Best Accounting Software 2021

Wave vs. QuickBooks Online

Is Wave or QuickBooks Online the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best accounting software for your business.

No matter your business size or industry, you need accounting software to manage your finances. On the business side, you’ll use this software to invoice clients, track expenses, balance your books, and reconcile transactions. Your accountant will likely have access to the software so that they can perform more advanced tasks.

This article will discuss the main differences between Wave and QuickBooks Online. We’ll distinguish between them by noting the variations in features, pricing, usability, and customer service availability. The strengths and weaknesses of the tools will be discussed, and we’ll make recommendations to help you pick the best software for your business.

Wave & QuickBooks Online Comparison Summary

Wave and QuickBooks Online were both tested in-house by SoftwarePundit. We researched the tools, interviewed current customers, and tested key user journeys in both software applications. Wave received a SoftwarePundit Analyst rating of 86 and QuickBooks Online received a 94, the highest score in the accounting category.

Wave received its score because while it’s the best value in the accounting space, we found it very hard to get in touch with customer support. QuickBooks Online got the highest rating because, though it’s not very user-friendly and is the most expensive platform, it has the most functionality and outstanding customer support.


This breakdown shows our review criteria and the ratings that Wave and QuickBooks Online received for each category.

CriteriaAnalyst RatingFeaturesUsabilityPricingCustomer Support
Wave86810106
QuickBooks Online94108910

Wave is one of the best entry-level accounting platforms for small businesses due to its value and the ease of use. The major accounting features are entirely free of cost, and add-ons like payment processing and accounting services are a fairly manageable additional fee. Customers we interviewed mentioned that Wave continues to scale and add more advanced features as time goes on.

QuickBooks Online is the leader in accounting software for small businesses. QuickBooks Online has the most advanced reporting section customers could ask for. Starting at $25 per month, it’s the priciest tool for small businesses that we reviewed, but in this case, you definitely get what you pay for. QuickBooks Online is a reliable option for anyone who can afford to pay a premium for their software each month.

Here are a few quick points to summarize who we recommend each tool for:

You'll prefer Wave if:

  • You don’t need to track & sell physical inventory
  • You’d like bookkeeping & accounting services along with your software
  • You don’t need to run advanced or customized accounting reports

Try Wave Today

You'll prefer QuickBooks Online if:

  • You want the best accounting software on the market
  • You want access to more than 70 built-in accounting and financial reports
  • You can afford to pay a premium for an advanced tool

Try QuickBooks Online Today


Table of Contents

Who Should Purchase Wave?

Wave is a great choice for service-based businesses with standard accounting needs. This tool isn’t ideal for businesses that sell physical goods, because the inventory management features are lacking. However, the other features like the dashboard, invoicing, and expense tracking are modern, streamlined, and very easy to use. Millions of users choose Wave because it offers accounting features for free and you can add tax or accounting services.

We spoke with a few Wave customers who raved about the tool, praising its ease of use and flexibility. Cole Torres, who owns Local Eye Media, has been using Wave for about five years and has never needed to consider switching because of how the software has scaled.

Who Should Purchase QuickBooks Online?

QuickBooks Online is the undeniable leader in accounting software for small businesses, so almost all small businesses should consider purchasing a plan. Millions of small businesses use it to keep their finances on track, and many accountants and bookkeeping professionals are trained in using the software.

Professional bookkeepers and accountants we interviewed were very complimentary of QuickBooks Online, emphasizing the platform’s capabilities and power. However, all of the small business owners that we spoke with reported that it’s not as user-friendly as other options.

Wave & QuickBooks Online Price Comparison

Wave is significantly cheaper than QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online software pricing begins at $25 per month and goes up to $150 per month, while the live bookkeeping services are an additional $200 per month. Conversely, Wave is free for accounting, invoicing, and receipts, and services like payroll start at $26 per month.

Wave Pricing Details

Wave is a freemium tool. This means that the core accounting software is free, and you have the option to purchase additional products and services.

Premium FeaturePricing
Online PaymentsBetween 1% and 3.4% + $0.30 per transaction
PayrollBetween $26 and $41 per month
ServicesBetween $149 per month to $1500 per year

QuickBooks Online Pricing Details

QuickBooks Online has the heftiest price tag among accounting software tools. QuickBooks Online pricing begins at $25 per month for basic functionality, and the most expensive plan costs $150 per month.

