Choosing the best registered agent in the state of California is critical for your small business.
Getting the right registered agent will ensure that your information and privacy are protected, that your legal assets remain safe, and that your business entity will receive important information from the California Secretary of State and other correspondence from state offices, as well as accepting service of process.
Getting the wrong registered agent will cause you all sorts of headaches and lead to possible financial ruin—including lawsuits—and having crucial information for your limited liability company (LLC) leaked to hackers and scammers.
I’ve assessed 60 of the top registered agents and analyzed the top 12 through our four-stage, five-factor process. Here are the results of my investigation of the best California registered agent.
1. Northwest Registered Agent Review — 9.10/10 (My Top Service)
Northwest Registered Agent is my top choice for the best California registered agent because they offer the most value at an extremely competitive price and they're the only registered agent to provide small business advice with their US-based customer support.
There’s a lot to like about Northwest Registered Agent.
First of all, they provide everything you need from a registered agent (including the best LLC formation services in California). When you appoint Northwest Registered Agent as your registered agent, you’ll get the all-important Californian street address with a statutory agent that is always available during regular business hours.
They will scan, upload, and forward all your important mail and make it available in their online portal, keep your personal details out of the hands of scammers and hackers, accept service of process notifications, file the paperwork necessary to qualify your business as a foreign corporation or LLC in any state, receive important documentation from the Secretary of State and alert you to any upcoming important compliance deadlines, such as your statement of information (also referred to as an annual report, a document that the Secretary of State requires all LLCs to submit biennially (every two years).
Their sign-up and online systems are both easy to use and have intuitive navigation systems that make accessing your important information as simple as possible.
But the real reason Northwest Registered Agent is #1 on my list is their customer service.
In an age where companies are constantly looking for ways to save money by outsourcing their support services to foreign call centers stocked with inexperienced and untrained staff, Northwest Registered Agent stands out.
Their US-based team of former accountants, lawyers, California business owners, and entrepreneurs are not only available and able to help overcome any challenges you face with their computer systems and process, but they’re also available to answer any questions you have about your business operations.
They can talk you through some of the finer details of HR, logistics, accounting, and company goals because they’ve faced those challenges themselves. As for the questions they can’t answer, they’re able to point you in the direction of a suitably qualified professional who can answer those questions for you.
This level of support and guidance is not available with any other registered agent and so when you factor in that they’re the second cheapest registered agent in our analysis ($125 per state per year—only $26 more expensive than our budget option), they’re an easy #1 choice.
The biggest challenge with Northwest Registered Agent is the same as their biggest strength: their support team.
As I’m sure you’re well aware, there are some moments in business where your to-do list is growing faster than you can clear tasks and all you need is a quick answer to a quick question.
On one or two occasions, I've called Northwest Registered Agent for an answer, and instead of giving me a quick answer and allowing me to get back to my list, they asked more questions than I wanted to answer.
Sure, those questions resulted in me getting a more productive answer that actually addressed the root cause of my issue rather than wasting time with a temporary solution, but at the time, it was slightly frustrating.
While this doesn’t happen all that often, it’s important to be aware that when you sign up for excellent customer service, you will get excellent customer service, even in the times you don’t think you need it and don’t have time for it.
Northwest Registered Agent is my top recommendation for the best registered agent in the state of California because, on top of providing every service you need from a registered agent (including a street address in California, mail scanning and uploading, an online access portal, compliance and service of process alerts and filing a statement of information for your business entity), they also have industry-leading customer support.
Their trained and experienced team has walked the journey of starting a California business and can provide battle-tested advice that helps you move your Californian company towards your goals.
If you want personalized guidance and support from your registered agent that far exceeds the cost of your yearly subscription, head to Northwest Registered Agent.
2. Harbor Compliance Review — 7.92/10 (Best Budget Registered Agent)
Harbor Compliance is #2 on my list but our #1 recommendation if you’re struggling to pay the bills and need to save every dollar in your bank account.
Harbor Compliance, just like Northwest Registered Agent, provides everything you need from your registered agent service.
When you appoint them as your registered agent of choice, you’ll get assistance with LLC formation services, a registered office in the state of California and a statutory agent available during normal business hours to receive important mail (like service of process) to ensure your company remains in good standing especially with the Secretary of State.
They’ll also scan, upload, and forward your mail and notify you of any important upcoming compliance deadlines, such as filing your statement of information.
Their customer support can answer any questions you have about your Harbor Compliance registration.
At $99 per state, per year, they’re the cheapest full-service registered agent I analyzed, making them a reliable choice if you want to save the extra $26 you need to sign Northwest Registered Agent.
