Gusto vs Quickbooks Payroll Software 2021

We carefully analyzed each payroll software title’s suitability for different needs, such as business owners grappling with rapid growth or a shrinking budget, to deliver you our expert-crafted recommendations.
Best for simplicity
4.5 out of 5 stars
Starting from
$39 + $6/employee, monthly
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Beautiful user interface
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    In-house insurance brokers
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Supports 50 US states on all plans
Best for growth
Starting from
$45 + $4/employee, monthly
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Richly detailed interface
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Broader Intuit ecosystem
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Expensive for multiple states

Data as of 7/30/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Gusto vs. QuickBooks Payroll: Table of contents

Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll are two highly competitive payroll software titles targeting resource-strained small-business owners. Both offer similar essentials but with nuanced differences.

Our research concludes Gusto’s a better bet if you highly value ease-of-use and visual beauty, and you don’t mind a premium price. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Payroll is the superior payroll service if you need something lower priced that’s more functional than aesthetically pleasing. But if you pay people in multiple states, we’d recommend choosing Gusto to avoid extra fees.

Let’s explore which small-business payroll service is best for you.

Compare Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll features and pricing

Starting price (monthly)
Full-service payroll & tax filing
Health insurance benefits
US states included
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$39 + $6/employeeIcon Yes  DarkIn-house brokersAll 50 states on all plans

QuickBooks Payroll

$45 + $4/employeeIcon Yes  DarkOutsourced to third-party provider1 state on Core & Premium ($12 extra each state); all states on Elite

Data effective 7/21/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Most affordable: QuickBooks Payroll

At first glance, Gusto appears less expensive due to its lower base price. The devil is in the details though since QuickBooks Payroll has a 33% lower per-employee cost. This makes the latter cheaper if you have at least four employees, which we’re almost certain you do.
Let’s illustrate how this plays out as your business grows.

Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll entry-level plan cost comparison

4 employees (monthly)
10 employees (monthly)
30 employees (monthly)
100 employees (monthly)
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QuickBooks Payroll




Data effective 7/21/21. At publishing time, pricing and features are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

When it comes to the essentials, both brands offer nearly identical features like full-service payroll, support from HR professionals on premium plans, and employee benefits management. And if you want optional add-ons, like support for 401(k) retirement plans, those are nearly identically priced, with QuickBooks still costing less in some instances.

Gusto does offer a few extra perks for the cash, like employee onboarding tools. But these aren’t substantial enough to justify the higher pricing.

The only exception to QuickBook’s pricing advantage is if you need to pay people in multiple states. That’s because the platform charges $12 for each additional state, unless you have the expensive top-tier Elite plan. Gusto, by contrast, includes all states on all plans with no extra charges.

Easiest to use: Gusto

So why do some small-business owners still fork over more dough for Gusto? Because its overall user experience is more straightforward and easy to grasp for both staffers and employers.

Gusto’s large text and colorful themes create a dazzling social media-esque look and feel that’s delightful to use. For comparison, QuickBooks Payroll’s interface isn’t particularly confusing, but it lacks the same playful theme of Gusto as it tries to squeeze more complexity into its interface. This might feel par for the course if you’re an established QuickBooks aficionado, but it’s rather cumbersome if you only need a no-frills, standalone payroll service.

Gusto also offers a plethora of other beginner-friendly goodies, like handy guides on HR topics, attorney-crafted form templates, and professional advice on sticky employee situations. These resources can empower anyone to grasp the complex world of personnel administration rapidly.

Bottom line, if user-friendliness tops your priority list, then Gusto is the supreme option.

Best for growth: QuickBooks Payroll

Not only is QuickBooks Payroll more affordable at all stages of growth, but its functionality also expands in step with your business’s evolving needs.

You can seamlessly link Payroll to other offerings from Intuit, QuickBook’s parent company. This includes QuickBook’s namesake accounting platform in addition to TurboTax and Mint, to name two examples. And if you need even more functionality, you can tap into the QuickBooks Apps marketplace where you’ll find an ever-growing array of useful plugins.

In contrast, Gusto lacks any comparable, all-encompassing power. Sure, it has some human resource administration abilities, but those are severely underwhelming. Plus, Gusto won’t help you tackle income taxes à la TurboTax, nor will it connect you with a vetted full-service bookkeeper like QuickBooks serves up. There is also no platform to download user-contributed extensions, so you’re limited to the company-provided third-party integrations that are few in number compared to the selection of QuickBooks Apps.

Gusto does offer a third-party integration with QuickBooks Desktop, but this doesn’t surpass the value of a native, holistic Intuit connection.

Best employee benefits: Gusto

When it comes to delivering the best employee benefits offerings, it’s tempting to declare it a toss-up. This greatly stems from Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll similarly relying on the same third-party vendors to administer some perks. For example, AP Intego offers workers compensation insurance on both platforms while Guideline dishes out 401(k) plans.

