Which QuickBooks Product Do You Need?

QuickBooks Online will be suitable for most small businesses, while other QuickBooks products may be a better fit for freelancers or larger businesses.

Randa KrissJul 16, 2021
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QuickBooks is well-known for its vast suite of small-business accounting software and currently offers six distinct products: QuickBooks Self-Employed, QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Enterprise and QuickBooks for Mac.

One of the four QuickBooks Online plans will likely be the best choice for most small businesses. QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based, user-friendly solution that includes the core features needed to manage your business finances. This version of QuickBooks also offers hundreds of integration options and makes it easy to work with an accountant or bookkeeper.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Self-Employed is great for freelancers and independent contractors, and QuickBooks Desktop — which includes Pro, Premier and Enterprise — is ideal for medium to large businesses, especially those with advanced inventory, sales and reporting needs.

QuickBooks products comparison

QuickBooks Self-Employed

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Pro

QuickBooks Premier

QuickBooks Enterprise

QuickBooks for Mac

Price

Starts at $15 per month.

Starts at $25 per month.

Starts at $399.99 for one license (valid for 3 years).

Starts at $649.99 for one license (valid for 3 years).

Starts at $1,275 per year for one license.

Starts at $399.99 for one license (valid for 3 years).

Maximum number of users

1 user and 1 accountant.

Up to 25 users and 3 accounting firms.

3 users.

5 users.

40 users.

3 users.

Accessibility

Cloud-based; mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Cloud-based; mobile apps available for iOS and Android.

Locally hosted on PC.

Locally hosted on PC.

Locally hosted on PC. Option to purchase remote access add-on for associated costs.

Locally hosted on Mac.

Best for

Freelancers and independent contractors.

Small businesses.

Small businesses with advanced accounting needs; businesses that prefer locally installed software.

Medium-sized businesses; businesses looking for industry-specific tools.

Larger businesses with sophisticated inventory, reporting, pricing and accounting needs.

Small to medium-sized businesses that use Macs and prefer locally installed software.

QuickBooks Self-Employed

Best for: Freelancers and independent contractors.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is designed specifically for freelancers and independent contractors to separate their business and personal expenses and prepare their taxes. It includes basic invoicing capabilities and mobile apps for receipt capture and mileage tracking. Top-tier plans also offer direct support for tax filing.

While this QuickBooks product is easy to use, it doesn't offer extended accounting capabilities (e.g., billing, inventory, reporting) or a chart of accounts.

Pricing

From $15 to $35 per month.

Pros

  • Designed specifically for self-employed professionals.

  • Includes free access for your accountant or bookkeeper.

  • Customer support via live chat and email.

  • Option to upgrade for additional tax features and support.

Cons

  • Doesn’t include an accounting menu or chart of accounts.

  • Can have one user only.

  • Not easy to scale; requires transferring data to QuickBooks Online.

QuickBooks Online

Best for: General small businesses.

QuickBooks Online, often considered the industry standard for accounting software, is a powerful cloud-based product. While it’s fairly user-friendly, some basic accounting knowledge will help you get started. And its popularity makes it easy to work with an accountant or bookkeeper.

With four plan options and hundreds of third-party integrations, this QuickBooks product is easily scalable. Some of the more advanced capabilities of the top-tier versions, such as inventory management, reporting and job costing, also make it competitive with QuickBooks Pro.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks
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on QuickBooks's website

Pricing

From $25 to $150 per month.

Pros

  • Four QuickBooks Online versions make it easy to scale as your business grows.

  • Strong inventory, job costing and reporting capabilities with Plus and Advanced versions.

  • Multiple users available with Essentials, Plus and Advanced versions.

  • Ability to integrate with hundreds of other business tools.

Cons

  • Monthly costs can be expensive.

  • Some features (e.g., inventory tracking, project profitability) require top-tier plans.

  • Learning curve to get started.

» Read our full QuickBooks Online review

QuickBooks Pro

Best for: Small businesses with advanced accounting needs; businesses that prefer locally installed software.

QuickBooks Desktop offers a suite of software options that you download and install on your computer. QuickBooks Pro, its most basic version, offers a full range of features including invoicing, inventory management, reporting, billing, income and expense tracking and more. It can be a viable option for small or medium-sized businesses that need more than QuickBooks Online can offer or for those that prefer a locally installed solution.

QuickBooks Pro is available in two versions: Pro and Pro Plus. Pro Plus includes additional features such as unlimited customer support, automatic updates, data backup and recovery, and the option to add remote access via hosting. As a QuickBooks Desktop product, however, Pro is limited in terms of accessibility, mobile apps and the number of users.

QuickBooks Desktop Pro

Pricing

Pro starts at $399.99 for a three-year license for one user. Pro Plus starts at $299.99 per year for one user. Pro Plus also includes the option to add remote access via hosting for additional fees.

Pros

  • Features cover accounting, inventory management, invoicing, billing and more.

  • Over 200 third-party integrations.

  • One-time price may be more affordable than QuickBooks Online in some cases.

  • Option to use (or upgrade to) Pro Plus for additional features.

Cons

  • Remote access with Pro Plus (requires additional fees) only.

  • Receipt capture mobile app only available with Pro Plus.

