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Odd Job Update: Food Delivery Driver

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If you haven’t heard, I said goodbye to SAHD FIRE and Hello to Gig FIRE. I have 2 reasons for doing this. One, I want to spend my time a little more productively. My son is getting older and he is more independent now. He’s at school from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. That’s a lot of idle time for me. This is the most free time I have had since I became a SAHD. Two, I want to raise $30,000 to build a beach cabin in Thailand. My mom has a small piece of land at Hua Hin Beach. The beach is just okay, but the seafood is delicious and very affordable. My dad wants to live there during the burning season. It’s way too smoky in Chiang Mai from February to mid-April.

I’ll try various ways to make money and write an update occasionally. I’ve been delivering food with Uber Eats and Doordash for 7 weeks now. I’m ready to give you an update. Delivering food is a pretty easy side hustle. Anyone can do it to make a little extra money. It’s a good option for stay-at-home parents who have been out of the job market for a while. You can start driving a few hours a day and see how it goes. For me, working 2-3 hours per day is just about perfect. I don’t really want to work any more than that. Oh, I usually work at lunch on weekdays. Evenings and weekends are family time for us.

Food delivery

It is easy to sign up to be a driver with DoorDash and Uber Eats. You just need a valid driver’s license, car insurance, and a smartphone. You can use my links here to sign up if you’d want to try.

*** Sign Up with Uber Eats.

*** Sign up with DoorDash.

Okay, here is my typical day as a food delivery driver.

Around 11:30 am, I turn on both apps and hang out at home until a good order comes in. There are many restaurants near our home so I can do this. When I see a nice order, I accept it and turn off the other app. I drive or walk to pick up the food from the restaurant. Then drive to deliver the food to the customer’s address. The apps show me where to go. Most customers opt for dropping off at the door. That limits contact which I like.

That’s pretty easy so far. However, there are some issues too. If you want to maximize your income per hour, then you need to learn the ropes.

First driving day

My first day as a food delivery driver wasn’t pretty. On the way to deliver the 3rd order, my car’s tire pressure sensor light came on. I pulled into a gas station a short distance later and a tire was flat. I called support. They canceled the order, paid for the drive, and told me to keep the food.

While I was on the phone, an old grizzled guy at the gas station came out of a beat-up trailer with his dog. He helped me put the spare on and I gave him $20 for his trouble. He needed it way more than I do. Anyway, I made $20.75 delivering food that first day and gave away $20. So I got $0.75 for 2 hours of work. Hmm… Oh, I got to keep that Pad Thai. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that good. I make way better Pad Thai than that. It can only go up from here, right?

Learning the ropes

The problem with being a gig driver is the app companies don’t pay much. To make it worth it, you need the tips. The apps will send out a bunch of bad orders. You have to wade through the crappy orders to find one that’s worth it.

When I started, I tried to accept every order. But that is the wrong way to do it. You have to cherry-pick for good orders. I think about 5% of the orders are good, 15% are okay, and the rest are horrible. What’s the difference? I’ll give you some examples.

This is where you learn the ropes. I took many crappy orders in the beginning. Now, I avoid them, but one or two still sneak through every shift. Picking the right order is a lot more difficult when I’m driving.

Bad orders

Here are some examples of bad orders. The apps slam drivers with these bastards.

  • Too far. Many orders are too far away. The apps pay you more because you drive further, but there are too many downsides. Lunchtime is only busy from 11:30 am to 1 pm. If I drive too far, I won’t be able to get back to take more orders. This order looked attractive at first glance because the pay was $14.05. That’s much higher than usual. But it was 15 miles away. That’s ridiculous! They estimated it would take me 37 minutes to deliver this order. And it’ll take me 25 more minutes to get back. The lunch rush would be over by then. The customer might add more tips for the drive, but it still wouldn’t be worth it. Decline!
  • Too little pay. Seriously, $2.50?! This isn’t worth it. The customer probably didn’t add tips so the expected total was only $2.50. They might or might not add more tips later. They expected 14 minutes, but it could take longer than that. The restaurant could be busy. It might be difficult to find parking. There could be a big fire that shuts down a freeway and sends every driver scuttling around city streets. (Yes, that happened.) The order pays too little. Decline!
  • Not food. Do you tip your UPS, Amazon driver, or the mailman? I think not. Also, this package was from the Apple store in downtown Portland. This store is right in the middle of the bus/light rail transit center. It’s always tough to find parking there. I did one of these orders once and had to park 3 blocks away. Downtown has parking meters and paying for that will add to the cost. It’s probably okay to park for a few minutes, but you risk getting a ticket. I ran 3 blocks to get there. The store was packed and the geniuses took a while to get the package. Also, the customer didn’t tip. Never again. Decline!
  • Busy restaurant. Some restaurants are always slammed at lunch. I went to pick up from Papi Chulo’s a few times and always had to wait over 10 minutes. That’s too long to sit around worrying about a parking ticket. The parking situation is bad there. Mexican restaurants are super popular these days. Chipotle is another one that I won’t go to anymore. The last time I went to Chipotle, there were 6 drivers waiting. After driving for a few weeks, you’ll learn which restaurants to avoid. Decline!
  • Fast food. Generally, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Subway are very busy at lunch. You’ll have to wait a bit. Also, fast food customers usually don’t tip that much. I usually decline.
  • 7-Eleven. I accepted a couple of orders that asked me to stop at 7-Eleven on the way to deliver the food. The customer added a bag of chips or a drink. This pit stop adds 5 to 15 minutes to the task. It’s just more time for the customer to get hungrier. Both of these people didn’t tip. Decline!
  • Ice cream. I delivered several orders for ice cream shops. The customers didn’t tip much. Decline!
  • Big apartments. Some customer wants you to deliver to their door in a huge apartment complex. That’s ridiculous. There is no place to park and you want me to trek to your room? Just come down to the lobby and get your food. How entitled can you get? It’s hard to tell from the order, though. This one is a crap shoot unless you can recognize the customer.

