Our payroll software picks for 2022

By: RAECHEL CONOVER | Fact Checked By: JAMIE OSTROE | Updated: August 17, 2022

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Whether you have a large company, a growing company looking to scale, or a small business, there is payroll software for you. Companies everywhere are moving to payroll software to help automate payroll, ensure accuracy in paychecks, and comply with tax regulations. In fact, according to IBISWorld, the payroll software industry has grown 4.3% yearly since 2017 and is expected to grow by 5.4% in 2022. To help you decide what payroll software is best for your company, we’ve put together a list of the best payroll software services available to get you started.


Our Top Picks

  1. Gusto – Best Payroll Software for Paying Independent Contractors
  2. Patriot – Best for Payroll Software for Newbies
  3. OnPay – Best Payroll Software for Small Business
  4. ADP – Best Payroll Software for Large Business
  5. Namely – Best Payroll Software for Mid-Size Business

Payroll Software Reviews

We identified 85 popular payroll software vendors and narrowed it down to our top five picks based on features offered, pricing transparency, customer support, and brand reputation. The companies we review are well-known in the industry and specialize in serving businesses from all different industries of all sizes. Check out our methodology section for details on how we made our choices.

Gusto logo

Gusto – Best for Paying Independent Contractors

Gusto is one of the overall best payroll software services that we reviewed. It offers three plan levels: Simple, Plus, and Premium, which all carry a monthly fee and a set monthly rate per employee, but the thing that makes it truly stand out is that the service waives the monthly fee if you are a company only paying independent contractors.

Beyond the waived fee, it operates the same for independent contractors as for company employees. You can automate their pay rate and information, pay appropriate taxes, and generate tax forms. Employees and contract workers are emailed when their tax forms are available to print.

Users love the automation available, however, there are some reports of lag times.

Pros
  • Cheaper if only paying independent contractors
  • Many ways to automate
  • Time tracking app built in
  • Full-service single-state payroll
Cons
  • Some gripes about customer service
  • Occasional lag times

Gusto features

  • Direct deposit – 2-day and 4-day direct deposit on the Simple plan, while higher plan levels get next-day direct deposit.
  • Payroll tax filing – Single state tax pay and filing on the federal, local, and state level with the Simple plan, multiple state tax pay, and filing on the higher plans.
  • Employee self-service – Employee onboarding and self-service. Even alerts independent contractors when their tax records are available to print.
  • Integrations – Integrates with popular accounting software and has a built-in time tracking app.
  • Unlimited payroll – Pay employees at variable pay rates and schedules with no hidden fees.

What markets does Gusto serve?

Gusto serves all business segments and is an excellent choice for companies that only pay independent contractors. The plan is much cheaper than other services that count independent contractors as employees and charge a monthly fee.

patriot logo

Patriot – Best Payroll Software for Newbies

If you are new to payroll software, Patriot is a great entry program. The biggest standout with Patriot is the ease of setup and customer service. It scored as one of the highest in brand reputation on our list with good reason – the customer service. Some users can’t find any drawback to using Patriot and simply rave about how professional, helpful, and easy to work with Patriot’s customer service team is.

Patriot is one of the cheapest payroll software services on our list, starting at just $17 a month and $4 per employee per month. It offers a 30-day trial period and free onboarding. Payroll can be run in two minutes, and users agree, saying it takes about ten clicks to run payroll.

The only drawback to Patriot is while it does offer e-filing of 1099 on the Basic plan, it does not become a full-service tax filing service until you upgrade to the Full Service plan.

Pros
  • One of the cheapest options
  • Easy setup
  • Free onboarding
  • Excellent customer service
Cons
  • Must upgrade for full tax service

Patriot features

  • Direct deposit – 2-day direct deposit on the Basic plan.
  • Payroll tax filing – e-filing of 1099 and printable W-2 forms for employees in their portal on the Basic plan. Full-service filing on the Full Service plan.
  • Employee self-service – Employee portal gives employees full access to their pay stubs, pay history, time off balance, and electronic W-2s.
  • Integrations – Integrates with QuickBooks and Patriot’s own accounting and HR software.
  • Unlimited payroll – Unlimited payrolls, locations, and frequencies at no added cost.

