Having a registered agent in California is essential for every LLC or business operating in the state. We recommend using a registered agent service, however, there are other options available to you.
I analyzed, tried, and compared many of the best registered agent services in the U.S. over the years including the leading registered agent services, LegalZoom and Northwest Registered Agent.
Editor's Choice 2023
Northwest Registered Agent #1 Best Overall
- LLC Formations
- Registered Agent Services
- 2nd Largest Registered Agent
In exchange for an annual fee, these businesses will act as your registered agent (sometimes called an “agent for service of process” in California), accepting legal documents such as service of process and tax documents, reminding you to file your Initial Report and Statements of Information, and more.
The process of selecting the best registered agent service provider from among the many reliable options available in California might be daunting. Because of this, we researched extensively to compile this comprehensive list of the top California registered agent services. Among these, which one should you pick?
To start a California LLC you must appoint a registered agent located in California. California State Law requires that you have a California registered agent in order to conduct business in California. The state of California sends all official and legal documents to a company’s California-based registered agent. If there is a lawsuit, the California registered agent needs to be there to receive service of process.
We have provided all information about how to hire a registered agent in California. Before you hire a California Registered agent, make sure to read this guide.
I compared more than 20 California registered agent services and narrowed down a list of my top ten best picks. Northwest Registered Agent is the top choice for most companies in California because of its outstanding service, and its emphasis on privacy, and compliance. With 50 offices in 50 states, Northwest is the best choice in any state.
The Best California Registered Agent Service (Overall)
Northwest’s ‘Corporate Guides’ can help with compliance and tips on bureaucracy at the state level. Online access allows you to scan documents and have access to your mail. Starting at $125/year with discounts for multi-state organizations.
Northwest Registered Agent provides services to corporations and LLCs in all 50 States. Northwest Registered Agent does more than just fulfill the requirements of a registered agent. You can view all documents sent to them electronically so that they are scanned.
Access to local corporate guides will also be available, which can assist you in navigating the bureaucracy and compliance in your state. A registered agent service costs just $125 per year, and businesses that operate in more than one state will receive a discounted rate. The service is of exceptional value overall.
Here are the Best Registered Agent Services Options:
- Northwest Registered Agent – #1 Best Overall
- Harbor Compliance – Best for managing multiple entities in multiple states
- ZenBusiness – Best with business formations
- MyCompanyWorks – Best tool for changing registered agents.
- Rocket Lawyer – Best for ongoing legal services
What is a California Registered Agent?
An individual or business can be a registered agent in California. They will represent your business when you receive official documents. These documents include formation documents, renewal documents for businesses, tax filings, and any other legal documents that may be required if the LLC is sued. All of these documents are sent directly to the official address of the registered agent in the state. It is mandatory that an agent be appointed when forming an LLC.
LLCs must mention the name and address of their registered agent when they file California LLC formation papers with the Secretary of State. You have two choices when it comes to choosing a registered agent for California: either hiring an in-house agent or outsourcing the service.
What Does a California Registered Agent Cost?
Costs for a registered agent vary. The cost of a registered agent can vary depending on whether they are employed in-house, your own agent or outsourced. a California registered agent costs between $99 and $300 each year. Outsourcing a registered agent service will save you money.
Find and Hire a California Registered Agent Service
There are many options available for you to hire a registered agent here in California. You must meet the basic eligibility requirements to become a registered agent. Anyone residing in California may become your registered agent if they meet the requirements.
Who can be a registered agent?
- The person must not be under 18 years of age.
- The LLC must be registered in the same state as the person who will be operating it.
- The employee must be present at all times during work hours.
- Anybody who meets the above requirements may act as a registered agent.
- Recommendation – Always use a registered agent in California.
Can I be my own registered agent?
You can be your own registered agent. You can register as a registered agent any member of the LLC, the manager, or the owner. A registered agent can also be someone in the family of the owners, such as spouses, relatives, or other family members. Anyone representing the business as an agent must meet the basic criteria.
Why you shouldn’t be your own registered agent
To save money, many small businesses don’t hire a registered agent. It is not recommended that you become your own registered agent. Being a registered agent for your own LLC can present you with many problems. Here are some of these issues.
