Wave vs. QuickBooks: which is the best accounting tool?

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November 26, 2019

wave vs quickbooks

When you run your own business, you soon find out it's not just about doing what you love. As an entrepreneur or freelancer, you may need to wear many hats: as head of sales, marketer, customer service lead, and whether you love it or loathe it, chief finance officer.

If you don't have seamless processes for managing the flow of money in your business, you have trouble on your hands. However, financial software is here to help.

With the many accounting and invoicing tools on the market, you can simplify, streamline and even automate your financial tasks.

Two of the best accounting systems for small businesses and freelancers are Wave and QuickBooks. But how do they stack up?

Comparing QuickBooks vs. Wave – which is the best accounting software for you?

The main difference between QuickBooks and Wave is that Wave is free while QuickBooks is not. Another difference is that QuickBooks is one of the most comprehensive finance tools on the market, while Wave is a better choice if you want simplicity instead of complexity.

Before we get started, know that in this post we're focusing on QuickBooks Online - Intuit's cloud product that's available on any device - rather than their desktop solutions.

When to choose Wave

1. You want to save money

While QuickBooks has price plans ranging from $15 to $150/month, Wave accounting software is free. But is Wave really free? Yes! Their accounting and invoicing software is free and unlimited, so you get instant access to all features after signing up. You also don't need a credit card to sign up.

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So how does Wave make money? And what will you need to pay for?

Transactions: Wave offers several products: Invoicing, Accounting, Receipts and Payments. Of these, Payments is pay-per-use and the others are free.

With Wave, you pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. This is simpler than QuickBook's price per transaction, but can be more costly:

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Payroll: There's also a fee if you want to pay your staff with Wave – their payroll service for companies in the U.S. and Canada includes a $20-35/mo base fee, plus $4 per active employee and independent contractor paid.

Wave Advisors: To get even more benefits from Wave, you can pay $79/month for a Wave Advisor. Their accounting coaching includes:

  • 30 minutes of monthly live coaching with ongoing email support
  • Assistance setting up or migrating to Wave
  • Support reviewing and fixing your existing account
  • Help to stay on top of your books

2. You're a small business owner or freelancer

Wave is built for businesses with one to nine employees and is ideal for consultants, designers, writers and small agencies. Their features are straightforward but comprehensive enough for any early-stage or intentionally small business, and it’s a breeze to send simple yet fully customizable invoices for a range of products and services. If you want a budget-friendly accounting and invoicing solution, Wave is a great free alternative to QuickBooks.


3. You want simplicity

Using Wave for your accounting is a breeze. The user experience is clean, bright and incredibly simple to navigate. Wave offers a surprisingly comprehensive feature set for a free accounting tool, and everything is neatly organized so it's easy to find what you need.

Alternatively, QuickBooks lets you do more with the system, but can be clunky and overwhelming for those just starting out. Looking at user reviews for ease of use, Wave is rated 9.0/10 and QuickBooks Online is rated 8.1/10.

4. You need quick and easy set-up

Wave is free forever, so you don't need a trial or demo to get started. Once you've signed up, you have access to all the features you need.

As Wave is so easy to set up and use, it's a better choice than QuickBooks if you're not sure what you're looking for or are less tech-savvy. On G2 Crowd, Wave is rated 9.1/10 for ease of setup compared to QuickBooks' 7.9/10.

When to choose QuickBooks

1. You want a more comprehensive accounting solution

Don't get us wrong, Wave doesn't fall short because it's free – it offers an incredible amount of features and contends with many paid accounting apps. However, QuickBooks Online is probably the most comprehensive accounting tool on the market – especially if you have the budget and requirements to justify the higher price plans.

With QuickBooks, you can take advantage of advanced reporting, inventory management, mileage tracking and so much more. That said, most small businesses will have less need for the features at a higher price point.

QBO Reports.jpg

2. You have a bigger business – or work in retail

QuickBooks can be quite heavy for freelancers and very small businesses, even when using its Self-Employed and Essentials plans. However, while Wave is built for businesses with up to nine employees, QuickBooks has no upper limit and tends to thrive as you scale and need more advanced features.

If you have a retail business, QuickBooks Online is also a better financial tool for you. Its inventory management features and easy integration with QuickBooks Point of Sale makes running your business easy-peasy.

3. You plan on scaling your business soon

Switching business tools can be a pain. If you know you're going to focus on scaling your business soon, you might want to avoid tools that are designed with small businesses in mind, such as Wave.

QuickBooks is a wonderful tool for small to mid-sized businesses that plan on getting bigger: you can be sure that you'll have all the features you need as you scale.

QBO Homepage

4. You want features that Wave doesn't have

It's hard to beat free accounting and invoicing software, especially if you're a freelancer or very small business. However, Wave cannot – and shouldn't – offer every possible feature for niche use cases. This is more QuickBooks' jam.

It's hard to find something that QuickBooks can't do, especially considering Intuit's range of other products that can easily slot together, like QuickBooks Point of Sale.

It can be worth paying for QuickBooks when:

  • You have a retail business and inventory management is important to you
  • You need to track mileage
  • You need to track time (although tools like Freshbooks offer this at a lower price point)
  • You want more advanced reporting
  • Your accountant specializes in QuickBooks, as many do in the U.S.

Wave pricing vs. QuickBooks pricing

The main difference between Wave pricing and QuickBooks pricing is that Wave is free. However, take a moment to compare the two systems' plans to make sure you have access to all the features you need:

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Wave vs. QuickBooks feature sets

Is Wave better than QuickBooks? The honest answer is that it depends on your business, your budget and the features that are important to you.


If you're looking for free accounting software, Wave is one of the best tools to try out. Wave offers a brilliant range of core accounting and invoicing features, and small business owners should find everything that they need in that department. It also offers payments, receipts, multiple users and even multiple businesses to be managed in the same free account.

Although Wave has a very comprehensive feature set, there are some aspects that QuickBooks covers that Wave does not. These include time tracking, mileage and inventory management.

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QuickBooks has a great library of native integrations, including connections to 400+ business apps. You can also connect QuickBooks as well as Wave to hundreds of other business tools with PieSync. With their connection to PieSync, it's easier than ever to integrate either of these tools with your favorite apps and sync your contacts two-ways in real-time.

Get started with a free trial of PieSync and benefit from integrations between Wave and QuickBooks and your other business tools.

Customer sentiment

Overall, both Wave and QuickBooks are loved by their customers. Wave's average 4.4/5 stars from 187 reviews showcases its small but passionate fanbase, while QuickBooks' 4.0/5 stars from a whopping 2,214 reviews reveals its huge satisfied user base.

Wave edges ahead of QuickBooks when it comes to ease of use and ease of set up, while QuickBooks wins on its range of features.


So, when should you choose Wave and when is QuickBooks a better choice? Here's a simple comparison of the two financial software options:

When to choose WaveWhen to choose QuickBooks
You want to save moneyYou want a more comprehensive accounting solution
You're a small business owner or freelancerYou have a bigger business – or work in retail
You want simplicityYou plan on scaling your business soon
You need quick and easy set-upYou want features that Wave doesn't have
About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.