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Updated May 21, 2024

Gusto vs. ADP: Which Payroll Software Is Right for Your Business?

Gusto and ADP offer competent payroll services with robust HR tools. We’ve compared these top solutions to help you decide which payroll software is best for your business.

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Tom Anziano, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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ADP company logo
Editor's Rating9.2/10
Gusto Payroll Software logo
Editor's Rating9.2/10

When choosing the best payroll software, most small business owners need more than just a platform that pays employees quickly and accurately. A solution that helps you hire and onboard new employees, as well as offer them attractive benefits packages, can save companies a great deal of time and money in the long run.

We put Gusto and ADP — two of our top choices for payroll processing services with powerful HR capabilities — to the test so you can see which holds the best value for your business. 

Gusto vs. ADP Compared

Criteria

Gusto

ADP

Starting price

$40 per month, plus $6 per employee per month

Custom pricing

Payroll features

Automated payroll, unlimited runs, W-2/1099 filing, unemployment insurance, time and attendance

Multistate payroll, automatic cycles, tax filing and accuracy guarantees, time and attendance 

New-hire tools

Onboarding, new-hire reporting, remote tools, background checks, access to HR experts

Onboarding, background checks, access to ZipRecruiter, personalized HR support

Employee benefits

Access to health insurance brokers in 38 states, 401(k)s, commuter benefits, workers’ compensation, Gusto Wallet app

Health insurance plans available in all 50 states, retirement plans, workers’ compensation 

Ease of use

Fast implementation, no mobile app

Lengthy implementation with personalized support, mobile app access

Customer service

Live support available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, plus access to online resources, benefits advisors and HR experts

Live support available 24/7, plus access to online resources and dedicated HR experts

Who Do We Recommend Gusto for?

Gusto is our choice for small businesses and startups that are looking to get the most value out of a payroll platform that also facilitates HR functions and employee benefits management. Gusto has three reasonably priced plans packed with features that offer a real bang for your buck.

Even business owners without payroll-processing experience will find it easy to use the software. Standard features such as time and attendance, health insurance packages, hiring assistance and onboarding tools allow you to handle multiple tasks from a single dashboard without paying extra. Businesses that need enhanced HR support will love that the premium plans can connect you with HR experts.

Gusto dashboard

You can run effortless, error-free payroll from Gusto’s straightforward dashboard. Source: Gusto

These are some of Gusto’s highlights:

  • Gusto offers three plans with valuable payroll and HR features and no hidden fees.
  • The platform provides affordable benefits management, including access to Gusto’s health insurance brokers.
  • Premium-plan customers get direct access to HR professionals.

Our detailed Gusto review breaks down more advantages of this payroll vendor.

Who Do We Recommend ADP for?

ADP’s RUN platform is an excellent payroll solution for businesses with complex needs, such as those with multistate operations. There are four customizable plans for companies with fewer than 50 employees. All come with full-service payroll and basic HR features. Premium plans expand upon ADP’s valuable HR tools.

‘We found that ADP is an especially great choice for growing businesses, as the platform can easily scale with your organization. You can add features, like employee benefits or time-and-attendance tools, to any plan. If you outgrow the platform, you can take advantage of ADP’s solutions for large businesses. No matter the size of your company or the complexity of your needs, ADP is straightforward and easy to use for payroll and human resources.

ADP platform on a desktop and mobile device

ADP’s intuitive platform makes it easy to execute payroll tasks from the desktop or mobile app. Source: ADP

Here are some ways ADP stands out:

  • ADP offers customizable plans with full-service payroll for small businesses.
  • The excellent HR features include background checks, training and dedicated support.
  • The platform is scalable, with additional solutions for large businesses.

See our comprehensive ADP review to find out the other reasons this payroll service is appealing.

TipTip
Paying employees on time is essential to long-term success, but you might be short on cash when getting your business off the ground. Read our guide on what to do if you can’t make payroll so your company doesn’t suffer.

