Xero vs QuickBooks: which is the best cloud accounting package for my construction or trade business?

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Business

We’re big fans of cloud accounting software here at Mayflower and especially of the two big guns, QuickBooks Online and Xero.

With both options, you get the accuracy of real-time financial data, the convenience of on-the-go access to your accounts, as well as a whole host of valuable features for businesses in the construction and trade sectors.

They’re both compatible with Making Tax Digital, which is mandatory if your construction or trade firm is VAT-registered with annual taxable turnover of more than £85,000.

They both give you options for managing contracts under the construction industry scheme, as well as sophisticated financial reporting and forecasting tools.

So when construction or trade firms ask us which software option is best for them, we’ll generally recommend one of the two – but whether QuickBooks or Xero is best for you will depend on various factors, including the size of your firm, the type of work you do, and what your priorities are.

Ease of use

If you’re new to the cloud accounting world or have recently registered for VAT, you’re probably looking for something quick and simple to start with, rather than a complex system that’ll take ages to get your head round.

We’ve found both Xero and QuickBooks to be user-friendly and quick to set up, and both offer users extensive support when getting started. And if you’re a client with us, we’re also on hand to help with training upfront and support as you go.

Both have user-friendly dashboards to give you an overview of all your business’s metrics and the best option for you usually comes down to which one you prefer using.

But, coming off the fence, Xero’s interface is probably a little bit cleaner and clearer on the whole.


Both Xero and QuickBooks have a variety of useful features for construction and trade businesses, from quoting and invoicing to managing reverse charge VAT and the construction industry scheme.

QuickBooks’ auto-entry feature works very well for scanning invoices and statements, either on site or at home in front of the telly, and the statements/invoice matching feature can save plenty of time.

Xero is more sophisticated and offers free Hubdoc access for invoice processing, while its own snap-and-scan function is great for expenses. The camera function is often described as being on par with Adobe Scan – amazing when you think that’s specialist software dedicated to doing just that one thing.

Both QuickBooks and Xero also offer free business management software and online training. But if you’re on a budget, QuickBooks has the better-value package at the lowest price point.


As your firm grows, you’ll start to need more from your accounting software: more complex features, in-depth reporting, and the ability to delegate responsibility to different members of your team.

Both packages offer a selection of plans. In fact, QuickBooks offers four packages, compared to Xero’s three.

But when it comes to scaling your business over time, Xero – with all its bells and whistles – is the winner, as you can add bolt-ons to your subscription as and when you need them.

In summary

The truth is there’s not a great deal between the two products in our opinion but, broadly speaking:

  1. QuickBooks has everything a smaller construction or trade business needs to comply with any VAT or CIS obligations.
  2. Xero comes out on top for larger construction or trade firms, purely because it links seamlessly to other apps.

I’m always happy to talk through the options, though, and to help you explore what each package can do.

Find out how your construction or trade business could benefit by switching to the cloud.

Ready to start the journey?

To get help with your accounts and start freeing up your time to focus on growth, talk to the Mayflower team today.

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