6 Best Registered Agent Services in California in (2023)
A registered agent service is crucial to keep your business in line with California's laws and regulations.
As a team of experts with years of experience in business formation and compliance, we spent weeks researching, testing, and listing some of the best-registered agent services.
To list the best services, we tested multiple companies and looked at several key factors to make a selection, including their reputation, price, customer support, and overall package qualities.
6 Best California Registered Agent Services (November 2023)
1 - Northwest Registered Agent (Best Overall)Would you recommend Northwest Registered Agent (Best Overall)?
Northwest Registered Agent is our top choice in California. They will provide you with a secure street address for business filings and even scan and forward documents on behalf of your business.
They offer their clients access to a team of experienced professionals, including former attorneys and accountants, to provide quality service.
They also provided us with up-to-date information on the latest state and federal regulations, allowing us to comply with all applicable laws.
Northwest Registered Agent also ensured we completed our franchise tax and annual report on time.
- Registered Agent Services ($125): If you select Northwest Registered Agent to incorporate your LLC, the first year of registered agent service is free.
- Basic LLC Formation Plan ($39 + $5 State Fee): This package offers articles of organization, an operating agreement, and one-year free registered agent service. For this plan standard & expedited processing speeds are available.
- Full Service LLC Formation Plan ($225 + $5 State Fees): Full-Service plan provides same-day filing, a full year of registered agent service, and an operating agreement as initial features. This plan also features a client account packed with free forms and tools.
- Privacy protection program
- Great customer service
- Experienced and knowledgeable staff
- No hidden charges
- The formation package comes with a free year of registered agent service
- Pricey packages
2 - ZenBusiness (Best Essentials)Would you recommend ZenBusiness (Best Essentials)?
ZenBusiness is a registered agent offering high-quality, reliable, affordable services in California.
Their full package includes filing documents, receiving mail, and other services for a flat fee.
They are known for their affordable prices and customer dedication, which we have had the opportunity to attest to and confirm.
Additionally, we found their website easy to navigate, allowing us to find the information we needed quickly.
- Registered Agent Services ($199): ZenBusiness will upload digital copies to your dashboard so you can view them anytime and discreetly monitor all state notices to the address of your registered agent in California.
- Starter LLC Formation Plan ($0 + $70 State Fee): ZenBusiness offers a basic package for free with just covering the $5 state fee. It includes expense and deduction tracking, standard filing speed (2 to 3 weeks), and a 100% accuracy guarantee. Enjoy a 1-month free trial for both Banking and Bank Account services, each at $5/month afterward. The package also offers Money Pro Bookkeeping with a 1-month free trial, then $30/month. The worry-free compliance option is available for the first year, with the choice to renew at $199/year if accepted. This plan is great for startups and those on a fixed budget.
- Pro LLC Formation Plan ($199 + $70 State Fee): You'll get this package at an affordable $199 per state plus a $5 state fee. Pro Plan includes access to a guided operating agreement for $99, an EIN and the fastest "rush" filling speed of 1 to 2 business days on average.
- Premium LLC Formation Plan ($349 + $70 State Fee): Premium Plan includes all Pro plan features plus a domain name, an email address, a business document template, and a customizable business website.
- Low-cost and straightforward price tier for registered agents
- Extended chat customer support
- Received a lot of positive customer feedback
- Provide guaranteed refund after 60 days
- Low name recognition
3 - IncFile (Most Affordable)Would you recommend IncFile (Most Affordable)?
IncFile stands out from the competition when it comes to California registered agent services.
Our team tried their California registered agent service and found that they are fast to answer any question and keep your paperwork up-to-date.
Their free LLC formation service is a great option for small business entities or those who are just testing the business world, such as gig workers and freelancers.
As a California business owner, you can also take advantage of getting your own registered agent in California in the first year.
This service includes 24/7 access to the online dashboard, which we were pleased to find gave us the ability to forward emails and customize notifications.
- Registered Agent Services ($119): If you opt for a formation package, this fee will be waived for the first year. You'll then pay $119 per year after the first year.
- Silver LLC Formation Plan ($0 + $5 State Fee): This package includes filing the Articles of Organization, free year of registered agent service, limitless name searches, and phone & email support.
- Gold LLC Formation Plan ($199 + $5 State Fee): With this plan, you'll receive everything Silver Package features plus crucial business tax documents, such as EIN Business Tax Number and IRS Form 2553. This plan also includes operating agreements and banking resolutions. To help you stick to your deadlines and never miss a filing, this plan offers lifetime company alerts and online access dashboard. Business banking account setup and business tax consultation are also included.
