Rideshare or food delivery?

Q3 earnings recap: which pays more – rideshare or food delivery?


With all the opportunities drivers have to earn in the gig economy, it’s not easy to know which service will make you the most money in the least amount of time, and with the smallest amount of hustle. There are pros and cons to rideshare and food delivery, and endless ways they can be compared.

In this post, we focus on what really matters most to drivers: how much money you can make. Does Uber pay more than DoorDash? Is it worth it to switch between Grubhub and DoorDash, or Uber and Lyft? What about Uber Eats? To look at how to answer these questions, we’ll examine:

  • How much did rideshare and delivery drivers make in 2021?
  • What’s behind 2021 trends in rideshare and food delivery pay?
  • How to tell whether rideshare or delivery will make you more money
  • Should you stick with rideshare or delivery, or do both?

How much did rideshare and delivery drivers make in 2021?

There’s nothing like numbers when you’re looking for the objective truth. So, here are some data-driven graphs comparing earnings for rideshare and delivery drivers.

Let’s start with a picture of driver pay during 3rd Quarter 2021.

Unlike past years, the average rideshare driver pay per trip remained rather stable throughout the 3rd Quarter of 2021. As shown on this graph, the per-trip pay rate for rideshare averaged $14.37. You can get more details about rideshare driver earnings in this recent Gridwise blog post.

The average per-trip pay for food delivery drivers was somewhat less, but it also remained stable, as shown in this graph:

Food delivery drivers earned an average of $8.24 per trip during the 3rd Quarter. This is 42 percent less than the per-trip rate for rideshare drivers.

Next, we’ll look at earnings per hour. For rideshare drivers, the 2021 3rd Quarter average was $22.58.

Food delivery per-hour earnings came in at an average of $15.57, which is 31 percent less than hourly earnings for rideshare. The encouraging part of the food delivery earnings is the fact they remained consistent throughout the quarter, as this graph shows:

If you’re hoping for some advantage food delivery has over rideshare, it’s your turn to gloat. 

Rideshare drivers collected a tip average of $3.81 per trip, compared with $4.33 for delivery drivers – 12 percent more than rideshare drivers. 

This graph displays the difference in tip earnings between the two types of gig driving:

As we’ve shown, delivery drivers didn’t make as much money overall in the 3rd Quarter as rideshare drivers, but that doesn’t mean food delivery is not a viable way to make money with gig driving. When we look at the 2021 trends behind the rideshare and food delivery earnings story, some interesting facts come to light.

What’s behind 2021 trends in rideshare and food delivery pay?

If you can think back to the way the world was pre-2020, you may recall that food delivery was nowhere near as prevalent as it became after the COVID-19 shutdowns. In November of 2020, MarketWatch noted that the food delivery business more than doubled in that year.

Before COVID-19 changed the world, people looked at food delivery as a luxury, something one would only do if illness or bad weather made it impossible to go out and dine at a favorite eatery. When the shelter-in-place orders kicked in, those “impossible” conditions became a fact of everyday life. As a result, the food delivery business boomed.

Meanwhile, many rideshare drivers floundered under the lockdown conditions. Although most were classified as “essential workers,” and thereby permitted to drive, the riding public wasn’t having much of it. Most rides were for front-line workers who needed transportation to their places of work, and they were few and far between. The Lyft and Uber driver pay rate plummeted in early and mid-2020. 

Because it was so hard to make money in rideshare, many drivers switched to food delivery. This is how they managed to keep working and maintain an income. At the same time, many drivers for both rideshare and delivery sat out the height of the pandemic. They were frightened of being exposed to the virus, and for the first time, emergency measures made it possible to collect unemployment compensation.

When the economy started to rebound in many states, the rideshare and delivery companies offered incentives to get drivers to come back to work. The Uber Eats pay rate and the DoorDash pay rate soared with these incentives. This was also true for Uber drivers, who were offered unbelievable incentives.

As time went on, it wasn’t surprising to see that more rideshare drivers returned to work. In June 2020, this Gridwise post asked if the delivery boom would last forever – and the answer to that is pretty obvious now. To most of our surprise, the food delivery business has remained solid. What we didn’t expect was for the delivery business to continue to thrive even after most restaurants, bars, and grocery stores were reopened to the public.

