Last Updated on 2024-01-10

Is DoorDash Worth It? Yes and No - Here's When

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

author image

Davis Porter

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

author image

Michael Vaness

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

author image

Scott Jones

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

author image

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.

There are lots of things to love about driving for DoorDash: 

  • Flexible Scheduling: Unlike the rigid 9-to-5 routine of traditional jobs, DoorDash allows its Dashers to set their own hours. Whether you thrive during the morning rush or prefer late-night deliveries, the platform caters to your preferences. You can even juggle multiple commitments alongside dashing. 

Scott Jones, a Dasher of five years, reports that most of his colleagues are in fact using DoorDash as a parallel source of income. They have a primary job, and occasionally dash on their own time to make quick extra money. 

  • Earning Potential: DoorDash's payment structure combines Base Pay, Promotions, and Tips . The base pay, which ranges from $2 to $10+, factors in time, distance, and order desirability. DoorDash driver benefits, like Peak Pay and Challenge Bonuses, further boost earnings during busy times or upon completing specific delivery targets. Then with great customer service, you stand to make even more by getting good tips.
  • Low Entry Barriers: All you need to start dashing is a smartphone and a vehicle - which could be a car, bike, moped, or scooter. After a brief background check, approved Dashers receive a starter kit with essentials like an insulated bag and a prepaid card for orders.
  • City Exploration Opportunities: DoorDash's optimized delivery routes often guide Dashers to bypass main roads in favor of lesser-known shortcuts. This speeds up deliveries while, at the same time, helping Dashers familiarize themselves with their city's layout, traffic patterns, and high-demand areas.
  • Independence on the Job: Once logged in, Dashers receive order notifications, complete with details like pickup location, drop-off point, and estimated earnings. They have the autonomy to accept or decline.

After considering all these benefits, you’ll probably ask yourself: is it worth it?

The fact of the matter is that the answer is different for everyone. An 18 year old high school grad looking for a full time income stream might have a very different “worth it” calculation than a stay-at-home dad who’s trying to kill an hour or two between errands and picking up the kids at home.

Let’s break it down for a few different kinds of people, and you can use the examples to decide what matters to you.

Is DoorDash worth it for…

#1. Stay-at-home parents? 

Through the "Schedule a Dash" feature, DoorDash allows stay-at-home parents to plan their  work hours in advance according to school routines or nap times. For example, if school runs from 9 am to 3 pm, a parent can dash between 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.

Ryan Shaw, a four-year DoorDash veteran adds, “If you have early access scheduling, you can schedule up to 6 days in advance starting at 3pm each day. Otherwise, you can see new time slots at midnight.”

The extra income may then help offset rising expenses related to children's education and household needs.

Scott tells the story of a Dasher who came back to the platform because their daughter needed braces. The gracious parent had taken a break from their dashing activities to work on a new job, and DoorDash still allowed them to resume right from where they had left off. 

"Peak Pay" hours offer even higher earnings – but, unfortunately, the timings often coincide with dinner or bedtime routines. Stay-at-home dads and moms may also find it difficult to get into DoorDash's high-rewarding "Top Dasher" program, as it requires a minimum of 100 deliveries per month. 

#2. A full-time employee looking for a side hustle? 

Similar to stay-at-home parents, a full-time employee would have a predictable schedule they can schedule their dash times around. 

Interestingly, the demand curve for DoorDash often peaks after business hours. This makes weekends and evenings particularly profitable for employed folks. 

Balancing a full-time job with DoorDash self-employment can, however, lead to burnout. To avoid that, we’d recommend taking regular breaks and setting realistic targets.

#3. Recent immigrants who want to get their start? 

While other job opportunities can be hard to come by for fresh immigrants, DoorDash offers a relatively easy onboarding process. The toughest of the driver requirements include a smartphone, a mode of transportation, plus a valid license.

DoorDash's interface itself is intuitive, with multilingual support in many regions. It can be operated while still mastering the local language.

One possible hurdle for immigrants is their visa status. For example, certain U.S. student visas (like F-1) come with work restrictions. 

#4. College students? 

