Best registered agent services of October 2023

Selecting a registered agent is a necessary yet often overlooked component of the incorporation process. Limited liability companies (LLCs) and corporations are required to designate a registered agent in their formation documents filed with the Secretary of State in each state where they conduct business. Hiring a registered agent service is a smart way to fulfill this requirement.

A registered agent may be a person or company. Their job may seem simple — to act as the receiver for service of process (legal documents and government notices) and other compliance documents on behalf of the company. But it’s more complex than that. A registered agent must have a physical address in the applicable state, be available to receive documents during regular business hours and guarantee timely notifications to the company so nothing crucial gets lost, delayed or forgotten.

Registered agents have various responsibilities, but the best registered agent services digitally scan your critical mail the same day they receive it and upload it to a client portal viewable by you, deliver correspondence for free, offer compliance reminders and provide other services to keep your company compliant and in good standing with state laws.

To determine the best registered agent services for small businesses, our team collected data on numerous companies competing in this industry. Using our small business expertise, we created a criterion that encompasses what matters most to small business owners: pricing, available features, customer support and user reviews.

Based on a comparison of the companies’ data using our small business criteria, we produced an unbiased list of the top registered agent services available so you can make a smart buying decision for your business.


  • InCorp

    : Best for multi-year and multi-entity discounts


  • Incfile

    : Best for free one-year bundled business formation and registered agent services


  • LegalZoom

    : Best for access to legal and tax professionals

Why trust our small business experts

Our team of experts evaluates hundreds of business products and analyzes thousands of data points to help you find the best product for your situation. We use a data-driven methodology to determine each rating. Advertisers do not influence our editorial content. You can read more about our methodology below.

  • 15 companies reviewed.
  • 12 hours of product testing.
  • 540 data points analyzed.

Best registered agent services

Methodology

We extensively research the key competitors within an industry to determine the best products and services for your business. Our experts identify the factors that matter most to business owners, including pricing, features and customer support, to ensure that our recommendations offer well-rounded products that will meet the needs of various small businesses. 

We collect extensive data to narrow our best list to reputable, easy-to-use products with stand-out features at a reasonable price point. And we look at user reviews to ensure that business owners like you are satisfied with our top picks’ services. We use the same rubric to assess companies within a particular space so you can confidently follow our blueprint to the Best Registered Agent Services of 2023.

The best registered agent service providers have positive user reviews on customer review sites, such as Trustpilot, G2 and the Better Business Bureau. Registered agent service providers should provide customers with fast and reliable support. Using a combination of phone support, live chat and knowledge bases, customers should be able to quickly resolve issues 24/7. 

Registered agent services should be available in all states, affordably priced when compared to competitors and backed by reasonable refund policies and money-back guarantees. All registered agent service providers should expand on a basic feature set that includes company formation services, secure client portals and same-day document delivery.

Compare the best registered agent services

Final verdict

Northwest Registered Agent is our top choice for registered agent services in 2023. It stands out for its reasonable price and excellent customer support. It also provides same-day local scans and forwards your mail for free. Plus, it offers access to pre-filled state forms and annual compliance reminders — again, at no cost. 

Although Northwest does not bundle its registered agent services with a business formation package, it does offer multi-state discounts. For companies with multiple locations across a region or the nation, such discounts can save business owners hundreds of dollars annually. If you’re looking for bundled services, Incfile and Inc Authority offer the first year of registered agent services for free when purchasing other services.

If Northwest Registered Agent isn’t right for your company, consider another provider on this list. To ensure compliance with your state laws, as you shop for a registered agent service, consider whether the evaluated service offers: 

  • Reminders: Meeting state compliance deadlines is vital for LLCs and corporations, so check if the registered agent provides key deadline reminders as part of its services.
  • Same-day scanning: Depending on your industry, having your mail scanned and uploaded the same day it’s received is crucial to keeping your company in good standing with the state. Doing so helps to ensure you don’t miss stated deadlines on said correspondence. 
  • Mail forwarding: Not all services offer free mail forwarding. While most registered agent services provide customers with a private online account to view received mail, if you want hard copies of your mail sent to you, ask your provider if this is a service it offers. 

What are registered agent services?

A registered agent (also called a “statutory agent,” “agent for service of process” or “resident agent”) is a person or company appointed by a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation to accept service of process (legal documents), government notices, annual reports and tax notices for them. All states require registered agents to be physically located in the state of the business’ incorporation and all states where the company conducts business.

A business may name its owner or an employee as the registered agent as long as they have a physical address in the state where the company is conducting business. But, if the company does business in multiple states, a registered agent or registered agent service must be named in each state. 

