Payroll Solutions: The Top 5 Options for Small Businesses


Elizabeth Jones


Reviewed by


October 17, 2019

This article is Tax Professional approved


You’ve got to pay your employees somehow. And unless you like the company of IRS agents, cash under the table won’t cut it.

Below we’ve curated a list of five of the best online payroll services on the market for small businesses.

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We go over the pros, cons, and the price of each so you can choose a payroll solution that fits.

If you’re run super familiar with payroll software, here’s a quick rundown of what you can expect.

The leading payroll management solutions will allow you to:

  • Complete payroll (calculate how much each employee gets, how much tax is deducted, and facilitate direct deposit)
  • Run payroll reports to summarize your payroll data
  • Help you with employee onboarding (creating record of employment for new hires, etc.)
  • File and pay payroll tax (including state tax)
  • And in some cases, much more than this

QuickBooks Online Payroll

QuickBooks Online Payroll is a young product that comes to us from finance giant Intuit. QuickBooks Online Payroll is a popular choice for small business owners. It comes in two levels: Full Service Payroll and Self-Service Payroll.

The major difference between the two is that Full Service includes same-day direct deposit and more support from Intuit accountants with things like creating paychecks and filing payroll tax forms.


  • It supports unlimited payroll runs.
  • Running payroll only takes a few minutes, depending on the diversity of your staff’s pay structures.
  • The mobile app provides users with a clean, user-friendly interface that allows you to see details, enter hours, and run payroll in the palm of your hand.


  • It’s expensive. The higher cost associated with QuickBooks Online Full Service Payroll is too steep for many small business owners.
  • It lacks some features that are included with other, more established online payroll solutions.


QuickBooks Online Full Service Payroll costs $80 per month, plus an additional $4 per employee per month. QuickBooks Online Self-Service Payroll costs $35 per month, plus an additional $4 per employee per month.


Gusto is an award-winning cloud payroll solution popular among small business owners. It includes things like fast payroll processing and streamlined employee benefits administration to save you time. You can even register for things like workers compensation insurance through Gusto.

Gusto comes in three levels: Core, Complete, and Concierge. Core offers payroll solutions, Complete includes tools for human resources, and Concierge comes with all that plus live, high-level support.


  • It integrates with popular accounting solutions such as Xero, QuickBooks, and Bench.
  • It simplifies the initial set up process, making it less of a headache for users.
  • It services both W-2 employees and 1099 contractors.
  • It has an intuitive interface that makes it easy for even non-techies to navigate.
  • Payroll specialists are available for human support
  • You can manage employee benefits and timekeeping
  • If you use Gusto for health benefits, you can get a free quote


  • If you’re using Gusto for benefits administration, they can’t service benefits for every state.


Gusto Core costs $39 per month, plus an additional $6 per employee per month. Gusto Compete costs $39 per month, plus an additional $12 per employee per month. Gusto Concierge costs $149 per month, plus an additional $12 per employee per month.


Xero is an award-winning cloud-based online payroll provider that comes to us from New Zealand. Xero is more than just payroll, however. It’s also well-known as a do-it-yourself accounting system.


  • It’s easy to import earlier records, making it simple to merge data for continuity.
  • It’s integrated with Zenpayroll, Gusto, and many others.


  • Not as robust as other payroll solutions. You can only do simple pay runs.
  • Xero’s payroll service isn’t universally available; currently, it is only offered in certain states.


Xero is a subscription service starting at $9 per month.


SurePayroll is a highly-customizable payroll solution. It was designed with small businesses and freelancers in mind. SurePayroll provides an experience that gives you the flexibility to run payroll your way.


  • It has a flexible and customizable interface, giving you the ability to make your payroll solution your own.
  • It automates things like salary computation and payroll taxes.
  • It includes a tax filing accuracy guarantee.


  • Users are split down the middle on how they feel about SurePayroll’s interface. Some find it too detailed and overwhelming, and others love the added layers the detail provides.
  • It charges a fee for year-end W-2s and 1099s, and most online payroll solutions don’t charge for these products.


SurePayroll costs $29.99 per month, plus an additional $4 per employee per month, making it one of the cheapest online payroll solutions.


PayCor’s payroll system tends toward self-service, allowing employees the freedom to update their own information, such as their direct deposit account number.


  • It integrates with select 401(k) providers to seamlessly share data related to retirement plans.
  • It offers flexible options for paying your employees, including direct deposit and pay cards.
  • It uses real-time analytics to allow its users to monitor live data.


  • PayCor doesn’t provide prospective users with a free trial.
  • It doesn’t offer a standard pricing structure. Prospective users must contact PayCor to receive a customized quote.

If one of these solutions is standing out to you, check out the testimonials on TrustPilot or Capterra. What are the common complaints? How’s the user experience? Does your chosen provider generally run accurate payroll? Will they meet your particular payroll needs? Every HR solution is a little bit different. Take your time to ask questions to make sure you’re getting exactly what you need.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.
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