Ok, so here’s the deal. I’ve got an old car.
No, like a REALLY old car. As in, a 2000 Ford Taurus station wagon, old.
Am I ashamed of my beater? Nope. It’s paid for and that’s the feature that I love the most about it.
But having a junky car like mine is a problem if you want to start an Uber or Lyft side hustle. Why is that? Because both rideshare services have vehicle age requirements.
To check out your particular city’s vehicle age requirements for Uber or Lyft, start by checking out the pages below:
But spoiler alert: a 19-year-old car doesn’t make the cut for either one.
So I had resigned myself to either having to buy a new car (yeah, not happening) or simply choosing other side hustle options.
But then I heard that Uber doesn’t have the same stringent age requirements for Uber Eats-ONLY cars as they have for drivers who are actually picking up and dropping off passengers.
And that gave me an idea!
Could I create a legitimate side hustle out of delivering food for Uber Eats, and competitors like Postmates, Door Dash, and GrubHub?
I decided that an experiment was in order. And over the last month, I’ve conducted that experiment by testing out the food delivery apps to see if any of them are worth it.
So if you have an old car like me, or you’re just generally interested in the profitability of food delivery, here’s the lowdown of what it’s like to drive for Uber Eats, Postmates, and others.
Related: 25 Amazing College Side Hustles
Applying to Drive for Uber Eats, Postmates, and Others
I started out by downloading all of the food delivery apps.
I started with Uber Eats. The application process was pretty straight forward. As you can see below, they did ask for my social security number and for permission to run a background check on me.
If you were hoping that you could get around this requirement by only signing up to deliver food, unfortunately, that’s not the case. I believe all four food delivery apps ran a background check on me.
GrubHub — Not Really an Uber Eats or Postmates Equivalent
It was early during the application process for GrubHub that I ran into this question.
“Am I available to work weekends? What do they care?” I thought. That’s the kind of question that you get asked when you’re applying for a job at a retailer or a restaurant. The whole idea of driving for Uber and others is that you have the freedom to choose if and when you want to drive.
But I later discovered that GrubHub’s model is quite different from Uber Eats and Postmates.
- It pays drivers a minimum amount per hour ($12/hour) and schedules drivers for shifts just like a legit employer does (although you are still considered an independent contractor as a GrubHub driver).
- I later discovered Door Dash is very similar to GrubHub in this way (more on that later).
Honestly, this was a non-starter for me. If I wanted to be tied down to a specific schedule, then I would have just applied to be a pizza delivery driver.
- As we will see later, the pay can be great with pizza delivery. In my opinion, the only advantage of using one of these apps instead would be the flexibility that they offer.
- Take that away and you’ve taken away the “secret sauce” that makes these new methods attractive in the first place.
And so it was with great regret (ok, maybe not) that I had to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to GrubHub before even getting started with them. So, if you’re looking for a GrubHub review, unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the article for you.
But I can get you $5 off your first order of $10 or more. Just use my referral link.
Ok, so that left Uber Eats, Postmates, and Door Dash. Uber Eats only took a few days to get approved to hit the road. Postmates and Door Dash took a bit longer. Here’s why.
Uber Eats vs. Postmates and Door Dash: Opposing Models
It’s important to understand that Postmates and Door Dash have a completely different model than Uber Eats.
- Uber Eats is all about developing partnerships with restaurants so customers can order food straight from the app.
- Due to this model, the restaurants that are available on Uber Eats tend to be well-known, national franchises.
Postmates and Door Dash, on the other hand, have a vision of making it possible to get food delivered from ANY restaurant.
Yes, even the mom-and-pop Oriental restaurant down the street that always looks like it’s a week away from getting shut down due to health code violations but has “the best” General Tso’s chicken EVER. These types of restaurants aren’t big enough to interest Uber Eats.
So how do Postmates and Door Dash make it possible for customers to order food from these spots? By employing a fascinating hack, which we explain below.
The Postmates and Door Dash Magical Debit Cards
- When you’re not on a delivery, these debit cards have no money loaded on them.
- If you tried to use them at a store, they would be declined.
But if an order is made for a restaurant that does not have online ordering built-in with Postmates or Door Dash, then YOU (the driver) make the order yourself inside the restaurant.
