The Best Cheap Payroll Software for 2024: Compared

Patriot Software is the best cheap payroll software, given that it offers all the core features and functionalities you need, but at almost half the price of its competitors. The platform lets you automate payroll and tax filing, set up different hourly rates for contractors, and automatically track PTO and time-off accruals, ensuring everyone is paid the correct amount on time.

There are plenty of other excellent payroll software solutions that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. In this guide, we’ve reviewed the top 7 so you can see how they compare and make an informed decision.

The Best Cheap Payroll Software Ranked

  1. Patriot Software — The most cost-effective payroll software on the market
  2. Roll by ADP — Simple mobile payroll app with AI-powered payroll assistant
  3. Paychex — Merges payroll with new hire onboarding and an LMS
  4. OnPay — Multi-state payroll, ideal for large companies with multiple locations
  5. Gusto — Fully automated payroll runs for FTEs and contractors
  6. Remote — Compliantly hire, onboard, and pay contractors in 200+ countries
  7. QuickBooks — Automated payroll runs for salaried employees on direct deposits

The Best Cheap Payroll Reviewed

We’ve reviewed the best cheap payroll solutions on the market, looking at their pricing plans, the availability of features and functionalities on the most affordable ones, and the overall value for money they provide.

Here are detailed reviews of the top 7 most cost-effective payroll software solutions so you can see how they compare:

1. Patriot Software — The Most Cost-Effective Payroll Software on the Market

A screenshot of Patriot Software's payroll register report

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$17/month + $4/month per employee 30 days – Automated PTO Tracking
– Multiple Pay Rates and Payroll Frequencies
– Employee Portal

Patriot Software is the most cost-effective payroll solution on the market, offering all core functionalities at almost half the price of its competitors (and has a 30-day free trial).

You can use it to run unlimited payroll for FTEs (full-time employees and contractors), set up five different pay rates for hourly workers with descriptions of each rate, and pay different groups of employees at different intervals.

The platform even lets you add your own employee deductions and company-paid contributions, which are automatically included in payroll calculations.

You can also leverage Patriot Software to automate PTO tracking, customize time-off accrual rules, and automatically account for hours/days off for each employee’s payroll.

What’s more, Patriot Software offers an employee portal where your team members can see their pay stubs, pay history, accrued PTO, and electronic W-2s.

Read the full Patriot Accounting review here.

Patriot Software Pricing Plans

There are two pricing plans to choose from:

  • Basic — $17/month + $4/month per employee
  • Full Service — $37/month + $4/month per employee

The Full Service plan includes done-for-you tax filing.

prosPros

  • Affordable and easy to use
  • Customizable hours, bonuses, and deductions
  • Multiple pay rates for hourly employees
  • Automated PTO accruals
  • Customizable payroll reports

consCons 

  • Done-for-you service only available on the Full Service plan

2. Roll by ADP — Simple Mobile Payroll App With AI-Powered Assistance for 100% Accuracy

An image demonstrating Roll by ADP's features

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$29/month + $5/month per employee First three months free – AI-Powered Payroll Assistance
– Same-Day and Next-Day Direct Deposits
– Automatic Benefit and Retirement Plan Deductions

Roll by ADP is a simple mobile payroll app for SMBs that want to run accurate payroll for their full-time employees and contractors. You can utilize it to complete unlimited payroll runs in all 50 U.S. states, as well as automatically calculate, file, and deposit payroll taxes.

The app is enhanced by a powerful AI assistant that offers personalized payroll advice, helps you generate valuable business insights, and provides actionable responses to chat requests. All you need to do is ask a question in chat, and the AI assistant will provide a detailed response in seconds. The AI also automatically checks for payroll errors, helping ensure 100% accuracy.

Another reason to opt for Roll by ADP, apart from the affordable price and ease of use, is the ability to pay your employees and contractors with same-day and next-day direct deposits.

The app also features an employee portal, allowing your workforce to check their job, pay, and benefit info at any time.

Roll by ADP Pricing Plans

Roll by ADP has a single pricing plan at $29/month + $5/month per employee. There are no contract obligations, so you can cancel anytime.

