Sage and QuickBooks are two of the top accounting software solutions out there, but we think QuickBooks is better than Sage. While they both offer a great range of features, usability, and support, Sage loses to QuickBooks on one important factor – the price.
Nobody starts a business because they love the paperwork. And yet, it still needs to be done. With accounting software, the boring work can be automated, and alerts can help guide managers to accomplish the rest.
Here's our full comparison of these two impressive software options.
QuickBooks and Sage don't exactly throw out the book when it comes to accounting software. They both cover all the core functions your business will need, at least if you're in their target audience of small or mid-sized operations.
Here's how each service compares to the other when it comes to their main features.
- Granular, customizable reports
- Mobile app lets you track miles driven
- 30-day free trial
- Customer support isn't the best
- A little pricey for small operations
- Easy to use
- Integrates with Microsoft 365
- 30-day free trial
- App selection is limited
- Expensive and clunky per-user pricing
QuickBooks tracks expenses and projects, automatically slotting expenses into the correct categories while tracking tax details. Its templates allow businesses to customize their bills, invoices, and reports, among others. A mobile app lets users input information on the go, like snapping photos of receipts to log transactions, and even using your smartphone's GPS to track miles driven for any travel deductions.
Managers can also set the permission level for each user, keeping sensitive data secure, while the Always-On Activity Log feature records every transaction for simple audit prep.
Sage, with its Sage 50cloud software, focuses on incoming and outgoing cash flow while supporting payments and banking, payroll, reporting, job costing, and advanced inventory management. The service integrates with Microsoft 365, which is itself available through a special deal. Certain transactions are automatically recorded, like purchase orders, while others can be prompted with alerts to ensure managers stay on top of everything with minimal effort.
Invoicing and Payments
QuickBooks supports personalized and recurring invoice templates with automated reminders – a level of automation that will save plenty of time, while making sure no invoice falls through the cracks. Billable hours can be automatically added, and integrations for the job are available, including Google Calendar and the QuickBooks-owned TSheets. Plus, with automatic matching, the software will find which payment is tied to which invoice – an extra measure that will help balance the books far faster.
Sage users can head over to their “Cash Flow Manager” section to track their invoices. Through it, they can see account balances, cash coming in soon, and cash going out. Custom settings will let users sort through finances by time period or type of transaction (i.e. invoices, quotes, or purchases). As with QuickBooks, users can easily create custom recurring invoices, as well as alerts. Purchase orders, invoices, payments, bank feeds, and account reconciliation can all be tracked, while detailed forecasts of future income or expenses are also supported.
QuickBooks doesn't include inventory tracking in its stripped-down Simple Start plan, but does in the Plus and Advanced plans. With it, users can track every product, getting alerts when inventory is low and needs to be restocked. Managers can quickly purchase what they need – with all vendor information stored within the software itself – and the total value of the goods is easy to see at a glance. Inventories can be imported through Excel files, while integrations can pair QuickBooks with ecommerce options including Amazon, Shopify, and Etsy.
Sage helps users access advanced inventory features, including many similar abilities like purchase order alerts and individual inventory item listings to speed up transactions while tracking costs. Users can also view quantities on hand at any given time. To set it up, users will need to enter each item's data – including sales account, inventory account, and cost of sales account – and the system will then track costs and quantities down to each item on a daily basis.
QuickBooks integrates with a business's accounts across a number of platforms, including bank accounts, credit cards, and other services like PayPal and Square. Every expense can be automatically steered into the right category, and the mobile app can automatically capture the data on a photo of a receipt, transcribing it into an expense (or invoice, if needed). Plus, a cash flow statement updates in real time, letting users know their profits and losses.
We already mentioned Sage's Cash Flow Manager, which covers expenses just as well as invoices. Estimated expenses can be created for each job, tracked in the Job Costing section, and factored into other categories of accounting like inventory adjustments or payroll.
QuickBooks charges extra for time tracking with the TSheets by QuickBooks add-on. It's an advanced tracker, though, with a lot of features in its two plans: Premium, for $20 per month plus $8 per user per month; and Elite, for $40 per month plus $10 per user per month. Premium has job/shift scheduling, reports, time-off management, alerts, and a time clock kiosk with facial recognition, while Elite adds abilities such as geofencing, timesheet signatures, a feed for project activity, and more advanced project estimates.
Sage offers time tracking through a different service as well, Sage HRIS, which stands for Human Resource Information Systems.
Employee payroll is another service that is only available for QuickBooks users through an extra service: Payroll Core, for $45 per month, plus $4 per employee per month; Payroll Premium, for $75 per month, plus $8 per employee per month; or Payroll Elite, for $125 per month, plus $10 per employee per month. Core supports full-service payroll, with unlimited payroll runs, auto-calculated taxes and end-of-year forms, and an online portal for employees to see their pay stubs and tax data. Premium adds same-day direct deposit, auto time tracking, and role-based security, while Elite adds tax penalty protection, plus access to a professional for setting up or troubleshooting.
