What We Recommend Gusto For
After testing, reviewing, and working with tons of payroll software, I can attest that Gusto provides an intuitive payroll experience for both employers and employees. Its features are easy to learn, and you can run payroll in a few steps. Tax penalties are covered if Gusto ever makes a mistake, and year-end W2 and 1099 preparation are included in all plans at no extra cost. Its direct deposit option is also a favorite for many users—they can switch between it and manual checks at any time, and there’s HR support.
In short, Gusto is best for:
- Small businesses: Gusto is my top pick in our best overall payroll software for small businesses buyer’s guide, one reason being how affordable it is—you can run an unlimited number of pay runs with it at no extra cost plus it comes with a free 30-day trial.
- Businesses with 50 full-time equivalent employees: Once companies reach 50 full-time employees, they’re no longer considered a mom and pop business. One of our top picks for best HR payroll software, Gusto can help upgrade small employers who are currently managing payroll by hand into a more professional operation. You can give employees access to onboard themselves via a self-service portal (all new hire documents are available), offer benefits (like health insurance, which is required at this point), and even electronically track employee work hours.
- Companies that use contract help: Gusto ranked #1 in our best contractor payroll software buyer’s guide, primarily because of its contractor-only plan and year-end reporting. It waves the $39 monthly base fee it charges for employees if you’re only paying contractors and only costs $6 per month for each contractor; and if you skip a month paying them, you don’t pay at all. It also preps and files 1099 year-end reports (essential for contractors) and has 2-day payroll processing.
- Self-employed business owners: Gusto is my #1 recommendation for self-employed payroll providers, because it only costs $45 monthly to process payroll for one employee. It includes the most important features, paying and filing taxes plus processing employee paychecks.
When Gusto Would Not Be a Good Fit
- Large enterprises or startups planning to scale quickly: Businesses planning to quickly scale to 1,000+ employees may not find all the support they need under Gusto. HR needs tend to increase as companies grow, so a provider like ADP or Paychex with plans that include payroll plus robust HR features, like training, talent management, recruiting support, etc., would be more suitable.
- International payroll operations: If half of your support staff is overseas and the other half is scattered throughout the US, you will run into issues. Gusto doesn’t support international employees nor those living in US territories. A top international payroll provider would work best for those types of scenarios.
Affordable (Unlimited pay runs + Free trial)
Runs payroll and pays taxes
Health insurance isn’t in all 50 states
Year-end reporting is included in all plans
Doesn’t pay international employees
Onboarding and employee benefits
Gusto Pricing and Features
$39/month plus $6/month per employee
$39/month plus $12/month per employee
$149/month plus $12/month per employee
Full-service Payroll, Including Year-end Taxes
Health Benefits Administration
Employee Directory and Surveys
Paid Time Off
Policies and requests
Policies and requests
Gusto is an easy-to-use software that small businesses can use to start processing payroll quickly. The representatives will walk new users through the setup process for free, but the way the dashboard is laid out makes it easy to follow. Check out my guide on setting up and running payroll with Gusto—if you’re more of a visual person, explore the video walk-through.
With Gusto, employers can run unlimited pay runs each month and pay employees with a paper check, pay card, or direct deposit. They can even set employees up on different pay schedules—some weekly and another semi-monthly. The employer will have to enter work time for hourly workers, but they can sign up for one of the two premium plans that come with integrated time tracking.
Payroll Tax Management
The software calculates, files, and pays all taxes—federal, state, and local, which is notable because some services require you to know which local payroll taxes you’re responsible for paying. Gusto also promises to pay any penalties that are a result of its mistakes. And to top it off, year-end tax forms (1099s and W-2s) come with each plan at no extra cost; I point this out because many of the bigger providers charge you an additional per employee rate to prepare and distribute.
Also, If an employee has an IRS levy or child support garnishment, Gusto will withhold and send funds for all states, except South Carolina, at no additional charge.
