There was a time when driving for a food delivery service was rare among rideshare drivers.
But after the sweeping changes brought about by COVID-19 and its aftermath, delivery has become as much a part of gig driving as rideshare.
And actually, delivery is the safer option. Many rideshare drivers have added delivery to their gig portfolio, and some have shifted totally to delivery. Others have been making good money all along doing delivery driving only.
With more drivers involved in delivery, it’s worth knowing what the biggest companies have to offer. Although the major delivery companies do basically the same thing, each has its positive and negative points.
Our aim in this post is to review the companies you can drive for and tell you about them, so you can decide which are the best delivery services to drive for.
We’ll talk in general about what a delivery driver’s work is like, and then take a look at Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Amazon. We’ll tell you what we know about each of the services so you can be totally informed about which one(s) you like most. So let’s get started …
What it’s like to be a food delivery driver
First, let’s cover what it’s like to deliver.
Driving for delivery is pretty straightforward, but there are nuances you’ll want to know about. Whether you’re starting as a total rookie or are a seasoned rideshare pro, there are some basics you need to have before you dive into delivery driving.
Just in case you’re wondering, you’ll work as an independent contractor just as you do with rideshare. The hourly rates mentioned in this article represent gross pay. So, you’ll need to take taxes into consideration, as well as expenses like fuel, vehicle repair, vehicle maintenance, insurance, and wear and tear on your vehicle.
How to sign up to drive for a food delivery (Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub) company
Starting work for a food delivery company isn’t much different from signing up with a rideshare platform. You download the app, fill out the forms, upload some information, and wait for the background check to come through. You can find out more about the specifics for each company on their websites, which you can access by clicking on the company names in this article.
Whether you’re already a rideshare driver, or are choosing between rideshare and delivery for your first driving gig, you’ll want to know about the features of delivery driving that set it apart:
- More flexibility with vehicle age and type: For most delivery services, your vehicle can be up to 20 years old, and can be a two-door or four-door model;
- In some areas, you may not need a car at all. You can use a bike or scooter, and if you’re an urban delivery person, you can even work on foot;
- Less interaction with the public: You simply pick up food and drop it off. You still see people and speak with them, but the interactions are short and superficial;
- More predictable working hours: Mealtimes are the most popular times for food delivery, so you’ll definitely want to work then. There are other opportunities to deliver, though, such as the “midnight nosh” shift.
If you’re now sold on being a delivery driver, keep reading for some tips to prepare you more thoroughly.
Things you’ll want to have as a food delivery driver
A hot and cold bag or box. Your company may or may not give you a thermal bag when you sign up to drive, but it’s good to have at least one. If you want happy customers that give good tips, you’ll need to keep food and drinks at the desired temperature.
A crate of some kind is another good accessory. This can make carrying bags of food back and forth from your car a lot less awkward. While you’re in transit, the crate helps limit spills on your vehicle’s upholstery and carpeting.
Payment for parking. Especially in urban areas, parking can be an issue for pickup and delivery. Carry quarters with you, or have a parking app ready to go, so you don’t wind up having to pay fines for tickets. Also, don’t forget to add your parking cost to your tax-deductible expenses.
Protective clothing and equipment. Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Unlike rideshare drivers, delivery people don’t stay behind the wheel for hours on end. Having the right weather gear is crucial—you won’t want to have to stop working because a sudden storm catches you without rain gear. Depending on the climate where you live, a brush and scraper for snow and ice may also be essential.
Sure-footedness. Wear appropriate shoes or boots. You’ll be walking and carrying a lot. You won’t want to slip on wet or icy sidewalks, or roll an ankle when boxes or bags block your view of where your feet are landing.
Things every food delivery driver needs to know
Payment for orders. Some companies cover every part of the payment in the app, while others don’t. You will probably need a payment card from your company that you’ll use when you pick up your customers’ orders. The restaurant or other establishment will process the payment and charge the company’s account. The company then will charge the customer.
If your company uses a card, it will be mailed to you shortly after you sign up as a driver.
Talking about making the payment now might seem premature, but we want you to be prepared. While it’s possible to start delivery driving without a company card, you won’t get many requests until you get one. Once you receive it, activate it and start to use it ASAP. Carry it with you into every restaurant or establishment, because you will need to use it most of the time.
Accepting orders. Now, let’s shift into reverse and look at what happens when you first open up for taking orders. Just like any other service, you turn on the app and wait for a request. When a ping comes in, in most cases you’ll get a rundown of where you need to pick up the order, an approximation of how long it will take to complete the delivery trip, and how much you’re likely to make. Click on the order to accept it, and you’ll get directed to the restaurant or store to pick it up.