- Your home address will be visible on the public portal if you operate your business remotely or if you have a web-based business. This address will be used to send mail and for other official purposes. This could compromise your privacy.
- For 52 weeks, a registered agent must be available to the official address during work hours. This could limit your ability to do other work.
- The Secretary of State portal must have the registered agent’s address up-to-date.
To make your life easier, it is a good idea to have a registered agent handle your paperwork. This protects your privacy especially if your business is based at home. It is better to have an external registered agent than you do.
Outsourcing registered agent services
Except for sole proprietorships, all legal entities registered in the US with a state must appoint an agent. Registered agents must be available during normal business hours to receive service of process or government correspondence on your behalf.
Technically, this means that you can be your own registered agent without having to pay for the service.
However, you would need to physically be present at the address during business hours. This is not feasible for most business owners, especially those who work remotely or are constantly on the move.
Let’s suppose you own a restaurant or small business. You know you will always be available during business hours at the location. To avoid embarrassment in case of a lawsuit, you should still use a registered agent service. You could be served with a court order if you are listed as the registered agent of your business in this situation in front of your employees and customers.
Another reason to use a registered agent is to protect your privacy and address. Your home address could be made public if you run an online business without a physical office. A PO box cannot be listed as your registered agent’s residence.
A registered agent service fee is reasonable, usually between $99 and $150 per year.
An online business formation service in California can give you a year of free registered agent services if you don’t yet have your business launched.
#1 – Northwest Registered Agent – Best Overall
Northwest’s corporate guides can help with compliance and tips on bureaucracy at the state level. Online access allows you to scan documents and have access to your mail. Starting at $125/year with discounts for multi-state organizations.
Although the name may suggest a regional bias, Northwest Register Agent is an excellent choice for all types of businesses across the country. It is affordable and easy to start, with the highest level of service.
Northwest Registered Agent offers more than what is required for registered agent services. You can get features and services such as:
- A lifetime corporate guide service that will help you with compliance and maintaining your company
- Privacy by default: Mail forwarding, business address and not selling your data
- Online service with pre-filled state forms
- Reminders for annual reports
- Document scanning and storage
- Local scans are available on the same day
- All these features are included in the flat-rate registration agent service.
- There are no additional fees or upsells.
- The annual cost of this registered agent service is only $125.
- If you use the service within five states or more, the rate drops to $100
- This is a useful tool that you should always have. This can prove to be a pain if you are in a hurry.
- They listen carefully to what you have to say and ask lots of questions to make sure they fully understand your situation before offering any suggestions or solutions. Sometimes it’s easier and quicker to Google your question. There were a few occasions when I wanted to call to get an answer quickly, but they asked me for more details than I could handle.
- However, this is a minor issue against Northwest Registered Agent. It’s unlikely that you will ever consider it a problem unless you are really in need of quick advice and you have limited time.
#2 Harbor Compliance – The Best for Managing Multiple Entities
Ideal for managing multiple business entities in multiple states
- For multi-state companies and large organizations. Pre-filled state forms, annual reports notices, and custom notifications. Register agent plans start at $99/year, with bulk business discounts and additional volume discounts.
- Harbor Compliance ensures compliance for all 50 states with registered agent services and annual reports. It also helps to license businesses, as well as business licensing. If you have multiple companies or a large operation, this is a great option.
- Advanced compliance software powers this registered agent service. It is designed to save multi-state organizations time and money while increasing efficiency.
- Features like pre-filled state forms and user-friendly online tools, customized notifications, annual reports notices, and many more are included without additional fees.
- Harbor Compliance offers registered agent services starting from $99 per year. You can also save 5-10% by purchasing two or more years in advance.
- Harbor Compliance also offers bulk business rates, volume discounts, and other benefits to companies and organizations that have multiple entities or need registered agent services in more states.
- Harbor Compliance representatives are available to provide a customized quote for consolidating your registered agent requirements.
- Harbor Compliance’s biggest problem is that not all of its services are exceptional, but they are all good.
