Gusto Payroll vs. OnPay 2021

To compare Gusto and OnPay, we considered each payroll software’s payroll and HR features, customer reviews, pricing, and overall user-friendliness.
Best for growth
Gusto
Gusto
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Starting from
$39.00/mo. + $6.00/payee/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Expansive employee benefit options
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic payroll tax administration at no addt’l cost
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    Declining customer service ratings
Best payroll features
OnPay
OnPay
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
Starting from
$36.00/mo. + $4.00/payee/mo.
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Workers comp and health insurance in all 50 states
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic payroll tax administration at no addt’l cost
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    One plan only (limited scalability)

Data as of 9/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The bottom line: OnPay’s thorough customer support and industry-specific plans make it a versatile pick for businesses on a budget. On the other hand, since Gusto offers three plans instead of just one, it’s a solid fit for businesses that want increased HR (human resource) support as they grow.

Compare Gusto and OnPay’s top features

Brand
Starting monthly price
Free trial
Payroll tax administration
Health benefit add-ons
Get started
Gusto

Gusto

$39.00 + $6.00/payee
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Available in 38 states + D.C.
OnPay

OnPay

$36.00 + $4.00/payee
30 days
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Available in 50 states + D.C.

Data as of 9/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Best payroll features: Gusto

For the most part, Gusto and OnPay offer the same stellar payroll features. Both companies automatically calculate, deduct, and file all federal and state payroll taxes at no additional cost. (In contrast, pricier competitors like ADP and Paychex charge extra for tax filing.) They also offer free multi-state tax filing, support hourly and salaried employees, and integrate with the most popular time-tracking and accounting software.

But Gusto has just enough unique perks to bump it ahead of OnPay in the best payroll feature competition. For instance, while both Gusto and OnPay automatically deduct any court-ordered garnishments for spousal or child support from employee paychecks, only Gusto automatically sends the deduction straight to the recipient. (This feature is available in every state but South Carolina.)

Gusto also includes an autopilot feature. Once you’ve entered your employees’ payroll information, you can set the software to run automatically on a set schedule—a dream for busy business owners and their employees, who need to know they’ll be paid on time, every time.

Finally, unlike OnPay, Gusto also files local payroll taxes along with federal and state taxes. If your city requires businesses to pay specific taxes, Gusto can save you some tax-filing effort.

Best Small Business Payroll Software
Gusto
Best overall
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
Paychex
Best for growth
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
OnPay
Best for new employers
4 out of 5 stars
4.0
ADP
Best Payroll + HR packages
3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5
SurePayroll
Best customer service
3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4
Learn more about our top brands.

OnPay vs. Gusto: Key payroll features

FeatureGustoOnPay
Starting monthly price$39.00 + $6.00/payee$36.00 + $4.00/payee
Automatic federal and state tax filing
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Automatic local tax filing
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon No  DarkNo
Form W-2 and 1099 distribution
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Free multi-state payroll
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Wage garnishment
Icon Yes  DarkAutomatic wage deductions and child-support payments
Icon Yes  DarkAutomatic wage deductions
Automatic payroll runs
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon No  DarkNo
Employee payment optionsDirect deposit, debit cards, or paper checksDirect deposit, debit cards, or paper checks
Next-day direct deposit
Icon Yes  DarkYes (not available with cheapest plan)
Icon No  DarkNo
Customer supportPhone, chat, and email (no weekend support)Phone, chat, and email (emergency weekend support via email only)
Accounting software integrationsQuickBooks, Xero, and FreshBooksQuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop, and Xero
Employee self-service portal
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Mobile payroll app
Icon No  DarkNo (site optimized for mobile)
Icon No  DarkNo
Get started

Data as of 9/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Best HR features: OnPay

Honestly, it was hard to choose a winner in the best HR software features category. Gusto has more employee benefit options, but OnPay’s limited options are available in more areas. Additionally, OnPay generally has better HR management than Gusto unless you shell out for Gusto’s super pricey Concierge plan ($149 a month plus $12 per payee)—in which case, Gusto is better.

But in the end, OnPay’s online payroll service won out. While both providers offer optional health and dental insurance, only OnPay offers health insurance in all 50 states. (Gusto’s health insurance options are limited to 38 states and D.C.) OnPay also includes HR tools you can only get with Gusto’s two priciest plans:

  • Automatic paid time off (PTO) policy creation and accrual tracking
  • Customized organization personnel charts
  • HR document uploading and e-signing
  • Extensive HR and legal compliance online resource library

If you do want expansive HR administration, Gusto’s Concierge plan adds anytime access to a certified Gusto HR professional, a dedicated customer support phone line, and a thorough HR guide. But Concierge is cost prohibitive for many small-business owners, and you can get most of its features (namely the HR resource guide) much more affordably with OnPay.

