ADP vs. Paychex Review: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Sally Lauckner

Sally is the managing editor at Fundera. Previously, she was senior editor at SmartAsset, a Y Combinator-backed personal finance startup. She has also held various editorial roles at the Huffington Post and AOL.com. Sally has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English literature from Columbia University.

As you know, paying your staff in full and on time is crucial; but as you also know, processing payroll and calculating and filing payroll taxes on your own can seem like an insurmountable task, or at least a very time-consuming one. That’s why just one of the many decisions you’ll need to make as a small business owner, and as the leader to a team of employees, is deciding which payroll processor you’ll partner with. On your search, you may need to decide between ADP vs. Paychex as your payroll software of choice.

ADP vs. Paychex are two of the biggest names in payroll services. And although they’re also two of the oldest payroll outsourcing services in the country, they’ve both adapted to the digital age to provide business owners with cloud-based, fully automated payroll software, while maintaining strong, human-powered support teams as well. Plus, both companies’ services extend well beyond payroll to provide comprehensive human resources and benefits services, too.

Because they offer such similar services, and they’re both widely trusted by small business owners, coming down one way or another on the ADP vs. Paychex debate can be tricky. Here, we’ll take a closer look at what both companies can offer their small business clients, how their services are priced, and what users have to say about their services. That way, you can come to a better-informed decision about which (if either) of these two payroll and HR solutions companies you’d like to partner up with.

An Overview of ADP

ADP is one of the oldest and largest employer services companies in the nation: From their beginnings in 1949 as solely a payroll processing business, ADP has expanded into providing comprehensive human capital management solutions to 700,000 small businesses and enterprises worldwide.

If you just need a payroll service, you’ll probably use Powered by ADP, the company’s online payroll processing platform designed specifically for small business owners, and which business owners can use to streamline and automate their payroll and payroll taxes—but even if you use their online software, you’ll still have 24/7 access to ADP’s own payroll and tax experts. And if need be, you can choose to take advantage of ADP’s other HR and benefits solutions, too, which we’ll explain in more detail here.    

ADP Features

ADP serves over half a million small businesses (which they define as businesses with 1-49 employees) with their cloud-based payroll solutions. In addition to running payroll from ADP’s centralized, digital dashboard, ADP will also automatically deduct your workers’ comp insurance every pay period, and automatically deposit your staff’s paychecks via check, direct deposit, or a pay card.  

ADP offers small business owners four online payroll processing packages, which increase in available features and are designed for businesses of increasing sizes and needs:

  • Essential: This plan works best for startups, or for businesses that only need a payroll solution. Among other features, with this plan you’ll get payroll delivery, W2 and 1099 forms, reporting capabilities, relevant state and federal forms, direct deposit, and your employees will be able to access their own online portal where they can view and manage important forms and information.
  • Enhanced: With this plan, you’ll get everything included in the Essential package, plus check signing and stuffing, prepaid cards, poster compliance, state unemployment insurance, and wage garnishment services.
  • Complete: This plan provides business owners with all the payroll features included in the Enhanced plan, plus essential HR services like employee handbooks, background checks, and access to ADP’s HR Help Desk.
  • HR Pro: ADP’s most comprehensive package, HR Pro provides business owners with full-service payroll and HR support.  

As we mentioned, ADP provides comprehensive employer services in addition to their payroll solutions, all of which integrate with your payroll processing and HCM system:

  • Time and attendance: Digitally track your employees’ hours, time-off requests, scheduling, and more.
  • Talent: ADP’s talent services can help you optimize the entire employee lifecycle, from recruiting, to hiring, to managing employees and promoting their growth, to providing them with retirement plans.
  • Employee benefits: ADP provides digital employee benefits administration solutions, as well as both online and in-person benefits advisory services. You can also get retirement plans, group health insurance, and business insurance through ADP’s partnerships with insurance agents and carriers.   
  • HR services: ADP provides a wide range of HR services at varying degrees of personalization. If you have a general HR-related question, you can reach out to HR HelpDesk, their team of HR experts, via call, email, or chat. You can also access key HR documents and an employee handbook wizard. If you need more intensive support, you can use ADP’s HR consulting services or partner with a dedicated HR expert who can help you design and implement a customized HR solution. Alternately, you can choose to outsource some or all of your HR administration to ADP’s experts, or partner with ADP as a PEO.

You can integrate tons of apps into your ADP platform, too, including accounting solutions like QuickBooks and Xero; ERP (enterprise resource planning) software; time and attendance apps; and lots more. ADP also has their own app marketplace where you can search and download compatible apps to suit your business’ needs.

ADP Pricing

ADP charges custom pricing based on your business’s size, which of their services you need, and which payroll package you sign up for, among other factors. You can receive a free custom quote by filling out basic information about your business on their website, or by contacting an ADP sales representative directly.

