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The Top 5 Small Business Payroll Providers

December 30th, 2021 | 4 min. read

By Gia Rolen

If you're looking for a new home, you have an idea of what you want. You also know which aspects of a house are the most important to you. 

For example, you may decide to sacrifice square footage for the price, or a larger kitchen may be more ideal than a sprawling backyard. 

As you search for a new payroll provider, think about which features you value the most. Do you need to integrate several third-party apps, or do you want everything to live on one platform? Is the price a deciding factor, or is it worth paying extra for excellent customer service? 

At Whirks, we're a small business helping other small businesses get one step better every day. This begins with finding a supportive payroll provider who will help you streamline processes like paying your employees, tracking time, and offering benefits. 

I'm currently in the market to buy a home, and I know exactly what I want. Location and affordability are the most important aspects to me. I don't want to look at anything that makes me compromise on those two needs. 

Instead of comparing every feature, I've divided the top five small business payroll partners by what they're best at doing:  

  1. Best for affordability  
  2. Best for integrations 
  3. Best for users 
  4. Best for familiarity 
  5. Best for HR  

Let's dive in and see which payroll provider may be best for you and your team. 

Gusto - Most Affordable

Starting at $45/month, Gusto is the most affordable option - and they offer a month of services for free. This allows users to experience the product before having to commit. 

They are unique from other providers because the following services are included in one price

  • Full-service payroll
  • Benefits administration
  • Employee self-service
  • Accounting and time tracking integration

You pay $39 a month plus a $6 per employee per month fee for these services

If you add other features to your package, your base fee will stay the same, but your per employee per month (PEPM) fee will double. 

Gusto is an excellent fit for startups and tiny businesses beginning to grow. If you have several Independent Contractors (1099s), this is an affordable option for managing them and staying compliant. 

Generally, Gusto has received several positive user reviews. However, there have been complaints concerning W2 administration and 941 misfilings. There are also varying opinions on their customer service. 

Gusto has a beautiful user interface and is very user-friendly. Keep in mind, however, that because it's a "do-it-yourself" platform, you may run into time-sensitive issues and be limited on support, especially when it comes to payroll taxes. 

QuickBooks Payroll - Best for Integration

Quickbooks is an established software that empowers you to manage your books, file taxes, and pay your employees. If you're a business owner, you have probably used QuickBooks at some point. 

They include the following features in their pricing: 

  • Unlimited payroll runs 
  • Paycheck and tax calculations
  • Automated taxes and forms
  • Garnishment and deduction management 
  • Payroll reporting 

Integration is essential for many users, and using the Quickbooks platform allows you to host crucial data for your entire business in one central location. 

Recently, Quickbooks added inventory management to their suite of services. This piece can be integral to the success or failure for restaurant owners and retail shops. 

Their pricing begins with a $22.50/month base fee and $4 per employee per month. Again, this is just for payroll processing - this doesn't include other HCM features such as timekeeping and benefits, but you can integrate a third-party app easily. 

Keep in mind that Quickbooks is not HCM software. This is better for micro-businesses and startups. If you're unfamiliar with payroll processing and taxes, it's not an ideal fit for you and your team. 

Rippling - Best for Users 

Rippling is perhaps the most user-friendly payroll platform. Praised for its organization, one-click payroll runs, and comprehensive benefits administration tool, it is the highest-rated HR platform on Capterra software review. 

Their website divides their services into six categories: 

  • Payroll
  • Time and Attendance 
  • Talent Management
  • Benefits 
  • Learning Management 
  • PEO Services 

They also offer IT services and app management for Slack, Office 365, and Google. 

Their pricing starts at $8 per month per user. That's the only pricing information on the website, but you can receive a custom quote for the services you want. Rippling's minimum contract length is one year. However, they do offer a free trial. 

While their reviews are very positive, several complaints about implementation and customer service have been made. You must request help via email, and payroll concerns are often time-sensitive. 

Run by ADP  - Most customizable 

You have probably received a check from ADP at one point. After all, they cut one in five of the world's paychecks. 

ADP is a well-known, established name in the payroll world. They have services that fit every business need - from startups to global enterprises. Their small business tier is ADP Run

If you need customizable software that will grow with you throughout your business life, ADP is a solid choice for your team. They divide their services into four tiers: 

  • Essential Payroll
  • Enhanced Payroll 
  • Complete Payroll and HR 
  • Pro Payroll and HR 

Pricing is not transparent on their website, so you must request a quote to learn more. However, they offer three months free, empowering you to engage with the software before deciding to commit. 

Because ADP is a giant, their customer service is consistently rated the poorest among users, and price increases are guaranteed the longer you use their services. 

Paychex - Best for HR 

Paychex is unique because they have at least one brick-and-mortar location in all 50 states if you value in-person help. Just keep in mind that it may not be close to where you live. 

They are set apart by their dominance in the HR department. Paychex offers a dedicated HR professional who extends your team and helps you navigate and understand laws and regulations. 

This is especially helpful in our current day and age. With all the changing federal and state regulations and the larger remote workforce, there are several grey areas that you may not know about. On their website, their features are listed as: 

  • Payroll Services 
  • Employee Benefit Services 
  • HR Services 
  • Business Insurance 

Their smallest package, Paychex Go, offers upfront pricing at $39 per month plus a $5 per employee per month fee. They also offer a one-month free trial period. 

Paychex Go's packaging offers a wide variety of services, from worker's comp to accounting integrations. However, several of these features have additional fees that are not included in their pricing, so beware of a higher monthly expense. 

Which HCM fits your business best?

People value very different things when they're searching for a home. Some may want the convenience of living close to work, and others may prefer the quietness of the country. 

You have to be willing to weigh the pros and cons of certain houses, compromise on some features, and negotiate and justify the price. 

Put yourself in the same mindset when you're researching a payroll and HCM provider: there's one that's the best fit for you and your growing team, but you have to be willing to explore your options and compare the benefits.  

For example, if you're a startup that doesn't plan on growing for a while, you may want to choose Gusto or Quickbooks. But if you're hiring several people quickly and want to expand your team, you may opt for a more scalable option, like Paychex or ADP. 

Continue your research in finding the right provider by watching a demo on what intuitive software looks like, or reading this article on the 7 Benefits of integrating your Payroll with an HCM system.