Are you deciding between Nolo and LegalZoom for Limited Liability Company (LLC) formation? We know, it can be confusing. But don’t worry! Read our helpful comparison guide below, to learn which company is the best for you.
LLC service providers all seem to offer the same services, but is price the only thing you should consider? We think user experience, including friendliness of website language and customer support, are really important too. That’s why we tried out their websites to see what it’s like to start your LLC with Nolo or LegalZoom, and we called their customer support teams multiple times to help you select the best company to form your LLC.
If you’re looking for a big company that offers extra services, is it better to choose Nolo or LegalZoom? We compared Nolo vs LegalZoom on 10 different features of their business formation services.
Winner: Nolo is the winner over LegalZoom, but not by much. Both these companies spread themselves too thin by offering a huge list of services. And both have high prices, with confusing language that can be misleading.
Nolo has a long history (since 1971) of working with small business owners. Nolo does not specialize in business formation services alone. Instead, they offer a wide variety of legal services, including legal documents, business entity formation and legal assistance.
In recent years, Nolo shifted to focus on offering online legal forms and helping people find legal solutions on the Internet. Nolo’s size and variety of services means that Nolo offers many features beyond LLC formation services.
LegalZoom is an online legal technology company that offers a wide variety of legal services, including business formation services. According to their website, LegalZoom was founded in 1999 and has launched over 4 million businesses.
LegalZoom offers LLC formation packages that include various documents as well as other legal services like legal forms templates and consultations with attorneys. While LegalZoom is a large company, they don’t always get the best customer reviews.
LLC Formation Services: Nolo vs. LegalZoom
The Basic LLC Package: What do you get?
We compared the features offered in the basic LLC formation package at each company. What else do you get besides the actual Articles of Organization filing with the state?
The Basic LLC formation service package includes a name search and filing your Articles of Organization with the state. Nothing else. And you’ll still need to pay the state fees.
The Basic service only covers your LLC formation filing. You’ll still need to pay the state fees. It also doesn’t include a year of free Registered Agent service; you will have to pay $249 for that.
Winner: LegalZoom offers more features in the basic package.
Note: None of the prices below include the state LLC filing fees.
Nolo offers the Basic package for $49, the Standard package for $149, and the Express package for $299.
The Basic package is more expensive than other competitors’ bare-bones offerings. While the Standard package includes templates for some legal documents, it still isn’t good value for money. The main focus of the Express package is expedited filing, but it’s pretty expensive compared to other similar services out there.
LegalZoom offers the Basic service for $0, the Pro package for $249, and the Premium package for $299.
The Basic package is an okay value for business formation, but we really can’t justify the high prices for the Pro and Premium packages. Both offer some extras. However, the extras aren’t necessary to start your business, and you can get them cheaper with other companies – or you can do it yourself.
Winner: Legalzoom, but not by much.
Why? Legalzoom’s Basic service is cheaper, although neither company has competitive pricing.
Want a better deal? We recommend hiring Northwest instead. You'll get a lot more for your money. They also protect your privacy by keeping your address off public records. Use our special discount link to get 60% off and 1 free year of Registered Agent service.
(See why Northwest is #1 in our Northwest Registered Agent review)
LLC Service Turnaround Time
- Related article: How long does it take to get an LLC?
Nolo takes 4-5 business days to file your documents. If you pay extra for the Express package, they will file your documents the same day you send them.
Despite being a big company, LegalZoom doesn’t offer very fast business formation turnaround time. Your documents will be filed within 1-2 weeks of purchasing LegalZoom’s LLC service.
Or, you can pay extra for the state expedited processing, and get your LLC faster.
Why? Nolo has faster turnaround times.
Upsells: Add-ons vs Subscriptions
Nolo offers a variety of upsells, which are advertised in a distracting, interrupting way.
Most of these extras aren’t worth the price, and are things you can do at home for free. Nolo offers legal documents like Operating Agreements and contracts, but they are templates you will have to use on your own.
Nolo also offers an accounting “consultation”. However, we don’t recommend this service. This is often a way for companies to make more money (they sell your information to the accounting company). And more often than not, your “consultation” is really just a sales pitch.
LegalZoom offers a ton of upsells, but bundles them into packages. This means you end up paying more for the LLC service you want, plus some extras you may not need. We don’t like that LegalZoom’s upsells are intrusive and sometimes need to be declined more than once to make them go away.
You’ll also be bombarded by offers for other subscriptions, like the Legal Protect Plan and Total Compliance package. Overall, LegalZoom has a lot of upsells during their business formation process and most of them aren’t worth the cost.
Winner: This is a tie.
Why? Both companies have disruptive, annoying upsells that aren’t good value.
Language: Legal Jargon Everywhere
Lots of Nolo’s website is written in legal jargon and is very dense and hard to understand. We got confused by their user agreements. And since they outsource a lot of services, we aren’t confident what we’re agreeing to with the other companies.
LegalZoom’s website has a lot of fancy language to make their services sound like you can’t live without them. They hide a lot of important details about limitations of the services (in particular, the Legal Protect Plan has a lot of exclusions). And LegalZoom isn’t clear about how the pricing really works on their packages.
Winner: No one wins.
Why? Neither company is transparent about terms, and both use confusing language.