- They provide the same basic services as full-service registered agents service but don’t offer any premium or additional services. Harbor Compliance doesn’t offer small business support, although their customer service is excellent.
- Harbor Compliance’s services all are good. However, the only thing that is exceptional enough to be a talking point is the price.
#3 – ZenBusiness – The Best New Registered Agent/LLC Service
Best with LLC formations (Not my first choice as a standalone registered agent)
- ZenBusiness has a tremendous amount of positive reviews on Trustpilot and they are a very popular choice.
- Affordable registered agent services.
- ZenBusiness provides registered agent services and business formation packages to all types of entities nationwide.
- ZenBusiness also offers an online dashboard. You can view, download and print all of your important legal documents online at any time. This a great option if you are forming an LLC.
- Start business formation packages starting at $0 plus any state fees. You can add the registered agent service to your business formation package. The exact cost will vary depending on where you live.
- They are a small company and are known to outsource its registered agent services to unknown 3rd parties. It’s right there in the ZenBusiness terms of service.
- ZenBuiness has had 3 different logos in the past 3 years and they change their pricing options on a regular basis.
#4 – MyCompanyWorks – Best for Changing Registered Agents
Services and packages for business formation for corporations and LLCs from registered agents. MyCompanyWorks makes switching your registered agent easy with a simple online form. Purchases are covered by a 100% satisfaction guarantee and plans start at $99 per year.
MyCompanyWorks are best-known for its LLC formation and incorporation services. They also provide registered agent services in all 50 US states.
This service provider celebrated its 20th anniversary recently, so you can be sure it is a reliable company you can trust.
MyCompanyWorks is unique in that it allows you to switch registered agents easily. This is a great option for anyone who is currently your own registered agent, or if you are unhappy with another service.
The online forms include all the required fees and requirements to allow you to switch your registered agent to MyCompanyWorks. You can remain in compliance with state regulations without needing to fill out additional paperwork or deal with headaches.
MyCompanyWorks offers registered agent services starting at $99 per year. All purchases come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
#5 – RocketLawyer – Best For Ongoing Legal Services
Online Legal Services
Sign up for a premium membership to receive 25% off Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent service. Members get legal documents and legal questions free of charge, as well as discounted attorney services. The 100% satisfaction guarantee is included with all registered agent plans.
Rocket Lawyer has been a trusted name in the online legal services space. It’s also a great option for businesses looking to hire a registered agent.
Rocket Lawyer’s registered agent services provide state compliance, convenience, confidentiality, and privacy. Registering is easy and you will have online access to all documents. You can scan all documents and have them emailed to you so that you don’t miss any important legal notices.
Rocket Lawyer’s premium membership offers you affordable legal services. Rocket Lawyer members get free legal documents, consultations with attorneys, free answers to legal questions, and discounted rates on attorney services.
Rocket Lawyer’s premium membership is only $39.99 per month. This is equivalent to one legal document for non-members.
Rocket Lawyer offers registered agent services starting at $149.99. However, your premium membership will save you 25%
A 100% satisfaction guarantee is offered for registered agents and a free seven-day trial of Rocket Lawyer Premium Membership.
Other Registered Agents to Consider
IncFile, provides California registered agent service free for the first year with its Silver business formation package. They act as your registered office and give your California business the desired physical address. They also accept mail and service of process during normal business hours. If you just want a registered agent service, it cost $119 per year.
Incfile is based in Houston, Texas, and in the past 20 years, they have helped form over 600,000 businesses.
InCorp, a California registered agent presents an interesting conundrum. This is both for the average person trying to determine whether their services are worth it and for me as a rating system.
They charge $99 per annum, which is the same price as Harbor Compliance. Their online system is the main reason they are so far down the list. It is so difficult to use and cumbersome that it is not worth the cost. Their customer service is also poor enough to support such an intractable online system.
Swyft Filings will provide your California LLC with everything it needs as a California registered agent. This includes a physical address, the ability to accept mail and service of process during business hours, and compliance alerts that let you know when you must file a form in order to keep your company legal and in good standing.
They charge $149 annually for their services, but they are not on the same level as Northwest Registered Agents.