What markets does Patriot serve?

Patriot is perfect for those new to payroll software. It’s intuitive, offers setup, provides top-notch customer service, and is affordable for non-profits and small businesses.

onpay logo

OnPay – Best Payroll Software for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business looking for the best payroll software, OnPay should be on your radar. The best payroll software for small businesses garners rave reviews – some of the highest ratings we saw, from customers that have successfully switched from other programs to OnPay with much success. One user sums it up by saying it’s a great program with an intuitive app and an excellent customer service team backing it up.

For a flat $40 monthly fee and $6 per employee per month, OnPay is a full-service payroll program that offers you a 30-day free trial, free account migration, and above and beyond customer service – they even have emergency customer service available via email on the weekends.

Pros
  • One flat fee – no hidden costs
  • Free migration
  • Emergency weekend customer service
  • Full-service tax and payroll service
Cons
  • No mobile app, just a mobile website

OnPay features

  • Direct deposit – Direct deposit is available to pay employees, although it doesn’t say the time frame on this.
  • Payroll tax filing – Files forms 940 and 941 and generates year-end forms for W-2 and 1099 to print yourself. For a small fee, these can be mailed to your employees at the end of the year.
  • Employee self-service – Employee portal lets employees onboard themselves – saving you time and giving them full access to their pay stubs and tax documents.
  • Integrations – Integrates with QuickBooks, time tracking, and HR software.
  • Unlimited payroll – One cost for unlimited payroll runs and multiple payroll schedules.

What markets does OnPay serve?

OnPay is our choice for the best payroll software for small businesses because it is one flat fee with no hidden costs making it truly affordable for smaller companies while providing them with full-service payroll and tax services. The service frees up time spent on payroll, allowing smaller companies to allocate their HR team members for other tasks.

adp logo

ADP – Best Payroll Software for Large Businesses

Conversely, if you’re a large company looking for payroll software, ADP is the best payroll software for large businesses. ADP is an easily recognized brand in the HR world, with good reason. It has years of experience and a large enough plethora of offerings that it truly has the best options for full-service payroll for large companies or companies looking to grow and scale.

Users find the program easy to use, saying that the software is very organized once you learn it – but be prepared, there is a learning curve. As a more extensive program, there are many things, and learning to navigate them all can get tricky, but once you’ve got it, it’s easy.

We were disappointed to find no pricing information on ADP’s website. You must call and request a quote. There is an ADP program called Roll by ADP that is transparent on price, but when you are a larger company, you must contact to get pricing.

Pros
  • Many programs available to grow and scale
  • Tax filing on 140 countries
  • 24/7 customer service access
Cons
  • Big learning curve

ADP features

  • Direct deposit – Direct deposit is available to pay all employees – even those working outside of the U.S.
  • Payroll tax filing – Expert tax filing and payment services in 140 countries, plus W-2 and 1099 forms are issued.
  • Employee self-service – Including a mobile app or desktop site that employees can use to access all their employee payroll information.
  • Integrations – ADP has its own suite of apps in the ADP Marketplace that has everything an HR team would need. In addition, it integrates with accounting, time tracking, ERPs, onboarding, benefits, and more HR software.
  • Unlimited payroll – ADP can handle different pay rates within the same period but may charge feees for each payroll run.

What markets does ADP serve?

There are many payroll options through ADP that are suitable for large businesses, including but not limited to compliance, payroll, and HRIS. For businesses that need scalability, ADP offers the perfect payroll software that can grow and scale right alongside you. It also provides recruiting, onboarding, HR support, and tools to help big businesses accomplish their goals. ADP operates on a global scale – making it perfect for large companies with many locations.

namely logo

Namely – Best Payroll Software for Mid-Size Business

Many HR programs need to work simultaneously together to achieve employee trust and save you time and money. For this reason, we like Namely – it’s the best HR and payroll software combo we found and will appeal to mid-size businesses.

