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Updated May 21, 2024

Gusto vs. QuickBooks: Which Software Is the Best Option for Your Business?

Trying to choose between the Gusto and QuickBooks payroll solutions? This comparison guide can help you make the best choice for your small business's payroll needs.

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Dachondra Cason, Contributing Writer
Verified Check With BorderEditor Reviewed
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

Table of Contents

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Quickbooks logo
Editor's Rating9.3/10
Gusto Payroll Software logo
Editor's Rating9.2/10

Have you decided it’s finally time to start hiring employees for your small business? Along with the decision to start hiring, there comes the decision of which payroll software you should use to pay those employees. 

Payroll software is an application used to automate and manage payments you make to your employees. Our QuickBooks Payroll review makes it clear why the company is undoubtedly one of the best in the industry when it comes to payroll software – but is it the best option for your business needs? If your small business needs help with more than just payroll, our Gusto review might spotlight the best selection for you. 

Choosing between Gusto and QuickBooks can be a real challenge for small business owners. We created this guide to outline what each has to offer. This Gusto vs. QuickBooks comparison will highlight all you need to know to understand which payroll software would be best based on your business needs.


Gusto vs. Quickbooks

Gusto vs. QuickBooks

Here’s a quick overview of the features QuickBooks and Gusto offer:

Employee onboardingYesNo
Same-day direct depositNoYes
Mobile appNoYes
Employee portalYesYes
Free unlimited payrollYesNo
Benefits servicesYesYes

Both Gusto and QuickBooks do a great job of making payroll, benefits management and payroll taxes a simple process for business owners. Here’s a review of what the two software providers have in common:

  • Employee portal: Gusto and QuickBooks give employees the ability to access and manage their payroll details and tax information.
  • Benefits services: Whether you choose Gusto or QuickBooks, you’ll have access to a system that manages employee benefits.
  • Automated direct deposit (or paperless payroll): Both Gusto and QuickBooks give you the option to send employee payment electronically.

But that doesn’t mean these payroll service providers are created equal. While the costs of Gusto are higher than those of QuickBooks, Gusto comes with tons of additional features that can be a huge benefit to small business owners in need of HR assistance. Let’s review a few of the main differences between Gusto and QuickBooks.

  • Mobile app: While Gusto has a mobile-friendly site, it does not have a dedicated app like QuickBooks does.
  • Same-day direct deposit: QuickBooks offers the option to process same-day deposits, while Gusto requires at least two business days. 
  • Free unlimited payroll: Gusto allows you to run payroll outside of normal timeframes, which comes in handy for commission or bonus payments, while QuickBooks charges a fee for this service.

Who should use Gusto?

Gusto is a great payroll software option for startups and small businesses that don’t plan on scaling at a rapid pace. It’s especially helpful for any small business owner who is interested in extra HR resources. Another bonus of using Gusto is the option to run unlimited payroll in addition to the regularly scheduled runs, at no extra charge. 

You can use Gusto to pay contractors at no extra costs.

The company offers three plans, all of which come with full-service payroll. Here’s an overview of what else each plan includes: 

Core plan

The most basic plan available to small business owners, Core includes full-service payroll and benefits management. It has features like automatic payroll tax filing, customer support and an employee portal. It also includes payroll reporting, which allows you to export reports related to payroll liabilities like PTO, benefits, taxes, wages and salaries. 

Complete plan

This plan has all the same features as the Core plan, with the addition of HR resources like employee onboarding assistance, an employee directory, and even employee surveys that you can use to gather information about trends within your company. Time-tracking and PTO tools are also in this plan. 

Editor’s note: Looking for the right payroll software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Concierge plan

This plan encompasses all the features Gusto has to offer. It has all the same features as the Core and Complete plans – the main difference is all the HR support it includes. Small business owners who select this plan will have access to live HR professionals as well as a dedicated support team. This plan also grants access to Gusto’s HR Resource Center, which contains templates and guides to help you create employee handbooks, policies, and job postings. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Gusto also offers a separate plan for small businesses that only hire independent contractors.

Here’s a brief overview of what we love about Gusto:

  • Unlimited payroll
  • HR guides and templates
  • Employee onboarding assistance
  • Employee surveys

Gusto charges a monthly subscription fee for each plan, in addition to a monthly fee per person. Here’s a breakdown of Gusto’s prices:

PlanMonthly base feeMonthly per-employee fee

Regardless of the plan you select for your business, you’ll also be able to choose add-ons like health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, and commuter benefits for an extra fee. Another great benefit of choosing Gusto is that the software does not require a long-term contract. 

