Skip to Content

What Miles Can I Claim as a Delivery or Rideshare Contractor?

The IRS allows you to claim your car expenses if you drive for your deliveries as an independent contractor (or for rideshare trips). Whether you claim the standard mileage rate or use the actual expense method, you must have written evidence of your business miles.

Another article discussed how to track miles for gig economy work. However, it's also essential to understand which miles you can track as a legitimate business deduction.

A common question for delivery drivers is, what miles can I claim on my taxes? When can you start tracking, and when do you have to stop? We'll look at the answers to that, including:

The Delivery Driver's Tax Information Series: The information contained in this information series is for educational and informational purposes only. This information is not intended to be and should not be considered to be legal, tax, or any other professional advice. Information is provided as a best effort to research useful information on this topic but makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of information provided. Suggestions and ideas presented are based on my experiences and opinions. You should seek your own professional assistance to help with your unique tax and financial situation and needs.
The Delivery Driver's Tax Information Series Disclaimer

About this article

This article is about how how to track mileage in the United States. Other countries have their own tax laws that may or may not be similar. Because there are so many state and local governments, we don't dive into local or state taxes. You should seek out a tax professional who can help you with your locality and the related taxes.

EntreCourier is mainly about the business side of delivery work in the gig economy. Therefore, many examples will be related to food delivery companies like Grubhub, Shipt, Amazon Flex, DeliverThat, and many larger companies.

There are a lot of aspects related to delivery driver taxes. It's impossible to cover it all and do it well in one article. For that reason, this is part of a more comprehensive series on gig worker taxes. We'll link to other articles where appropriate, and at the end, we have a list of all articles in the series.

Finally, this is not tax advice. The purpose is to inform and educate about how taxes work. For advice relative to your personal tax situation, you should seek guidance from a tax professional who is familiar with independent contractor taxes in your area.

The general rule for what counts as business miles for delivery drivers and rideshare drivers.

Any miles explicitly and necessarily driven for your business are deductible. As an independent contractor, you file your taxes as a small business.

The IRS states that to claim a business expense, it must be necessary and ordinary for your type of business. In other words, it must be a regular part of a delivery business like yours and should have a business benefit.

If you have to do mental gymnastics to describe it as a business trip, it probably doesn't fit the IRS definition.

There's an obvious business benefit if you're making money delivering for companies like Doordash, Uber Eats, Instacart, DeliverThat, Roadie, Grubhub, or others. You are driving for business when you are logged in to one of the delivery or rideshare apps with the intent to accept reasonable delivery or trip offers.

Delivery and rideshare trips are not gig worker's only legitimate business trips. Trips to pick up supplies, to a gig company's office, or to prepare your car for delivery all have a business purpose.

Understanding the business purpose of your miles illustrated by a hand drawing a red circle around the words What's the Point?
The first thing you have to ask yourself is, what's the point of this trip? Is there a business benefit?

When can you start tracking your miles as a gig economy contractor?

The moment you log into any of the gig economy apps, with the intent to accept a reasonable offer, you can start tracking. I call this the rule of intent: As long as you intend to do business, you are driving with a business purpose.

You do not have to wait until you accept a delivery offer, nor do you need to wait until arriving at a restaurant. The act of driving with the purpose of seeking out business opportunities is a business activity.

When should you stop tracking your miles?

The rule of intent comes into play here. The moment you have decided that you no longer intend to accept opportunities is the time you are no longer driving for business. Whenever your driving becomes personal or commuting, you are no longer going with a business purpose.

Let's look at the example of driving home at the end of a series of trips. If you're keeping the apps on and interested in taking a trip or delivery while on your way home, that means there's still business intent.

However, if you've decided you're done and are going home regardless of the offers, that has now become a commute. Your tracking ends with the decision that you are finished.

Do you have to stop tracking between trips?

No. Business activity is not limited to times you have passengers or food in your car. Seeking out the next opportunity is a business activity. So is positioning yourself for better offers.

The IRS does not require you to record individual trips. When it comes to delivery and rideshare, when you move from one stop to the next, the entire time you're driving is a business trip.

You can account for several uses of your car that can be considered part of a single use, such as a round trip or uninterrupted business use, with a single record. Minimal personal use, such as a stop for lunch on the way between two business stops, isn’t an interruption of business use.

IRS Publication 463 on combining records for Car Expenses

Based on the language from the IRS here, you do not have to stop recording your miles for minor side trips, such as a lunch break or personal errand, that don't take you far out of the way. However, a personal trip that adds several miles to your journey would not be “minimal personal use,” meaning you should pause recording for such.

