Bench vs. Pilot: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Bookkeeping Services for Business Owners

Bench vs. Pilot: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two Bookkeeping Services for Business Owners

Bookkeeping is an integral part of running a financially healthy business. You know you can’t go without it. That said, not everyone has the time, expertise, or desire to handle bookkeeping themselves — which is why you’re here, searching for the best bookkeeping service to do it for you.

Pilot and Bench are two popular bookkeeping services that are often compared by people ready to offload their books.

Choosing the right bookkeeper hinges on the specifics of your business and needs, so business owners need to consider a few key factors, like:

  • Bookkeeping method used
  • Accounting software you prefer
  • Complexity of your financial situation (i.e. Do you need inventory bookkeeping or accounts payable support?)
  • Budget

In this article, we dive into the features, pricing, and key differences between Bench and Pilot, then recommend who each service is best for. For a quick overview of how Pilot and Bench stack up based on the attributes above, we included a comparison chart.

Bench vs Pilot: Compare service features and pricing with this chart. For an in-depth comparison, read the full post.

For a deeper take on Bench vs. Pilot, read on for:

You might have noticed that we’re writing about the difference between our service and someone else’s. We’ve done our best to give them a fair shake because we want you to make an informed decision. That said, we think we offer the best bookkeeping services around. Want to give Pilot a try? Get started with one month risk-free here.

Bench vs. Pilot: Differences in Features

Bench and Pilot are bookkeeping services that manage and organize your company’s financial books so you don’t have to.

Both services offer standard monthly bookkeeping, which includes categorizing transactions, reconciling your accounts, and producing key financial statements (like statements of cash flow and profit and loss statements). Pilot and Bench also offer catch up bookkeeping, so you can get past months’ books in order, too.

Either solution covers your basic bookkeeping bases, but there are some key differences in the features Pilot and Bench offer.

Difference #1: Accounting Software

The first difference between the two services is the software each uses to handle your bookkeeping. Bench uses proprietary software. At Pilot, we do your bookkeeping in QuickBooks Online.

That may seem like a small difference, but the software your books live in can make a big difference, for a few reasons.

Why Bookkeeping Software Matters for Businesses

Which accounting software you use matters because it determines where your financial data lives.

Bench uses custom software, which often works well — until you decide to leave. If you ever decide to switch to another bookkeeper, your data won’t be in an easy-to-import format. Getting it into your new platform will be tedious, if not impossible.

At Pilot, we use QuickBooks Online for two main reasons:

  • If you ever decide to leave Pilot, any bookkeeper in the world can plug into QuickBooks and all your data is easy to access. You are always in control of your data.
  • Keeping your books in QuickBooks also means your financial info isn’t siloed: You can access a robust ecosystem of tools that integrate with QuickBooks software. Connecting with platforms that handle payroll, taxes, and other processes is a cinch.

With Bench’s proprietary software, you can connect to a handful of other tools, like Stripe and Gusto. But your options are much more limited, and it’s harder to create workflows to streamline your business finances.

Difference #2: Bookkeeping Method

Another big difference between Pilot and Bench is the method they use for your bookkeeping. Bench uses cash-basis bookkeeping. Pilot defaults to accrual-basis bookkeeping (though we can do cash-basis upon request).

Cash-Basis vs. Accrual-Basis Bookkeeping

Cash-basis bookkeeping means money is recorded when it’s received or paid. Revenue is counted when the customer pays. Expenses are recognized when the money leaves your account.

Accrual-basis, on the other hand, recognizes revenues and expenses when they’re incurred. If you send an invoice due in 30 days, that revenue is recorded when you send the invoice (instead of when it’s paid).

Why It Matters for Businesses

At Pilot, we think accrual-basis bookkeeping is the way to go for most businesses.

Accrual-basis bookkeeping gives business owners a more realistic picture of income and expenses. That’s part of why it’s the method favored by investors and venture capitalists.

Without accrual-basis bookkeeping, you can’t account for certain financial situations, like inventory. You can’t keep accounts payable or receivable on your books because no cash has exchanged hands yet — so cash-basis bookkeeping doesn’t recognize those transactions.

If you start with cash-basis and switch when you get larger, it’s a hassle to file paperwork with the IRS. And most businesses will have to do this at some point as they grow. Some businesses are even required to use accrual-basis by the IRS.

Cash-basis bookkeeping makes sense if you’re not planning to grow, don’t need accounts payable/receivable, or have extremely simple transactions. But accrual-basis is the only method that scales, making it preferable for any business focused on growth.

