I’ve always had a lot of curiosity about gig type jobs. When we lived in Oregon and I was looking for a full-time job after our move there, I drove for both Uber and Lyft. Later on, once I had a full-time IT job, I also drove pizzas around for Pizza Hut. That actually ended up being a pretty good gig. Despite the long hours into the evening (I usually worked ~5:30PM to close which was a little after 11PM), the money was decent. With tips I could walk away consistently making $20/hr. This was helped by the ridiculously high minimum wage in the Portland area, which was $12/hr.
Right now, I’ve got my solid IT job working in Hamilton full-time, and that job has been great. But I was curious about DoorDash as it has risen to the top and currently dominates the food delivery apps in the US. Why not drive for the company that is delivering the most food?
The sign up process was simple, here are the steps directly on DoorDash’s site:
Not very complicated to get started. Once you’ve cleared the background check and gotten your Red Card and DoorDash bag(s), you are ready to go. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in that process. As a note, I hate reviews that don’t give cold, hard facts about the actual income potential of gig apps like this. “Make up to $30/hr.!!!” “Be your own boss!!!” “Make your own schedule!” Sure these things all sound enticing. I did the hard work for you here and I’ll give you some very real numbers to consider.
I have driven DoorDash for nine weeks, on and off. With DoorDash, you have two options to drive: you can schedule “shifts” within the app, and then go online when your shift starts. For instance, last night I snagged a 5PM-9PM shift, and it was a good time to be out there since folks are hungry and ordering dinner. The other other option is to “Dash Now” which basically allows you to go online on demand. However, you can only do this if there are not already too many Dashers out and about. You will only be able to go online on demand if there is higher demand for delivery than the number of drivers currently on the road. During busy meal times, I have usually been able to go online at will. I believe that pre-scheduled drivers get order priority over those that Dash Now. So if you want the best case scenario for getting orders, schedule your Dash ahead of time.
During these nine weeks, here are my cold, hard, fast, and honest numbers:
Total Deliveries: 132
Total Hours Worked: 60.15
Total DoorDash Pay: $535.75
Total Tips: $515.59
Total Income: $1,051.34
Average Total Hourly Income: $17.48
Okay, a few things to unpack here. First, let’s just get to the number you care about. With tips, I have been able to make almost $17.50 an hour. That’s fine. Not life changing, but it is better than a kick in the pants. And it’s less than what the gig apps will promise that you can make working for them.
Secondly, you’ll notice that a TON of the income relies on people’s generosity (read: mercy) by offering tips. 51% of my income has been from the base pay, while 49% has been from tips alone. Crazy. If you don’t consider tips, I am in the range of Montana minimum wage ($8.75 starting Jan. 1st) at $8.91 an hour. Not great. The point is, if you don’t get decent tips, this is a crappy gig. Another side note here: if you order from these food delivery apps, try not to be cheap. The person delivering your food is not getting rich doing what they are doing. And a good tip goes a long way in making a driver’s night.
Things I Like – There are a lot of things I like about driving for DoorDash. I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to, and I can if I do. When you work a regular second job, you have shifts and expectations. With a gig job, you do it when you want. This flexibility is actually quite nice. I don’t have to haul people around in my car. This is my introvert side coming out. Driving for Uber or Lyft is filled with making small talk with strangers, trying to play the right music in your car, blah blah blah. I don’t have to impress the food I am delivering, it doesn’t judge.
Getting direct deposit payment once a week is nice to. Every Tuesday morning after I work, even a little bit the week before, I’ve got some extra cash in my account. Nice!
The DoorDash app is actually really well done. It is easy to use, makes finding restaurants and delivery spots pretty easy, and generally just does what it is supposed to do pretty well.
Being able to know how much you are going to make before you take a delivery is nice, too. If an order comes in for a 10 mile drive for $3, I’m not doing it. $6 for a mile drive? Sure, why not. You have some autonomy in which orders you decide to take.
Things I Do Not Like – While I have been fortunate to get tips at a good, consistent rate, it stinks that you have to rely on people’s generosity to make this a gig worth your time. It would be nice if the base pay was higher, making tips what they should be, which is icing on the cake. Tip culture… ughh I could write about how messed up it is in our country but I will refrain for the time being.
