Properly running payroll keeps employees happy and committed to their jobs, but it can be quite a process for business owners. That’s why payroll services for small business owners can be particularly helpful.
However, with a variety of software options, each offering a host of different features at different price points, it can be hard to choose the best one for your business.
If you’ve already done some research already, you’ve probably come across Automatic Data Processing, or ADP. ADP is a huge name in the business world, having been around since 1949, and has developed software to help businesses of all sizes hire, provide benefits to, and pay their employees.
However, ADP may not be right for every business. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of ADP Payroll and explore seven of the top ADP competitors as well.
As we mentioned, ADP has been in the game of helping small businesses for more than 60 years and they have a number of business solutions to offer. One of those solutions is cloud-based payroll software. ADP actually offers a variety of payroll software plans for their users, depending on business size and needs.
While specific features will depend on the type of plan you choose, ADP can offer a full suite of payroll and HR-related features, including payroll processing and reporting, tax calculations and filing, new hire tools, benefits administration, time tracking, compliance, and more.
One of the biggest pros of ADP Payroll is how scalable the solution is. From simple payroll processing to a full-fledged PEO, you can decide how much of your business’s payroll and HR processes you want ADP to handle.
Pricing for ADP is quote-based—so, while you can build a custom plan for your business with the exact features you need and nothing you don’t, this also means you don’t know if you’re getting the most competitive price.
Gusto Payroll: Best Customizable Payroll
One of your top alternatives to ADP is the cloud-based payroll provider Gusto. The services from Gusto Payroll are some of the most customizable on the market.
No matter which of Gusto’s plans you choose, you’ll get the following features:
- Unlimited payroll: You can run payroll as often as you need, including bonus and off-cycle payroll.
- Tax filings and payments: Gusto will take care of filing and paying your federal, state, and local payroll taxes for you.
- W-2s and 1099s: Not only will Gusto take care of your taxes, it will also automatically create your W2s and 1099s for you and send you and your employees digital copies.
- Employee onboarding: Gusto can help you create and send an offer letter and then once a new team member accepts the offer, can help you onboard them too. Electronic I-9 and W-4 forms along with new hire welcome emails and payroll self-onboarding can all make the onboarding process easier.
- Health benefits administration: You’ll also be able to manage your employees’ health benefits through Gusto. They also have licensed brokers who can help you find the plans that work best for your team.
There are three different Gusto plans, plus a contractor plan for businesses that only work with contractors. Additionally, there are also a number of integrations you can access through Gusto. That means if you use another software like QuickBooks or Xero for your accounting, Clover as your point of sale, or Expensify for expense management, you can integrate that software with Gusto Payroll seamlessly. Pricing for Gusto starts at $39 per month plus an additional $6 per month per employee.
Paychex Flex: Most Scalable Payroll
Your second alternative to ADP is a very similar product that also offers customers a full-service payroll product and can grow with your business. The Paychex Flex Select product is specifically designed for businesses with 10 to 49 employees. However, if your business is already past this threshold or you plan to grow significantly in the future, they also offer the Paychex Flex Pro and Paychex Flex Enterprise plans for businesses with more employees, making this another scalable option.
The Paychex Flex products offer you all of the payroll solutions you need, starting with actually running your payroll. You’ll be assigned a payroll specialist who can help you with your payroll and taxes and you’ll have access to their mobile app to access Paychex information and run payroll from anywhere. Some features include:
- Payroll processing options: You can either call in your payroll hours to your Paychex account manager or log them yourself through the desktop or mobile app.
- Payment methods: Employees can be paid via direct deposit, check, or with a prepaid Mastercard they can use anywhere.
- Tax administration and compliance: Each time you run payroll, Paychex calculates, pays, and files your payroll taxes with the appropriate federal, state, and local agencies.
- Paychex Promise: For an additional fee, you can sign up for Paychex Promise to extend the collection of payroll funds from your bank account by up to seven days without interruption of services or insufficient fund charges, among other features.
- Employee self-service: Employees can access an online portal to complete new hire paperwork, access and change their personal information, fill out tax forms, view payroll data, request vacation, and check time-off balances.
- Reporting: Depending on your Paychex plan, you can access varying levels of reporting features, including the ability to build custom reports.
In addition to the above features, Paychex also offers several HR add-on features, including benefits administration, timekeeping, employee screening, retirement planning, workers compensation, business insurance, and more.
QuickBooks Payroll: Best for QuickBooks Integration
QuickBooks Payroll is a payroll product from QuickBooks, one of the best-known accounting software companies serving small businesses. One of the most powerful things about this payroll software is that it seamlessly integrates with the other QuickBooks products, which could make your life as a business owner significantly easier.
There are three QuickBooks payroll plans: Core, Premium, and Elite, and they cost $45, $75, and $125 respectively. Each plan includes:
- Full-service payroll: You’ll get an unlimited number of payroll runs and you can quickly and easily review your employees’ hours. You can also opt to automate this if you’d like.
- Automated taxes and forms: Your taxes will be automatically calculated and filed on federal and state levels.
- Workforce portal: With QuickBooks Payroll your employees will be able to login and see their time off allowances, W-2 forms, and their withholdings for paychecks.
- Payroll reports: You can create and download a number of payroll reports, including payroll history, bank transactions, and more.
- Next-day direct deposit: The Core plan comes with next-day direct deposit while the Premium and Elite plans come with same-day deposit.
So, not only will you get all of the above features, relevant information for running your payroll will also be pulled in if you use other QuickBooks software. That means you can run payroll quickly and easily without having to input information manually.
