Paychex, ADP, and Gusto are all popular payroll software, but for different reasons. ADP and Paychex are established providers that offer comprehensive HR and payroll services for businesses of all sizes, while Gusto is a newer provider that gives small businesses an affordable full-service payroll option with features that users would pay extra for with other services. ADP and Paychex are very similar overall but have some different products that might make one a better fit for certain businesses over the other.

  • Paychex: Best for one person to midsize businesses looking for strong HR and payroll support
  • ADP: Best for growing companies that plan to scale quickly and need a flexible plan option that changes with their growth
  • Gusto: Best for small businesses with 100 or fewer employees looking for an affordable payroll and HR software

Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto Compared

*This may change at any time. Visit the provider’s website to check the latest promos on offer.
**Pricing is based on a quote we received.

If you’re unsure about which payroll provider is best for your business, take our online Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto quiz.

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Why Paychex Is Best for One Person to Midsize Businesses

Paychex is the only provider of the three that has a self-employed product that comes with payroll, a retirement plan, and business incorporation services. Solopreneurs can start with its Paychex Solo solution and transition to Paychex Flex once they start managing employees and need more HR, payroll, and compliance support. Its robust suite of HR tools, which includes new hire reporting, onboarding, background checks, and time and attendance, is well-suited for midsize businesses.

Why ADP Is Best for Quickly Scaling Companies

While Paychex also offers multiple tiers that cater to different business sizes, ADP has a wider selection of products and plans that help companies scale their HR operations quickly. Its packages are targeted toward companies with fewer than 50 employees to those with 1,000+ employees; its midsize to large business offerings even include hands-on implementation assistance and expert support from certified payroll and HR professionals.

Why Gusto Is Best for Small Businesses

At a reasonable cost, Gusto provides all the basics—like unlimited and automatic pay runs, payroll tax payment and filing services, year-end tax reporting, and employee benefits. Aside from payroll, it offers basic hiring and onboarding tools, as well as performance reviews and simple time tracking tools. What’s more, Gusto doesn’t charge extra for payroll tax administration services—both ADP and Paychex have add-on fees for year-end tax reporting.

Best for Affordability: Gusto

Paychex, ADP, and Gusto all have multiple plans with month-to-month billing. However, only Gusto offers fully transparent pricing and pay processing tools that let you run payroll and off-cycle payments as many times as you need and want. Plus, it doesn’t charge add-on fees for year-end reporting.

*This may change at any time. Visit the provider’s website to check the latest promos on offer.
**Pricing is for Paychex Flex’s starter plan. Its other tiers (Select and Pro) are custom-priced.
***Pricing is based on a quote we received; rates can vary depending on the payroll frequency—the more often you pay employees, the greater the base cost fee.

Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto Pricing Calculator

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Why We Recommend Gusto for Affordability

Subscribing to Gusto makes more sense if your company needs to do payroll for fewer than 100 employees. All of its plans come with full-service payroll, unlimited and automatic pay runs, tax filings, and year-end reporting. Plus, its basic tier has features that you only get in Paychex’s and ADP’s higher plans. However, while it has a feature-rich platform with solid pay processing tools, Gusto lacks the advanced HR functionalities (such as robust hiring and learning management tools) that businesses with large teams need.

  • When comparing Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto for pricing transparency, Gusto wins because its plans are fully transparent. You can easily do cost comparisons between its options to see which one fits your budget and payroll needs. Paychex may publish the monthly fees of its Paychex Flex’s basic plan on its website, but the pricing details of its higher packages and other products (like hiring services) follow a call-for-a-quote scheme. ADP also requires you to contact its sales team to get pricing information and it charges fees based on the number of pay runs.
  • Even with its basic Simple plan, Gusto offers features (such as PTO policies and State unemployment insurance management) that Paychex and ADP either include in its higher tiers or as part of a paid add-on solution. With Gusto, you only have to pay $40 plus $6 per employee monthly for both features.
  • The starter per-employee fees of Paychex’s payroll solution, Paychex Flex, may be slightly lower than Gusto’s but you end up paying more with Paychex. This is because of the add-on fees it collects for handling your end-of year tax reporting. ADP also charges extra for generating, delivering, and filing W-2/1099 tax forms at year-end. However, if you’re a midsize business with over 100 employees and need advanced HR solutions for managing workers, Paychex (monthly fees start at $39 plus $5 per employee) would be a more cost-effective option than Gusto—provided you don’t mind paying extra for payroll tax filings.
  • Gusto is also great for small businesses that mostly employ contract workers because it has a low-cost contractor-only payroll plan ($6 per contractor monthly). With ADP and Paychex, you have to pay monthly base and per-employee fees even if you’re only processing contractor payments.

When to Consider ADP & Paychex

It’s difficult to compare Gusto vs Paychex and Gusto vs ADP for affordability because many, if not all, of ADP’s and Paychex’s products and plans are custom-priced. However, there are a few instances where either ADP or Paychex may be a more suitable option for you.

