Best Payroll Services

Do you want to know the right answer immediately? Gusto and OnPay are the best online payroll solutions for most people.

Business owners and managers can have a lot of anxiety about the payroll process and tax obligations. In addition to tax penalties and fines that can be imposed on employees, a faulty payroll system can also lead to low employee morale.

These risks can be managed by automating payroll through an online payroll system. Each of these solutions made it to my list because they were unique.

All five top choices can be trusted with common payroll tasks, such as scheduling, new hire reporting and security.

Their performance in key areas that users consider crucial is where they stand out. These include easy administration, employee self service, reporting, and tax management.

Active users were interviewed to see how the recommendations performed in real life. They shared valuable insights with us that you won’t find anywhere else, as they explained the advantages and tradeoffs involved in using each payroll service.


ZenPayroll started out as Gusto back in 2012. Gusto grew beyond simple payroll services as clients demanded more. Now Gusto offers a complete suite of features that allows employees to be onboarded and managed from anywhere.

Gusto today processes payroll for more than 100,000 companies across the United States. Some businesses have localized workforces, others are remote and employ people from all 50 states.

Gusto makes it easy to manage dispersed workforces with an engaging user interface that simplifies payroll and HR as well as benefits for both employees and administrators.

Gusto excels

Gusto, much like OnPay, focuses on user experience. This makes a complex topic easy to navigate and use. The team also makes it fun with their lighthearted approach to design.

Gusto’s uniqueness is not in OnPay’s approach to this. However, they also include the core functionality that larger businesses require. Gusto is a unique combination of robust functionality and ease-of-use that makes it a top choice for teams working remotely.

Here are the best areas Gusto excels in:

  • It’s easy for everyone. When managing remote employees, it can be challenging to onboard and interact with new employees. Gusto is easy for new businesses to set up and maintain, and equally simple for new employees.
  • Onboarding and robust hiring: Streamlining your processes is crucial if you are growing your business. Gusto allows you to quickly and easily hire new employees. Gusto is especially useful for remote workers.
  • Built-in Time Management Tool (in higher Tiers) You can subscribe to Gusto to have this feature added to your service. This allows you to skip the integration with a third party tool. OnPay only provides integrations and does not have a native time tracking function.

Gusto’s user-friendly design has been praised by many. Gusto users love the cartoon illustrations and prancing animated animals. We were able to hear one user exclaim, “Thank goodness we have Gusto.” It’s so easy! Yay!”

Easy checklists, templates and digital signatures make it easy to onboard new staff. Gusto makes it so much easier for employers that even localized workforces can no longer use in-person onboarding.

Gusto, an HR manager at multiple $1,000,000 companies explained to her how her company’s new employee-onboarding process was different. She said that her team made an explainer film of how the employee uses her new tablet. Instead of spending time explaining the functionality to a new hire, her team shares the video via Gusto.

New employees can also be onboarded easily, which is crucial for remote workers. Send an automated email series to walk the employee through each step of the onboarding process. Employees can work with small chunks of information instead of being overwhelmed on their first day.

Gusto, as she discovered, makes it easy for everyone on her staff, even the less tech-savvy. This saves time and energy when dealing with common user issues.

She stated that Gusto users are often also using other platforms. “I hear all the same stuff on all of these other platforms but not Gusto.”

Gusto allows you to run your monthly payroll with unlimited runs. You are not restricted to predetermined payroll cycles or charged more if you need more processing. Gusto lets you adjust to your changing needs or for a special situation.

Gusto, however, offers the convenience of automatic payroll. This feature is particularly useful for businesses with static payrolls like an all-salaried workforce.

Once you’ve set up the initial payroll information for your company, you can have it run every pay cycle automatically. You need to modify something? You can simply toggle the feature on and off by using a simple switch.

Gusto allows you to easily manage and submit local taxes if your company is subject. Gusto also excels in this area over OnPay which does not offer it.

Gusto is a great tool to grow businesses with dispersed employees.

Gusto’s Potential Improvements

Gusto has its strengths, but it also has some weaknesses that are worth pointing out.

  • Gusto fails to deliver on customer satisfaction Gusto may answer your initial phone call quickly but users have repeatedly stated that it takes several calls over many days and even weeks to resolve an issue.
  • Integrations are hard:Gusto claims it “plays well with your favorite program” and lists over 100 third-party tools. However, users have had a very different experience. Gusto integration with popular accounting packages, such as FreshBooks and Sage, was problematic for users.
  • No PTO request or approved-PTO-syncing (on the basic plan). Gusto users will have to subscribe to a more expensive, higher-tier plan in order to get the same PTO functionality that OnPay.

