When it comes to side hustles, my favorite has always been delivering food with on-demand food delivery apps like Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub. To maximize your earnings, my recommendation is to sign up for all of these different apps. That being said, there are differences between each of these apps that you’ll need to know about. This post focuses on what it’s like being a DoorDash Dasher in 2021.
I’ve been a Dasher since 2016, which makes me a grizzled veteran in the gig economy/food delivery world (the term Dasher is what DoorDash calls its delivery people). Before I started with DoorDash, I delivered with apps like Postmates and Caviar, both of which launched in my city about a year before DoorDash.
What made DoorDash so appealing was the fact that it didn’t require me to use a car. In most cities, DoorDash Dashers can deliver using any type of vehicle they want. My brother often uses his skateboard, for example. I consider myself an avid cyclist, so using my bike to do deliveries made DoorDash a perfect side hustle for me.
I now have almost 2,000 deliveries under my belt – and all while working a full-time day job as well. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the best ways to make money with DoorDash. In this post, I’ll walk you through how DoorDash works, why you should consider becoming a DoorDash Dasher, and give you some strategies you can use to make delivering for DoorDash work for you.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like delivering for DoorDash in 2021. And if you’re ready to sign up to be a DoorDash Dasher, you can sign up here.
Why Become A DoorDash Dasher?
The first thing that’s worth addressing is why you might want to become a DoorDash Dasher. For me, being a Dasher makes a lot of sense for four main reasons.
The primary reason to become a DoorDash Dasher, in my view, is the flexibility that comes with it. With DoorDash, you can generally log in and accept deliveries whenever you want. You can also work for as long or as short as you want and accept or reject any delivery offers that come your way.
This flexibility means that you can fit DoorDash deliveries around your schedule. If you have a few moments to spare, simply log onto the app, do some deliveries, and make a little bit of extra money.
One of the best ways to fit DoorDash into your day-to-day life is to combine it with something that you already have to do. For example, one way a lot of people can fit DoorDash around their schedule is to work it into their commute. Back when I was working in a traditional office, I would almost always turn on my DoorDash app at the end of the day and wait for a delivery heading back towards my house. It essentially allowed me to monetize my commute home, allowing me to get paid for something I was already doing.
These days, I’m working from home, but whenever I go anywhere, I still always turn on my DoorDash app to see if I can pick up any deliveries going in the direction I’m headed. It’s an easy way to side hustle with DoorDash even with a busy schedule.
2. I Can Use My Bike To Do Deliveries
I mentioned this in the introduction, but one of the reasons gig economy apps like DoorDash are so appealing to me is because I can do deliveries using my bike, rather than a car. Indeed, through five years of deliveries, I’ve exclusively used my bike, even in the winter.
Depending on where you live, delivering with a bike is often faster than delivering with a car. This is particularly true in dense areas where you can bike through traffic and don’t have to worry about parking. Plus, you also get the benefit of improving your health and avoiding the costs associated with operating a car.
You aren’t limited to just using a traditional bike either. My brother often does his deliveries using a skateboard. I’ve recently started transitioning towards doing most of my deliveries using an electric bike or electric scooter. Try out various modes of transportation and see what works best for you.
3. The Reverse Latte Factor
Becoming a DoorDash Dasher can be very valuable financially thanks to a concept that I call the Reverse Latte Factor. Here’s how it works.
There’s a concept in personal finance called the Latte Factor (coined by David Bach, who wrote a great personal finance book called The Automatic Millionaire). The idea behind the Latte Factor is that we spend small amounts of money daily on things that we don’t really notice. If we save and invest that money, it can add up to hundreds of thousands or even a million dollars if given enough time.
The Reverse Latte Factor takes that idea and applies it in reverse. If we can end up with hundreds of thousands or even a million dollars by saving relatively small sums of money, then we can do the same by taking advantage of opportunities to earn extra income consistently. If we save and invest all of that extra income, it adds up, especially when given enough time.