If you don’t have budget constraints and are looking for a payroll provider that offers a large variety of plan options that will fit your business at every stage, ADP will be a good fit. It has twice as many payroll and HR product plans as Paychex and Gusto.

If you’re self-employed, Paychex provides solopreneurs with a payroll plan (Paychex Solo) that has all the basic tools to process salary payouts and comply with the applicable tax rulings. With ADP and Gusto, you essentially pay more, as its starter tiers come with functionalities (like employee onboarding and online document management) that aren’t helpful for the self-employed.

For owner-only businesses that plan to expand into a midsize company with minimal changes, then its Paychex Flex payroll and HR plans may provide enough flexibility for you. With monthly fees that start at $39 plus $5 per employee, you also save a little bit more with Paychex as compared to Gusto—although the former charges extra for its year-end tax reporting services.

Best Payroll Features: Gusto

*May require additional fees
**Some solutions and services are available only in higher tiers

Why We Recommend Gusto for Payroll Features

Gusto is our top-recommended payroll software for small businesses because it has the best value for the payroll features it offers. Plus, some of its pay processing functionalities are slightly better than those from Paychex and ADP.

  • Paychex and ADP have automatic payroll capabilities but don’t offer unlimited pay runs—Gusto offers automatic payroll with unlimited pay runs and off-cycle payments.
  • While you get standard two-day direct deposits with Paychex and ADP, Gusto has two- and four-day options, but provides next-day direct deposits in its higher tiers.
  • Paychex and ADP charge extra for its year-end reporting services—you get this for free with Gusto.

With Gusto, you can run payroll in four easy clicks. (Source: Gusto)

ADP is great for those who have US and international payroll needs, as it has a comprehensive payroll solution suite that can handle salary payouts for both US and global employees. It made our list of best international payroll services because its ADP GlobalView Payroll product not only pays global staff in their local currencies but also provides strong compliance support to ensure that you are always up-to-date with country tax rulings and labor regulations.

In addition, ADP has a more robust paper check feature; it can sign checks, stuff them in envelopes, and deliver them to your office. Gusto doesn’t offer this, while Paychex only has check logo and signing services.

ADP payroll that lets you input work hours and bonus amounts.

ADP lets you input work hours and bonus amounts directly into its payroll tool. (Source: ADP)

Among the three companies, Paychex is the only provider that offers solopreneur payroll services. Aside from direct deposit payments and Forms W-2/W-4 filings, self-employed business owners get expert assistance in establishing their companies as S-corporations. This enables them to save on self-employment taxes by making the most out of tax breaks on deductible contributions (like retirement).

Paychex “payroll center” dashboard.

Paychex “payroll center” dashboard (Source: Paychex)

Best Employee Benefits: Paychex & ADP

*Some plans may require participation fees or premium payments.
**Premium-only plans help you and your employees to save on certain payroll taxes by allowing your staff to prepay a portion of health insurance premiums using pretax dollars.

Why We Recommend Paychex & ADP for Employee Benefits

When comparing Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto just on health benefits, ADP and Paychex offer the best coverage. Their health insurance options are available across the US, while Gusto’s health plans are limited to 39 states (unavailable in Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming). Paychex and ADP are also our top picks for employee benefits because they have helpful perks (like discounts and financial wellness tools) that your staff will appreciate.

  • Paychex offers a better selection of financial wellness tools on top of the typical benefits options (such as workers’ comp, medical, dental, vision, and retirement plans). Aside from short-term loans, your employees are granted advanced access to their earned salaries between paydays in case of emergencies. Educational resources are also available to help your workers manage their finances and meet their savings goals.
  • ADP also provides employee benefits that companies usually offer to their workers, such as health, retirement, FSA/HSA, and disability insurance plans. While it lacks Paychex’s financial wellness tools, it makes up for it by providing an employee perk that allows your staff to get discounts from popular brands and retail shops.

When to Consider Gusto for Employee Benefits

Gusto is a great choice if your business isn’t located in one of the 11 states (see map below) not covered by its health plans. It offers a wide variety of employee benefits with unique options, like college tuition savings plans. Similar to Paychex, workers who need money for emergencies can use its Gusto Cashout feature to get a portion of their average salary, max 40% or up to $500 ($200 for the first transaction).

Showing a graphic of Gusto Health Benefit States.

Best HR Features: ADP

*Paid add-on
**Available in higher tiers

Why We Recommend ADP for HR

Comparing ADP vs Paychex’s HR tools is difficult since they have many similar features. They offer robust HR solution suites for managing the entire employee lifecycle. However, ADP has a few key advantages over Paychex—it can post job listings to over 25,000 job sites and doesn’t have a limit to the number of background screens you can run. This makes ADP ideal for employers who want efficient hiring tools that are bundled in payroll software.

ADP main dashboard.

