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?
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. So much of it barely scratches the surface.
But that makes sense when you think about it. There's so much to talk about. How can you cover it all in just one article or page?
That's why I wanted to put this information together. I thought it would be helpful to provide a good overview about being a Doordash driver. I could touch on all the different subjects and questions that come to mind.
However, I understand that an overview often isn't quite enough. You often need a lot more. For that reason I've put together more detailed articles on each of the topics below. I'll write an overview of each topic and then at the end of the topic, I'll provide a link for the article.
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
- 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.
Drivers can be paid 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.
Read more: How much does Doordash pay its Dashers?
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. You get no reimbursement for your business expenses.
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
Driver requirements are pretty simple according to Doordash:
- 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.
Read more: Doordash delivery driver qualifications
How to become a Doordash delivery driver
There are several options for signing up.
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.
Use my referral link to apply. I may receive compensation from Doordash if you do become a Dasher.
You can sign up directly through the Doordash website.
The 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.
Read more: How to become a Dasher (coming soon)
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).
Car Insurance and Doordash
I was going to just have this as part of the “important tools,” but it's incredibly important, to the point that it really needs to be discussed as its own topic.
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 means you're on your own.
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.
This is perhaps the biggest risk to delivering for Doordash. It's incredibly important that you make sure you have the right insurance.
On top of that, Doordash does NOT provide coverage for you or your car. They do have a blanket liability policy that may cover damage to the other person's property if you were at fault.
I can't repeat this enough: You may not be covered while delivering.
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.
DO. NOT. TAKE. A. SINGLE. DELIVERY until you know for sure you are covered.
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.
Read More: The most essential tools for Dashers
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 reward officially listed for being Top Dasher is Dash Anytime: the ability to go available any time in any zone regardless of whether there are already enough workers in that zone. You can start dashing immediately without waiting for an open zone.
Doordash may offer other benefits in select markets. They've suggested Top Dashers will get priority on high-cost orders, meaning they break a tie for an available order in favor of Top Dashers.
Is Top Dasher worth it? The cost can be significant. If you accept a high percentage of delivery offers, you can be stuck on slow, inefficient, low-paying deliveries. That leaves you earning less. I found that delivery offers were no better as Top Dasher as they were without that status. The biggest factor in my mind is whether you have trouble getting on to deliver. In slower markets, the Dash Anytime benefit could be worth it.
Read More: Top Dasher Requirements and Rewards
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.
This is a struggle for many who 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. We're free to make our own decisions about when and where we go out, and we can choose which deliveries make sense.
I put together a list of 63 different tips for making more money on Doordash (linked below). 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.
Read More: How to make the most money on Doordash
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.
Doordash does not withhold taxes for you. That can be a huge problem when tax day comes around.
There's a lot when it comes to understanding how taxes work. For that reason, the link on the bottom of this section isn't going to one article, but it's the main article of a whole series on Doordash taxes.
However, there are some basics that are worth understanding:
1. Taxes are figured on your profits, not what was paid by Doordash. This is one of the biggest differences compared to W2 taxes. Especially when you drive a lot. You can deduct your taxable income by 58.5 cents per mile (2022). And the part a lot get wrong here is, you can claim that whether you're itemizing your deductions or taking the $12,000 ($24k if married) standard deduction. It's all figured differently.
2. There are multiple taxes concerned about. There's federal income tax. Most U.S. states have their own taxes, and some local/city taxes as well. But the big one that throws the most people off guard is Self-Employment tax. That's the independent contractor's version of social security and medicare. That's 15.3 percent on every dollar of profit (standard deduction doesn't reduce the taxable income for S.E. Tax).
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. 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.
Read More: Doordash Taxes
Working with Doordash support
One of the greatest challenges as a Dasher, in my opinion, is wading through their support, or 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 includes:
- 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 you can call 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.
Read More: Understanding how Doordash support works
Improving your customer ratings as a Dasher
Doordash tracks a number of driver ratings.
- 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 really only matters when it comes to Top Dasher status. The on time rating isn't used for anything that I'm aware of.
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 conscientous about good customer service, you won't have many problems.
Read More: How to improve your Doordash customer rating
Doordash driver deactivations
Since we are not employees, we cannot be fired by Doordash.
However, Doordash can choose to deactivate your contract.
It sounds like the same thing, but there's actually a fine line that Doordash has to cross. It all comes down to the definition of the independent contractor relationship.
Some will say a company can end the contract for any reason. That's a myth. It's a myth because of the definition of the independent contractor relationship.
Doordash cannot control how you do your work. They cannot require certain things of you. They gave up that right when they chose to not hire employees. If they deactivate you for behavior that they're not allowed to control (such as rejecting too many deliveries) they actually cross that controlling the worker line.
For that reason, Doordash limits their deactivations to things that would violate the contract.
Doordash can expect one thing from you really: 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.
Read More: Doordash deactivations.
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.
Read More: What it's like delivering for Doordash.