What is Gusto?

Gusto is a payroll and HR platform servicing over 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses and offering an extensive list of payroll, benefits administration, and HR features at surprisingly affordable prices. There’s no cold and impersonal in this company, with the Gusto ethos revolving around simple, automated, and streamlined payroll and HR processes coupled with friendly and efficient customer service.

Gusto’s legal entity is ZenPayroll, Inc, founded in 2011 and headquartered in San Francisco, California. ZenPayroll launched its first payroll product in 2012 following participation in the American technology startup accelerator, Y Combinator. The company’s point of difference was its support for paying contract workers while ensuring tax compliance. Other established payroll competitors at that time had not built that flexibility into their products, and Gusto was processing over $100 million within its first 12 months of operation. The company has grown rapidly, going from 60,000 clients 12 months ago to 200,000 today, and they’ve won a few awards along the way. Most recently, PCMag nominated Gusto as Editors Choice in January 2022, and NerdWallet placed them first as the best payroll and HR platform in February 2022.

Gusto has all the services you’d expect of a full-service payroll provider, offering several features as standard offerings for which other payroll providers charge. Gusto automates the struggles of running a payroll with new hires, monthly tax calculation and filing, and W-2s and 1099s taken care of automatically. Child-support garnishments are similarly managed, and the software adjusts wages to comply with the FLSA Tip Credit minimum wage requirement. You can even select payroll to run each pay period automatically, what Gusto calls Autopilot. The original point of difference that launched Gusto is still available, with US contractors paid and 1099s filed automatically; however, Gusto also manages international contractor payments effectively for free, with the only fee being the exchange rate charge.

Benefits administration is one of those areas that many payroll providers only support in higher payment plans or as an added paid extra. In Gusto, all packages gain a licensed benefits advisor to select an employee’s health benefit plan and help set them up, allowing employees to enroll online. Integrated workers’ compensation insurance is available on a pay-as-you-go plan, with automated billing and instant online estimates. Permanent employees also get a mobile app to check on tax information, paychecks, and time tracking.

What popular features do you get with Gusto?

  • Management of international contractor payments
  • Integrated dashboard for 50 states
  • Tip Credit minimum wage management
  • Automated payroll runs

  • Online hiring and onboarding tools
  • Competitive contractor-only pricing per worker
  • National contractor payment and 1099s
  • Great customer support

  • Integrations with mainstream accounting packages
  • Multiple pay rates and schedules
  • Unlimited support; phone, email, chat 
  • Unlimited payrolls

Customer Support is available at Gusto

A key focus by Gusto is providing friendly, supportive, and welcoming customer support representatives. All plans receive unlimited customer support by chat, email, or phone, with call lines staffed from 7 am to 6 pm mountain standard time, Monday to Friday. You’ll need to sign in to your account for the live chat function. There is also a nicely organized self-help resource with articles and FAQs to guide you through your issue.


What kind of business is Gusto ideal for?

If you’re a small to mid-sized business looking for a full-service payroll with extensive features and no hidden fees, Gustos must be on your list. The lower two subscription plans have the minimum HR a small business needs; however, if you need greater HR support, the upper plan provides all you need, plus unlimited live access to certified HR professionals.

Pros and Cons

  • An easy-to-use integrated platform
  • International contractor management
  • Great automation and streamlining features
  • Benefits, garnishments, and workers comp insurance included
  • Competitive pricing for small businesses
  • Employees receive checking and high-yield savings accounts

  • Pricing quickly gets steep for large organizations with high employee numbers
  • Limited HR features

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How much does Gusto cost?

*based on information provided by the vendor. Actual cost may vary.

Gusto offers five plans from which to choose, each building on the preceding plan. The first plan is a monthly charge per employee only, with subsequent plans requiring a monthly subscription plus a charge per employee per month. Let’s look at each plan.

Contractors Only
If you don’t employ W-2 workers, this plan is for you. You receive unlimited domestic contractor payments, four-day direct deposit payments, and 1099 reporting at the year’s end. You also get new hire reporting for those states that require it. You can add international contractor payments, but no other add-ons are available. You pay only $6 per contractor paid per month.

Core Plan
Core is the basic plan providing simple payroll services to smaller businesses. You receive a full-service payroll, including W-2s and 1099s. Benefits management and workers comp insurance are included, as is health insurance. There are also over 150 integrations for time management and accounting. The Core plan has a $39 monthly subscription, plus $6 per employee.

Complete Plan
Complete is a plan for more complex businesses requiring team management capability. You get all in the Core plan, plus next-day deposit, time tracking, and PTO management, while for HR, you receive hiring, onboarding, and performance management tools. The Complete plan has a $39 monthly subscription, plus $12 per employee.

Concierge Plan
Concierge is for businesses needing compliance and significant HR support. You get all in the Complete plan, plus access to an HR resource center, compliance alerts, and HR professionals. You also get a dedicated support team. The Complete plan has a $149 monthly subscription, plus $12 per employee.

Select Plan
The Select plan is not really a plan at all. It’s available to clients with over 25 employees and gives the ability to customize from all of Gusto’s offerings and receive exclusive pricing plus a ‘dedicated customer success manager.’ You need to contact sales for pricing on this plan.

Final thoughts...

We’re impressed with Gusto as a company, their product packaging, and the prices. If you’re a larger organization, you’d need to do your sums to see how the prices compare. However, if you’re a small to mid-sized business, we fail to see how Gusto isn’t on your list of competitively-priced top payroll providers.