LegalZoom vs. Incorporate.com : The Search for the Ideal Online Incorporation Service

When you’re running a business, you will eventually want to incorporate (whether LLC or corporation) to protect your personal assets from your business ventures. While you can do it yourself, it’s better to have professionals do the job for you to save you the hassle. That’s where online incorporation services come in. 

Outfits like LegalZoom and Incorporate.com make things a lot easier. You basically just have to get on their websites, provide some needed info, and the outfit does the rest of the job. At least you can be sure that they will do the job better and faster. 

Right now, LegalZoom is perhaps the king of the industry. They have the most customers, and they’ve been around for a very long time. But they also charge among the highest rates as well, while a sizable number of online customer reviews indicate that they may not always bring the best value for money. 

Is Incorporate.com a viable alternative to LegalZoom? A closer examination of the features of these 2 brands should help you decide which one is best for your needs. 

The Incorporation Packages: Features and Costs

LegalZoom Incorporate.com
Economy: $99

  • Check the availability of the corporation name 
  • Prepare articles of organization
  • Create financial account authorization letter
  • File the documents with the state
  • Provide a guide on what to do after incorporating
Starter: $99

  • Complete the filing documents
  • File the documents with the state
  • Company documents are available online
  • $75,000 Corporate Compliance Guarantee (except in North Carolina)
Standard: $329

This includes all the Economy services, plus:

  • Create 20 company membership certificates
  • Create binder and customized company seal with your business name 
Essentials: $249

All the Starter features are included, plus:

  • Corporate kit
  • Employer Identification Number
Express Gold: $349

You get all the Standard services, plus:

  • Faster formation (7 to 10 business days, instead of 30 business days)
  • Express shipping for business documents
The Works: $349

All the features in the Essentials, plus: 

  • Business License Research Package
  • Bylaws

 

LegalZoom’s Official Website

Overall Pricing and Value

As you can see, both these brands offer very expensive packages, and it doesn’t seem like you get a lot for your money. Both brands also offer a lot of optional add-ons, and these can also cost more money. 

Most notable is the absence of the registered agent services feature as part of any package, which is an absolute requirement if you incorporate. If you go the easy way and get the registered agent services from these brands as well, you’ll find that they cost a lot too. 

With LegalZoom, you have to pay $299 per year as an extra cost if you get these registered agent services. With Incorporate.com, it will cost you an extra $235. 

On the face of it, it seems like these 2 brands are extremely expensive, while you don’t actually get a lot for your money. Incorporate.com even edges out LegalZoom when it comes to the relative affordability of their registered agent services. 

On the other hand, Incorporate.com tends to offer more expensive add-ons in general (the registered agent services notwithstanding). Also, they don’t really offer as many features in their packages. 

So how do they compare? Well, they’re basically the same. They’re both expensive, and you get the barebones services for each package. You’re not exactly getting a huge amount of bang for your buck, regardless of which option you go with. 

 

Company Track Record and Experience

These are both old brands, but they have very different popularity levels. 

With LegalZoom, you have one of the oldest brands in the industry. They’ve been around since 1999, and over the years they’ve perfected their methodology. They sure have had enough time to be professionals, and in general, they’re very trustworthy. They’ll get the job done. 

They also have the popularity that attests to their effectiveness. Since the two decades or so when they started operating, they’ve served more than 4 million people already. They’ve helped set up more than a million corporations and partnerships. 

This popularity is astonishing given the high prices that LegalZoom charges for their services. They may be satisfying and impressing enough of their customers so that these customers in turn are convincing others to try LegalZoom as well. 

Technically speaking, Incorporate.com is even older. The company traces its origins way back to 1899. That’s not a typo—they started out in the 19th century! Obviously, their name wasn’t “Incorporation.com” then. In fact, it wasn’t even a company yet. 

There were 2 Delaware attorneys at the time who headed firms that helped businesses incorporate. After 20 years of competition, they merged to form the Corporation Service Company. It’s probably safe to say that this company is the oldest in the business. 

This is why it’s so puzzling that after all this time, they haven’t even reached their 1-millionth customer. They’re still around the 750,000-customer mark. Why haven’t they matched LegalZoom with its 4 million customers, even when Incorporate.com started much earlier?

The customer reviews may help you understand. With LegalZoom, you get as many positive reviews as there are poor ones. The reviews are decidedly mixed. A lot of people thought that LegalZoom was excellent for them, but an equal number of customers were unsatisfied and disgruntled. 

With Incorporate.com, the reviews obviously weren’t as many. In fact, you’ll spend a lot of time hunting for these reviews and find maybe just a few dozens of them. It’s also quite telling that most of them have a rather negative judgment on what they got for their money when they went with Incorporate.com. 

So, who wins here? LegalZoom looks a lot better, with its undeniable popularity. Incorporate.com may have a long history, but it doesn’t seem like they did a lot of work through the decades. And what work they did offer wasn’t exactly impressive. 