  • Software only compatible with PCs.

  • Allows up to three user accounts; pricing increases per user.

  • Process to scale and transfer data to other Desktop versions can be complicated.

» Read our full QuickBooks Pro review

QuickBooks Premier

Best for: Medium-sized businesses; industry-specific tools.

The next QuickBooks Desktop version is QuickBooks Premier. Compared with Pro, Premier offers more in-depth capabilities, especially for reporting, job costing, inventory management, sales orders and project profitability. Additionally, Premier includes industry-specific features, making this QuickBooks product a good option for manufacturers, wholesalers, nonprofits and retailers.

The advanced functionality of Premier comes with a hefty price tag. You’ll also likely need some accounting knowledge to make the most of this system.

QuickBooks Desktop Premier

Pricing

Premier starts at $649.99 for a three-year license for one user. Premier Plus starts at $499.99 per year for one user, with the option to add remote access via hosting for an additional fee.

Pros

  • Advanced inventory management, reporting, job costing and project profitability functionality.

  • Industry-specific features and reporting.

  • Over 200 third-party integrations.

  • Option to use (or upgrade to) Premier Plus for remote access and/or additional features.

Cons

  • Remote access only with Premier Plus (requires additional fees).

  • Only allows up to five users; pricing increases per user.

  • Compatible with PCs only.

  • Unnecessarily expensive if you don’t use the advanced features.

  • Complicated process to scale; must transfer data to Enterprise.

» Read our full QuickBooks Premier review

QuickBooks Enterprise

Best for: Larger businesses with sophisticated inventory, reporting, pricing and accounting needs.

Enterprise is the most customizable, powerful version of all the QuickBooks products, making it ideal for larger businesses looking to efficiently manage their complex financial processes. It builds on Premier with advanced inventory, reporting and pricing capabilities, as well as VIP membership in Priority Circle, QuickBooks’ premium customer support service.

Unlike the other QuickBooks Desktop products, Enterprise is more easily scalable, offering four plans, as well as the option to add remote access via hosting. There’s also an accountant-specific version of Enterprise, QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise Accountant, which allows accountants to more easily work with their business customers.

When it comes down to it, however, QuickBooks Enterprise is expensive, especially if you opt for a higher-tier plan or need more than one user. The average small business probably doesn’t need the advanced features included in this software and can find a much more affordable alternative.

Pricing

Starts at $1,275 per year for one user. Pricing is based on the plan, number of users and whether you opt for hosting to access your software from any internet-enabled device.

Pros

  • Advanced inventory, pricing, reporting and sales features.

  • Four plans make it easier to scale than other QuickBooks Desktop products.

  • Industry-specific editions available.

  • Up to 40 users.

  • Priority customer service included.

Cons

  • Expensive; pricing increases per user.

  • Compatible with PCs only.

  • Remote access requires additional fees.

  • Detailed features make this the most difficult QuickBooks product to learn.

QuickBooks for Mac

Best for: Small to medium-sized businesses that use Macs and want locally installed software.

QuickBooks for Mac is the only desktop version of QuickBooks that is compatible with Mac systems and is similar to QuickBooks Pro in many ways.

QuickBooks for Mac includes solid accounting features, including invoicing, billing, inventory tracking, reporting, budget creation, sales and customer management and more. As a more niche QuickBooks product, however, it doesn't offer any third-party app integrations, mobile apps or remote access via hosting. Additionally, it can be difficult to work with your accountant (if they use a PC) or scale to another version of QuickBooks.

Pricing

Starts at $399.99 for a three-year license for one user.

Pros

  • Designed specifically for Macs.

  • Easy to set up and use.

Cons

  • No remote access, mobile apps or third-party integrations.

  • Only offers up to three users.

  • Can be difficult to scale, work with your accountant.

  • Not as widely used as other QuickBooks products; discontinued between 2016 and 2019.

» Read our full QuickBooks for Mac review

How to choose the right QuickBooks product

Consider these factors when determining which version of QuickBooks is best for your business:

  • Features. Think about the specific features you want to be included in your software and which are most important to your business’s success. Use a free trial or ask QuickBooks for a software demo if you’re stuck between products.

  • Accessibility. If you want to be able to use your software anywhere you have an internet connection, you’ll likely want to focus on QuickBooks Online or be prepared to pay more for the QuickBooks Desktop products that offer remote access via hosting.

  • Ease of use. Consider what the system’s interface looks like, how the navigation works and what setup entails. Your familiarity with accounting concepts and the availability of customer support is also worth weighing.

  • Scalability. Not all versions of QuickBooks offer multiple plans or make it simple to move your business from one product to another. If you think you’ll need more advanced features in the future, it’s important to make sure you choose an option that can accommodate those needs.

  • Users. All QuickBooks products have a maximum user limit, so think about who will need access to your account, especially since the desktop products are priced based on the number of users. Also consider whether you’ll work with an accountant or bookkeeper, now or in the future.

  • Cost. Some of QuickBooks’ products can be much more expensive than others — the higher-tier versions of QuickBooks Online, as well as QuickBooks Enterprise, for example — so evaluating what your business can afford ahead of time can help as you narrow down the options.