Small business accounting software helps you track income and expenses. Wave beats QuickBooks when it comes to price since it’s free. While QuickBooks isn’t free, it includes several features that Wave does not—1099 reporting and inventory tracking, to name a few. If you want a free option, then Wave is great; otherwise, QuickBooks is the clear winner.
When to Use QuickBooks
QuickBooks, the #1 accounting software on the market, should be used in most situations. If you’re looking for functional accounting software that’s used most widely by both small businesses as well as bookkeepers, then QuickBooks is most likely right for you. The software is simple enough to use yourself, but with more than 50,000 certified ProAdvisors, you can easily find professionals with experience using QuickBooks. Try them out today and get 50% off.
When to Use Wave Accounting
If you just don’t have the budget to invest in accounting software, then Wave is a great solution. First of all, Wave is absolutely free, so you will pay nothing to use this accounting software. Second, you can create invoices, enter bill payments and run financial statements in no time with Wave. One of the challenges with using Wave, however, is that it may be hard to find an expert in your local area. There are 2,500 certified Wave Advisors vs 50,000 QuickBooks ProAdvisors.
Wave vs QuickBooks at a Glance
Pricing Learn More
|Manage Accounts Payable|
|Statement of Cash Flows|
|1099 Reporting for Contractors|
|Budgeting and Forecasting|
|Manage Multiple Businesses with one Account|
|Number of Users Included|
Integrations with other Systems
Ease of Use Learn More
Customer Service Learn More
How We Determined When to Use QuickBooks & Wave Accounting
There are certain criteria that an accounting software must include in order to be considered legitimate. As part of our research, we looked at pricing and features, whether the product was easy or challenging to use, available customer service and support options, and customer feedback.
QuickBooks Online exceeds what is on this list, while Wave met most of the criteria. What Wave has going for it is that it meets the budget of every small business owner (because it is free). Even though Wave has a few limitations, it’s still a great option, not to mention a huge upgrade from a spreadsheet.
Below is a list of seven minimum requirements that an accounting software should include:
- Create Invoices – Ability to create invoices to bill customers for products and services they have purchased from you.
- Connect Bank/Credit Card Accounts – Link your bank/credit card accounts so that transactions are automatically downloaded into the accounting software.
- Manage Accounts Receivable – Track open customer invoices that are coming due or past due.
- Manage Accounts Payable – Track open vendor bills that are coming due or past due. You cannot do this in Wave.
- Accept Online Payments – Ability for customers to pay their invoices directly online.
- Produce Key Financial Statements – Ability to produce a Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows. Unfortunately, you can’t generate a Statement of Cash Flows with Wave.
- Multi-User Access – Ability to give other users, such as a bookkeeper or tax professional, access to your data.
Out of the seven criteria, you cannot manage accounts payable in Wave like you can in QuickBooks. However, you can keep track of bills that have been paid. Unlike QuickBooks, you cannot create a Statement of Cash Flows in Wave but you can create both the Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet reports. In the next section, we will provide you with an in-depth review of the pricing and additional features both Wave and QuickBooks Online have to offer.
Wave Accounting vs QuickBooks: Pricing & Features
As mentioned previously, Wave beats QuickBooks hands down when it comes to price, since Wave is absolutely free and QuickBooks starts at $15 per month. However, as the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for.” In this instance, QuickBooks knocks it out of the park when it comes to the number of features that are included over what is included with Wave.
QuickBooks Pricing & Features
QuickBooks has three pricing tiers between $15-$50 per month. The primary differences between all three plans boil down to the features that are included. As you might have guessed, the $15 per month plan (Simple Start) includes the least number of features while the QuickBooks Plus plan, at $50 per month, includes everything except the kitchen sink. Below is a summarized pricing and features table of all three tiers.
QuickBooks Online Tiered Pricing & Features
*QuickBooks Self-Employed is another cloud-based accounting software that is ideal for freelancers. It is very limited and does not include many of the features QuickBooks Online has. To learn more, check out QuickBooks Self-Employed: Is It Right for You.
QuickBooks Online Simple Start
QuickBooks Simple Start is the most economical plan at $15 per month. This plan comes with one user plus an accountant user. Unfortunately, you cannot manage your bills, print checks, provide 1099s to contractors or track your inventory with this plan.
