Doordash does not track mileage for you. That's important to know. Knowing how many miles you drove means a smaller tax bill. If Doordash doesn't do this (or do it well) then it's up to you.
As an independent contractor you can knock the standard mileage deduction of 56 cents per mile (2021, or 58.5 cents in 2022) from your revenue. Even if you take the standard deduction on your taxes. The more accurate your mileage tracking is the more you know you're getting the best business expense deduction you can legally take.
Relying on the Doordash mileage estimate will cost you a lot of money. You will pay more in taxes than you should. If you understand mileage tracking and deductions, you can figure out a way to create a mileage log that works best for you.
This obviously doesn't apply just to Doordash. All of this is true with Grubhub, Uber Eats, Postmates, Amazon Flex, Instacart, even Uber drivers and Lyft drivers. If you are driving your car as an independent contractor or self employed person, this is for you.
Update: In January and February of 2022, Doordash rolled out a pilot program for actually tracking miles while on a Dash. It is unknown whether this will eventually become a full feature.
What we'll cover:
- Does Doordash track mileage for you?
- What miles can you track as a delivery contractor?
- What does the IRS require of my mileage tracking?
- The four best ways to track mileage for Doordash or any other gig platform
Does Doordash track mileage for you?
Doordash does not keep track of miles. At least not in any way that is really useful for you.
Doordash has access to your GPS. I'm pretty sure they have a record of where you've been while you had the app on.
It's just that they don't provide that information in a way that is useful. Doordash does not provide any form of an accurate mileage log.
Ultimately, that's your job. We'll get into that soon.
Problems with the Doordash mileage estimator 2019 and before.
In years past, Doordash did provide a downloadable mileage log. The Doordash mileage stats page has links for 2017, 2018 and 2019. You can download a csv spreadsheet that gives totals for each day.
It's an ESTIMATE. It's important to understand HOW Doordash calculates their mileage estimate.
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 distances between the pickups and the drop-offs. Our estimates only include distances that you traveled while transporting an order. We don't generally include distances from one 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.Section from the Doordash mileage stats page explaining How Doordash computes estimates. (the choice of which words to put in bold was mine for emphasis)
Here's the important information to understand:
- Doordash didn't include the drive to the restaurant in their estimate
- They did not include any driving between deliveries
- Doordash calculated miles as a straight line, from point to point.
Using that log leaves a lot of miles on the table. Remember your Pythagorean Theorem from algebra? A straight line measurement is shorter than the actual route.
Not tracking miles TO the restaurant is an issue as well.
I track every delivery. I know exactly how far I've driven on Doordash deliveries. The Doordash mileage estimator tells me I drove 922 miles in the 2019 tax year. Actual miles were 2,248.
Relying on the Doordash mileage stats estimate would have cost me more than $200 in additional taxes at the end of the year. A lot more a greater percent of my deliveries were for them.
Doordash changed their mileage estimator for 2020.
They never did upload a mileage report to their mileage stats page for 2020.
Instead they sent out a simple email.
This time, they tell us that our estimated 2020 delivery mileage is “calculated from when you accepted deliveries until you marked them complete.”
In other words, they now at least calculate travel to the restaurant. Whether it uses straight line measurement any more or not, they don't say.
What I can tell you is that in 2019 I drove 1,930 miles on Doordash deliveries. This time Doordash captured 85% of my miles. That's better. But it's still $164 that I couldn't write off if I relied on their estimates.
There is good news in Doordash's 2020 mileage estimate.
The good news is they captured more miles than before. If you forgot to track your miles, that can be a lifesaver.
The bad news is, just giving you a mileage total is insufficient. The IRS requires a daily mileage log. If it comes down to an audit, you're rolling the dice as to whether the IRS would accept that total as legitimate documentation of your miles.
The bottom line here: You should be tracking your own miles. It's one of the biggest (if not the biggest) tax deductions you have as an independent contractor. Don't rely on Doordash, you lose a lot of money if you do.
Ultimately, Doordash's mileage estimate should be a last resort. It just doesn't cover all the miles you can claim. If you forgot to track your miles, there are better ways to recover them.
What miles can you track as a delivery contractor?
- Our review of the best GPS tracking apps for Doordash and other delivery drivers
- The choice for Best Free and Best All Around Paid Doordash Mileage Tracking App: Hurdlr. Read our full 2021 review of the Hurdlr mileage and expense tracking app.
- The choice for the most accurate and reliable Paid Doordash Mileage Tracking App: Triplog.
Doordash's earlier estimates were a problem because they didn'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.
It all has to do with what the IRS considers commuting miles and with smaller delivery zones. Remember the criteria I mentioned above: You have to be available with intent to deliver.