- Platinum LLC Formation Plan ($299 + $5 State Fee): Platinum Package users will enjoy everything the Gold Package offers, plus business contract templates, rapid next-day filing service, and a web domain name plus business email.
- Easy-to-use online dashboard
- No charge for the first year of agent services with all formation packages
- Quick processing of orders
- No hidden fees
- Limited support selection
4 - Harbor Compliance (Best Premium)
Harbor Compliance is a trusted partner of the California Secretary of State and is committed to providing reliable and cost-effective registered agents to its clients.
They will help you with the entire formation process, from filing the Articles of Organization to submitting your formation statement.
From our experience, they will also provide helpful resources to help business owners better understand the complexities of California business law.
As one of the most experienced LLC service providers, Harbor Compliance has a BBB ranking of A+ (The Better Business Bureau is a trusted body that rates businesses based on their performance). This rating backs its commitment to providing quality service.
We were impressed by their professionalism during our first contact with their reps. To help us get the best plan for our business, they asked us the right types of questions.
By checking our review for Harbor Compliance you can learn more about this company and their services.
- Registered Agent Service ($89-$99): Yearly rates range from $89 to $99 per state, with no other expenses. If you pay for registered agents in advance for more than two years, you can save 5-10%. Online access to the registered agent's address is available immediately.
- LLC Formation Plan ($99 + $5 State Fee): This LLC formation service includes checking name availability and filing your Articles of Organization.
- Offers a 100% money-back guarantee
- Quick turnaround electronic delivery time
- The formation package comes with a free registered agent
- Prices not affordable for startups
- Website could be more user-friendly
5 - Rocket Lawyer
The California agent services offered by Rocket Lawyer represent only a small portion of the company's portfolio.
As such, this agent is best suited for business owners or entrepreneurs seeking long-term legal benefits in addition to LLC incorporation.
To California-based business entities, they will provide various LLC formation services and handle all the filings for you. Their attorney service helped us handle all the paperwork stress-free.
If you opt for their free trial of seven days, know that they will auto-bill if you don't cancel your subscription on time.
- Registered Agent Service ($149.99 for non-members): A 25% discount applies for package members, and membership costs $39.99 monthly.
- LLC Formation Plan ($99.99 + $5 State Fee): You can get it free with a $39.99 membership per month. With this package, benefit from free legal documents, attorney services, free LLC formation services, and 25% off registered agent service.
- Affordable pricing structure
- Provides legal documentation
- Experienced support from legal professionals
- Packages have limited features
6 - LegalZoom
LegalZoom is one of the leading California registered agent services. With decades-long experience, they are backed by an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Their plans are fair for both small companies and business entities.
Our brand-new business was a perfect fit for their entry-level registered agent packages, and their customer support staff was helpful and quick.
From our experience, if you want to work with one of the most experienced LLC formation services in California, LegalZoom is a good choice even though their business formation is more expensive than competitors.
- Registered Agent Services ($299): If you wish to create your LLC with them, the first year costs $249. Following that, renewal would cost $299. The service features include Compliance Calendar, email alerts, unlimited cloud storage, and a $1M protection against identity theft.
- Basic LLC Formation Plan ($0 + $5 State Fee): This package equips entrepreneurs with the essentials for launching their LLC, including a comprehensive name search and articles of organization. To help you guide you through online processes, this plan also offers a digital welcome packet. The plan also includes a customizable website in partnership with Wix.
- Pro LLC Formation Plan ($249 + $5 State Fee): This plan includes everything in the Basic package, plus an operating agreement to settle entity disputes and form guidelines. The package also includes an EIN, tax-saving consultations, and an exhaustive guide on California business licensing.
- Premium LLC Formation Plan ($299 + $5 State Fee): You will get all the Pro package features and a personalized, engaging guide from a professional California attorney. You will also enjoy unlimited consultation with an attorney for 30 minutes, plus updates on your formation documents within 90 days of the initial subscription.
- Strong brand power
- High customer traffic
- Money-back satisfaction guarantee
- Average customer experience feedback
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Registered Agent in California
Our team conducted a thorough review of 10 registered agent services in California, engaging with each provider under the guise of anonymity to maintain objectivity. We scrutinized aspects like affordability, service speed, feature sets, customer care, and independent ratings.
We assessed each contender based on their quickness to respond, digital prowess, and the user-friendliness of their services.
Pricing is a critical factor for businesses, especially startups operating with limited capital. Affordable registered agent services can help businesses allocate resources to other areas of development.
For instance, Northwest Registered Agent offers a competitive rate of $125 for their services, which includes a free year when bundled with LLC formation. Harbor Compliance offers a rate between $89-$99, providing a cost-effective option with the potential for discounts on multi-year commitments.