QuickBooks Simple Start is ideal for a business owner who is just starting out and only sells services (no products), has no 1099 contractors to pay, and will settle their bills using a manual checkbook or debit/credit card.
QuickBooks Online Essentials
QuickBooks Essentials is the middle tier plan at $35 per month. For an additional $20/month, you get three users plus two accountant users (compared to one user and one accountant user for Simple Start). In addition to being able to give more users access to your data, you can manage your bills (accounts payable) and print checks directly from QuickBooks.
QuickBooks Online Essentials is ideal for a service-based business that pays most of their bills via check. If you select this plan and you have 1099 contractors, you would have to use Intuit Payroll or an outside payroll service to issue 1099s.
QuickBooks Online Plus
QuickBooks Plus is the top of the QuickBooks Online product line, priced at $50 per month. In addition to including all of the features that both Simple Start and Essentials have, it also includes the following three features that you will not find in Wave:
Unlike Wave, QuickBooks Plus allows you to keep track of payments made to 1099 contractors throughout the year. This is important because you will need to have this information when it’s time to issue 1099 forms, which you can also do in QuickBooks (and not Wave).
You can keep track of the cost, quantities and value of all products that you purchase for resale with QuickBooks Plus. This is key because you will always have up-to-date inventory and cost of goods sold figures to help you make informed business decisions. Unfortunately, if you want to track inventory in Wave, it is 100% manual.
QuickBooks Plus is one of the few accounting software programs that includes a budgeting and forecasting tool (Wave does not). After you’ve been in business for a couple of years, it’s beneficial to create a budget and start running reports to see how your actuals compare to what you expected to earn (income) and pay (expenses). Budgeting/forecasting can be a critical tool in recognizing trends so you can make the right business decisions.
Integration with Other Systems
QuickBooks integrates with over 400 software programs. Gusto, Stripe, PayPal, Shopify and Square are just a few of the apps that integrate with QuickBooks Online. Be sure to check out the complete list of apps.
Wave Pricing & Features
Unlike QuickBooks, Wave has one pricing plan – free. When you sign up for your Wave account, there is no credit card required and no bill to worry about unless you use one of their add-on services like Wave Payroll or Wave Payments. You might be surprised to learn of all of the features that come with an accounting software that costs you nothing.
Below are a few of the features included in Wave, along with a brief description of each.
Unlimited Number of Users
Wave allows you to invite an unlimited number of users to view and/or edit your data; by contrast, QuickBooks not only limits the number of users for each tier, but you have to pay for additional users beyond what is included in your plan. The only downside with granting user access in Wave is you cannot give any users access to bank and credit card information like you can with QuickBooks.
Manual Inventory Tracking
While Wave does allow you to track inventory, it is 100% manual. For example, when you purchase inventory, you will have to manually calculate the value per unit. In addition, when you sell an item, you will have to manually calculate the decrease in inventory and the cost of goods sold. With QuickBooks Plus, inventory cost, quantities and value are automatically calculated for you.
Manage Multiple Businesses with One Account
Got more than one business? Wave allows you to manage multiple businesses under the same account. This means that you just have to sign into Wave once and then toggle between businesses as you need to! Best of all, you can set up multiple businesses for the same price as the first one – absolutely free!
In contrast, QuickBooks does not currently offer the ability to manage multiple businesses with one sign-on unless you are a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. If you want to manage more than one business with QuickBooks, you would have to create separate accounts for each business.
Integration with Other Systems
While Wave does integrate with a few apps, it is extremely limited in this area when compared to QuickBooks. Wave integrates with only three apps (Shoeboxed, Etsy and PayPal), whereas QuickBooks integrates with more than 400.
Wave Accounting vs QuickBooks: Ease of Use
Both Wave and QuickBooks are intuitive products. There are a variety of ways to navigate each program, depending on what your preference is. Both products have a great dashboard that provides key information about your business, such as open invoices, paid expenses as well as profit & loss. Let’s take a look at each dashboard in more detail.
QuickBooks Ease of Use
Below is a snapshot of the dashboard in QuickBooks, along with a brief description of the information you will find here.
- Left Menu Bar – You can access just about any task from the left menu bar, including creating invoices, bank accounts and reports.
