With the economy as crazy as it's been in recent years, maybe you've started thinking about becoming a Doordash delivery driver. (Doordash calls us Dashers)
Or maybe you're already a Doordash driver and you're looking for information about Dashing.
I'm sure by now you've heard a lot about Doordash. And I'm sure you've heard all the good, bad and the ugly about them.
But what is being a Doordash delivery driver all about? Where can you get all the information you need to either figure out if delivering for them is a good idea, or to learn how to up your game as a Dasher?
You may have noticed when I said earlier that Doordash calls “us” Dashers. I became a full-time delivery driver in early 2018, delivering for Doordash and a number of other on demand food delivery services such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and a number of smaller platforms.
Here's the thing about Doordash: They can be great and they can be terrible, all at the same time. I love the flexibility. They can be a great way to get some extra cash in your free time. For some of us, they're part of a more full-time way of making a living.
When I started, Doordash was an up and comer. Since then they've become the dominant food delivery platform. But they're not just stopping at meal delivery. In recent years they've expanded to convenience stores and grocery stores.
There are a lot of opportunities to earn with Doordash? However, the question is, are they good opportunities? We'll take a look.
About this article:
There's a lot out there about being a Doordash delivery driver that it's impossible to cover all in one article. You'll see links throughout the article that lead to more in depth articles on each topic. You can click on those or scroll to the bottom where we have a list of the entire series.
So you can start with this, and then dive in deeper where you want to find out more.
Note that this article is primarily about being a Dasher in the United States. There may be different experiences for Dashers in other countries.
Here are the topics that we'll cover on this page (and in the series of articles that are related):
- How much does Doordash pay?
- Are Dashers employees or self-employed?
- Doordash delivery driver qualifications
- How to become a Doordash delivery driver
- Understanding the Dasher app
- When is it best to deliver for Doordash?
- Can you Doordash Full Time?
- Car Insurance and Doordash
- The most important tools for Delivering for Doordash
- Understanding the Top Dasher reward program
- Accepting and rejecting delivery offers on Doordash
- How to make more money delivering for Doordash
- How do taxes work for Doordash delivery drivers?
- Working with Doordash support
- Improving your customer ratings as a Dasher
- Doordash driver deactivations
- My review of being a Doordash delivery driver
How much does Doordash pay?
Doordash delivery drivers are paid by the delivery. As independent contractors, there is no hourly wage or salary for Dashers.
Instead, Doordash pay is made up of the following:
- Base pay: A delivery fee that ranges from $2 to $10 depending on the duration, distance and desirability of the delivery
- Incentive pay specials such as Peak Pay, challenges, and guarantees.
- Customer tips.
Doordash will always pay a base pay of at least $2.00. Incentives and tips may or may not be added to that payment.
Since Dashers are not employees there's not an actual Doordash paycheck. Instead,they can be paid for services weekly via direct deposit into their bank account, daily withdrawals using Fast Pay, or by automatic deposit into a Doordash provided DasherDirect debit card.
Hourly ranges, daily, weekly and monthly totals can vary dramatically depending on several factors such as how many deliveries one completes in an hour, how busy one's market is, and which deliveries drivers accept or reject.
Some report that they gross in excess of $25 per hour. Others claim that after car expenses they earn well below the federal minimum wage. From what I've seen, there are many at both ends of the spectrum.
Are Dashers employees or self-employed?
Doordash uses independent contractors in the United States. In other words, Dashers are NOT employees.
CONTRACTOR understands and expressly agrees that they are not an employee of DOORDASH or any restaurant, other business or consumer and that they are providing delivery and other services on behalf of themself and their business, not on behalf of DOORDASHFrom the “Recitals” section of the Doordash Independent Contractor agreement.
To put it in simpler terms, Doordash is contracting with us to provide a service as a business, not as an employee. This means that Dashers are self-employed.
There are definite pros and cons to being self-employed in the gig economy.
