Delivering for Uber Eats can be a great way to make some extra money or part of a larger full time delivery strategy. However, it's not technically job as couriers are independent contractors rather than employees.
There are a lot of factors in determining if delivering for the popular food delivery service makes sense for you. Your market and the way you operate your delivery business can all make a difference in helping you figure out if Uber Eats delivery makes sense for you.
Maybe you're looking for a way to make some extra money. Possibly you are needing to replace some lost income in this tough economy. Or maybe you want to find out if this is a good alternative to Doordash, Grubhub, Instacart, Lyft, or other similar food delivery services.
In this article, we'll talk about:
Note that this is written from the perspective of being an Uber Eats delivery driver in the United States. Uber Eats may do some things slightly differently in other countries, and different countries have different regulations about the use of independent contractors.
Why Uber Eats is not a good job (but still could be very much worth it)
It's a bit of a trick question to ask if Uber Eats is a good job. That's because it isn't a job. You will not be hired by Uber Eats as an employee. Instead, you are an independent contractor.
In other words, if you deliver for Uber Eats, you will do so as your own business, providing services for another business.
The parties expressly agree that: (a) this Agreement is not an employment agreement, nor does it create an employment relationship, between Company and youFrom the Uber Eats independent contractor agreement, which you have to agree to in order to deliver for them
I know I'm repeating myself, but this is incredibly important to understand. Delivering for Uber Eats is not a job. In fact, they don't even want you to refer to them as a delivery partner. All you are is a contractor, with no other affiliation to Uber at all.
It's actually a business opportunity. Your relationship with them is as a business providing a service to another business, NOT an employee/employer relationship.
This means a lot of things. It enters into a lot of the pros and cons. You will not have the protections that an employee has (including minimum wage, FMLA, workers compensation and other insurance). At the same time, you have a lot of freedoms that an employee would not have.
Delivering for Uber Eats is not a good job because it's not a job at all. If you are looking for an actual job, or the protections that go with being an employee, you don't have to read any further. This is not a good fit for you.
However, if you approach this as a business, Uber Eats can be a good business opportunity.
What delivering for Uber Eats involves
Here's how it works in a nutshell:
- A customer will order food or merchandise from a local restaurant or merchant.
- Uber Eats offers the delivery opportunity to independent contractors.
- When a contractor accepts the delivery opportunity, they will pick up the item from the merchant and deliver it to the customer.
- The courier, or contractor, is paid a delivery fee plus any tip from the customer for completing that delivery.
It's pretty much as simple as that.
Let's break that down a little. Then, let's take a closer look at how the process is different when you deliver for them as a contractor than if this were an Uber Eats job.
1. The customer places an order from a merchant.
It all starts with Uber Eats facilitating a delivery from a restaurant or store to the customer.
In most cases, the customer will place their order through the Uber Eats website. As you look at the website, you'll see that most options are for restaurant delivery. Meal delivery is the thing most people think of when thinking of food delivery companies like Uber Eats.
However, Uber Eats is been expanding their options. Now it is possible for customers to order grocery, convenience, pet supply and pharmacy deliveries.
It is also possible for the merchant or restaurant to request a delivery. Uber Eats has an FAQ for partner merchants who have their own delivery staffs that explains that they can request to use Uber Eats couriers to perform deliveries during peak times.
2. Uber Eats offers the delivery opportunity to their contractors.
This is where we come in.
Uber Eats will look for someone to deliver the food. They will begin offering the delivery to drivers or other contractors.
Here's how it works for you: Whenever you want to make some money on Uber Eats, you log into the Uber Eats driver app. Press the “Go” button to tell Uber that you are ready to accept delivery offers.
Whenever a delivery opportunity comes available, Uber Eats will send a notification to the app on your phone. That notification will give you the details of the delivery.
The offer screen will typically give you the following information:
- A map showing where you pick up items and delivery location
- The name and location of the restaurant or merchant
- The type of delivery (such as whether it's a package or grocery delivery that involves shopping)
- How far they expect you to have to go for the delivery
- The amount of time they estimate the delivery will take
- How much Uber Eats expects you will receive for the delivery
You have the option to accept or reject the delivery offer. If you decline, the offer is sent to the next available courier.
3. Once you accept an offer, you then go deliver the food or merchandise.
Put very simply, you first to the merchant or local restaurant, pick up the food or package, then deliver it to the customer.
There's a bit of variety to how that happens.
