Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.
Gusto has built a reputation for top-of-the-line payroll software that includes benefits administration, people management tools and other HR services for small businesses. However, there are other companies that offer similar features or even more specialized options compared with what is available with Gusto. Here are a few of the best Gusto competitors and why you might consider them for payroll software needs.
1. QuickBooks Payroll
QuickBooks Payroll offers a cloud-based or desktop application that manages your employees' financial records, calculates payroll and manages taxes. When paired with an existing QuickBooks account, the tool can help you manage even more of your company’s financial affairs within one seamless system. Of course, you can also use QuickBooks Payroll as a standalone app without other QuickBooks integrations.
One of the key reasons QuickBooks Payroll is an excellent Gusto competitor is its flexibility. You can pay employees and contractors through direct deposit or paper checks, making it easier for you and your staff to be paid the way they prefer rather than how the system requires. You can submit payroll by close of business the day before payday and still have everyone get their money on time via 24-hour direct deposit.
As with Gusto, QuickBooks Payroll is a subscription-based program with several service tiers designed for businesses of different sizes and needs. There are three subscription options: Core, Premium and Elite. The Core plan costs $45 a month, plus $4 per employee. Core features include automatic payroll, next-day direct deposit, automated tax form creation plus 401(k) and health benefits options.
Premium takes the offerings in the Core plan a step further, making it a great option for larger businesses or those with more complicated needs. For $75 a month, plus $8 per employee, the Premium plan includes same-day direct deposit, workers’ comp administration, premium time tracking, an HR support center and a review session to make sure you’re making the most of your setup.
QuickBooks Payroll Elite rolls up all of these features and more. For $125 a month, plus $10 per employee, you’ll have payroll setup done by an expert, mobile time tracking tools and a personal HR advisor for your business. You’ll also receive tax penalty protection: In the event that you incur a penalty due to an error made while using the platform, QuickBooks will help get it resolved (and may even reimburse you for the amount owed).
2. Square Payroll
Square Payroll is a powerful platform, offering easy ways to pay hourly and salaried employees as well as contractors. The program supports unlimited payroll runs per month, multistate payroll, tax filing and payment, and lets you import tips and commissions. You can also make one-off payments to contractors with ease, making it simpler to get people paid with minimal manual work in the process.
One compelling feature that Square Payroll offers is free seasonal inactivity. This feature allows you to pause your account without closing it. And after paying the previous month’s payroll fees, you won't be charged subscription fees. Square Payroll will continue to file taxes on your behalf even when your account is paused.
Square Payroll costs $35 a month plus $5 per employee. If you employ contractors only, you’ll pay $5 per contractor per month with no monthly base fee. Square Payroll is one of the more affordable Gusto competitors, but this doesn’t mean that the platform is underpowered. You’ll still be able to handle tax forms, benefits administration, time management and integrate with other apps such as QuickBooks. There’s also a Square Payroll app, making it easy to take care of business from wherever you are.
Justworks is among the more robust Gusto competitors, which means it's not a straight one-for-one alternative. Because of its substantial services and support platform, it can be considered a PEO, or professional employer organization. PEOs are akin to an outsourced, third-party HR department. They bundle services such as payroll, human resources and benefits together to help businesses take care of common (and sometimes complex) workforce management tasks.
Justworks does an excellent job handling all of the usual payroll-related tasks, such as direct deposits, off-cycle payments, payroll tax compliance and managing employee hours. But the biggest differentiator is its team of professionals available to answer client questions 24/7.
All of Justworks’ features come at a premium, however. The Basic plan starts at $49 per month per employee for companies with fewer than 25 employees, which can add up quickly. Other Gusto competitors average this kind of cost for a monthly subscription, with each user costing a few dollars extra every month. Justworks’ Plus plan comes with more options for benefits administration, but costs $89 a month per user.
4. Paychex Flex Payroll
Paychex is one of the largest players in the payroll space. And its Paychex Flex Payroll plans can be used by businesses of any size. Like Gusto, it offers solid payroll services including direct deposit, payroll tax filing and new hire reporting. Where Paychex surpasses Gusto is with its offering of a professional employer organization, or PEO, which provides a more comprehensive level of HR services.
The Paychex all-in-one platform lets you integrate HR and benefits with payroll. Through its PEO, you’ll have the ability to outsource many HR functions and receive advice and recommendations from an assigned HR professional. By joining with other businesses in the PEO, you’ll have better buying power for health insurance, retirement plans and other benefits.
The only pricing Paychex makes available is for the Flex Essentials plan that’s limited to businesses with fewer than 10 employees. It starts at $39 monthly plus $5 per employee. To get pricing for the other three options, including the Flex Enterprise plan, you’ll need to contact Paychex directly to receive a quote.
If you’re looking for a straightforward Gusto competitor that focuses on getting your payroll under control without additional bells and whistles, then Wagepoint might be right for you. The Wagepoint platform focuses on the essential tasks involved in payroll: paying employees and contractors, offering direct deposit and handling payroll taxes, year-end reporting and tax form generation. There’s also an online portal for employee access and a pay-as-you-go workers’ compensation option.
Wagepoint’s pricing is transparent, and a calculator is provided to estimate the payroll cost for your business. According to the calculator, a business that pays 10 employees biweekly would pay $40 per payroll run. That works out to be about $80 a month. Wagepoint’s pricing could be lower than some of the other Gusto competitors we’ve covered, depending on your payroll frequency. This can be a great way for smaller companies to pay for only what they need.
6. Coastal Payroll
Coastal Payroll can be a solid option for small businesses because of the company’s focus on meeting the needs of its clients. Although this Gusto competitor originally offered payroll services only, it has expanded to include human resources, benefits administration and time management.
Coastal supports direct deposit as the main option for getting employees and contractors paid. But it will print and mail paper checks upon request, and pay cards for employees without bank accounts are also an option. Plus, it’s easy to upgrade to the company’s other solutions, including HR management services that include an HR advisor, a human resources information system and HR support center. Pricing isn’t available on the Coastal website so you’ll need to request a quote.
A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.