Each version of Intuit’s flagship product provides slightly different features and options. Let’s review each version’s features, pricing and advantages to determine which is the best Quickbooks for your small business.
A QuickBooks Comparison Chart
Here’s how the desktop and online versions compare:
|Features||QuickBooks Desktop||QuickBooks Online|
|Retail Cost||$399.99-$1,275 (software only)
$299.95-$1,275* (software and services)
|$25-$150 per month|
|Software or Online||Installed software||Online|
|Connectivity||No Internet needed||Requires Internet|
|Online Backups||Not included||Included|
|Data Access||Installed computer||Multiple platforms/devices|
|Data Anywhere||Additional hosting fees||Included|
|Unlimited Tech Support||Available for a fee||Included|
|Software Upgrades||Not included||Included|
|30-Day Free Trial||Included||Included|
|Multiple Inventory Tracking||Requires additional fee||Not included|
|Industry-Customized Version||Available for a fee||Not available|
QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop: Pros and Cons
There’s no single, correct choice for QuickBooks online or desktop versions. Your decision will come down to which version best meets your small business’s needs; each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Let’s review the QuickBooks desktop version:
QuickBooks Desktop Pros
- Allows for industry-specific and advanced options that are only available on the desktop version. If you do business in any of these 5 industries, QuickBooks desktop is likely the better choice:
- Manufacturer and wholesaler
- Professional services
- Can perform major functions without an Internet connection
- You own the software and the data stays on your computer
- You can manage multiple company files
- Best for a business with extensive product lines or inventory tracking needs
QuickBooks Desktop Cons
- Higher upfront costs
- Limited support without additional fees
- No software updates without additional fees
The online version has its positives and drawbacks, too:
QuickBooks Online Pros
- Accessible on multiple platforms and devices
- No upfront investment, just monthly fees
- Free updates
- Unlimited customer support
QuickBooks Online Cons
- You’re renting the software and data is stored online
- Limited by Internet access and speed
- Manages only 1 company file
- No industry-specific versions
While you can always change between QuickBooks online and desktop versions —with help from an Intuit service representative — you’ll need to export all of your data out of the desktop version and import it into the online version. There’s no integration between the desktop and online versions; you can’t use both and sync them.
Also, note that each version values inventory differently. Online uses the “first in, first out” (FIFO) method. Desktop uses the average cost method; however, you can switch to the FIFO method under Advanced Inventory Settings.
QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Features
The difference between QuickBooks online and desktop versions comes down to their respective accounting capabilities. Here’s the rundown.
QuickBooks Online Features
Features available only with the QuickBooks online versions:
- Automatically schedule and transmit transactions
- Attach photos to transactions
- Detailed audit log to review actions and track changes
- Track by location or class
- Relabel customers with additional label options
- Automatically sync bank transactions
- Unlimited time tracking and reports
- Journal entries with multiple accounts payable and accounts receivable lines
- Multiple budgets per calendar or fiscal year.
This cloud-based QuickBooks version is accessible with a web connection, regardless of device or location.
QuickBooks Desktop Features
Features only available with the desktop version:
- Industry-specific versions
- Job-costing module
- Estimates vs. actual job costing reports
- Business planning, forecasting and balance sheet by class
- Advanced inventory tools, including average cost valuation
- Automatic inventory reorder planning
The enterprise version includes “enhanced pick, pack and ship” options as well as mobile inventory barcode scanning.
You can add the following services for QuickBooks Desktop:
- Point-of-sale integration
- Email invoice and accept online and mobile payments
- Mobile time tracking
QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Comparing Support
QuickBooks online provides unlimited support and upgrades as part of the monthly fee. Customer support hours vary slightly by product.
Unlike the online version, QuickBooks desktop doesn’t include unlimited support in its initial fees for the Pro and Plus versions. Support, data backups and upgrades retail for $299.99 a year for Pro and $499.99 per year for Premier. The enterprise version includes customer support, upgrades and data backups.
All versions include self-serve online support, featuring an online knowledge base, video tutorials and a community forum where QuickBooks users answer questions from users.
QuickBooks Online Reviews
Both the online and desktop versions are widely named among the top options for business accounting software. QuickBooks online reviews include high ratings (4 or 5 stars out of 5) for overall satisfaction, value and features.
However, customer support is the biggest recurring complaint for users, with some reviews stating it could be days before they heard from customer service representatives for desktop support.
QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Comparing Trials
Both versions of QuickBooks offer 30-day risk-free trials.
The online version of QuickBooks allows you to access all features during the trial. There’s no software to install. You can sign up online to start using the free trial.
If you opt not to continue after 30 days, you’ll lose access to the program, but you can recover your data in a read-only format for 90 days.
QuickBooks Desktop Pricing vs. Online
When you weigh QuickBooks desktop pricing vs. online pricing, it might come down to whether you want to pay a steeper fee upfront or a smaller monthly fee.
Fees for QuickBooks Online
- Self-Employed: $15 per month
- Simple Start: $25 per month
- Essentials: $40 per month
- Plus: $70 per month
- Advanced: $150 per month
You can choose the free trial for 30 days or get 50% off the first 3 months.
You’ll also pay additional fees if you want to add full-service payroll or self-service payroll. Each has a base monthly fee plus a $4, $8 or $10 per employee charge.
Intuit will sometimes offer discounts as high as 50% off and offer free trials of its software for 30 days. The fees are lower upfront than buying the offline version of the software but add up over time. The software version carries a much higher upfront cost but no recurring monthly fees.
Fees for QuickBooks Desktop
- Pro 2021 (software only): $399.99 upon purchase
- Pro Plus 2021 (software and added services): $299.99 per year
- Premier 2021 (software only): $649.99 upon purchase
- Premier Plus 2021 (software and added services): $499.99 per year
- Enterprise 21.0 (software and services): $1,275 per year
If you prefer, you can do an annual subscription for Pro and Premier. These plans offer Plus versions featuring unlimited customer support, data backups and software upgrades. The cost is $299.99 for Pro Plus and $499.99 for Premier Plus per year before promotional discounts. QuickBooks Enterprise features added capabilities, including 6 times the list capacity and up to 1 million customers, vendors and inventory items, 100,000 classes, 45 custom fields and up to 40 users.
The ability to pay employees through the software requires either an annual fee of $500 or a $50 monthly fee, plus a $2 per employee monthly charge.