Xero VS Sage VS QuickBooks: Which Is Better?
Xero, Sage, and QuickBooks are all excellent accounting software options for small businesses, but which one is best will depend on your business's needs.
|Ideal For||Mid- to large-sized businesses that want robust cloud-based software||Mid- to large-sized businesses with strong accounting backgrounds||Small- to mid-sized businesses that want software with ample features & integrations|
|Pricing||Starts at $12/month||Starts at $56.08/month||Starts at $299.99/year|
|Cloud-Based Or Installed||Cloud-based||Installed||Installed|
|Standout Features||Unlimited users, 800+ integrations||165+ reports, highly customizable||130+ reports, 200+ integrations|
|What’s Missing?||Limited tax support, no phone support||Limited integrations, outdated UI, poor customer support||No email support, limited users|
If you’ve been searching for accounting software and feeling torn between some of the leading options on the market, you aren’t alone. At first glance, accounting software may seem extremely similar, but there are actually big differences and even minor nuances when you scratch below the surface.
In this post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at three of the top accounting software options on the market today: Xero vs. QuickBooks Desktop Pro vs. Sage 50cloud. We’re going to break down pricing, features, and the key differences among the software to help you choose the best accounting solution for your business.
Knowing the differences between these three programs can save your business time and money, so keep reading to learn more. And if you decide that none are right for you? Check out our other accounting software reviews and comparisons, such as Xero VS QuickBooks Online, to find your perfect match.
Choose Xero If…
- You own a medium to large business with complex accounting needs
- You prefer increased mobility with cloud-based accounting software
- You want robust yet affordable accounting software
- You want software that supports unlimited users at no additional cost
Choose Sage If…
- You own a medium to large business with complex accounting needs
- You prefer locally-installed accounting software
- You want software with lots of integrations with other business apps and software
- You want software with advanced features, such as solid inventory management and cash flow forecasting
Choose QuickBooks If…
- You own a small-to-mid-sized business with no more than three users
- You prefer locally-installed accounting software
- You want strong accounting features and solid reporting
- You want reliable accounting software with numerous third-party integrations
Table of Contents
The Key Differences Between Xero, Sage, & QuickBooks
- Xero includes unlimited users
- Xero is easier to learn
- Sage and Xero are suitable for larger businesses
- QuickBooks and Xero have better customer support
- Xero has the most integrations
- Xero is a cloud-based software
- Xero has the strongest security
- Xero is the most affordable
- Sage has better reporting
Xero, Sage, and QuickBooks are all top choices in accounting software, and it’s easy to see why. Each option has enough features and integrations to allow small business owners to tackle even the most complex accounting tasks. For decades, QuickBooks and Sage have built their reputations on solid accounting solutions loaded with great features. And while Xero is a newer option, its cloud-based software comes with its own set of advanced features suitable for business accounting.
While each may seem to be a viable option for your business, a handful of differences set them apart from their competitors and each other — from the number of users to integrations, pricing, and quality of customer support.
Xero Includes Unlimited Users
One of the most notable features about Xero is that it supports unlimited users at no additional cost. This is nearly unheard of for accounting software, which typically charges for each user added. For businesses with multiple users that are on a tighter budget, Xero is a very cost-effective choice.
QuickBooks Desktop Pro and Sage 50cloud also support multiple users. However, only a single user is included in the base pricing, and additional fees will apply to add extra users. Furthermore, Sage only supports up to 40 users, while QuickBooks Desktop Pro supports a maximum of three users. For larger businesses, QuickBooks Desktop Premier supports up to five users, while QuickBooks Enterprise supports up to 40 users.
Xero Is (Slightly) Easier To Learn
Of these three software options, none are exactly the most user-friendly. But Xero has slightly less of a learning curve than Sage 50cloud and QuickBooks Pro and is easier to learn and use, especially for users who don’t know much about accounting. Additionally, Xero has better support resources, including a comprehensive help center that walks you through nearly every feature and function in the software.
Sage 50cloud & Xero Are Suitable For Larger Businesses
Sage 50cloud is ideal for mid-to-large-sized businesses with complex accounting needs. Because it supports unlimited users at no additional cost, Xero is also a good choice for mid-to-large-sized businesses that need strong accounting software. While QuickBooks Pro has a robust set of features capable of handling the most complex accounting needs, its three-user limit makes it better suited for smaller businesses.