As tuition, textbooks, and living expenses continue to rise, DoorDash offers college students a reliable income source. The platform's flexibility allows them to Dash during breaks between lectures or post-study sessions, without compromising their academics.

In addition to money, DoorDash grants students opportunities to develop practical skills that may help in their future careers. They get to hone their logistical, time management, and interpersonal capabilities by planning delivery routes, managing time, and handling customer interactions.

But, similar to working a full time job alongside DoorDash, juggling academic demands with the job can be exhausting. Plus, students, often operating on a limited budget, might struggle with vehicle upkeep costs. 

Man, what a great option to have!” exclaims Scott. “This is a must for college students. At least they can make some quick cash when they need to pay for stuff.”

#5. People who work other gig apps (e.g. Instacart, Uber)?

For an Instacart Shopper or Uber Eats Driver, branching out to DoorDash should be easy – the platforms share operational architectures. 

Take, for instance, Instacart’s "batch" system, which lets drivers shop for and deliver multiple orders simultaneously. The multitasking skills developed from that can be carried over to DoorDash’s "Stacked Orders", where you get to optimize earnings by coordinating consecutive orders across multiple pickup and drop-off points. 

Using multiple apps is an opportunity to diversify your income streams. There are periods when ride requests are scarce but food delivery is in demand. By switching to DoorDash, Uber/Instacart drivers can keep their earnings flowing.

With geo-optimization, you’ll have an easy time leveraging that synergy.  An Uber driver could strategically plan routes that end near DoorDash hotspot pickup locations. That’ll minimize downtime and maximize earnings.

Michael Vaness is one of the many gig workers who currently enjoy alternating between multiple platforms. He started his journey three years ago on Instacart, proceeded to join DoorDash after 24 months, and then signed up with Spark about half-a-year later. 

In his words, “I highly recommend this dynamic approach. By combining Instacart, Spark and DoorDash, I manage to make a couple hundred dollars or more in a day.”    

“Whenever one or two of them are dead, I always have something to fall back on. And if two or all three are busy, I can still plan and coordinate their orders simultaneously.” 

#6. People with past felony convictions? 

Unlike many traditional employers who might outright reject an application based on an old criminal record, DoorDash tends to be more understanding. While they do conduct background checks, the emphasis is usually on customer safety and quality of service. 

Non-violent offenses, particularly those from more than seven years ago, might be looked over in your Dasher application. You should only be worried if your convictions are related to theft, traffic, or violence, as they’d be treated as major risks to the company’s service reputation and customer safety. The leniency extends even to aspiring Dashers who have DUI’s – subject to a wide range of factors. 

For previous felons who manage to get hired, DoorDash offers an opportunity to establish a positive work history. Each successful delivery and satisfied customer contributes to rebuilding your reputation. Over time, consistent commendations will vouch for your dedication and reliability, potentially paving the way for more job prospects.

Don’t take this as a one-and-done background check, though,” advises Ryan . “Even after you’ve started dashing, Checkr will run periodic checks as time goes on.” 

He further explains, “If you've already passed your initial check but then later commit a serious violation, DoorDash will absolutely find out about it and deactivate your account.” 

Michael himself has seen a friend get discontinued in almost similar circumstances. “I don't know how they determine whom to be lenient to and who not to, but his account deactivated from DooDash DUI he'd gotten before signing up. He somehow sailed through the first screening and then got flagged on the second one.”

#7. People who don’t own a car?

In urban settings, where traffic congestion is common, Dasher motorcyclists and those using mopeds can significantly reduce delivery times. Even scooters and bikes might be an option.

These non-car vehicles have notably lower fuel consumption. For instance, a Honda CBR300R offers around 71 miles per gallon, almost triple the efficiency of an average car. Over a week, assuming 500 miles covered, a motorbike rider could save up to $150 on fuel alone compared to a Dasher using a car.

If you go so far as to use a simple bike - you get a free workout while making deliveries. Earn while staying fit.

However, these alternative vehicles have cargo limitations. DoorDash's policy requires food to be transported in an insulated bag. On an alternative vehicle, this means either a sizable backpack or side-mounted containers. Both options have space limitations, potentially restricting the size of orders you can accept

Weather protection is another concern. While cars offer inherent protection, other vehicle riders need to invest in weather-appropriate gear – from rain suits to thermal wear.