Consider this. Earning an extra $10 per day means you’ll end up with $3,650 by the end of the year. If you invest that amount each year for 30 years and average a 7% annual rate of return, you’ll end up with over $368,000. Double it to $20 per day and you’re looking at over $735,000. Make it $30 per day, and you’ll end up a millionaire!
4. It’s Fun
Perhaps most importantly, I Dash because it’s fun for me, There’s something about going out and completing these little tasks that I find very satisfying, In a way, it sort of gamifies my life. It also probably helps that I’ve been doing it so long that I know the best ways to make DoorDash as stress-free as possible.
Do any of these reasons make sense for you? If so, then you may want to consider becoming a Dasher with DoorDash.
How To Become A DoorDash Driver
I signed up for DoorDash back in 2016, so the signup process for me was different compared to what it’s like today. Back then, you had to first apply online, then go into the local DoorDash office to do an in-person orientation.
Today, you do the entire signup through the app. Once approved, DoorDash will mail you your starter kit, which includes a DoorDash delivery bag and a Dasher card for you to use for any orders that aren’t already prepaid. If you’ve signed up to deliver with a car, you’ll also need to provide your insurance information.
Note that in the past, DoorDash offered decent referral bonuses, but these days, the referral bonuses either don’t exist or are so small that they’re not even worth thinking about.
The ultimate takeaway is that signing up for DoorDash is easy and doesn’t cost you anything other than the small amount of time it takes to fill out some forms. You can do it all while sitting on your couch. If you have any interest in side hustling, I think it makes sense to sign up for DoorDash to at least have it in your back pocket.
DoorDash Dasher Delivery Process
When you’re ready to start receiving orders, you’ll hit the Dash Now button in your Dasher app. In general, I’ve found that I can usually start Dashing whenever I want, but in some circumstances and depending on your market, you may have to schedule yourself in advance to be able to start accepting deliveries. It’s important to note that scheduling doesn’t actually do anything besides making it so you can Dash during those times – you don’t get punished if you schedule yourself and then don’t do deliveries – so it can sometimes make sense to schedule yourself in advance just to make sure you’re able to accept deliveries if you want.
One unique thing about DoorDash is the way they set up their delivery zones. For most apps, delivery zones typically make up the entire city that you’re working in. DoorDash, on the other hand, makes their delivery zones much smaller, based more around neighborhoods rather than entire cities.
For example, here are the delivery zones in my market:
You’ll only get deliveries in the zones your Dashing in, but sometimes a delivery might take you outside of your zone. In that case, you’ll still only get deliveries in your previous zone, so you’ll need to either switch zones or go back to the zone you were working in.
As for the deliveries themselves, when you get an order, DoorDash will give you certain information that will help you decide whether to accept or reject the order. The order will tell you what it pays, the restaurant you’ll be picking up from, and a map showing you where the order is going.
Most orders are prepaid, which means you can simply walk into the restaurant and pick up the food when it’s ready. In my experience, DoorDash does a good job of timing when orders are sent to you so that when you arrive at the restaurant, the food is ready. This is in contrast to an app like Grubhub, where you’ll often show up and find that the restaurant received the order at the same time you received it.
A small number of restaurants will require you to pay with the Dasher red card when you arrive (this is a prepaid debit card that DoorDash sends you when you sign up). You’ll know in advance if it’s an order that you have to pay for with the red card. These orders typically aren’t a problem unless it’s a restaurant that has a long line.
Finally, there are a few restaurants that make you order and pay for the food yourself (you pay using the red card). Again, the app will tell you this information in advance, so you’ll be able to decide whether it makes sense for you to accept this type of order. These orders can sometimes work out, but you have to think carefully about whether it makes sense for you because they will necessarily take more time since you have to order and wait for the food. There are certain fast-food restaurants where I’ll accept these types of orders because I know they’re fast, but more often than not, I reject orders like these.
How Much Does DoorDash Pay?
In this section, we’ll look at how much you can expect to make as a Dasher for DoorDash.
How Does DoorDash Calculate Dasher Pay?
