLC services. A business friend recommended Northwest Registered Agent. I went with them, and I’m glad I did. Northwest made it easy, their customer service was and still is professional, and I have no complaints. I like their emphasis on privacy. Northwest is serious about customer privacy, and I appreciate that.
From my personal experience and research on the subject of LLC services and registered agents, I consider myself quite experienced in the available options today. With my website, I am sharing the research I have gathered so my readers can make a more informed decision or at least have some knowledge and a starting point before they shop around.
But for those who do not have enough time or just need to quickly narrow down the top services before shopping, my research and these articles are meant for you. I think that I know my reader’s intentions pretty well.
I assume most of my readers want to find out who the top 5 best services are right now for comparison shopping. I totally get that and understand.
There are plenty of registered agent services in California, just check the search results. I spent some time going through each company to find the one that offered the best value and best service. I was confused and exhausted from the whole process.
I decided to analyze the top 19 leading services and pick the top half of those for testing. This would take some time, but it was the only way to distinguish between legitimate and substandard agents.
I signed up for the top 4 registered agent services. This resulted in 4 new business entities being created. The process of reviewing their services began. First-hand experiences back up each review.
My Testing Criteria
I began comparing the services of each registered agent.
The features offered by each registered agent were first on my list. Some companies, like Northwest Registered Agent, offer a complete suite of features at a fixed price. They also don’t bombard my inbox with endless promotions.
An authentic California registered agent must have all the basics:
- To keep the client’s personal information off the public records, a business name and address in California
- For the creation of a new business, you must file an LLC Certificate of Form with the California Secretary Of State
- A web-based account allows clients to store important documents and provides compliance alerts, keeping them informed of upcoming filing deadlines with the Secretary of State.
- All mail can be scanned, uploaded, and forwarded.
- An address and registered office can accept Service of Process during normal business hours.
There were registered agents with no physical addresses offering services. Those were eliminated
The second point was the experience or a history of dependability and delivery. It’s would be a waste to hire a California registered agent only to have them shut down after one year. They had to be reliable.
Next, I checked out their website page for online signups. Many agents in California have difficult platforms that hide the true cost of their service until the end of the signup process. LegalZoom is a company that tries to hide the cost of its registered agent service of $299 until the very end of the signup. I did not like that.
ZenBusiness now makes its visitors answer several questions before ever showing any prices. I did not like that either.
The registered agent should have an easy signup process with pre-filled forms. No one likes to type the same information repeatedly. This was the third thing I used to determine which registered agent was the best in California.
My final item was the level, and quality of customer service provided by California registered agents. It is very frustrating when I call a company’s customer support team and am put on hold or referred online. The customer service team needed to be available 24/7 to help clients solve their problems professionally and efficiently.
My Groundwork & Fact Finding
Initial research first revealed that I had to sort through more than 20+ registered agents. The internet allowed me to reduce half of that number in my initial research for the best California registered agent.
This part was filled with hundreds of negative comments and reviews. Some expressed dissatisfaction over the inability to provide basic services, and others complained about high prices and poor customer service.
This allowed me to eliminate the majority of agents who provided poor service and left only nine promising companies.
To review the claims and promises of the remaining agents, I went to their websites for the next phase. I quickly discovered enough evidence to eliminate a few more.
There are several new kids on the block in the registered agent sector. I had a limit of at least five years or more experience required to make my list. ZenBusiness barely made it. The other three services have around 20 years of experience each.
I also factored in the company’s reviews before the pandemic when I was reviewing the online customer reviews on Trustpilot, BBB, Google, and others. LLC and registered agent services worked with understaffed government agencies, and the delays increased. I noticed that this resulted in more bad reviews from early 2020 thru mid-2021.
For example, Incfile had an A+ rating with the BBB for 16 years straight! That is impressive, but during 2020-2021 they lost their BBB rating, and now Incfile is not rated by BBB.
I ended up with a list of 10 registered agents I could review.
Here are the results of my research after weeks of searching and eliminating several of the top registered agents and deciding on these top 4 services. Northwest, Incfile, ZenBusiness, and LegalZoom. My detailed reviews on these four services are listed earlier in this article.
The Registered Agent Service Who Came Out on Top: Northwest Registered Agent
I picked Northwest Registered Agent as the best California Registered Agent. Their services are affordable and reliable, ensuring that my business complies with all California laws. Their customer service is unsurpassed in the registered agent market.
My Experience with Northwest
Northwest Registered Agent provides every feature needed. I like the fact that Northwest has 50 offices in 50 states, and their motto is ‘Privacy by Default’
They ensured that my Certificate of Formation was filed with the California Secretary of State and that I had a California business name and physical address so that no personal information was published.
They uploaded and scanned all legal mail and other important documents and sent them to me via my online document portal. I also received compliance alerts reminding me of important filing deadlines, such as my annual reports. They ensure that my company complies with the Secretary of State in California.
The company’s customer service is a remarkable component.
I received generic responses from the support team of other registered agents on my mailing list. I was able to guess their answers even before I asked a question. Northwest is an entirely different story.
The Corporate Guides are specialists with extensive knowledge in managing California businesses.
They were there for me every step of my business formation and gave outstanding business advice. For example, how to run a successful marketing campaign or recruit the best employees for my new company.
My Recommendation for Top Registered Agent in California
Northwest Registered Agent would well serve anyone looking to start a business here in California. They are reliable, and their customer service is superior to any other California registered agent service.
They make sure that my California LLC (Limited Liability Company) is in good standing with the California Secretary of State’s Office. Their Corporate Guides are always available to offer exceptional business advice for any issues you may encounter during your daily business operations.
They are a little bit more expensive than others at $125/yr, but they are well worth it. LegalZoom charges $299/yr, which is double what Northwest charges. I’m happy with their pricing and service.
Contact Northwest Registered Agent if you are ready to set up your California business entity.