But Gusto’s health insurance and less prominent perks break the tie. The platform boasts in-house insurance brokers that carefully walk you through a tailored menu of plans. Once your crew has elected their benefits, you’ll only have to pay for insurance premiums without any extra administrative fees.

QuickBooks Payroll, by contrast, relies on third-party broker SimplyInsured, which charges fees and sets its own policies independent from Intuit.

You can also use Gusto to dish out commuter benefits, 529 educational savings plans, health savings accounts (HSA), and flexible spending accounts (FSA). Life and disability insurance policies are additionally up for grabs through the company’s own Gusto Insurance Services.

And for a fancy bonus: Gusto boasts its free Wallet mobile app, which is a cash management service for employees. Workers can use this no-cost perk to access their pay via a Gusto-branded debit card and borrow interest-free against future paychecks, along with other nifty baubles. This is especially valuable for underbanked staffers who might otherwise rely on expensive, sometimes predatory check-cashing services.

QuickBooks doesn’t wield any of these bells and whistles. Employees can opt for optional deductions, such as HSA contributions and money for public transit passes, but you’ll need to manually process these funds on your own without any native support.

Best for multiple states: Gusto

If you pay employees or contractors in multiple US states and you’re worried about your budget, we definitely recommend Gusto. That’s because it includes payroll and tax filing support for all 50 states on all plans, even the entry-level Core tier.

In contrast, QuickBooks Payroll supports only one state on its Core and Premium plans. Any more levies a whopping $12 extra per state. Only the top-tier Elite subscription includes all fifty states at no extra cost, but that plan is quite pricey at $125 plus $10 a worker each month.

We value transparency, so we ding QuickBooks for deeply concealing this caveat. The product prominently boasts it’s “available in all 50 states,” without further details or even a superscript symbol, such as an asterisk, denoting fine print. During our research, we reached the checkout page and could continue with a purchase still without any mention of the extra costs.

It was only after careful digging through the fine print (which is buried in a hidden, dropdown text area) that we discovered this per-state fee. Not even the company’s guide to multistate payroll mentions the additional charges. Plus, a Google Search advertisement also boasts “available in all 50 states” without clarification.

Tired of payroll? Gusto handles payroll taxes and more

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

Gusto vs. QuickBooks Payroll FAQ

Is Gusto better than QuickBooks Payroll?

Gusto is superior when it comes to user-friendliness and simplicity. If you run a smaller, more modest small business and you want a straightforward payroll service, Gusto is your better bet.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Payroll is more ideal if you oversee a rapidly growing business that mandates powerful software solutions. It’s also more affordable than Gusto since it has a lower per-employee cost.

Does Gusto payroll integrate with QuickBooks desktop?

Yes, you can connect Gusto to both QuickBooks Desktop and Online. In fact, the platform includes nearly 100 third-party integrations.

Is QuickBooks good for payroll?

We think QuickBooks Payroll is a wonderful choice for small businesses looking to grow long term. The platform provides sophisticated payroll features such as full-service payroll tax filing and support from human resource professionals. Most of all, you’ll have a seamless connection to the broader Intuit ecosystem, which includes TurboTax and the QuickBooks accounting services.

Is Gusto a good payroll company?

Gusto is a good standalone payroll service for small businesses desiring a more straightforward, easy-to-use interface. It’s also an excellent option if you have no background in human resources or payroll. That’s because Gusto serves up an elaborate treasure trove of educational materials along with support from certified human resource professionals.

Best Small Business Payroll Software
Best overall
Best HR add-ons
Best reporting
Simplest setup
Best customer service
Learn more about our top brands.

The takeaway

Gusto and QuickBooks Payroll are close adversaries, with each vendor offering many identical services in an attempt to one-up each other. With either option, you’ll receive automatic tax filing, short-notice payroll with delivery in two business days or less, and employee benefits management.

There are many nuanced differences, though. We think Gusto is better if you’re willing to pay a premium for a more user-friendly interface, elaborate in-house employee benefit choices, and plenty of educational resources. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Payroll is your go-to solution for sheer power at a lower price tag, but with a more complicated user experience and fewer included perks for workers.

Need to pay workers north of the border? Then check out our picks for the best small-business payroll programs in Canada.

Related content


We carefully examined each platform’s features from a small-business owner’s perspective, with close attention to (not an exhaustive list):

  • Overall value for the money
  • Beginner-friendly appeal for those with no payroll or HR experience
  • Expandability for growing businesses
  • Employee benefits options
  • Payroll processing timeframes


At, 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.

Ian Agar
Written by
Ian Agar
Ian covers human resource administration at His expertise stems from his four years as a military HR generalist in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he held the title of yeoman and became an Oracle Peoplesoft maestro. Ian also owned an ecommerce small business for over three years and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He was previously a venture capital reporter at PitchBook Data, and his work can be seen on Seeking Alpha, The Motley Fool, and Yahoo! Finance.
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