A few years ago, Mr. Money Mustache wrote a blog post about his experience driving for Uber that really caught my attention. Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been working in the gig economy for years in what I think is the most efficient and optimal way possible – mainly by using my bike to do all of my gigs and monetizing my life by fitting these gigs into my day-to-day activity. The gig economy has had a big impact on my life, so needless to say, I was eager to see what the king of efficiency and optimization had to say about his gig economy experience.
As can be expected, MMM looked at Uber from a Mustachian perspective – namely, with a real understanding of how much cars cost to operate, as well as how frustrating and ridiculous cars can be when used in certain situations. In what should come as no surprise, MMM found that driving for Uber wasn’t all that great, as it came with all of the problems you’d expect with driving around a city in your car. For example:
- Slogging through dense traffic and throngs of pedestrians in busy areas at a speed that is slower than a person can move on a bike.
- Making very little profit after accounting for actual vehicle costs (and not the vastly underestimated costs that most people calculate when they think about how much their car costs).
- Worsened health due to extended sitting around in a car, which, in the long run, leads to even less profit due to higher future medical costs.
As far as side hustles go, driving for Uber and Lyft is undoubtedly the least Mustachian side hustle that exists, requiring people to do all of the things that are antithetical to Mustachianism – driving around in a car for hours to move small numbers of people short distances in dense areas not designed for cars. If we were to design a side hustle that is the opposite of everything Mustachians believe in, Uber is probably exactly what it would look like.
Besides just the anti-Mustachian nature of Uber or Lyft, driving for them also never seemed to make much sense to me from a practical perspective. It doesn’t seem like you make much money after accounting for the actual costs of driving. You make even less money after accounting for the negative health impact of driving around in a car. It also keeps more cars on the road, and worse, it keeps idling cars on the road, which hurts all of us in the long run.
And, honestly, it just doesn’t sound like very much fun. Most people spend their entire day sitting at a desk in an office. After 8 hours of sitting at a desk, I can’t think of anything less appealing than spending more time in a car, fighting through traffic.
Interestingly enough, however, there is one side hustle out there that seems to be designed for Mustachians, coming with the benefit of removing cars from the road and paying people to ride their bikes around the city. Since 2015, I’ve delivered food on my bike with on-demand delivery apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Caviar, and the like (hereinafter, I refer to these apps collectively as bike deliveries). This side hustle has led to me biking thousands of miles over those years, improving my health in the process, and adding up to thousands of extra dollars in my pocket as well – all of which I’ve been able to save towards my ultimate goal of financial independence.
Biking around a city, getting exercise, improving your health, and making some extra money to boot? It’s no wonder that bike deliveries might be the ultimate Mustachian side hustle.
The Mustachian Advantages Of Bike Deliveries
You can see why bike deliveries could be called the ultimate Mustachian side hustle when you think about how it works. Bike deliveries do the opposite of everything driving for Uber or Lyft does.
- It improves your health because you’re biking around and getting exercise, rather than sitting in a car. You are getting paid to exercise! The health benefits you get from doing bike deliveries are so good, that I think a colorable argument can be made that even if you didn’t get paid, you’d still wind up with a positive net benefit simply from the time spent biking.
- You’ll make more money because you have virtually no operating costs. Driving around in a car costs money – and more than you think, no matter how little you might think your car costs to operate. In contrast, your bike costs almost nothing to operate. If you use a bike-share system to do your biking, you don’t even have to worry about maintaining your bike.
- No matter what, people are going to order food. How they get their food depends entirely on who is bringing it to them. If you are doing bike deliveries, you are, without question, removing a car that would otherwise be on the road. In other words, you are making a difference.
- You’re wildly more efficient delivering food on your bike compared to with a car. Restaurants tend to be located in dense areas with lots of traffic and no parking, which is exactly the type of place you don’t want to drive your car. With a bike, you’re able to go between cars and up on sidewalks, and park right in front of the restaurant door. Contrast that to driving for Uber, where you are driving around in the busiest areas at the worst times.
Despite all of these amazing benefits, I find that very few people will use their bike to do deliveries, and in fact, many people will scoff at the suggestion that they could even use their bike to do this gig. I’ve run into hundreds of other delivery people during my food delivery lifetime and during that span, I can count on one hand how many bikers I’ve seen.
Whenever I see someone doing deliveries with their car, I just can’t help but say to myself. Argh! What a waste!
Bike Deliveries And The Impact On Your Health And Your Wallet
One of the common criticisms I get about spending my time doing bike deliveries is that it’s not very high-paying. And indeed, this is true – you’re not going to make six figures a year doing bike deliveries.
Still, depending on where you live, I think it’s one of the more valuable side hustles you can do (and super underrated). I’m able to optimize my deliveries and easily fit them into my day-to-day life. I’m also able to stack multiple apps at once so I can be extra efficient and earn the most money I can for my time. At this point, I’ve gotten so good at doing bike deliveries that I rarely make less than $20 per hour doing it.