DoorDash tells you upfront what you’ll receive for any order that you accept. Every DoorDash payment consists of three parts: (1) a DoorDash base pay; (2) a “peak pay” bonus if any are in effect; and (3) whatever the customer gives you as a tip.
In the past, DoorDash had a system where they essentially stole tips by subsidizing low tip orders with higher tip orders, but after some very public backlash, DoorDash changed this system to one where Dashers always get 100% of the tip.
As to how the pay is determined, as far as I can tell, there’s no real formula that determines how much DoorDash pays for each order. It’s supposedly based on a combination of distance, time, and “desirability,” but this is a vague formula that doesn’t tell us much. The lowest I’ve ever seen for an order is $2, which means DoorDash is only paying $2 and the customer tipped $0 (you should obviously reject an order like that).
On the flip side, there’s theoretically no upper limit to how much a delivery order can pay. The most I’ve ever received for a single order was $44. This was a fairly large order that included a really high base pay and a large customer tip. I have no idea why the base pay was so high for this particular order, but I was of course happy to accept it.
In general, you’ll find most orders pay somewhere between $3 and $8 per delivery, with occasional better orders hitting $9 or more. I find that for the most part, the orders that I consider acceptable are in the $5 or more range. However, what you consider acceptable is going to be based on your specific circumstances, so you don’t necessarily want a hard number when deciding which orders you’ll accept or reject. We’ll discuss in greater detail how to decide if an order is worth it in the strategies section of this post.
How Much Can You Make Per Hour As A DoorDash Dasher?
What you can make on an hourly basis with DoorDash will depend on a few factors: (1) the market you work in; (2) how efficient you are with deliveries, including knowing which orders to accept or reject; and (3) whether you are multi-apping or only using DoorDash.
It’s important to remember that when you do deliveries with DoorDash, you’re getting paid, not for the time you work, but for the tasks you complete. It’s a subtle distinction, but it makes a big difference. In practical terms, what this means is that you have some control over what you’re able to make. The more deliveries you can complete in a given period of time, the more you’ll end up making.
Most people don’t think of it this way, but an app like DoorDash does require some degree of skill. I’ve been doing deliveries for so long that I’ve gotten to the point where I know the orders that I should accept or reject. I’m also able to move quickly between deliveries because I know my neighborhood and work area very well. The short of it is, someone that is more efficient and a little smarter with the orders they accept or reject is going to make more than someone who is accepting the wrong orders or isn’t doing things more efficiently.
That said, how much can you expect to make? You’re going to see a lot of different numbers. Some sources will tell you that Dashers make as little as $1.45 per hour. Most sources will probably give out a figure somewhere around $15 to $25 per hour.
I’d say if you’re doing DoorDash by itself and not using any other apps, you’re probably going to make somewhere between $15 and $25 per hour over the long run.
But, if you’re able to mix in other apps as well, you’ll find that it’s possible to make much more than that. This gets me to my next point…
How I Make $40 Or More Per Hour With DoorDash
I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true – I’m able to consistently average $30 to $40 per hour doing deliveries (and this has been especially true with the pandemic).
The reasons I’m able to do this are several-fold. First, I’ve been doing DoorDash for a long time (since 2016), so I know which orders to accept or reject and how to quickly complete deliveries.
Second, I use DoorDash as a side hustle, rather than as my primary source of income. This is important because it means I can limit my working hours to peak times when delivery demand is at its highest.
The final reason, and perhaps most important, is that I utilize multi-apping strategies. The general gist of multi-apping is that you run multiple delivery apps at the same time. The idea is that you want to accept orders from different apps going in similar directions. So, for example, if you pick up a DoorDash order, you might also be able to pick up a nearby Uber Eats order going in the same direction. If you’re even luckier, you might pick up a Grubhub order as well. By doing this, you can double or triple your earnings while still completing all of your deliveries on time.
You can do the math to see how multi-apping makes a high hourly rate possible. In my experience, I’ve found that most of the deliveries I accept are in the $5 to $8 range. I’ve also found that, given where I live, I’m able to get around 5-6 deliveries completed in an hour during peak times. Doing the math, you can see the range of income I can earn on an hourly basis with these numbers.