And how do you pay?
The exact amount of money that is needed to cover the order is “automagically” loaded onto your debit card the moment that you accept a trip.
Pretty neat, right?
Do you have a local spot that you’d love to be able to order delivery from? You can get $100 in delivery fee credit when you use my link (new customers only!).
I have to admit the first time I had to pay for an order with my Postmates debit card I was super leery that it wouldn’t work. But it did and without a hitch! It was pretty amazing, actually.
But do keep in mind that since you’ll most often be ordering in-store with Postmates and Door Dash, you’ll spend more time waiting for food in restaurants and less time on the road making deliveries.
Postmates and Door Dash do both pay you a small amount for your time spent waiting inside restaurants, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
Soon, both of my debit cards had been delivered along with simple activation instructions. Below is the activation process for the Postmates debit card.
It only took a few minutes for each debit card and I was all set up. It was time to hit the road!
Delivery Test #1 – Drive for Postmates
I chose dinner time for test #1 and decided to try out Postmates first. It was about 7:30 pm when I hit the road — in hindsight, probably a little too late.
In Daytona Beach, Florida International Speedway Boulevard (where the racetrack is located), is one of our busiest streets, with easily over 50 restaurants within a 2 mile-span. Trying to give myself the best shot of getting a trip to accept, I headed in that direction.
I set my app to “online” and I just drove…not really knowing what to expect.
I drove and I drove and drove, but nothing happened.
Finally, I got all the way to the end of the commercial area of the thoroughfare and I had yet to be offered a delivery. I decided to U-turn and head back the other way.
Ultimately, I went back and forth two more times before finally getting my first order.
Total wait time before first order: 30 minutes.
Upon hearing my phone finally “ding” gloriously, I hurriedly grabbed my phone and saw that an order had just been placed for Five Guys. I quickly accepted the order and rushed toward the burger shop, which, thankfully, was only about a half-mile away. Get started as a Postmates driver.
Once inside, I took a look at the order I was supposed to make: ONE cheeseburger with extra cheese, ketchup,lettuce, mayo, and tomatoes and…that was it.
I was a little surprised that someone would go to all that trouble for one cheeseburger, but to each his own I guess.
I made the order myself and then handed over my Postmates debit card.
- The guy behind the counter recognized the card and said, “Oh, Postmates!” I nodded my head and smiled. He swiped the card and…it worked!
- Immediately, my stress level dropped a couple of notches.
- Ten minutes later I had my cheeseburger and I was on my way.
I followed my GPS to my destination, unaware that I was being led to an apartment complex.
…a GATED apartment complex.
I frantically checked my instructions in search of a gate code.
I looked around in a panic, hoping another car would pull up soon that I could sneak in behind, but I wasn’t so fortunate.
Finally, I noticed a phone icon at the top of my order screen. I tapped it, hoping it would connect me to the guy who had made the order.
- Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened.
- I breathed a sigh of relief when the guy promptly answered his phone and confirmed he was the one who had made the order.
I explained to him the situation, he gave me the code, and 2 minutes later I was on the 3rd-floor handing over the goods from my first-ever food delivery.
Here were my payout details:
Now before we can really evaluate what kind of an hourly wage that $4.45 equates to, we have to consider how long the delivery trip took.
- And unlike when you drive for Uber Eats, Postmates does not show anywhere on their earnings receipts how long the total trip took to complete.
- They only record how long you had to wait inside the restaurant.
But I kept track of things myself. Here’s how long the trip took me:
- Drive time to Five Guys (2 minutes)
- Wait time inside the store (9 minutes)
- Drive time to the apartment complex (8 minutes)
- Gate fiasco wait time (5 minutes)
Total time spent on the trip: 24 minutes. What kind of an hourly wage does that work out to be: $10.68. Sign up to become a Postmates driver.
Not terrible, but certainly not great….especially when you consider that this doesn’t take gas cost into account or income tax which is not withheld from the driver payouts.
Satisfied with myself for completing my first delivery test, I decided to head home for the night. Next up to be tested? Uber Eats.
