December 21, 2023

Rippling vs Gusto

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Tags: HR

Key takeaways:

  • In most cases, Rippling’s flexibility and global workforce management features make it the better choice.
  • However, choose Gusto if you’re primarily looking for simple yet powerful compensation management features at a low cost.

Dec. 21, 2023: Jessica Dennis added a video overview to the article.

Oct. 9, 2023: Kaiti Norton removed information about Gusto’s 529 college savings benefit, which the company no longer offers.

Jul. 13, 2023: We added dynamic design elements to improve the visual flow of information and revised the copy for clarity and consistency.

We evaluated Gusto and Rippling with your top priorities in mind. We used vendor demos, technical documentation, and user reviews from customers like you to compile our research. Our expert understanding of the HR software market then helps us contextualize and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of each product.

Our criteria for this comparison included breadth and depth of functionality, technical complexity, scalability, and integrations. We also investigated each vendor’s pricing data to understand the point at which one product becomes more cost-effective than the other for businesses of different sizes.

As Rippling and Gusto update their products, we review our information so you always receive the best insight for your purchasing decision.

Also read: HRIS vs HRMS vs HCM: What Is the Difference?

Rippling vs Gusto: Which is better?

The better overall pick is Rippling. Rippling’s more extensive product portfolio enables companies to do more over a longer period of time. So, unless your business is in an industry where it will reach maturity at mid-size, it’s worth investing in Rippling to scale alongside your team.

Also read: Top HRIS Systems

  Rippling Unity Gusto Simple
Starting price
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$35/mo. + $8/user/mo. $40/mo. + $6/user/mo.
Benefits administration
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Add-on Gusto-brokered, included
Payroll
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Domestic and global add-ons Domestic included, international contractor payment as add-on
Onboarding
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Included Basic, included
Offboarding Included Not available
Time tracking Add-on Starts with Premium
Recruiting Add-on Starts with Premium
Document storage/management Included, plus signature tools Included
Custom reporting Included Included
Access control/permissions Included Included
Org chart Included Not available

Prefer a video overview instead? Check it out below!

Rippling: Better for flexibility

The Rippling logo.

Rippling offers a modular workforce management platform, called Rippling Unity, for all HR, finance, and IT data and processes. In addition to improving overall efficiency, the scalable, modular system simplifies your tech stack and eliminates the risk of data loss that comes with using disparate apps.

Depending on your team’s current needs and future goals, you can add individual features such as global payroll, learning management, and headcount planning as the business evolves. Similarly, IT and finance functions like app provisioning and expense management can be added as needed. The pricing for each module isn’t transparent, though, so you’ll have to conduct thorough cost comparisons to evaluate Rippling’s value compared to other solutions that offer what you need.

Pros

  • Global payroll.
  • Standardized benefits administration pricing.
  • Synchronized payroll, benefits administration, and time-tracking.
  • Robust onboarding customization and automation.
  • Optional PEO and EOR services.
  • Wider range of integrations.

Cons

  • Pricing is not transparent.
  • Limited compliance support (ACA and COBRA only).

Also read: Top Rippling Alternatives and Competitors

Gusto: Better for affordability

Gusto logo

Gusto started out as a payroll SaaS company, and it’s clear that payroll is its specialty. However, the software has since expanded to include a range of capabilities.

Its intuitive user interface, market-leading support, and affordable price point make it a popular HR software solution for many SMBs. Specifically, companies with fewer than 25 employees or those with complex payroll requirements are ideal Gusto customers.

Pros

  • Fully automated payroll.
  • More affordable for small teams.
  • Transparent pricing.
  • Employee financial wellness tools.
  • More compliance controls.
  • Wider range of benefits options.

  • Some benefits require an additional fee.
  • Limited features outside of compensation management.
  • No EDI capabilities for carrier management.

Also read: Top Gusto Alternatives and Competitors

Rippling vs. Gusto: A detailed comparison

We took an in-depth look at Rippling and Gusto in the areas that will impact your purchasing decision:

Pricing

Rippling offers four pricing tiers as well as add-on products for HR, IT, and finance. It accommodates businesses of all sizes, but its flexibility and scalability make it well-suited for larger companies.

Conversely, Gusto’s lower per-user price is ideal for SMBs. There are three price tiers to choose from, starting with a basic package of HR capabilities that becomes more robust as customers upgrade or add on.

Rippling’s pricing structure is based on a flat monthly fee for the Rippling Unity, plus additional fees for each HR, finance, and IT module. This could be a benefit or drawback depending on the features you need and how many employees you have; a modular pricing structure ensures you’re not paying for more capabilities than you need, but the total cost adds up quickly if you need it all.

