Xero Review: Elegantly-Designed Accounting Software, For Less Than Quickbooks Online
Xero is new accounting software making a play for Quickbooks’ traditional territory. Is it right for you business? We break down Xero vs Quickbooks on price, ease of use, and features.
- Easy accounting
- Low-cost software
- Customer support
Is your business ready for accounting software? Some businesses don’t need it. If you work alone in your business and only have a few transactions, you can probably get away with keeping records in Excel.
But most businesses will need some sort of accounting software to help keep track of the various financial aspects of business and make things easier at tax time.
I recommend using accounting software if
- You invoice clients.
- You have a large number of transactions, either frequent deposits to your checking account, or a high volume of expenses.
- You have employees, or work with independent contractors.
If this describes your business, or you expect it will soon, you will want to consider getting started with some sort of accounting software.
Accounting software will keep track of your client invoices, so you always who owes you and how much.
It will be the register for your checking account (and other accounts) from which you will record all incoming and outgoing money. It will also allow you to pull various reports from this data and keep tabs on exactly how your business is doing.
If you have employees, or independent contractors, it can (if you have payroll turned on) keep track of payments to them and create the reports you will need for the government, such as W-2s and 1099s.
Xero is easy to use
Quickbooks is the standard in the bookkeeping industry. But Xero is going head to head with QuickBooks and making some waves, and it’s easy to see why.
I’ve been doing bookkeeping for about eight years and I’ve only worked with Quickbooks, so I was excited to dig into Xero. To state it plainly, Xero is easy to use. I’d say it’s easier than Quickbooks in just about every way that I tested.
When I sat down to use Xero for the very first time my goal was to do several things. I wanted to:
- Enter transactions into the checking account register
- Invoice a customer
- Receive a customer payment
- Receive a bill from a vendor
- Pay the received bill
I was testing Xero’s ease of use. How easy was it going to be to figure out how to do those five tasks? Turns out, it was pretty easy. I was able to do the basic functions of any small business without help. I didn’t watch any tutorials, or access any of the help documents.
Their online help is actually helpful, but they don’t have phone support
My biggest complaint with Quickbooks is that the online help is terrible. It’s basically impossible to get a question answered with their help sections. And even Googling your problem rarely leads to answers.
Over time, I’ve amassed a group of fellow bookkeepers and accountants that I can turn to when I have questions. As Xero is fairly new in the industry, finding local help would be more challenging. So their online help needs to be really useful.
I had a few tasks in Xero that I needed help figuring out how to do. I was impressed with the tutorials as I was able to get my questions answered pretty quickly, either through Xero’s help section or Google.
One thing I learned was that Xero doesn’t have “immediately available” phone support. This could be an issue if you had a unique situation that you needed help with.
They have email support and if you want to speak with someone over the phone you can include your phone number and someone will call you. Not ideal, as I know from experience, bookkeeping problems are stressful and it’s good to get them handled as soon as possible.
When comparing similar plans, Xero is cheaper than Quickbooks, often by quite a bit. If you don’t need payroll, the two services are similarly priced. However, adding in payroll makes Quickbooks quite a bit more expensive.
- Xero Starter plan is $9 a month
- Xero Standard plan is $30 a month
- Xero Premium Plan is $70 a month
All Xero plans, even the starter plan, include payroll and can process 1099s. They also accommodate an unlimited number of users. These are above-and-beyond features that come standard on Xero. Most accounting software charges extra for these. Here’s a list of the features of each plan.
Important note: Xero payroll is only currently available in 32 states as of this writing, though they are adding more all the time, so double check that your state is included.
Compare Xero’s pricing to Quickbooks
- Quickbooks Self Employed is $10 a month
- Quickbooks Simple Start is $15 a month
- Quickbooks Essentials is $30 a month (add payroll for $39 a month plus $2 per employee)
- Quickbooks Plus is $40 a month (add payroll for $39 a month plus $2 per employee)
Most businesses will fall into Xero’s standard plan or Quickbooks Essentials. Both plans are $30 a month if you don’t need payroll. If you do, Xero is significantly less expensive. Quickbooks charges you for each additional user; Xero does not.
Should you switch to Xero?
Xero is full-featured accounting software that is both cheaper and easier to use than Quickbooks Online. Seems like a no brainer, right?
During my two week trial, I got a good handle on the basics, but there’s a lot I didn’t get to. (Understandably, it would take most users a year to touch most of the features in accounting software.) I was first concerned that perhaps Xero went light on features in an effort to simplify things, but the folks at Xero assure me that’s not the case. They argue that Xero actually offers more than Quickbooks Online. You’ll have to be the judge of which program works best for your business, but I do get the sense that Xero is innovating a lot faster than Intuit, and Xero’s design is definitely superior.
Pros & cons
- Easy to use — Xero has an easy-to-use interface, which far surpasses Quickbooks.
- Not too costly — Xero's basic plan is just $9 a month.
- Many features — Xero lets you enter transactions into the checking account register, invoice a customer, receive a customer payment, receive a bill from a vendor, pay the received bill, and more.
- No phone customer support — Xero's online support can be helpful, but there's no phone support if you get into a real bind.
Xero is less expensive and, hands-down, easier to use than Quickbooks. If you don’t need to share your accounting software with a bookkeeper or tax professional, you should probably go with Xero. On the other hand, if you need to share your books with an outside professional, check to make sure they’re comfortable using Xero, too. (Although, if not, you may want to convince them to check it out, too!)