Food Delivery Test #2: Drive for Uber Eats
For my test of what it’s like to drive for Uber Eats, I decided to try lunch-time instead. I hit the road at 12:10 and toggled my Uber Driver app to “online.”
This time I decided to try a road in our neighboring town of Port Orange. The street I had in mind was another super busy one with tons of restaurants. But it also happened to be closer to a cluster of residential neighborhoods. I wondered if having more homes nearby would result in more trips and less wait time between trips.
It didn’t turn out that way. This time I drove for 20 minutes before getting my first delivery, a Panda Express order.
Right off the bat, I was struck with how much quicker and cleaner the Uber Eats experience was when compared to my Postmates experience.
- I was literally TWO minutes from Panda Express when I got the order, yet the food was waiting for me when I walked in. I almost couldn’t believe it.
- All I had to was give them the name and number of the order, and I was handed my food and on my way.
The guy who had ordered the food lived in an apartment complex right across the street from Panda Express…literally RIGHT across the street.
Why he would want to nearly double the cost of his Teriyaki Chicken and Lo Mein by having it delivered instead of just driving across the street to pick it up himself, I’ll never know.
But either way, I had my first drive for Uber Eats under my belt.
Here were the payout details of my first drive for Uber Eats:
Ok, so let’s break this down. Putting aside the tip for a moment, what I was paid from Uber was $3.12.
- So I got paid around $3 for about 10 minutes worth of work. That works out to about an $18 hourly wage. “Not bad.” I thought.
- And when you add in the $2 tip, the hourly wage actually jumps up to $30.
So far I was liking this. I had committed to myself to deliver for a full hour and I still had about half an hour left. I kept the app on and hopped back on the main drag.
Did I immediately get another order? No.
I had to wait about 10 minutes for my next order — a Denny’s order for pancakes, eggs, and a side of fruit.
- Again, the food was ready for me upon arrival and I headed off to make my delivery.
- This time the home I was traveling to was about a 16-minute drive away.
- I made the delivery without any incident.
Here were the payout details of my second drive for Uber Eats:
So this time I was paid approximately $5 for around 20 minutes worth of work. That works out to a lower hourly wage of about $15 an hour. And unfortunately, I received no tip this time, which was a bummer.
By now, my hour was up and I had to get back to my day job, so I called it a day.
Total day’s earnings: $10.29
What I was paid when I was actually driving really wasn’t all that bad. What killed me was the dead time when I was just sitting around waiting to get trips. We will discuss this point more later.
Food Delivery Test #3: Drive for Uber Eats AND Postmates
Ok, so now that I was a food delivery pro, I decided to see if I could increase my chances of nabbing trips by turning on BOTH apps at the same time.
Actually, I planned to turn on Door Dash as well, but I ran into a couple of problems:
I didn’t realize that Door Dash encourages drivers to sign up for “Dashes” ahead of time.
Depending on how many drivers have already signed up for Dashes, they may tell you that they don’t need any more drivers in your area when you want to go “Online.”
In this way, Door Dash is similar to GrubHub. They don’t necessarily REQUIRE you to put in your schedule ahead of time, but if you don’t, then there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to put your app online to take orders.
Related: Read our full review of DoorDash.
The other problem I ran into was Door Dash has a list of things that you must check off before they will let you start a “Dash.” For the most part, they are simple things like making sure you have enough gas in your car and your phone is charged.
But the last checklist item is: “Do you have your Door Dash heat bag and blanket?” My bag was at home (or so I thought) and the blanket…what blanket?
So I decided to pass on Door Dash for today’s test. I went ahead and scheduled a Dash for my lunch break the next day and made a mental note to figure out the bag and blanket situation that night.
This particular delivery day was a Friday. I figured it would be a great day for food delivery. I turned on my Uber Driver app AND my Postmates app and headed to the same area I had been at the day before. And I waited.
The Waiting Game
And waited…and waited. 10 minutes went by, then 20, then 30, and not one order came in.
I couldn’t believe it. I kept checking my phone to make sure I wasn’t missing something or had made some kind of mistake with turning the apps on. But no, both apps were on and both were giving me NOTHING.
- And they continued to give me nothing for the entire lunch break.
- Yep, that’s right. I didn’t get ONE delivery for an entire hour.
- I was shocked and kind of ticked to be honest with you.