#8. People living in small towns?

Small towns operate at a different pace than big cities. While this might seem like a disadvantage for a platform like DoorDash, it has its perks.

In larger cities, there's a higher concentration of Dashers. But, in a small town, you might be among a select few working for the platform. That translates to a steady flow of orders and more consistent earnings, even if there are fewer orders overall.

As a local in a small town, you’ll also be familiar with the entire layout of the area. You’ll understand all the shortcuts, the peak times at local eateries, as well as customer preferences. All that local knowledge may contribute to faster deliveries and better service, thereby improving your ratings and tips.

Take it from Scott, who confirms, “I see many people who live in places like Montana who make great tips with DoorDash.”

Even then, the overall order volume and average order value in small towns might be lower than in urban areas. And in such close-knit communities, one negative review can have a more significant impact.

Nevertheless, at least the operating costs in small towns will almost always be lower. Shorter distances reduce fuel consumption and vehicle wear, leading to less frequent maintenance. Familiar routes also minimize the chances of taking detours or getting lost.

Is DoorDash worth it after gas? 

Maybe you decided that the amount you can earn from DoorDash is worth it. But is it worth it after accounting for your gas costs, even when considering the ways DoorDash helps you offset them?

Considering a car averages 25.4 mpg and gas goes for $3.58 per gallon , the cost per mile amounts to $0.14. So, if a Dasher drives about 100 miles per workday, they'd incur a gas expense of $14 on the day.

As a hypothetical example: If we assume that you can complete about 2 deliveries per hour, earn $2.50 in base pay per delivery, and $5 in tips per delivery - you might earn $15 in that one hour you drove 10 miles.

$15 of earnings against $1.40 of gas expenses means that gas doesn’t have a major impact on your earnings. But, that notwithstanding, be aware of your other expenses (insurances, taxes, car maintenance, etc.).

Is DoorDash worth it after paying taxes?

We're using 2023's rate in the examples below - but it should look similar for 2024 and beyond.

Besides gas, the other common concern with offsetting is your tax bill.

Yes, you have to pay taxes when you do DoorDash. Although many Dashers are in personal situations where they accumulate so many deductions that their taxable income falls below the billable thresholds, other Dashers don’t have that luxury, and need to figure out how much money to stash away for the tax bills due in the future.

Let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, that you make $30,000 of earnings from DoorDash in a year, against $10,000 of deductible business expenses. How much of that $20,000 is yours to keep?

Let’s refer to the $20,000 as your Net Pre-Tax Estimate.

To compute the Taxable Business Profit, subtract 7.65% (FICA Tax; 6.2% Social Security tax and 1.45% Medicare) from the Net Pre-Tax Estimate. That brings the taxable income to $18,470.

As independent contractors, Dashers are responsible for both the employer and employee portions of Social Security and Medicare taxes. This is 15.3% of net earnings. So, the compulsory Self Employment Tax Bill tax on $18,470 would be approximately $2,826.

For a single person earning $11,001 to $44,725, the federal tax rate in 2023 was 12%. 12% of $18,470 is about $2,216.

If we assume you live in a state without income tax, the highest your tax liability would go is $2,826 + $2,216 = $5,042. That would be a pretty big chunk of your original $20,000 of profit. 

However, at this level of income, it’s very likely you can find those deductions that bring your tax bill down to $0. For example, the standard deduction for heads of household in 2023 is $20,800. That means you would be able to deduct your entire $20,000 (assuming this was your only income), creating a tax bill of $0 instead of ~$5,000.

Obviously, taxes are complicated and everyone’s situation will be unique, so you’ll need to do your own homework; but hopefully these examples give you a sense for how taxes might impact your “worth it” calculation.

According to Scott, “DoorDash might actually save you more than it makes you.The tax deductions are worth every penny of the time you take to keep track of them.”

Get started

If you’ve decided that DoorDash is worth it for your situation, sign up today to start turning miles into money (pending Dasher approval and local availability).

Keep Learning...