ADP User Reviews

Overall, ADP receives largely positive user reviews across major review platforms: they’ve received a 4.2 out of 5 rating on G2 Crowd and 5 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot, but a slightly lower rating on Consumer Affairs with just over 3 out of 5 stars.

Positive reviewers say that ADP’s software is easy to use, that their service delivers exactly the services they claim, and that the ADP customer service team is responsive and knowledgeable. On the other hand, some reviewers say that they had difficulty setting up their accounts, have had occasional issues with direct deposits, and have encountered other glitches. Whatever their shortcomings, we think a point in ADP’s favor is that they’ve promptly responded to almost every review on Consumer Affairs and Trustpilot, both the negative and the positive.       

adp vs. paychex

An Overview of Paychex

Since their start in 1971, Paychex has become one of the best-known payroll and HR solutions providers for small-to-medium sized business owners. In addition to those two major services, Paychex’s roster boasts an absolutely thorough amount of employer services, including time and attendance, benefits administration, compliance services, records administration, recruiting and onboarding, health insurance and retirement plans, and several types of relevant insurance, like workers’ comp and business auto insurance. It’s also worth noting that Inc. named Paychex Flex the best overall HR outsourcing service for small business owners, especially for offering on-site HR professionals if you need hands-on help.

Let’s take a closer look at what Paychex offers its approximated 605,000 small business clients.

Paychex Features

Paychex offers so many services on their platform, but first we’ll go into more detail about their small business payroll services, which are suitable for businesses with one-49 employees.

Paychex will calculate, pay, and file most local payroll taxes on your behalf. You’ll also have access to Paychex’s online payroll processing software, which you can access on your computer or your phone with their free mobile app. Other features included in Paychex’s small business payroll processing service are:

  • The ability to pay any kind of workers (full-time, hourly, or contract) via direct deposit, paper checks, or paycards
  • Automatic tax payroll administration
  • Garnishment payments
  • HR analytics and an events calendar
  • Custom reports and analytics
  • 24/7 customer support

…and lots more. Employees will also receive logins to an employee self-service portal, where they can access documents like new hire paperwork and payroll forms, change their personal information, and request time off. Also, Paychex can help you switch to Paychex if you’re already working with a payroll processor.

Paychex also offers combined payroll and HR solutions packages for businesses of all sizes: between one and nine employees; 10-49 employees; or 50-1,000+ employees. Included in their packages are comprehensive time and attendance management, PEO services, hiring services, employee benefits, and business insurance.

Beyond that, Paychex can offer additional services that aren’t typically offered by payroll/HR solutions providers, like financial management services, payment processing, tax services, and services geared especially toward startups, like incorporation assistance and an online marketing platform.

Paychex Pricing

Like ADP, Paychex provides custom pricing based on your business’s size, needs, and which of Paychex’s four packages (Express Payroll, Paychex Flex Select, Paychex Flex Pro, or Paychex Flex Enterprise) you’re interested in.

You can request a free quote for any of these four packages by providing your business’s information on the Paychex website. For a limited time, Paychex is offering two months of free services before you need to commit to a paid plan.

Paychex User Reviews

User reviews about Paychex are a mixed bag: The company receives 4 out of 5 stars on G2 Crowd and an A+ rating on BBB, but they’ve also received just over 2 out of 5 stars on Consumer Affairs and a 2 out of 5-star rating on BBB. On the positive side, recent reviewers say that the Paychex interface is easy and efficient to navigate, and lots of users have successful experiences with the payroll service itself. The company’s negative reviews focused on technical issues and a lack of transparency about their processes.      

adp vs. paychex

ADP Vs. Paychex: Which Payroll Service Provider Is Right for Your Business?

All told, you can’t really go wrong by teaming up with either ADP or Paychex—both provide full-service, scalable, cloud-based payroll and HR solutions that are suitable for businesses as small as two-person operations, or as big as enterprises managing thousands of employees. Both ADP vs. Paychex are flexible, too, as clients can pick and choose which of their comprehensive services they want or need.

What the ADP vs. Paychex debate will probably come down to is price and customer service. We’d recommend reaching out to sales reps from both companies and requesting a free quote. Also, take the time to ask your sales rep about any lingering questions you may have about their services, no matter how big or small.

But if you find that neither ADP or Paychex fits the bill, know that there are so many other payroll services for small business owners on the market that you can look into, instead. The extra time it may take to research your alternatives will be worth the hours (and stress) you’ll save yourself running payroll by yourself down the line.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Sally Lauckner

Sally is the managing editor at Fundera. Previously, she was senior editor at SmartAsset, a Y Combinator-backed personal finance startup. She has also held various editorial roles at the Huffington Post and AOL.com. Sally has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English literature from Columbia University.

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