When it comes to payroll, users love how easy to use Namely is. Managers and employees can log on and access their pay and tax information, while on the management end, it’s very easy and convenient to automate payroll. Users say payroll takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Not bad for mid-size company payroll. And of course, it integrates with a whole suite of HR programs being an HR and payroll combo program.

The one drawback we found is that price is not transparent. You must call to get a quote.

Pros
  • Automation is easy
  • Integrates seamlessly with other HR programs
  • Robust help library
Cons
  • Customer support was hard to locate

Namely features

  • Direct deposit – Direct deposit is available to pay all employees.
  • Payroll tax filing – Tax calculations, updates, and filing available.
  • Employee self-service – Robust employee portal allowing them to input their own information and access their pay stubs.
  • Integrations – Integrates with HR, benefits, and time tracking software.
  • Unlimited payroll – Run unlimited on and off-cycle payroll.

What markets does Namely serve?

Namely is designed with mid-size businesses in mind. It offers two payroll levels – one where you do some work yourself or a managed payroll program where everything is done for you. The idea behind this and the dual HR combo is to offer what mid-size businesses need – HR and payroll support, so you don’t have to pay a whole department, but it’s still comprehensive enough to support your business.

Compare the best payroll software side-by-side

Software name Why we picked It Starting price for cheapest plan Highlights
Gusto Best Payroll Software for Paying Independent Contractors No monthly fee, just $6 per independent contractor per month. No monthly fee for companies only paying independent contractors.
Patriot Best Payroll Software for Newbies $17 per month and $4 per person per month. Extremely affordable for non-profits and startups, easy to set up, and offers incredible customer service.
OnPay Best Payroll Software for Small Business. $40 per month and $6 per person per month. No extra fees – runs multiple payrolls for a variety of employees and files payroll taxes in multiple states without additional fees.
ADP Best Payroll Software for Large Business Request a quote. Many different plan levels for all size businesses that progressively offer more depending on your company size and needs.
Namely Best Payroll Software for Mid-Size Business Request a quote. Most payroll software offers HR as an add-on, with Namely, it is an HR software too, so you get full HR management functions on top of payroll software.

What is payroll software

Managing payroll is a tremendous job requiring extreme accuracy and compliance. Payroll software helps streamline the process and helps ensure that your employees get paid accurately and on time and that your company is compliant for tax filing purposes.

According to the American Payroll Association, getting paid on time and accurately is a huge selling point for your employees and will help you retain the best talent. While the IRS finds that using payroll software is a sound business decision because it ensures that your business meets filing deadlines and deposit requirements.

Who uses payroll software?

  • HR Managers
  • Accountants
  • Payroll Managers

What does payroll software do?

  • To pay employees on time and create trust with employees and company leaders.
  • To manage payroll and taxes.
  • To save time, ensure accurate pay, and meet tax compliance.

Benefits of using payroll software

Choosing the best payroll software will provide streamlined payroll that is accurate for your employees, compliant for tax purposes, and will save you time for other projects. Depending on your company size, the type of employees you have, and what your specific needs are will help you determine what payroll software will work best for your business.

All payroll software on our list offers several payment methods, including direct deposit, employee self-service portals, and unlimited monthly payroll runs. Beyond that, they all offer some level of payroll tax filing and integrate with various accounting and HR software, but knowing what each offers is the key to narrowing down your selection process.

How much does payroll software cost?

Payroll software pricing carries a monthly fee, followed by a per-employee fee per month. The exception is Gusto which waives the monthly fee, only charging $6 per person, but this plan is for companies paying only independent contractors. If regular employees are included, it is a $40 monthly fee and $6 per employee per month. Patriot offers a modest monthly fee at $17 per month and $4 per employee per month. The highest on our list is an $80 a month fee and $12 per employee per month on Gusto’s Premium plan. Others cost around $40 per month and $6 per employee.

