A professional employer organization (PEO) can either help your business grow or ensure its failure, so choosing the right one is vitally important for all small businesses.
The right PEO will make your life easier by overseeing human resources and management tasks, leaving you free to focus on all the tasks that have been piling up on your to-do list.
The wrong PEO will drain your financial resources and leave you frustrated, none of which will benefit your company.
I researched more than 900 different PEO companies, ranked the top 15, and then wrote detailed reviews of the top 9. Through this process I’ve identified the best PEO company in California.
But before I jump into reviewing each PEO in California, here’s something you should know:
The Best PEO Isn’t Always the Right PEO
I’ve spent more time researching PEOs than I care to admit in order to determine the best PEO in California, based on several different factors. But you need to know that just because it has the best score on paper doesn’t mean it’s the best professional employer organization (PEO) for your specific business needs.
- Some PEOs are specialized in working with certain business industries, and therefore offer a variety of services and benefits for businesses in those industries.
- Some PEOs develop partnerships with health insurance companies, which means they can provide you with a wide range of health insurance options at better rates.
- Some PEOs specialize in compliance and legal issues and can help you meet federal and state compliance regulations.
To make sure that you choose the right PEO for your business, you need to assess your business needs and compare them to the service offerings of each professional employer organization. This is the only way to make sure that you get the right PEO for you, and not just the best-scoring PEO in California. The score really means nothing if a professional employer organization can’t meet all of your business needs.
If you really want to find the best PEO for your company and not just the best-rated PEO in California, fill out the form below and within 24 hours I’ll provide you with a personalized recommendation based on your company’s needs and situation.
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If you’d like to know which PEO company scored the highest, here are my recommendations for the best California PEO.
1. Vensure — 9.45/10 (Best Overall PEO)
The reason I picked Vensure as the best PEO in California is that while none of their service offerings are quite unique to the industry, they provide all their services with high levels of efficiency and quality. You’ll never run into problems with them, and that’s rare when it comes to PEO services.
Vensure offers all the PEO services that you would expect from a quality PEO in California:
- Human resources paperwork
- Employee benefits
- Tax withholding
- Compliance assistance
- Tax administration and payroll taxes
- Payroll administration
- Employee contracts
- Dental insurance
- Risk management
- Health insurance
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Administrative tasks
- Employee benefits administration
- HR services and HR solutions
They also back all of this up with excellent onboarding support customer service. If you have any questions, their customer support team will contact you through email within 24 hours. If you require a more prompt response, you can call their customer service line.
Vensure’s most attractive feature is that it’s geared toward small businesses but has the technological might to support big businesses, too.
This means that no matter where you are in your business journey, they can support your company and meet your business needs.
The only negative thing that I can say about Vensure is that they don’t provide any unique services, or provide any services especially well.
- While they offer all the basic PEO services, they don’t cover any of the luxurious services that some other professional employer organizations offer, like employee wellness programs, employee management services, vision insurance, or safety compliance services.
- While their customer service team can typically answer any question you may have, they don’t go out of their way to provide you with a unique customer service experience. For instance, they aren’t going to appoint you with your own case manager or send you a yearly birthday card.
- Their price is competitive, but it’s not one of the cheapest California PEO services. Sure, you’ll get a decent price for their services, but they definitely aren’t putting themselves out of business to give you PEO services.
Basically, they offer all the basic services that you would expect from a California PEO company, but they don’t excel in any of the services they provide.
Vensure is the best PEO in California because they offer a wide array of basic PEO services to cover most business needs, and they provide them all efficiently. They have excellent onboarding support, and their customer service team can handle any problems you may experience.
I can’t give you an exact number when it comes to the cost of Vensure’s services because it varies based on a variety of factors, including the size of your company. To get PEO price quotes for your business, click here.
2. CoAdvantage PEO — 7.90/10 (Best Customer Service PEO)
Don’t be fooled by the fact that CoAdvantage PEO isn’t at the top of my list. It’s still a solid option, and they only missed out on being named the best PEO service by a small margin. It’s worth mentioning that there’s one area where CoAdvantage PEO beats Vensure.
They provide competitive pricing and intuitive software that makes using a PEO service easy.
One area where they really excel is customer service.
I ran three separate customer service tests and found that they responded to emails on average within 46 minutes, and to phone calls within two minutes.
Not only did I find their customer service team to give lightning-fast responses, they’re also quite friendly and helpful. They were able to answer my questions without transferring me or involving a manager (both of which are annoying because no one wants to explain their problem to multiple people countless times).