Gusto’s hiring support helps set it apart from basic providers. Small businesses looking to manage payroll and taxes appreciate the paperless onboarding process they can use to bring on new hires. Once employers set up their new employees in the software, Gusto will send an email prompting them to start their online accounts where they can fill out all new hire forms, including Forms I-9 and W-4, and it submits new hire reports to the state. This is all at no extra cost.
With the Complete or Concierge plans, Gusto will also provide a template employers can use to send a customized offer letter welcoming new hires onboard. If they have paid-time-off (PTO) policies, the system will process the details so it’s easy to track vacation and sick balances. And HR experts are on staff to answer any questions. The Online Resource Center also has custom handbooks, policies, compliance updates, and training.
Employee benefits is an area where Gusto shines. Small businesses that otherwise wouldn’t be able to offer cool perks to their employees can easily sign up for one of the many benefits Gusto offers.
- Medical insurance
- Dental insurance
- Vision insurance
- Retirement savings plans, like 401(k)
- Commuter benefits
- Health and flexible savings accounts
- Financial management app called Gusto Wallet
- Early paycheck access called Gusto Cashout
Employers and employees can manage all of these benefits online– it’s a one-stop-shop. Some benefits, like health insurance and Gusto CashOut, are limited to certain states, so before confirming whether they will work, employers should confirm with our health benefits map below.
Gusto has its own time and attendance solution, Simple Time Tracking, that hourly employees can use to enter hours worked into their account. Once their manager approves, the time automatically syncs to payroll and translates time worked into dollars to be paid. This is an add-on service and isn’t automatically included with Gusto’s Basic or Core plans.
Gusto Ease of Use
- Intuitive dashboard
- Online Help Center
- Live phone support
- In-app chat
- How to guides
- Guided onboarding and setup
Gusto’s service is very easy to use, and you can be completely set up in less than 24 hours if you have all of your business and employee information handy plus link your bank electronically.
Once you sign up for the service, a representative will reach out to you to see if you need additional assistance or have questions—for instance, regarding importing prior period payroll information so your annual records can be complete.
The dashboard is user-friendly; menu placement is on the left-hand side of the display and is easy to follow. And since Gusto provides the services that a small business would need vs trying to serve all employers, the interface is not overwhelming, and there’s no steep learning curve. When problems do arise, there is an Online Help Center with answers to frequently asked questions, and live phone support is available.
Top Gusto Alternatives
4.44 out of 5 stars
4.11 out of 5 stars
4.08 out of 5 stars
QuickBooks accounting small business users
Retailers and restaurants
Base monthly fee from: $45
Base monthly fee from: $29
Base monthly fee from: $36
Per-employee monthly fee from: $4
Per-employee fee from: $5
Per-employee fee from: $4
If you’re not sure Gusto is right for you, see how it compares with other Gusto competitors.
What Users Think About Gusto
Users left primarily positive Gusto payroll reviews on the web–most were small businesses. Many complimented Gusto on good customer service, affordability, and an intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Some users mentioned that the software is not ideal for larger companies, because there’s not enough flexibility. At the time of publication, Gusto payroll reviews earned the following scores on other popular user review sites:
- Software Advice: 4.67 out of 5 based on 2,654 reviews.
- G2: 4.3 out of 5 based on 414 reviews.
- Capterra: 4.7 out of 5 based on 2,653 reviews.
When reading through user reviews, here are some of the trends that I noticed:
Users Don’t Like:
Robust features for the price
Customer service wait times can be long
Software is easy to use
The time-off tracking can be confusing
Automatic pay runs
Loading prior period payroll data during setup is manual
Gusto is a popular payroll software that’s accessible to the smallest of employers. It’s a full-service provider and manages payroll taxes under all of its plans. Plus its multiple payment options, benefits, and onboarding support give you some flexibility, making your business much more desirable to work for. Though limited in where it can offer some employee benefits, Gusto has continued to actively expand its benefits coverage, meaning if it’s not in your location yet, it will likely be available soon.
Sign up with Gusto for a 30-day free trial—no credit card required.