Last Updated on 2024-01-10

Breaking Down Dasher Pay: A Full Guide

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Davis Porter

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

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Michael Vaness

6 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, and Spark

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Scott Jones

7 years of experience working across DoorDash, Lyft, Amazon Flex, and Instacart

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Ryan Shaw

5 years of experience as a DoorDash Dasher

The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, or insurance advice. The content contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments or insurance changes. Any reader should consult with an insurance professional to obtain insurance advice tailored to their specific circumstances.

Estimating hourly pay for DoorDash drivers is notoriously difficult. The GigWolf team has surveyed a number of Dashers to try and figure out how much a Dasher can make while working full time. So while we can’t tell you exactly how much you will make, we can at least offer some examples.

Take Faith, for example. She is a Dasher based in San Diego and has been dashing since 2016. When working full-time on DoorDash, she believes she can pull in an impressive $46,924 annually from the platform. 

However, like many gig workers, she incurs expenses. And, in her case, they would amount to about $8,406 per year, bringing her annual net pay to $38,518.

Whether you manage to match up to her or not depends on several factors that will influence your earnings as a Dasher. They include:

  • Location: Dashers in densely populated cities or tourist hotspots might see more frequent orders, potentially growing their earnings faster. Scott Jones, who has been Dashing since 2018, agrees and even emphasizes, “Location is extremely critical. People out in Montana are going to have a different experience than people in NYC or San Francisco.”
  • Time of Day: Peak meal times, especially dinner, tend to be busier, leading to more orders and, consequently, higher earnings.
  • Order Volume: Naturally, the more orders you complete, the higher your earnings. On the flip side, however, this may also mean more expenses, like gas.
  • Tipping: A significant portion of a Dasher's earnings typically come from tips. As such, areas with generous tippers generally record favorable income. 
  • Promotions: DoorDash occasionally rolls out promotions where Dashers get to earn extra money during specific hours. For instance, people willing to work graveyard hours have access to promotions paying $1-5 extra per delivery,” says Scott. They mostly run between 11 PM and 5 AM). 
  • Performance Metrics: High acceptance, completion, and on-time rates could qualify you for bonuses or priority in receiving orders.

And don’t forget: pay isn’t the only thing you get from working at DoorDash: being a Dasher comes with a slew of other benefits.

How to calculate your Dasher earnings 

A Dasher's earnings can be estimated using this formula, which breaks down the earnings into three primary components – base pay, tips, and bonuses.

Total Earnings = (Base Pay + Tips + Bonuses) x Number of Deliveries

The base pay is a fixed amount that DoorDash pays for each delivery. Tips, on the other hand, are variable and largely depend on the generosity of the customer. Bonuses are additional incentives that DoorDash offers to Dashers for meeting certain criteria or working during specific hours.

What you get from that is the gross pay. To convert it to net, you just need to subtract your DoorDashing expenses from the total. Now that is the formula that you should extend over 12 months to find your Net Pre-Tax Earnings. 

(Net Pre-Tax Estimate) = Estimated Earnings Per Year - Estimated Yearly Expenses.

Taking another example calculation of a Dasher working full time, Ryan Shaw pegs his estimates at:

  • An average base pay of $2.50 per delivery.
  • $6.30 is the average tip amount upon delivery.
  • An average of 1.7 deliveries per hour 
  • 8 dashing hours per day.
  • An average of 100 miles driven per workday. 
  • Car expenses averaging $0.34 per mile.
  • A total of 280 working days a year. 
  • $623 as the total annual health insurance premiums. 
  • Rideshare insurance payments of $1,080. 

If you work out his resultant annual income using our formula, it would add up to $33,510.40. Then on factoring in the expenses, his net DoorDash income drops to $22,287.40 per year

Earn per offer vs earn by time

DoorDash offers two earning models for Dashers – "Earn Per Offer" and "Earn By Time". The former is the traditional model where Dashers are paid for each delivery they complete. The latter, on the other hand, allows Dashers to earn a guaranteed hourly minimum rate from the moment they accept an offer until it's dropped off.

Comparing the two, "Earn Per Offer" provides flexibility and the potential for higher earnings during peak times when order volumes are high. But, it lacks the predictability of the "Earn By Time" model, which guarantees regular income for each active hour.  

The time-based model might be preferred by Dashers who value consistency and want to maintain a minimum pay per hour. Its pay rate varies by city, and Dashers can decline up to one offer per hour. 

Are Dashers paid a salary? 

Being an independent contractor means that Dashers don't receive a fixed salary or traditional benefits that regular employees might expect. Instead, their earnings are directly defined by the number of deliveries they complete, the distance traveled, and the tips received from customers.

Non-standard ways to earn pay from DoorDash

While deliveries remain the primary income source for Dashers, DoorDash offers other ways to boost earnings.

Referral bonus

DoorDash's referral program is a lucrative opportunity for Dashers to earn bonuses by introducing new drivers to the platform. By sharing their unique referral link or code, Dashers can encourage friends, family, or others to join. 

Once the referred individual signs up and meets specific criteria – such as completing a certain number of deliveries within a set timeframe – the referring Dasher receives a bonus. The exact amount varies based on location and promotional periods, but it's not uncommon to see bonuses ranging from $100 to $1,000.

A case in point is this Reddit user who shared their exhilaration when DoorDash credited them with a $900 referral bonus. The referred friend, on the other hand, pocketed a cool $600.

Be very careful, though.” cautions Scott. “DoorDash is very concerned with HOW you are referring people. If they think you are scamming or spamming people, you will lose your money and job”

His colleague, Ryan, further clarifies that the referral bonus isn't necessarily available year-round. “It ultimately depends on supply and demand  – meaning the volume of drivers in a given area vis-a-vis the corresponding frequency of orders”

He then goes on to explain, “I've found that for my area I see a referral bonus offered less frequently in the warmer weather months, and more frequently in colder weather months.”