As a gig worker for Doordash, you don't get any employee protection. You have no wage protection (minimum wage, overtime, or holiday pay. Benefits like workers comp, health insurance, and unemployment insurance are not provided by Doordash. There is no Doordash mileage reimbursement or other business expense coverage.
The flip side is, you can be your own boss. You're not just a food delivery worker, you are legally and technically a business owner. Therefore, you can set your own schedule. You can choose whether you want to do this as full-time work or just as a side hustle.
Doordash cannot control your work like you are an employee. They can't tell you when or where to work. Neither can they tell you which deliveries to take.
The idea here is that Doordash is now your customer, not your boss. Delivery offers are now a bid for your services instead of an assignment. The good news is, you have more control over earnings. The bad news is you don't have the safety net that employment offers.
Doordash delivery driver qualifications
- You must be 18 or older
- You can use any car, and possibly a bicycle or scooter (in select cities)
- Have a valid driver's license (or state issued ID for bicycle or scooter delivery)
- U.S. drivers must have a social security number
- You must have a smart phone with a data plan
- Must be able to pass a background check.
It's interesting that Doordash claims they are contracting with “businesses” but the qualifications are personal ones, not business related.
Doordash does not have any particular vehicle requirements. That means you can drive just about anything to deliver for them.
The important thing here is that, since you're not being hired as an employee, Doordash cannot be as stringent in their “hiring” process. The good news is for prospective drivers is, it's not a hard thing to qualify for. In terms of service quality, sometimes that can be bad news.
The main way they will vet drivers is through the Doordash background check. The last I knew, they do their checks through a company called Checkr. Generally they are looking for criminal convictions or issues with your motor vehicle record.
If you have a clean record and there is availability for drivers in your market, odds are pretty good that you can get on to deliver for Doordash.
How to become a Doordash delivery driver
If you have a friend or family member who delivers for Doordash, ask if they have a referral code. If you complete enough deliveries in the first four to eight weeks, your friend may receive a referral fee and you may be eligible for a guarantee.
The Doordash application process starts with entering your zip code. Doordash can then let you know if they are taking new Dashers in your area. You'll provide contact information including your email and phone number, and they'll create a Doordash account for you.
Doordash will request your drivers license information and ask you to confirm that you have insurance. Finally you'll need to provide your social security number and consent to a background check.
They say it can take five to seven business days. It was much faster for me, although that was a few years ago.
Once done, you may have a Doordash orientation. There was a time it was almost always an in person orientation, however recently that's been done online. The main part of the orientation for me was learning how to activate the Red Card (a debit card used for some Doordash orders).
After your first delivery, Doordash will send an activation kit that consists of a delivery bag, red card and a driver's manual.
Understanding the Dasher app
Once you are signed up and approved to deliver with Doordash, your next step is to download the driver version of their food delivery app (called the Dasher app). Log in to your Dasher account and you're ready to receive package, shopping or food orders.
Once you've installed and logged into the Dasher app, you will see a map of your delivery area. Most locations are broken down into smaller zones, though some smaller markets might have just a single zone.
The map is color coded. If a zone is grey, there is no need for additional drivers in that area and you can not log into that zone (with one exception we'll talk about later). Light red zones are available and darker red zones are in greater need of drivers.
You can choose your zone and hit the Dash Now button to start receiving orders. There are also options to schedule when you will Dash that will reserve a zone at a given time.
Receiving delivery offers and other features on the app
Doordash will notifiy you on your app when they are offering a delivery to you.
The delivery offer will tell you details about where you are picking up, how far you will go, a map of pickup and drop off locations, when it's due to be completed, and a minimum pay amount. You have the option to accept or decline the order.
On the screenshot above you can see the number 22 with a half circle next to the restaurant name. That is a timer. If you do not make a decision, the offer will expire and Doordash will offer it to another Dasher.
Once you accept a delivery, the Dasher app will direct you where to go. You may get specific instructions for the restaurant or store where you are picking things up, and again for the customer. You will mark on the app when you've picked the order up and when you've completed.
Once you are done, Doordash will tell you what you earned, with a break down of how much was delivery fee, how much was a customer tip, and if there was any peak pay. At that point, you're available to receive other deliveries. You have the option to pause for awhile and not receive orders, or to log out and end your dash.