It turns out that food delivery is still growing strong. What’s more, it’s projected to continue growing. These graphs from Business of Apps show projections for food delivery in the US through 2025:

Apparently, the convenience of delivery has caught on and continues to be a popular way for people to get restaurant meals. Because of this, we can expect an increased demand for delivery drivers over time. This may challenge the companies to provide incentives to keep the drivers they already have, as well as recruit more.

Rideshare is also expected to experience remarkable growth through 2025, according to Mordor Intelligence:

Mordor Intelligence also projects that the global rideshare market – valued at $73 billion in 2020 – is projected to expand to $209.6 billion by 2026. This will likely happen due to a variety of factors, including how much more it’s going to cost to own and operate a vehicle, environmental concerns, and government incentives promoting ridesharing.

With all this in mind, it seems we’ll still be asking questions like, “Which is better to drive for Uber or DoorDash and Grubhub?” and “What is the best service to drive for?” for some time to come. 

How to tell whether rideshare or delivery will make you more money

While we debate, there’s plenty of time to examine whether delivery or rideshare will allow you to make more money. It isn’t always all about the DoorDash driver pay rate or the Uber Eats driver pay rate versus how much the average rideshare driver is bringing home. How you make money and how much you make depends on where you’re located and when you drive.

There are rhythms that determine business in cities and suburbs. Along with customer volume at different times of day and in various seasons of the year, those rhythms dictate how you can make the most of your driving gig. Working your area randomly, noticing for yourself when it’s easier to deliver or rideshare drive, isn’t the most efficient way to figure out your work patterns.

So … isn’t it great that Gridwise has your back? We offer you solid information about driving and delivery volume in your area with our new features, Where to Drive and When to Drive. These features use real data from drivers just like you to show you where the money’s being made.

Where to Drive gives you the picture of the best places on the map for the day or time during the week. You can see the number of trips and earnings for either delivery or rideshare.

Click on the Where to Drive icon on the Home screen, and drill down for more detailed data:

When to Drive gives you driver data based on the days of the week and times of day. Historical data can reveal patterns based on seasons and other factors that determine the demand for rideshare and delivery. Read this Gridwise blog post to get the full story on When to drive.

That’s not all Gridwise gives you. Use the Ultimate Rideshare and Delivery Assistant to receive: 

  • Airport information: arrivals, departures, and queue lengths at your location
  • Weather: current information and weather alerts
  • Traffic: traffic alerts
  • Gas deals: join Gridwise Plus and get $.10 off per gallon with Gridwise Gas
  • Event information: everything you need to know about local events

Knowing where and when you can make the most money, for either rideshare or delivery, is information you can take to the bank. Download the Gridwise app now!

Should you stick with rideshare or delivery, or do both?

Maybe you have your mind made up about driving for rideshare. You like meeting people, and you feel the pay is always better than delivery. This might be true for you, but it’s also possible that you’re missing something. If you live in an area that leaves you riding around more than you’d like hoping for a ping, you may want to make a switch.

In much the same way, if you’re a sworn firm and solid delivery driver, you might balk at the idea of doing rideshare. Your vehicle may not be suitable, or maybe you just don’t want to deal with people any longer than it takes to hand them their bags at the door. You, too, could be missing out on making more money in less time if you fail to at least explore your options for driving rideshare.

There’s much to be said for doing both, and here are a few reasons why it might make sense:

  • You get more variety in your work
  • You can take advantage of seasonal volume, holidays, and the local population
  • You can work more hours in one day, switching back and forth to match customer demand

Moving from one way of driving to another gets even more attractive when you see the incentives companies offer at any given time. Sign-on bonuses and driver incentives are common in the post-COVID-19 lockdown environment. Companies need more drivers, and they’ll pay to get you out there. 

It’s not hard to sign up for rideshare and delivery services. You can have the apps available for you and put them to use when you notice there are bonuses.

Referrals are another great way to pull in money. Recruit some friends to join you in the gig driving game, and you can all score extra bucks. Again, watch what companies are offering the biggest referral pay, do some rideshare or delivery duty for them, and start rounding up new drivers!

The best news we’ve learned from Q3 earnings for rideshare and delivery drivers is … both businesses are booming. That means you have lots of opportunities to create a gig driving business that keeps you financially strong and happy.

What do you think about the differences between rideshare and delivery? Leave us a comment, or join the discussion on the Gridwise Facebook page!


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