The majority of users we spoke with were critical of Gusto’s customer support. While customer service representatives can be reached Monday through Friday during extended hours, they are not equipped to handle questions from users.

Users complained that they were subject to long waits and had to make many calls over several days and weeks to get their questions answered.

A former Gusto user stated that “they ran me around in circles really.” “I believe it was because they didn’t know…didn’t understand their own services.” He decided to leave Gusto as he desired a more straightforward approach to payroll management.

This might be a problem for startups that don’t have an HR department. Gusto and OnPay are also leaders in this area.

Gusto has some issues with limited benefits. Although they have created a one-stop shop for HR and payroll services, it comes with a high price. Gusto is encouraging you to ditch your current service providers and go with Gusto or one its preferred brokers.

A former Gusto user stated that she wanted to be set up with HSA benefits and was denied. “They said that they would take care…of my health insurance. They actually offered to be a reseller of healthcare…the broker for my company’s group plan. That is not what I wanted. I asked them to handle the payroll. They should not be my group manager in healthcare.

Gusto HSA and FSA benefits, however, are not available in every state. Although payroll and 401 (k) are available all over the United States of America, HSAs as well as FSAs can only be found in 38 states plus DC. Gusto can help you if your company or employees are in any of the 12 unrecognized states.

Gusto is similar to OnPay and uses an optimized website rather than a dedicated mobile app. Although it isn’t important, I find it curious that a product so focused on user experience would neglect this feature.

Gusto does provide a limited app that allows employees to access their pay information called Gusto Wallet. It allows employees to see their tax documents and pay information, but that’s it. Everything else must all be done online in Gusto.

Gusto’s difficulties integrating with third-party tools, particularly accounting software, are the most surprising. Gusto and Xero were not easily connected by one of our interviewees. This led to him eventually abandoning Gusto in favor of another service. He observed that “they said it would sync but they did not play at any nice together.”

Gusto Pricing

Gusto follows a more traditional pricing model, similar to ADP Paychex or QuickBooks Payroll. This is in sharp contrast to OnPay, which only offers a single price.

Gusto offers three levels of service: Core, Complete, or Concierge. You pay a flat monthly rate and an employee rate for each tier. A Select option allows for full customization of the price.

  • Core: $39/month plus $6 for each employee per month. Core includes employee self-service and administration of worker’s comp and health benefits. It also contains PTO policies. This basic tier is not available with OnPay. It does not offer PTO or time tracking.
  • Complete – $39 per month plus $12 per employee. This tier provides all the Core features and offers onboarding and onboarding as well as time tracking, employee surveys, employee directory, and surveys.
  • Concierge: $149/month plus $12/per employee per month. Includes all Core features and Concierge, as well as access to certified HR professionals.

Gusto offers a variety of packages. You can also add la carte services for an additional charge.

  • 401(k), plans
  • 529 college savings plans
  • HSAs & FSAs not in all states
  • Workers’ compensation

Gusto has a unique option that allows contractors to use their services for companies with no W-2 employees. It’s $6 per person, with no monthly price base and limited services including:

  • Unlimited contractor payments in all 50 US states
  • 4-day direct deposit
  • 1099-NECs
  • Notification of new hires, as required

Gusto offers a 30-day free trial that allows you to see the benefits of Gusto without any financial commitment.


OnPay started as an internal solution for simplifying one family’s payroll operations. OnPay has been around a decade and is still one of the most respected payroll services in the world.

OnPay is a company that has focused on simplifying complex payroll processes.

Are you looking for a dedicated payroll or HR specialist in your company but don’t know where to find one? No problem. OnPay is a great resource for anyone who wants to master payroll management.

Where OnPay Excels

OnPay offers a variety of benefits that are ideal for novice payroll users.

  • OnPay simplifies payroll management.OnPay’s laser-focused approach to making payroll understandable makes it easy for anyone to use. Payroll can be run by anyone, even seasoned HR professionals.
  • OnPay makes it simple to onboard and access employees. Most common tasks, such as reviewing payroll documents and self-onboarding, can be completed online. This saves the employer time and reduces frustration.
  • Stellar customer care: OnPay is focused on simplifying payroll so it makes sense that they place a strong emphasis on their customers. OnPay is able to resolve issues quickly and efficiently with minimal wait times, which is a major advantage over other competitors on this list.

OnPay is very easy to use for all users, even those who don’t have any experience in payroll or HR.

One user we spoke with said, “It’s simple for an individual who’s not necessarily an accountant” to manage this system. “Like where you have a company owner who’s going be doing this stuff.”