Simple Start Plan
  • $25 per month
  • One user
  • Track income and expenses
  • Manage cash flow
  • Run general reports
Essentials Plan
  • $40 per month
  • Three users
  • Manage and pay bills
  • Track time
Plus Plan
  • $70 per month
  • Five users
  • Track inventory
  • Track project profitability
Advanced Plan
  • $150 per month
  • 25 users
  • Most powerful reports
  • Exclusive premium applications
  • Customized access
  • Dedicated account team
  • Automated workflows

Wave & QuickBooks Online Feature Comparison

While QuickBooks Online offers significantly more functionality and more detailed features, Wave has a robust features list for a freemium software. The biggest difference is the reporting feature, as Wave has fewer than 20 compared with QuickBooks Online’s more than 70. Wave’s most glaring gap is the extremely basic inventory management tool, which we don’t find to be advanced enough for any sort of product-based business.

FeatureWaveQuickBooks Online
InvoicingYesYes
Expense TrackingYesYes
Accounting Reports~1570+
Vendor & Client CRMYesYes
PayrollYesYes
Project TrackingYesYes
Time TrackingYesYes
Receipt CaptureYesYes
Inventory ManagementYes - basicYes
Accounting & Bookkeeping ServicesYesYes
Mobile ApplicationYesYes
Accountant AccessYesYes

Top Features: Wave

Wave’s best features are the easy-to-create invoices, the dashboard, and Wave Advisors, the monthly add-on bookkeeping service. The weakest section is likely the reporting section, because while you’ll have all the basic reports, your accountant will need to run additional reports in a different software. For a more in-depth overview of all of Wave’s features, read our Wave review.

Invoicing

Creating and issuing invoices with Wave couldn’t be more straightforward. There are three invoice templates to choose from, or you can create customized invoices to fit your business. You’ll be able to make invoices recurring, set up automatic payment reminders, and send invoices via email or a unique link.

Wave Invoice

Dashboard

Wave’s dashboard gives you a high-level overview of your cash flow, profit and loss statements, net income, and more. The dashboards in Wave and QuickBooks Online are fairly comparable and achieve the same goals, but with Wave, you’re able to drill down into each section of the dashboard, which you can’t do with QuickBooks Online.

Wave Dashboard

Wave Advisors

Wave Advisors is Wave’s in-house collection of bookkeeping, accounting, and payroll coaches. Especially for small businesses who may not have their own employees to accomplish these tasks, this is a great way to outsource your financial services to ensure that your books are up to date. QuickBooks Online also offers these services, but not all accounting platforms do, so it’s notable that these are available.

Wave Advisors

Top Features: QuickBooks Online

While it’s difficult to narrow down the best features of QuickBooks Online, as there are so many great things about the software, we believe that the dashboard and reporting sections are standouts because they’re functional and user-friendly. Customers told us that QuickBooks Online is the least user-friendly accounting platform, so the easy-to-use features are worth noting. To read about all the features offered by QuickBooks Online, check out the full QuickBooks Online review.

Dashboard

As mentioned above, this dashboard is extremely valuable even though you can’t drill down into every section. The dashboard interface is pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate, and includes the most important graphs and line items to track the state of your business financials.

QuickBooks Online Dashboard

Reporting

QuickBooks Online’s reporting section is leaps and bounds ahead of Wave’s, with more than 70 reports included in the basic reporting feature. On top of that, there’s also a section where you or your accountant can create customized reports, just in case there’s something on top of the 70 that you’ll need.

QuickBooks Reporting

Payroll Service

Starting at $45 per month, you can add QuickBooks Online’s payroll service to your core accounting software. All plans feature full-service payroll that includes automated taxes and forms. Wave also has a payroll add-on, which is just a bit cheaper each month.

Bottom Line

Wave is a newer, modern accounting software designed to be extremely user-friendly. It still has power, but is lacking in customer support availability. We recommend Wave to any service-based business looking to start out with an accounting software because the basic accounting features are available for free.

QuickBooks Online is one of the most advanced and established accounting tools for small businesses. It has the features you’ll need to manage your business, and most accountants are very familiar with the tool. We recommend QuickBooks Online to most small businesses, though freelancers may opt for something more manageable.

  • Wave is an excellent, reliable choice for small businesses and freelancers. At an unbeatable price, this choice is ideal for those who need to immediately onboard with accounting software.
  • QuickBooks Online is the best accounting software for small businesses, though freelancers will likely prefer Wave because it’s more user-friendly. Choose QuickBooks Online for the most reliable, feature-rich accounting software on the market.

If you’re interested, visit Wave or QuickBooks Online today to get started.

Katelyn Anderson

Katelyn is a Junior Research Analyst at SoftwarePundit, where she conducts in-depth analyses of technology markets & products and writes software-related content. She graduated summa cum laude with degrees in English and Psychology. Her main areas of interest are content creation, user experience, and search engine optimization. You can connect with Katelyn on LinkedIn.

Katelyn is an expert in several software categories including:

  • Accounting software
  • Live chat software
  • Vacation rental software

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