Don’t confuse having a physical presence in a state with conducting business there. You don’t need an office or storefront to be considered conducting business in a state. For instance, having employees, collecting sales tax or selling products in a state is considered doing business. So, you must also appoint a registered agent in that state to represent your company and receive and forward critical correspondence.

How do registered agent services work?

Registered agent services are companies approved by the state to accept service of process, government correspondence and compliance-related documents on behalf of a company. Service of process refers to the legal procedure of delivering official legal documents, such as lawsuits, subpoenas and other legal notices, to a person or business involved in a legal case. 

The primary job of a registered agent or a registered agent service provider is to be available to receive service of process and other important documents on behalf of its client businesses. This means someone must be at a specified physical location Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time to receive documents and legal notices. The registered agent then passes the documents on to the company’s owner, lawyer or other designated person promptly and securely.

Once a business employs a registered agent service and files incorporation paperwork naming the provider as its representative, all official paperwork from that state, such as legal and government notices, will be delivered to the registered agent. 

In general, the next steps are:

1. The registered agent receives official documentation such as:

  • Official federal and state correspondence, including tax notices.
  • Legal notices, such as subpoenas, court summonses and lawsuit correspondence.
  • Wage garnishment notices. 
  • Corporate filing notifications.

2. The registered agent service immediately notifies the business of the documentation received using email, a postcard, SMS or a company-provided dashboard.

3. Documents are then scanned to the business’ registered agent service account for viewing by the business’ personnel.

4. Some registered agent services then mail the hard copy of the document to the business. 

What Do Registered Agent Services Cost?

Discounts aside, annual costs for stand-alone registered agent services range from $90 to $300 annually. But, since you must have a registered agent in every state where you conduct business, signing up with a registered agent service means paying an annual fee in every state, which can get pricey. 

To combat this, Martin Burnham, president of Hercules Forwarding Inc., tells growing businesses it’s a smart financial decision to “employ a registered agent service that offers multi-state discounts.” And, he adds: “if you’re a startup, you can save money by looking for incorporation companies that offer free or discounted registered agent services when using their business formation services.” 

Northwest Registered Agent’s cost falls in the mid-range ($125 per year) when compared to pricing across the industry. However, it offers multi-state discounts — running $100 per state — if you order registered agent services for five or more states. This can be a significant money saver as your business grows.

In addition to looking for multi-state discounts, to know how much you are going to pay for registered agent services, carefully study each registered agent service’s payment terms for: 

  • Auto-renewal terms: You will find that most providers require businesses to provide a credit card for auto-renewal subscriptions. After the first year, that price may increase.
  • Refund policies: Most registered agent services do not refund any portion of the subscription price once the service has been used.
  • Cancellation restrictions: Ask about cancellation restrictions to ensure no hidden fees. 
  • Price increase policies:  Ask about how notifications of price increases work. Some companies will give you 30 days’ notice before increasing their subscription prices. 

And don’t assume the higher-priced registered agent services offer more features. Some of the lower-priced companies on our list may offer what your business needs for less money.

For instance, BetterLegal is the lowest-cost service on our list. However, it charges for additional services, such as forming a corporation or LLC, a service some registered agent services offer for free. It also does not offer multi-state or multi-year discounts, while many competitors do, such as InCorp. So, depending on your needs, your total fee could get pricey.

On the other hand, Harbor Compliance also offers services at the lower end ($99 per year), with multi-year discounts and same-day document access. 

How to choose the best registered agent

Some businesses don’t need a registered agent. However, if yours does, you can either appoint someone within your company to be your registered agent or you can hire a registered agent service. In this section, we overview which businesses need a registered agent and the pros and cons of each of the above options to help you make the best decision for your business.

Who needs a registered agent?

If you don’t own an LLC or corporation, you likely won’t need the services of a registered agent. Sole proprietorships and partnerships are considered “disregarded entities” (or common law entities). They aren’t required to file formation documents in states where they conduct business, so they typically don’t need registered agents.

Alternatively, LLCs and corporations are formal entities and must be registered with all states where they conduct business. Part of that registration process is to appoint a registered agent with a physical mailing address in the state. 

How to choose a registered agent

Selecting the right registered agent service depends on your specific needs, including:

  • The provider’s multi-state and/or multi-year discounts.
  • How quickly and in what form you need correspondence to be accessible.
  • Whether you need other services the company provides.
  • Your requirements surrounding the provider’s ability to offer speed and access to customer service.