$20 per hour or so might not seem like all that much money – but it’s important to think about the value of this extra income in context. One of the things that a lot of people underestimate is just how valuable it can be to consistently earn small amounts of extra income over a long period. Even just an extra $5 per day – something that anyone can do – can come out to $184,000 if invested consistently and allowed to compound over 30 years (assuming a 7% rate of return, which I think is totally reasonable). Double that to $10 per day, and you’re looking at over $360,000. Figure out how to make $20 per day and you’re looking at almost $750,000 if compounded over 30 years!
Making a few extra bucks each day is not an outrageous thing to ask someone to do. Indeed, all of us need to spend some time each day exercising and staying physically fit. This isn’t something I’m making up either – the Department of Health and Human Services says that for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 2.5 hours to 5 hours per week of moderate aerobic physical activity.
Imagine if you took those 5 hours that you should be exercising anyway, made $20 per hour during that time, and did that every week for a year. You’d make $100 per week or $5,200 per year. If you took all of that income, invested it, and allowed it to compound over time, you’d walk away with $76,000 in 10 years, $228,000 in 20 years, $500,000 in 30 years, and over $1.1 million in 40 years. And that’s all from doing something that you already should be doing anyway.
That also doesn’t include the cost benefits you’d receive from improved health during that time, which could easily number into the millions depending on how much healthier you are in the future. Your improved quality of life is also likely priceless.
This simple, pretty silly-sounding side hustle, could be worth literally millions of dollars. People often laugh at me when I tell them they should do bike deliveries. But really, it doesn’t seem like a bad use of my time.
I’m on a quest to get people to try doing bike deliveries just because of how valuable it is, not just to your wallet, but also to society as a whole. Deliveries are going to happen no matter what. We can go out there, improve our health, make some money, explore our city, and improve this whole delivery process at the same time.
Uber and Lyft have always been the darlings of the gig economy/side hustle world – it seems like something a lot of people gravitate to when they need a side hustle. But driving people around in a car never seemed like something I’d want to do.
Delivery apps have been catching up as a side hustle, but the vast majority of people who do deliveries still don’t do them correctly – opting to drive around and do deliveries in their car, rather than hopping on their bike to do the same thing. A lot of people call delivery workers “delivery drivers” rather than “delivery people.” Being a delivery driver, in my opinion, is not what you want to be. That’s thousands of dollars, and possibly millions of dollars, in wasted opportunity.
I currently deliver for DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub. Check your city to see what’s out there. Of course, doing bike deliveries isn’t a necessity to reach financial independence or even to improve your financial position. But if you’re someone looking for a side hustle and you’re on the Mustachian end of the spectrum, this is exactly where you should be looking.
I’ve been doing bike deliveries for years now – a lifetime really when you think in terms of how long these apps have existed. And I just have way too much fun doing them. When you think about how bike deliveries work, this really is the ultimate Mustachian side hustle.
Jim P. says
You really have been doing this for years. I quit after I did one Postmates delivery and the person didn’t give me a tip. After that…the competition within the app seemed really crowded. I’m going to give it another crack during the Summer since I’m more mobile now. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.
Financial Panther says
Thanks Jim. Yeah, I’ve been doing deliveries since 2015, which makes me an OG in the delivery world (Postmates was founded in 2011, Doordash in 2013, Uber Eats in 2014).
The important key is to sign up for every app and turn them all on at once. That’s really the only way you can stay consistently busy.
I’d love to try this in my city, but I’m curious about how much control over the logistics I would have through the apps:
1. Could I set a “delivery radius” that says, for example, I am not interested in making deliveries outside of 8-mile radius? Since I’m on a bike, I wouldn’t want to pick up a delivery that would send me too far out of the way with the limited time I would have to do these.
2. Can you cancel a delivery request if, after seeing that the location is in a shadier part of the city, you would feel unsafe making the delivery? There are certain areas of the cities that I would just not feel safe biking through.
Thanks for this detailed write-up! It’s really inspiring!
Financial Panther says
1. When you’re on a bike, you’ll automatically get shorter deliveries, assuming you set your vehicle as a bike. Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub all tell you where the order is going before you accept it, so if it’s not going where you want to go, you just decline the order. I am very picky with the orders I do. Uber Eats doesn’t show you where the order is going in advance, but I know a hack to let you see where it’s going. if you are interested in how to do this, email me and I’ll tell you how to see where your Uber Eats deliveries are going.
2. Again, you can see where the order is going, so just decline the ones that are no good. You can also cancel deliveries after accepting with no problem.
Hope that helps. Like with anything, there’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but you get better at figuring things out over time.
I’ve read it in a previous post of yours, but I’m just really concerned about carrying drinks on my bike. I’d love to do it but can’t imagine a way where the drinks don’t bounce around like crazy.
Do most orders have drinks in them? Can you see the order before accepting?
