Small Business Advice

Which food delivery service pays the most?

Thinking about starting your side hustle? Here's a review of which food delivery platforms pay the most.

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People who do food and grocery delivery with Instacart report earning an average of $29 per hour1, which puts them at the top of the pile. Shipt2 and Uber Eats3 come in second and third respectively with $20 and $19.20. So, if you’re looking to join the food delivery service, these three are well worth your consideration.

That said, the market share of a food delivery app also influences how much you can earn. If it’s not big enough in your city, fewer people will use it. That means fewer orders and less work for you, which in turn translates to low monthly and annual earnings.

With a combined market share of 70%4, Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats lead the way in number of customers. Working with them generally means that you’re likely to earn more just from the sheer number of orders that you stand to get. So, while Instacart may have the highest paying rate per hour, it may not necessarily earn you the highest salary at the end of the month.

With that in mind, what food delivery service pays the most? In this article, we look at the best food delivery service based on how much you stand to make per hour.

What is the best food delivery service to work for?

In terms of hourly pay, Instacart and Shipt offer the highest average rates of $29 and $20 respectively. However, because of their huge customer bases, drivers who work with Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub generally have better annual salaries. That’s because they can make more deliveries and earn more based on economies of scale.

Apart from the market share of a delivery company, your exact income will come down to where you are located. For example, DoorDash delivery drivers in Massachusetts earn an average annual salary of $42,607 while those in Mississippi earn $28,6715.

Besides, the pay structure of your preferred food delivery service will also determine your earnings. Most of these companies calculate payouts based on:

  • Base pay – this is the amount that you’re guaranteed to earn for each delivery you make. It’s a great motivator for any driver to hit the road and fulfil customer orders.
  • Peak pay – peak-hour incentives kick in when there are more orders than drivers. You typically get a larger payout to deliver food in busy times and busy locations.
  • Bonuses – these are earnings that you get for engaging in a company’s promotions.
  • Tips – many customers will leave a tip for good delivery service. The best food delivery services, including Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub let drivers keep all the tips.

The pay structure is an important consideration because alongside a good base pay, you want a company with great incentives (like peak pay and tips) that can further boost your earnings. Overall, below is a breakdown of what you can expect to earn per hour from various food deliver apps.

10 best paying food delivery services

In summary:

1. Instacart

Salary: the typical Instacart delivery driver earns $29 per hour1 and about $25,165 per year6.

Since its launch in 2012, Instacart has grown into one of the most sought-after grocery delivery service providers. One reason behind the success is that the company gives you two options. You can either be an in-store shopper or a full-service shopper.

As an in-store Instacart shopper, your work revolves around taking grocery orders from customers, shopping for them and staging, the grocery for pick-up. There’s no delivery involved.

If you sign up as a full-service Instacart shopper, you’ll not only shop for customers, but you’ll also deliver their foods and groceries. Adding grocery delivery service earns you more – up to $29 per hour. However, with a market share of 17.2%7, Instacart doesn’t have the highest number of customers. So, there’s every chance that customer orders will be far between.

Main pro of Instacart: apart from a good hourly wage, Instacart treats full-service shoppers as independent contractors. That means you get to choose your own working days and hours. 

Main con of Instacart: you can’t just open the Instacart app and start working. You have to schedule hours beforehand.

2. Shipt

Salary: the average Shipt delivery driver earns $20 per hour, with more experienced shoppers netting as much as $252.

Shipt is worth a second look at for anyone trying to find the best food delivery app in terms of hourly and annual pay. Granted, it doesn’t have a big market share; just 6% of grocery and food deliveries8. However, the company seems to have something going for it because delivery drivers boast an hourly rate of $20 and annual income of $42,9009. That may be down to the fact that Shipt allows its delivery drivers to take multiple orders at once. Many other companies limit their drivers to one order at a time, which tends to limit how much you can make per trip.

Shipt’s payment structure uses a base pay as well as commission. You get a base earning of $5 for every delivery and an additional 7.5% of the order amount. You can see how much you’ll earn for each order before you accept it.

Something to keep in mind is that Shipt expects all shoppers and delivery drivers to wear a Shipt-branded shirt at all times when they’re working.

Main pro of Shipt: allows shoppers to take up more than one order at a time, which can increase earnings per delivery trip.

Main con of Shipt: not as widely available as other food delivery companies. Thus, order requests will almost always be far between.

3. Uber Eats

Salary: the typical salary for an Uber Eats delivery driver in the U.S. is about $19.20 an hour and $40,176 per year3.