If I complete 5 deliveries per hour and average $5 per delivery, I’ll make $25 per hour. If I can make $6 per delivery, I’ve increased my hourly rate to $30 per hour. At $7 per delivery, we’re looking at $35 per hour and at $8 per delivery, we’re at $40 per hour. You can do the same math simply by calculating how many deliveries you think you can complete in an hour plus what you can expect to average per delivery.
In my experience, if you only run DoorDash, you’re probably getting a max of 3-4 deliveries completed per hour. And you can see just how much that can impact your earnings. But if you multi-app and can squeeze out just a few more deliveries in the same amount of time, you’ll that DoorDash and all of the other delivery apps can work out very well.
Of course, I don’t know your market. This is just based on my own experience in a medium-sized city, working in a dense downtown area.
Don’t Fall For “Total May Be Higher” Trap
A quick note regarding the “total may be higher” language that you’ll see whenever you receive an order. You’ll notice that the payment information will always have this note that says your payment can be higher than what is shown. The general advice – don’t fall for this trap!
In practice, your payment will rarely be higher than the amount shown on the screen. The rare time that you can receive a higher payment than what is shown is if the order is really big, in which case the tip can push it higher than the amount shown. But, this only ever happens with really big orders. And I’ve found that in that situation, the pay shown in advance will tend to be higher than normal (typically $9 or more).
In short, don’t chase small orders thinking you might get paid more after delivery. It never (or at least rarely) happens.
DoorDash Dasher Ratings And What Do They Really Mean?
One thing that I think a lot of new DoorDash Dashers get confused about is the DoorDash ratings. You’ll notice that DoorDash rates you in four categories. These include the following:
- Customer Rating. This is the rating you get from customers on a 1-5 scale. The rating is based on your last 100 ratings, so it can take a long time for this rating to ever change. The vast majority of customers never rate you at all.
- Acceptance Rate. This is the percentage of orders sent to you that you accept. It’s based on your acceptance rate for your last 100 orders that were sent to your phone, so this number will change a lot.
- Completion Rate. Completion rate is the percentage of orders that you accept and complete. Incomplete orders occur when you accept an order and then don’t complete it (either because you unassign it or it doesn’t get delivered for whatever reason). They base this rating on your last 100 accepted orders.
- On-Time or Early Rate. This is the percentage of orders that you complete within the estimated delivery time. In my experience, this number never seems to change. I’ve completed nearly 2,000 orders and my on-time or early rate has always remained the same and never changes no matter what I do.
Here’s a look at my ratings so that you can get an idea of what your Dasher ratings can look like:
When you see these ratings, you might get confused about which ones you need to worry about. There are only two ratings that actually matter – customer rating and completion rate.
DoorDash makes clear that if your customer rating drops too low, you are at risk of deactivation. You can avoid problems with this rating by making sure you give good service and that customers have no reason to rate you poorly. That means be polite, deliver your food on time, and try to make sure their orders are correct if you can.
Completion rate is also another factor that DoorDash makes clear has to remain above a certain level or else you risk deactivation. In general, if you accept an order, you want to try your best to complete that order. There are times when strategically it makes sense to drop an order that you accept (for example, if the wait at a restaurant is too long or if you accept a stacked order, but only want one of those orders because the other one is going to far away). My general advice here is to do your best to keep your completion rate at 90% or higher. I try to give myself a percentage cushion so that I can unassign orders without my completion rate dropping into any dangerous territory.
Finally, the acceptance rate is the one I find most people get confused about. The definitive answer is that your acceptance rate does not matter. Because you are an independent contractor, you have the right to reject any order that you don’t mean to do. Putting any sort of requirement to accept a certain number of orders would risk DoorDash having to classify you as an employee, which they would never do. Indeed, DoorDash makes clear that you have the right to reject any orders you want:
You might ask why DoorDash includes this category if it doesn’t actually mean anything. My theory is they do this to essentially trick less experienced Dashers into accepting orders that otherwise wouldn’t make sense. A lot of people see this category and assume it must mean something. It doesn’t though. My own acceptance rate rarely gets above 50% and often hovers in the 20%-30% range.
