Doordash does give you an annual estimate of how many miles you drove, but relying on that can be an expensive tax mistake.
Doordash doesn't provide a usable log for tax reporting, nor do they capture all the miles you drive as a delivery driver.
As an independent contractor you can knock the standard mileage deduction off your taxable income. In the second half of 2022, that deduction is 62.5 cents per mile (58.5 cents for the first half.
And yes, you can claim miles whether you itemize your tax deductions or take the standard deduction.
If you don't capture all of the miles you drove, you cost yourself a lot of money. If you don't have acceptable documentation of your miles, the IRS can disallow ALL of your business mileage deduction.
The Doordash mileage estimate fails you on both counts.
We'll look more into what information Doordash provides, why it's not a good idea to rely on their estimate, and what you can do to maximize your mileage deductions. We'll look at:
Does Doordash track mileage for you?
Doordash does not keep track of your mileage. At least not in any way that is really useful for you.
While there's not a Doordash mileage tracker, they do have access to your GPS, so they COULD track for you. In fact, earlier in 2022 they did a pilot program where they tracked miles for Dashers in some areas. I tried it out, and let's just say they weren't very good at it.
Doordash DOES send out an annual estimate of how many miles you drove. It's just not very good.
Why the Doordash mileage estimate is useless
There are three major problems with relying on the Doordash numbers:
- The total given is just an estimate. It's not actual tracking.
- It doesn't capture all your miles
- It's not acceptable documentation according to IRS rules.
This is only an estimate, not actual tracked miles.
They use the word estimate(s) frequently in that email. That's something to pay attention to. Basically it means it's their calculation of how far they think you may have gone.
When Doordash sends you a delivery offer, they give you an estimate of how many miles you will have to drive. That order is based on three data points:
- Your location when they send the offer to you
- The location of the local restaurant or merchant (or merchants for stacked orders)
- The location of the customer or customers.
Doordash calculates the most optimal route and uses that for the mileage displayed on the offer.
Essentially what Doordash has done when they estimated your miles is, they added up all the distances of all the delivery offers you completed.
They most likely also calculated additional driving time by estimating the route between your last drop off and where you were when receiving your next order.
While an estimate is better than nothing at all, if you drove further such as if the customer gave the wrong address, that extra mileage doesn't get added in.
How much difference does it make? In early 2022, I did an experiment where I accepted 200 straight delivery offers from Doordash. I tracked every detail of every trip including starting and ending odometer readings and the mileage amount on the offer. Doordash estimated the distance to be 882 miles, actual miles were 970. They missed 10% of my miles.
If you're a full time Doordash delivery driver who's put in 30,000 miles, a 10% difference costs you 3,000 miles. That's about $1800 I couldn't claim on taxes at the end of the year, and at a 10% income tax level and 15.3% self-employment tax, that 10% difference means paying $455 more in taxes.
The estimate doesn't capture all your driving.
There are several situations where you could drive and not have those miles included in the Doordash estimate.
Doordash says it only includes orders that you completed. If you drove to a restaurant that was closed, or if you had to cancel because the order was going to take too long, those miles aren't counted.
Miles you drove for another food delivery app aren't counted.
If you moved to another delivery zone while logged off, those miles aren't counted.
All of those are legitimate miles that you're allowed to claim. The Doordash estimate misses all of them.
The Doordash mileage estimate is not acceptable documentation for the IRS.
The IRS has several requirements for acceptable documentation. We'll talk about those shortly.
A single email with an annual total doesn't meet ANY of those requirements, leaving you with very incomplete records.
What does that mean? It means that if you were audited, you have no documentation to support your deduction.
And that means that the IRS can just say you can't claim ANY miles.
For that 30,000 mile driver in the 10% tax bracket, that's $18,000 they can't write off, and $4,500 additional taxes.
The bottom line is, relying on the Doordash business mileage estimate is a very expensive mistake.
To their credit, Doordash HAS improved their estimates.
For the 2019 tax year and earlier, Doordash had even lower estimates.
Notice the last paragraph about how Doordash computes their estimates:
To estimate your mileage for a particular date, we look at all the deliveries you completed, and the times that you marked the pickups and drop-offs as complete. Then we add up the distance between the pickups and the drop-offs. Our estimates only include distances that you traveled while transporting your order. We don't generally include distances from drop-off to the next pickup. All of the distances are computed in a straight-line fashion, because, as there is no required route, we cannot calculate based on the actual roads you took.Doordash explanation of how they estimated miles.
