A Guide to Accounting Software Pricing Models
As a finance manager looking for an accounting software solution, you may need to evaluate numerous options before you find the one that aligns with your business-critical specifications. For that, you must consider several factors, including the budget, number of end users, required features, upfront and recurring costs, additional fees, and hidden charges.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled this comprehensive pricing guide to help you compare the pricing of top-rated accounting solutions. This will help you determine which plan will provide the most value for your investment and explain how accounting tools are priced.
How is accounting software priced?
The cost of an accounting software solution varies depending on the solution and the number of users using it. These solutions have differentiated pricing plans/ranges determined by several factors, including software features, vendor reliability, required infrastructure, business size and type, training availability, deployment options, custom branding, integrations, and storage capacity.
Types of accounting software pricing models
The most common pricing model for accounting solutions is a subscription-based model where users pay a recurring fee to the software vendor, on a monthly or annual basis, instead of purchasing a license. Here are a few other pricing models for accounting software:
Freemium: A basic version of the software is free, with paid upgrades or add-ons for additional features.
Per user: Pricing is based on the number of software users.
One-time fee: Users pay a one-time fee to access the software and its features permanently.
Pay as you go: Users are charged based on usage (monthly/annually).
Some software providers also offer custom pricing plans or a combination of pricing models. Accounting solutions typically include three different pricing plans based on the number of users:
Basic (1-4 users): Starting at $13 per month, the basic plan includes limited features and functionality but can be a good option for a small business or teams with simple accounting needs.
Premium (5-9 users): Mid-range price category can cost from $15 to $499 per month. This pricing plan often includes more advanced features and capabilities, such as inventory management, project profitability tracking, comprehensive financial reports, and bill management.
Advanced (10+ users): Ranging from $15 to $499, advanced pricing plans include advanced features such as business analytics, fund accounting, project profitability tracking, data restoration, and on-demand training.
For reference, below is a snapshot of the costs of some popular accounting software.
A note on features
Accounting software solutions help individuals and finance managers track financial statements, cash flow, accounts receivable and payable, balance sheets, recurring invoices, invoice payments, client and staff bank accounts, and purchase orders. The core or basic functions of an accounting solution include bank reconciliation, bookkeeping, financial reporting, general ledger, billing and invoicing, budgeting and forecasting, expense tracking, and payroll management.
What are the upfront and recurring costs associated with accounting software?
The initial expenses incurred when purchasing or subscribing to the software are upfront costs. For example, the cost of a perpetual license, customization, installation, and integration. On the other hand, the ongoing expenses associated with using the software, such as subscription fees, premium customer support services, and maintenance costs, are called recurring costs.
These costs may be charged on a monthly or annual basis and can also include the costs of upgrades or additional user licenses.
Below are the upfront and recurring costs under the different accounting software pricing models.
What it is:
You pay a monthly or annual fee to use the solution you have purchased for a set period of time. The typical pricing model is based on the number of users per month. There are pay-as-you-go options as well that do not have any contract and can be discontinued at any time.
Under this plan, you pay a one-time fee for a permanent license to use the accounting software solution. The fee for the perpetual license can vary based on the number of users.
You do not pay any fee to use the basic accounting features of the software solution.
Commonly used for:
Cloud-based deployments, where the system is hosted by vendors on their servers and can be accessed on compatible devices over the internet.
On-premise deployments, where the system is hosted and maintained in-house on your own servers.
Self-employed or freelance accountants/bookkeepers and small business owners or finance managers with limited budgets and resources.
Installation or setup and customization
One-time license fee, hardware (for example, servers) cost, and installation charges
A monthly subscription fee per user and premium support offerings (e.g., 24x7 phone support hours and quick ticket response time).
Monthly, annual, or ad hoc maintenance (for example, updates, patches, and upgrades). Recurring costs may include premium support offerings (for example, extended phone support hours).
There are no recurring costs. You can use it freely, typically with limited features.
Customization, implementation of unique company branding, and integration with existing software (such as payroll software, HR software, billing and invoicing tool, and enterprise resource planning software).
Customization, integration, and IT staff overtime (or hiring more IT staff) to maintain servers.
Implementation, customization, maintenance, integration with existing tech stack, training, and premium support options.
What are the additional fees associated with accounting software?
