Doordash does not track miles for you when you deliver for them. They may provide you with an estimate of your total miles driven at the end of the year. However, that estimate doesn't meet IRS documentation requirements.
Why is this important? As an independent contractor, business expenses serve as write-offs for Doordash Dashers. For most, the most significant write-off is the standard mileage allowance, which is 65.5 cents per mile in 2023.
Doordash's mileage estimate fails to document your driving, and it also misses a lot of miles. Relying on them can be an expensive mistake. That's why it's critical that you learn how to track your own miles for Doordash.
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:
- How Doordash's mileage estimate works, and why it's inadequate
- What miles can you track as a Dasher?
- What does the IRS require for mileage tracking documentation?
- The best ways to track mileage for Doordash or any other gig platform
- What to do if you haven't been tracking miles
If you're a more visual person, you can see a summary in our web story on tracking miles while Dashing.
How does Doordash's mileage tracking work (and why isn't it enough)?
Doordash does not keep track of your mileage. At least not in any way that is really useful for you.
Historically, Doordash has emailed an estimate of miles driven in the previous year. In the past couple of years, they sent that email out around the end of February. Unfortunately, there are some problems with that estimate that we'll talk about.
In early 2022, Doordash had 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.
Below is a screenshot of the annual email they sent to a Dasher:
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.
You'll notice they used the word “estimate” quite frequently. Basically how it works is that whenever Doordash sends a delivery offer, they estimate the number of miles you'll drive. Doordash adds up the estimates for the deliveries that you've accepted.
Unfortunately, those estimates haven't been very good. I've tracked every detail of my deliveries, with odometer readings at the start and end of each trip. Every year, Doordash's estimate was at least 10% less than the actual miles driven.
Doordash's estimate also misses miles that you drive that are legitimate. You may be delivering for someone else, or have miles driven between dashes that can still be claimed.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that relying on Doordash's estimate could cost you your entire mileage deduction. That's because a single mileage report doesn't meet the IRS requirements for documenting your business miles. An auditor can disallow the entire mileage deduction, which could be a very expensive problem.
To their credit, Doordash HAS improved their estimates.
For the 2019 tax year and earlier, Doordash's estimates were even worse. They originally only estimated a straight line distance between the restaurant and the customer. That often resulted in under-estimating myles by 60-70%.
By not counting miles driven to the restaurant, they eliminated half of your miles. By using a straight-line measurement instead of a turn-by-turn estimate, they likely eliminated another 10-20% (you might want to freshen up on your Pythagorean theory to understand how that worked).
The one thing that was better about that report was that you could download a report that included their daily estimates of your driving. That daily element of the record was more in line with what the IRS required. However, missing the majority of claimable miles was still a pretty expensive problem.
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, they now appeared to include the entire trip.
By 2021, Doordash began estimating Dash miles, miles driven between deliveries. While it's another improvement, it's still only an estimate and it still doesn't meet IRS requirements.
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 those miles. Even though you may not be actively on a delivery, you are seeking out or positioning yourself for business opportunities. That means there's a business purpose for your driving.
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.
There are miles you cannot claim. The IRS doesn't allow you to claim commuting miles, and commuting miles are a thing for Dashers. Commuting is where you are driving from home to a place of work. If for example, you live outside of the zone you will be dashing, your drive to that zone is a commute. If you've finished Dashing and are no longer taking orders, your trip home is a commute.
We go into a lot more detail about what Dashing miles are deductible , how commuting works and where you can start and stop tracking mileage.
What does the IRS require of my mileage tracking?
We talked earlier about how the Doordash mileage estimate isn't IRS-compliant. 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 Doordash taxes 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 expense method for claiming Doordash car expenses, you must have a log. That's because the actual expense method allows you to claim the business percentage of your actual car expenses. Knowing how many miles you drove lets you calculate what percentage of your car use was for business, and that lets you know what percentage of actual expenses you can write off.
Check out Hurdlr, our choice for the best overall mileage and expense tracking app.
To claim Doordash mileage for taxes (or actual expenses) car expenses, you must have a log of your business miles. If an auditor finds that you didn't have a record that meets the IRS requirements, they can determine that you can't write off ANY car expenses.
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.
We go into more detail about how to track miles when Dashing, but here are some basic guidelines:
Three general ways to track miles
What's the best way to track your miles when Dashing? In short, the answer to all that is to 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:
- 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.
The method that works best for you depends on you and how you use them.
A GPS app may provide the most detail, but it can miss miles. If you're good at recording the odometer reading at the start and end of your trip, that's the most accurate way to capture every mile you drove.
In my testing, I found that manual GPS apps (where you have to tell it when to start and stop) are more accurate than automatic ones. That's because automatic apps often wait til you've reached a certain speed limit before recording. Other times, automatic apps can just not notice that you've started driving and thus fail to record your trip.