The thing that sets Uber Eats apart from other food delivery apps is that you can use your car to offer rideshare services with Uber and also deliver food with Uber Eats. It essentially gives you two parallel streams of income, making it one of the best gig economy apps.

Unlike Shipt, Uber Eats doesn’t have a base pay for its delivery drivers. Instead, your earnings are calculated based on pick-up and drop-off costs as well as the distance travelled for the order. Uber retains a commission from your total earnings.

That said, Uber Eats drivers do have multiple ways of making more money. For example, Surge and Boost promos let you make more money than you would for delivering food to busy locations during busy times.

Main pro of Uber Eats: Uber, the rideshare giant, carved out a big market share that Uber Eats enjoys too. Uber Eats delivery drivers are almost always guaranteed to find gigs.

Main con of Uber Eats: there are cases of glitches when you use the Uber Eats app on an old iPhone or Android device10. This essentially means that you always must upgrade to the latest version of iOS or Android for a good delivery ad driving experience with Uber Eats.

4. Amazon Flex

Salary: Amazon Flex delivery drivers earn an average of $19 per hour and $39,002 per year11.

Amazon Flex delivery drivers ship food for Amazon Restaurant Delivery, Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Fresh. And just as Uber Eats lets its drivers offer rideshare services with Uber, Amazon Flex allows delivery drivers to ship packages as well.

You, therefore, get to earn from fresh and fast food delivery, and also from package delivery. That increases your streams of income, which explains why experienced Flex drivers bring in as much as $25 per hour12.

Delivering food with Amazon Flex makes you an independent contractor. You get to choose when to work. But once you clock in, you’ll need to drive for 3-6 hour-long blocks. Additionally, you’ll need to have coolers and/or insulated bags for keeping foodstuff cool and fresh.

Main pro of Amazon Flex: has one of the most competitive hourly rates, and you can choose to cash out twice a week.

Main con of Amazon Flex: despite Amazon’s huge market share in grocery deliveries, there’s often a limited number of openings available for Flex.

5 DoorDash

Salary: the typical DoorDash driver (or Dasher, as they’re popularly known) makes $18 per hour13, which can rise to $32 depending on the number of orders14. The national annual pay stands at $36,56513.

DoorDash is a safe bet for anyone looking for the best food delivery app. It has a staggeringly wide customer base, accounting for over half (58%) of all meal deliveries in the U.S.15. Because of that, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get delivery orders.

Thanks to an average pay of $18 per hour, Dashers’ salaries are not bad either. You generally earn based on the distance, time and desirability of an order, with the company offering a base pay of between $2 and $10.

On top of that, DoorDash has incentives, including Peak Pay. Under this program, a DoorDash driver gets a few extra dollars for delivering food during the busier hours of the day. Combine it with your base pay and you can have a decent payday.

Main pro of DoorDash: its huge size offers drivers the widest network of any food delivering company, allowing them to pick orders from just about any location.

Main con of DoorDash: its huge size means that DoorDash is an overcrowded space. The company says that 10,000 new Dashers sign up each week16. You’ll therefore need to wade off competition to cement your place as a high earner.

6. Postmates

Salary: the average hourly income of a Postmates delivery driver is $18 while their annual salary currently stands at $38,08923.

Postmates is the delivery company that shipped five bags with 200 limes to Chrissy Teigen instead of the five limes that she had ordered. It’s not their only “crazy” drop off24. The company has built a (solid) reputation for delivering “anything, anytime, anywhere”. Perhaps that’s why Uber Eats saw it wise to fully acquire it.

Even so, Postmates operates independently. And if you’re thinking of joining its fleet of couriers, you can expect a salary of about $18 per hour.

One good thing with Postmates is that it allows you to make deliveries via car, motorcycle, scooter or on foot.

This flexibility makes Postmates accessible to pretty much any adult. Once you’re on the platform, you’ll be paid based on mileage, minutes, pick-up and drop-off points.

Main pro of Postmates: because of the company’s Starter Guarantee, new delivery drivers are guaranteed to earn a certain amount within the first few weeks. This will put some cash in your pockets as you figure your way around delivery services.

Main con of Postmates: the platform allows customers to order anything, including low-value items that don’t pay drivers well.

7. Caviar

Salary: Caviar drivers earn an average of $16 per hour, which can potentially rise to $25 after tips and bonuses17. Perhaps more impressively, the hourly rate translates to $58,763 per year18.

Founded in 2014, Caviar was acquired by DoorDash in 2019. The acquisition essentially made Caviar drivers Dashers. To no surprise, the average hourly pay of a Caviar delivery person and that of a DoorDash delivery driver are almost similar ($16 and $18).

