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Updated: May 3, 2024

How to compare payroll solutions and choose the best one for your business

Published By:

Erin Ellison

More from our experts

If you’re shopping for a payroll solution, your business is probably at a pivotal stage. If you’re a small business getting ready to pay workers for the first time, adding payroll is a momentous first step ⁠— congrats! And if you’re already paying workers, then researching and comparing providers means you’ve come to the point where you need a new payroll company that can keep up with your growing needs.


No matter what stage your business is in, it can be hard to choose the right way to do payroll, so we’ve provided some general advice and a printable checklist you can use to compare the payroll solutions you’re considering. Click here to skip to the checklist.


Finding the right payroll should make it easier to pay your team, handle finances and taxes, and organize other people-management duties, but there are a few functionalities you’ll want to compare to make sure you get everything your business needs at the right price:

  • Onboarding and paying workers: Do you need to pay W-2 employees, 1099 contractors, or a combination? Your payroll solution should be able to handle all your workers and support annual tax filings for them, too. Also make sure you understand who will be responsible for onboarding employees and filing the right new hire paperwork in your state.
  • Calculations and tax filings: Each state and locality can have its own payroll tax rate and filing requirements for employers. Correct calculations are crucial to make sure that federal, state, and local payroll taxes filed and paid on behalf of your business are accurate. 
  • Pay items and frequency: Whether you have one pay schedule or multiple, you’ll need a payroll platform that supports the right pay frequency for your business. You’ll also want to consider any special pay types ⁠— like tips, commissions or bonuses — that you’ll need to make.
  • HR and compliance: Your payroll app can also store important employee paperwork, allow for employee self-service, manage PTO accrual and approvals, and more. You should also ask whether the solutions you’re comparing can help with workers’ comp and employee benefits
  • Data management and reporting: Do you need payroll to align with our accounting, time tracking, or expense-management software? And do you need reporting capabilities that help you analyze employment costs? From bookkeeping to managing cash flow, the right payroll solution can help you get all the numbers right.


And don’t forget about how much it all costs. Some providers cost two to three times as much for very similar sets of services, so you’ll want to ask carefully about what’s included and how often you’ll be billed.

Comparing payroll solutions

While all of these tasks may feel like a lot to deal with — especially when managing everything else your business does — a payroll provider can take most of the work off your shoulders. Our research shows that business owners who rely on a payroll solution save 15 hours a month over owners who run payroll themselves. Here are a few key questions you should ask when choosing a payroll provider:

  • What range of services do they offer?
  • What’s included in the basic fee? Are there pricing tiers, or any services that cost extra?
  • Do they take care of the setup and any data migration?
  • Do they have expert, reliable support?
  • Do they integrate with other software your business is using?

Related resource

To help with your search, our comprehensive guide makes it simple to compare payroll services so you can quickly determine which one best suits your company’s needs (and how they stack up against each other).

The payroll provider checklist

To make your payroll search a little easier, we’ve put together a checklist with all of the key questions you should ask providers you’re considering ⁠— and we included OnPay’s answers to help get you started.


Download and print this comparison chart.


2022 pricing comparison

Customer insights

Last but not least, you can also read the most recent OnPay reviews from existing customers to get a first-hand perspective on their experience working with our team (and how our offerings have helped them save time and energy).

To learn more about why employers choose to use third-party tools to pay employees, or if you want to better understand how they can help you run operations more efficiently, check out our comprehensive guide to payroll software. In addition, there’s links to more resources on the payroll process, improving HR efforts, and how offering benefits can be used to build your team (and keep your best and brightest from looking at competitors).


Or if you are ready to to simplify payroll, HR, and benefits for your business, check out OnPay, or see a full list of payroll services we offer.

Take a tour to see how easy payroll can be.

Erin Ellison is the former Content Marketing Manager for OnPay. She has more than 15 years of writing experience, is a former small business owner, and has managed payroll, scheduling, and HR for more than 75 employees. She lives and works in Atlanta.