Pricing tiers

The lowest Rippling Unity platform tier, called Core, incurs a monthly platform fee of USD $35 plus $8 per month per user. Rippling requires a minimum of two users, so the starting price point is $51. The total cost per user increases based on the specific features you need.

The table below breaks down all of the features included in Rippling Unity Core:

Rippling Unity Core
Base cost per month (USD) $35 platform fee
Cost per user, per month (USD) $8/user/month
Payroll Add-on
Onboarding Included
Recruiting Add-on
Rippling-brokered benefits administration Add-on
Bring-your-own-broker Add-on
Time tracking Add-on
Performance management Add-on
Learning management Add-on
Employee engagement Add-on
Analytics Included
Customer support Included
Advisory services Add-on
Mobile app Included

The Pro and Unlimited packages add custom workflows, formula fields, and advanced reports. Enterprise customers receive access to Rippling’s API, which is necessary for custom integrations.

Integrations and add-ons

The bulk of Rippling’s functionality lives in its add-ons. In addition to the features listed above, Rippling offers some unique modules that are geared toward larger businesses that are continuing to grow:

  • Headcount planning
  • Compensation bands
  • App provisioning
  • Device management
  • Inventory management
  • Corporate cards
  • Expense management

On the other hand, Rippling supports more than 500 third-party software integrations that fill in the gaps where Rippling’s add-ons fall a bit short, such as recruitment and compliance management.

If this sounds like an appealing solution, ask yourself how much sprawl you’re willing to accept in your HR tool ecosystem before it becomes more costly, inefficient, or risky with respect to security. A patchwork HR tech stack allows more flexibility and might save the company money in the short term, but it may also pose challenges with security, business continuity, and reporting.

Gusto’s pricing structure starts with a low base price and scales up depending on the number of users. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Gusto has a five-employee minimum. Even if you have only three or four employees, you’ll be paying the same rate as if you had five.

Pricing tiers

Gusto offers three tiers of pricing for most businesses. The features each package includes are broken down in the table below:

  Simple Plus Premium
Base cost per month (USD) $40 $60 Contact Sales
Cost per user, per month (USD) $6 $9 Contact Sales
Payroll Single-state Multi-state Multi-state
Onboarding Basic Advanced Advanced
Recruiting Not available Basic Basic
Gusto-brokered benefits administration Included Included Included
Bring-your-own-broker Not available Add-on Included
Time tracking Third-party integration Included Included
Performance management Not available Not available Included
Employee engagement Not available Not available Included
Analytics Basic Advanced Advanced
Customer support Basic Full, with optional upgrade available Dedicated
Advisory services Not available Add-on Included
Mobile app Included Included Included
Contractor-only plan

Gusto offers a contractor-only plan for businesses that outsource all of their staffing needs to freelancers and other contract workers.

This plan includes unlimited contractor payments in all 50 states, plus the option to add international contractor payments for an extra fee. It also includes some necessary compliance features, like 1099-NEC forms and new hire reporting for required states.

The contractor-only plan is more affordable than the other plans, with a base cost of USD $35 plus $6 per contractor. However, the plan does not include any features for managing full-time employees, so this option won’t work if you need to pay both full-time staff and contractors.

Add-ons

Gusto offers a range of services that companies can add to supplement the core features. These include:

Some add-ons, like workers’ compensation and commuter benefits, are available with all plans, but many are only available for the mid-range Plus tier. For example, customers who opt for the Simple tier don’t have the option to use their own health insurance broker, but Plus subscribers can pay an extra fee for this flexibility. Premium customers have this option included in their plan.

As your company’s list of needs grows, it may be worthwhile to upgrade to the Premium tier rather than paying for each add-on individually. Rippling offers access to most of these features via add-on as well, except they don’t differentiate their customer support as Gusto does.

By adding benefits administration to Rippling, customers automatically have access to HSAs and FSAs, 401(k), commuter benefits, and more rather than paying the price of each one individually as Gusto customers do.

Which to choose for pricing?

Gusto. Here’s why:

Companies with five or more employees enjoy savings that compound with each increase in headcount when choosing Gusto Simple. Plus, Gusto Simple already includes some standard HR features like basic payroll and benefits administration, whereas Rippling customers have to add those for an additional cost.

Gusto’s spread of packages serves small and medium-sized businesses that are in a sweet spot between a basic HRIS and an HRMS. Each tier includes more capabilities than the previous, and Gusto offers a variety of add-ons that bridge the three tiers.

Rippling, on the other hand, offers a broad portfolio of products that lays a longer runway for growth. It targets a broader spectrum of businesses with its range of add-ons for HR, IT, and finance needs. Rippling, therefore, accommodates complex business needs beyond what Gusto can provide at its fullest potential.