Not all deliveries have to be performed with a car. Uber Eats does allow bike, e-bike, and scooter delivery. I've heard of some who deliver on foot in very densely populated areas (think downtown New York City).
Picking up items.
To begin with, you will head to the store or restaurant to get the items that need to be delivered.
Most deliveries involve picking up meals prepared at a restaurant. Usually you will announce that you are picking up an Uber Eats order and provide an order number or name. In some instances if the food isn't prepared yet, you may have some wait time at the restaurant.
Some food orders require the contractor to place the order with the restaurant and pay for it with a debit card provided by Uber. Usually this happens with local restaurants that don't have a direct delivery agreement with Uber.
A third possibility is that you may have to shop for items at a grocery store or other type of store. In this situation, you will shop for the items, then pay for them with the Uber-provided debit card.
In my experience, Uber Eats gave me the option to choose whether I wanted to opt in to the shopping or ordering deliveries. Whether they still give the option to new drivers, I don't know. They will also indicate on the offer whether you have to order the food or shop for items. That gives you flexibility in choosing whether it's worth the extra time for these types of deliveries.
Delivering the items.
Once you have the food or merchandise, it's time to take it to the customer. Uber will give you the address and instructions on what to do when you arrive.
Usually the customer will have chosen one of two options: Hand the food to the customer directly, or contact free deliveries.
Before the pandemic, handing the food to the customer was the norm. It typically involved taking the customer's order to their door, knocking, ringing or calling them, waiting for them to come to the door, and giving it to them.
Some customers will come out and meet you at the curb. This seems to happen more often with Uber Eats than with other delivery services, maybe as a throw back to when people were more accustomed to Uber as a rideshare service.
When the pandemic hit, Uber added a contact free option. Most deliveries now seem to be no-contact deliveries. The customer may leave instructions on where to leave the food. Follow the instructions, then take a picture of the food, and leave information about where it was left.
All of this is directed by instructions in the Uber Eats app. Through the app, you can message the customer, or call them when needed. When the delivery is complete, you can mark in the app that it's done, and that opens you up for new offers.
Sometimes Uber Eats will send another offer to you while your delivery is in progress. You have the option as always to reject or accept that delivery.
4. Getting paid for your delivery
There's not an actual Uber Eats paycheck, but there are different ways you can be paid for services. Uber Eats has a wallet in their driver app that your payments are deposited into.
With the completed delivery, the delivery fees that are paid by Uber Eats are deposited into your wallet. An hour after the delivery, any customer tips that were paid through the Uber app or website are also deposited into your account.
You can choose to accept that money instantly using Instant Pay. Instant Pay is an option where your money is immediately deposited on your attached debit card. Uber charges $0.50 for each instant withdrawal.
There's also an option to get an Uber Visa debit card from GoBank that lets you take instant pay without any withdrawal fee.
At the end of each week, any money in your wallet will be deposited to the bank account you have on file with them, using ACH direct deposit. There is no fee for this weekly deposit.
Uber Eats has been experimenting with cash payment options for customers. The customer pays the delivery person cash for the entire order. If the payment is higher than Uber's delivery fee, the additional money is applied to previous or future delivery payments that would have otherwise been paid through the app.
In the end, how much money you make on Uber Eats in a given time is simply the sum of all the delivery fees, incentives and tips that add up from your deliveries completed in that time.
How much do Uber Eats drivers make in delivery fees?
Understand that you are paid for each delivery, not your time. Payment includes one or more of the following:
- The delivery fee from Uber Eats
- A trip supplement (extra pay) that Uber Eats may choose to add to the pay
- Incentives that Uber Eats offers (especially during high demand periods)
- The tip from the customer.
Uber Eats has a pay formula that they use to calculate your delivery fee. It takes into account time and distance involved to travel, as well as a pickup fee and drop-off fee.
While Uber used to make the pick-up fee, dropoff fee, and driver pay per minute and mile public on a city by city basis. When they changed the model they became far less transparent about how they calculate pay.
The trip supplement is a wild card that Uber may add to the pay to meet a minimum delivery fee for your market or to make a lower paying delivery order a little more attractive to an Ubereats delivery driver.
When things are really busy, Uber sometimes offers incentives to get more delivery people out. It could be surge prices that are additional payments per delivery, a bonus for completing consecutive deliveries, or boost promotions that offer a higher percentage of the delivery fee.
The final payment is sometimes different than what was offered. There are two reasons this can happen. One, customers have up to an hour to edit, add or delete the tip they placed when ordering. The second is that Uber Eats hides part of the pay when the customer tip is more than $8.00.