Your Dasher App is essentially your operations center for your deliveries for Doordash. You can use the app to see your ratings, go to the earnings section to see how much money you've made, edit your account details such as bank account or contact information, or schedule a future dash.
Read More: Understanding the Dasher App (coming soon).
When is it Best to Deliver for Doordash?
The best times to Doordash are usually during peak meal delivery times such as between 11 AM and 2 PM and between 5 PM and 9 PM. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are often better than Mondays and Tuesdays.
Warning: Those times are not universal. The best time to deliver in one market may not be the best in another. Monday nights can be great during football season as people order in to watch football, but terrible for the rest of the year.
Another thing to understand is that deliveries in your area can be incredibly busy but it can feel very slow to you. That's because Doordash often offers peak pay bonuses to encourage drivers to get out when it's super busy. Sometimes that works too well and brings out too many Dashers.
This is something we call driver saturation. If you have too more drivers than there are orders, you can have long waits between when you complete one delivery and you get an offer for another. And if that next offer is ridiculously low, you may be waiting even longer for one worth taking.
Can you Doordash Full Time?
The beauty of the Gig Economy is that you can set your own hours. As a business owner, it's completely up to you whether or not this makes sense for a few hours for some extra cash, or to go all in as a full-time business.
Some will tell you that the model wasn't designed for full time work. They've mistaken the intent of the gig economy. The idea of the gig economy is to hire contractors for very short term gigs instead of using full-time employees. With Doordash, that term is the duration of the particular delivery that was accepted.
There's nothing in the design of the independent contractor model that prevents someone from doing so full-time. In fact, it's extremely common for someone providing services as a business to operate their business on a full-time basis.
This is a model that lets you thrive whether you do it very part-time with one-off delivery trips, all the way to a full-time business.
Whether or not full-time delivery for Doordash actually makes business sense is a different question. It depends on a lot of factors. Many delivery professionals are making a good full-time income working Doordash and other delivery platforms.
And many fail.
The linked article dives into several questions to ask before going full time, and includes eight keys to full time success.
Car Insurance and Doordash
Car insurance is part of the important tools that I'll talk about. However, it's important enough that we need to discuss it in more detail. I mean, it's incredibly important that you have the right insurance.
Most personal insurance policies do not cover food delivery. You need to know this before you start delivering. If you get into an accident while on a Doordash delivery your insurance very likely will not cover the damages.
That's because most policies have exclusions saying they won't cover you when using your car for commercial or livery (transporting goods or passengers for hire) purposes.
On top of that, Doordash does not provide car insurance for you.
That means you're on your own.
This is perhaps the biggest risk to delivering for Doordash. Most Dashers are driving around completely uninsured without realizing it. Don't make the same mistake.
Doordash tells you they have insurance. But then when you read the details it's liability only and only when you're on a delivery. There is no coverage for you or your car from them. You can read all the language and details in the link above.
The question is, do you have enough cash to repair or replace your car if the unthinkable happens? Or for someone else's car and injuries?
Do NOT take a single delivery until you know for sure you are covered.
My advice is a three step process:
- Contact your insurance company or read the policy for exclusions. Find out if you're covered.
- If your policy refuses to cover delivery work, ask if they have an addendum or rider that adds coverage. This is often very cheap.
- If they do not have an option, find a policy that will cover you. There are a few personal policies who do. You may need to look into a commercial hybrid policy.
The most important tools for Dashers
Okay, you've been approved. You're ready for your first order. It's time to make some money.
What are the most important tools for a delivery driver? What things are the most important must-have things to be successful as a Doordash delivery driver?
These are the must-haves, in my opinion:
- The right insurance!!!! I know, I just mentioned that in the topic above, but it's just that important.
- A smart phone with a data plan and the Doordash driver app loaded and ready to go.
- A hot bag (or insulated delivery bag) to keep the food protected
- Some way to track your miles – either pen and paper, spreadsheet app or GPS mileage tracking app. It's an absolute must – unless you WANT to pay more in taxes than you should (more in a bit).