OnPay also gets high marks for its employee usage side. The platform’s ease of use was consistently highlighted in the reviews we reviewed. They can self-onboard, print paytubs and make tax changes on their own.

This is a great benefit for small companies without a dedicated HR department, as it takes away a lot the repetitive questions and tasks that often surround these activities.

OnPay provides the basic HR tools that small businesses require, including automated onboarding workflows, custom PTO tracking and reporting on new hire compliance.

OnPay seamlessly integrates with a few third-party apps that can be used for time management, accounting, compliance, and 401(k) planning. OnPay is the only product that offers the most third-party integrations out of all five.

OnPay can help you connect the two if you are using an existing integration tool.

“We have chosen to integrate OnPay and a time management program called Deputy,” stated the small-sized clinic’s manager. “It’s extremely simple.”

OnPay is available to answer your questions quickly when they arise.

According to the owner of a busy vet practice, “I believe the longest I waited on hold was 10 mins and they are always very helpfully polite.” “Their response was always the same: ‘We’ll take care for this for you’.

OnPay will not let users make mistakes in their payroll taxes. We were also told by another user, “If I get an email saying that there is a mistake in my tax calculation, I contact OnPay immediately and they will explain why and what we did. You shouldn’t worry.”

OnPay excels in reporting functionality, especially the pre-built ones. Our interviews with people and online reviews revealed that OnPay reports are easy to find and use, particularly the year-end reports.

OnPay makes it easier to create custom reports when they are needed. Drag-and drop user interface makes it easy to add and remove 50 data points, modify date ranges, create filters, and set up custom views.

OnPay also allows for customization of payroll cycles. OnPay, unlike others on my List, allows unlimited payroll cycles per month for no extra cost.

This feature is particularly important for small businesses. As one user pointed out, it’s especially important for those who forget to add an employee before they run payroll.

She remembered that “I forgot to click on a button.” After she had run the direct deposit payroll and realized she had missed the employee, she was able back in to quickly cut a cheque by hand and ensure that the employee was paid on time. OnPay is “a great tool for my because sometimes I forget how to click a link.”

OnPay is a payroll management company that takes the guesswork out.

Where OnPay can Improve

OnPay isn’t perfect. While OnPay is focused on making payroll as easy and seamless as possible, it also has some limitations in terms of functionality. These gaps will not matter if you have specific needs.

  • No automated payroll option. OnPay allows unlimited payroll cycles per month but there is no setting-it and forget-it option. Even if data changes from cycle to cicle, you still need to approve payroll manually. The same applies to the other top five products.
  • Some functionality is hard to master: While the focus of the program is on simplicity, many users complain about excessive complexity in some areas, such as onboarding new users and extracting information from specific systems.
  • Integrations limited: While OnPay integrates well with the third-party software listed on its website. However, there are a few options. Last count showed that there were 20 or fewer third-party tools. This list includes products that offer more integrations than the ones on this list.

Payroll administrators are unable to create payroll once and have it automatically run. This is a notable defect. OnPay requires that you manually complete two screens and a confirmation page every time you create a new payroll cycle.

This is likely not an issue for small companies with few employees and a fluctuating pay scale. For companies with large numbers of salaried workers, however, this can quickly become a problem. Gusto and Paychex are other products that I recommend, as well as ADP and Paychex.

OnPay does its best to make the process easy but users sometimes have to struggle with certain aspects or experience unnecessary annoyances.

One user that we spoke to mentioned trying to find individual 401k information. “I must go into the 401 (k) listing, and then unclick every person that I don’t wish to. I’d prefer to be able just to click the person that I want and run a report.

OnPay users also mentioned difficulties with the onboarding process. One interviewee said it wasn’t easy to manage benefit accrual for different compensation plans. The same user said that long-term employees also struggled to be on the correct benefit accrual schedule. OnPay was required for this, he stated.

A mobile app is not available for employees and administrators. OnPay claims its website makes it possible to manage payroll anywhere, with just one bar of reception. But a well-designed app is intuitive and much more user-friendly. Both Paychex, ADP and Gusto have strong mobile apps. Gusto even offers a limited mobile app that allows employees to self-service.

For businesses that have to pay municipal taxes, this is a more specific issue. OnPay is unable to handle local taxes. A payroll service that can handle them for you will be a better choice. All of the options in my list offer this service.

OnPay falls short with its 20-plus third-party app integrations. In this area, it is far behind its competition. This creates a gap for OnPay new users who use time management, accounting, or 401(k), tools that aren’t on the list.

OnPay Pricing

OnPay is a great choice for pricing. Forget about complex tiers and custom quotes. OnPay provides all of its services for a single monthly fee. It’s a cost that makes OnPay one of my most affordable options.