While implementing a new accounting software solution, you may incur additional fees that directly affect the overall cost of ownership. These additional costs are common across different vendors and pricing models, so it is important to include them in your budget:
Data migration: Moving to a new accounting solution and transferring all business-critical data may be time-consuming and expensive. This leads to additional data migration expenses, including costs for professional consulting, employee data mapping and validation, hardware or software installation, and data integrity assurance. As a result, it's critical to assess how much the data migration process costs. Determine whether or not the data transfer will cause downtime and, if yes, how much that interruption will cost.
Training: Depending on the complexity of the software solution, the cost of training for a new accounting system can range from zero to several thousand dollars. To save training expenses, most software providers incorporate free online resources, such as a help desk, knowledge base, FAQs section, and instructional videos. Employing an implementation professional to educate team members and reduce downtime may be more expensive, but it will be helpful in the long term.
Hardware and IT: Hardware and IT expenses for an accounting solution include buying or upgrading servers to host the software, updating employee PCs or mobile devices to conform to the system's technical specifications, and even hiring IT professionals to oversee and maintain the technology. These costs can be additional expenses to accounting software. Check whether the software implementation would result in any extra expenses or infrastructure improvements before choosing.
Maintenance and upgrades: Maintenance charges are expenses incurred to keep an accounting system running smoothly and up-to-date with the latest features. These ongoing costs typically occur regularly and can add up over time. Therefore, understand if maintenance and upgrade services offered by the vendor are included in your software subscription or licensing fees. Alternatively, you may have in-house staff to handle maintenance and support tasks.
How to find the right accounting software price range
Consider the size of your business. Due to several pressing financial responsibilities, small-to-midsize business owners and solopreneurs often have a constrained budget and resources. They generally begin with a no-cost or basic-featured plan. On the other hand, larger enterprises may need a more powerful solution because they have a greater budget and more users. Therefore, depending on the needs of the business, they can invest in a premium or advanced pricing plan.
Check the number of users. Accounting software pricing plans typically vary based on the number of users, with higher costs associated with more users. A basic plan can accommodate up to 50 users, while a premium accounting or advanced plan may be required for more than 50 users. It is advisable to opt for a scalable software solution that can adjust to changes in the number of users. Some software providers offer per-user licensing, so it is essential to consider the number of users requiring access when setting a software solution budget.
Identify the accounting features you require. Pricing plans that offer more advanced features and capabilities are often more expensive than those that do not. For example, an advanced plan with premium features such as profitability tracking, payroll automation, and forecasting could be more expensive than a basic plan with limited features. Identifying the crucial features will help you prioritize your spending and find the pricing plan that fits your budget.
Determine the business-critical pricing commitment (subscription or long-term). A long-term agreement involves committing to using the software for a specific duration, typically from two to three years, and it might be a more economical choice than a subscription-based pricing model, providing a lower yearly expense. However, if you require a solution that is flexible and adaptable, subscription-based pricing might be the right choice. Nonetheless, if you prioritize a lower yearly expense and additional services (such as maintenance and support), a long-term deal could be more suitable.
Common questions to ask when choosing accounting software
Is there a free trial or demo version of the software? A free or trial version allows users to test the software features and functionality before committing to a purchase. These software versions may be cost-efficient for businesses with tight budgets; however, they may not include business-critical features. Therefore, assess your company's specific requirements and compare them with the offerings of the free software solution before reaching a decision.
Are there any hidden costs or fees for data migration or integration with other systems? Some software pricing plans include hidden costs or fees for various features, such as data migration and integration with your existing tech stack. Even the free plan may have hidden charges, such as implementation costs, training costs, and data migration charges.
Are there any additional costs for support or training? As discussed above, technical support and staff training often incur additional costs. Before you make any investment, it is important that you understand the extent of these costs that you may have to incur. Check the type of customer support resources provided in each pricing model of your shortlisted tool.
Find the best accounting software packages
Do the accounting tools listed in this guide fall within your software budget? If so, compare their features and read real user reviews of more than 1,000 similar products listed on our accounting category page.
The products in this guide qualified for the most recent FrontRunners for accounting and were highly rated by users. Only products with publicly available pricing information were included in this table. We summarized publicly available pricing sources, including vendor websites as of December 2022, beginning with the lowest monthly pricing (not including annual discounts) for packages that include the core functionality for a software category. We list pricing for more advanced packages (per user, when available) that include the core software feature(s). Your company’s needs may differ, and final pricing may vary.
Note: This article is intended to inform our readers about business-related concerns in the U.S. It is in no way intended to provide financial advice or to endorse a specific course of action. For advice on your specific situation, consult your accountant or financial consultant.