The next few things are highly highly recommended.
- A phone holder. A lot happens on that app including GPS guidance. A good phone holder will keep your hands free and make driving safer.
- Professional appearance. It really makes a difference getting in and out of the restaurant.
- A good dash cam. When you make money driving, the risks are higher. A dual camera dashcam that records both what is happening on the road and what you are doing.
- A screen recording app. It provides documentation of what you were doing in case customers or restaurants accuse you of something you didn't do.
Understanding the Top Dasher reward program
Doordash has a special incentive program they call Top Dasher. It's a special status with special rewards for Dashers who meet certain criteria.
Top Dasher status is awarded at the start of a given month. Criteria and rewards listed here are current as of May, 2022. To be Top Dasher for the month, you must have met the following as of 11:59 the last day of the previous month:
- Customer rating of at least 4.7 (on a 5 point scale)
- Acceptance rate of 70% or higher
- Completion rate of 95% or higher
- 100 or more completed deliveries for the month
- At least 200 lifetime deliveries.
Doordash often starts new drivers out with Top Dasher status to give them a taste of the program (and to encourage them to take more deliveries).
The only thing you really get for Top Dasher is the ability to Dash at any time regardless of whether Doordash has room for more Dashers in your zone at that moment. In some areas if it's hard to schedule a Dash, that can be very useful.
Is Top Dasher worth it? That depends on a lot of things. In many markets, accepting a high percent of offers lowers your earning potential. We'll talk about that more in a moment. Some think you can get better offers if you are top dasher, but when I tested it I I found no real difference.
In my opinion, the only time Top Dasher is really worth it is if you have trouble scheduling in your area.
Accepting and rejecting delivery offers on Doordash
One of the beauties of being an independent contractor, in my opinion, is the freedom to choose which offers and opportunities you will accept and which you will pass on.
There's no obligation or requirement. You can accept or reject any delivery offer from Doordash without penalty.
That's hard to grasp if you are accustomed to an employee environment where you do what you're told.
Here's where it's important to remember that you're performing services as a business, and that Doordash is actually your customer, NOT your boss.
Doordash will send a delivery offer to your Doordash app and follow up with a text message. You have the choice whether to accept or decline each offer. You are free to accept them all, or you can decline a lot of orders.
It's entirely up to you. Think of it as Doordash offering a bid for your services.
In fact, Doordash's own terms of service say that your accepting and rejecting deliveries is a way of setting or negotiating your price. You are free to select any offers you feel would be profitable. Doordash can not and will not deactivate your account for rejecting too many deliveries.
What's the best way to determine if an order makes sense? There are a lot of opinions out there. I prefer to estimate how long a delivery will take and figure out what it will pay per minute. If the delivery meets my price per minute, I'll take it. If not, I'll pass.
I take this bid for services idea a bit further. If Doordash won't send me offers that meet my price, there are other food delivery services out there. Uber Eats or Grubhub or someone else eventually will meet my price.
How to make more money delivering for Doordash
As independent contractors, we actually have a lot of control over what we make. As a business owner, you can choose from many tips and tricks for Dashers. You can choose when and where to deliver and which delivery offers make sense..
I put together a list of 63 different tips for making more money on Doordash (linked above). That's a lot, but they're all summed up under four main strategies:
Treat this like a Business. Being an independent contractor means you are actually running a business. Think like a business owner and master your business attitude. Test different ideas, markets, and ways of deciding what offers you will take. Think of delivery offers as bids for your service. Make decisions based on what will be the most profitable use of your time and efforts.
Find ways to increase earnings: Concentrate on peak hours when earnings are highest. Be selective and know your market. Understand where the offers are the best. Finally, remember Doordash is your customer. If they aren't paying enough, adding other customers (Uber Eats, Grubhub etc) will help you.
Avoid losing money. Keep your costs in mind. Your income as a business is measured by profit, which is what's left over after expenses are taken out. Driving costs a lot more than just fuel prices. Keep your deliveries short, keep yourself protected (proper insurance!) and be safe.