In addition to those four categories, there’s also a new category titled “Contract Violations.” This one is a bit annoying. If you arrive at a restaurant really late or deliver the food really late, you risk getting a contract violation. The idea is that when you accept an order, you have agreed to arrive at the restaurant by a certain time and to deliver the food by a certain time.
My only contract violation so far was when I arrived at a restaurant 13 minutes after the stated pick-up time. My guess is that if you’re 10 minutes late or more, you might get a contract violation. I’m not sure how late you can deliver an order, but I’m guessing it’s probably similar criteria.
I’m not sure exactly, but if you get too many contract violations, you risk deactivation. These contract violations slide off your record after 100 eligible deliveries, so if you do get 1 or 2 violations, they’ll eventually slide off your ratings. I’ll update this when I see what happens with my lone contract violation.
If you want to make the most money you can with DoorDash, you’ll need to use the right strategies. Here are some ideas you can use to make the most money Dashing.
1. Think Like A Business
One of the critical things to remember when you’re Dashing is that you are an independent contractor and not an employee. The mistake I see a lot of new Dashers make is treating DoorDash as similar to any other job. But that’s not what it is – when you’re an independent contractor, you’re essentially running your own delivery business.
Since you’re running your own delivery business, it’s important to approach every delivery as you’d approach any business decision. No business would ever accept a job or client that wasn’t profitable, and you need to think the same way with every delivery offer that comes your way.
Ask yourself some questions whenever an order comes to you. Where is the order going? How fast can you complete it? Is it from a restaurant that is likely to be quick or slow? All of these factors weigh in on whether you want to accept or decline a delivery request. It’ll take some practice, but eventually, you’ll get a good idea of which orders are worth it and which are ones to avoid.
2. Set Your Own Delivery Rates
While you can’t exactly set your own rates, you can still effectively set your own rates by only accepting orders that meet your criteria. Unfortunately, there are no universal criteria to determine what orders are worth accepting and which you should decline. It’s going to be heavily based on your market and your own experiences.
For example, some people will set a general rule that any order under a certain dollar amount is an automatic rejection. I disagree with this approach because there can be times where these small orders can make sense simply because of how fast you can complete them or because they’re going in the right direction. Similarly, some high-paying orders can end up being unworthwhile because they’re going the wrong way or are coming from restaurants that take a long time to prepare orders.
In general, whenever you see an offer, think about how long it will take to complete and where the order is taking you. Ideally, you want to avoid orders that take you outside of the busy areas.
My friend Ron over at Entrecourier uses what he calls the 50-Cent Rule. In general, if he believes he can complete an order and make 50 cents per minute for that order, he’ll take it. Thus, if he gets a $6 order, he’ll accept it if it’s likely he can complete the order in 12 minutes or less. There’s going to be some nuance here, but that’s not a bad rule of thumb to use until you figure out what works in your market.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Cancel Orders That Aren’t Going Well
Sometimes, you have to know when to quit. Inevitably, you’ll end up in a situation where an order simply isn’t going well and is taking far longer than expected. The most common scenario is one where you’re picking up an order and find that the restaurant is really busy and your order isn’t ready yet.
You’re paid for the tasks you complete, not the time you spend working, so any time spent sitting around is ultimately going to hurt your bottom line. If it doesn’t seem like the wait will be much longer, then it’s likely worth waiting. But if you get the sense that the order isn’t going to be ready for a long time, it may make sense to unassign the order and move onto another one.
As mentioned in the section on Dasher ratings, you have to keep your completion rate above a certain level to avoid deactivation. This generally shouldn’t be too difficult to do, but it’s worth keeping a bit of a buffer with your completion rate so that you can have some flexibility with unassigning bad orders.