What’s more, you’ll get the first three months free, so you can test the payroll software in practice and see first-hand whether it’s the right tool for your business.

prosPros

  • First three months free
  • Automated payroll tax calculations
  • AI-powered payroll assistance and error checks
  • Employee portal
  • Same-day and next-day deposits

consCons 

  • No attendance or leave tracking

3. Paychex — Merges Payroll With Onboarding and Learning Management

Paychex Dashboard view

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$39/month + $5/month per employee – Direct Deposit and Pay Card Support
– Employee Portal
– New Hire Onboarding

Paychex is another decent, cheap option for SMBs, especially if you want a bit more functionality on top of payroll. The platform supports direct deposits, pay cards, and on-site check printing, as well as enables you to automatically calculate, file, and pay payroll taxes.

Paychex also features an employee self-service portal, which allows your team members to complete daily activities, view pay and tax information, and stay up-to-date with company announcements.

In addition to payroll, Paychex facilitates new employee onboarding, making it easier to communicate with new hires and assign them key onboarding tasks, as well as track their progress.

On more expensive plans, you’ll also get access to a wealth of advanced features and functionalities, including a garnishment payment service, a learning management system, pre-employment screening, and more.

Read the full Paychex review here.

Paychex Pricing Plans

Paychex offers three distinct pricing plans:

  • Essentials — $39/month + $5/month per employee
  • Select — Custom quote
  • Pro — Custom quote

Unfortunately, there is no free trial so you won’t get a chance to test the platform before signing up.

prosPros

  • Fast, accurate payroll runs
  • Multiple options for paying your employees
  • Employee self-service portal
  • New hire onboarding
  • Advanced features and functionalities on custom-priced plans

consCons 

  • No free trial
  • No attendance or leave tracking

4. OnPay — Multi-State Payroll, Ideal for Large Companies With Multiple Locations

A screenshot of OnPay's dashboard

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$40/month + $6/month per employee 30 days – Direct Deposits, Debit Cards, and Check Payments
– Multi-State Payroll
– Advanced PTO Management

OnPay is a bit more expensive than the alternatives we’ve reviewed above, but it does offer tools that help you automate and streamline other essential HR tasks in addition to payroll.

The platform lets you execute unlimited monthly payroll runs, automates tax filing, supports direct deposits, debit cards, and checks, and even lets you run multi-state payroll. This makes it ideal for larger companies (500+ employees) with multiple locations in different states.

OnPay also helps you automate onboarding workflows, helps you create custom employee checklists, lets you delegate and track non-HR tasks (e.g., IT), and allows you to store and easily share work documents.

You can also utilize OnPay for advanced PTO management, which includes custom paid time-off policies, an integrated PTO calendar, automatic accrual tracking, and real-time notifications and reminders.

While it’s a pricier option than Paychex or Patriot, OnePay offers a 30-day trial that allows you to test out the software before fully committing and only has one price plan with everything included.

Read the full OnPay review here.

OnPay Pricing Plans

OnPay has a single pricing plan. The base monthly fee is $40, while each employee you add to the account will cost you an additional $6/month. You also get a 30-day free trial, so you can test OnPay risk-free.

prosPros

  • Supports direct deposit, debit card, and check payments
  • Fully automates tax calculations and filling in all 50 states
  • Lets you run multi-state payroll
  • Automates onboarding
  • Features advanced PTO management tools

consCons 

  • Menu navigation is a bit unintuitive
  • The mobile app needs to be improved

5. Gusto — Fully Automated Payroll Runs for FTEs and Contractors

A screenshot of Gusto's run payroll feature

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$40/month + $6/month per employee Demo – Fully Automated Payroll
– Advanced PTO Management
– Hiring and Onboarding Tools

Gusto takes a similar approach as OnPay, adding basic hiring and onboarding tools to the mix to make the payroll software more enticing and cost-effective.

On the most affordable plan, Gusto offers full-service single-state payroll for FTEs and contractors, tax filing, garnishments, multiple pay rates, and PTO management. It even enables you to set up fully automated payroll that runs itself before each payday. This alone makes Gusto a worthwhile investment since it’s one of the few solutions that basically completes payroll runs for you.

In addition to payroll, you get custom offer letter templates, new hire self-onboarding, background checks, secure document storage, and employee benefit management tools.

The more expensive plans add a ton of advanced functionalities into the mix as well, such as time and project tracking, performance management, employee surveys, and compliance alerts.