The reason that CoAdvantage doesn’t earn the best PEO company title is that although it has a decent system and competitive prices, their prices aren’t as good as Vensure’s.
I encountered a few instances in which I was confused by their system and had to call their customer support team (which is stellar, but of course the contacts could have been avoided if the system wasn’t confusing in the first place).
And while CoAdvantage’s prices are good, when I got three different quotes for three separate fictional businesses, the prices they quoted me were roughly 10% higher than Vensure’s.
None of these drawbacks should be considered total deal-breakers, and their excellent customer support more than makes up for them. However, they were enough to knock CoAdvantage to the #2 spot on this list of the best PEO companies in California.
CoAdvantage is an excellent PEO service that provides all the basic PEO solutions to meet your business needs. In addition, they also offer competitive prices and a stellar customer service team. They don’t have intuitive software, and they’re not as competitively priced as Vensure, but it’s well worth the added expense if you value good customer service.
All PEO companies in California price their services based on the size of your company and your specific needs, and CoAdvantage is no different in that regard. To get a quote for your company, click here.
3. Amplify PEO — 7.41/10 (Best Value PEO)
Amplify PEO comes in at #3 on my list of the top-rated PEO companies in California. Even though they have many basic PEO services and attractive prices, I felt really let down by some aspects of their services.
Amplify PEO offers a slew of basic PEO solutions, as one of the top-rated PEO companies in California should. You’ll benefit from services like health insurance, help handling compliance requirements, payroll services, assistance with paying payroll taxes, and employee management.
It’s simple enough to get set up in their system, but I did encounter a few issues with it after I completed the setup process. Their customer support team adequately answers questions and concerns, and they respond in a reasonable amount of time.
Their stand-out feature is their pricing. All three of the price quotes I got from them fell within the top three best prices, with the quote I got for my small business taking first place. When I got these price quotes I chose to include every option, and I did this with the other PEO companies on the list as well, so Amplify’s low prices really stood out.
Amplify is a California PEO company that offers low prices, but there are a few limitations to their services.
It was easy to get set up with their system, but I had some difficulty navigating it to perform some routine tasks after I got it set up.
When I contacted their customer support, they were helpful and able to help me with these technical issues. They also responded in a decent amount of time. However, their customer service team doesn’t hold a candle to CoAdvantage’s.
Again, while they’re good at everything they do, there’s no service area in which they truly exceed expectations.
Amplify is a reliable PEO company with excellent prices. In fact, even though their system isn’t at all intuitive due to all of the clunky navigation issues, and their customer service team isn’t the best on this list (they aren’t overly patient or helpful), they still provide the best pricing that I found from any of the PEO companies in California I investigated.
To get a price quote that reflects the size and needs of your company, click here.
Justworks is a relatively new PEO company in California. It’s quickly expanding nationwide since it was established in 2012.
They provide you with every basic PEO service that you need, such as payroll processing, handling compliance and legal issues, and more. But Justworks provides another service aspect that isn’t available from any other PEO company on this list: transparency.
Their pricing structure is available for everyone to see on their website. This is really refreshing because most PEO companies in California don’t list their prices, and instead ask each business owner to contact them with information about the size of their company and their specific needs before they will provide a quote.
The main reason that Justworks is #4 on this list of the best California PEO companies is their age. Many people feel this factor is important, and understandably so.
Justworks is essentially a start-up PEO company. Given the fact that it’s time consuming to get set up with a PEO service, most people don’t have the time to repeat the process all over again because they chose a start-up PEO company that fell through.
In my opinion, it’s a good idea to wait and let Justworks establish itself on the market before you go all-in with them.
Click here to learn more about Justworks.
5. Infiniti HR
Infiniti HR really stands out as one of the most unique PEO companies in California.
Of course you can expect the basic services from them, such as workers’ compensation and health insurance, HR services, payroll processing, risk management, tools for managing employees, and handling compliance requirements. But they also offer something that no other PEO company on this list provides: recruitment. Anyone who has ever worked with a truly amazing employee knows how much a good employee can benefit your business, so the fact that Infiniti HR provides a service to help you find great employees is fantastic.
The only real drawback of Infinity HR is the same problem that I have with Justworks. It simply hasn’t been around long enough for me to fully trust it. They’ve only been on the market for 10 years, which is just a blip compared to other seasoned PEO companies. Wait a few years and let them get some experience and really prove themselves before you trust them with your business.
When I say that TriNet is the oldest, most-established PEO service on this list, I mean it. They’ve been around since 1988, and under their umbrella company they’ve since created more than 16,000 companies and employed more than 330,000 people.