The pricing strategy they use also receives high praise from real users. The business manager at the small clinic notes that it offers an amazing value to small businesses like ours.

OnPay costs only $36 per monthly plus $4 per user per month. That’s it. No contracts. There are no hidden fees. No uncertainty.

OnPay’s website even offers a calculator that will let you calculate how much you’ll be paying without you ever needing to speak with a salesperson.


Paychex was one of my top five picks. Paychex has been around almost forever and generations of workers have seen its logo on their paychecks.

Paychex is a 50-year-old company that has evolved to offer a complete range of payroll, HR, time tracking and benefits services.

This strong service offering speaks volumes about the market Paychex is best at serving. Although they are happy to accept smaller companies with fewer employees than 10, their true sweet spot is larger businesses that have many employees and a dedicated HR team.

Paychex, in other words, isn’t focused on hand-holding the inexperienced user, like OnPay or Gusto. Instead, they offer services for companies that have complex payroll and HR needs.

Paychex Excels

  • Superior customer service: Paychex can provide 24/7 customer service to a company this large. They also offer a dedicated payroll specialist for every customer, at higher subscription tiers. This specialist is the point of contact for all customer inquires.
  • Paychex is an expert in payroll tax law. You would expect them to be able to manage tax laws at any level, even local. They do. ADP, Paychex heavyweight counterpart to this list, cannot be said the same.
  • Integrated Time Tracking Services:Paychex strives to make it easy for employees to track their time, regardless of what tier they are on. Their Time Clock feature acts like a traditional punch-in/punch-out system. Paychex Flex Time, which is cloud-based, offers a robust time and attendance solution. Both time management solutions seamlessly transmit data directly to HR and payroll systems.

Surprisingly, Paychex customers were so excited about the service. Particularly, they were impressed with the speed at which problems can be resolved. This applies to all levels of customer support, not just the payroll specialist. Even companies don’t choose to have a specialist assigned to them, they still receive excellent service.

Paychex user managing a 35 person company stated, “Usually, I will call if it is like a pay issue. And if my payroll specialist’s not available, you can go to any other person in the pool. 99%–I mean probably even 100%-of the times, the person that I speak to will be extremely knowledgeable and resolve it for my without having to visit my specific payroll specialist.”

Paychex gets high marks for correctly processing taxes. Paychex’s experience in tax processing is evident. They have the resources and the expertise to ensure that any tax changes are made correctly, down to the local level.

The owner of a 100-person business told us that Massachusetts has recently implemented a state-funded, paid family and medical leaves act. “So that resulted in a new payroll taxes and Paychex handled it without issue.”

When there was a problem, customers were quick to point it out to Paychex and they quickly resolved the issue for them. Paychex also reimbursed them for several months of fees in an attempt to make up the inconvenience.

Paychex also places emphasis on mobile aspects of payroll in two different ways. Paychex has a mobile application for administrators that is not available with Gusto or OnPay. This allows administrators to process payroll from any location, at any time, without needing to access a web browser on a mobile device.

Paychex has a number of time tracking options available that can be used for both mobile and local workforces.

Paychex users stated, “One of my main reasons for moving to Paychex is to take advantage the online Time Clock.” “Having an automated system to check in and out is very useful. This system is simpler. It saves time.

Paychex users love reporting. The built-in Payroll Journal, Employee Earnings and Report were particularly popular.

Custom reporting was easy for users, even though they were able to drag and drop information. This is an outstanding feature in customized reporting across all products in my collection.

Paychex is a company that understands the complex needs of its target market and does a fantastic job of satisfying them.

Paychex: Where Paychex Can Improve

Paychex does a good job overall, but there are still some areas that could use improvement to get rid of some recurring complaints.

  • Complex user interface. While it is more minimalistic than OnPay or Gusto’s design, Paychex adds too many options to make it difficult. This is another sign that Paychex’s target audience isn’t the HR team members who need a handholding. Paychex can be used by experienced HR professionals. However, it can be daunting for those with less experience.
  • There are many integrations available, but it is difficult to integrate. Paychex appears to work with nearly every other tool you might use. But many users find it more difficult than they expected to actually get them to cooperate.
  • Pricing remains a secret. Paychex is very careful about disclosing pricing. Paychex is not like any other services. They make it very difficult for you to find pricing or packages. Instead, they encourage you to sign up to a free consultation in order to get a personalized quote.

Two types of people can learn a new payroll program: those who already know the subject well and are ready to dive in, and those who are just starting out and need more personal attention.