Benefits administration

Rippling’s Add-on Gusto Simple
EDI Yes No
Mobile app No No
Compliance Yes Yes
Bring-your-own-broker Yes Yes

Rippling’s benefits administration add-on automates tasks like benefits selection, deduction updates, and COBRA administration. The variety of ways you can set up benefits administration through Rippling’s add-on makes it more flexible than Gusto’s base benefits administration offering, but it comes at an extra cost.

Benefits options

You can choose from more than 4,000 Rippling-supported benefits plans from leading carriers like Aetna, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. You can also bring your own broker to Rippling and migrate your entire existing benefits packages to Rippling.

That way, employees don’t need to re-enroll or update any of their benefits information as a result of the migration. For new employees, Rippling prompts them during onboarding to select their benefits without intervention from an HR person.

Benefits administration in Rippling on the employee side
The benefits administration add-on syncs with Rippling’s automated onboarding that prompts new employees to select their benefits. Source: Rippling
Regulatory compliance

Rippling’s benefits administration includes automated ACA and COBRA compliance. For example, it disseminates ACA as well as COBRA notices and collects premium payments from former employees who elect to continue coverage. However, it doesn’t support HIPAA or ERISA compliance like Gusto does.

Gusto includes benefits administration in its base plan but charges an additional fee to use an external broker. If using a Gusto-brokered benefits provider is not an issue, the simplicity of the benefits selection and administration process makes Gusto a compelling choice.

Benefits selection

Gusto also offers a variety of no-cost (included), low-cost, and premium financial and health benefit options. While these à la carte benefits allow you to customize your benefits package, the costs may add up quickly.

For example, customers of any Gusto plan can add the following benefits:

  • Workers’ compensation.
  • HSAs and FSAs.
  • Commuter benefits.

Rippling includes all three of these benefits, which puts it at an advantage over Gusto Simple.

Building a benefits package on the employer side
Gusto helps you quickly build the best benefits packages to match your business’s needs. Source: Gusto
Regulatory compliance

Gusto helps companies remain compliant and file the right paperwork with the right government agencies. Like Rippling, Gusto offers assistance with ACA and COBRA compliance. However, Gusto Simple also helps maintain compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Gusto’s benefits administration features are included with every plan, and its lowest tier offers more breadth in compliance coverage than Rippling’s add-on. Gusto’s licensed advisors assist companies with benefits selection to put together competitive benefits packages for the right price.

Try Gusto

Which to choose for benefits administration?

It’s a tie. Here’s why:

In terms of managing and administering benefits, Rippling is the better choice. Though you have to opt for the add-on, Rippling’s benefits administration offers more flexibility. It accommodates a range of business situations by allowing you to use its brokered plans, bring your own broker, or migrate existing plans without increasing the total cost or interrupting employees’ coverage. 

Gusto wins for compliance in benefits administration. Gusto Simple includes compliance assistance for ACA, COBRA, HIPAA, and ERISA. In contrast, Rippling’s benefits administration add-on is more limited, covering ACA and COBRA only. Rippling customers have to add the Compliance 360 module to get more comprehensive compliance coverage. 

Also read: 7 Questions to Consider Before Choosing a Benefits Administration System

Payroll

  Rippling’s Add-on Gusto Simple
International full-time employee payroll Yes No
Mobile app Yes Yes
Compliance Yes Yes
Financial wellness No Yes

To see how Rippling and Gusto stack up against other payroll software tools, check out our Payroll Software Guide.

Rippling offers full-service, automated payroll and tax filing for local, state, and federal agencies in the United States. Additionally, Rippling’s presence as a global employer of record (EOR) means you can expand your business internationally without setting up a local entity.

The global payroll function also localizes payroll for international teams, so employees can get paid in the appropriate currency without wasting time waiting for conversions and transfers. Plus, customers with access to this add-on can take advantage of Rippling’s in-country compliance experts to assist with complex laws or sensitive employment issues.

Also read: Top Global Payroll Solutions

employer view when setting hourly wage for an onboarded employee
Rippling helps you remain compliant with payroll laws no matter what state, province, or country you operate in. Source: Rippling

One of Gusto’s biggest payroll features is AutoPilot, which automatically calculates and files payroll taxes based on up-to-date tax laws. Plus, employees can take advantage of early direct deposit, budgeting tools, and other financial wellness benefits via the Gusto Wallet app.

Gusto’s payroll offering enables fully automated payroll runs each month. Source: Gusto

With respect to payroll compliance, Gusto helps employers send W-2s and 1099s to employees in a timely manner during tax season. For an additional fee, you can select the state tax registration add-on to let Gusto handle state and local paperwork.