They provide all of the basic PEO solutions you need, like workers’ compensation insurance, HR services, payroll processing, HR management, safety compliance, assistance with administrative tasks, and managing employees. However, rather than offering truly innovative or high-quality services, they rely on their reputation and the company’s references to attract new customers.
Their customer service is unremarkable, they aren’t creating groundbreaking solutions to common business problems, their services aren’t outstanding—they just don’t impress me. They won’t go out of their way to gain your business because they know that other people will sign up for their services simply based on the company’s references and reputation.
With that said, you can expect Trinet to provide standard services, but don’t hold your breath waiting for them to go above and beyond your service expectations or provide some new industry-leading service.
7. Oasis Outsourcing
Oasis is another of the PEO companies on this list that have definitely earned seniority. They’ve been on the market for the past 20 years, and recently bought PayChex as well, though they continue to operate under the Oasis name.
Oasis offers services for specific industries, such as education, banking, retail, and hospitality. However, they also offer a slew of basic services that any business owner could benefit from, such as workers’ compensation, health benefits administration, payroll processing, HR solutions and HR management, and help with various tax forms. But the reason they’re this far down my list is that their policies involve 12-month contracts, which can complicate the cancellation process.
Most PEO companies offer California businesses month-to-month contracts, so Oasis’s 12-month contracts seem like poor judgment. Who would want to lock themselves into a year-long contract when they can throw a stone and find any number of PEO services that provide month-to-month contracts instead?
8. ADP Totalsource
ADP is a big name in the PEO industry. They don’t just service California businesses, but businesses in more than 140 different countries.
Much like other PEO companies on this list, they offer a full range of services, including workers’ compensation insurance, health benefits administration, payroll processing, help with tax forms, and a number of HR solutions. But they also offer a number of industry-specific services, just like Oasis Outsourcing.
Most interestingly, ADP Totalsource doesn’t just offer customer service to the business owner, but to employees working for the company, as well. If employees have questions about flexible spending plans, vision insurance, or something related to HR functions, they can call ADP and ask them about it, rather than calling you. This convenient and unique feature cuts out the middleman, saving time and frustration.
The downside to ADP is similar to that of TriNet. ADP is a big industry player, and that means that if you want a more personal touch for your small business, ADP probably isn’t the best bet for you.
I had high hopes for Insperity, but they let me down in a major way.
They’ve been in the industry for 30 years and have won enough awards for their products and services to give them a good reputation online. They also have a reasonable cancellation policy. You can cancel any time you want, but you have to give 30 days’ notice. That seemed like a nice feature and I was convinced I’d found a superior service that was sure to top my list.
But then I found out about their worst feature: health care.
Every business owner knows that health care and health care benefits administration is massively important. There are a lot of moving parts to consider when it comes to health care to ensure that it meets all your needs (like insurance costs), as well as the health care needs of your employees (like dental and vision insurance). No two employees have the same health care needs, and insurance costs vary from company to company, so it makes sense to look into several different options.
What makes absolutely no sense is that Insperity offers one insurance option. Only one. They provide no explanation for this, so I can’t give you a good reason for this oversight.
Choosing Insperity means that health insurance coverage will be limited, and your employees likely won’t have the coverage they need.
The Best PEO for Your Business
There are over 900 different PEO companies on the market today, and they service businesses of various sizes. This makes finding the right PEO for your business quite confusing.
Any of the companies in my top three are solid options that will provide you with a number of basic services that will meet most business needs. However, to find the best PEO service for you, you should consider the following factors:
- How many employees are on your payroll
- What you want the PEO to help with (e.g. payroll, HR solutions, reduced HR costs, workers’ compensation insurance, etc.)
- Employee benefits you want to offer to your team (e.g. health insurance, dental or vision insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance)
- How much you want to spend on employee benefits
- The location of your small business
- The location where you conduct your business (if outside the office)
- How much customer support you will need
- Your technological capabilities
- How large you plan to scale
- Your industry
If you would like to find the right PEO for your company, simply enter your details below and I will provide a free assessment of your company needs.
The Best PEO Selection Process
I applied a comprehensive selection process to choose the best PEOs in California. But before I explain my process, you should learn a bit about me.
Why You Should Trust Me
You should trust my PEO recommendations because over the years I’ve learned more about PEO services than nearly anyone else. Between finding the right PEOs for my own businesses, conducting over 230 hours of research, and helping other people find their ideal PEO service, I have the expertise to make recommendations you can trust.