ADP and Namely were the least transparent in this area and required you to request a quote. ADP does offer a service called Roll by ADP that starts at $29 a month and $5 per employee per month; however, it is only for companies up to 49 employees and did not make our list of top picks. Instead, we focused on the ADP plans for larger companies. Check out this chart to see how our picks compare in price:

Software Name Monthly Fee Monthly Cost Per Employee Free Trial
Gusto $0 $6 (independent contractors only) None
Patriot $17 $4 30-day
OnPaY $40 $6 30-day

Who should use payroll software, and what are the different types?

Payroll software is growing in popularity because, for most businesses, it’s just a smart move. They keep your payroll accurate and keep you paying the correct taxes while keeping employees happy with accurate paychecks and your staff happy by saving them a ton of time.

There are many good payroll services on the market, but some might fit your company better depending on the size of your company and what type of employees you’re paying.

The following are types of businesses that would benefit from payroll software:

  • Small businesses: Small businesses need payroll software too. Often the budget is smaller, so a program like OnPay with one flat monthly fee and one fee per employee is ideal. The program is robust and provides a full payroll service that small companies might not have the staffing to support in-house. Other companies have sneaky fees that can add up on small businesses.
  • Mid-size businesses: While mid-size businesses might have a bigger budget than small businesses, they have bigger needs. A company like Namely that offers two payroll software options – one you do some of the legwork yourself, and the other is fully managed in combination with HR support is ideal in these situations so that the HR team can pick and choose what support they need while freeing up some of their time for other HR areas of need.
  • Large businesses: Large and enterprise companies need full-service payroll software that integrates well with others and offers additional things like recruiting, onboarding, and HR support. The ability of a company like ADP to scale and grow with a large company while serving global markets is ideal for large businesses.
  • Businesses that only pay independent contractors: These days, there are more independent contractors than ever, and some companies need payroll software to pay just independent contractors. If this is your company, Gusto is ideal for you as they waive the monthly fee and just charge you one fee per employee a month, saving you monthly while still offering the same service that full-time employee payroll would require.
  • Businesses new to payroll software: Finally, more and more companies realize they need payroll software. A service that handles the complete setup for you, is easy to learn, and offers lots of customer support is best in this scenario. Patriot does all of this and is best for new payroll managers to navigate. Plus, it’s cheaper than other options.

Payroll Software FAQ

What is the best software for payroll?
There are many good payroll software vendors on the market today, and the best one is the one that meets your company’s unique needs. For example, if you only pay independent contractors, Gusto has a good payment and plan option, while ADP offers plans that scale best to large businesses.

What software is used for payroll?
Cloud-based software is used for payroll software. This software allows you to access your payroll anywhere you have internet access. It also allows you to integrate your payroll information with other programs you use, such as popular accounting and HR software.

What is the cheapest payroll software to use?
Payroll software runs the gamut of prices, but the cheapest payroll software we reviewed is Patriot. It costs just $17 per month and $4 per employee. For that price, you get a well-rounded software that is easy to set up and use.

How we chose the best payroll software

We curated a list of 85 payroll software services on the market and identified 15 popular vendors with significant online search volume to narrow our focus. From there, we chose five vendors that stood out for features offered, brand reputation, pricing transparency, and customer service.

We collect information from vendors and verify it through:

  • Customer and expert reviews
  • Vendor and parent company websites

We scored companies on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) across the following criteria, each worth 25% of our total score:

  • Variety of features: We looked for services that offered direct deposit pay, employee self-service, unlimited payrolls, and integration with programs like accounting and HR software. A company scores higher when it offers all these features because it means payroll is easier to manage and maintain accuracy and compliance.
  • Pricing transparency: We not only compare actual pricing for each payroll software service but also assess how readily available this information is. Companies that are straightforward and list their monthly and user fee, as well as offer a free trial period, scored higher in this section than companies that require you to request a price quote.
  • Customer support: We looked for companies that offered multiple ways to access customer support, including a resource library, live chats, email, and a dedicated customer service line. Services that included all these features scored highest in this section.
  • Brand reputation: We studied what customers said about each company. Reviews and ratings from trustworthy third-party review sites were compiled into a percentage rating to get a sense of each vendor’s brand reputation.