Online payroll software has simplified the way business owners and HR departments issue payments to employees and contractors. Modern payroll solutions have made it possible to run and process payroll in-house instead of outsourcing to a third-party payroll firm.
Precision is arguably the most important aspect of running payroll. Tax calculations, benefits, and making sure people aren’t being underpaid or overpaid has historically been a headache for payroll administration.
But the best payroll software simplifies the complex aspects of running payroll. Whether you’re paying hourly workers, salaried employees, contractors, or a combination of the three, payroll software can accommodate your needs.
The Best Payroll Software Options to Consider:
When it Makes Sense to Invest Into Payroll Software
Any business can benefit from payroll software. Whether you have two employees, 20 employees, 200 or 2,000+ people on your payroll, investing in payroll software makes sense as soon as you’re issuing payments to other people.
Even if your company doesn’t have W-2 employees, you can still use payroll software to pay 1099 contractors and freelancers.
So single-member LLCs and sole proprietors can also benefit from online payroll software. Even if you’re not paying contractors consistently, there are solutions out there that make it easy to process payments to 1099 workers on-demand, even if it’s infrequent.
In short, every business that pays at least one worker can use payroll software.
If you’re a freelancer or sole proprietor that doesn’t pay anyone other than yourself, you don’t need payroll software just yet. But as soon as you’re ready to scale and pay someone else, it’s time for you to shop around for payroll software.
#1 – OnPay Review — The Best Overall Payroll Software
The simplicity, affordable pricing, and versatility make OnPay the best payroll software on the market today. This all-in-one payroll solution is trusted by small businesses and scaling companies alike.
In addition to basic payroll needs, OnPay has built-in HR tools, integrated health benefits, workers’ compensation, and 401(k) plans.
OnPay offers exceptional customer service as well. Whether you have a simple question about using the software or need IRS-related assistance, OnPay has everything you need to succeed.
Some of the top features and benefits of OnPay include:
- Unlimited monthly pay runs
- No fees for direct deposit, tax filings, or debit card payments
- Benefits in all 50 states
- Automated taxes and filings
- Employee self-service tools
- Create and manage PTO
- Integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, TSheets, and other third-party apps
Pricing for OnPay is simple. There’s a $36 monthly base fee, plus $4 per person per month.
Your first month of OnPay is free. You’ll also benefit from a simple and free setup. OnPay will even migrate your existing employee and wage data.
While OnPay does have the capability to accommodate the payroll needs for all business sizes, it’s definitely geared toward smaller organizations. Larger businesses with hundreds or thousands of employees will likely find the software a bit restricting.
#2 – ADP Review — The Best For Integrated HR
ADP is a full-service payroll software with integrated human resources tools. This software has the ability to accommodate the needs of all business sizes, from startups to small businesses, and organizations with 1,000+ employees, ADP has it all.
More than 700,000 companies across the world trust ADP for payroll processing, making it one of the most popular payroll software solutions on the market today.
In addition to payroll, ADP has tools for time and attendance tracking, talent management, employee benefits, and HR consulting.
With ADP, you’ll benefit from features like:
- Employee and manager self-service tools
- Mobile app access
- Payroll professionals available 24/7
- Easy integration with existing software (ERPs, time-tracking, HR, etc.)
- Local and global payroll processing
- Automatic payroll tax calculations and payments
Businesses across multiple industries trust ADP for payroll. This includes retail, healthcare, manufacturing, restaurants, hospitality, construction, nonprofit, government organizations, and more.
Pricing for ADP isn’t available online. You’ll need to request a quote based on your business size and needs. For a limited time, you can get your first three months of ADP payroll for free.
Overall, ADP doesn’t have many shortcomings. With that said, it might be a bit complex for smaller organizations with simple needs.
#3 – Gusto Review — The Best For Small Business Payroll
Gusto is our top overall recommendations for small business owners. For startups, small teams, and companies with less than 50 employees, Gusto is an ideal payroll solution for your needs.
With Gusto’s online payroll software, you can run payroll in minutes. The software allows for unlimited pay runs with transparent pricing and no hidden fees.