Gusto vs. ADP Comparison

To help you determine whether Gusto or ADP is the best payroll service for your business, we’ve directly compared their pricing, features, ease of use and customer service.

Price

Gusto

  • Gusto offers three plans that allow unlimited payroll runs.
  • The entry-level package doesn’t support multistate payroll.
  • There is a separate offering for contractor-only companies.

Here’s an overview of Gusto’s plans.

Plan

Price

Features

Simple

$40 per month, plus $6 per employee per month

Single-state payroll, tax filing, unlimited payroll runs, W-2 and 1099 filing, wage garnishment, child support deductions, reports, hiring and onboarding tools, and benefits administration

Plus

$80 per month, plus $12 per employee per month

Everything in the Simple plan, along with multistate payroll and taxes, next-day deposit, time tracking, PTO management, job postings and applicant tracking

Premium

Custom pricing

Everything in the Premium plan, along with dedicated priority support, an HR resource center, compliance alerts, health insurance broker integration and access to HR experts

Contractor Only

$35 per month, plus $6 per contractor per month; base rate waived for first six months

Unlimited contractor payments in all 50 states, four-day direct deposit, 1099-NEC filing, new-hire reporting, and an optional international contractor add-on

Gusto has three plans that include full-service payroll and tax features. We love that no matter which package you choose, you can run unlimited payroll cycles at no extra cost. Robust HR features and time-tracking tools included with most plans further set Gusto apart from the competition. We also appreciate that Gusto has an option for companies that pay only independent contractors. Furthermore, as an add-on to any plan, you can pay freelancers internationally.

That said, we’re disappointed that the entry-level Simple plan limits payroll to a single state, which means businesses that pay employees in multiple states will have to sign up for a higher tier. However, we like that there are no setup or termination fees. Plus, you’re charged only when you run payroll, so businesses on a tight budget won’t have to worry about unexpected costs.

ADP

  • There are four plans for businesses with fewer than 50 employees; three enable multistate payroll.
  • Pricing information isn’t available on ADP’s website.
  • Off-cycle payroll, setup fees and add-ons can increase your costs.

Here’s a breakdown of ADP RUN’s plans.

Plan

Price

Features

Essential

Custom pricing

Multijurisdiction payroll, mobile app, two-day processing, new-hire reporting, taxes, onboarding, background checks and Google Ads integration

Enhanced

Custom pricing

Everything in Essential, plus state unemployment insurance, ZipRecruiter access and job costing

Complete

Custom pricing

Everything in Enhanced, plus an HR support team, an employee handbook wizard, an HR document library and training tools

HR Pro

Custom pricing

Everything in Complete, plus enhanced HR support, applicant tracking, a learning management system, and advice from marketing and legal experts

With ADP RUN, businesses with fewer than 50 employees can choose from four levels of service. Multijurisdiction payroll, tax services and basic HR tools come standard. We like that the premium plans include advanced HR features. Unlike Gusto, however, ADP charges extra for off-cycle payroll runs and W-2 and 1099 form filing. [Read related article: How to Choose the Best Pay Schedule for Your Business]

Frustratingly, you’ll have to call ADP to get a price quote based on your business’s size and payroll frequency. Plus, while the vendor offers add-ons for time management and employee benefits, it isn’t clear how much extra these services will set you back. We would have liked to see more transparent pricing upfront.

Notably, you might also incur additional costs, like setup fees. However, when we called to request a price, ADP offered to waive the implementation fee and include three months of free service. When you inquire about pricing, be sure to ask about any available discounts.

Winner: Gusto

Gusto is our choice for value. We like that the company offers transparent pricing, including for employee benefit add-ons, so you can get an accurate idea of what you’ll end up paying. The entry-level plan might be limiting for some businesses, particularly those operating in more than one state. However, the second-tier plan expands your service with useful features, like time tracking and hiring tools, which you’ll pay more for with ADP.

Payroll Features

Gusto

  • Automated payroll, unlimited runs, W-2 and 1099 filing, and unemployment insurance come standard.
  • Businesses on the Simple plan are limited to single-state payroll.
  • Time-tracking tools are included with the Plus and Premium plans.