Know before you go. Check the specifications for the order carefully. You may want to pull over to make sure you understand what you have to do. In some cases, you’ll be expected to place the order on behalf of the customer, so you’ll have to pull over, make the call, and then proceed to the restaurant. That way they can get the order started and save you the extra wait when you arrive to pick it up.
The pick-up. Each restaurant or other establishment has a different setup for drivers. Sometimes, directions such as “pick up at drive-thru” will come up on the app. If not, check the doors and windows of the restaurant or store for signs that will give you pick-up instructions.
Once you find out where to go, you’ll want to bring your thermal bag and/or your crate with you. Sometimes the bags are sealed, so you can’t check the order to make sure it’s complete; but if the bags are open, it helps to take a look. Bring extra condiments, utensils, and napkins, if you can. These are the items your customers may appreciate enough to inspire them to give you a nice tip.
The drop-off. Driving with food in the car can be … interesting. Arrange the order in your car in a way that avoids spills, and remember you’re carrying precious cargo for your hungry customers. Check the app for any specific delivery instructions. Note: If you have alcohol in the order, you must verify the customer receiving it is over the legal drinking age, and you must get the customer’s signature. This means orders with alcohol cannot be delivered contact-free. Alert the customer and make sure they’ll be waiting for you when you arrive.
One more thing. During busier times, you might be asked to pick up two or three orders on one trip. This is called “stacking” orders. Pay close attention to your app, and pick the orders up in the sequence shown. Your app will use GPS to take you on the route from one order and delivery to the next, so you won’t have to do your own map-out plotting. Stacking is a good reason to make sure you have more than one thermal bag, and possibly that crate we mentioned earlier.
Now that you know the basics of delivery driving, let’s look at the best companies and what makes each of them stand out.
Most Uber rideshare drivers have had at least one experience with Uber Eats.
Back when rideshare was much busier than it is today, Uber sometimes changed the settings after an app refresh. Unbeknownst to most drivers, they were set to accept Uber Eats deliveries whether they volunteered to do so or not. Uber still sneaks in a settings change from time to time, but not as often as in the past. And now, many drivers are voluntarily turning on the option to deliver for Uber Eats
All Uber drivers have the option to deliver for Uber Eats, and drivers can sign up for it without becoming Uber rideshare drivers. Among those who are rideshare drivers, more of them are flicking that Uber Eats switch “on” these days because they see the benefits of gigging for Uber’s delivery arm.
While most of the food delivered by Uber Eats comes from restaurants, Uber announced in October 2020 that it planned to expand the service to include groceries, florist services, and pet supplies.
One good aspect of Uber Eats is how easily you can mix rideshare and delivery into one gig.
By simply toggling your availability for delivery “on” and “off,” you can keep working whether there are a lot of passengers or more people looking for food. With the expanded services, Uber delivery can go on at almost any time of day.
The other good thing about Uber Eats is that it’s already in most markets, and is in the process of expanding even further. In New York, there’s a tab on the app customers can use to get groceries delivered, and there are plans to expand grocery delivery to more cities very soon.
In other places in the U.S., Uber Eats drivers are delivering over-the-counter pharmacy items as well as prescriptions. It’s likely that Uber is going to roll both these services out as widely as possible, so more opportunities to make more money with Uber Eats seems like a definite.
The downside of working for Uber Eats is that the company isn’t overly generous about supplies. You have to buy your own insulated bags, for example. The use of a card, called “Uber Plus,” is optional. Uber encourages you to send for one, but it’s not as crucial as it is for some other apps.
In fact, the drivers we’ve heard from don’t give the card great reviews, so you may want to think twice before getting one. You can continue to deliver without the card, but not on foot. Uber Eats requires you to have a car, bike, or scooter. You can expect to make somewhere around $14.81, according to Gridwise data. This may fluctuate depending on where you live.
Note: Lyft is also contemplating going into the delivery business, but details are not yet available. We’ll update you when they start flowing in; in the meantime, you can read more about it in this article.
DoorDash proudly asserts that it gets more requests for deliveries than any other app, and it has the statistics to back up the claim. According to Second Measure, a data analysis company that collects stats about food delivery companies, DoorDash commanded 51 percent of U.S. meal deliveries in October 2020. This is good for drivers because it means that as a DoorDash driver, better known as a Dasher, you’re likely to get lots of requests for deliveries.
With such a popular app there are often waiting lists for new Dashers, but don’t let this stop you from signing up. You are likely to make it to the top of the list before you know it. With DoorDash, you can use your car, bike, scooter, or motorcycle to deliver, although the company doesn’t allow deliveries on foot.
DoorDash drivers use a payment card, called the Red Card, which you’ll receive shortly after signing on. You’ll also get a thermal bag delivered to you within a few days of becoming a driver, and you won’t have to pay for it (which is nice). If you want more equipment, you can buy what you need from DoorDash.