The biggest drawback with Harbor Compliance is that while they provide everything you need from a registered agent to ensure your company meets all the requirements laid out by the California Department of State and remain in good standing, they don’t do anything exceptionally well.
Their customer support will answer any questions you have about your registered agent service but aren’t trained or able to help with any additional business questions you might have. They’re a good choice, but they’re not exceptional in the same way that Northwest Registered Agent is.
Harbor Compliance is a reliable registered agent service that provides all the basics you need to keep your small business entity in good standing in California.
While they’re not exceptional in any area, they’re $26 cheaper than my top pick and so can help you meet your legal requirements while keeping a few dollars in your pocket.
If money is extremely tight and you need a California registered agent to meet your legal requirements, check out Harbor Compliance here.
3. LegalZoom Review — 6.59/10 (Best Premium Registered Agent)
LegalZoom is the best premium California registered agent service, but as you’ll see, there’s a reason they're third on our list.
One of the good things about using LegalZoom as the registered agent or agent for service for your California business entity is that it’s an established company with a long history of delivering reliable products.
On top of getting all the services you would expect from a registered agent, like LLC formation services, a California business address, filing of your Articles of Organization and mail forwarding of important correspondence from the California Secretary of State, and service of process, you also get up to $1,000,000 in identity theft protection.
They charge $299 per year for their services, which is more than double that of Northwest Registered Agent. Yes, LegalZoom does provide identity theft protection, but you could easily pay Northwest Registered Agent’s fee and then purchase identity theft protection somewhere else for less than what LegalZoom is charging.
Registered agent services aren’t LegalZoom’s primary service, so it isn’t what their business focuses on. Their customer support will only answer questions about their registered agent service and are unable to help with hundreds of other challenges you face on a day-to-day basis.
LegalZoom is pretty recognizable name in the business industry, and they’re considered to be a good and reputable business entity in California. If you’re already in business with LegalZoom and using some of their other services for your California business entity, or if you’re looking for a registered agent to provide you with identity theft protection, LegalZoom may be the way to go.
ZenBusiness offers most of the services you’d expect a registered agent to provide for your business entity, including a business address in California, mail forwarding of notices from the California Secretary of State, and service of process. Other services include access to an Employer Identification Number, an online document storage dashboard, a free accounting consultation, automatic expense tracking, and a fast document filing process.
However, at $199 per state per year, their customer support is not at par with Northwest Registered Agent or Harbor Compliance.
If you want a full breakdown of their products and services, check out my full ZenBusiness review.
IncFile offers a pretty standard array of registered agent services, such as a street address in the state, receive important information from the California Secretary of State, sending your business service of process notifications, providing a point of contact for your California corporate business entity, but there are several drawbacks to this service.
The first drawback is that their customer service, which is only available during normal business hours and can only assist with issues related to your registered agent service, meaning they provide far less value than Northwest Registered Agent. The second drawback is that they charge $119 for their services, making them more expensive than Harbor Compliance.
These issues combined mean that unless you want less value or to pay more, you shouldn’t use IncFile.
6. Rocket Lawyer
Rocket Lawyer is essentially a cheap knockoff of LegalZoom. They charge $149 for their registered agent services and, while they provide you with a business address in California in order to receive mail from the California Secretary of State and service of process, you’ll only be able to contact them during regular business hours.
They actually provide you with fewer services than Northwest Registered Agent and they’re more expensive.
Rocket Lawyer also offers various online legal services.
If you want a full breakdown of their services, read my full Rocket Lawyer review.
7. SunDoc Filings
SunDoc Filings is another California registered agent service that offers really bare-bones services. You’ll get the California business address that you need, along with receipt of important documents and information, but they don’t give you any alerts and they cost $159 per year. They are, however, certified by the California Secretary of State.
InCorp registered agent provides you with all the typical services business owners would expect, such as the all-important business address and access to documents and information, service of process notifications, and filing a statement of information. In fact, they provide the same services, at the same price as Harbor Compliance.
The drawback is their system is so difficult to navigate—it’s clunky, outdated, confusing, and counterintuitive. This is why they’re so far down this list.
9. Swyft Filings
The service offerings from Swyft Filings is pretty typical from a legal services company that has strayed into the registered agent market. You get a bare-bones service list, including a business address and forwarding of notices from the California Secretary of State, but they charge $149 per year for it.
To learn more about their services, check out my Swyft Filings review.
10. CSC Global
CSC Global is another premium service. They offer many of the registered agent services you’d expect, including the physical address that business entities need, mail forwarding of notices from the California Secretary of State, filing the statement of information, service of process notification, and access to your documents and information.
