With more than 800K customers in 140 countries, ADP is one of the most popular payroll software companies in the world.1 Its main perk is its thorough HR focus: even its cheapest plan includes onboarding help and new-hire reporting. But its cost makes it impractical for small businesses on a budget. Wondering if you could use ADP or a cheaper, more streamlined provider like Gusto? Business.org's ADP review digs deeper into the brand's pros, cons, and features.
ADP Payroll Review 2021
ADP Payroll plans and pricing 2021
$59.00/mo. + $4.00/mo./payee
Unlimited payroll runs, automatic tax payroll filing
Contact for quote
Automatic payroll tax filing, new hire reporting, direct deposit
New hire onboarding
Contact for quote
Essential features + check signing, state unemployment insurance management
Essential features + background checks
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Same features as Enhanced
Enhanced features + employee handbook creation, basic HR training, HR tracking
Contact for quote
Same features as Complete
Complete features + expanded customer service, thorough HR training (incl. sexual harassment prevention)
Data effective 11/24/20. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.
ADP is best for growing midsize businesses
For businesses with 50 or more employees, expansive HR needs, and plans for growth, ADP's payroll and HR packages can save hours of payroll processing time and HR stress a week. On the other hand, if you're a solopreneur, self-employed business owner, freelancer, or small-business owner with fewer than 10 employees, ADP is probably outside the scope of your budget and needs.
Why? For one, apart from the vague DIY plan (more on that later), ADP's pricing is entirely custom. You won't find any base prices or estimates on ADP's site, which is a good indicator that starting costs run high. For another, ADP's HR features are its biggest draw and the main reason for its higher cost. Most small businesses don't need to pay big money for perks like employee handbook assistance, enhanced and ongoing employee development training, and prepaid legal services. Big businesses do.
ADP payroll cost and plans
Before we delve into ADP's plans, we need to talk about one of the company's biggest shortcomings: its unclear pricing. You can get an ADP quote only over the phone, and doing so requires trading away your business information to an ADP rep who will try their hardest to sign you up.
An over-the-phone personalized quote isn't inherently bad, and pricing tailored to your unique work situation can be great. But a missing online base price makes comparing providers a challenge. Plus, a phone call doesn't always cover the cost of add-ons like end-of-year tax form processing or setup fees.
ADP does list one DIY plan with online pricing. It starts at a base cost of $59 a month plus $4 per month per employee paid. Unlike ADP's other plans, you can run payroll as much as you want with the DIY plan: like Gusto, the pricing is monthly instead of per payroll run.
But that's . . . kind of all we know about this DIY plan, so the only thing we feel secure in saying about it is that $59 a month is definitely ADP's lowest price. If that sounds too high, we recommend Gusto ($45/mo.), SurePayroll ($29.99/mo.), or OnPay ($36/mo.) instead.
The Essential plan covers the most, uh, essential payroll processing needs:
- Automatic payroll tax deduction and filing
- Automatic new-hire reporting
- Custom HR and payroll reports
- Accounting software integration
Every ADP payroll plan from Essential on up also includes a tax filing guarantee. If ADP makes an error when filing your taxes, it will deal with all associated fines and penalties from the IRS. Tax filing guarantees are pretty much the industry norm, but some providers—most notably QuickBooks Payroll—leave them off unless you pay extra. Our advice? Don't sign up for a payroll provider unless they guarantee they'll deal with their own tax mistakes, which ADP does.
ADP also includes end-of-year W-2 and 1099 tax form filing with each plan for an additional fee. We know this will shock you, but the exact cost isn't listed online, so make sure to ask about it before you choose a plan and sign a contract.
As for HR features, Essential doesn't come with many. You'll get help with employee onboarding, which is nice (you'll have less training to do when your newest hire gets to work), and an HR tip of the week. That's about it.
Essential was clearly built for small businesses with just a few employees, but for most small businesses, we'd recommend Gusto instead. Its cheapest plan includes workers comp and health benefits administration, which ADP's doesn't. It's also much more affordable and easier to set up than ADP.
ADP's payroll help is pretty standard, but its HR perks are where it really stands out, which means there's not much point in choosing ADP unless you're aiming for the Enhanced plan or higher.
With Enhanced, not much changes payroll-wise besides wage garnishment options, but you get access to a few more of the HR benefits ADP is best known for:
- State unemployment insurance management
- Employee background checks
- Labor law poster compliance
Still, even Enhanced doesn't have much to offer for HR when compared to Complete, which is where ADP's payroll and HR combo starts to soar.
Complete adds a slew of helpful features that make HR management much easier (and less time consuming) for companies with 100+ employees:
- Dedicated HR support over the phone and via email
- Employee handbook setup wizard and templates
- Advanced HR reporting, including comprehensive employee information
- Detailed guidelines for HR tasks like hiring and onboarding
Pay particular attention to the Complete plan's dedicated HR support. Customer service for less expensive payroll software companies can answer questions about software problems, but most can't necessarily offer advice on how your business should handle a delicate situation. In contrast, a dedicated ADP team should be familiar enough with your business to offer clear, specific, on-demand advice whenever you encounter a problem with HR.