DoorDash can be a reliable source of income if you don’t mind hustling. The company, according to Gridwise data, pays an average of $14.02 per hour. This could be less or more, depending on where you live.
One good thing about DoorDash is that it’s familiar and widely available. Another is that it has partnered with Walmart, so there are even more opportunities to deliver. DoorDash is definitely a player in the delivery market, and shows signs that it will continue to grow.
DoorDash pay is in the lower range and that’s one not-so-great aspect of working for this company. Also,that’s pretty important. While you’re apt to get a lot of requests, you’ll have to make many deliveries to earn the kind of cash you might rake in with a company that deals with higher-end restaurants.
Postmates also has a reputation for being a higher-paying, higher-end service. There are claims that Postmate Fleet drivers’ median income in 2020, as measured by Gridwise, was $9.95 per hour.
The company will provide you with a card, as well as a thermal bag, shortly after you sign up. You’re not required to use the card for payments, but if you don’t get one, you won’t get as many calls.
You can use a bike to deliver with Postmates, and in some areas you can even walk to make your deliveries.
Postmates has been a relatively successful company. In fact, its potential for growth attracted the attention of Uber, which acquired Postmates in July 2020. While the two companies will combine resources, Postmates will continue to operate as a separate company, at least for now. If you want to read about the merger and what it means for drivers, check out this Gridwise blog post.
Collectively, Uber Eats and Postmates will control at least 37 percent of the food delivery market. Also worth noting is that part of Postmates’ original mission was to “enable anyone to have anything delivered on demand,” as its website states. Once the deal is finalized, both Uber Eats and Postmates will be in the business of delivering more than just food, offering drivers more opportunities to earn.
This ability to deliver more than just food, the potential for high bonuses, and higher average earnings, are some great aspects of working for Postmates. The only downside is that Postmates isn’t available as widely as Uber Eats, DoorDash, or some of the other services.
But who knows? With Uber’s cash and humongous network backing the company up, the Postmates Fleet may expand to more cities and towns.
Although it is often compared to DoorDash, Grubhub is more widely known due to its presence in more than 4,000 cities in the U.S. and Canada. It’s obvious that the company sets high standards for its drivers.
For instance, the use of insulated bags is not optional. Grubhub will send two bags, and you have the opportunity to purchase more through the app.
There are waiting lists for new driver approvals in many areas, as the company doesn’t want to saturate the market with drivers. Don’t let this discourage you, but do keep applying to additional companies. You can also deliver for Grubhub with a bicycle in certain areas, usually large cities.
Grubhub stands out because it permits drivers to schedule work in blocks of time, through the app. This gives drivers the opportunity to organize their calendars around the times when they’re available to work. Drivers who schedule blocks get first dibs on deliveries, which makes this method more attractive. In some cities there is even a minimum payment, in the event that a driver doesn’t get many (or any) orders during a scheduled shift.
Earnings for Grubhub drivers average about $16.71 per hour, according to Gridwise data, showing that Grubhub drivers earn a bit more than drivers from other services. You’ll still have to work hard, but it’s possible to make a very decent income, especially if you factor in tips.
As a Grubhub driver, you’ll use a payment card, which will arrive as part of the package you receive when you first sign on. You will need to use it when orders are not prepaid.
Grubhub is a good delivery company. Its drivers are treated with respect, and the company tries to keep them happy. That, along with the large footprint Grubhub has in the food delivery universe, makes it a good choice for drivers. And now that Lyft has partnered with Grubhub, the future looks even brighter for drivers.
The low hourly rate, however, is a big negative. It would be great if Grubhub offered more bonuses and premiums, especially with the uptick in delivery business that’s taken place in 2020. Whether that will actually happen is unknown.
Before you go – get a safety net!
As a delivery driver, you are an independent contractor. While this gives you a lot of flexibility and self-determination, it also means the company you work for won’t pay you the benefits you might get from a full time job with a corporation.
What can you do to protect yourself from lost wages due to health concerns, hospitalization, unfair deactivation, or post-collision vehicle repair?
Gridwise Protection goes over and above any insurance your company might offer, and protects you even when you’re not rideshare and delivery driving. Gridwise Protection will replace 80 percent of your lost income, when you’re unable to work for any of the reasons we mentioned.
Gridwise Protection only costs $7 per month! When you sign on, you can say goodbye to worrying over many of those pesky “What if?” scenarios that plague independent contractors. If you lose your income temporarily, Gridwise Protection will have you covered!
Not only do you get financial support, again, up to 80% of your income from driving, there’s free legal advice for those who are unfairly deactivated. With the rate some companies are unfairly deactivating drivers – some 62 percent – insurance against that is well worth the price of Gridwise Protection.
Also, if you get sick, Gridwise Protection offers telehealth services you can count on, 24/7.