You can manage and access your ZipRecruiter job postings directly from ADP’s main dashboard. (Source: ADP)

Gusto also offers HR solutions, but these aren’t as robust. It lacks the learning management and compensation planning tools that the two others offer. And while Gusto can help you track applicants, it posts jobs to only 100+ job boards (ADP can post to more than 25,000 job sites).

If you’re focused on upskilling employees to build a high-performing workforce, then having access to coaching programs and training tools is critical. This is where Paychex comes in. With its learning management module, you can access online training sessions designed to enhance your employees’ business acumen, soft skills, and functional competencies. This is essential for fostering a company culture of continuous improvement and for improving employee retention.

Paychex catalog of learning sessions.

Paychex has a catalog of learning sessions to help improve your employees’ skills. (Source: Paychex)

While ADP also offers employee training programs, you have to get the most premium tier of its small business HR payroll solution, ADP Run. With Paychex, you just need to subscribe to either the Select or Pro plan of its Paychex Flex product.

Gusto provides all of the basic HR tools that small businesses need—from online offer letters and onboarding checklists to document management and state new hire reporting. It even offers software provisioning tools to help you set up business systems that new employees will use.

Gusto is also a good fit for those who employ mostly hourly workers, as it has built-in time tracking tools for capturing clock-ins/outs (ADP and Paychex charge extra for time tracking). In addition, you don’t have to manually upload time data into Gusto payroll since the system will automatically do this for you.

If you need to hire qualified candidates, Gusto has applicant tracking and job posting capabilities. However, its job posting reach isn’t as wide as that of ADP (posts jobs to more than 25,000 job sites). Job posts you create in Gusto only appear on Google Jobs and in over 100 job boards.

Gusto recruiting tools.

Gusto’s recruiting tools help you track applicants as they move through the hiring process. (Source: Gusto)

Best for Ease of Use & Customer Support: Paychex

*Available in higher tiers

Why Paychex Is Best for Ease of Use & Customer Support

Paychex, ADP, and Gusto all have intuitive interfaces with tools that are cloud-based and generally easy to use. However, what sets Paychex apart from the other two is the dedicated payroll specialist that it assigns to its clients. With only one point person to contact for payroll and tax concerns, you can easily get expert advice without having to go through different customer service reps. You also have access to online guides and 24/7 phone support.

If you have an in-house payroll expert and won’t need a dedicated specialist, then ADP is for you. It offers 24/7 support and you can contact its customer service reps either through email or phone. In case you need expert HR advice, ADP has a team of HR professionals who can help you manage complicated issues.

Gusto may lack the 24/7 support that Paychex and ADP offer, but it provides multiple options for contacting customer service. You can call them via phone or use email and live chat. Gusto also has HR advisers you can contact if you have questions about labor laws and HR compliance.

Best for User Popularity: ADP

*Data from third-party review sites (such as G2 and Capterra)

To compare Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto on user popularity, we looked at each providers’ average overall ratings and the number of reviews on third-party review sites like G2 and Capterra. For user ratings, ADP’s average score is higher than those of Paychex and Gusto (4.5 out of 5 versus Paychex’s 4.15 and Gusto’s 4.45). However, Gusto’s average number of reviews online is higher—it has close to 2,100 compared to Paychex’s more than 1,300 and ADP’s nearly 850 reviews.

What Users Think: Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto

Most of the online reviews about Gusto are positive. Users who left feedback on G2 and Capterra raved about its intuitive interface, reasonable pricing, solid payroll features, and simple-to-learn tools. Others said that customer service is hit or miss—although a majority of these reviewers mentioned that its support team is generally helpful.

The common feedback that users leave on G2 and Capterra is about its ease of use. Many appreciate its user-friendly interface with features that help streamline pay processing and new hire onboarding. However, customer service quality isn’t consistent. Some users commended its support team for being helpful, while a few others complained about having experienced long wait times and poor service.

Similar to Gusto and Paychex, ADP’s online reviews on G2 and Capterra are mostly positive. Users said that it makes running payroll easy and simple for them, adding that its customer service reps are generally helpful and responsive. However, some noted that it can be a bit pricey for small companies and has a lot of features that mom-and-pop businesses may not need.

How We Evaluated Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto

We evaluated Paychex vs ADP vs Gusto by looking at each provider’s pricing structures, features, and ease of use. We also checked whether HR professionals are available to give expert advice. Customer support was also an important factor, since small business owners may need help navigating through the software.

Bottom Line

Deciding among ADP vs Paychex vs Gusto can be challenging since they have a lot of similar payroll and HR tools. However, we recommend you choose the best HR payroll software based on both your current and expected future business needs.

ADP can support large growth plans given its multiple yet flexible payroll tiers. If you need a special solopreneur package, or you’re planning to stay a midsize employer, then Paychex can provide you with a more personalized payroll experience and service. If your business has a simple structure with fewer than 100 employees, Gusto’s full-service plans would likely be a better fit.

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