Learn more: Read Do I need a registered agent?

Being your own registered agent

Company owners doing business in their home states may think it’s more affordable and convenient to select an in-house registered agent and designate an employee for the role. However, that means your company’s address cannot be kept private (since registered agent addresses are publicly listed), and someone must be physically present at that address during all regular local business hours. It also means undesirable legal paperwork could be delivered to your business in front of customers, such as notices that your company is being sued. 

Local vs. national services

When hiring a registered agent service provider, you have two options. You can hire a national service provider, which has offices in all 50 U.S. states, or hire a local provider within your state. 

When hiring a national provider, if you expand your operation in other states, you don’t have to establish a business entity with a physical address in the new state. Instead, you can just register your business address as that of your registered agent for public records. Many national providers also offer other perks, such as multi-state registration discounts and free bundled registered agent and business formation services.

However, a national registered agent service provider often has thousands of client companies they represent. This means that, when you call seeking advice or legal counsel, you often don’t get personalized services from a point of contact that knows your business well. 

In contrast, when you hire a local registered agent service, you often have one point of contact that learns your business needs and gets to know you. This person is often a lawyer who is available to your business for legal advice as well. You may even access perks that could not be offered by a national registered agent service provider, such as recommendations to local accountants other local companies have had success with or access to the legal firms’ conference rooms for business use. 

However, when using a local registered agent service provider, you cannot work through that same provider to expand your business to other states. You also aren’t likely to receive some discounts that national service providers offer, such as free LLC formation services with registered agent services, multi-state or multi-entity discounts. In addition, since many local registered agent service providers are law firms, you often cannot just pay for registered agent services but must also pay for legal services or at least the ability to access a lawyer whenever you want to. 

How not to choose a registered agent

Most startup founders don’t think about choosing a registered agent when forming an LLC or corporation. So, they often appoint an employee to do the job. This is an acceptable temporary solution but not one we recommend long term. Due to the requirements that a registered agent be on the premises every day during all regular business hours, that person would not be able to leave the business’s location for meetings, meals or travel.

We also don’t recommend using a registered agent service just because it’s a well-known brand. Some of those companies focus primarily on providing formation services and don’t offer as many features in their registered agent packages. Some even outsource registered agent services to partner organizations, which is only revealed in their terms of service.

And while signing up for a multi-year discount sounds attractive, we don’t recommend making that a deciding factor. You never know when your company’s circumstances may change, so before you sign up with a registered agent service, make sure you can cancel a subscription and get a refund should you need to. 

Should I get a registered agent?

By law, all businesses that operate in the United States must  appoint a registered agent. However, you don’t necessarily have to get a registered agent outside of your company. Some companies simply appoint someone from within the company as the listed registered agent, such as the business’s owner. 

Hiring a registered agent service provider can offer your business document backup, greater privacy, an easy way to comply with state laws, more flexibility around your business hours, the ability to easily expand to other states, less law-suit risks and additional legal guidance. However, it also comes with a service fee, the need to deal with a middleman around your document deliveries and less control over your documents’ hard copies. 

Here is a closer look at the pros and cons of hiring a registered agent service provider as opposed to simply acting as your own registered agent:   

Pros 

  • Legal compliance: Regardless of the state in which your business operates, you must appoint a registered agent. Hiring a registered agent service provider fulfills this requirement.
  • Document storage and backup: Most registered agent service providers set up a digital portal for client companies. When documents are delivered for a client, the document is scanned and uploaded to the client’s portal. Some registered agent services offer mail-forwarding options. So, while you may have your document in hand, if something happens to it, it is still available to you via online storage. 
  • Privacy: The registered agent you appoint for your business must list a physical business address for public records. If you serve as your own registered agent, your address will be made public (think lots of junk mail!). If you hire a registered agent service provider, their address will be made public and yours will remain private. 
  • Compliance without a physical address: If your business does not have a physical address (if you have a P.O. box alone, for example), you cannot fulfill the requirement to list a physical registered agent address if you serve as your business’s registered agent. By hiring a registered agent service provider, you can borrow their physical address to list as your business’s contact information.
  • Schedule flexibility: A registered agent must be available during all regular business hours throughout the year at the physical address listed for the registered agent. If you work odd hours or need to leave the office to meet with clients, for example, you cannot fulfill this requirement. By appointing a registered agent service provider that is available during all regular business hours, you can leave your business office as necessary while still maintaining a registered agent that is available during all regular business hours, thereby enjoying flexibility while still remaining compliant with the law.
  • Ease of multi-state expansion: You must appoint a registered agent in all states in which you do business. And, that registered agent must have a physical address within that state. Hiring a registered agent when working across states allows you to fulfill the registered agent requirement in each state without having to set up a staffed entity in each new state in which you do business. 
  • Additional guidance: Many registered agent service providers offer additional support, such as legal counsel, for businesses that run into problems surrounding their paperwork or legal business matters. While this service often costs an extra fee, it is often available to businesses whenever they need it. 
  • Less law-suit risk: If you act as your own registered agent and are unable to be in the office at all times during regular business hours, you risk missing the delivery of important documents, such as notices your business is being sued. If you miss such deliveries, and so are unaware of the lawsuit, you may miss the opportunity to defend your business in court. As a result, you may have to pay steep penalties or suffer other adverse business consequences. Hiring a registered agent service provider can help you avoid such a risk.  