However, unlike with OnPay, you don’t get a free trial only a demo which means you have to pay up front.

Read the full Gusto review here.

Gusto Pricing Plans

Gusto offers three pricing plans to choose from:

  • Simple — $40/month + $6/month per employee
  • Plus — $80/month + $12/month per employee
  • Premium — Custom pricing

The tool lacks a free trial, but there is a demo you can watch to get a feel for the software.

prosPros

  • Fully automated payroll for FTEs and contractors
  • Basic hiring and onboarding tools bundled with payroll
  • Advanced PTO management
  • A ton of advanced functionalities

consCons 

  • No free trial
  • Time tracking only available on the more expensive plans

6. Remote — Hire, Onboard, and Pay Contractors in 200+ Countries

A screenshot of Remote's payroll runs feature

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$29/month per contractor 30 days – Compliant Contractor Onboarding
– Contractor Payroll in 200+ Countries
– Pre-Filled 1099-NEC Tax Forms

Remote is a great option if you’re specifically looking for a way to pay your contractors. It lets you run payroll for contractors in over 200 countries, approve their invoices in one click, and see exactly what service you’re paying for.

The platform can help you create and sign custom localized contracts, fully compliant with the contractor’s local employment laws. It even lets you offer health benefits and perks at discounted rates to your contractors, incentivizing them to stay with your company for larger, ongoing projects.

Remote additionally features a self-service onboarding checklist, helping new contractors create their accounts on the platform and provide all the essential information and bank details.

The platform also simplifies tax filing with pre-filled tax form 1099-NEC, making it easy to stay on top of your payroll taxes.

Remote can quickly become pricey if you’re working with many different contractors as you pay per person, compared to Patriot which is a great option if you’re working primarily with contractors where the per person cost is lower. In terms of functionality, the two options are quite similar.

Read the full Remote review here.

Remote Pricing Plans

Remote Contractor Management service costs $29/month per active contractor you work with, meaning you only pay for contractors who have an active user account tied to your Remote account.

The platform offers a 30-day free trial, so you can see it in action risk-free and decide whether it’s the right tool for you.

prosPros

  • Lets you compliantly hire and onboard contractors in 200+ countries
  • Features a self-onboarding checklist for new contractors
  • Helps you create and sign locally-compliant contracts
  • Comes with pre-filled 1099-NEC tax forms

consCons 

  • No mobile app
  • Only suitable for fully remote companies

7. QuickBooks Payroll — Automated Payroll Runs for Salaried Employees

A screenshot of QuickBooks' payroll tax center

Starting Price Free Trial Top Features Reporting Mobile App
$37.50/month (first 3 months only) + $6/month per employee 30 days – Auto Payroll for Salaried Employees
– Health Benefits, 401(k), and Workers’ Comp Administration
– Income and Expense Tracking

QuickBooks Payroll is a full-featured software that bundles payroll and bookkeeping, helping you automate payroll and tax filing, efficiently manage benefits and 401(k) plans, and track your income and expenses.

The core platform lets you run fully automated payroll for salaried employees on direct deposits (full-time employees with fixed salaries). All benefits and deductions are automatically calculated, which saves you a ton of valuable time.

Your team will also have access to a self-service employee portal, allowing them to see pay stubs, and W-2s, as well as enter their personal, deposit, and tax information.

In addition to payroll, you’ll be able to use QuickBooks Payroll to import bank transactions, categorize expenses, organize your finances, track mileage, invoice your clients and receive payments, and even connect the platform to a sales channel to automatically track your income from that source.

If you’re using QuickBooks’ other services, such as HR or accounting, we definitely recommend you choose it for payroll as well as staying within one software if often easier on integration and getting your team used to the platform. However, for small businesses that are using other software, you’re better off going with one of the other alternatives, like Patriot or Gusto.

Read the full QuickBooks review here.