4. Know the difference between commuting and business miles.

Commuting miles don't always look like this. Even if you are driving to a spot before you begin y our deliveries for Grubhub, Doordash, Instacart, Uber Eats or Postmates, those are commuting miles.

One significant exception to the ability to claim miles is commuting. The IRS does not allow you to deduct miles between home and your place of work.

Daily transportation expenses you incur while traveling from home to one or more regular places of business are generally nondeductible commuting expenses.

IRS Publication 463 under Transportation

Isn't your car your place of work? How is this an issue?

While you do use your car for business, it is not your place of business. The place of business is the geographic area where you are providing delivery or rideshare services.

A good definition of a commute for gig workers is the miles driven from home to whatever point you begin your business miles.

This takes us back to the rule of intent. Your place of business is the location where you first log into a gig app, intending to accept reasonable offers.

If you log in immediately when you leave your home, intending to accept offers, you are driving for business. Those are not commuting miles. However, if you travel to another part of town before logging in, the trip between home and the point you log in is a commute. You can not claim those miles.

The other part of the commute is your return home after your trips are finished. At what point do the business miles end and commuting miles begin?

The answer once again lies with intent. Your trip home becomes a commute as soon as you no longer intend to accept deliveries or rides.

If you complete your last task and decide you're done for the day, and it's time to head home, that trip home is a commute. If, however, you stay logged in as you make your way home, deciding that you will accept a reasonable offer if it comes your way, those continue to be business miles.

Does a home office deduction change things with commuting miles?

If you have an office in your home that qualifies as a principal place of business, you can deduct your daily transportation costs between your home and another work location in the same trade or business.

IRS Publication 463 “Office in the Home”

The IRS states that if you can claim your home office as your principal place of business, that travel from your home to other places of business is deductible. That would overrule everything we just said about commuting, wouldn't it?

It does not. That's because the key word is “if.” We need to also look at this from the IRS.

Example 3. You have no regular office, and you don’t have an office in your home. In this case, the location of your first business contact inside the metropolitan area is considered your office. Transportation expenses between your home and this first contact are nondeductible commuting expenses. Transportation expenses between your last business contact and your home are also nondeductible commuting expenses. 

IRS Publication 463 Example 3 under Office in the Home.

In summary, traveling to wherever you start working is not a commute if you have a qualified home office. If you don't, you can not claim that travel.

The question is, do you have a qualified home office as a delivery or rideshare contractor? For most drivers, the answer to that is likely no. That's because of the two requirements you must meet to claim a home office as your primary place of business.

  • You have space that is used exclusively for business. You can not use that space for other purposes.
  • That space is used regularly and prominently for business. “Incidental or occasional business use is not regular use (IRS Publication 587).”

The regular use clause is what creates a problem for most of us. The nature of gig economy work means there's little need for administrative work. The bulk of what we do is out on the streets.

This is another topic where it is wise to check with your tax professional to see if you have a home office that meets IRS qualifications.

Differences between gig apps can impact whether you have commuting miles.

Different delivery apps have different ways of doing things, which can differently impact whether your first miles are commuting miles.

For instance, Uber Eats and Grubhub are two food delivery services that allow you to go available anywhere within your delivery market. 

On the other hand, Doordash has smaller delivery zones. If you have to be physically in that zone before you can log in and don't live in your starting zone, the trip to that zone would be a commute.

Perhaps you work with package delivery or catering orders that require starting at a particular location. For instance, if you deliver for Instacart and start your day at a grocery store, your trip to the grocery store is a commute. 

Likewise, the drive to the restaurant is a commute if you have a scheduled catering order for your first trip. 

If you multi-app (work for several platforms simultaneously), that often makes it easier to claim the entire trip.

Working multiple apps for your business miles
Working multiple apps is one of the best ways to ensure more of your miles are for business

Suppose you were driving to a Doordash zone to start your day but logged in to Uber Eats on your way. If you do so with the intent to accept offers, that trip shifts from a commute to having a business purpose. If you're actively taking orders up until you have to shop at a restaurant, now there's a flow of continual business where you're no longer commuting. 

8. Beware of IRS Triggers and Patterns

Your driving patterns often determine whether your first or last miles are business miles or if they are considered commuting.

One factor that triggers an audit more often than most is claiming a large vehicle expense deduction. When you drive for your business, your miles pile up quickly, leaving you more open to an audit.

The good news is that the IRS often looks at these things based on patterns within certain business types. A blogger who works at home isn't likely to have tens of thousands of miles on their tax report. That kind of thing is more common for delivery and rideshare professionals.