Paychex certainly is a service for those who are not the former, as one interviewee stated to us when discussing onboarding new employees.

“My issue is that I haven’t received anything that explains ‘here’s how it should all work starting from the beginning.’ That’s all I can do.” “It would be nice if it all came to me.”

The administrator user interface, while it’s very simple, can still cause confusion for some. Although experienced HR staff will be able to jump in and enjoy it, someone with no HR knowledge or experience might feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the many options. Although it’s possible, it may take a few payroll cycles for it to feel effortless.

User complaints about integrations being difficult, especially for time tracking software, was one area that I found surprising. Paychex customers sometimes have to do additional work because of difficult integrations.

Paychex sells their own time-in report product, as one user demonstrated. We don’t use it because we have one that is DCA approved, as we’re federal contractors. Paychex may be DCA approved. However, why bother? Why reinvent the wheel? So, we have a separate system. I have to manually input the PTO to Paychex.

Paychex remains a bit mysterious when it comes sharing price information online. Many people who spoke with us found this a problem, whether it’s because they charge too much or simply want to get you to talk with their sales team.

Paychex users tell us that “That’s probably my biggest complaint working with Paychex.” “They promote a low upfront expense because they consider a number discount, but these discounts over time just disappear.”

The Paychex sales staff was also scrutinized. Paychex’s salespeople are simply too pushy. Paychex’s aggressive sales approach, which includes repeated phone calls, emails, texts, and repeated phone calls to existing customers, has been criticised by dozens of people. Paychex’s sales tactics for existing customers leave much to be desired.

Paychex users who spoke with us said that their only problem was the salespeople. There are no other products on the list that get such many complaints.

Paychex Pricing

Paychex pricing information can be found on their website. It’s like searching for the holy Grail. You might find it, but it is hard to find. When you do eventually find it, you will feel extraordinary.

This is a completely different approach to QuickBooks, Gusto and OnPay which all place pricing at the forefront.

  • Flex Essentials – $39 per month + $5 per employee. It covers all the essentials. For a higher price than OnPay and Gusto, this service offers fewer services.
  • Flex Select for a custom quote only. All the Flex Essentials features, plus a dedicated Payroll Specialist, mobile app to payroll administrators, access e-learning and other employee pay options.
  • Flex Pro– Custom quote only You get everything from Essentials and Select plus additional services that are typically required only by larger companies. To access basic services such accounting integrations and garnishments at a lower cost, you will have to move up to the top five.
  • Paychex doesn’t offer a 30-day trial but occasionally offers three-month free trials. These specials are not available for free, so you will need to search.

Paychex pricing has many problems. This is evident from numerous reviews. Especially when you add a la-carte services. Some customers leave because the price has risen.


A brand’s power cannot be underestimated. QuickBooks is instantly recognisable as an accounting software company.

It has been a trusted company for decades. This reputation extends QuickBooks Payroll.

It’s obvious to say that QuickBooks Payroll works well for anyone who uses QuickBooks for their accounting. The two can be integrated from within QuickBooks accounting software in just one click.

But QuickBooks Payroll is also perfect for any small business that wants a standalone, trimmed-down product for payroll management–something that’s easy to use and gets the job done without unnecessary bells and whistles.

QuickBooks provides a comprehensive package of payroll services at a low price. This is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses as well as individuals who value simplicity over more functionality.

Where is QuickBooks Payroll Excels?

QuickBooks Payroll is a great tool for small business owners or solopreneurs who need to manage small teams.

  • Very intuitive.QuickBooks payroll is the best when it comes making it simple for people without a background in payroll to get paid. The Payroll Tax Center Dashboard makes the whole service more intuitive.
  • Tax penalty coverage:Quickbooks Payroll is unique among the products I have reviewed. It offers monetary protection of up to $25,000 per calendar year to pay tax penalties and interest. For this coverage to apply, you must be on the top tier of service. However, it can save small businesses from financial ruin.
  • Time tracking – QuickBooks Time allows users time tracking on the move via the website or dedicated mobile apps, and then to feed the data into QuickBooks Payroll automatically.

We interviewed users who used QuickBooks Payroll together with QuickBooks. Users unanimously agreed that QuickBooks Payroll saves them time every month. It also helped to reduce expenses.

One user pointed out that, before using QuickBooks Payroll they spent at least one hour a month managing payroll. After converting, however, their processing time was reduced to just minutes.

And, as another interviewee noted, “It’s saving me money from having to pay my accountant/bookkeeper.”

QuickBooks Payroll’s tax penalties protection is a great option for users who can afford to pay more each month. It’s easy to get stuck fast when you are on the IRS’s radar. The extra cost of a higher tier package can be well worth it if your payroll software is on your side.

