Although the company is only a decade old, DoorDash is now synonymous with side hustles and earning extra cash outside of a 9-to-5 job. In fact, over 1 million people deliver food for DoorDash’s 25 million customers.
But how much can you really earn? After the gas, insurance and time, is being a DoorDash driver really worth it? And can this turn into a legitimate, full-time job?
Let’s explore whether driving for DoorDash is a worthwhile way to make extra cash on the side.
DoorDash offers solid earning potential, but it’s important to remember that your per-hour rate will vary widely depending on your location, demand in your area and the times of day you’re willing to work. You’re also responsible for gas and other vehicle-related expenses, and as an independent contractor, you’re not eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. Still, dashing can be an easy way to earn good money with minimal experience, especially if you need the ability to work around school or other scheduling challenges.
- You can choose your own hours.
- Get paid instantly for a $1.99 fee (if approved for the program).
- DoorDash won’t deactivate your account if you decide to take a break from deliveries.
- You’re not paid for time spent waiting on orders.
- Your earnings are unpredictable.
- You're not eligible for benefits like health insurance.
DoorDash 101 for Drivers
If you’re wanting to try out dashing, here’s a quick rundown on how to get started.
Go to the DoorDash website and enter your zip code to make sure that driving opportunities are available in your area. Then, you’ll fill out your personal info (name, phone number, copy of your driver’s license). It might take them a day or two to verify your identity. In the meantime, you should download the DoorDash Driver app on your phone.
Once you’re approved, you’ll attend driver orientation (this will likely be online, but a few markets have in-person orientations). During orientation, you’ll fill out your W-9 tax form, connect your bank account, and learn how to use the DoorDash Driver app.
When you’re ready to go, tap “Dash Now” in the app to begin. Once you’ve completed at least one delivery, your Dasher activation kit will come in the mail. This has the physical items you need to do deliveries on a regular basis, like an insulated DoorDash bag and a Red Card.
Red Card Orders
Most orders are prepaid and waiting for you to grab and go when you arrive at the restaurant. However, for some DoorDash orders, you’ll need a Red Card.
This is a credit card that comes preloaded with the funds you need to pay for the customer’s order. It’s not linked to your tips, earnings or bank account; it’s just for paying for the customer’s order when payment is required before you can make a delivery.
Red Card orders aren’t nearly as common as regular orders that don’t require them, so keep your Red Card handy, but don’t worry about it if you want to pass on those orders when you first start out. (You’ll be able to tell if an order is prepaid when deciding whether to accept it or decline it.)
How Shifts Work
To organize its supply of available dashers, DoorDash allows you to schedule your times beforehand by signing up for shifts. However, the requirements for working your particular shift are a lot looser than they are with a traditional job.
There is no penalty for showing up late, and as long as you sign in within 30 minutes of your scheduled start time, you can dash for your shift. There’s also no punishment for those who end their shift early. You can also pause your shift for up to 35 minutes if you need a bathroom break or to run an errand.
Shift availability is released five days in advance at midnight. If you meet certain qualifications, you can get early access to shifts starting six days in advance at 3 p.m. This program favors consistent Dashers with good customer service ratings and high volume. DoorDash renews its ratings for early access each Friday.
If the time you have for delivering is sporadic (and your market isn’t saturated with dashers), you can use the “Dash Now” button to work whenever you have time. The availability of the Dash Now button depends on how many dashers are logged in and how many orders are available, so if you’re looking for more predictability in your working hours, signing up for shifts is the way to go.
Accepting and Making Deliveries
While you’re on a shift, you can pick and choose which deliveries you accept. In fact, many experienced dashers recommend forgoing low-paying or high-mileage orders to make a better hourly rate (though this may affect what opportunities are offered to you).
The first place the app takes you is the heat map, which tells you how busy each geographic area is. Very busy areas may offer a bonus to incentivize dashers to pick up orders.
While you’re dashing, the app will ping you with orders in your zone when they are available. The order details will tell you everything you need to know before you choose to accept or decline a delivery, including:
- How much you can expect to make for the delivery.