If you didn't want to read that whole description, two things stand out:
- They ONLY estimated distances from pickup to drop-off. Miles driven to the restaurant weren't counted.
- Miles were estimated with a straight line measurement. If you know your Pythagorean Theory, you know that means unless you drove in a straight line the estimate was far shorter than the actual distance you drove.
The good news under the old method was that they did provide a daily total that met three of the four IRS requirements.
The bad news was that they missed a lot more miles. In 2019 I drove 2,248 active miles on Doordash deliveries (from getting the order til dropping off). Doordash estimated 922, 41% of actual miles. And of course that didn't count the other 20,000 miles on other platforms.
In 2020, Doordash had an improvement. This was the email I received.
They no longer had a daily log, and the link to the old logs has been disabled. However it appears they included their estimate for the entire trip. My actual miles were 1,950, and Doordash said it was 1,644. For me, I'd have lost 15% of my miles.
What miles can you track as a delivery contractor?
As a small business owner, any miles driven for business purposes can be claimed.
Here's how that works for delivery contractors: As long as you are logged into the Doordash app (or any other), with the intent to accept deliveries, you can claim all the miles you drove.
Doordash's estimates are a problem because they don't capture all the miles you drove.
In fact only adding up the miles you drove on active deliveries fails to capture all the miles you are able to claim.
If you're driving to position yourself for better deliveries but willing to take offers while you drive, you can claim those miles. If you dropped off somewhere and are making your way back to the zone, those miles are allowable.
However, if you deliver only for Doordash, you may be more limited in what miles you can track than you are with different platforms in delivery. That's part of why I'm a big proponent of working multiple apps.
Part of the problem for Dashers is what the IRS considers commuting miles. If you're driving to a delivery zone without the intent or ability to accept deliveries, that's a commute and not claimable.
With Grubhub and Uber Eats, your entire urban area can be part of your delivery market. Doordash uses much smaller delivery zones. If you deliver in a different delivery zone than where you live, you may not be able to claim those miles.
Fortunately, Doordash has recently introduced Dash Along the Way in many markets. You can go available from outside your zone. That gives you more leeway as to what miles you can track.
So, how do you do that?
What does the IRS require of my mileage tracking?
It helps to understand what the IRS requires. Once you know, that makes it easier to figure out what works best for you.
First, understand you MUST have a record.
When you fill in your schedule c on your tax return and you claim your vehicle expenses, the IRS asks you two questions.
- Do you have evidence of your driving?
- Is the evidence written?
Even if you choose to claim the actual expensemethod, you must have a log. Why is that?
When you claim actual expenses on your car, you can only claim the business percent or business use of those expenses. If you used your car 80% of the time for your deliveries, you can only claim 80% of actual costs such as maintenance, repair, insurance and gas expenses. You cannot claim the total amount if there is personal use of the vehicle.
How do you document the business use for Doordash deliveries? You have to know how many total miles you drove, and how many business miles you drove. The same documentation rules apply. You must have a log.
Remember what we said earlier about not having a log if you have an audit. The auditor can decide that without evidence, you can't write off ANY business mileage or car deductions.
The IRS requires your log be written (or printable) and it must have four elements:
- The date of your trip (meaning it has to be a daily log)
- How many miles you drove
- Where you went
- The business purpose of your trip
Any tracking method that meets those four requirements is acceptable. The trick is to find the one that works the best for you.
Three general ways to track miles
Let's talk about tracking methods. What are the best Doordash mileage trackers? Which way should you do it?
Before we look at options, let's talk about how to decide.
In short, the answer to all that is, use whatever method that allows you to capture as many delivery miles as possible.
I would say that the methods you can use to track fit into one of three styles, in order of accuracy.
- A written manual log. You record odometer readings at the start and end of every trip.
- You can use a GPS mobile app that lets you manually start and stop tracking
- Some GPS mobile apps (usually paid) sense when you are driving and begin tracking automatically.
Why do I say this is in order of accuracy?
GPS apps can miss miles. Having an actual record of your odometer reading at the start and end of a trip is the best way to make sure everything has been captured.
A manual GPS is generally pretty accurate. However, it's only accurate when it's tracking. Sometimes it can lose contact with the GPS. Other times, the app may just not function for various reasons. For that reason, it may miss parts of your trip.