More than 100,000 small business owners trust Gusto for payroll.
Some of the top features and benefits include:
- Automated tax calculations and filings
- Time-tracking tools
- Benefits administration
- Workers’ compensation
- Employee self-service tools
- Third-party integrations (QuickBooks, Xero, Clover, etc.)
Gusto makes it easy for small business owners to manage payroll on their own. The software has everything you need to ensure compliance and accuracy. It’s also easy to go paperless with e-sign, e-file, e-faxing for all forms.
Here’s a quick glance at the monthly price points for Gusto’s payroll software:
- Contractor — $0 base + $6 per person
- Core — $39 base + $6 per person
- Complete — $39 base + $12 per person
- Conierage — $149 base + $12 per person
All Gusto plans are billed month-to-month, so you don’t have to worry about a long-term commitment.
For small businesses and companies that pay 1099 contractors, Gusto will be a top choice for you to consider. Larger organizations will likely find Gusto too simple to meet complex needs.
#4 – Wave Review — The Best Cheap Payroll Software
Wave is another simple payroll solution designed for startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners across the globe.
With Wave, you can run payroll in minutes with 100% accuracy guaranteed. It’s an affordable software with no hidden fees.
Aside from Payroll, Wave provides free tools for accounting, invoicing, and receipt scanning. You can also use Wave for credit card payment processing and ACH payments on a per-use basis.
Here’s are some quick wins and highlights of the features and benefits you’ll get with Wave for payroll:
- Automatic tax filings and payments (for some states)
- Workers’ compensation
- Self-service tax forms and pay stubs
- Automated payroll journal entries
- Pay W-2 and 1099 workers
One of the drawbacks of Wave is the main reason why the software is so cheap. Automatic tax payments and filings are only available in 14 states. For the remaining 36 “self-service states,” you’ll have to pay and file tax paperwork on your own. With that said, Wave walks you through this process and calculates how much money you need for each payroll run.
Wave pricing starts at $20 per month + $6 per employee or independent contractor. This low base fee is only available in the 36 self-service states. The monthly base fee jumps to $35 for full-service tax states, with the per employee price staying the same. You’ll have to check to see which category your state falls into on the Wave website.
While Wave is cheaper compared to some of the other solutions we’ve reviewed, it does require some extra work in terms of tax filings.
Try Wave free for your first 30 days.
#5 – Paycor Review — The Best For Mid Market Businesses
More than 40,000 business trust Paycor for payroll and human resources software. This solution is definitely geared towards larger businesses and SMEs.
It’s used by well-known organizations like The YMCA, Wendy’s, KFC, Habitat for Humanity, and Little Caesars.
Paycor’s software is flexible and meets the complex needs of larger companies with multiple locations and thousands of employees.
From payroll to recruiting, onboarding, and benefits administration, Paycor has all of the tools your company needs to succeed. The technology is robust and second to none.
Paycor provides features and benefits, such as:
- Tax compliance assistance
- General ledger integrations
- Employee self-service tools
- HR forms, templates, and consulting
- 401(k) integrations
- Wage garnishments
- Workers’ compensation
There are actually two different Paycor software solutions. One is designed for small businesses with less than 39 employees. But the Mid Market software for organizations with 40-1,000+ employees is Paycor’s best solution.
With that said, if I had 40 or 50 employees, I probably wouldn’t use Paycor unless my company was scaling quickly. The platform is a better option for businesses with hundreds or over 1,000 people on payroll.
Paycor pricing is not available online. You’ll need to request a quote based on your business size and features that you’re looking for.
#6 – Zenefits Review — The Best For Benefits Administration
As you can probably guess from the name, Zenefits specializes in benefits administration.
Zenefits is actually a full-service HR solution, as opposed to a platform specifically designed for payroll. In fact, payroll doesn’t come standard with any Zenefits plans. But it’s a cheap add-on for just $6 per month per employee.
For a limited time, you can get one year of free payroll with an annual plan.
Zenefits makes it easy to integrate employee benefits into your HR system. This gives your staff the ability to browse, compare, select benefits on their own from an online self-service portal or mobile app.