How this is all different when you are an independent contractor than if you were an employee:
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You may have noticed a few things about the delivery process earlier:
You can choose if, when, and where you want to deliver. There is no schedule. Uber Eats cannot tell you when you can go available. You choose for yourself the best times to seek out Uber delivery requests.
You can choose whether to accept or reject any delivery offer. When Uber chose to use contractors instead of hiring employees, they forfeited the right to control when, how or where you worked.
Your relationship with Uber Eats is a business to business relationship. Ultimately, they are your customer, not your employer.
You are paid by the task. There is no hourly rate or salary. Minimum wage pay rates do not apply.
Your obligations and agreements with Uber Eats are on a delivery by delivery basis. Once you accept a delivery offer, you make an agreement to complete that delivery and the contract is in effect. Once it's completed, the contract is off. You have no obligation when you are not on an active delivery.
How do you get started delivering for Uber Eats?
Here's another difference between being an employee and being a contractor.
There is no interview process. New drivers are not hired, but instead all you are doing is signing up for the opportunity. If you meet the Ubereats requirements and can pass a background check, and if there's a need for contractors in your area, that's pretty much all there is to the application process.
If you have a friend or family member who delivers for Uber Eats, ask if they have a referral code. Sometimes they can make a little extra money and you can get a bit of extra bonus once you complete a certain number of deliveries when using their referral code.
If you don't have one, you can sign up using my link.
When signing up, you can choose whether to deliver by car, by scooter, or bike (or on bike or foot in some markets). I found that I had to create two different accounts, one for using my car and a different one for bike deliveries. I'm a little surprised they haven't fixed that yet.
Essentially you need to meet the minimum age requirements (which vary slightly by type of delivery) and be able to pass a background check. You need a valid drivers license for car or scooter delivery, or a valid state or US government ID for bike/foot delivery. To deliver by car you need a car and insurance registered in your name. Your car will need to meet vehicle requirements (mainly it needs to be 20 years old or newer).
Basically, what you do is sign up, agree to the background check, upload copies of documents as requested, and wait. Once approved, download the Uber driver app, log in with the credentials you set up when you signed up, and away you go.
The pros of delivering for Uber Eats
For me personally, one of the best things about delivering for Uber Eats is being my own boss. In fact, it's THE best thing, in my opinion.
I love that I can just choose to deliver whenever it works for me. I don't have to schedule ahead of time and I don't have to ask if I can work. All I need to do is press Go on the app and I can start making money.
The ability to choose which delivery offers I want to accept is huge. I can decide if it makes sense to take an offer or not.
Uber Eats is probably the best in the food delivery industry at this, seeming to pay less attention to things like what percentage of offers you accept than anyone else.
There's no boss looking over your shoulders and no micromanagement. In my experience, that's made this a far less stressful way of making money than just about any job I've worked. I love the fact that Uber Eats is my customer, not my boss.
It's a great way to get a feel for what it's like operating a business. You're free to make your own decisions and get a chance to find out the good and bad of it all, which is very good experience for other career options or looking into starting another type of business.
It can pay surprisingly well. That doesn't mean it will for everyone, however, I've averaged over $30 per hour in the past year.
As they say, past performance is not a guarantee of future results, but it does show what the higher end of the pay scale can look like.
I wrote in a lot more detail about what I loved about being an independent contractor doing deliveries in the gig economy. Towards the end of the article I listed 11 things that were definite benefits.
The cons of delivering for Uber Eats
One thing you HAVE to know before you begin:
There are no guarantees.
There's no minimum wage, no overtime for Uber Eats drivers, and no guarantee. You could earn well below minimum wage.
In fact, you could lose money. It's possible and not unheard of for the cost of using your car to be greater than what you earn. This is why it's so important to be selective about whether you choose to accept an Uber Eats offer.
Uber Eats is casting people into the role of business owner who aren't prepared to be business owners. If you're not thinking of profit and loss, are not prepared to be completely on your own for taxes, vehicle maintenance and operation costs and other expenses, this could be a nightmare.
You can get in real big trouble with taxes. Income and self-employment taxes can add up to thousands of dollars, and no one is withholding that for you like an employer. If you're not tracking your expenses, you could pay far more in taxes than you have to.
Uber Eats can always change how they do things. They're always testing ideas. What works well now may not work later on.
Uber Eats doesn't regulate how many people are delivering. It's not unusual to have way more Uber Eats drivers out than there are orders, and that means you may not be getting offers from them.