QuickBooks & Xero Have Better Customer Support
Unfortunately, none of the three software options hit it out of the park when it comes to customer support. However, QuickBooks and Xero do have a slight edge over Sage. QuickBooks support phone wait times are lower than they’ve been in the past, and there are a number of other support options and resources, such as in-software help, live chat, and a help center. While Xero doesn’t offer phone support, it does have email support, a help center, in-software help, guides, videos, podcasts, and online courses.
Sage’s customer support doesn’t stack up quite as well, with long phone wait times, a glitchy live chat option, and an in-software help option that doesn’t always work as it should.
Xero Has The Most Integrations
If you want to integrate your accounting software with other business apps and software, you can’t go wrong with Xero. Currently, Xero has 800+ integrations, API for developers, and a Zapier integration that connects your software to hundreds of additional apps and programs.
QuickBooks Desktop has just over 200 integrations, which is a fair amount but is significantly less than what Xero has to offer. Sage 50cloud has over 70 integrations and very few payment processing options, so this is something to consider if you plan to integrate your accounting software with other business solutions.
Xero Is Cloud-Based Accounting Software
Of the three options, Xero is the only cloud-based accounting software. That means you can use it pretty much anywhere that you have an internet connection with no downloads required. QuickBooks Pro and Sage 50cloud are locally-installed options, meaning that the software is downloaded to your computer. While some users prefer locally-installed hardware, others — such as Mac users — will have to seek out another accounting solution.
Xero Has The Strongest Security
Xero has some of the strongest cloud security out there, using data encryption, two-step authentication, 24/7 monitoring, daily data backups, and security audits to protect your data. While QuickBooks and Sage are also capable of strong security, these are locally-installed programs, meaning security measures are up to you.
Xero Is The Most Affordable
The pricing of your accounting software can vary widely based on the number of users you have, the plan you select, and the add-ons you purchase. For most users, though, Xero will be the most affordable option when compared to Sage and QuickBooks. Xero has plans that start at just $12/month, although you will have to upgrade to a more expensive plan to access all of the features the software has to offer.
What really saves money, though, is the fact that Xero includes unlimited users in its pricing. Sage and QuickBooks charge extra per month for additional users, which can add up quickly for larger businesses with multiple users.
Sage 50cloud Has The Best Reports
It’s hard to beat Sage 50cloud when it comes to reporting. Depending on the plan you’re subscribed to, you can access more than 165 different reports. QuickBooks doesn’t fall very far behind, as it offers over 120 reports. Xero only has 55 reports, but these cover the essentials and beyond and are sufficient for most businesses.
Xero VS Sage VS QuickBooks: Pricing
|Xero||Starts at $12/month|
|Sage||Starts at $56.08/month|
|QuickBooks||Starts at $299.99/year|
Xero has three pricing plans that range from $12-$65/month. The more expensive plans offer unlimited bills and invoices, as well as more advanced features, such as project management, support for multiple currencies, and expense claims. Payroll is available starting at an additional $39/month. This will be the least expensive option of the three for most businesses, although it is worth noting that some of Xero’s features aren’t nearly as developed as those you’ll find with Sage 50cloud or QuickBooks Desktop.
Sage 50cloud has three pricing plans that range from $56.08-$139.58/month. This pricing is for a single user, and more users can be added for an additional fee. The more expensive plans have advanced features, including job costing, audit trails, advanced budgeting tools, and industry-specific features. If you need payroll, you can opt for one of three Sage 50cloud Accounting with Payroll plans. These plans range from $91.08-$174.58/month. Of the three, this can easily be the most expensive option. However, the extra costs may be worth it if the advanced features are beneficial to your business.
QuickBooks Desktop Pro has two pricing plans. For $299.99/year, you can purchase the Pro Plus annual subscription for one user. If you need payroll services, you can also purchase the QuickBooks Desktop Pro Plus + Payroll plan, which includes QuickBooks Desktop software and Enhanced Payroll. This option is priced at $799.99/year. Up to two additional users can be added to either plan for an extra fee. This may be a cost-efficient option for businesses with a single user that don’t require payroll. However, adding extra users and upgrading to the Pro Plus + Payroll plan can quickly drive up costs.
Xero VS Sage VS QuickBooks: Features
Xero, Sage, and QuickBooks each have a robust set of features suitable for even the most complex accounting needs. Regardless of which software you choose, you’ll have access to all the features you’d expect from accounting software, including invoicing, estimates, accounts payable, and bank reconciliation. In addition, there are also a number of advanced features available with each option, such as project management and inventory management.
