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Quicken vs. QuickBooks: How They Compare

Quicken Home and Business (QHB) and QuickBooks (offering desktop and online versions) are proven favorites among business owners for tracking finances. Each accounting software was created for different purposes by Intuit, the same company that created the online personal money manager Mint.com and TurboTax.

Here we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of both business accounting programs in terms of cost and features. It’s worth noting that all versions of Quicken, including Quicken Home and Business, were sold by Intuit to a private equity firm in 2016 — and a number of significant improvements have recently been introduced.

The main thing for prospective purchasers to ponder before choosing one of these programs is how many features they truly need for their small businesses. Both measure a business’s financial condition in real time, both generate checks, invoices and other business forms, and both keep detailed records of business assets and liabilities. QuickBooks, however, performs those services in much greater detail and with much more robust features (usually at a higher cost) than QHB. For simpler businesses, mainly those without inventory or employees, QHB may offer all the necessary features.

Quicken Home and Business overview

It’s not surprising that QHB would offer fewer business features than QuickBooks since Quicken was originally created as a tool to help people organize their personal finances — and simplify income tax preparation by dovetailing with TurboTax. On the personal finance side, QHB tracks income and expenses, generates a household budget, manages investment accounts, mutual funds and retirement planning, among other features.

While the program’s business accounting features may not be as comprehensive as those in QuickBooks, they are likely to be more than enough for, say, tracking income from rental properties or managing a side business. QHB automatically categorizes business or rental property transactions, generates profit/loss projections and cash flow reports, and also helps maximize business tax deductions and calculate capital gains.

The new QHB also offers custom invoices, a bill management center with email alerts and the capacity to pay for free with Quicken Bill Pay, expanded report capacity including a real-time financial overview showing how much money is available at any moment, organization of business documents such as contracts and leases and investment performance analysis.

It’s easy to understand how potential uses might be attracted to the economy of one program that manages both personal and business finances. It is worth noting, though, that financial experts think it’s wise to separate the two as much as possible — especially to simplify tax preparation.

It is also worth noting that QHB is only offered as a desktop program, meaning it can only be accessed from a personal computer and/or a mobile app. Some might consider that a minor inconvenience given the comparatively low cost ($89.95 for the first year, then $99.95 after that). However, if you don’t need a desktop version of QuickBooks, you can save money with the monthly online-based subscriptions.

 

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QuickBooks overview

QuickBooks is certainly a known entity among small business owners. The software is currently used by 4.3 million customers. Unlike Quicken Home and Business, QuickBooks is offered in several versions as a desktop program (QuickBooks Pro, Premier and Enterprise) and an online service (QuickBooks Online).

Intuit currently offers three desktop versions of QuickBooks subscriptions: Pro 2018 ($219.95), Premier 2018 ($379.95), and Enterprise 18.0 ($990). QuickBooks Online is currently available in four different plans through monthly subscriptions: Self-Employed ($5 for the first three months, $10 after), Simple Start ($10 the first three months, $20 after), Essentials ($17 the first three month, $35 after), and Plus ($30 the first three months, $60 after).

QuickBooks offers an abundance of business and financial management features including tools for accounting, payroll, tax preparation and filing, tracking of financial accounts, expense categorization, budgeting, processing of payments and management of accounts payable and receivable.

QuickBooks allows users to track a business’s income and expenses by automatically downloading data from bank accounts and credit cards. The least expensive version of the program can create purchase orders, invoices, estimates and other frequently used business forms. It can generate more than 100 reports automatically regarding profit and loss, expenses, cash flow, payroll details, sales and sales tax, product costs and inventory. It can also track time spent by project, employee and client.

More expensive versions can forecast future revenues and expenses, run more than 150 reports (including reports specific to the user’s industry), create job estimates, automate inventory reordering, track profitability by product, track billable time, track sales with a weekly summary, track gross margins by inventory item and much more.

Quicken vs. QuickBooks: How they compare

Clearly, QuickBooks can provide a business owner with a wealth of valuable tools, yet it also seems clear that some small businesses will never require them. For example, if you’re a freelance contractor with just a few clients, you might not need all the bells and whistles.

QuickBooks and Quicken both offer many of the same basic business tools. They each allow business owners to create invoices, track bills, generate real-time reports, sales and sales tax. Each allows users to reconcile bank and credit card accounts by automatically downloading transaction reports. And each helps to manage investment accounts and mutual funds, while simplifying tax preparation.

If your business needs are relatively simple, QuickBooks might offer more than you need. On the other hand, QHB may be too simplistic: it only offers basic business forms such as invoices and checks. If that’s all your business requires, however, there’s no need to pay more for the capacity to generate customer receipts, purchase orders, statements detailing finance charges and so forth.

QHB does well with the basics, especially considering improvements in the program over the past two years such as the addition of custom invoicing, a bill management center, real-time financial reports and the like. QuickBooks’ mileage tracking, transaction sorting, smart invoicing, inventory tracking, billable time tracking and payroll services, etc., meanwhile, are certainly impressive features.

Quicken vs. QuickBooks: At a Glance

Software Cost Features
Quicken Home and Business $89.99 a year the first year, $99.99 after that
  • Track income/expenses
  • Generate a household budget
  • Manage investment accounts
  • Investment performance analysis
  • Retirement planning
  • Profit/loss projections
  • Cash flow reports
  • Maximize business tax deductions
  • Calculate capital gains
  • Custom invoices
QuickBooks QuickBooks Desktop:

Pro 2018 ($219.95)

Premier 2018 ($379.95)

Enterprise 18.0 ($990)

QuickBooks Online: Self-Employed ($5 for the first three months, $10 after)

Simple Start ($10 the first three months, $20 after)

Essentials ($17 the first three months, $35 after)

Plus ($30 the first three months, $60 after)

The features will vary depending on which version of QuickBooks you buy, but in general, the software can:

  • Track income/expenses
  • Manage bills/accounts payable
  • Invoice
  • Run reports such as profit and loss, expenses and balance sheets
  • Track sales tax
  • Track inventory
  • Create purchase orders
  • Track time spent per employee, contractor or project
  • Pay 1099 contractors

Fees accurate as of Nov. 2, 2018

The bottom line

Which program is best? That’s a question best answered after careful thought about the financial management tools your business really needs — and the price you can afford. Choosing wisely is especially important since the programs are not very compatible. If you begin with QHB, it will be difficult to convert your Quicken data into QuickBooks and vice-versa.

Quicken Home and Business might have seemed less desirable a few years back, before Quicken’s new owners incorporated improvements that made QHB competitive with QuickBooks in terms of the simplest, most fundamental tools offered. Tools that might be all a very small business needs to keep its finances in order.

That said, it is clear that QHB is ill-equipped to provide the complex tools and services required by many small or midsized businesses. Does your business need inventory management? Profit and loss forecasting? Dozens and dozens of up-to-the-minute business reports? Tracking of billable hours? If the answer is yes to any of those, QuickBooks is most likely the program you need.

 

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