Finding houses and apartments at night can be a real hassle. The orders to well-lit, well-labeled neighborhoods usually go smoothly. But rolling into a maze of huge apartment buildings that all look the same and don’t have street addresses on them… don’t even get me started. Frustrating and a big waste of time.
This is neither a positive or negative, but hustling helps your bottom line. If you take your time going into a restaurant, driving, or finding the door to deliver to, you are wasting your own time and money. Having pep in your step improves your bottom line since you get to the next order faster. More orders = more base pay + more tips = more money.
You are at the mercy of restaurants being efficient and ready with your order. Most are great. I run in, the order is sitting there waiting for me, and I’m on my way. The not so good ones, I show up and have to wait 10 minutes for it to finish, or there is a long line at the drive through window I have to wait in. You don’t get paid for this wasted time. The faster you move, the better.
Some Basic Tips – Use a phone holder. I have one mounted to my car’s windshield, and it is perfect. Having your phone/maps app at road level is both convenient and much safer than holding your phone while you drive. This is actually against the law almost everywhere, so just go ahead and get a phone mount.
Having a phone charger is another must. There is nothing more stressful than having good success with orders and then your phone starts indicating low battery! Keep yourself charged too. Bring some snacks or even a small meal if you are going to be out ad about for a longer shift. Bring a water bottle too, it’s important to stay hydrated.
You will also want to hone your judgement in accepting the “right” orders. As I said earlier, you can get some pretty ridiculously cheap payouts for super long deliveries. Don’t take them! Decline them and wait for a better one to come in, they usually do. It’s also good to take into consideration the restaurant you are picking up for. Some do a good job of having orders ready for gig workers to pick up, but others drag their feet or consistently have long drive through lines. The worst! The only way to know these things is to practice by doing. You’ll soon find a good balance of which orders are worth your time and effort.
Other Considerations – The vehicle you use to drive for food delivery is important, in my opinion. We have three cars right now (trying to get rid of one soon). I only ever drive the ’94 Honda Accord (probably worth about $2,000) or our ’08 Toyota Prius (probably about $5,000). You do not want to put a lot of miles on a newer, more expensive vehicle. With the miles you put on and the inevitable potholes you hit, you are draining the resale value of your car. If you drive an older car, like the Honda, for example, most of the depreciation on it has already occurred. I bought it for $2,200 with 174,000 miles I think. It’s got 182,000 on it now. I could drive it to 200,000 and still sell it for around $2k. If you drove a nice $20,000 car around and put a lot of miles on it, you won’t be able to sell it for even close to that. In the Ovenell family, we call low priced cars that won’t lose much value cars that are in the “compression zone”. Thanks Dad and Grandpa for that one…
Don’t forget your other expenses of driving around. Besided the depreciation, you will go through tires faster, you will have to perform repairs more often, and will need to change your oil more frequently. You don’t want to neglect vehicle maintenance since the car is your main money making tool doing this. When you subtract out that maintenance and gas for driving around, that $17.50 an hour shrinks considerably. Something to consider.
I haven’t done this, but you may want to track your mileage with an app like Everlance. When tax time comes around, you can write off the mileage you’ve driven for the gig apps. This can help you reduce your taxable income at the end of the year, which will in turn lower your tax bill.
Best Application of Gig Jobs – A job like this has its place. I would not do it full time. You are going to drive your car into the ground, making just okay money in the process. In my opinion, you are better off trying to find a lower-end job doing something that doesn’t involve driving your personal car around. If you do go for a near minimum wage job, try to get one that involves receiving tips. In my example, you can see that tips can change the game.
For me, driving for DoorDash allows me to drive which I love, puts a couple bucks in my pocket, and lets us send an extra payment toward debt every now and again. I don’t rely on it for reliable or must-have income, and I don’t think it should be used as such.
If you are trying to make progress on paying off credit cards or student loans, heck, I’d say go for it! It can be a good financial shot in the arm, and can give you an extra edge if you don’t have overtime or other ways to make more money at your main job.