We heard from users and reviewed that the prebuilt reports are excellent. It may seem like 20 reports are too many, but for those with more basic needs, it’s a good compromise between providing the essentials and overwhelming users with too many options.

Also, time tracking is a great win. The QuickBooks Time mobile application for Android and iOS allows you to accurately track hours regardless of where or when employees are working. This app also features geofencing technology which is unique among our top five products.

QuickBooks Time is easy to use, and users find it versatile. One user even used it to manage the billable hours of clients.

We use QuickBooks Time in a way that was not intended, but…works well for us,” said one user. We’re a marketing agency so we have different clients and…we track the amount of time we spend on each account, and every day. It is for internal tracking so that we don’t over or under service a client.

QuickBooks Time is available at the lowest QuickBooks Payroll subscription tier. It’s also included at the higher tiers.

The Potential Improvements in QuickBooks Payroll

QuickBooks Payroll is great for many reasons, but it’s not perfect for all.

  • Very limited integrations: You can only integrate QuickBooks Payroll with third-party software if you aren’t using QuickBooks Online. Intuit products can’t be integrated.
  • The customer service at QuickBooks leaves much to be desired.Low response time, slow follow up and difficult contact are just some of the comments that we have heard about it.
  • Limited HR tools:QuickBooks Payroll falls behind, especially when compared to the offerings of the other five. This issue is problematic for users who are looking for both payroll and HR.

QuickBooks Payroll’s greatest problem is its limitations for those who don’t use or aren’t willing to adopt QuickBooks for accounting purposes. It is not required for users to make full use of the 650+ third party integrations QuickBooks Payroll offers.

QuickBooks Payroll can’t be integrated with other accounting software. For anyone looking to do more with payroll, this is a big limitation.

QuickBooks Payroll, out of all the top five products, is our least favorite for customer service. Many reviews mention poor customer service in dozens and dozens, with a particular focus on long hold times.

“If you have any problems with QuickBooks and you call them, they’re going to be there forever trying to help you,” said one interviewee.

Unexpected problems can also cause users to seek out third-party information. One interviewee had to experience this firsthand.

He stated that “the direct deposit payment was supposed hit on the 30th but nobody received it.” I sent it and found out via the QuickBook forums that it was an issue with QuickBooks.

Many users complain about employees not being paid or tax-related issues from the IRS. These complaints go back as far as 2016. Inexperienced payroll managers can find it frustrating to experience unexpected hiccups.

Lack of HR tools is another problem. Gusto or OnPay offers don’t offer a fun and easy onboarding process. ADP or Paychex are not available to you.

QuickBooks Payroll’s most expensive plan, which is much more costly than OnPay and Gusto, allows you to only begin capturing a fraction of these services.

Businesses may also find tax calculations problematic. QuickBooks Payroll is a manual system that requires workers to enter data in QuickBooks Payroll for services performed in more than one state.

Employees who move frequently will be subject to the same limitations. QuickBooks Payroll only tracks two states. QuickBooks Payroll can’t track more than two states. This is a problem for multi-state workers.

This will not be an issue for solopreneurs or small businesses. It is a good example of why QuickBooks Payroll may not be the best option for larger businesses with many employees.

Pricing for QuickBooks Payroll

QuickBooks Payroll is one of our most affordable pricing options. It offers 50% off your first three months. Only OnPay has a lower price after the three month discount.

QuickBooks Payroll is affordable and a good choice for individuals or small businesses who just need to manage a small payroll but don’t want any extra features.

QuickBooks Payroll’s website offers clear pricing to suit both small and large businesses. It is easy to understand and use the service in just a few mouse clicks.

Paychex offers a unique deal if you sign up today, as you can see in the image. Here’s the regular pricing:

  • Core – $45/mo plus $4/employee. This is the entry level plan. It offers auto payroll and 1099 efile and pay. Product support and next day direct deposit are also available.
  • Premium – $75/mo plus $8/employee. All Core offerings, plus same day direct deposit, expert payroll reviews, and mobile time tracking
  • Elite – $125/mo plus $10/employee. All Premium offerings and Core, plus expert setup, Mobile Time Tracking, 24/7 Support, Tax Penalty Protection, HR advisory Services

QuickBooks Payroll also offers a range of services à la carte, including:

  • Plans under 401(k).
  • Health benefits
  • Time tracking app
  • Administration of worker’s comp (lower tiers only).
  • HR Support Center (only for those at the top tiers)

QuickBooks Payroll provides a 30-day free trial. In addition, QuickBooks Payroll offers special pricing up to 50% for the first 3 months.