- Invoice – In this section, you can see the amount your customers owe you (accounts receivable), as well as the total amount of payments collected that you have deposited vs undeposited funds.
- Expenses – See the total expenses for a selected time period along with the top three categories (i.e., Maintenance & Repairs, Job Expenses, Cost of Goods Sold).
- Profit and Loss – Keep tabs on your profit/loss without having to run a report!
- Sales – Keep an eye on your sales throughout the month/year so that you can spot trends and make adjustments as needed.
Wave Ease of Use
Below is a snapshot of the dashboard in Wave, along with a brief description of the information you will find here.
- Income & Expenses – An at-a-glance look at income and expenses by month or for the year.
- Invoices Payable to You – Groups outstanding amounts owed to you by customers (known as accounts receivable) based on current (coming due) or overdue (1-30 days, 31-60 days, 61-90 days and over 90 days past due).
- Bills You Owe – Groups outstanding bills that you owe to vendor suppliers (known as accounts payable) based on current (coming due), or overdue (1-30 days, 31-60 day, 61-90 days and over 90 days).
Wave vs QuickBooks: Customer Service
When it comes to customer service and support options, QuickBooks is the clear winner. QuickBooks provides you with a variety of ways to get help when you need it, whereas Wave only offers one option—email support.
QuickBooks Customer Service
One of the reasons why QuickBooks charges for their software is because each tier comes with unlimited customer support. Depending on your preference, you have four primary customer support options available:
- Phone – Customer service reps are available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST and Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PST.
- Chat – You can chat with a support agent by logging into your account and then click on the Help option.
- Learn & Support – If you prefer to try to find the answers, check out the Learn & Support page. It includes short video tutorials as well as step-by-step instructions on how to perform basic tasks.
- Email – If you can’t find the answer to your question, there is a section on the website where you can submit detailed questions to the support team via email; you can expect to receive a response within 48 hours.
Another great resource to get up to speed quickly with QuickBooks is the Fit Small Business QuickBooks Course. We have designed a free course that includes video tutorials as well as written instructions to help you set up QuickBooks.
Wave Customer Service
As discussed, there is no comparison between Wave vs QuickBooks when it comes to customer service options. While Wave does not offer any kind of live telephone or chat support like QuickBooks does, it does have a couple of options:
- Submit a Support Ticket – To submit a support ticket, log into your Wave account and click on the “Help” link. Support tickets will generally be answered within one business day.
- Wave Help Center – Similar to the QuickBooks Learn & Support page, you will find several help guides, video tutorials and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the basics of using Wave.
Wave vs QuickBooks: Customer Reviews
Both Wave and QuickBooks have some great customer reviews. Unfortunately, what they both had in common is that improvement is needed when it comes to customer service. Below we have provided you with a summary of the customer reviews for both Wave and QuickBooks Online.
QuickBooks Customer Reviews
Small businesses like the QuickBooks Online app and the fact that they can invoice customers and manage their books directly from the mobile app. However, QuickBooks needs to improve their customer service. Many customers feel that the knowledge of the customer support team is not consistent; for example, one day they may get a customer support rep who knows their stuff and then the next time they call in they are on hold for long periods of time, waiting for an answer to their question.
Wave Customer Reviews
In a nutshell, small businesses really enjoy the benefits of using real accounting software like Wave and not having to pay a dime for it. They also like the user-friendly interface and the fact that you don’t have to have an accounting background to use the software. The area that Wave customers feel needs significant improvement is customer service. The fact that you can’t talk to a live customer service rep is frustrating enough, but on top of that, the response time to emails sent to the support team is very slow.
For specific details on customer reviews, check out our Wave customer review page.
It’s decision time. If you can afford it, go with QuickBooks Online. As we’ve discussed, you will be able to use QuickBooks whether you are a startup business with no sales or a fast-growing company with over a million in annual sales. On the other hand, if you can’t afford QuickBooks, you can’t go wrong with Wave.
QuickBooks makes it easy for you to track your income and expenses so that you have access to reliable financial statements. You never know when that potential investor will come knocking at your door or when you may need a business loan. With QuickBooks, you can quickly produce the financial statements that you need to take advantage of these opportunities. For a limited time only, receive 50% off QuickBooks Online.