Difference #3: Advanced Bookkeeping Services

The third big difference between Bench and Pilot comes down to the more advanced bookkeeping services that business owners need as they grow.

  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable
  • Inventory

Because Bench uses cash-basis bookkeeping, they can’t offer these additional services. At Pilot, we include all three in our Pilot Plus package.

Why It Matters for Businesses

When your business grows, your financial life moves beyond a simple exchange of immediate cash for product. You need to have a solution in place to handle accounts payable and receivable. Depending on the type of business, you may also need to account for inventory.

The fact is that cash-basis bookkeeping doesn’t work for most businesses, and even when it does, it is outgrown quickly as the business’s financial situation gets more complex. Most businesses will need support for accounts payable and receivable at some point. It makes sense to plan for that from the beginning with a service that keeps your books ready for the added complexity when it arrives.

Bench vs. Pilot: Accuracy and Support

Bench vs Pilot Bookkeeping Service

Business owners don’t need to be bookkeeping pros, but it’s important that you have a general understanding of your whole financial picture. That’s why both Pilot and Bench include support in all pricing tiers, and it means you won’t pay additional hourly fees just to ask a question or get clarity on your books.

At Pilot, we work to ensure that your bookkeeping service is as accurate as possible. We work with seriously talented, full-time bookkeepers who are experts at what they do. Additionally, we automate parts of the bookkeeping process most prone to errors. This frees up our bookkeepers to focus on the most strategic, complex aspects of your bookkeeping. You will have a dedicated account manager who gets to know your business, so you never have to wonder who to turn to for answers.

With Pilot, you get the best of both worlds: second-to-none accuracy combined with expert, human support.

Bench vs. Pilot Pricing

Pricing and packages for both bookkeeping services hinge primarily on the total expenses your business has in a month. That’s because your bookkeeping needs and expenses typically correlate: As your expenses grow, so does the complexity of your financial situation.

Pilot Pricing

Pilot's Pricing: Pilot Core $195/month or Pilot Plus $1,000+/month

There are two main pricing plans: Pilot Core and Pilot Plus.

Pilot Core starts at $195 per month and runs up to $795 per month (based on your monthly expenses). Core plans include:

  • Accurate, accrual-basis bookkeeping
  • Financial statements
  • Up to $200,000 in monthly expenses
  • Dedicated account manager
  • Dedicated support

Pilot Plus starts at $1,000 per month. We customize the exact plan to your individual business’ needs and expenses. The Plus plan includes everything in Pilot Core, plus support for:

  • Multiple entities
  • Multiple locations
  • Accounts receivable and accounts payable
  • Inventory bookkeeping
  • Special revenue recognition

There is a risk-free guarantee on all pricing tiers for one month.

Bench Pricing

Bench's Pricing: 5 plans ranging from $95/month to $295/month

Bench offers 5 pricing tiers – Starter, Micro, Boutique, Venture, and Corporate – all of which include standard cash-basis bookkeeping, financial statements and reports, and support for up to 15 connected financial accounts.

The difference between tiers comes down to your monthly expenses.

  • Starter costs $95 per month and includes up to $999 in monthly expenses.
  • Micro costs $125 per month and includes up to $7,500 in monthly expenses.
  • Boutique costs $165 per month and includes up to $20,000 in monthly expenses.
  • Venture costs $215 per month and includes up to $60,000 in monthly expenses.
  • Corporate costs between $295 – $495 per month and includes $60,000 to $1 million in monthly expenses.

Bench offers a one month free trial on any of their five plans.

Who Are Bench and Pilot Best For?

Now that you have all the pertinent info, are you still wondering which bookkeeping service is right for you? Bookkeeping can be complicated — especially for business owners who’d rather be focused on building their businesses.

To wrap up and make things super simple for you, here’s our recommendation:

Pilot is best for mid-large businesses and startups focused on growth. As you grow and potentially take on funding, you need the accrual-basis and advanced bookkeeping features Pilot offers.

Bench is better for smaller businesses with simple financial situations. If you aren’t planning to seek outside funding or scale the business rapidly, Bench’s bookkeeping can work for your business — at least for a time.

You might have noticed that we’re writing about the difference between our service and someone else’s. We’ve done our best to give them a fair shake because we want you to make an informed decision. That said, we think we offer the best bookkeeping services around. Want to give Pilot a try? Get started with one month risk-free here.

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