Perhaps the surprising bit is that you’re more likely to earn a higher wage over a period of one year when you work with Caviar ($58,763) than when you work with DoorDash ($36,565). Part of the reason is that Caviar utilizes DoorDash’s vast network. When you sign up, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get delivery requests.

The company uses a similar formula as DoorDash to determine drivers’ pay. It essentially adds base pay, promotions and tips to find a driver’s total earnings.

Main pro of Caviar: you get the vast food delivery service network that is DoorDash. And since the two companies share a platform, Caviar also allows you to view details of an order before you accept it. That includes the order’s pay.

Main con of Caviar: requires drivers to schedule working hours through the Caviar app. It, therefore, takes away the extreme flexibility that comes with working a side hustle in a gig economy.

8. Grubhub

Grubhub drivers earn an average salary of $14.16 per hour19 and $24,967 per year20.

Some Grubhub drivers make as little as $9 per hour while others net a whopping $4219. This wide range in income accounts for the fairly low average hourly rate of $14.16 that Grubhub drivers earn.

The other way to look at it is that the highs are extremely high. Thus, if you put in the work, you stand to earn more with Grubhub than with most of the other food delivery apps.

Like Uber Eats, Grubhub calculates drivers’ salaries based on total time of delivery, pick-up distance and drop-off distance. There’s no base pay, and that means your potential income is almost entirely determined by your location and (of course) the number of orders you deliver. I.e., you’re likely to make more if you operate in a busy city.

One great feature about Grubhub is that it has a rewards program called the Recognition Program, which is based on diligence. If you have a good track record, the company allows you to schedule your delivery work so that you take up high-paying orders before your competitors access them. This priority-based reward can edge you closer towards the $42/hour mark.

Main pro of Grubhub: you can get an hourly pay guarantee if you reach a certain level of qualification. This qualification typically comes when you clock a high number of work hours and many accepted orders.

Main con of Grubhub: Grubhub doesn’t have as many incentives as some of the other best food delivery service companies.

9. Gopuff

Salary: driving with Gopuff will earn you around $14 per hour21. Depending on your location, you can net as much as $62,438 per year22.

Gopuff is up there with the best delivery service companies for foods, groceries, over-the-counter medicine, drinks and snacks. With locations in over 500 U.S. cities, the platform has a rather unique model. It has over 200 warehouses where foods and other products are housed.

When a customer places an order, a Gopuff driver picks the item from the nearest warehouse and delivers it to the customer. All deliveries are strictly within 30 minutes of the warehouse. And that means you’re not going to spend a lot of time on the road, picking and delivering items. That’s one of the reasons why Gopuff drivers have good payouts despite a fairly low hourly rate of $14.

Main pro of Gopuff: all deliveries come from a central warehouse that’s located within a 30-minute radius. You’re not going to spend your days driving all over town to pick up food and other delivery items. 

Main con of Gopuff: despite the multiple locations, Gopuff is not as well known as other food delivery companies. Thus, you might not get an opening easily.

10. Favor

Salary: Favor delivery drivers earn an average salary of $10 per hour. Some take home as much as $20 while others only manage $4 each hour25.

Favor is owned by H-E-B, which is one of the biggest and most popular food retailers in Texas. It only makes sense that Favor itself is based in Texas and offers food delivery services for local restaurants within Austin, Houston, Dallas and all the major cities in the state.

Favor delivery drivers are popularly called Runners. The name may be a bit inaccurate because you actually need to have a car, truck, motorcycle, scooter or bicycle before you can join Favor’s fleet of couriers. The company currently doesn’t allow on-foot runners.

As far as earnings, Favor Runners retain 35% of delivery fee plus all the tips they receive. If you’re doing it part-time, then you probably won’t need to schedule delivery hours. But if food delivery is a full-time thing for you, then consider scheduling your hours in advance. Favor gives Runners who schedule deliveries an hourly guarantee of $9 to $10 as an incentive.

Main pro of Favor: there’s a guaranteed minimum hourly pay if you’re willing to schedule delivery hours. This means you’re sure to make an earning as long as there’s an order to deliver.

Main con of Favor: it’s only available in Texas. You can’t use Favor if you’re based outside of Texas, unless you’re willing to move there.

How to make the most money delivering food

As you may have noticed, each food delivery service has its pros and cons. Each can be a hit-or-miss depending on where you are located. For example, Uber Eats generally pays well in New York City while Amazon Flex pays the highest in Los Angeles26.

One thing you can do to make the most money as a food delivery person is diversify your streams of income. This means using multiple food delivery apps concurrently. Since you’re an independent contractor, there are no laws that can prevent you from doing that.