Customer Service: Honesty and the Extra Mile
Nolo only offers phone support, but we were very pleased with the quality of customer service. The representatives were helpful, knowledgeable and gave us straight-forward honest information. They didn’t try to push upsells on us, and explained all the fees clearly.
LegalZoom offers customer support by phone or online chat. But if you’re a new customer or just trying to get information, LegalZoom requires you to give them a lot of details about your business before they will even try to answer your questions.
We were disappointed to find that they were more interested in getting us to start the LLC formation process or to purchase online legal services, rather than helping us with our questions.
Why? Nolo has better customer support.
User Experience: Streamlined Websites
Nolo has a clean, streamlined user experience. Their LLC formation process does a great job of illustrating the questions so users can clearly understand what’s being asked. The website is professional and easy to navigate.
LegalZoom offers a sleek, modern website design. However, it sends you through a lot of different pages to get the information you need. Also, the LLC formation process uses confusing layouts that make avoiding the upsells tricky.
Why? Nolo wins for a more pleasant experience.
Additional Features and Offers
We don’t like that Nolo sells your information to other companies for the accounting referral, website hosting, and business license research.
LegalZoom offers additional services, but most have a monthly fee (instead of a one-time purchase). For example, the Legal Forms library, the Legal Protect Plan, and the Total Compliance subscriptions.
These are expensive add-ons that LegalZoom describes as life-savers, but which actually have a lot of limitations. We don’t recommend spending your money on them.
Winner: No one wins.
Why? Neither company offers valuable additional features.
If your business needs legal services, like drafts or templates for contracts and agreements, both Nolo and LegalZoom can help.
Nolo offers a Business Document Templates Library. The cost is $29.99.
LegalZoom offers a Legal Forms Library. The cost is $40 per month.
Why? Nolo’s library is much better. The price is much cheaper and you get the actual document template, which can be used many times. On the other hand, LegalZoom requires you to complete a survey every time you want a form. And you can’t modify or re-use the LegalZoom document later.
Nolo vs LegalZoom: Registered Agent Services
- Related Article: What’s a Registered Agent for an LLC?
Price Per Year
Nolo charges $150 per year for Registered Agent services, which is slightly higher than average in the industry.
LegalZoom charges $299 per year for Registered Agent service, which is one of the most expensive prices in the industry. In some states, LegalZoom discounts this price to $249 per year if you form your LLC with them. That’s still very expensive compared to the competitors.
Why? Nolo definitely has better prices.
Mail Forwarding and Service of Process
Nolo’s Registered Agent service scans and emails any legal mail they receive for your LLC (including service of process). You can also access the documents in the Registered Agent online portal – but this is separate from your Nolo account dashboard.
LegalZoom also scans and uploads legal mail sent to your LLC (including service of process). They also have an online dashboard where you can access your documents.
Winner: This is a tie.
Why? Both companies offer similar ways to access your LLC information, although we prefer LegalZoom since you don’t need to use a different company’s website.
Nolo vs LegalZoom: Who’s the winner?
When you compare Nolo vs LegalZoom, Nolo is the narrow winner.
Nolo and LegalZoom tie on several features. Both companies have upsells that are disruptive and don’t offer good value. They also equally use confusing language and aren’t clear about package terms. And LegalZoom does come out on top in offering the most features in their basic package.
However, Nolo clearly outshines LegalZoom with customer support, faster turnaround times, and an overall more pleasant experience. Although neither company has competitive pricing when compared to other LLC formation companies, Nolo’s prices were better than LegalZoom’s. And Nolo has a much better document library that offers actual reusable templates, whereas LegalZoom requires you to get a new template every time.
Overall, Nolo offers a better experience than LegalZoom, but we recommend looking into competitors that specialize in LLC formation service. These companies often provide quicker turnaround times and more useful service packages at lower prices than general legal service sites – like LegalZoom or Nolo.
Is there a better option? Yes, we recommend hiring Northwest. You'll get a lot more for your money. They also protect your privacy by keeping your address off public records. Use our special discount link to get 60% off and 1 free year of Registered Agent service.
(Learn why Northwest is #1 in our Northwest Registered Agent review)
File yourself with our free LLC guides
If neither Nolo or LegalZoom seems like the right fit, and you want to save money, you can form your LLC yourself. And we can help!
At LLC University®, we offer step-by-step guides that teach you how to form your LLC yourself. You just pay the state filing fee.
Get started here: How to start an LLC in all 50 states
The Hybrid Approach: Hire Nolo and DIY the little things
And even if you do hire Nolo or LegalZoom to file your LLC, you can still save money in other ways. There are several upsells that you can skip and DIY instead:
Instead of paying for an LLC Operating Agreement, you can download our free LLC Operating Agreement template.
If you see an upsell for LLC Membership Certificates, you can skip it. We provide free LLC Membership Certificates here.
If you see an upsell for a Banking Resolution (aka financial account authorization letter), you can ignore it. This document isn’t actually needed to open an LLC business bank account. Banks will provide their own form.
If you’d rather not pay for someone to file your LLC Annual Report, you can do that yourself. Go to our LLC Annual Report page and select your state.
And you don’t have to hire someone to be your LLC’s Registered Agent. Instead, you can be the Registered Agent for your LLC. Check out our Registered Agent page for more details. All you need is a physical address in the state where you form your LLC. Being your own Registered Agent can save you more than $100 per year.