Sage includes Payroll in its main plans at no extra cost. With it, employees can set up direct deposits, paycards, or direct deposit checks alike, while managers can track all payroll checks and taxes easily. In addition, employee tips can be tracked and vacation or sick time hours can be logged. Paychecks can be based on hours worked according to time tickets.
Integration with Other Software
Both services offer an app marketplace for third-party integrations, but QuickBooks has more apps available than Sage.
QuickBooks' App Store covers every major category of accounting-related needs: options include ‘Calculate quotes', ‘Get funded', ‘Make payments', ‘Sync data', ‘Track expenses', and ‘Track inventory'. PayPal, Square, and Shopify are some more recognizable names, although integrations like Fathom, Gusto, and Housecall Pro are a few of the most commonly used.
Sage offers its own app marketplace, but featuring just 11 apps that integrate with Sage 50cloud specifically. They include automation service AutoEntry, Sage Checks and Forms for printable checks, and POS integrations including EPOS Now and Stripe. Still, it's a smaller selection than QuickBooks.
Reporting and Dashboards
QuickBooks includes a Reports Center on its main menu. With it, users can set new customized reports or view previous ones. With the “management reports” section, users can add extra touches like a cover page, table of contents, preliminary pages, or end notes. Users can track balance sheets, statements of cash flow, open invoices, customer reports, sales tax reports, and budget overviews.
Sage offers more than 150 types of reports, including for specialized industries like construction, manufacturing, or distribution. Some of Sage's best reporting features aren't available with all plans: for example, ‘Audit Trails', which logs transactions for better auditing, is available with Premium and Quantum but not Pro.
QuickBooks offers four plans, while Sage offers three.
The two services are tough to compare because of the different ways that they charge companies for the number of users on a plan. QuickBooks has capped the number of users that each plan supports for a set monthly price – for instance, the Plus plan is capped at five users, so any company with between one and five users will pay $70 a month. Meanwhile, Sage charges a per user price that has discounts built in for each additional user: Its Premium Accounting plan costs $84.58 per month for one user, but $194.75 per month for five users.
Still, no matter how you slice it, QuickBooks is a less expensive service. Here's how it breaks down.
The QuickBooks Simple Start plan costs $25 per month, and supports one user. Features include contact management, expense tracking, a mobile app, and unlimited invoicing and estimating. Reporting features are limited, but third-party integrations can help fill the gaps (some integrations are free, while others cost extra).
The QuickBooks Plus plan costs $70 per month, and is capped at five users. You'll get all the features found in Simple Start, plus inventory tracking, bill management, project profitability tracking, and time tracking features. The plan introduces a project hub as well, which lets users group labor costs, payroll, and expenses with the projects they belong to.
The QuickBooks Advanced plan costs $150 per month, capped at 25 users. Subscribers get the premium experience: A dedicated account manager, priority customer support, role-based user permissions, batch importing, online training courses, and advanced reporting features.
Lastly is the Self-Employed plan, at $15 per month for one user. This cheaper option gives users many of the features from the Simple Start plan, but replaces some features aimed at full businesses – namely sales and sales tax tracking, 1099 contractor management, and estimates management – with new features best for freelancers, such as quarterly tax management complete with alerts.
In addition to the four main plans above, businesses will likely want to get the Payroll add-on: Core is $45 per month, plus $4 per employee per month; Payroll Premium is $75 per month, plus $8 per employee per month; and Payroll Elite is $125 per month, plus $10 per employee per month.
Sage offers two different pricing plans: Accounting Start and Accounting.
Sage's Accounting Start plan is for one user and costs $10 per month. It's best for individual entrepreneurs and micro-businesses, and brings features such as billing and invoicing, purchase order records, job management, automated bank reconciliation, and Sage Security Shield. Users will get remote access and customer support, and can easily integrate with Microsoft 365 and AutoEntry for an additional cost.
Sage's Accounting plan is for unlimited users. Users will get all of the Start plan's features and benefits, plus Advanced Job Costing for more informed decision making, Advanced Budgeting to better view performance, and Audit Trails to ensure a clear paper trail on your account at all times.
Both services offer a 30-day trial of their software for free, for any plan tier or number of users.
Sage includes a few extra deals – for example, users will get 50% off for the first year of any plan if they sign up for a full year. They can also add access to the Microsoft 365 suite for $150 per year in addition to their plan's base cost.
If users on the QuickBooks Simple Start plan opt to skip their trial, they'll qualify for half off their first three months, paying $12 a month rather than $25.
Best Value for Money
While it can be tough to compare two accounting services with such different pricing methods, it's easy to say which is cheaper: QuickBooks offers the less expensive plans. QuickBooks' single-user plan is $25, compared to Sage's $56.08 option, while QuickBooks' mid level and enterprise plans are $70 for five users and $150 for 25 users, compared to Sage's comparable plans at $84.58 for just one mid level user and $139.58 for just one enterprise user.