Automatic tracking can be the least accurate for two reasons: One, sometimes the app misses the fact that you're driving and doesn't actually start recording. The other is that the apps usually wait til you're going a certain speed, and any driving you do til you get to that speed is lost.
Let's say you're doing 30 deliveries in a day. That means 30 stops at a restaurant. And 30 stops at the customer. You have a total of 60 trips that day. If it only takes 100 feet each time for the app to recognize you're driving, that's 6,000 feet, or more than a mile, that the app isn't recognizing.
When I ran seven tracking apps at the same time, I compared their tracking to odometer readings. Two apps with automatic tip detection (Quickbooks Self Employed and MileIQ) missed more than 10 percent of miles. The manual tracking apps were all capturing 97% of miles or more.
Which of those three mileage tracking methods works best for you as you deliver for Doordash?
The method that works for you is the method that works for you.
Thank you, Captain Obvious!
What I mean by that is, you have to know yourself and how you would use these options. No one answer is best for everyone.
Manual tracking, where you write down the odometer reading, is the most accurate. But it's only accurate if you remember to actually do it.
The same can be said of manually started apps. While they test out much better, if you are prone to forgetting, you can lose a lot of miles.
Automatic tracking can be the easiest way to go, but the missed miles and lower accuracy can be costly.
If you forget to start and stop tracking, a manual tracker is going to be better for yhou.
The four best ways to track mileage for Doordash or any other gig platform
Based on what I just said, where it depends on how you do things and what fits your style, I can't tell you that any of these are better than the other. What works for me might not fit you nearly as well.
I chose two apps because according to my testing, they were the best at tracking miles.
I'm often bad at remembering things, yet for me the written log method is the best one. Somehow I established a routine where I actually record info for every delivery (which is overkill for most delivery drivers, but I'm a nerd).
This fits what I said earlier: Know yourself. Know what you're most likely to use and choose an option that will ensure you capture the most miles you can to log your delivery miles with Doordash, Grubhub, Instacart or Uber Eats (or your miles as a rideshare driver with Uber or Lyft).
Whether you choose one of these options, make sure that whatever you choose meets the four IRS requirements listed above.
1. A written mileage log.
Auto Mileage Log for handwritten tracking, available from Amazon.
You can do this with a notepad and piece of paper. You can purchase a log book from an office supply store or from Amazon.
If you create your own, here's one idea. Create the following columns:
- Odometer start
- Odometer end
- Total miles
- Business Purpose
- Doordash earnings (or delivery apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Instacart, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, or any other app)
Usually I'll put down Denver metro for my location, and Delivery for business purpose. I actually have columns for Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub where I put how much money I made for each one for the day.
Why the extra columns? After all, I just said there were four things the IRS required.
The IRS doesn't require an odometer reading. But it's good practice. It gives you a reference point for how many miles you drove. The odometer reading can be compared to maintenance records to provide legitimacy if it ever comes to an audit. It can also give you a point of reference if you forgot to record your start or end point of a trip.
I've heard it said that a lot of auditors still prefer the written mileage records over GPS generated logs. The odometer reading ties the trip to a particular vehicle, whereas with GPS there's no way of knowing if you were in your car or on a bus or what.
The column for earnings is as much as anything a point of reference. However, it also adds legitimacy to your business purpose. In fact, saying I earned for Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats is pretty much declaring the business purpose of the trip without having to list a purpose separately.
2. Manually entering a mileage log on Google Sheets (or any other spreadsheet)
This is my primary tracking method.
I chose Google Sheets because it's real easy to switch back and forth between keeping a record in my car, and being able to look it up on my home computer.
I created a 13 page spreadsheet. There's one page for each month and a page that has a list of the monthly totals.
I added a few more columns. I put down how many hours I was out. There's a column that calculates my profit per hour (earnings minus car expenses divided by work hours), how many deliveries per hour, and miles per dollar earned.
What I love about using a spreadsheet instead of a paper mileage log is I won't lose it this way. I also love that I can personalize it to fit me. I have a lot more columns but I don't have to enter a lot more data. The spreadsheet can do that for me.
If you do choose a spreadsheet option, make sure it's one that keeps the data in the cloud. If the file is stored only on your cell phone, losing your phone (or it crashing) could lose all your information.
3. Hurdlr: The best mileage tracker app (free) for Doordash couriers.
I know a lot of people use Stride tax. I've compared Hurdlr and Stride in depth and it's not even close. Hurdlr runs circles around Stride for many reasons.