OnPay vs. Gusto: Key HR features with basic payroll plan

FeatureGustoOnPay
Employee mobile app
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
State new-hire reporting
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
PTO policy creation
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
PTO accrual tracking
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Automated employee self-onboarding
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Customizable HR document e-signing
Icon No  DarkNo
Icon Yes  DarkYes
HR resource library
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Get started

Data as of 9/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Gusto does stand out in one key area: employee benefits. On top of the basics—health insurance, 401(k)s, and workers compensation insurance—Gusto has a slew of other options:

  • HSA and FSA options
  • Health reimbursement options for the smallest of small businesses
  • Commuter benefits
  • Gusto Wallet app access

Don’t forget, though, that OnPay and Gusto primarily focus on payroll processing. Their HR tools are useful, but neither company offers total HR management—unless you’re willing to shell out for Gusto’s expensive Concierge plan. If you want comprehensive HR administration, you’ll need an HRIS (human resource information system) solution instead. We recommend a Gusto competitor like ADP or Paychex if you’re looking to create a custom payroll and HR software package for your business.

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

Most affordable: OnPay

Gusto’s starting base price is just a few dollars more than OnPay’s. If you have one or two employees, the price difference between each payroll provider isn’t too severe. But since Gusto’s base plan has a higher per-payee fee than most online payroll software, it becomes exponentially more expensive the more employees you add.

In contrast, OnPay has just one plan and charges a comparatively low amount per employee. That makes OnPay not just more affordable than Gusto, but one of the most affordable and comprehensive full-service payroll providers you can find.

There’s one key exception to Gusto’s high pricing: its contractor-only plan. If you work solely with 1099 contractors instead of W-2 employees, Gusto waives the monthly base fee. Instead, your monthly fee is just $6 per payee, along with any premiums you decide to pay on workers compensation or health insurance. (Square Payroll offers a comparable contractor-only plan with fewer benefit options but a lower per-employee fee.)

Compare top payroll software brands’ entry-level prices

Brand
Starting monthly price
Price with 5 employees
Price with 10 employees
Price with 50 employees
Get started
OnPayOnPay
$36.00 + $4.00/payee$56.00/mo.$76.00/mo.$236.00/mo.
GustoGusto
$39.00 + $6.00/payee$69.00/mo.$99.00/mo.$339.00/mo.
PaychexPaychex
$39.00 + $5.00/payee$64.00/mo.$89.00/mo.$289.00/mo.
quickbooks logoQuickBooks Payroll
$45.00 + $4.00/payee$65.00/mo.$85.00/mo.$245.00/mo.

Data as of 9/21/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Best customer support: OnPay

OnPay and Gusto both offer customer service over chat, phone, and email. But only OnPay includes emergency weekend support—which is especially crucial because a mistake can cause major problems for your employees (not to mention the IRS).

Additionally, Gusto used to have some of the best customer reviews in the industry. But since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, its customer ratings have dropped noticeably with no signs of improvement. For instance, on the consumer review site Trustpilot, Gusto scores just 2.3 out of 5.1 In contrast, OnPay scores a 4.8 out of 5 on the same site (in fairness, OnPay has far fewer reviewers than Gusto).2

What worries us the most about Gusto’s declining customer satisfaction ratings is the type of complaints customers have. Many of Gusto’s customer reviews from 2021 highlight increasingly poor customer service (taking over an hour to reach a customer service rep who ultimately can’t answer the question or hangs up) and, worse, crucial payroll tax mistakes that Gusto fails to fix or respond to. Customers who have relied on Gusto’s payroll solution for years note that they’re looking for a new service since Gusto seems to have “given up” on serving customers.1

That’s grim news—but we’re still hoping Gusto makes a comeback soon. After all, we’re still living in the COVID economy, and most businesses have taken a huge personnel hit (Gusto included), which has caused customer service problems in many industries.

Since Gusto’s track record is basically pristine to this point, we’re willing to give its online payroll service a few more months to get back on track. If it can’t return to normal, though, we’ll let you know—and we’ll update this review accordingly.

Most scalable plans: Gusto

OnPay’s single plan packs in a lot of features for the price. But if you’re hoping to add more features—especially more robust HR support—as your team expands, OnPay can’t help. Since OnPay has just one plan, the features you start out with are the only ones you get, no matter how large your team grows.