Incorporate.com’s Official Website

Ease of Use

One of the advantages of this type of service is that you don’t have to get out of the house to start incorporating. That’s certainly convenient, especially in the age of lockdowns. 

Of course, it really matters if the incorporation service offers a website that’s easy enough for average Joes to use. So, let’s take a closer look at the websites for these 2 outfits. 

LegalZoom offers a rather easy-to-use website. You get very clear directions on what to do, and you’re guided on each step of the process. This ease of use probably helps explain the brand’s popularity. 

Unfortunately, being guided along the way isn’t always a plus. That’s because the entire online process seems a bit convoluted. The whole experience may remind you about how groceries are designed, with the most popular items at the back. That design forces you to walk along with other items that you don’t really need, but you may be tempted to buy anyway due to poor impulse control. 

That same principle seems to be in effect with the LegalZoom website. You’re required to invest a lot of your time and effort in entering your personal info first. That’s before you even pick whether you’re setting up an LLC or a corporation. 

In fact, the next step then forces you to sit through several upsell offers first. You get to decide whether or not you want these expensive add-ons before you even get to pick the incorporation package you want. True, at least the website offers clear explanations on how these add-ons work and how they can help you. 

It’s just that it would have been better to get to the main packages first to see which set of features is best for your needs before you decide on adding extra features. 

With Incorporate.com, you also have lots of expensive upsells encountered along the way. But at least the website is also easy to use, and the process is decidedly more straightforward. 

What’s annoying with Incorporate.com is that they’re not as straightforward with listing all the actual features included in each package. So, you may not be getting what you think you’re getting. 

Take the Starter package from Incorporate.com. This lists the use of the CSCNavigator online tool as one of the features. But you have to read the fine print to realize that this feature is only part of the pack if you also pay for their registered agent services

Then there’s the Annual Report Prep & File service, which is ostensibly part of The Works package. This already costs $349, so you can be forgiven if you assumed that all listed features here are really part of the set. 

But in reality, you only get access to that feature if you also get their registered agent services. You don’t even get this annual report service as a bonus feature. You still have to pay an extra $150 for it! 

So, how do the 2 brands compare to each other? Both have clean websites where you’re guided nicely. But they both have rather glaring design drawbacks. Both of them offer lots of upsells along the way. 

With LegalZoom, you get the upsells first before you decide on which package to get. That’s not entirely logical, unless the point is to convince you to get the expensive add-ons. From that perspective, the design makes sense—it leads to more profits. 

Incorporate.com also seems to want to get more money from customers. The way they do this is to list features as part of packages when they’re actually not part of those packages. At best, this is confusing for customers. At worst, it’s very misleading and borderline unethical. 

Either way, you have an easy website to use here. It’s just that these websites seem determined to get your money through the add-ons. 

Customer Service

Along the way, you’ll probably have questions that the website info doesn’t seem to answer. If that’s the case, you need to contact customer support. 

With LegalZoom, you’re better off by just calling them directly. While they do offer email support, it seems rather perfunctory. Send them an email with your questions and it may take up to a week before they deign to reply. 

Not that the reply will do you much good. It seems like an automated message, and it doesn’t seem to answer any of your questions to your satisfaction. You do get a rather unsubtle hint to just call them instead since this message comes with the LegalZoom contact phone number. 

You better just call them instead, so that you can get actual customer support. They answer the phone without too much delay, and then you get a US-based agent that answers all your questions. You even have options with explanations laid out for you to pick from so you know what to do next. 

Finally, you get a follow-up email message with the direct phone number of that agent you talked to. That way, if you have additional questions then you’d get the same agent who’s more familiar with your situation. 

With Incorporate.com, things are somewhat better. They offer roughly the same quality of service for phone calls, but they also have a chat service for customer support. They also don’t take more than 24 hours to reply to your emails. They’re very helpful with their answers too. 

In this category, Incorporate.com comes out ahead. They have a chat feature while LegalZoom doesn’t, and they also reply much faster to your emails.  

 

Speed of Formation

LegalZoom can take a while to finish the incorporation process. While this depends greatly on the state, you have to contend with the fact that you’re placed at the end of the line. LegalZoom has a lot of customers, so it’s a decidedly long line. 

You may have to wait for 6 weeks before the whole process is done. But if you pay extra for the expedited service, that gets cut down to maybe 7 to 10 business days. You’re placed at the head of the line. 

With Incorporated.com, you’re also at the end of the line. But with much fewer customers in that line, the process is much faster. They even base their estimated formation time on the particular state, so you have a more accurate idea of when everything will be completed. 

Conclusion

LegalZoom seems like it’s ready to be toppled from the top of the industry, because their services are just so darn expensive. 

But that alternative is not Incorporate.com, because they’re just as expensive and they sure don’t offer better services. With the few customers and poor reviews for Incorporate.com, you may as well trust the crowd and join the LegalZoom bandwagon!

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