- The distance you’ll drive to make it.
- When the delivery is expected to arrive.
- The restaurant the order is from.
- How large the order is.
You’ll have 30-60 seconds to decide whether to accept or decline the order. Drivers are required to complete at least 80% of the orders they accept, so even if the restaurant takes longer than you expect to make the order or there’s traffic, it’s important to complete the delivery.
Once you accept an order, the app will give you directions to your pickup location. Pick up the customer’s order, double-check that it’s correct, then deliver it to the appropriate drop-off location.
Wondering if you or your vehicle will qualify for DoorDash deliveries? Here are the requirements for DoorDash drivers and vehicles as of 2023:
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- Any make, model or year of car qualifies.
- You can also use an electric scooter or bicycle (in select markets).
- Your auto insurance has to meet or exceed the minimum legal limits for the area.
- You must have a driver’s license and Social Security number (in the U.S.).
- You must consent to a background check.
- No prior work experience is necessary.
DoorDash Reviews and Consensus
Like most gig economy food delivery apps, the experience of the user will depend on the geographic location, how much time they devote to their side hustle and the extent to which they optimize the process. So your mileage may vary (pun intended).
That said, knowing the average pay rates and general consensus from the masses is useful when you’re trying to decide whether DoorDash is worth your while.
The data below was last updated on October 1, 2023.
Many reviewers note that they appreciate the fact that you can set your own hours and start earning cash quickly. They enjoy the freedom that comes from dashing where you want and when you want, and being your own boss.
However, the vehicle wear and tear, unpredictable orders and glitches with the app are definite downsides. Several dashers also said that they were underpaid for the hours and work they put in.
Despite some of the difficulties, 72% of DoorDash drivers would recommend the job to a friend.
A DoorDash delivery driver’s pay is comprised of a few factors:
- Base pay. Each order starts with a base payout that varies depending on factors like area, distance between pickup and dropoff, and time of the day.
- Tip. Drivers keep 100% of their tips.
- Bonuses. Occasionally, large or special orders will be tagged with a bonus of a few extra dollars.
How much you earn can vary significantly. If you’re dashing over a holiday weekend in a snowstorm, you could make bank thanks to sympathetic tippers and a lack of drivers on the road. If you’re working a shift at 3:30 on a sunny Tuesday, you may not make as much.
It’s important to keep in mind that as an independent contractor, you are still on the hook for your gas, car insurance, maintenance and more. So while YouTube and TikTok are replete with dashers making hundreds of dollars a day, those numbers may not reflect the extra wear and tear on their car, the cost of gas, any additional equipment (like extra insulated bags or drink holders), tolls and other miscellaneous charges.
DoorDash pays weekly if you elect to receive funds via transfer to a bank account, usually by Wednesday night. You can also choose to cash out daily, though there is a $1.99 fee for using this service.
You can also sign up for a DasherDirect card — a reloadable debit card where you can get no-fee daily deposits. DasherDirect cards also get 2% cash-back on gas. You can spend your DoorDash earnings from this card as you would a prepaid debit card.
Tips and Best Practices
While DoorDash’s business model is pretty simple — accept orders, pick up food, and drop it off — experienced dashers will tell you that there are several tricks that can make your life easier and get you better ratings and tips when you’re on a delivery route. Here are some of their jewels of wisdom:
- Pass on low-paying orders. While DoorDash emphasizes your order acceptance rate as an important metric, experienced dashers will tell you to ignore this. It’s simply not worth taking every $2 order that pops up, and you can drive down your hourly rate by doing so. Each order is like an auction; the pay rate will start low, then go up and up until a dasher snags it.
- Stack orders when you can. Multitasking by picking up multiple orders around the same time and the same area is a great way to economize. Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew, as you can get stuck in traffic or waiting at a restaurant on an order and make more than one customer unhappy with a long wait or cold food.
- Use $1 per mile as a rule of thumb. To know whether an order is worth your time, it should earn you around a dollar for every mile you have to drive. This rule protects you from chasing pennies on tiny orders that won’t even cover your gas money.