You can use your own broker or work with one of the Zenefits broker partners. Benefits include:
- Health insurance
- Dental insurance
- Vision insurance
- FSA and HSA
- Life and Disability
- Commuter benefits
- Supplemental benefits
As I said before, the benefits administration features are the main reason why businesses choose Zenefits over other HR tools. The payroll feature is a nice add-on.
There are three base price plans for Zenefits:
- Essentials — $8 per month per employee
- Growth — $14 per month per employee
- Zen — $21 per month per employee
Again, payroll is NOT a standard feature in any of these packages. The add-on costs an extra $6 per month per employee. But even as an add-on, it gets the job done. Larger organizations will likely find Zenefits a bit limiting. If you have 100+ employees, this probably isn’t the best option for you.
Try a free 14-day demo with no credit card required.
#7 – Payroll4Free.com Review — The Best Free Payroll Software
As the name implies, Payroll4Free.com is free. For small businesses with 25 people or less on payroll, you’ll never get charged for using this software.
I know what some of you are wondering; how can this be free? Payroll4free.com makes money on advertisements. So, unfortunately, you’ll see ads inside the software while you’re processing payroll.
Ads aren’t ideal, but that’s the tradeoff if you want a free payroll solution.
For a free payroll tool, Payroll4Free.com has all of the basic payroll features you need to process payroll for your small business.
- Pay W-2 employees and 1099 contractors
- Tax calculations and tax forms
- Paper checks or direct deposits
- Quick enrollment
- Friendly customer service
- Detailed reporting
- Vacation tracking
- Employee portal
With that said, Payroll4free.com is really only a viable option for these basic features. There are no extras, add-ons, or bells and whistles. While the software will calculate taxes for you, it’s your responsibility to file everything.
But for those of you who have a small team, don’t mind ads interrupting your experience, and want free payroll software, Payroll4Free.com will be just fine.
Methodology For Choosing The Best Payroll Software
This is the methodology that we used to determine the best payroll software on the market today. If you continue below, I’ll explain which factors matter the most and how you can weigh these elements according to your personal needs.
Number of Employees
The first way to narrow down your options is by choosing software that can accommodate the size of your organization. A sole proprietor paying two independent contractors won’t have the same payroll needs a business with 25 W-2 employees. Small businesses with a single location won’t have the same payroll needs as a multi-state enterprise.
It’s fairly easy to determine if the software you’re evaluating can accommodate the number of employees you have. If you’re paying 1099 contractors, make sure the software has that option available as well.
Basic Payroll Features
Lots of payroll software will try to win you over with extras, add-ons, and other features. But don’t lose sight of your primary goal—processing payroll.
The best payroll software will have basic payroll features include:
- Unlimited pay runs
- Tax calculations and automatic filings
- Direct deposit
- Ability to pay W-2 employees and 1099 contractors
Employee self-service tools, mobile apps, and helpful customer service would all fall into this category as well, even though they technically aren’t part of processing payroll.
HR Tools and Benefits Administration
Lots of the best online payroll software are actually full-service HR solutions. You should also look for software that makes it easy for you to set up and manage employee benefits.
I’m referring to things like workers’ compensation, insurance, retirement planning, and more.
Some of the software on our list does a much better job of addressing HR tools and benefits than others. In most cases, the cheaper solutions will be lacking in one of these areas. Or you’ll have to upgrade to a higher pricing package to get the full benefits.
Generally speaking, payroll software isn’t that expensive. In most cases, you’ll pay a fixed monthly rate plus a monthly per-employee fee.
For businesses that just pay 1099 contractors, we’ve seen prices starting as low as $6 per month per contractor. Monthly base prices range anywhere from $20 to $150, although most of you will likely fall on the lower end of this spectrum.
It’s time to start processing payroll the modern way—using payroll software.
What’s the best payroll software on the market today? OnPay is our top recommendation. But with that said, it’s not for everyone.
Whether you run a startup, small business, or large-scale enterprise, there’s an online payroll solution for you on our list above. Use the methodology and recommendations in this guide to find the best payroll software for your business.