Even including QuickBooks' Payroll plan, Sage is likely to cost more for similar features.
Both accounting services are set up for easy navigation, with a main dashboard that displays the key stats to know and is accompanied by a sidebar which links to further categories. Each of these categories offers more in-depth stats, files, templates, and reports, along with settings that can be adjusted. The main dashboards are customizable, letting managers predetermine which stats are most important to see first, from Receiveables and Payables to the year to date's revenues.
The number of users supported changes with each plan. QuickBooks offers a flat rate with a cap on users, while Sage charges per-user, but using scalable pricing so that the per-user cost drops with each additional user. Both are designed for smaller companies, with a maximum of 25 users for QuickBooks and 10 users for Sage.
QuickBooks is available on all the most common devices and browsers, but Sage 50cloud is not available on Macs.
QuickBooks works on Windows PCs and Macs, as well as the top three browsers: Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Edge. If using Windows, users must be operating on Windows 7 or newer, with at least 4GB of RAM and the Intel Core i5 or a comparable processor. If on a Mac, they'll need OS X “Panther” 10.13 or newer.
Sage also requires Windows 7 or newer to run on a PC. It does not directly install on a Mac OS, however, though Sage offers a separate service – Sage Business Cloud Accounting – which does work on Macs.
Plug-ins and Extensions
The process for adding third-party integrations is fairly simple for each service, though the specifics vary with the integrations being installed. Some users have noted that unsubscribing from QuickBooks' extra services isn't quite as easy, though none have complained about Sage.
QuickBooks and Sage aren't without their learning curves, which is why their customer support options matter. Thankfully, they both offer strong support, with a variety of options for those with differing learning styles.
Training Options and Support
QuickBooks offers an online portal that users can check to see if their issue is a common one. The portal offers articles and videos, while other online resources outside the portal include a community forum, a blog, and video training courses.
Sage offers a wealth of training material online. This includes Sage University's scheduled or pre-recorded training courses, the Sage Knowledgebase – a library of technical information, reference materials and guides – and a “Year-end Centre,” which explains the latest updates and tips for anyone who's already knowledgeable, but wants to keep up with new features.
QuickBooks offers a live chat function, available between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT on Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT on Saturday. Phone support is available during the same hours.
Sage's phone support is 24/7. The service also offers a Live Q&A, a virtual meeting room in which the support team addresses specific topics between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. EST.
QuickBooks' parent company, Intuit, Inc., is a US software company that has a range of other services, most notably tax prep software TurboTax and financial aid app Mint.
The first QuickBooks service debuted in 2002, but this review has looked specifically at their cloud accounting software, QuickBooks Online.
Who Uses Quickbooks Online?
QuickBooks Online has 7.43% of the small business accounting software market in the US today – for comparison, Sage 50cloud has just 0.58%.
Aimed at small or mid-sized operations, QuickBooks' audiences tend to fall into certain industries, including services like drywalling, bookkeeping, salons, and solar supply companies.
Other QuickBooks Products
QuickBooks has a surprising amount of accounting-related services. Some of the biggest after QuickBooks Online include Live Bookkeeping (which gives businesses their own accounting professional to balance the books), accounting softwares Desktop Pro and Desktop Premier, the Point of Sale check-out system, the aptly named payments services Payments, and the ecommerce software Commerce.
In addition, the company sells physical products such as personalized checks and office supplies.
Eagle-eyed readers might have spotted the British spelling of Sage's resource “Centre” – a giveaway that the service's provider, the Sage Group plc, hails from the UK.
With 6.1 million customers around the globe and offices in 24 countries, the company is the world's third-biggest supplier when it comes to enterprise resource planning software. Sage Group was founded in 1981, but Sage 50cloud is a relatively young cloud-based solution for small business's accounting needs.
Who Uses Sage 50cloud?
The target audience for Sage 50cloud is the same as QuickBooks Online's: Small or medium sized businesses. Sage offers more specific software solutions for more specific industries as well, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, chemicals, food and beverage, professional services, non-profits, and startups.
Other Sage Products
Like QuickBooks, Sage has a lot of accounting services. Sage Timeslips supports billing and time tracking, while CakeHR supports workforce management. Plus there's the Sage X3 finance management software, the more advanced financial planning software Sage Intacct, the on-premise human capital management software Sage HRMS, the cloud HR system Sage People (built on the Salesforce platform), and Sage Fixed Assets, which tracks and manages business assets. There's more, but you get the point: Sage is one of the few accounting software providers that can outdo QuickBooks' range of services.
Overall, we'd recommend QuickBooks Online over Sage 50cloud. That said, both are solid offerings with good support and ease of use, along with all the features most small businesses will need.
The biggest reason? Pricing. Even after factoring in QuickBooks' add-ons like Payroll, Sage is almost always more expensive, and often by a fair amount.
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