- Carry a Sharpie with you. If you stack orders, the last thing you want to do is give the wrong food to the customer. Keeping a permanent marker in the glove box is a great way to avoid the embarrassment of mixing up orders.
- Keep backup supplies. Have a stock of napkins, forks, straws, drink holders and such in case the restaurant misses something. Grabbing extra sauce packets of ketchup, BBQ, mustard and other common condiments is a good idea, too.
- Aim for peak periods. More customers equals more opportunities and likely higher pay. If you can snag Friday or Saturday night or around an office complex on a weekday lunch rush, you’ll likely make more.
- Track your mileage with an app. By turning on Everlance or a similar mileage-tracking app while you dash, you’ll be able to deduct all your mileage from your income when tax time rolls around.
- Use Upside when you need to fill your tank. Upside is a free rewards app that gives you cash-back on gas when purchased at select gas stations. In our testing, we saved up to 25 cents per gallon — a rate that can add up quickly when you’re driving for work. Learn more in our Upside review.
DoorDash Driver FAQs
DoorDash doesn’t offer a signup bonus, but the company does offer a Guaranteed Earnings Incentive. This isn’t extra money on top of base pay and tips; rather, it’s a guarantee that you’ll earn at least a minimum amount if you complete a set number of deliveries in a specific timeframe.
For instance, a Guaranteed Earnings Incentive might promise that you’ll earn $1,500 if you complete 150 deliveries in 30 days. If you earn $1,700, they won’t pay you any more (since you already met the $1,500 minimum). But if you only earn $1,200, DoorDash will make up the difference.
If you qualify for a Guaranteed Earnings Incentive, you’ll see this during the sign-up process.
Kind of. As a dasher, you are responsible for providing your own auto insurance, which must meet the minimum requirements for your state or region. However, DoorDash does provide supplemental auto insurance that covers you while you are actively dashing. Note that this insurance is only good if you’re the liable party and your auto insurance has denied the claim.
You must be 18 years old to be a delivery driver for DoorDash.
There is nothing on the DoorDash website that explicitly states that felons are disqualified from DoorDashing. However, the company does run a background check (including driving and criminal history) on each applicant.
No, unless you are in California. As 1099 employees, Dashers are responsible for their own gas, tolls and insurance. Drivers should, however, keep track of the mileage they drive so they can deduct it from their income on their taxes.
It’s worth noting that DoorDash now offers a prepaid Visa card program called DasherDirect that allows you to get 2% cash-back on gas.
If you drive for DoorDash in California, you will be reimbursed for mileage at $0.30 per mile.
Your miles are also a tax deductible expense, and the free Everlance app will track them automatically while you drive. This can lead to a significant savings at tax time. Learn more about how it works in our Everlance review.
No. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for calculating and paying all of your own taxes.
DoorDash Review: Our Verdict
Driving for DoorDash is a worthwhile side hustle. It checks all the boxes of what you’d look for in a part-time income stream: flexible hours, decent pay, the ability to scale up or down, and the ability to hit the ground running without a lot of upstart capital or industry knowledge.
But if you have an older car that’s clinging to life, you might rethink becoming a dasher. If you spend even just a few hours a week making deliveries, you’ll put a substantial number of miles on your car — a critical risk that many dashers overlook. While this mileage represents a great tax write-off, if it will put you out of a vehicle for your main job, the extra money may not be worth it.
The shifts, tips and pay for DoorDash drivers can vary widely based on the time of day, season, and geographic location, so we don’t recommend depending on dashing as your main source of income. As a side hustle or a part-time gig meant to work around a main job or a school schedule, DoorDashing is a great way to make money.
Earn more per order as compared to restaurant orders. Actual earnings may differ and depend on factors like number of deliveries you accept and complete, time of day, location, and any costs. Hourly pay is calculated using average Dasher payouts while on a delivery (from the time you accept an order until the time you drop it off) over a 90-day period, and includes compensation from tips, peak pay, and other incentives.