QuickBooks Payroll Pricing Plans

While QuickBooks Payroll is a lot more comprehensive than the other tools on our list, the reason why it’s at the very bottom is that it’s about twice as expensive. For the first three months, it’s $37.50/month for the base platform, plus $6/month per employee, but the price doubles to $75/month thereafter.

prosPros

  • Robust bookkeeping and payroll functionalities
  • Fully automated payroll runs for salaried employees on direct deposits
  • Employee self-service portal
  • Lets you invoice your clients and accept payments
  • Helps you track sales and sales tax

consCons 

  • Expensive after the first three months
  • Time tracking is a separate module (QuickBooks Time)

The Best Cheap Payroll Software Compared

Payroll Software Starting Price Best For Standout Features PTO and Leave Tracking Reporting Mobile App
Patriot Software $17/month + $4/month per employee SMBs with hourly workers with different pay rates – Automated PTO Tracking
– Multiple Pay Rates and Payroll Frequencies
– Employee Portal
Roll by ADP $29/month + $5/month per employee SMBs that want to run payroll on the go – AI-Powered Payroll Assistance
– Same-Day and Next-Day Direct Deposits
– Automatic Benefit and Retirement Plan Deductions
Paychex $39/month + $5/month per employee Payroll, Onboarding, and Learning Management – Direct Deposit and Pay Card Support
– Employee Portal
– New Hire Onboarding
OnPay $40/month + $6/month per employee Multi-state payroll – Direct Deposits, Debit Cards, and Check Payments
– Multi-State Payroll
– Advanced PTO Management
Gusto $40/month + $6/month per employee Fully automated payroll runs – Fully Automated Payroll
– Advanced PTO Management
– Hiring and Onboarding Tools
Remote $29/month per contractor Compliantly Hiring, Onboarding, and Paying Contractors – Compliant Contractor Onboarding
– Contractor Payroll in 200+ Countries
– Pre-Filled 1099-NEC Tax Forms
QuickBooks Payroll $37.50/month (first 3 months only) + $6/month per employee Bookkeeping, Payroll, Invoicing, and Expense Tracking – Auto Payroll for Salaried Employees
– Health Benefits, 401(k), and Workers’ Comp Administration
– Income and Expense Tracking

Conclusion — What is the Best Cheap Payroll Software?

Patriot Software is the best option for businesses on a tight budget, given that it provides you with all the essential payroll tools for nearly half the price of its competitors.

You can leverage the software to run unlimited payroll for FTEs and contractors, set up different hourly rates, and automatically track PTO and time-off accruals. The software comes with a self-service employee portal, as well, which provides your team with real-time insight into their pay history and accrued PTO and lets them see pay stubs and W-2s.

Click the button below to start your 30-day free trial and see first-hand if Patriot Software is the right payroll tool for your business.

How We Test Payroll Software

Here are the key criteria we base our reviews on when testing and comparing the best payroll software:

  • Pricing — The value for money on all the different pricing plans the platforms offer, as well as features and functionalities available on those plans.
  • Features — All the available features and functionalities, and their impact on day-to-day business operations.
  • Integrations — Integrations with other third-party software, and the availability of an API (Application Programming Interface) for building custom integrations.
  • Automation — Payroll automation, automated tax calculations and filing, and other available workflow automations.
  • Ease of use — The UI and navigation of the platform, and the overall ease of use.
  • Third-Party Reviews — Reviews left by users on popular, reputable third-party review sites.

How to Choose the Best Payroll Software

Here’s what you should focus on when choosing the best payroll software for your business:

  • Budget — How much money can you comfortably invest in payroll software and do you get all the functionalities you need on the plan you can afford?
  • Key features — What features do you absolutely need for the platform to be worth it, and are those features available on the most affordable pricing plan?
  • Ease of use — How much time and energy you’d need to invest to learn how to fully utilize the software? Are there any guides or how-to videos available on the platform’s website?
  • Scalability — How easy would it be to scale to a more expensive pricing plan as you grow and expand your business?
  • Customer support — What options are there for contacting customer support, and how fast can you expect a response?

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Aleksandar Stevanovic
Software Reviews Expert

Aleksandar Stevanovic spent 10 years honing his craft as a freelance content writer. He has a degree in Economics, and extensive experience in software, crypto, and cybersecurity industries. He covers a multitude of topics, writing factual and informative articles, helping individuals better understand the intricacies of the online world. Over the last two years, his research focus shifted more towards tech and software content, as evidenced by his publications on CEX.IO, Business2Community, and Techopedia. He believes in simplifying complex topics and bringing them closer to like-minded individuals. His work is as detail-oriented as it is creative, and is designed to…