I started learning about PEOs when I began searching for a company to serve my health company who could perform all the daily HR functions for me. I was busy maintaining the website, writing articles, and managing my employees, so I didn’t have time to deal with HR details like workers’ compensation, payroll processing, or risk mitigation, but I couldn’t afford to deal with all of the legal issues that could come from completely neglecting HR tasks, either.
At first I tried a staffing company, but that wasn’t enough to handle all of my HR tasks. So, I decided on HR outsourcing through a PEO, and I started working with a great PEO company.
Because dealing with all of that was stressful, I took a break to catch my breath before I started my second business—a cafe. It would be an understatement to say that running a cafe is a little different from running an online business.
But one thing remained the same: the pain of dealing with HR details. So I dove into more research to find a PEO service with the HR experience to handle my business’s HR tasks and provide my employees with the health care coverage they needed. As part of this research I extensively read through websites, noted online customer reviews, and listened to various pitches from sales teams when all I wanted were some answers to basic questions about HR outsourcing. There was a LOT of information. But I eventually found the right company to allow me to grow my business while reducing HR costs and making the HR experience tolerable.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I don’t have the right personality to run a business in the hospitality industry, so I sold my cafe and then spent some time pondering my next move. The answer revealed itself when an old friend in the hospitality industry asked me how to deal with some behind-the-scenes business operations, like flexible spending plans, risk mitigation, employee wellness programs, and workers’ comp.
As I made more and more recommendations, more people requested recommendations from me, so I started writing my advice down. Since starting from those humble beginnings, I’ve helped more than 1,200 people find the right PEO service, which has honestly given me more experience in the industry than nearly anyone else. So if you’re thinking about using a PEO, I’m the guy to listen to!
Who Should Use a PEO?
Using a PEO is a great idea for any business owner who simply wants to avoid the headache of HR functions, but doesn’t have the staff size or HR experience necessary to hire someone in-house to handle HR tasks, and doesn’t want to deal with legal consequences of not providing adequate HR for their employees.
Here are some of the things that a PEO company can simplify:
- Human resources paperwork (i.e. less paperwork)
- Employee benefits
- Tax withholding
- Compliance assistance
- Tax rates
- 401k’s and flexible spending plans
- Employee contracts
- Dental insurance
- Risk management or risk mitigation
- Health insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Administrative services
- Employee benefits administration
- HR support
If you feel like any of these tasks are holding you back from focusing on other important tasks, then using a PEO is a good way for you to alleviate that stress and increase productivity.
Benefits of Using a PEO
Small businesses can reap a lot of benefits from using a PEO service, but in general they all fall into four different categories.
Benefit 1: Reduced insurance costs
No matter what you do, health insurance is expensive, and it’s a financial blow that every small business owner feels. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheaper to purchase health or workers’ comp insurance for a small handful of employees than it is for big businesses, and that’s because the insurance industry doesn’t care about your small business.
Using a PEO can cut back on these costs because PEO companies have more leverage with insurance companies than the average small business does. When you team up with a PEO company, the PEO company essentially agrees to become a co-employer of all your employees, absorbing your team into their own. So when they approach insurance companies, they’re not getting price quotes for your 5/10/25 employees, but for their 4,000/10,000/25,000 employees (including yours).
Because of the large number of employees being ensured by the PEO company, insurance companies give them bulk discounts, and that can save you thousands of dollars per year.
Benefit 2: Less paperwork
Small businesses must contend with a lot of HR paperwork. However, even though you frequently have a lot of paperwork to do, it’s probably not such a problem that you’ve designed a computer software system to automate the process.
But PEOs have done exactly that.
Using a PEO allows you to take advantage of their automated HR paperwork system, which will save you time and keep your stress levels low.
Benefit 3: Simplified compliance
It can be a real pain to keep up with every state and federal regulation regarding compliance. And if you miss an important compliance deadline it can cause a lot of legal issues for you and your company.
But using a PEO makes compliance a breeze. They’ll send you automated notifications about upcoming deadlines so that you never miss one. Better yet, they send you forms that have been pre-completed, so all you have to do is send them in. With all the work done for you, compliance is a cakewalk, and you won’t fear the legal issues associated with missing deadlines anymore.
Benefit 4: More free time
The other three benefits I’ve listed all contribute to this one: more free time. You can use your free time however you want, whether that’s to focus on improving your business, spending more time with your family or friends or taking up a new hobby—using a PEO service can help you free up the time to get it done.
How I Selected the Best PEO
I used a four-stage process that gradually thinned out a list of more than 900 nationwide PEOs to the top nine in California.
Stage 1: Reviews
The first stage of my investigation involved analyzing online reviews.