In contrast, LegalZoom's $299 fee is relatively high, which may not be as attractive to budget-conscious businesses.
2. Customer Support
Customer support is the backbone of any service-oriented business. It's essential for resolving issues, providing information, and ensuring customer satisfaction.
Companies like ZenBusiness and Northwest Registered Agent offer extended chat support and are known for their responsive customer service. The speed of response and the availability of human versus bot interaction can significantly impact the customer experience.
A company with slower response times or limited support channels may not rate as highly in this category.
3. Service Features
The range of features offered by a registered agent service can greatly enhance the value of the service. Features such as online dashboards, compliance alerts, and additional services like mail forwarding and annual report filings are crucial.
Northwest Registered Agent and IncFile both offer comprehensive service features, including online dashboards and compliance alerts.
Companies with fewer features or less integrated services may not meet the needs of businesses looking for a full suite of support.
4. Turnaround Time
The speed at which a registered agent service processes and relays documents is vital for maintaining legal compliance.
A fast turnaround time ensures that businesses can respond promptly to legal notices and maintain good standing.
Companies like Northwest Registered Agent and ZenBusiness are known for their quick processing times, while others like Harbor Compliance with slower turnaround times could put businesses at risk of non-compliance.
5. Third Party Reviews
We considered third-party reviews to provide an unbiased perspective on the quality of a registered agent service. Platforms like Trustpilot and BBB offer insights into customer satisfaction and service reliability.
Companies with high ratings on these platforms like ZenBusiness are generally more trusted, while those with lower ratings like LegalZoom may need to improve their services.
Data protection is paramount in today's digital world. Registered agent services like Northwest and LegalZoom that go above and beyond to protect client information set themselves apart.
These companies that prioritize confidentiality and have a clean track record will be more appealing to privacy-conscious businesses.
7. Ease of Use
The user-friendliness of a company's online platform can greatly affect the customer experience. A straightforward, intuitive interface can simplify the process of managing legal documents and compliance.
We have top-ranked companies like IncFile that offer a seamless online experience and avoid those with complicated or outdated systems that may deter potential clients.
8. Transition Process
When switching registered agent services, businesses need assurance of a smooth transition without any gaps in coverage.
We prioritized companies like Northwest that facilitate a hassle-free changeover and provide continuous service during the transition.
How Much Do Registered Agent Service Providers Cost in California?
Generally, a California registered agent service costs between $89 and $299 yearly. The exact cost of a California registered agent service depends on the company you choose, the services you require, and the length of your contract.
However, it costs $0 if you act as your own registered agent service or appoint a family member or friend.
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Requirements For A California Registered Agent
Here are the key requirements for being a California registered agent:
- Physical Presence: The agent must have a physical location in California — a P.O. Box or mailbox service is not acceptable as the agent must be available to personally sign for documents.
- Availability: The individual or company must be available at the listed address during normal business hours to sign for documents.
- Residency: If an individual is appointed as a registered agent, they must be a resident of California.
- Public Record: The name and street address of the registered agent must be included in the public records of California.
- Consent: An individual appointed as a registered agent must consent to the appointment.
- Reliability: It's important to choose a reliable registered agent to ensure that crucial documents are received and handled in a timely manner to avoid legal and administrative consequences.
Learn how to change a registered agent in California if you aren't satisfied with your current one.
Is It Necessary for My California LLC to Have a Registered Agent?
Yes, your California LLC must have a Registered Agent. According to California's LLC Act, the registered agent and office address must be provided when filing the LLC formation documents with the California Secretary of State. Failure to meet this requirement will nullify your formation filling.
What Does a California Registered Agent Do?
A registered agent's work entails receiving, reviewing, and forwarding important documents on behalf of a business. This includes documents from the Secretary of State and other official correspondence. A registered agent must also ensure that any documents are received in a timely manner and are accurately recorded.
Can I Act as My Own California Registered Agent?
Yes, you can act as your own California Registered Agent if you meet certain requirements. As the registered agent, you will be responsible for receiving all official documents on behalf of your LLC. You must be a resident of California or a corporation or LLC authorized to transact business in California. You must also have a physical address in California where you can receive service of process.
What is the Best Registered Agent Service in California?
If you plan to expand your business and follow state offices and regulations while saving time and money and protecting your privacy - choosing the best California registered agent is essential for your continued service of process.
Northwest Registered Agent is our top choice. They are very reliable, up to date with compliance filing deadlines, and offer a client-focused service with former lawyers and experts in the field.
Our experience with Northwest Registered Agent showed us they have mastered it all during their twenty years of experience in the industry.