Complete also grants you access to ADP's vast library of HR resources, which include step-by-step checklists and instructions for legally complex HR tasks like employee termination. Instead of wasting time hunting through various HR resources, you can directly access all your HR information in one spot (and call your designated customer service rep for extra help).
HR Pro is ADP's most comprehensive software plan, so it's best suited to businesses with over 100 employees and complex personnel management needs. If that describes you, perfect; here's what HR Pro gets you:
- More extensive customer support, including on-demand access to a designated team of business advisors
- Additional help creating a thorough, legally compliant employee handbook
- Comprehensive legally required trainings for employers and employees, including sexual harassment prevention training
- Access to prepaid legal services, including legal consultations for situations like debt collection and employee termination
Most small businesses with few employees or contract workers don't need prepaid, readily available legal services, drop-in consultations, and frequent employee-related legal advice. But most big businesses do, and the way ADP bundles payroll, HR reports and training, and legal advice into one comprehensive plan is super convenient.
With unlimited payroll runs and automatic tax filing, Gusto helps small-business owners worry less about payroll and put more time into growing their business.
- Get automatic payroll tax filing, including end-of-year tax forms
- Manage workers compensation insurance
- Track paid time off, sick leave, and holiday pay
ADP Payroll pros and cons
ADP Payroll pros
We've already hit on ADP's biggest perk: its smooth blending of full-service payroll and comprehensive HR. Even Paychex, ADP's closest competitor, doesn't make quite as many HR features available with its payroll software. If you want to automate HR tasks and keep them largely in-house instead of outsourcing to an HR company, ADP is your best bet.
ADP is also one of the only payroll providers to offer an employer-facing mobile app, the clunkily named RUN Powered by ADP. Unfortunately, the app isn't that great—it lets you run payroll, but most ADP users set their payroll to autopilot and don't need to manually run it. Still, ADP is one of literally five payroll providers to even offer an employer-facing app. If mobile access is a must for you, ADP should be in your top five too.
Finally, ADP's payroll is designed to grow with your business. More affordable providers like OnPay and Patriot Software are perfect for smaller businesses, but they offer just one full-service plan each. What works for your business when you have only a handful of employees might not meet your needs once you're working with a hundred-strong workforce.
With ADP, you can start small and then upgrade to a bigger plan as your business grows. For instance, if your home-grown restaurant grows into a chain, it's easy to add HR management to your smaller ADP plan.
ADP Payroll cons
If you read our previous sections, you're more than familiar with our biggest complaints: ADP doesn't list pricing on its site and requires you to endure a long sales pitch (complete with negotiations about signing bonuses and waived fees) just to get a quote. And once you get that quote, you'll find that ADP costs more than most payroll providers aimed at small businesses.
ADP also scores low in customer satisfaction. While ADP has 4 stars out of 5 on the review site Trustpilot, the customer comments include complaints of bad customer service, ongoing tech problems, and poor site security.2 The employer-facing app, in particular, gets trashed in the comments section of Trustpilot, Apple's App Store, and Google Play.
ADP Payroll FAQs
Can employees view their payslips with ADP Payroll?
Yes. Employees can access payslips using ADP's mobile app or via ADP's online self-service portal.
How do you contact ADP's customer service?
You can get automated customer support and tech help through ADP's phone line: 1-844-227-5237. If you need more than tech support, and depending on the ADP plan you sign up for, you can skip the phone tree to talk directly with your company's dedicated HR team.
What is ADP TotalSource?
ADP TotalSource is ADP's professional employer organization (PEO). A PEO is an all-in-one HR and payroll solution for big companies with hefty HR needs. The PEO itself takes care of all human resource issues, including hiring and onboarding, on your behalf.
How much does ADP cost?
ADP doesn't list its pricing online, and you have to contact the company and provide thorough details about your company and needs to get a quote. If you don't need HR help and would rather set up and run payroll software on your own, ADP's "DIY payroll" plan starts at a $59 per month base price and an extra $4 per month per person paid.
Honestly, if you want a software service that blends HR management with automatic payroll tax filing, it's hard to beat ADP. The brand is super popular, the setup and design are flashy as all get-out, and the prices are higher than most of the competition's—but if you're okay with the price, you'll get years of use from your sturdy plan.
On the fence? Some of ADP's plans include a three-month free trial. You can sign up for software and start running payroll on your own if you choose the DIY plan, but otherwise, schedule a call with a representative to build a custom plan for your business.
Not interested in ADP? Check out our list of the year's best payroll companies to compare prices and providers.
Check out these related topics like the Best Payroll Companies in Canada, Quicken Review, Homepay Payroll Review, The Hourly Wage of CEOs vs Employees, Expensify Review, Gross Pay vs Net Pay, What is a Tax Writeoff, Useful Accounting Tips, Annual Reporting Guide, Why is Cashflow Important, Assets Definition, or the Average Salary of Essential Workers.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.
1. ADP, “Newsroom.” Accessed November 24, 2020.
2. Trustpilot, "ADP." Accessed November 24, 2020.
3. The App Store, "ADP Mobile Solutions." Accessed November 24, 2020.
4. Google Play, "ADP Mobile Solutions." Accessed November 24, 2020.
5. The App Store, "RUN Powered by ADP." Accessed November 24, 2020.
6. Google Play, "RUN Powered by ADP." Accessed November 24, 2020.