Doordash requires you to be in your delivery zone to go available. If you live outside the delivery zone you intend to start with, that requires you to drive to the zone. If you're not able to go available, those are not considered business miles. It's not a bad idea to track them individually and call them commuting miles.
Aside from that, you can pretty much track every mile from the time you go available to the time you log off.
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 actual expenses, 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 expenses. You cannot claim the total amount if there is personal use of the vehicle.
Check out Hurdlr, our choice for the best overall mileage and expense tracking app.
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.
If you ever were audited and did not have a mileage log that meets the IRS requirements, the IRS can just choose to disallow ANY mileage or car deduction.
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
If you have a tracking method that meets that requirement, and it works for you, you're good to go.
The four best ways to track mileage for Doordash or any other gig platform
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 start and stop tracking with each tap
- 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?
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.
One feature of automatic tracking makes it less accurate than manual GPS tracking. A manually started app starts tracking the moment you press start. Automatic trackers recognize ‘driving' as when you're moving fast enough that it's not very likely you're walking.
Why do they do this? If they just do it by motion, they'll figure you're driving any time you're moving. The app will track you as you walk around the house. The speed you're driving tells the app that hey, now you're driving, you are no longer walking.
Here's why it can make automatic tracking less accurate. If you're in heavy traffic you may not get up to that minimum speed. When you are starting out, it often takes several feet before the app realizes you're moving.
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 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 tracking (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. IF you remember to write down the odometer reading. However, if you are likely to forget on a regular basis, that method isn't the most accurate for you.
While manual start apps tend to capture more of your miles than the automatic ones, the same principle applies. If you're not real good at pressing the start button every time you go out, you'll miss some miles.
Like I said, it comes down to knowing yourself. If you're disciplined, the written or manual gps tracking is probably better (and usually cheaper). If it's easy for you to forget, it's probably worth the money to subscribe to a program that will capture when you track.
The four best ways to track mileage for Doordash or any other gig platform
I won't pretend that any of these are better than the others.
Personally, I'm a bit unusual. I'm horrible at remembering things. I'm one of those people who gets locked onto something I'm going to do and I'll totally space off something I was planning to do.
And 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.
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.
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 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.
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 app. I'm not a fan of Triplog's free version as it places a limit on the number of trips you do. We need more unlimited mileage with as much as we use our cars.
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 their expense tracking and tax profile feature give it a slight edge.
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 Doordash 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.
There is no mileage reimbursement with Doordash. However, you can create a little bit of a reimbursement for yourself by ensuring you are doing the best job possible tracking miles on your Doordash deliveries (or for Grubhub, Instacart, Uber Eats or any of the others).
We looked at a lot of ways to track. The best option is whatever will help you capture the most miles.
If you are disciplined at starting and stopping your recording, less prone to lose your information, you might find a written notebook or log book to be the best. A spreadsheet version that lets enter information on your phone will work nicely as well. It depends on which you're more likely to use.
If you want to let an app handle it for you, you can't go wrong with Hurdlr or Triplog. If you want a free app, no one comes close to Hurdlr. However, if you are prone to forget to start tracking trips, pay for an app that will automatically record. The six bucks a month or so will more than pay for themselves in tax savings.
One bonus tip:
Get Google maps on your phone if you don't have it. Make sure that the timeline feature is enabled.
If you ever miss a trip, the Google Maps timeline is a lifesaver. It's also a great backup to show that your mileage log is legitimate.
Google maps timeline keeps a history of where you've been. It only refreshes occasionally, meaning it doesn't track you nearly as closely as Hurdlr or Triplog. That means it's not a great primary Doordash mileage tracker. It seems to capture about 80% to 90% of my miles, based on times I've measured.
It's a little creepy that Google knows everywhere I've been for several years. However, it's a great backup for you in case whatever method you use keeping track of miles on Doordash or any other platform fails.
Why it's so important to keep track of Doordash miles.
Like I said earlier, Doordash doesn't reimburse mileage. They SAY distance is used to calculate our delivery fee (but when they offer minimum pay for a 9 mile delivery, that's pretty much a lie). Even in California where miles figure into the minimum pay under Prop 22, it's still not a reimbursement.
Why does reimbursement have to do with all this? Because the main thing is, driving costs money. It costs a lot more to use your personal vehicle for Doordash or any other platform than you realize. That's why the IRS lets us deduct car expenses.
But you have to know what those expenses are. You have to know how far you drove. If the IRS doesn't believe you, you have to prove it.
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 12% tax bracket). Fifteen cents ain't much. But when it's thousands of miles or tens of thousands of miles.
Every thousand miles you tracked means you pay $150 less at tax time. Now we're getting into real money. That's not uncommon even when Doordash is a side hustle. It makes a huge dent in your taxable income when you're full time.
Why would you rely on Doordash to track your miles for you when there's that kind of money at stake?