We found that Gusto is capable of handling the payroll needs of most small businesses. Automated cycles and unlimited payroll runs mean you can pay employees quickly and easily whenever necessary. We were bummed that the entry-level Simple plan supports only single-state payroll and that international contractor payments cost extra. This can make Gusto a more expensive solution for companies with workers in multiple locations.

No matter your plan, though, Gusto will automatically file W-2s and 1099s, take care of federal and state unemployment insurance, and handle wage garnishments. In comparison, ADP restricts these features to its upper-tier plans and add-ons.

Gusto also stands out for including excellent time-and-attendance tools with the Plus and Premium packages. Features such as hours worked, paid time off (PTO), expenses and reimbursements are automatically integrated into the system. Time-off requests and approvals can be done with a click, and clocking in and out is a piece of cake from any device. [Find out which kind of time clock is right for your business.]

ADP

  • You can automate payroll or run a cycle in minutes for employees in every location.
  • ADP guarantees accurate tax filing and will cover fines for any errors.
  • Useful time-and-attendance features must be paid for separately. 

ADP offers solid payroll processing with every plan. We especially love the Run & Done feature, which automates payroll and alerts you to important deadlines or potential discrepancies. Unlike Gusto, ADP doesn’t allow unlimited payroll runs. However, Gusto can handle payments in any state and in over 140 countries.

When it comes to payroll taxes, ADP goes a step further than the competition with AI-powered tools and access to tax experts so you can rest easy when tax season approaches. Plus, unlike Gusto, ADP will take responsibility for any mistakes and penalties.

We were also impressed by ADP’s time and attendance system. Besides enabling easy clock-ins, the software sends overtime alerts, records breaks, and provides performance and productivity tools. Although we love these features, we were disappointed that even Premium plan users must pay extra for this system. ​​

Winner: Gusto

Both Gusto and ADP offer competent payroll services that are capable of meeting the needs of most small businesses. However, Gusto edges out ADP because it includes more standard, essential features across all plans and doesn’t charge extra for off-cycle payroll. Plus, if you don’t already use high-quality time and attendance software, you can get it from Gusto for no additional cost.

There’s one caveat: If you employ staff in multiple jurisdictions and you need extra guarantees around taxes, ADP is likely the better choice for your company.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Both Gusto and ADP provide solid payroll features that are perfect for most small businesses. Gusto supports unlimited payroll cycles, while ADP allows you to pay employees in any state regardless of your plan. What's more, both solutions integrate with the best accounting software so you can stay on top of your finances.

New-Hire Tools

Gusto

  • Useful features help you recruit and onboard new employees.
  • You can post jobs and track applicants right from the Gusto platform.
  • Premium plans include additional HR support.

Gusto excels at improving your hiring and recruitment process and setting up new employees for success. Besides self-onboarding and state new-hire reporting, the platform boasts a wealth of HR features that don’t require an advanced plan, including specialized tools for businesses with remote teams.

We love that you can use the software to create job posts and track applicants on various employment sites. Once you find an ideal candidate, you can use the customized offer letters, stored documents and onboarding checklists to streamline the hiring process. For an additional fee, Gusto will run background checks through its partner, Checkr.

The higher-level packages offer enhanced HR tools to help you get your new employees acclimated. For help with additional human resources needs, there’s an HR resource center with an employee handbook wizard and compliance documents. We also think the special access to HR experts is particularly useful, especially for smaller businesses without in-house HR staff.

ADP

  • Onboarding tools and background checks come standard.
  • Access to ZipRecruiter helps you find new talent.
  • Premium plans put you in touch with HR experts and provide training tools.

Beyond payroll, ADP RUN packages come with a variety of HR tools to help you recruit new employees and get them started at your business. We especially love that the customizable plans let you get the exact HR support your company needs. Every package includes onboarding tools and background checks. With the Enhanced and higher plans, ADP will help you set up job postings through ZipRecruiter.