For a complete review of their offerings, see my Swyft Filings Review.
9. CSC Global
CSCGlobal is a “premium” California registered agent. They charge $299 per year per state, which is why I consider them a premium agent.
They will cover the filing fees your company pays when you change your registered agent. You could sign up for Northwest Register Agent’s services for a reasonable price, complete the forms to change California registered agent, and then pay the state filing fees or fees. The filing fees are not covered by the company.
Registered Agents Inc., the California registered agent, is the only one to focus exclusively on registered agent services. This is a great opportunity and you might be wondering why they are so far down the list. They charge $200 per state per year for the exact same services as Northwest Registered agent, which is $125 per annum. Registered Agents Inc. does not offer the same level of customer service as Northwest.
Methodology for Choosing the Best Registered Agent Service
When narrowing down the list of top choices, there were certain factors we considered. These considerations can also be used to determine the best registered agent service that suits your business.
These elements can be used to guide you in your search for registered agent services. Keep reading to learn what is important and what isn’t when you shop around. These considerations can then be weighed according to your individual needs.
Entity Formation Services
Many of the most skilled registered agents also offer online business formation services. You can also appoint the service provider to act as your registered agent during entity formation.
This is an important feature for anyone who hasn’t yet registered their business or filed paperwork with the state. You don’t have to do this all by yourself. An online service can help you. This will ensure that your papers are filed correctly and without errors.
You will often get a year of free registered agent services if you use the same registration service as your registered agents. This can all be done in just a few steps once you sign up and get started.
If you have an existing business, ignore this consideration. This does not apply to you.
Many registered agents offer very basic services. You can only reach them at an office location to receive government correspondence or service of process on your behalf. That’s it. They will only contact you if there is an issue or renewal of the service.
The best registered agent services will go above and beyond for you to ensure compliance. You will be reminded about deadlines and annual reports that are coming up, as well as any other requirements specific to your state.
A number of top registered agents are available to answer state-specific compliance questions, which would normally fall outside the reach of a registered agent.
This service may be more of a “nice-to-have” than a necessity if your business is small or has simple requirements. These services can be provided at no extra cost if you have the right registered agent.
Type of business and location
Your decision will also depend on the type of business that you are operating or forming.
Small businesses, LLCs, and companies with one location in one state will find registered agent services more beneficial than others. Some are for corporations and larger organizations that operate in multiple states.
Let’s suppose you have a corporation with several subsidiaries each with its own business. Consolidating all these entities into one registered agent would simplify your life and allow you to manage all the companies from one account.
This capability would not be appreciated by a dry cleaner, pizza shop, or online consultant.
Online Access to Your Account
It is important to know what mail, documents, and paperwork you send to your registered agent. This could be official government correspondence or legal documents.
It is important to have quick access to the mail. When they receive the paperwork, the best registered agents will inform you. Many agents will scan the documents and upload them online for you.
This is critical if you are not near your registered agent’s offices. You’d have to either drive to the office and pick it up, or wait for the agent to forward it to another address.
This feature will not apply if your registered agent’s office is within a few miles of your house or office. If you are willing to stop by and pick up documents in person, this feature won’t be as important.
Local corporate guides can help with compliance and tips on bureaucracy at the state level. Online access allows you to scan documents and have access to your mail. Starting at $125/year with discounts for multi-state organizations.
Which is the best registered agent service available? Based on extensive research, Northwest Registered Agent is the best option for most businesses.
If you fall under a certain category, you may want to consider another option.
MyCompanyWorks makes it easy to change registered agents. ZenBusiness provides registered agent services for small businesses and LLCs that are tailored to your business type.
Harbor Compliance can consolidate registered agent services for larger companies and individuals who manage multiple businesses across the country. Rocket Lawyer is the best option for you if you need ongoing legal services or legal documents.
I hope this guide helped you find the right registered agent for your business or at less narrowed it down to a selected list.
Steve Andrew is EntityFiling's main writer and editor.
Steve is an expert in business development and management with 14 years of business consulting experience. He assisted clients with LLCs and Registered Agent services using his business management degree.
Steve speaks and writes about business growth opportunities worldwide.