The only unique service they provide is that they’ll cover any state fee you incur when you move your company to them. However, they charge $299 per year. For that price, you could go with Northwest Registered Agent and then pay the state fee or filing fee yourself for less.
11. Registered Agents Inc.
Registered Agents Inc. is the only company on this list that specializes solely in registered agent services, meaning you’ll get a lot more from them than just a street address in the state and acceptance of mail and service of process documents on behalf of your business entity.
The problem is that they charge $200 per year for their services, so in terms of value, both Northwest Registered Agent and Harbor Compliance are both far better options.
12. Jumpstart Filings
Jumpstart Filings offers you the bare minimum in terms of service, providing you with little more than a business address. But they charge $129 per year for minimal services.
Best Registered Agent Review Summary
The best registered agent for your Californian business is Northwest Registered Agent.
On top of providing everything you need from a registered agent service, their US-based support team of former accountants, lawyers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs can not only guide you through questions about your registered agent service, but also provide advice on other small business challenges.
They provide far more value than their $125 per year fee (only $26 more than the cheapest registered agent service) and so are an easy pick as our best California registered agent service.
If you need a registered agent that can also guide you through the complex challenges you’ll face building your business, then head to Northwest Registered Agent now.
Best Registered Agent Review Methodology
This is the process we followed to determine the best California registered agent.
Why You Should Trust Me
You should trust me with your registered agent recommendations because I’ve spent more time researching registered agents than anyone else has.
I started out with two businesses, a health website and a cafe, both of which required registered agent services.
After selling those businesses, I started looking for my next business opportunity and asked my entrepreneur friends what they were struggling most with. When they mentioned some of the exact challenges I’d faced and overcome while starting and running my own business, I started BoostSuite to provide advice and support in this niche market.
Since starting this website, I’ve now helped more than 1,000 people find the right registered agent for their growing business and I’m happy to help you do the same.
How I Selected the Best Registered Agent in California
Selecting the best registered agent for your LLC actually started with a four-stage process through which I ran the 60 different California registered agent services.
Stage 1: Reviews
Online reviews from customers who have actually dealt with the registered agent service are a great way to get an idea about how they will treat you and what they can do for your LLC. I read through reviews on TrustPilot, Facebook, the Better Business Bureau, and others.
Honestly, there’s no way I could actually read through every last review about each California registered agent, as there were thousands. But I did read the ones that were longer than a paragraph or two and gave me the most information.
These let me know which companies used misleading pricing (more on that later) or were outright scams.
Stage 2: Offering Analysis
Another way to get an idea about the service California registered agents provide is to check out their website.
I looked at things like whether they offered a variety of services, and whether they listed multiple ways to contact their customer service team and provided correct and up-to-date contact information. I also checked out their location, the history of their registered agent company, and any awards they displayed on their site.
This gave me a picture of each California registered agent I researched, and it told me how they presented themselves.
Stage 3: Speaking with Real Customers
Looking at online reviews and company websites is helpful, but so too is talking to actual customers who have dealt with each California registered agent.
I asked people who’d used my site’s recommendations for registered agents, as well as those who’d already had experiences with registered agents and were happy to share their experiences. This was understandably more telling than the company’s website offerings because the customers revealed what the registered agent did or didn’t do for their LLC.
Stage 4: Speaking with Their Sales Team
If you want to know how legitimate a particular registered agent business is, start by talking to their sales team. I took a bunch of the complaints that their customers had aired on one of the review sites or had voiced while answering my questions about their registered agent services in the state of California, called them up, and analyzed how their sales team reacted to them.
Shockingly, some of the registered agents we spoke with actually suggested that any customer who had left the bad review was “crazy” and that we just basically shouldn’t take them into account. But others inspired more confidence, telling us they had taken the criticism and used it to improve that particular aspect of their service, so it wasn’t an issue anymore.
This stage really separated the good from the bad and helped me to weed out the worst registered agent services in California.
These are the factors I used to rate the remaining twelve agents, and how I chose the best registered agent for your California LLC had to offer.
Factor 1: Offerings
The first factor I analyzed was the services that California registered agents offered. It makes no difference if a registered agent has really cheap rates and great customer service—if they don’t provide the services your California LLC needs, they’re of no use to you.
I took into account whether they provide an online portal for you to access all your important business documents, rather than just forwarding them to you, whether they actually give you notifications about your upcoming California LLC compliance deadlines and service of process alerts or just give you a calendar of them, whether they actually offer identity theft protection or just promise that your information will be safe, and whether they offer a cheap LLC service or even the best LLC service on the market.
Factor 2: Value
The second factor I used to choose my top California registered agents was value for money. It varies pretty widely from one registered agent service to the next.