However, Gusto Simple lacks the payroll compliance features that Rippling’s payroll add-on includes. To get the same functionality, Gusto Simple customers must upgrade to Plus.

Gusto also offers optional international payroll for contractors located in 95 countries and has launched a beta partnership with Remote to support part-time or full-time employees located abroad. Global payroll support has historically been one of Rippling’s main advantages over Gusto, so the launch of Gusto Global shifts the balance a bit.

Which to choose for payroll?

Rippling. Here’s why:

Unless you only have employees in one state, it’s worth choosing Rippling’s payroll add-on. It offers many of the same automation and compliance features as Gusto and then some. You can also sync the benefits and time-tracking modules or integrate third-party software.

Furthermore, Rippling’s global payroll functionality is worth the investment to manage employee data, payroll, compliance, and more wherever your company operates.

Also read: How to Choose the Right Small Business Payroll Software

Onboarding

  Rippling Unity Gusto Simple
Native onboarding Yes Yes
Document management Yes Yes
Self-onboarding Yes Yes
Mobile onboarding Yes No
Customizable onboarding workflow Yes No

Rippling Unity doesn’t include recruiting, so customers will need to either integrate with third-party recruiting software—provided they have the Enterprise tier—or add the Talent Management module. However, Rippling’s Unity tiers do include native, automated onboarding capabilities that require little intervention from HR staff.

Global onboarding

When a new employee is hired, an admin selects the new employee’s country and employment type — contractor, full-time, part-time, etc. — the start date, and whether the employee is eligible for benefits. From there, Rippling deploys the rest of the onboarding flow specifically for that country and employment type. Country-specific information is built into Rippling from the start, so HR staff only need to be concerned with correctly classifying each employee.

Rippling also reflects cultural differences in terminology for working conditions, so every field is tailored to the new employee’s work location. Localization of employee data saves HR staff time because they don’t have to research each country’s unique employee data identifiers or maintain duplicate versions of the same onboarding forms for each country.

A new employee in India, for instance, won’t be prompted to enter a Social Security number since those are for U.S.-based employees only. Instead, their form will ask for their Universal Account Number, and instead of salary, the offer letter and compensation section of the employee profile will display the cost to company.

how Rippling connects employee profiles to other modules in the platform
Rippling guides new employees through every step of the onboarding process, from document signature to selecting benefits with little or no intervention from HR. Source: Rippling
Provisioning

Rippling Unity’s differentiating feature from Gusto’s onboarding is that it automatically provisions the new employee’s access to apps and tools they need to do their job. The native onboarding function can automatically add new employees to certain Slack channels, for example. As a bonus, new employees can complete onboarding from Rippling’s mobile app.

Gusto’s Simple plan offers native, albeit limited, onboarding functionality along with the option to integrate with third-party recruiting software. So, similar to Rippling, Gusto customers have to upgrade to unlock access to Gusto’s native recruiting tools like job postings and the applicant tracking system (ATS).

Onboarding checklist

Gusto’s onboarding features support customized offer letters, but the Simple plan is not customizable and is designed for a primarily U.S.-based workforce. Gusto’s onboarding checklist includes suggestions of typical stages in the onboarding process which should suffice if you have basic onboarding procedures. If you want more control over what to include in your onboarding workflow, though, you’ll need to upgrade to Plus or Premium.

Gusto's automated onboarding checklist for new employees
Gusto Simple helps your team stay on top of basic onboarding to-do lists, so the process offers more control but less flexibility compared to Rippling’s onboarding features. Source: Gusto
Provisioning

Gusto Simple helps set up a new employee’s email account via Microsoft 365 or Gmail, but it stops short of full-service app or device provisioning. Gusto also requires new employees to complete onboarding tasks on a desktop device, as Gusto doesn’t provide mobile access to onboarding.

Which to choose for onboarding?

Rippling. Here’s why:

Comparing Rippling and Gusto’s native onboarding features available in their respective basic tiers, Rippling’s Unity platform includes more robust automated functionality. With Gusto, you have to upgrade to get access to the same kind of functionality. Rippling’s mobile experience also makes it easier for employees to finish onboarding from any device.

Rippling vs. Gusto: Which software is right for you?

The primary differentiator between Rippling and Gusto is geographic focus: Rippling targets companies hiring internationally, while Gusto focuses on companies that operate in the United States. Moreover, Rippling’s modular structure offers enough flexibility to support a business at each stage of growth.

Small, established companies that want budget-friendly flexibility should go with Gusto. Conversely, startups and mid-sized companies poised for rapid growth will likely save money in the long run by opting for Rippling.

If neither software meets your company’s unique needs, explore other solutions on the market through our HR Software Guide​​.


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