All business entities must have a registered agent. Simply put, a registered agent is a designated person responsible for receiving your legal correspondences and relaying them to you. There are dozens of nationwide services that can handle this for you.
As tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t go with the absolute cheapest option just to meet a legal requirement. Registered agents have an important function, and the best registered agent services are quick, reliable and easy to use.
All the services we evaluated provide registered agent services nationwide—a big plus if your business is registered in multiple states. We took a look at some of the most popular services on the market and evaluated them so that you can determine the best fit for your needs.
The Best 5 Registered Agent Services in 2021
Northwest Registered Agent
$125 per year
Northwest Registered Agent’s tagline is “we’re just not annoying,” and it lives up to that slogan. The company offers quick service, straightforward pricing, great phone support, same-day local document scanning and a commitment to data privacy.
Northwest scans all documents locally, and it will scan regular mail that comes to your registered agent, not just official correspondence. Northwest staffs its customer service lines with local “corporate guides” who can answer your questions without transferring you. It won’t sell your data. And Northwest also sells business formation, mail forwarding and virtual office services in case you need them.
At $125 a year, Northwest is pricier than most. But the extra cost could be worth it to take advantage of features and add-ons that other companies don’t have.
Who Should Use It: Business owners willing to pay a little more for good phone support or the ability to combine mail forwarding or virtual office services with a registered agent service.
Pros & Cons
- Documents scanned locally on the day they’re received
- Mail forwarding and scanning available
- Emphasis on privacy
- More expensive than other services
$99 per year
Zen Business positions itself as fast, easy and affordable, and that combination makes it a good all-around service for any business. It’s one of the least expensive options we evaluated, with plans starting at $99 per year.
In addition to receiving and scanning documents, Zen Business helps its registered agent customers with annual report filing. This is especially useful, as the company will help you create your annual report according to the specific requirements of your state. It also offers business formation services so you can start your business and hire an agent in the same transaction.
Zen Business is also well-regarded by customers. It has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau, and a high percentage of the more than 6,000 reviews on Trustpilot rate the company as “excellent.” Additionally, Zen Business is a public benefit corporation, which means it has a mission to help small businesses that goes beyond profit.
Who Should Use It: Anyone who needs a basic, reliable registered agent service at a low price.
Pros & Cons
- Inexpensive, with plans starting at $99 a year
- Also offers business formation services
- Public benefit corporation
- Same-day document delivery not guaranteed
$99 per year
Harbor Compliance specializes in helping companies navigate government licensing and compliance requirements, but it also offers inexpensive registered agent services. Registered agent services cost $99 a year, but there’s a 5% to 10% discount if you commit to multiple years at once.
Harbor Compliance stands out for its promptness and ability to handle complexity. It offers same-day document delivery, and if your company is served with a lawsuit you’ll get an immediate notice via phone and email. (Most registered agent services only notify you by email.)
You can view documents and compliance requirements for several companies under a single client dashboard. Each customer has a dedicated account representative. However, you can’t form a business with Harbor Compliance, and the company had few ratings on the sites we checked.
Who Should Use It: Anyone looking for a good value in registered agent services; business owners who need help tracking regulatory requirements.
Pros & Cons
- At $89-$99 a year, it’s the least expensive service
- Same-day document delivery
- Phone notification of lawsuits
- No business formation services
$149 per year
Rocket Lawyer offers a broad range of legal services for small businesses, including business formation, contract preparation and review and consultations with attorneys. But at $149, its standalone registered agent service is expensive.
Rocket Lawyer includes the standard services you’d expect from a registered agent—online document storage, a customer portal and email notifications of documents received. The company is popular with customers, but its registered agent service lacks added features like same-day document delivery and telephone notifications that some of its competitors offer.
Signing up for one of Rocket Lawyer’s small business legal plans gets you a 25% discount on registered agent services. But even with the discount, Rocket Lawyer is still one of the priciest services we looked at. It could be a solid value if you bundle Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent services with its other offerings, but small businesses may be turned off by the high price tag.
Who Should Use It: Business owners who want to take advantage of Rocket Lawyer’s other services and don’t mind paying a little more to consolidate their legal needs with one company.
Pros & Cons
- Full suite of legal services available
- Money-back guarantee
- No same-day document delivery
$119 per year
Incfile is marketed toward entrepreneurs starting a business on a shoestring budget. Its registered agent services are free for the first year if you also use Incfile to form your business. While it got a lower score from us, this could be an attractive option for brand new companies.
Incfile includes the main features you’d expect in a registered agent service. It notifies you by email when it receives documents on your behalf, and it also automatically forwards documents to you by mail—though its user interface is a bit awkward.
However, Incfile’s registered agent fee climbs to $119 after the first year, making it more expensive than many of its competitors.
According to our analysis, Incfile user reviews are polarized, and the Better Business Bureau revoked its accreditation in September 2020.
Who Should Use It: Companies whose priority is minimizing startup costs..
Pros & Cons
- Free for the first year if you also incorporate with Incfile
- Document forwarding by mail
- Cost goes up after the first year
- Mixed reviews and ratings
Reasons to Use a Registered Agent Service
Although any adult can technically act as registered agent, there are several reasons you might use a registered agent service instead.
- Availability during business hours. A service guarantees that your agent will be able to meet the legal requirement of being on the premises during the workday.
- Stability. If you don’t use a service, you’ll have to remember to change the agent designation on file with the state if there’s ever a change in your agent’s address or if your agent is an employee who leaves the company.
- Reliability. An agent service knows how to recognize important documents and has a system in place for transmitting them to you.
- Privacy. If someone at your company is your agent, you risk having legal papers served in front of customers or other employees.
- Service in multiple states. If you register your business in more than one state, it’s easier to go with a registered agent service that can handle your needs in multiple locations.
To determine the best registered agent services, we gave the greatest weight to price, since small business owners usually want to satisfy the registered agent requirement without spending a lot of money.
Although it didn’t factor into our numerical rankings, we also noted other features offered by registered agent companies, such as assistance with annual reports, mail forwarding, legal services and help with compliance issues.
Here’s a closer look at the factors we considered:
- Ratings: We looked for at least a B and at least 30 reviews from the Better Business Bureau, and at least a 3.5 and at least 300 reviews from Trustpilot.
- Multi-state support: You need a registered agent in every state where your business is registered. A service that operates in all 50 states makes things easier if you have a multi-state presence.
- Same-day document delivery: Legal notices typically have deadlines. Same-day document delivery ensures that you have as much time as possible to respond.
- Secure client portal: When your documents are stored on a secure portal, you always have access to them and they won’t be lost in a flurry of emails or paper. All the services we evaluated offer a client portal.
- Business formation options: If you’re starting a new business, it’s convenient to sign up for agent services while you’re forming your LLC or corporation.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
All 50 states require business entities such as corporations and LLCs to have a registered agent. A registered agent is also known as a “statutory agent.” Your business needs a registered agent to remain in good standing with your state.
When you designate a registered agent for your business, you’re saying that legal and governmental notices should be sent to the agent. These notices might include lawsuits, subpoenas or correspondence from state agencies. The agent is responsible for forwarding those documents to the appropriate person at your business.
You do not. Anyone aged 18 or older who has a physical address in the state can be an agent, including you, your spouse or an employee. However, the agent must be at their address during regular business hours every day. And the agent should be someone you can trust to keep track of documents and get them to you right away.
You can change registered agents by filing a form with your state. You can also expect to pay a filing fee. Some states require the new registered agent to sign the form.