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 you.
It really comes down to you. The best method for someone who's good at writing everything down is probably a written log, while an automatic GPS program may be better for someone who is forgetful.
Four suggestions for tracking miles:
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'll talk about four options that I feel are the best. Two options involve manually keeping a mileage log, and two include the GPS mileage tracking apps that were the best at tracking miles according to my tests.
Personally, I use option #2 — keeping a log on a spreadsheet on my phone.
In the end, the best option for you depends on one thing: Knowing yourself. Decide which option will make sure you capture the most miles possible depending on your ability to keep up with the tracking.
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 a 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 go a bit further than the list above: I have columns for each delivery company I contract with, and I write the amount earned for the trip in the appropriate column
Why the extra columns when the IRS only requires four things?
The IRS doesn't require an odometer reading. However, it's a 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 forget to record your start or end point of a trip.
I've heard it said that a lot of auditors still prefer 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. It also adds legitimacy to your business purpose. In fact, saying I earned for Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, or someone else 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 really easy to switch back and forth between keeping a record in my car and looking it up on my home computer.
The thing I like about using Google Sheets is that I can track more than just miles. By including things that meet the IRS qualifications, it kills two birds with one stone. I also track time, which allows me to determine my profit per hour.
What I love about using a spreadsheet instead of a paper mileage log is that I won't lose it. It's all kept in the cloud, so even if (when) I lose my phone, my records are intact.
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 seen. 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 start or stop tracking, you can just do it from your phone's home screen.
Hurdlr is also pretty powerful for tracking business expenses. It's a full-featured bookkeeping app that you can access from your smartphone or your desktop/laptop computer. It's far more flexible and customizable than free apps like Stride or even paid apps like Quickbooks Self-Employed.
Hurdlr also has a tax feature that will take into account your income, your miles and business expenses, your filing status and other information and estimate how much to save for Doordash taxes.
Ultimately, Hurdlr was the best free app. There's also a subscription option that includes automatic tracking of miles. Because of the additional features, I felt like the paid version of Hurdlr was better (in my opinion) than other subscription apps as well.
Triplog: The most accurate subscription 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, but if you want an automatic option that will capture trips the most reliably, Triplog might be your option.
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.
1. 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.
Other auto-track apps require you to classify whether every trip you took was for business or personal reasons. I also noticed that Triplog starts tracking immediately instead of waiting for you to reach a certain speed, making it more accurate.
2. Triplog captured more details than anyone
The Triplog map lets you look at any point in your trip and identify exactly what time you were there. This can be huge in the area of unfair deactivations, as you can prove you were at a customer's location if they claim they didn't receive their order. No other app I've looked at has that level of detail.
Triplog has some advanced features that can even integrate with your car computer, though then you're getting into additional up front costs.
What to do if you haven't been tracking miles
So we know that Doordash is not going to give you reliable information about how many miles you drove. What do you do with that information? Are you stuck?
The IRS does let you retroactively create a mileage log IF you have evidence to back that up. You need something showing where you were or that backs up how far you went.
This is easier with some other apps. Email reports that break down what trips you took and include mileage amounts can be used as a basis. Uber Eats has detail of every delivery you've taken. You can use these to reconstruct where you went and how far you drove.
Unfortunately, Doordash doesn't provide that kind of information. The earnings report on the app only goes back a few months and provides no mileage or customer location information.
It is possible that you've tracked where you've been without realizing it. Google maps has a timeline feature that, if enabled, keeps a record of everywhere you've been. Some safety tracking apps, often used by insurance companies, have a record of where you've been.
You can read in more detail about these methods, and what to do if you forgot to track miles while Dashing.
In the end, the question remains: Would an IRS auditor allow the annual mileage estimate from Doordash if you had nothing else to go on? I don't know the answer to that. My hunch is that some will and some won't. On the one hand, a single mileage amount doesn't meet the IRS requirements. On the other hand, the number comes from a third party and they have a basis FOR that number. I can't say with certainty that the Doordash estimate would or would not be accepted.
Wrapping it up: It's up to you to track mileage on Doordash.
To sum it all up: Doordash doesn't track miles. They have provided an estimate of your miles driven in years past. There's no guarantee they will again this year.
You shouldn't rely on Doordash. It's most likely going to cost you money by not capturing everything. There's a high probability that the IRS would reject it as documentation for your driving. It's best to avoid either scenario by taking responsibility for yourself and track your own miles.
In the end, here's the most important thing: Every mile you track knocks nearly 17¢ off your tax liability (assuming a 10% tax bracket).
Seventeen cents doesn't sound like much. But when it's thousands of miles or tens of thousands of miles, that adds up. A full-time Dasher who drives 30,000 miles and didn't track could pay an additional $4,500 (or more) at tax time.
Why would you rely on Doordash to track your miles for you when there's that kind of money at stake?