- During both of my first two tests when I had each app going separately, I had received trips. But now that they were on together, I wasn’t receiving a thing? Weird.
As an aside, I have to say it’s one of the most maddening feelings in the world to be driving back and forth down a road just staring at your phone, practically begging it to do something, but to no avail.
Despite my frustration, I was determined to give it one final go the next day. This would be my final food delivery test. And this time, I’d be going all in with all THREE apps going at the same time.
Food Delivery Test #4: Drive for Uber Eats, Postmates, AND Door Dash
Remember that Door Dash bag and blanket? Yeah, I don’t think I ever received them. I DID receive a Postmates heat bag, but nothing from Door Dash…at least that I could find around the house.
So what did I do? I’m half ashamed to admit it, but I just went ahead and checked the bag and blanket checkbox so I could get on with the test.
Hey, before you judge, this was just an experiment anyway, remember?
…Well, that’s what I told myself anyway to soothe my conscience. And with that check of Door Dash’s final pre-trip checkbox, I was on my way for my last delivery hour. Get free delivery on your first order with Door Dash.
And what an hour it was! This was by FAR my most productive delivery day of the four. In one hour, I received FOUR trips.
Order #1: Uber Eats
Right off the bat, I received a drive for Uber Eats. It was an order for Popeyes Chicken.
I accepted the order and quickly changed the other apps to “offline” so that I wouldn’t have to reject any orders during my Uber Eats delivery. I picked up the food and dropped it off to an employee at a pool store about 5 minutes down the road.
This time I did have to wait a few minutes for the employees to finish preparing the order. That was ok with me though, because it gave me the chance to order myself a couple pieces of chicken as well, which I devoured on the road (Yes, I know this wasn’t the safest driving choice, so please don’t @ me on Twitter).
Here were my payout details:
Order #2: Uber Eats
After finishing my first delivery, I turned Postmates and Door Dash back on again. Yet my second drive for Uber Eats came through. This time it was a Boston Market order.
I again quickly turned off the Postmates and Door Dash apps and headed off to fulfill the Uber Eats order.
I had to wait a bit longer than usual at Boston Market, but other than that there were no issues. The drive to my drop-off point, a single-family home, took about 10 minutes.
I turned Postmates and Door Dash back on and I was back on the road again.
Order #3: Postmates
I finally received my first Postmates order — a Chili’s order for Honey Chipotle Chicken Tenders. I made the order inside the Carryout area at Chili’s, paid with my Postmates card and waited about 5 minutes for the food to cook.
This delivery was about 15 minutes away in a business plaza. I had a hard time locating the right spot so I called the girl up, and she helped me locate her office.
Since the trip took place during a Postmates “Bonus” time, I received an extra $3.00 for this delivery. That helped make this delivery my overall highest paid trip at $8.88.
Here were my payout details:
I thought this would be my last delivery of the day, but as I was pulling in to the business plaza, my Postmates app dinged with an alert.
It was notifying me about an incoming Sonic delivery order and asked me if I wanted to add this order to my trip. This was the first time I come across an “add to your trip” option like this on any of the delivery apps.
I tapped yes, dropped off the Chili’s order, and headed off to Sonic which was only about 2 minutes away.
Order #4: Postmates (The Ice Cream Machine Fiasco)
My Sonic order was for a Sonic blast and mozzarella sticks…yes, you read that right.
I pulled up to the drive-thru and attempted to order the food, but the girl on the other end of the speaker uttered these fateful words:
I’m sorry, sir, but our ice cream machine is down.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I thought. Flabbergasted, I said “Never mind”, and pulled into a vacant parking spot to call up the customer.
I explained the odd situation to the girl who had made the order and somewhat embarrassingly asked, “So, um, do you still want the mozzarella sticks?”
She answered, “No, just go ahead and cancel the order.”
I replied, “Uh, can you do that so I don’t get in any kind of trouble for not picking up the order?”.
She wasn’t having that though. She explained to me that she’d be charged a fee if she canceled from her end. Unsure what to do, I started going through the “Help” options that I could find in my Postmates app.