Thanks Panther. Great Blog.
Financial Panther says
At the outset, majority of orders don’t have a drink. That being said, a few ways I handle the drink issue.
1. If the order has a drink and you can’t handle it, just cancel the order.
2. Get a bag that has a drink holder type thing. I have a delivery bag that I sometimes use that has side pockets that can safely hold a drink with no issue.
3. Get a cup holder from the restaurant and ask them to put it in a paper bag or something like that. I then put it into my delivery bag and because it’s a small bag, it doesn’t tip over.
4. Hold the drink in your hand and bike with one hand.
I rarely have an issue with drinks I find.
Jasper Stojanovski says
I appreciate that you’re opting for a bicycle instead of a car—except you’re making Uber/Lyft drivers sound worse than they are.
In my experience, you’ll typically find Uber drivers in a Prius or a fuel-efficient hatchback.
Also, would you be able to make the same amount of deliveries on a bike compared to a car?
I suppose your ability to deliver on a bike depends on your living arrangement.
I live 15km from my closest city, so just getting to the CBD would be a journey in and of itself.
Anyway, thanks for sharing!
Financial Panther says
Yeah, maybe I’m too harsh on Uber drivers, but I dunno, I guess I just really dislike driving.
And absolutely, your ability to do pretty much anything really depends on where you live. If you live in a city like I do, this is something that is easy to do. For you, it wouldn’t work out well. Key is to find what works for you.
I’ll be honest, this sounds like a really appealing side hustle (I actually live near downtown St. Paul – so your whole blog has been very relevant to me) but the fear of biking on a street keeps stopping me short. I’ve heard of drivers who deliberately scare bikers off the road and countless accidents. In your experience, how have you maintained safety on the road with a bicycle (aside from a helmet, obviously)?
Financial Panther says
So, biking is something that you get better with the more you do it. The first time you bike, you’ll definitely be less confident, but as you do it more, you get much more used to riding on the road. There’s a big difference between commuting bikers and weekend leisure bikers.
I maintain safety the same as anyone would. I’m careful on the road, I check for cars, and I always wear a helmet. St. Paul isn’t as good for bikers compared to Minneapolis, but they have lots of bike lanes as well. Over time, you’ll learn where the bike lanes are, the same way as people learn how to get around in their car. If you stick to bike lanes, you’ll feel much safer.
Matt J says
I’m a huge fan and have loved all of the content you post. I’m actually a full time engineer so your story really resonates with me. I started my first side hustle doing dog walks with Wag and absolutely love it. I use the bike sharing system of Pittsburgh to ride to all of my walks. I really appreciate all of your blog posts and the different ideas that you try and write about. I tried doing Postmates in Pittsburgh and my first delivery was the delivery from hell. Pittsburgh is full of hills, and I ended up biking uphill for a few miles. I then proceeded to get nailed by a rain storm.
I’m wondering if you have any advice for cities that are full of hills like Pittsburgh. I lost a little bit of steam to be honest because of the first experience being so bad. Appreciate any advice you have and keep up the good work.
Financial Panther says
One of the lucky things with Minnesota is that it’s flat, so biking is easy for us here.
One thing to consider – have you thought about investing in an ebike? My wife and I just bought our first ebike and it’s seriously a gamechanger. They’re not cheap, but at the same time, they’re not expensive either. We bought a RadPower City Commuter bike for $1500. In theory, you could essentially pay for the ebike with delivery earnings if you hustled. Just one idea.
An electric scooter is also another option although the batteries on those aren’t as good for doing deliveries for long periods of time. I sometimes do deliveries on a Lime scooter since I can ride them around for free as a Lime charger, but I basically can’t do deliveries for more than an hour or two before my scooter battery dies. Still, you can buy a scooter for $500 and basically earn that money back doing deliveries during dinner each night. My buddy has a Glion scooter that he’s been happy with. I know the Xiaomi M365 is another cheap scooter that can do the trick.
I just found your article in the LA Times under Business. I am an avid cyclist, putting many more miles on my bike, than my car. You do have some expenses if you ride as much as I do (tires, cables, cassettes, etc), but one repair to a car (I had my brakes replaced recently) will shadow all those small expenses on a bike.
when making bike deliveries, are you using panniers, or a backpack for food items? I know some are gourmet, and those, I’d expect, as a consumer to be done in a car.
Financial Panther says
Yeah, bike expenses are so minimal though. I do a yearly tuneup for 80 bucks, then all the regular repairs you’d expect. Remember, if you use your bike to do deliveries with, that also makes your repairs a business expense (hence, paying for your repairs with tax-free money).
I have a food delivery backpack that I bought for $20 from Uber Eats. Works great. It looks like this: https://www.instagram.com/p/CB3opfOnxU8/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
I love bike riding and I never thought about this! What a great way to do what I love, help the environment, and make money! I assume this works better in larger cities… Do you think this is something you’d be able to do in smaller towns or more spread-out areas?