Who should use QuickBooks?

QuickBooks is best for small businesses that are established and quickly scaling. It offers a number of great features designed to benefit the established business owner on the rise, like a mobile app and same-day direct deposit. It also connects to one of the most popular accounting applications: QuickBooks Online accounting software

You can use QuickBooks to run payroll from any device.

QuickBooks offers three plans for small business owners to choose from: Core, Premium and Elite.

Core plan

This is the most basic plan from QuickBooks. It includes payroll processing and the option to submit next-day direct deposit. This plan also comes with a portal employees can use to manage their tax forms and payroll information, as well as the option to keep payroll records, tax, and PTO management. 

Premium plan

This plan includes all the features of the most basic plan, with a few perks. Small business owners who choose this plan have the option to process on-demand payroll, and access to employee onboarding resources through the HR Support Center. Another great feature of this plan is the support from QuickBooks experts, who are available to check your payroll submissions for common errors like miscalculations and tax issues. 

Elite plan

This plan has all the features of the Core and Premium plans, but it offers even more payroll support. Small business owners who subscribe to this plan receive tax penalty protection. In the event your business receives an IRS penalty related to payroll, QuickBooks will represent you. The software provider will also cover the associated fees for up to $25,000 each year. In addition to tax penalty representation, this plan includes 24/7 payroll support and access to a certified HR advisor.  

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Elite plan subscribers don't have to pay additional fees for tax filings in multiple states.

As you can see, each QuickBooks plan increases the payroll assistance from the previous plan. The tax penalty representation on the Elite plan can be an especially great help to any small business owner, especially those who lead growing brands. So, how much does all of this cost? Here are the standard fees for using QuickBooks:

PlanMonthly base feeMonthly per-employee fee

If your small business also hires contractors, you’ll be charged additional fees for those direct deposit payments.

Did You Know?Did you know
An alternative to direct deposit is paycards. Find out more about how paycards work in our paycard vs. direct deposit guide.

In a nutshell, these are our favorite QuickBooks features:

  • Tax penalty representation
  • No long-term contracts
  • Same-day direct deposit
  • 24/7 payroll support

Gusto vs. QuickBooks recap

Whether you should enroll with Gusto or QuickBooks depends on your small business’s needs and circumstances. 

Gusto is best for startups and small businesses.

If your business is just getting off the ground, or if you don’t plan on scaling up in the near future, Gusto has a lot to offer you. Gusto plans include more startup-friendly features than QuickBooks, such as HR templates, which are great for employee onboarding guidance. It also offers free direct deposit for your contractors and easy third-party integration. These features make Gusto a great payroll service for startups.

QuickBooks is best for growing and large businesses.

If your business is well established and quickly scaling, you may not need tons of HR guidance like a startup does, in which case QuickBooks is the better option for you. Overall, QuickBooks’ prices are lower than Gusto’s, and its mobile app allows you to handle payroll tasks on the go, which is great for busy small business owners. While QuickBooks charges extra fees for contractor payments, if you mainly work with your own employees, this wouldn’t affect you. Also, any owner of a scaling business can benefit from tax penalty assistance, which QuickBooks does a great job of handling. 


What services does Gusto Payroll offer?

Gusto offers full-service payroll and HR solutions. Specific features vary based on the plan you choose for your small business.

How much does QuickBooks’ payroll service cost?

QuickBooks Payroll costs vary by plan. Starting rates range from $45 to $125 monthly, but they may increase if you add extra features to your plan. Additional fees also apply based on the number of employees you need to cover.

Is Gusto the most budget-friendly payroll option for small businesses?

While Gusto does not have the lowest costs among payroll solutions for small business, this software includes more extensive HR resources than others. This makes it a great option for small businesses and startups. 

What are the benefits of using QuickBooks?

QuickBooks’ benefits include tax assistance, full-service payroll, same-day direct deposit, and many more, depending on the plan you select for your business. 

author image
Dachondra Cason, Contributing Writer
Dachondra Cason is a freelance writer and business consultant in Atlanta, GA. She has over 8 years of professional experience, with a focus on finance and small businesses. Topics she has covered include creating effective business plans, fraud prevention, and digital marketing. She has also written creative content including celebrity cookbooks, plays, and social media campaign material.
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