We think ADP really shines with its two top-level plans, Complete and HR Pro, which offer even more robust HR features. You get direct access to expert advice from HR professionals, employee handbook builders, a document library, HR tracking and employee training tools. The HR Pro package also comes with advanced support and additional training, like sexual harassment prevention and compliance courses.

Winner: Tie

Businesses that need extra HR support to recruit and onboard new employees will be more than happy with either Gusto or ADP. Gusto offers some valuable features, like applicant tracking, across more plan options than ADP does. You can also work with multiple job listing sites, whereas ADP partners only with ZipRecruiter. But ADP is a better choice for companies that don’t want to pay extra for background checks, need access to new-hire training resources or want a platform that can scale as their HR needs become more complex.

Employee Benefits 

Gusto

  • You can work with Gusto’s brokers or your own to offer employees comprehensive health insurance.
  • Gusto allows you to expand your benefits offerings with retirement plans, workers’ compensation and life insurance.
  • The Gusto Wallet app helps employees track earnings and build savings.

Gusto benefits

You can choose the best benefits package through the Gusto platform. Source: Gusto

We love that Gusto sets up businesses with licensed benefits advisors to help create a health insurance package where you pay only the premiums. This is especially useful for new business owners who aren’t familiar with employee benefits packages and all of their intricacies. [Learn more about health insurance and flexible spending accounts (FSAs).]

If you already use an outside broker, you can keep them on for free with the Premium plan or for a fee with the lower-level plans. The only downside is that Gusto currently limits health benefits to 38 states and Washington, D.C. You can also offer 401(k) plans, commuter benefits, workers’ compensation, and life and disability insurance.

A unique feature we particularly appreciated is the Gusto Wallet app. Employees can use it to track their pay and create savings goals. We think this is a valuable tool to help your team make the most of their paychecks.

ADP

  • Health, workers’ compensation and retirement benefits are available only as add-ons.
  • Affiliate brokers can help you create a healthcare package in all 50 states.
  • ADP isn’t transparent about the costs of its benefits administration features.

We were disappointed that ADP’s plans don’t include benefits administration. However, all users have the option to add health insurance in any state, as well as workers’ compensation and retirement benefits. Unfortunately, the pricing isn’t available online.

If you opt for benefits management, ADP will connect you with an affiliate health insurance agent to help you put together a benefits package with the top providers on the market. You get year-round assistance and integration with ADP’s platform. But unlike with Gusto, you will have to pay a fee for this service on top of any insurance premiums.

Winner: Gusto

We think Gusto is the better option for employee benefits packages. Even with its basic plan, you get access to brokers, whereas ADP charges extra for this service. Plus, Gusto offers additional benefits, like life insurance and commuter compensation, as well as access to the Gusto Wallet app.

Did You Know?Did you know
A professional employer organization (PEO) can manage your payroll and employee benefits packages. Although working with a PEO can be more expensive, you might save overall with access to extra HR features and lower rates on insurance. Find out more about PEOs versus payroll services to determine which arrangement is best for your small business.

Ease of Use

Gusto

  • Gusto’s straightforward dashboard and to-do lists ensure you stay on top of payroll.
  • You can get the cloud-based platform up and running in no time.
  • There isn’t a dedicated mobile app for running payroll.

Gusto makes paying employees effortless, even if you’re new to payroll. The straightforward platform lets you easily key in hours worked, time off, reimbursements and other variables. A to-do list helps you keep up with important tasks and deadlines.

We were surprised that Gusto only offers a mobile app designed to help employees manage their earnings. There is no fully functional payroll app, so using Gusto out of the office can be complicated. However, because it’s a cloud-based platform, the software is easy to get up and running, with helpful online guides leading the way.

ADP

  • Mastering the colorful, uncomplicated ADP RUN platform is a cinch.
  • A dedicated mobile app lets you process payroll anywhere.
  • The setup can take weeks, but you get dedicated support throughout the process. 