You may find that one delivery app pays more at certain hours of the day than the other. Or perhaps a particular delivery app pays the highest on weekends while another one pays more on weekdays. Combining and syncing them with your schedule ensures that you’re always maximizing earnings, especially if food delivery is a full-time job for you.

Tips for making money as a food delivery driver

Knowing which food delivery service pays the best is the first step towards making a decent earning out of delivery jobs. Beyond that, here are some more tips that may help you make money as a food delivery driver:

Go with the top food delivery companies

As this Reddit thread illustrates, big playes like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub will always offer an edge because of their huge customer bases. Economies of scale dictate that a platform that has multiple orders will help you make many deliveries and earn on each delivery. You’d earn more per day making 15 deliveries that pay $20 each than 2 deliveries that pay $30. So, while the hourly rate is important, the number of customers is just as critical.

Use multiple food delivery apps

Using just one food delivery platform often means that there are times when you won’t get customer orders. But if you use multiple apps, you increase the chances of having frequent and consistent orders. The more you deliver, the more money you make.

In the case of Uber Eats, you can even install the Uber driver app and use it to offer rideshare services when you’re not delivering food. Similarly, the Amazon Flex driver app will allow you to deliver packages and increase your pay. Lyft is also an option regardless of the food delivery apps you already have.

Keep finances organized

If you do food delivery full-time, it means that you’re an independent contractor and the IRS will treat you as a self-employed person. You’ll need to use Schedule SE of Form 1040 to file quarterly tax returns. For easy filing of taxes, you may want to open a checking account for your food delivery income. That will keep all your transactions in one place, making it easy for you to figure out your tax liability. Plus, you can always access your cash easily using a debit card.

Still on tax liability, there are certain expenses that you can deduct to lower your tax burden. These include vehicle costs like mileage and parking fees. Make sure to deduct them so that you pay lower taxes and retain more money.

Get affordable rideshare insurance cover

Many auto insurance companies include delivery driver insurance packages in rideshare insurance covers27. These policies are beneficial because (depending on the insurer) they may guarantee things like vehicle repair, liability, medical coverage as well as collision repair. The insurance company will pay for liabilities, medical bills and damages if you find yourself in an accident. And this means you won’t have to dig in your pockets to settle the issue. Some insurers like USAA and Erie have great deals for food delivery and rideshare vehicles.

Earn rewards on gas

Whether you’re delivering food as a side hustle or a full-time job, chances are you’ll be doing a lot of driving and spending quite a lot on gas. Consider getting a gas credit card that has rewards and cashbacks. You can redeem and use those rewards to save gas costs.

If at all possible, you can try making some deliveries using an electric scooter or bicycle. Both are great and cost-cutting alternatives to cars because they don’t use gas.

Offer stellar customer service

Americans are generally generous. Up to 64% (or 163 million people) will leave a tip for service delivered28. Typically, the better your service, the higher the tip. Therefore, if you want to make the most out of food delivery, make sure to be prompt, follow customer instructions and be an excellent communicator. That will earn you lots of high-value customer tips that may boost your hourly and annual pay.

Frequently asked questions about food delivery services:

Which food delivery service is cheapest?

From a customer’s perspective, Uber Eats is generally cheaper than many of the other major food delivery services29. That’s because Uber Eats has the lowest cost of delivery, which ultimately reduces the cost of service.

Which food delivery services pay for gas?

Unfortunately, there’s currently no food delivery service that pays for gas. Each driver has to incur the cost of fueling their vehicle, motorcycle or scooter. In fact, delivery service companies don’t usually increase drivers’ hourly pay when gas prices surge 30. You will, therefore, have to make do with reduced earnings per delivery.

What does it take to be a food delivery driver?

Requirements for taking up food delivery vary based on location. However, a majority of states generally require that you must be at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license if you’re going to deliver by car or motorcycle.

Again, specific requirements vary with location. For example, the minimum age for a delivery driver in Chicago and Las Vegas is 21. And if you’re delivering food on foot or using a scooter, then you generally don’t need a valid driver’s license to pick-up or drop-off food and groceries anywhere in the U.S.

Delivery companies typically run a background check on applicants. A history of conviction can (but not always) preclude you from employment as a delivery driver. Some companies will let you explain the conditions surrounding the conviction before they admit or lock you out of their courier programs. The same goes for an excessive number of driving infractions.

At the end of the day, if you’re an adult of 18 years or more, have a valid driver’s license and can pass a background check, then you’re more likely than not to qualify as a food delivery driver.

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