Hurdlr was much more accurate than any other free app that I found. It didn't seem to glitch out as much as the others.
Get Hurdlr Mileage and Expense Tracking, with free and subscription options
There are a number of reasons I prefer Hurdlr over anything else I've looked at. For the free version, a big one is the widget you can put on the home screen of your android phone. You can easily start and stop tracking from the home screen of your phone. You don't have to log into the app to track or stop tracking.
Hurdlr is also pretty powerful for tracking business expenses. I felt like it runs circles around Stride as an expense tracker, especially when you can log into the app off your desktop, laptop or smartphone.
It allows you to track more expense types. In fact, I found the free version of Hurdlr was more powerful than Quickbooks Self Employed (which has a $15 per month service fee). Stride tax will only let you track miles, where Hurdlr will track both miles AND fuel, maintenance costs and other actual car expenses. That allows you to choose between the standard mileage allowance or actual expenses when you complete Schedule C.
Hurdlr has a tax profile feature.
It will take into account your income, your miles and business expenses, your filing status and other information and estimate what you will owe in taxes. This is huge when trying to estimate what to save for quarterly taxes.
Hurdlr was also more accurate than other manual apps because it didn't glitch or stop recording as often.
One thing I found when comparing mileage tracking apps is that they can shut down if the power settings are wrong on your phone. If battery optimization is turned on, it can cause some apps to shut down or miss parts of your trip. They require a lot of resources (and that means they can drain your battery pretty quick).
Hurdlr was the best at operating with battery optimization turned on. I never experienced any glitches like I did with other apps. In the end, I found Hurdlr was easier to track with and less likely to miss trips.
I'll mention Triplog in a moment as the best paid third party app. I'm not a fan of Triplog's free version as it places a limit on the number of business trips you do. When every stop can create a trip, delivery and rideshare drivers need unlimited trips.
Triplog: The best paid mileage tracking app
In my opinion, the choice between the Hurdlr and Triplog subscription options is very close. I like Hurdlr better as an all around app as I think the additional features like their expense tracking and tax profile give it an edge overall.
However, if what you are looking for is strictly mileage tracking, Triplog was the best app out there.
Get Triplog for Tracking Doordash Mileage and Expenses
Two things really stood out that put Triplog over the top of anyone else when it comes to tracking your Doordash miles.
The automatic mileage tracking was dramatically better than anyone else's.
The best kept secret in tracking apps is Triplog's Gig Apps Auto Start Feature. This feature knows when you are using your Dasher app (or any other gig economy apps) and automatically tracks your trips during that time. It has worked flawlessly for me.
This does a couple of things: You don't have to wade through all of your trips like you do with a lot of the auto tracking apps. It also eliminates the problem I mentioned above with other auto tracking apps, where it doesn't know to start tracking until you reach a certain speed.
The log included a lot more detail than anyone else.
The detail log can be incredibly useful for food delivery drivers. Especially in an era of deactivations and lying customers. Triplog was the only app of any that I looked where you could pull up a map of where you were, and find time stamps for the different points along the way.
You have an app record with Triplog that says exactly where you were and what time you were there. You can't get that with any other app. Hurdlr's automatic tracking log is the only one that was close, with more frequent stop and start points on its record.
Triplog has some advanced features that can even integrate with your car computer, though then you're getting into additional up front costs.
Wrapping it up: It's up to you to track mileage on Doordash.
As I mentioned earlier, Doordash will provide an estimate. Relying on the Doordash mileage estimator is an expensive mistake. You will pay more when tax time comes around.
We looked at a lot of ways to track. The best option is whatever will help you capture the most miles.
Pro Tip: Get Google maps on your phone if you don't have it. Make sure that the timeline feature is enabled. If you do forget to track miles, you have a backup that shows where you've been. It's a little creepy but it can be a lifesaver.
As gig workers, relying on Doordash's estimate will 1) cost you money and 2) not be enough to prove your miles to the IRS.
You want to get to the REAL bottom line? Every mile you track knocks 15¢ off your tax liability (assuming a 10% tax bracket).
Fifteen cents ain't much. But when it's thousands of miles or tens of thousands of miles. I gave the 30,000 mile example earlier, which is more like an extra $4,500 tax bill if you didn't keep track of mileage.
Why would you rely on Doordash to track your miles for you when there's that kind of money at stake?