However, there are a few slight differences that can help you make the best choice for your business. For example, Xero only offers some of its more advanced features with its most expensive pricing plan. And while all three programs offer inventory management, Sage has a more well-developed inventory feature than its competitors. Let’s take a closer look at the differences across each software’s features to help you pinpoint which solution is right for your accounting needs.
Sage, Xero, and QuickBooks all make it easy to create and send invoices to customers. However, QuickBooks Pro has an edge because it offers up to four invoice templates and a custom template option. Xero has a single invoice template, but it can be customized extensively to match the branding of your business. Sage 50cloud has just one template with very basic customization options.
Expense tracking is another feature shared by all three programs. However, there are slight differences worth noting. With QuickBooks, you can enable live bank feeds, import transactions, or manually enter expenses. You can categorize your transactions and set custom bank rules. One drawback is that you can’t categorize multiple transactions at once. Xero also has live bank feeds, or you can import your transactions. A smart categorization feature makes it easy to sort new transactions.
Sage 50cloud offers very basic expense tracking. You can’t set basic bank rules, and there are no automatic categorization options.
Of the three options, Sage 50cloud probably has the most well-developed inventory management feature. You can set defaults and make adjustments quickly. You can also set quantity discounts and have serialized inventory on select plans.
QuickBooks Pro allows you to add inventory and receive notifications when quantities are low. There are also a handful of preferences you can set to best fit the needs of your business. Xero has basic inventory management that lets you add products and services and track inventory, although there is no option to receive email reminders for low stock levels.
Both Sage 50cloud and QuickBooks have a time tracking feature that lets you use a built-in timer or add time manually. Xero also has a time tracking feature that lets you add billable time to projects, but this is only available to subscribers of the most expensive plan.
Sage 50cloud and QuickBooks have project management features that allow you to add projects, descriptions, and start/end dates. Basic job costing is also available on QuickBooks, while Sage 50cloud offers this feature to subscribers of select plans.
Xero does offer project management, but this feature is only reserved for users of its most expensive plan.
Sage, QuickBooks, and Xero all have numerous reports to help you track the financial status of your business. However, Sage 50cloud has the most robust reporting, boasting over 165 reports based on the plan you’ve subscribed to. QuickBooks also has a wide range of reports, giving users over 120 to select from. Xero has just 55 reports, but for many businesses, the reports that are offered are sufficient for their basic financial needs.
When it comes to tax support, QuickBooks Pro outshines the other two software options. QuickBooks supports numerous tax forms, including W-2s, W-3s, and 1099s. Sage limits its tax support to 1099s. While Xero used to have pretty solid tax support, its functionality is now reduced to sales tax support after doing away with its built-in payroll.
For accounting on the go, Xero has mobile apps that let you track your finances from your Apple or Android smartphone. Be warned, though, that users have complained about the limited functionality and occasional glitches when using the mobile apps.
Sage 50cloud and QuickBooks Desktop don’t have mobile apps. If you’re looking for options with more mobility, consider checking out cloud-based QuickBooks Online and Sage Accounting, which have their own mobile apps.
The Bottom Line: Is Xero, Sage, Or QuickBooks Better?
When it comes to which option is the best between Xero vs. Sage vs. QuickBooks, unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. What’s best for one business might not be the right choice for your own. When choosing the best accounting software, consider the needs of your business.
Xero is priced competitively, has a great set of features, hundreds of integrations, and is cloud-based software with mobile apps. Xero is a great fit for larger businesses, particularly those with multiple users, as unlimited users are included in your monthly fee for no additional cost. However, some of its features are limited, and some are only accessible by subscribing to the most expensive plan. Additionally, there is a slight learning curve. Although not as steep as Sage or QuickBooks, there are more user-friendly cloud-based options on the market.
Sage 50cloud is highly customizable locally-installed software that is suitable for medium-to-large-sized businesses. Its features are more developed than what you’ll find with Xero, and its reporting is unparalleled. However, Sage 50cloud does have a steeper learning curve and a higher price tag.
QuickBooks has always been a leader in accounting software, and it’s not difficult to see why. With numerous features, integrations, and good reporting, QuickBooks has established a reputation as a reliable accounting solution for small businesses. Unfortunately, the number of users is limited, so this isn’t a scalable option for larger businesses. There’s also a pretty steep learning curve, so you’ll have to take the time to learn the program to get the most out of your software.
If you’re still on the fence about which option is best for you, make sure to try out any free trials or demos to get hands-on with each program yourself before committing. Good luck!