Deliver quickly. There is one thing you can do that is far more effective than just getting a higher base pay from Doordash. You can increase how much money you make just by getting done faster. Three deliveries per hour means a 50% pay raise over two per hour. Choose faster deliveries and work on your efficiency.
How do taxes work for Doordash delivery drivers?
It is incredibly important that you understand this about being an independent contractor: You are completely on your own when it comes to taxes on your Doordash earnings.
There's a lot when it comes to understanding how taxes work. It's a lot more than can be covered in a short overview. In fact a single article can't do it justice. For that reason, the link above goes into more detail, but it's also part of a series that dives into many different aspects of taxes for Dashers.
However, there are some basics that are worth understanding:
1. You're taxed on profits, not total Doordash earnings. This is a huge difference compared to W2 taxes. Especially when you drive a lot. You can deduct your taxable income by 62.5 cents per mile (second half of 2022). And because you're self-employed, you can claim that regardless of whether you itemize your personal tax deductions or take the standard deduction.
2. It's not just about federal income tax. Most U.S. states have their own taxes, and some local/city taxes as well. And then there's Self-Employment tax. That's the independent contractor's version of Social Security and Medicare. Doordash doesn't withhold that for you, so it's 15.3% of every dollar of profit.
3. You need to set aside your own tax savings. It's completely up to you. The best practice is to save money each week. We write more here about how much should a Doordash independent contractor set aside for taxes. It's best to put it in a different bank account where you won't touch it. Once a quarter send it in as a quarterly estimated payment.
All of this is why I insist you find a way to track your miles. That's THE BEST WAY to keep your taxes down. We get into a lot more detail in the series of articles that begins with the one linked below.
Working with Doordash support
One of the greatest challenges as a Dasher is Doordash driver support (or the lack thereof)
While there's a lot of information in the app that will guide you through most delivery situations, sometimes you need to get some help from Doordash support.
Unfortunately, their support team is farmed out to an overseas call center. It's cheaper that way. Too many times they're unable to provide adequate assistance.
Some situations that may require assistance include:
- The restaurant can't find the order
- There's an issue that the app should resolve but the app has crashed
- Problems with the Red Card that's used to pay for shopping and some food orders.
- Issues getting ahold of the customer.
Doordash has two ways of getting through to support: A chat function or calling the support phone number. Lately, the chat function tries really hard to handle things with automated responses, and I'm finding more and more often it's better to call in.
Both chat and calling can be found through the Dasher app.
There are a couple of things that are important to understand about Doordash support:
- Most support team members are not Doordash employees. They're employed by the call center that Doordash has contracted out to.
- Their primary job is customer satisfaction and resolving delivery issues.
- They're often not trained for nor do they have authority to resolve a lot of Dasher issues.
I've learned to reach out to support only when absolutely necessary. Often the additional time it takes costs more than what I might gain by staying on the line.
Improving your customer ratings as a Dasher
- Acceptance rate: What percent of delivery offers do you accept?
- Completion rate: What percent of accepted deliveries do you complete?
- Customer rating: An average rating from customers on a five point scale
- On Time Rating: What percent of deliveries are on time.
Acceptance rating for Doordash really only matters when it comes to Top Dasher status. The on time rating isn't used for anything that I'm aware of. In late 2022, Doordash began promising priority on high paying orders for drivers with acceptance rates over 50%. I tracked every offer for several weeks and found that the quality of offers did not improve (it may have dropped) when acceptance rate was up.
Two rating factors can lead to having your account deactivated. If your completion rate falls below 80% or your customer rating is below 4.2%.
The completion rating is easier for us to control. Doordash gives us room to cancel out of an accepted order but doesn't want it happening too many times. All you need to do there is make sure you complete deliveries you agreed to deliver.
The app's customer complaint service can be a little crazy. We can't control the customer and sometimes we can't control the circumstances that lead to a bad rating. Doordash asks the customer simply “how was your delivery? If the restaurant messed something up or the order was late by the time we accepted, we can get dinged.