Meanwhile, Gusto has three plans. While all three have the same payroll processing features, the two pricier plans add more HR features and support. Most importantly, the Complete plan includes some particularly useful additions:

  • Next-day direct deposit
  • Customizable software admin permissions, including manager permissions
  • Customized onboarding checklist and document e-signing
  • Built-in time tracking, project tracking, and time-off requests and approval
  • PTO tracking and time-off approval

Some of these features, especially the administrative permissions, apply only to bigger teams with more than one person running payroll. But self-employed business owners who manage employees and run payroll on their own will get more out of OnPay, which includes customized document e-signing, PTO accrual tracking, time tracking, and project tracking in its low price. 

And, of course, each Gusto plan increases in price the more features it adds. Both Gusto Premium and Concierge charge $12 per employee per month, double the per-payee charge of Gusto’s cheapest plan. That’s a pretty drastic increase: even QuickBooks Payroll, which has a much higher base price than Gusto, charges just $10 a month with its priciest plan. 

Best third-party integrations: Gusto

Currently, Gusto integrates with more than 100 business software apps, including QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, Clover (and other point of sale apps), and 7shifts (and other time-tracking apps). In contrast, OnPay syncs with just 10 third-party apps. It does sync with QuickBooks and Xero, two of the most popular accounting software providers. Otherwise, though, its integration options are extremely limited.

So when should third-party software integrations play a part in your payroll software decision? Typically, if your company requires dozens of apps to tackle large company processes like managing customers and processing sales, software integration should play a part in your decision. And since OnPay doesn’t sync with any customer relationship management (CRM) or point-of-sale software, sales-based companies might want to consider Gusto over OnPay.

The takeaway

So now that you’ve gone through the full comparison, which payroll option is better for you: Gusto or OnPay? We’ll make it simple:

  • Gusto is a great online payroll service for small businesses that want to offer unique employee benefits, companies that plan on growing from a few employees to a few hundred, and sales-based businesses that want fully integrated financial software. We also recommend Gusto to business owners who only pay contractors.
  • OnPay is a solid choice for businesses that want comprehensive payroll administration and helpful HR support without paying too high of a cost. It’s also a good fit for businesses in specialized industries, especially nonprofits, farms, and restaurants.

Still can’t decide? We recommend starting with OnPay. Unlike Gusto, OnPay offers a 30-day free trial. You can try running payroll with it for exactly zero dollars, and if it’s not a good fit, you can always try out Gusto the next month (albeit at the regular fee).

Not interested in paying for a payroll system right now? Read through our piece on the best free payroll providers for small businesses on a budget.

Related content

Gusto vs. OnPay FAQ

Is Gusto good for payroll?

Gusto is great for payroll. It consistently tops best payroll service lists (ours included) thanks to its accessible platform, thorough benefits options, and fully automated payroll. You can learn more about Gusto’s pros and cons on our Gusto payroll review.

What is the best payroll software for small businesses?

Since every small business has unique needs, it’s hard to determine the best overall payroll software —after all, what’s best for your business might not be best for all businesses. We do have several favorites though, which you can learn more about in our article on the five best payroll companies.

Along with Gusto and OnPay, here’s the rundown on our top payroll software picks:

  • ADP and Paychex are two HR-centric payroll companies that build customized payroll packages for midsize businesses.
  • Both Patriot Payroll and SurePayroll offer affordable self-service payroll for customers who want help calculating taxes but are fine filing taxes on their own.
  • Square Payroll, like Gusto, offers a contractor-only plan with no base fee.
  • QuickBooks Payroll’s scalable plans and thorough features set it apart, as does its straightforward integration with QuickBooks Online, one of the world’s most popular accounting software options.

Methodology

To compare Gusto to OnPay and derive our star ratings, we analyzed each company’s strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:

  • Pricing
  • Payroll and HR features
  • Customer service hours, modes of contact, and reputation
  • Ease of use and overall functionality, including employee- and employer-facing apps
  • User reviews

We also considered our payroll expert’s expertise to calculate ratings. Star ratings are reevaluated frequently and subject to change.

Disclaimer

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.

Sources

  1. Trustpilot, “Gusto.” Accessed September 24, 2021.
  2. Trustpilot, “OnPay.” Accessed September 24, 2021.
Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie McQuarrie has been writing for and about small businesses since 2014. Prior to writing full-time, she worked with a variety of small-business owners (from freelance writers to real-estate solopreneurs), which gave her a front-row look at small-business owners' struggles, frustrations, and successes. Currently, she’s Business.org’s accounting and payroll staff writer. Her work has been featured on SCORE.org, G2, and Fairygodboss, among others.
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