Cons

  • Cost: Most registered agent services cost between $90 and $300 per year. And, while some offer deals such as free registered agent services when bundled with other services the provider offers, these deals usually only cover the first year of registered agent services, after which you must pay the full yearly price upfront.  
  • No hardcopy documents: While some registered agent service providers offer mail-forwarding services, many do not. This means your documents will be scanned to an online portal but you will not be given the document to store in your office files. If you act as your own registered agent, documents will be delivered directly to you. 
  • Greater complexity: Acting as your own registered agent can simplify your business’s document management processes in some ways. You don’t have to research and compare registered agents or log into digital portals to view your documents. Your documents are simply delivered to you with no middle-man with which to contend. 
  • Less confidentiality: When you hire a registered agent service provider, more people have access to your important legal and other business documents. When you act as your own registered agent, paperwork is sent or delivered directly to you, cutting down on the number of people who can access it. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

If you own an LLC or a corporation, the law requires you to name a registered agent when you file business formation documents with your state. However, since sole proprietorships or general partnerships aren’t required to file formation documents in the states where they conduct business, they typically don’t need registered agents.

For LLCs and corporations conducting business in states where they don’t have a physical address, using registered agent services is necessary. This allows them to stay compliant with the applicable laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, which require someone to be present in a physical location (for instance, an office or store) Monday through Friday during normal local business hours to receive legal and other important business-compliance documents.

If you only do business in your state, other benefits to using registered agent services include:

  • Maintaining your privacy (since registered agents’ addresses must be publicly listed).
  • Allowing you to leave your office for meetings, meals and travel during regular business hours while remaining compliant.
  • Not having to refile business documents with state agencies if you change addresses.
  • Avoiding embarrassing correspondence — such as notices you are being sued — from being delivered to your business office in front of customers or clients.

Using a registered agent service protects:

  • Your privacy by not publicly publishing your address — which is critical if you work from home.
  • Your business by ensuring you’re compliant with all applicable states’ laws.
  • Your important paperwork from getting lost, causing you to miss crucial deadlines and potentially be fined.
  • Your reputation by saving you from the embarrassment of being served with legal documents in front of clients or employees.

All the registered agent service providers listed in our chart have agents in all 50 states, so one service can act as your agent in multiple locations, saving you time and possibly money.

To serve as a registered agent, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a physical address within the state of service (not a PO box).
  • Be physically present at the address listed as the registered agent address during business hours (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time).

The only advantage of serving as your own registered agent is that it may save you some money. But it may not be a good long-term solution. Being a registered agent requires you to  keep track of critical documents, update important forms and maintain compliance with various state laws. If you do not do so correctly or on time, you may be fined or have your business dissolved.

Yes, you need a registered agent with a physical address in states where you do business if your business is an LLC or corporation. Sole proprietorships and partnerships typically do not need registered agents.

No. Registered agents or registered agent services must have a physical address where a business representative can receive compliance and legal documentation during regular business hours. The address cannot be a PO Box.

There is no difference. Registered and statutory agents are two terms used for the same role.

Yes, a company can change its registered agent, but the process varies by state. Typically, a company can file a form online with the Secretary of State designating a new registered agent. However, some states charge a filing fee for this. Also, many registered agent services will not cancel your account and continue charging fees until you have secured a new registered agent.

You cannot register your business with a state without designating a registered agent in your official documents. If you cancel or lose your registered agent without assigning another one, you will likely fall out of compliance with the state and be suspended from conducting business there. To learn more, read our do I need a registered agent guide.

‘Registered agent’ and ‘statutory agent’ are two terms that mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably. The term statutory agent simply highlights the fact that the agent is required by law for each business operating within the state. Another term that means the same thing is a ‘resident agent.’

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