Any PEO company that’s been in business longer than a year should have amassed some online reviews. These reviews contain a wealth of information that allowed me to determine which PEOs I could automatically eliminate and which were worth the effort to investigate further.
I combed through the reviews to find which PEOs didn’t offer standard services, support, or pricing and then eliminated them from my list.
Stage 2: Offering Analysis
The PEO industry is diverse, and no PEO company offers precisely the same services or prices.
The second stage of my investigation involved comparing the different products, services, and price points offered by each company. This allowed me to remove PEOs that didn’t offer a full range of services, or charged high prices.
Stage 3: Speaking with Real Customers
You can get basic information by reading online reviews, but there are two significant limitations of online reviews:
- Most people won’t leave a review if they’ve had an entirely unremarkable experience. People typically only leave reviews if they’ve either had an overwhelmingly good or an epically bad experience. So this means that online reviews don’t provide a good picture of the typical customer experience with a company.
- People don’t have ample space to voice their opinions. The average review site allows users to write reviews using 200 characters or less. So the reviews aren’t really long enough to tell you everything you need to know and determine the quality of a PEO company.
Because of these limitations, I sought out customers who had actually used the services of PEO companies on my list. I asked in-depth questions, and their detailed answers gave me a better idea about the customer experience with each business.
Stage 4: Talking to the Sales Teams
The last phase involved talking to the sales team of each of the PEO companies on my list.
Of course, every sales team is required to give you a rehearsed and biased pitch. But I asked them pointed questions about the feedback I’d gathered talking to customers and reading online reviews.
Their reactions to the feedback were very telling. Do the companies use the feedback to improve their services, or do they blame the customers while never taking responsibility for any shortcomings in their services? This stage really separated the best from the rest and solidified my top three list.
To create this list, I used five different factors to find the best PEO companies.
Factor 1: Offerings
It’s obvious that one of the most important factors is the company’s offerings, which is why I chose it as my first factor.
There’s no point using a PEO service if they don’t provide you with all the services you need. So to make sure you don’t waste your time on measly service offerings, I chose companies with a vast array of services that should meet your needs and provide your employees with the insurance coverage they need.
Factor 2: Price
The second factor I considered was price.
Price points for different PEO companies can vary widely, even if they offer the same services. You can only get pricing information through participating in a sales call because they say that the price varies depending on how many employees your company has, which is sneaky. I made the calls for you and then used the price factor to rank them.
Factor 3: Ease of Sign-up
The third factor was how easy it is to sign up for their services and get set up in their system.
Some PEOs require tons of obscure information, and others make sign-up easy because they automate the process.
I went through the sign-up process of every PEO company on my list to find the services with the easiest sign-up processes.
Factor 4: Ease of Use
The fourth factor I took into consideration was how easy it is to use their system.
Some PEO companies have invested a lot of time and money to ensure that their system is streamlined and user-friendly, while others make a habit of slapping new features on their ancient systems, writing giant, complex manuals (which they claim are convenient) to explain how to navigate their complicated, clunky system.
Of course, using a PEO company with an easy-to-use system is preferable. So I checked out each company’s systems so that you don’t have to waste your time navigating glitchy systems.
Factor 5: Customer Service
A company could have the best system or a seamless sign-up process, but you’ll eventually encounter a problem and need to talk to customer service. That’s why the fifth factor I considered was customer service.
Some companies make you wait forever on the phone to talk to someone before finally being connected to someone with no experience with PEO services or the system, who then sends you over to five other people, who don’t actually solve your problem or answer your question.
Other PEOs will answer your call quickly and resolve your problem within a few minutes. To save you time and aggravation, I talked to each company’s customer service team.
The Best PEO for Your Business
Vensure is a great option for most companies, but it’s not possible to give you a proper recommendation without knowledge of your business needs and unique situation.
Unless I know more about your industry, how many employees are at your company, which benefits your employees need, as well as other factors, I can’t recommend the best PEO for you.
If you’d like a personalized recommendation for your business, then enter your business information in the form below for a free business analysis.
After you submit the form, I will contact you with PEO suggestions and instructions about how to get PEO price quotes for your business.
Just enter your information into the form below and take the guesswork out of finding a PEO for your business.
While you’re looking into PEO services, it’s a good idea to find a registered agent for your business, as well. A registered agent will accept service of process and other legal documents on behalf of your business and provide additional assistance with compliance deadlines. To find out more about what a registered agent can do for you, check out my article on the Best Registered Agents in California.
If you haven’t structured your small business yet and would like to know more about how to form an LLC, check out my article about How to Start a California LLC, as well as my article on the Best LLC Services in California.