There were cancellation options, but obviously, none called “Broken ice cream machine.” The closest thing I could find was “Merchant Issue.” I tapped on that category, and two subcategories popped up:
- Merchant is not accepting orders at this time.
- Merchant is closed.
Neither option was good, but I went with the “Merchant isn’t accepting orders” option, thinking that would be the end of this silly nightmare.
I was wrong.
My Panic Attack
After tapping this cancellation option, I was given this foreboding warning:
Ok, we’ll call the merchant to confirm this.
“Wait, what??” I zipped my car around and dashed back into the drive-thru lane.
When the girl asked for my order again, I explained sheepishly, “Um, I’m a food delivery driver and you guys may get a call from the people I work for to confirm that your guys‘ ice cream machine is down.”
There was no immediate response but I did hear some confused clamoring in the background.
I’m Glad I Went Back
“Hello?” I called out again.
“Hey,” the girl replied finally, “yeah, they’re on the phone right now.”
“Wow, that was fast!” I thought. “Man am I glad I came back!”
She reassured me that they were able to confirm the ice cream machine crisis to the Postmates rep and I was on my way back to the safety of my day job.
Oh, and yeah in case you were wondering, no, I did not receive a cent of payment for that trip despite the stress headache that it so capably induced.
Which Food Delivery App Was the Best?
Well, let’s start with the app that I know was NOT the best. Sorry, Door Dash, you win.
Not only was Door Dash more of a hassle than Uber Eats and Postmates, but I didn’t receive one order from them when all 3 were on at the same time.
Small sampling size? Sure. But I can only speak from my own experience and I can honestly say if I was going to try to make food delivery a regular side hustle, I’d be showing Door Dash the…door.
Ok, so that leaves Uber Eats and Postmates. Honestly, I can’t really say definitively which one is better.
- Uber Eats customers seemed to tip more consistently.
- Postmates seemed to offer “bonuses” more often (almost daily in my experience).
All in all, I’d say that the best option would be to use BOTH as I did on test #3 and #4 and just take orders on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Is it Worth it to Drive for Uber Eats, Postmates, or Others?
So, was it worth it to drive for Uber Eats or any of their competitors? In short, nope.
Here are the 2 main reasons why:
1. Too much dead time
Every day except for day #4 I had to endure at least 10 minutes of dead time before each order. That kills your “per hour” income capacity.
And days like test #3 where I didn’t even get one order are absolutely killer.
2. Busy windows are too short (and inconsistent)
If you wanted to start an Uber side hustle, you could legitimately drive 3-4 hours a night and would most likely receive a steady supply of trips the entire time.
Not so with food delivery. You have about a 1-2 hour busy window when most food delivery orders are coming in and that’s about it.
Even during “prime time” like during the lunch hour, there are no guarantees that you’ll get any deliveries, as Day #3 proved.
Where You Live Could Tip the Scales
It’s important to note that I live in a medium-sized town. It’s not small by any means, but it’s also no Atlanta, New York, or Los Angeles. I have a hunch that if you lived in one of these high-density cities it would be much easier to get consistent orders throughout the night.
I also suspect that in a big city you wouldn’t receive so many long-distance destinations that take 10-15 minutes to get to. If each of my trips were like my Day #2 Panda Express order (the one with the across-the-street apartment delivery), I could have taken more trips per hour and would have enjoyed a much better hourly return.
So if you live in a metropolitan area, it’s possible that you could make driving for Uber Eats or Postmates a viable side hustle option.
There’s Still A Great Option if You Own a Beater Like Me
If you own an old crappy car like me, you may have been disappointed with the results of my experiment. But I have good news for you.
There is an honest-to-goodness food delivery side hustle that you can get involved in…
Yes, I know it’s not new, flashy, and hip, but delivering pizzas at night is still an awesome side hustle strategy that many people have used to get out of debt and hit other financial goals.
But the money should be way better. If you’re good at it, you can make some serious bank delivering pizzas.
And guess what you won’t ever have to do?
Beg a Sonic employee to defend your story about a broken ice cream machine.
Unless you live in a big city, food delivery apps aren’t a realistic side hustle option.
If you’re really dead set on food delivery, then I’d recommend pizza delivery. But my preference would be for you to pick out a side hustle that has the potential to turn into a full-time job.