The biggest thing to remember is, Uber Eats is a machine. Almost literally. They manage by algorithm because they don't want to pay for people to oversee things. The computer can see a pattern and interpret it as you bending the rules or not completing deliveries as agreed, and next thing you know you can't deliver for them any more. There is no due process, they just terminate your account.
You can read more here about some of the warnings you should consider before becoming an independent contractor.
Is Uber Eats best part-time or full-time?
Because it's an independent contractor relationship, you can make it whatever type of relationship you want it to be.
A lot of people will tell you it was never meant to be full-time. They are wrong. The gig economy model was created to avoid hiring full-time employees by instead using short term contracts (in the case of Uber Eats, delivery by delivery contracts) with independent contractors.
Here's where people are wrong when they say it wasn't meant to be full-time. The full-time avoidance is on the part of the gig economy companies, NOT on the part of the contractor. In fact, it's normal for a business owner to try to make a full-time living with their business.
In the end, it's up to you whether doing Uber Eats full-time or part-time makes sense.
Benefits of part time delivery
In my opinion, this can be a fantastic part time way to earn extra income. The flexibility of creating your own schedule and making your own decisions makes it a great side hustle.
There are a lot of things that make it easy to blend in with other things going on in life. You can work around other jobs. You can blend it in with family schedules. The ability to deliver at any given time makes it a great way to make extra cash for college students who need to work around class schedules.
Sometimes it just works to turn on the app when I'm running errands and see if I can pick up a delivery along the way. It's the perfect spare time gig.
Uber Eats is probably the most flexible of the food delivery apps when it comes to scheduling. There is no schedule component for an Ubereats driver like there is with the other major food delivery services Doordash or Grubhub. You just choose your own hours (or minutes) when to deliver and when to stop.
That makes it easier to conform with your free time and decide how much time is a good idea for you to devote to this as a side gig.
Is it a good full time gig?
The risks of being an independent contractor are greater if you choose to try this full time. This is because as an independent contractor, there's no safety net. Uber Eats makes no guarantees and you have no employee protections.
Understand that Uber Eats delviery will never be a full time job, because quite simply, it isn't a job.
However, I've delivered full time in the gig economy for more than four years. For me, it was a better paying option than a lot of traditional jobs I could have done.
Having said that: I would personally not dream of doing Uber Eats exclusively as a full time gig. There's too much volatility where sometimes there can be higher demand, and other times there's nothing available.
There was a time I'd rarely touch Uber Eats as a delivery option, because they didn't provide any information about the delivery. Recently they started testing in some cities where they wouldn't show as much information on delivery offers unless you've accepted five of the last ten offers. That kind of thing is a game changer for me.
If Uber Eats is my only source of income, it gives them too much power over me. If I'm contracting with them as a business, I'm not willing to give them that kind of power.
Full time can be a great option. However, if you're going to try this full time, the only way I'd recommend you do it is to take seriously the idea that you're running a business. Look at Uber Eats as your customer, and understand that it's foolish for a business to rely on one customer.
I write more here about things to think about if you want to do this full time. I think you'd be surprised how well you can do. But you have to do it with the understanding that it's just like any business: There's no guarantee and it's all on your shoulders.
How to decide if Uber Eats is worth it for you
The first question I would ask is, what exactly is it you want to do here?
If you are searching for whether this is a good idea or not, there has to be a reason. What are you looking for? Think long and hard about the answer to that. Dig deep into why you're even considering it.
I say that because the pros can be great for some, but the cons can be too much for others. How does that risk match up against your goals and objectives? How do they compare to your why?
Does the fact that you're completely on your own scare you off? There's nothing wrong with that if it does. If you're looking for an actual job, you want guarantees and protections, Uber Eats is not the thing for you. If you understand now that Uber doesn't offer any of that for you, you're dodging a bullet.
Are you willing to be accountable for your own taxes? Do you feel comfortable keeping track of the miles you drive and any other expenses that come from running your own business?
How important is the freedom and flexibility? If you love the idea of making your own decisions and working around your schedule (not your boss's) this could be a great way to go.
Are you intrigued at the idea of going into business for yourself? I think this is a relatively low risk way of dipping your toes in the water. Who knows where that could take you?
Like I said earlier, I can't tell you if it's a good option for you. A lot of it depends on who you are and what is important to you.
For me, the upside was far greater than the risk and it was more than worth it. For you it could be the same, or it could be totally opposite.