Square Payroll: Most Affordable
If you’re in the retail or restaurant businesses, you probably already know about Square. They’re primarily known for their point of sale system, but what some people don’t know is that they also offer payroll solutions at an affordable price. Square actually has some of the more affordable rates around—less than most of their competitors at $29 a month and an additional $5 per person paid per month. They also have an option for business owners who only pay contractors that costs just $5 per person per month (with no additional monthly fee).
One of the most appealing aspects of Square Payroll is that for those who use the POS already, employees can clock in and out within the POS. But Square also integrates with other time tracking apps like Homebase and accounting apps like QuickBooks Online. So if you’re looking for a lower price tag but still want all of the integrations you might find elsewhere, Square could be the right choice for your business.
Square Payroll features include:
- Unlimited payroll: You can run payroll as many times a month as necessary for your business at no extra cost to you.
- Benefits management: You’ll be able to manage the benefits you offer your employees, like health insurance, 401(k), pre-tax savings, and more.
- Mobile app: The Square Payroll app is available in the App Store and on Google Play for those who want to be able to run payroll from anywhere.
- Online accounts: You and your employees or contractors will have access to their accounts online at any time from anywhere. Employees can manage their bank account information, see their pay stubs, and more.
Patriot Payroll: Best for Simplicity
Patriot Payroll offers payroll solutions for businesses with up to 100 employees. They offer two plans, the Basic Payroll plan and the Full-Service Payroll plan, both of which come with a host of features, including:
- Payroll setup: You can either give Patriot your information and they can set up payroll for you, or you can use their tool for doing this yourself, called the startup wizard.
- Direct deposit: You’ll get direct deposit included with either plan and the option to handwrite or print checks for your employees when necessary.
- Unlimited payroll: Run payroll as frequently as you need to and on whatever payroll frequency you prefer.
- Accounting integrations: Integrate with QuickBooks Desktop or QuickBooks Online for seamless integration of information.
- Time-off tracking: Set your PTO policy and then allow users to see what time they’ve accrued and used.
In addition to these features, another highlight is that Patriot Payroll makes it easy for you to assign employees to various locations. This means if you have employees who work in different states or locations, you’ll be able to calculate the correct taxes for each person.
Patriot’s Baic Payroll plan is just $10 per month and then $4 per month per employee or contractor you pay. For the Full-Service Payroll plan, the base price increases to $30 per month but the employee price stays the same.
The interface is simple and everything is clearly marked, so all you have to do is input your employees’ hours, complete a few steps, and then you’re done.
OnPay Payroll: Best for Businesses With Hourly and Contract Workers
Payroll is already a lot of work for small business owners, but running payroll when you have a high proportion of hourly and contract workers makes it even more complex. The cloud-based service OnPay Payroll is a great solution for those businesses, making it an ADP alternative to consider.
OnPay’s pricing structure is simple: $36 per month plus an additional $4 per person per month that you pay. It’s made for businesses with one to 1,000 employees, and you’re only billed for the employees you actually pay that month.
Keep in mind, payroll is not automated—which is part of what makes it so ideal for those with hourly workers. You can review hours and run payroll in a matter of minutes from your computer or your phone. With OnPay, you can also change the payment schedule at any time so you can each employee is paid correctly.
The features of OnPay include:
- Unlimited payroll: You get unlimited monthly payroll runs and you only pay for the employees you actually run payroll for at that time.
- W-2 and 1099: Whether your employee is a 1099 contractor or a W-2 employee, you can see their information in the same dashboard and get printable year-end tax forms.
- Tax filing and payments: The software will take care of withholding taxes for each payroll run and then OnPay will make your tax payments and file IRS forms 941 and 940.
- Multi-state payroll: Process payroll in multiple states if necessary, at no extra cost to you.
- Integrations: You can integrate OnPay with a number of other software platforms, like QuickBooks, Xero, Guideline, TSheets, and more.
Wave Payroll: Best for New Businesses
If your business is just getting started, Wave Payroll might be a good option for you. While Wave is most widely known for their free accounting software, their payroll software is one of the few services that come at a cost.
The features that come with Wave Payroll are in line with those you’d expect from other payroll software:
- Payroll: You can pay employees and contractors with direct deposit or print the checks yourself, and they can access their pay stubs and tax forms online. You can also set up email payroll reminders so you don’t miss a thing.
- Tax service: Depending on the state you’re in, Wave can either file and pay your payroll taxes for you, or it can show you all of the information you need in order to file it yourself.
- Integrations: You will be able to easily integrate Wave’s payroll software with their other offerings, including accounting and invoicing software. With so many of these options costing nothing, you can get a pretty robust feature-set for a low monthly cost.
The cost of Wave Payroll will vary depending on what state you’re operating in. For business owners in tax-service states, the cost is $35 per month plus an additional $6 per active employee or independent contractor each month, but in self-service tax states, the cost is $20 per month plus an additional $6 per employee per month.
The Bottom Line
When deciding which payroll software is right for your business, you’ll want to consider what features you absolutely need, what types of employees you have (full-time of contractors), how much you can afford to pay each month, and more.
Once you have your criteria in mind, evaluate each payroll software—from ADP to the above ADP competitors—to decide which best fits your needs. You’ll find that, based on your criteria, some systems clearly outshine others.
If you’re looking for software that’s highly customizable, then Gusto may be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for the best software to integrate with your other software solutions, you may choose QuickBooks or Wave.
If you’re still unsure, take some time to try free trials or demos of each product and see how the software works for your business and with any other programs you use. Getting firsthand experience with each platform will likely make your decision clear.
Nina Godlewski is a former staff writer at Fundera.
Nina worked to help make complicated business topics more accessible for small business owners. At Fundera, she focused on complex topics ranging from payroll management to launching a business. She was previously a staff writer at Newsweek covering technology, science, breaking news, and culture. She has also worked as a reporter for Business Insider and The Boston Globe.