ADP Payroll Excels

If you want to be a major player in the payroll service industry, you need to deliver big wins every time. This is where ADP excels.

  • Flexible payroll processing:ADP makes segmenting and running payroll for groups of any size easy, allows you to set custom payment dates, manage custom fields, and makes it possible to run payroll without restrictions. ADP is the leader among all five of my choices in this respect.
  • Mobile apps galore –ADP offers both iOS and Android apps on both the employee side. Administrators can easily manage their HR and payroll from any location and any device. Employees can also access the personal information they require at their fingertips.
  • Integrations can be almost endless. ADP lists hundreds if third-party software it integrates, from basic accounting software to advanced enterprise resource planning tools. You are a leader among the rest.

ADP can be used to support your business in every stage of its growth. Payroll automation offers a lot of flexibility, which is a clear sign. ADP will handle all your complex payroll needs, no matter how simple your payroll plans may be.

ADP allows you to easily modify your payroll cycles whenever your payroll data changes, which is what happened for the college payroll administrator we interviewed.

One user said, “Every semester we must change it.” It’s simple and user-friendly. Easy to understand.

ADP also makes onboarding new employees easy. It isn’t as flashy or entertaining as Gusto. The interface is straightforward. It is a simple interface that does the job.

It is easy to use by both employees and administrators. “We had no problems. In regards to transferring employees from Paychex to ADP, one administrator said that she didn’t receive any emails.

ADP is also known for its attention to mobile apps. A separate app is available for administrators and employees. ADP Mobile Solutions provides a deep dive into functionality that simplifies the process for all. This product is also my favorite out of all the products I’ve reviewed.

ADP’s reporting, like all the products on my list is rated highly by its users. The reports they provide are the most detailed of any provider on my list.

Extracting data for more complicated purposes, such as audits, is one area in which it excels. When responding to a request for bank audits, one interviewee said that it was very easy to extract the data and submit it the bank.

ADP integrates extremely well. ADP has hundreds of third-party tools available that can be integrated with their payroll services if an ADP product doesn’t exist.

The list is truly extensive, so you’re likely to find something.

ADP Payroll: Where ADP Could Improve

  • Insufficient guidance during onboarding. ADP is not the best option for new companies to sign up with despite its impressive functionality. The software’s steep learning curve is noted by many users. There is little support during the onboarding process.
  • Custom Reports are difficult to use. ADPs pre-built reports have been well received, but custom reports are another matter. Users complain that the system is slow, they don’t have intuitive fields and they get results that are not what their expectations.
  • Secret pricingADP is similar to Paychex in that it requires you to speak to a sales representative in order to receive a custom quote. ADP does not offer pricing information, unlike Paychex which has pricing available online for its entry-level package.

ADP will not appeal to people who prefer to be guided through onboarding. ADP users felt more independent than the OnPay and Gusto onboarding process.

One user stated that they were not given guidance on how to implement it, in reference to the company’s initial onboarding experience.

This lack of guidance is unlikely to pose a problem for experienced HR pros, but it can be for someone new to payroll. OnPay or Gusto may be more suitable for novices.

ADP also has a problem with taxes. Multiple ADP reviews over the past year claimed that ADP failed to make any changes to the law or compliance rules. This caused an issue. We interviewed both former and current ADP users to hear their complaints.

We were frequently asked about the difficulty of using custom reports in our reviews and in interviews. Some customers left because they were frustrated by the custom reports.

One user left to make this clear. She stated that “that was one of my major issues with ADP.” “Custom reports were not intuitive and difficult to use.” I used a lot standard reports to do my job. However, when I tried custom reports it got a bit complicated.

ADP also has the lowest pricing information among all products on this list. ADP’s website has no pricing information and you cannot sign up online. This means that you will need to talk to a sales rep to customize a package for your company. This is drastically different to the way QuickBooks, Gusto, or OnPay present their services.

ADP can be considered if you talk to a sales representative. ADP is known for being pushy, just like Paychex. ADP users often complain about overselling.

Even if you do get in touch with a sales representative for assistance, the promised services may not always be what you receive. “During our negotiations, sales rep stated that he could definitely do that. But it didn’t,” one user who was interviewed said.

ADP Pricing

ADP allows you to give them your contact details, much like Paychex. This could be a turnoff for small businesses who want simple payroll services at an affordable price.

If you are a HR or payroll manager for a larger organization, you might expect this. Negotiating for procured resources is part of your job. ADP’s website lists small businesses as a target audience. However, this implies that ADP really wants mid- to enterprise level customers.

ADP continues to make an effort for businesses of all sizes by offering two tiers in its service. Each tier provides different packages.