Much of the IRS work is done with computers that are always on the lookout for patterns. It's tempting to claim a lot of miles that you didn't drive, but if your deduction falls outside the standard patterns, that can trip a red flag.

9. How to track your miles.

You claim your mileage write-off and other business expenses on IRS form Schedule C. When you claim car expenses, the IRS asks you if you have written documentation. 

That means you must track your miles in a way that meets their requirements. Now that you know what miles you can claim, you must understand how to track them. 

The IRS requires a detailed record that includes:

  • the date of the trip
  • how many miles you drove
  • where you went
  • the business purpose of the trip.

You must develop a system that works for you and meets those requirements. Read more

The Delivery Driver's Tax Information Series

This is part of a series of articles related to different tax topics for independent contractor delivery drivers. Below is a list of other articles in the series.

The Delivery Driver's Tax Information Series (Grubhub, Doordash, Postmates, Uber Eats, Instacart)

The Delivery Driver's Tax Information Series is a series of articles designed to help you understand how taxes work for you as an independent contractor with gig economy delivery apps like Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Instacart, and Postmates. Below are some of the articles

Tax Guide: Understanding Your Income

The following three articles help you understand what your real income is as an independent contractor.

Tax Guide: Understanding Your Expenses

The following eight articles help you understand the expenses you can claim on your Schedule C. Most of these are about your car, your biggest expense.

Filling Out Your Tax Forms

Once you understand your income and expenses, what do you do with them? Where does all this information go when you start filling out your taxes?

Could this help someone else? Please share it.


Saturday 28th of March 2020

I didn't track my miles last year. So far the only records I have are the miles Postmates and Doordash tracked. Since you've meticulously documented your miles, I would love to know what percentage over the miles they pay are you actually driving. I've seen blogs where people have come up with double the number of tracked miles verses paid miles, but I don't know how accurate that is.

Saturday 28th of March 2020

Since I usually deliver for multiple apps is a day, sometimes for more than one carrier at a time I don't have actual miles broken out by platform.

That said, based on what doordash says about how they measure your miles, I would say they are between 33 and 50 percent of actual miles. Their calculation is just that, a calculation. It's not an actual measurement of what you actually drove. They calculate a straight line from the restaurant to the customer. So they are not calculating any miles at all that you are driving TO the restaurant. And then, this is when I get to pull out my high school geometry. If you drive 3 miles north and 4 miles west, that's 7 miles. But the straight line distance is 5 miles.

If you want a realistic number, it's probably going to be a little more than double what doordash says. I don't think you'd be exaggerating numbers if you did that, it would be closer to accurate, but it would be harder to defend the number if ever called out on it.

I'm not as sure how Postmates calculates their miles and I don't have the data and can't find an actual explanation from them. One thing you could do is if you have the actual number of deliveries you did, see what it averages out to pre delivery and compare to your average for doordash. See if the average seems reasonable or if it seems really low. I would imagine you would have similar averages unless you're way more picky with one so than the other. Hope that helps

Im not sure how Postmates calculated. But

Jason Hughes

Tuesday 25th of February 2020

Thank you for the incredibly useful information! I do have a question about commuting miles. If I accept an order that takes me outside of my active zone for a delivery can I claim the mileage it takes to get me back to my active zone so I can accept another order?

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

Hi Jason.

Whenever looking at anything about business expenses, the first question they use to evaluate is, is it reasonable and necessary? When you get a delivery like that which leaves you where you can't get orders, it's both reasonable and necessary to make that return trip. So no, I wouldn't think you would need to claim those as commuting miles. A return trip is a normal thing for something like that and is totally legitimate.

I have times where I end up in an area that may have offers but is generally slow. At that point, I'll start making my way towards somewhere that works better. Even then, I'm keeping the app on, ready to accept a reasonable delivery offer if it comes in. So even when moving to a more attractive area, if you're willing to take a good offer when it comes in, it's reasonable to claim those miles moving to a different area.

Comments are closed.
About the Author

Ron Walter made the move from business manager at a non-profit to full time gig economy delivery in 2018 to take advantage of the flexibility of self-employment. He applied his thirty years experience managing and owning small businesses to treat his independent contractor role as the business it is.

Realizing his experience could help other drivers, he founded to encourage delivery drivers to be the boss of their own gig economy business.

Ron has been quoted in several national outlets including Business Insider, the New York Times, CNN and Market Watch.

You can read more about Ron's story,, background, and why he believes making the switch from a career as a business manager to delivering as an independent contractor was the best decision he could have made.

red button labeled read Ron's story.