Fortunately, Doordash weeds out certain ratings for things outside our control. Also, at a 4.2 minimum, the Doordash customer rating system gives us a lot of wiggle room. If you're really conscientious about good customer service, you won't have many problems.
Doordash driver deactivations
Since we are not employees, we cannot be fired by Doordash.
It sounds like the same thing, but there's actually a fine line between the two because of the independent contractor relationship.
Some will say a company can end the contract for any reason. That's a myth. When using independent contractors, company cannot control the work. They can't require you to accept so many offers, neither can they tell you HOW to do your work.
Terminating your contract for things like that would break the law. The bottom line is, being an independent contractor gives you a lot of freedom.
For that reason, Doordash limits their deactivations to things that would violate the contract.
Doordash can only really expect one thing from you: Completing the task that you agreed to complete. Things that would be violations would include:
- Not completing deliveries you agreed to complete
- Completing deliveries later than reasonable for your circumstances
- Issues that threaten the “safety of our community” whether that's safety of restaurant staff or the customer.
The main thing I can tell you is, do what you agreed to do and you'll generally be safe from deactivation. The other thing I would tell you is, document what you did (Dash cam, screen recording app) so you can prove you did what you agreed to do.
My review of being a Doordash delivery driver
There's some real good AND bad about delivering for Doordash, in my experience.
You can probably tell by the way I say some things, there's stuff about how Doordash treats their drivers that I'm not a fan of.
But here's the other thing: In four plus years of doing this, I have a pretty good time. Delivering for Doordash and other things has been probably my favorite way of making a living and one of the best paying (this is coming from a guy with a Masters degree who has run businesses and most recently served as business manager for a non-profit agency). I'll keep it fairly brief:
What I like the most about delivering for Doordash.
It starts with the freedom. I can do this on my free time, on my own hours, whenever I want. The way it's set up, I could deliver just to make some extra money, or I could choose to do it full-time and make a good living at it.
Here's the one thing I love about Dashing above maybe anything I've ever done: The work doesn't follow me home at night. I'm not worried about any manager. I don't come home stressed. It's really simple: I do the deliveries, and that's it.
Doordash and other food delivery companies have been fantastic for helping me prepare for other things. There really is a lot about being an independent contractor that's like running other businesses. It can be a great training ground for people who want to take the next step in their entrepreneurial career.
The last thing I'll point out is: I love that when anything goes wrong, it's my fault. I know, that seems odd, but there's incredible freedom in that. I made the decision that I'm in control. So I don't feel like I was robbed if a customer didn't tip. If it wasn't enough, it was my fault for accepting it. Anything that didn't work can always be traced back to my decisions.
Know what's beautiful about that? If it was my fault, I can fix it.
What I like the least about delivering for Doordash:
The bottom line: Doordash doesn't give a crap about Dashers.
When our costs go up, Doordash reduces the pay model. They look for the best way to weasel out of responsibilities.
Doordash pays the lowest base pay of the major food delivery companies. They do the least to make up for longer drives. They also seem to recommend the lowest tip amounts to their customers.
I think the thing that bothers me most is, they don't have the backs of drivers. If customers complain, they take the customer's side. This is opinion, but I feel like Doordash is the company that will do more to try to take advantage of drivers who still think they have to act like an employee and do everything they're told.
I have to be careful about getting up on a soapbox about all that. So I'll stop.
But here's some final thoughts on all their crap: If you do it right, it doesn't matter.
Because you're the one in control.
Customers try to take advantage of businesses. It's part of doing business. Doordash is that customer.
But you know something? Despite all that, I still deliver more for them than anyone else, at least at this moment. They're busier. There are still enough good deliveries with them.
They don't owe me anything. And I don't have to accept their lowball offers.
That's why ultimately I love delivering for Doordash (and all the others). I get to decide.
If you choose this independent contractor life, whether full time or as a side hustle, I don't have any trouble recommending delivering for Doordash, even with the warts. Walk in eyes wide open and take control.