We have already gathered basic information on RUN so you don’t have to search through ADP and give your personal contact information.

  • Four levels of RUN are available, with additional services being added at each level.
  • RUN Essential – $59/month plus $4 per person per month. Includes payroll processing, reporting, direct deposit
  • Consultation is required for RUN Enhanced and Run Complete.

ADP Workforce is available for companies with 50 employees and more.

Workforce Now includes all features of RUN, as well as compliance reports, custom service, implementation and country-based records keeping. Prices are subject to consultation.

WAVE Payroll

Wave Payroll offers the most affordable pricing options. They have a flat fee, regardless of where you live, and don’t increase the price for additional features. Wave offers free accounting software and invoicing software. You can also combine it with Payroll to make it more affordable. Wave offers simple payroll software, which you can free-of-charge for 30 days. Wave is only available in 14 states, so you will have to pay taxes.

Here’s more information about Wave’s payroll service.

  • Pricing$35/month in the 14 states where they file taxes, $20/month in all other states. + $6 per employee/independent contractor per month
  • User-Friendly: Very simple, especially if using Wave’s financial software
  • Tax Service:Free tax filings and employee W2s. Also available in contractor 1099s. Only available in 14 States, but does include California, New York and Texas.
  • Year End Fees: Issues annual-end W2s, 1099s in fourteen states are all included in this price
  • Accounting Integrations:Wave accounting, QuickBooks

Wave has an average rating for customer service online. Wave customers feel that Wave was not helpful when they call the team. However, most reviews are about their payment product. Wave offers support via chatbot, live chat and support tickets. There is also a Help Centre with tutorials and articles.

The Review Process

To be added to my list, each product had multiple criteria.

What it required to be included

To be in the top five, any software must:

  • Offer integrations or consolidate payroll services . The goal is simplify payroll and to reduce the number of tools needed to perform basic payroll-related tasks such as onboarding, payroll, taxes. It was necessary for a tool to be able to integrate seamlessly with third-party tools.
  • Be widely used. While there are many good payroll automation tools available, not all are used in the mainstream. I selected tools that were used by small- and medium-sized businesses who have mainstream payroll needs.
  • is highly rated in user reviews. Software can be imperfect and all software has flaws. However, there is a distinction between a single issue and being a horrible tool. I immediately removed any online payroll services that were consistently receiving poor reviews.
  • Has an established online presence – There may be some unicorns who can take care of payroll processing. If you don’t see any reviews of them or there isn’t an online discussion about them, it can be difficult to tell if they live up to their marketing claims. I wouldn’t recommend a tool if it didn’t get regular mention on mainstream product review sites and other online resources.

The software I chose to include in my top five also handles basic payroll management tasks. These requirements are:

  • Security. It is vital to preserve the integrity of your personal data. The tools I chose use high-level security measures in order to protect sensitive information.
  • Scalability is an essential part of any online payroll system. It allows you to grow with your company. My list does not include every tool that can help you take your business to enterprise level of growth. However, all of them are capable of keeping up with the number of employees your company grows.
  • Schedule: My top picks are capable of handling a wide range of payroll schedules, including bi-monthly or weekly, bi-weekly or custom.
  • Reporting new hire – Since notifying the government about any additions to your team as workers is a legal requirement I made sure all of my top choices did this.

What Was Excluded

I did not consider any software that could:

  • Targeted enterprises: I focused my research and evaluation on tools that would best serve small to medium-sized companies with less than 1,000 employees. In my review, I also noted that a tool could be scaled up to the enterprise level.
  • This was niche-focused . Some of these services can be used for specific categories (farms and churches, restaurants, etc.), but all five of my top picks are good for any business, regardless of industry.

After the shortlist of potential top software candidates had been narrowed down, my research group conducted in-depth interviews of actual software users. Here is some insight into the process that my research team used.

How Active Users were Found

My team searched through social media and public review sites to find people who had shared their experiences on any of the platforms we selected.

The LinkedIn verification team verified that the users were authentic. This was an important step as fake reviews are common on the internet. This allowed us to be sure we were dealing directly with real people working for real companies.

After making contact, we confirmed that they were working with the tool or had previously used it. It was their firsthand experience that made it possible to validate their comments.

Who are we interviewing?

Our interviewees came from many backgrounds. They ranged from solopreneurs with a few employees to business owners with fewer than 10 employees, to HR professionals who oversee teams of 20-60 and to operational managers with over 100 employees.

Interviewees were aged from their 30s through their 60s. The interviewees had varying levels of payroll experience. Some had very little, while others had extensive HR experience.

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