4. Use DoorDash While You’re Traveling
A little-known benefit of DoorDash is that you can Dash in any city that DoorDash operates in. This opens up some interesting possibilities.
Whenever I travel, I always bring a delivery bag with me. Over the years, I’ve done deliveries in almost every major city I’ve visited. Since I don’t use a car to do deliveries, when I’m visiting another city, I’ll use their bikeshare system. It’s a fun way to explore a new city and make some money while doing it. You might even find a local restaurant you want to visit.
The Downsides Of Being A DoorDash Dasher
In my experience, DoorDash is the best app of the big four delivery apps (i.e. Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub). Despite this, DoorDash isn’t perfect. In this section, we’ll go through some of the downsides and problems with DoorDash. But as I’ve mentioned before, you should never use only one delivery app – everyone should multi-app whenever they can.
Heavily Tip-Reliant. Back in the early days, DoorDash used to pay $6 per delivery, no matter how far the delivery was going. When combined with tips, doing just a few deliveries could be very lucrative. Today, about 50% of your earnings are going to come from tips. If you aren’t getting tips, you aren’t going to make much. Luckily, DoorDash tells you what you’ll make in advance, so you’re at least not guessing when you accept an order. Still, depending on how you view it, the fact that DoorDash is only contributing to half your pay can be a downside.
Small Delivery Zones. The small delivery zones can sometimes have the annoying impact of forcing you to end your Dash and then start a new Dash. I sometimes accept deliveries that take me out of my delivery zone and then I’m forced to log out and start a new Dash in my new zone or head back to where I was. This is really more of an annoyance than a real problem, but just something worth pointing out.
Contract Violations. The new “contract violations” language that DoorDash added creates a new wrinkle to the delivery game. DoorDash can hit you with a contract violation if you’re late arriving at the restaurant or delivering the food, but as most of us in the delivery world know, sometimes that’s simply not our fault. Another common issue that could potentially lead to contract violations is a situation where the customer falsely claims the order wasn’t delivered to try to get free food. I don’t know how DoorDash is addressing this situation, but it seems like these false claims can lead to contract violations and potentially getting deactivated.
Frequently Asked Questions About DoorDash
You probably have a lot of questions about DoorDash. Here are answers to some of the frequently asked questions about DoorDash.
Can I DoorDash in another state?
Yes. The great thing about DoorDash is you can dash in any city that has DoorDash. When you open the app, you’ll see whether the city you’re in has DoorDash. If there’s availability, you’ll be able to click the “Dash Now” button and start Dashing.
Doing DoorDash in another city is a great strategy you can use to earn income while you’re traveling. I’ve done DoorDash in almost every major city I’ve visited. It gives you a unique way to explore a new city and see neighborhoods outside of the tourist areas. You might even find a restaurant worth visiting yourself.
Does DoorDash pay for gas?
No. When you do DoorDash, you’re an independent contractor, which means you’re responsible for covering your own expenses. In reality, when you’re an independent contractor, you’re really your own business. Accordingly, it’s important to act like a business. Only accept orders that make sense for you. Make sure that you’re making the most profit you can when you’re dashing.
I avoid gas expenses by doing all of my DoorDash deliveries with a bike. Even better, I often use an ebike, which is an excellent way to get the best of all worlds – fast travel speeds without getting tired. I personally use a RadPower ebike or a Himiway ebike when I do my deliveries.
Of the big four delivery apps (Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub), DoorDash is the delivery app that I rely upon the most. This might not be true in every market, but I find that DoorDash is the busiest, and as a result, I’m able to make the most money via DoorDash. The orders are also generally ready by the time I arrive, which means I’m able to keep doing deliveries and making money without a lot of wasted time.
Of course, I would not rely on DoorDash solely by itself. Instead, it’s best to multi-app and string together multiple deliveries at the same time from different delivery apps. This is the strategy that will allow you to maximize your earnings.
Hopefully, this post gives you some insight into how delivering with DoorDash works and how you can use the app to your advantage.
If you’d like more information about other delivery apps, feel free to check out these posts: