The state of California requires all business entities to have a registered agent. Registered agents serve as the official contact for a company and are responsible for sending and receiving official mail as well as ensuring that the business is properly notified of all official and legal matters.
Businesses can save time and minimize the risk of non-compliance by using a registered agent service.
Updated 2nd of June 2020
We reviewed the latest offers and revised the pricing for all providers except Harbor Compliance. We also included descriptions of each registered agent, as well as comparisons between the three leading providers, to help businesses identify the most suitable option based on their needs.
Why We Chose Incfile, LegalZoom, and Northwest Registered Agent:
Incfile offers free registered agent services when clients purchase any of their business packages. Thereafter, clients pay a flat rate of $119.00 per year. Businesses may appreciate that Incfile provides guidance throughout the subscription renewal process, rather than springing this on them automatically.
Worth noting is that clients have access to a registered agent who is always available, as well as a digital dashboard where they can view all pertinent information. Beyond these features, Incfile sends email and SMS notifications each time they receive documents on behalf of their clients. The company also ensures that legal correspondence and other applicable documentation are automatically forwarded upon receipt thereof.
Our second pick, LegalZoom, has assisted over 1 million businesses thus far. Clients have access to unlimited cloud storage, a compliance calendar that notifies them of upcoming filing deadlines, and $1 million in identity theft coverage through Experian. These premium features are reflected in the annual fee, which starts at $299.00.
Our third choice, Northwest Registered Agent, is also a great option. Documents are scanned locally, thereby minimizing loss and errors, and online forms are pre-populated with the relevant information to promote efficiency. Clients also have access to a portal where they can find filing tips, business maintenance support, and more.
Northwest Registered Agent is one of few providers to offer bulk discounts. Clients who register their business in 1 to 4 states pay $125.00 per state per year, while those who register their business in more than 5 states pay $100.00 per state per year. Clients who use Northwest's incorporation services do not pay registered agent fees for the first year.
Things to Consider When Evaluating Registered Agent Services:
- Not all registered agents operate in every state. Businesses with operations in multiple regions may wish to check whether their preferred provider covers each applicable one.
- Some registered agents charge a flat fee, while others charge a base fee plus, inter alia, state fees. Be sure you have a complete understanding of all costs involved before you select a provider.
- At a minimum, your subscription plan should include same-day electronic uploading of pertinent documents. Top-notch registered agents will notify clients when documents have been forwarded to them.
Best California Registered Agent Services:
From $0.00 for the first yr.; $119.00 /yr. thereafter
Clients don't pay for the first year when they use Incfile's incorporation services. The subscription features an always-available registered agent, a digital dashboard, automatic mail forwarding of all pertinent information, and more.
From $299.00 /yr.
Plans include business data protection, up to $1 million in identity theft coverage through Experian, a compliance calendar to inform clients about upcoming deadlines, and unlimited cloud storage.
From $0.00 for the first yr.; from $100.00 /yr. thereafter
Clients have access to an online account that includes annual report reminders, filing tips, all documentation that's been received, and more. There are no hidden fees.
From $67.00 /yr.
The subscription includes a compliance calendar, the ability to track forwarded mail, the option to pay invoices, and more. Multi-year discounts are available when clients pay upfront. The company also offers a best price guarantee.
$99.00 /yr. (bulk discounts available)
The annual fee includes complimentary document scanning, same-day electronic delivery of paperwork, customizable notifications, and more. Clients can save between 5 and 10% when purchasing multi-year subscriptions.
From $329.00 /yr.
Businesses have 24/7 access to an online compliance portal. New clients receive a 10% discount on their first year's fees.
From $49.00 /yr.; $119.00 /yr. thereafter
A reputable company that provides clients with access to a dashboard containing pertinent information.
Comparisons Between Leading Providers:
Incfile, LegalZoom, and Northwest Registered Agent are our top choices for California-based registered agent services. We compared each of their offers to identify the best choice for small businesses.
Incfile vs. LegalZoom vs. Northwest Registered Agent:
Of our top three picks, only Incfile and LegalZoom are accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While both are rated A+, Incfile's customer reviews are more favorable. Incfile also offers free registered agent services when clients incorporate with them (applicable packages start at $75.00), while LegalZoom does not.
If given the choice between Incfile and Northwest Registered Agent, we recommend the former. As alluded to, Incfile is the only one of the two to have received BBB accreditation. Their package is also slightly more affordable than the one offered by Northwest (unless clients opt for the latter's bulk discount).
Finally, between LegalZoom and Northwest Registered Agent, we recommend the former. While significantly more expensive, LegalZoom has a solid reputation, provides up to $1 million in identity theft coverage, and offers support over weekends.
Incfile vs. LegalZoom vs. Northwest Registered Agent Comparison:
Northwest Registered Agent Comparison
Price: Year 1
$0 when using their incorporation services.
$0 when using their incorporation services or $100.00 /state /yr. (5+ states) or $125.00 /state /yr. (1–4 states).
Price per Subsequent Year
$100.00 /state /yr. (5+ states) or $125.00 /state /yr. (1–4 states).
Yes; A+ rating
Yes; A+ rating
Other Standout Features
Registered agents are always available.
Business data protection; up to $1 million in identity theft coverage via Experian; unlimited cloud storage.
All documents are scanned locally; forms are pre-populated with Northwest's information.
What is a California registered agent?
A registered agent is a person or company in California that is officially appointed by a business to send and receive legal and official documents on behalf of the business.
How do I find a registered agent in California?
We've put together a list of the best registered agent services in California. Feel free to use this as a point of reference. You could search Google for additional options.
Do you need a registered agent for an LLC in California?
Yes. California state law requires that business entities have a registered agent.
Can I be my own registered agent in California?
The state of California does not allow a corporation or LLC to act as its own registered agent. However, individuals can be a registered agent if they have a physical address in California and are available during normal business hours.
How do I change my registered agent in California?
You can change the registered agent for your business in California by submitting a completed Statement of Information form to the California Secretary of State.
Who can be a registered agent for an LLC in California?
Corporations and individuals can serve as registered agents in California. However, a corporation or LLC cannot act as its own registered agent.