I found out that there were three different price ranges when it came to registered agents: budget, full-service, and premium. Budget services cost around $39 per year and offer the bare minimum services that a registered agent must provide. Full-service registered agent services cost around $99–$129 per year, and premium services run from $299 per year.
Those with the best prices for the number of services they provided were put at the top of the list, while those who were expensive and offered few services found their way to the bottom of the list.
It’s worth noting that there aren’t any budget offerings on my list because it seems they have deceptive pricing practices. Sure, it’s $39 per year for their basic services. But in order to get services such as LLC compliance notifications, they charge more than some full-service options charge for a whole range of services.
Factor 3: Ease of Sign-up
My third factor was how easy it is to get your LLC set up with their service. It doesn’t matter if they have good prices or services you want if getting your LLC set up with them is a complete nightmare.
Those whose systems were highly automated and streamlined went toward the top of the list, while those whose systems took forever and were immensely labor intensive dropped towards the bottom.
Factor 4: Ease of Use
After you’re set up with a California registered agent, you’ll have to navigate their system, and some of them are so challenging to use that you’re not even going to want them associated with your corporation.
So, those companies with simple, user-friendly systems earned higher spots on my list than those whose systems were difficult to learn or navigate.
Factor 5: Customer Service
It really doesn’t matter how great the registered agent’s computer system is, someone in your corporation is eventually going to have a question about it. So, it’s important that your registered agent has good customer service.
My rating on this factor accounted for whether they replied quickly or returned calls, how friendly they were, if they answered the questions I had adequately, and if they answered my queries in easy-to-understand ways.
The Best California Registered Agent Service Review Summary
I assessed 60 registered agent services through this four-phase analysis and these are the results of my findings.
Overall Best California Registered Agent Service — Northwest Registered Agent (9.10/10)
Northwest Registered Agent is #1 on my list of best registered agents in California because they provide the best value on the market. They are certified by the California Secretary of State under Section 1505.
They provide everything you need from a registered agent service:
- LLC formation services
- a physical address in California with a statutory agent available during normal business hours that can assist you in filing your Articles of Organization
- receiving important mail
- receiving important information from the California Secretary of State
- mail scanning and forwarding
- preparation and filing of all the paperwork necessary to qualify your business as a foreign corporation or LLC in any state
- an online portal to access your business documents
- a completed Statement of Information
- alerts for upcoming compliance deadlines and service of process.
On top of this, their US-based customer support team of former accountants, lawyers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs will guide you through not only any questions you have about your registered agent service, but also provide battle-tested advice in overcoming any small business challenges you face.
At $125 per state per year (the second-cheapest price on the market), they provide incredible value.
And with more than 3,000 positive Northwest Registered Agent reviews, you can be sure that my experience wasn't a one-off.
If you need a registered agent that will not only ensure you meet all Californian legal requirements but will also support you through your small business journey, then head to Northwest Registered Agent now.
Best Budget Registered Agent Service — Harbor Compliance
If money is extremely tight and you’re happy to forgo the small business support provided by Northwest Registered Agent in return for a $26 saving, then Harbor Compliance is a good option.
For $99 per state per year, they provide all the basics you need to ensure you remain in good standing. You get a physical address in California, file your Articles of Organization, a statutory agent able to accept all important correspondence, service of process alerts, file a Statement of Information and the ability to access all documents in their online portal.
Their support team only answers questions related to your registered agent service, they do so efficiently and effectively and just like Northwest, they are certified by the California Secretary of State.
There's a lot more to Harbor Compliance's service than I tell you about here. Read my full Harbor Compliance review for more details on their service and offerings.
If total cost is more important than the best value provided, then head to Harbor Compliance to get your registered agent service now.
Best Premium California Registered Agent Service — Legal Zoom
Legal Zoom is my recommendation for the best premium-level registered agent in the state of California. They offer generally the same service options as Harbor Compliance, with the addition of up to $1 million in identity theft protection, which can be important to an LLC. They are also approved by the California Secretary of State.
They charge $299 per year, but if you want identity theft and asset protection included in your registered agent service, you may want to consider them.
Check them out here: LegalZoom.
I assessed 60 registered agent services in California and investigated the top 12 through my four-stage, five-factor analysis. The results of my investigation showed that the best registered agent service in California is Northwest Registered Agent.
They provide everything you need from a registered agent service, while their US-based customer service team of former accountants, lawyers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs can answer not only your questions about your registered agent service, but about any challenges you face in your journey to achieving your business goals.
If you want to meet all your legal requirements, as well as the support of an experienced and helpful support team for only $125 per year, head to Northwest Registered Agent now.