***Pro tip – You can cancel an order if you accepted a bad one. Just chat with support and tell them you made a mistake. I tell them I’m done working for the day. I did this a few times and it was fine. Let the noobs take those crappy orders.

Good orders

I don’t have many screenshots of good orders. You need to accept it quickly or someone else will take it. No time for screenshots. Here are the general rules for good orders.

  • Over $2 per mile. For 2023, the mileage tax deduction is 65.5 cents per mile. That means you need to make at least $1.31 per mile to make it worth it. It’s 2x the distance the app shows on the screen. You need to drive back too. My target is $2 per mile. Otherwise, it isn’t worth getting off the couch.
  • Good neighborhood. Generally, customers in good neighborhoods tip better. But that isn’t always true. One customer in an apartment tipped me $12 for a large order from McDonald’s.
  • Over $5. Any order under $5 isn’t really worth it.
  • Short drive. I try to avoid any order over 4 miles away during lunch. It’ll take me out of the hot zone. I might accept one if it’s after 1:30 pm. The lunch rush would be almost over by then and I wouldn’t mind a longer drive.
  • Expensive hotels. Customers at expensive hotels usually tip very well. They’re on vacation and they don’t mind splashing money around a bit. I got an $18 tip once. And the guy even came down to meet me at the entrance. That’s a great customer.

Unicorn

Here is an example of a unicorn.

This order was from Taco Bell. Usually, I try to avoid it because they’re busy at lunch. However, I don’t mind waiting a bit for $18. They have a parking lot so I didn’t have to worry about getting a parking ticket. The distance was also very short. It still took me almost 30 minutes to complete this order. I must have waited in Taco Bell for over 10 minutes. The tip was only about $3 for this order. I think drivers declined this order over and over. Eventually, the app raised the pay so someone would fill the order. I got lucky with this one. The pay is usually under $3 for this distance.

SAHD rating

Here is my rating for food delivery driving as a SAHD side gig.

Flexibility – This food delivery gig is very flexible. I usually deliver during lunch on weekdays, but I occasionally pick up an order if I’m not busy on the weekend. It’s great for stay-at-home parents because something always comes up. I can stop working right away if I get a call from the school nurse or something like that.

Money – I made around $24 per hour. That’s pretty good for a very flexible gig. You can make more if you deliver during dinner because the orders are bigger. There are quiet stretches too. There are very few orders from 2 pm to 5:30 pm. It probably would be difficult to keep the pay per hour up if you work 8 hours per day. Oh, this is before gas and car maintenance. When I take the mileage deduction into account, my taxable income was around $14 per hour. This should improve as I get better at cherry-picking.

Potential – This gig does not have good potential. I heard the apps paid more a few years ago. They probably will decrease drivers’ pay further when they need to be profitable. They are still in growth mode. DoorDash lost over $1.3 billion in 2022. I think they’ll have to cut drivers’ pay at some point.

Fun – This gig is okay. It’s not a ton of fun, but not a terrible way to spend a couple of hours per day. I don’t mind it.

X factor – I think it’s a good side gig for a SAHD to make some extra cash. It’s an easy way to get back into the workforce. Our car is 13 years old and it’s in good shape. It isn’t a big deal to put more miles on it. I wouldn’t do this with a new car. The devaluation from high mileage would suck. Also, I like seeing different parts of Portland. It’s interesting.

Overall – I like being a delivery driver for a few hours per day. It’s a good motivation to get off the couch. The big downside is the pay and the wear and tear on our car. I wouldn’t depend on this side gig too much, though. The pay probably will decrease at some point. If we ever get into a recession, tips would shrink too. It’s a short-term gig.

Alright, that’s it for this update. Let me know if you have any questions.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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