We love that ADP makes it painless to run payroll and take care of human resources tasks, no matter how complex your needs are. Spreadsheet-style forms and a colorful, easy-to-navigate interface result in a quick and pleasant user experience.

We also like that you can pay your employees in a flash from anywhere, thanks to ADP’s mobile app. The setup process can take over four weeks due to the complexity of the software’s inner workings. However, we were glad to see that the vendor provides personalized implementation support. 

ADP RUN notification features

ADP RUN’s notifications feature alerts you to outstanding tasks so your payroll is always up to date. Source: ADP

Winner: ADP

Although it’s a close call, we think ADP wins for usability. Most business owners will be able to master either platform in no time, but the mobile app gives ADP an advantage. Also, although Gusto takes less time to implement, ADP’s setup support means you won’t be left guessing with even the most complicated features.

Customer Service

Gusto

  • You can reach phone, email and chat support from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
  • Gusto provides access to online resources and benefits advisors.
  • The Premium plan includes access to HR experts and dedicated support.

Gusto provides phone, email and chat support from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. Priority support is available to all Premium users and can be added to Plus packages for a fee. Similarly, compliance alerts, an HR resource center and help from HR experts are included with the Premium package and are available as add-ons with Plus. The Premium plan also connects you with personalized support.

All plans include an online help center with relevant articles and access to licensed benefits advisors.

ADP

  • Live online and phone support is available 24/7.
  • Online resources can help you resolve problems on your own.
  • Premium HR support is available with the advanced plans. 

ADP customer service is available online or by phone 24/7, so you’ll always be able to get assistance with any payroll hitches. The online resource center can help you get the most out of the software and troubleshoot problems on your own. There are even sections that can answer employees’ questions about their paychecks and taxes. Although it requires paying for a more expensive plan, we found the access to priority support, HR experts and a dedicated customer success manager especially useful.

Winner: ADP

Both providers have excellent customer service, but ADP has a leg up on Gusto because of its around-the-clock live support. Its online resource center is better organized, too, and the employee-geared articles are a plus.

However, we do appreciate that Gusto will connect you with advisors to help manage your employee benefits. So, if that is a major concern for your business, Gusto’s support might be a better option.

Gusto vs. ADP Recap

As you choose a payroll service for your business, keep these recommendations in mind.

Choose Gusto if …

  • You need a straightforward payroll platform with great value and transparent pricing.
  • You want to run payroll whenever necessary without paying extra.
  • You’re looking for built-in benefits management and time-and-attendance tools.

Choose ADP if …

  • You want a payroll solution with HR features that will scale with your business.
  • You need a dedicated mobile app, multijurisdiction payroll and/or training tools.
  • You’re looking for reliable payroll tax services from a provider that will handle any errors.

FAQs

No, Gusto is not the same as ADP. Gusto and ADP are different business software solutions. Although both offer a robust payroll service with a range of excellent HR features that are perfect for small businesses, ADP provides additional solutions for larger corporations.
No, Gusto does not only do payroll. The vendor also offers a wealth of HR tools to help with recruitment and onboarding, time and attendance, and employee benefits administration.
Whether ADP or Gusto is cheaper will depend partially on the size of your business and how often you need to run payroll. Gusto has affordable packages that allow unlimited payroll, but the per-employee pricing on top of the base rate can make it expensive to add many employees. ADP charges per payroll cycle, which can increase your costs, and its packages tend to be more expensive generally. However, the vendor's custom solutions might offer more long-term value.
No, Gusto does not have hidden fees. Gusto’s pricing is transparent, with monthly prices and add-on costs clearly displayed on the vendor's website. The company doesn’t charge for setup or early termination, either.
Yes, Gusto and ADP can submit your tax payments for you. Both payroll services will automatically file and pay your federal, state and local taxes. ADP will even cover any fines for tax errors.
Tom Anziano headshot
Tom Anziano, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
Thomas Anziano is an advertising and marketing professional who has worked in the U.S. and Germany. He has also taught Business Writing in English to university students in Madrid, Spain. He holds a degree in Marketing and Spanish.
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