Sign-up bonus

Contrary to what the name might suggest, DoorDash doesn't typically offer a bonus just for signing up. The platform argues that such a  program would possibly encourage fraudulent registrations.  

Nonetheless, DoorDash does occasionally run location-based promotions, especially when expanding into new markets. For instance, in Spring 2023, new Dashers in cities like Boston, Miami, and Las Vegas received bonuses upon meeting delivery targets in their initial week.

Such promotions are sporadic and influenced by regional supply-demand factors.

Another offering that often gets mistaken for a Dasher sign-up bonus is the "Guaranteed Earnings Incentive". This is supposed to assure new Dashers of a minimum earning if they fulfill a set number of deliveries within a certain period. For example, if a Dasher is promised $1500 for completing 150 deliveries in their first 30 days and they only make $1250, DoorDash will top up the difference.

Expenses to keep in mind 

Like any business, Dashing comes with its share of expenses. Here are the main ones, all of which you should account for when estimating your net Dasher pay:

  • Vehicle Expenses: Every mile driven causes wear and tear on a vehicle. In 2023, the IRS estimated the expenses at 65.50 cents per mile. This cumulative rate covers not just fuel, but also maintenance, as well as depreciation. The actual figures may however vary based on your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, maintenance schedule, and the local cost of services.
  • Insurance: Beyond standard car insurance, some Dashers set up rideshare insurance to bridge coverage gaps. The monthly rates range from $15-$20. Then health insurance premiums, on the other hand, will take up $200-$500.
  • Taxes: Unlike traditional employees, Dashers are responsible for their tax withholdings at both the federal and state levels. Apart from income tax, you’re supposed to pay a 15.3% self-employment tax – 12.4% of which goes to Social Security and 2.9% to Medicare. However, many Dashers report owing zero on their tax bill at the end of the year.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses: For Dashers relying heavily on their phones, an extra 2GB to 3GB of data might add $10 to $20 to monthly bills. Equipment, like insulated bags, may also need periodic replacement, with quality bags priced between $20 and $40. 

Offset dashing costs with driver benefit programs

DoorDash offers multiple discount programs to help you offset those business costs and, thereby, maximize your Dasher pay. 

  • Fuel: By integrating GasBuddy into its platform, DoorDash helps Dashers find affordable fuel options in their areas of operation. There’s also the Fuel Rewards program with Shell, which offers savings of 25¢ per gallon on the initial fill-up and 6¢ per gallon thereafter.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: DoorDash's collaboration with CarAdvise grants discounts at service providers like Jiffy Lube, Pep Boys, and Firestone. Savings extend to brake services, tire replacements, and more. Dashers additionally get a 20% tire discount code from Goodyear.
  • Tax Preparation: In partnership with TurboTax, DoorDash simplifies tax processes for Dashers by granting a $20 discount on TurboTax's Self-Employed services. You additionally get tools and resources for optimizing your tax filing.
  • Healthcare: For Dashers in California, Proposition 22 offers a healthcare stipend for those averaging 25 or more engaged hours per week in a quarter. The stipend amount can vary, but it usually covers a good chunk of Dashers’ healthcare premiums.

How to cash out your earnings

To cash out your Dasher pay, DoorDash often relies on the standard Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfer. ACH is an interbank network that electronically moves money between bank accounts across the United States. 

DoorDash payments are typically initiated on Sunday evenings, after which they may take 2-3 business days to reflect in your account. The precise time depends on banks’ protocols for funds transfer and clearance.

Get cash faster with the Fast Pay program

Launched in July 2018, Fast Pay offers Dashers the convenience of accessing their earnings almost immediately (subject to a small fee).

Instead of following ACH's multi-step process, Fast Pay uses Direct Deposit Instant to move funds in real-time. The model runs on card network infrastructure, such as Visa Direct or Mastercard Send, to push your Dasher earnings to a debit card-linked bank account. 

The process begins with a payout request from your end, upon which DoorDash's system sends an immediate request to the bank's API. The bank then proceeds to bypass the traditional ACH batch system and process your transfer request almost instantly.

Fast Pay does, however, come at the cost of $1.99 per transfer. But, for many, the swift access to funds justifies the small price. 

The payment option is not automatic for all Dashers, though. To be eligible, Dashers must:

  • Operate in the U.S. or Canada.
  • Have an active Dasher account.
  • Complete a minimum of 25 deliveries.
  • Have been active on the DoorDash platform for at least two weeks.

Use DasherDirect to get paid faster, for free

Unlike Fast Pay, which charges $1.99 per transaction for daily cashouts, DasherDirect operates on a fee-free model. So if you can get accepted to the DasherDirect program, you have a very fast and cost-effective option to get your wages.

This is a system built around a prepaid debit card, which is directly linked to your Dasher account. As soon as you complete a delivery, earnings are automatically transferred to your DasherDirect card in real-time. 

The card itself is powered by a mobile banking app, which provides a suite of financial management tools. Dashers can monitor their earnings, track spending, and view their cash-back rewards in real-time. There’s even a feature to locate over 20,000 ATMs, from which you should be able to withdraw earnings in cash without incurring additional charges.

Through the same card, DoorDash extends a cashback of at least 2% on fuel purchases. The reward program is integrated directly into the card's transaction processing framework. So, when you use it at participating gas stations, the system automatically calculates and credits the cashback amount to your account. 

Start earning

Given all the variables, the best way to ultimately confirm your potential earnings is firsthand. You can sign up for DoorDash today and see where you land (pending Dasher approval and local availability).

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