I'm an avid entrepreneur and lover of independent contractor work. I'm happy to share tips and tricks to help you do the same.
Pro Tips for DoorDash Drivers
I started out Dashing in downtown and central Seattle, and then as more areas opened up in the north and east of the Salish Sound area, I moved up that direction.
I also went on a road trip in October 2021 and got to try out something I've wanted to do for many years—I DoorDashed my way through the road trip.
I got to put to the test many tips and tricks that have worked really well for me in northwestern Washington state, in Idaho, Montana, and Utah, which was extra fun and actually held far fewer complications than I expected.
Below, I'll highlight five best practices that have worked well for me in all four states.
5 Must-Know DoorDash Driver Tips
- Choose Smaller Delivery Areas
- Avoid Rush Hour Traffic
- Accept the Order, Then Unassign It (Instead of Declining)
- Plan Some Exercise
- Map Out Public Restrooms
1. Choose Smaller Delivery Areas
In the Puget Sound area, there aren't any "small" Dashing areas anymore. When you start to go eastward, Monroe is fairly small, and when you go far north to Bellingham or far south to Puyallup, there are smaller areas. The rest is several huge metropolitan areas that border on each other and are huge on their own.
When I've Dashed in the smaller areas like Monroe, it's typically been well worth the gas to get there and back, and this also proved to be true in Helena, Montana, and several areas of Idaho, such as Pocatello and Idaho Falls.
Part of the reason for this is that when there aren't any other Dashing areas jutting up next to the one you're in, you won't get sent "out of area" to drop off your order. That saves time and helps you get to know what Hot Spots really are hot and what merchants you'll be coming back to repeatedly.
In large metro areas, there's any number of merchants you could be sent to, inside and outside of your starting or ending point. The app only looks at how much the order is vs. how many miles you'll travel. It doesn't take into consideration the costs to travel in and out of the area, to go to different merchants with different order fulfillment processes, and it doesn't care whether or not you had to sit in traffic for 20 minutes for what should've been a 15-minute job from pick up to delivery.
Not everyone is close enough to smaller individual delivery areas, though usually there are at least a few. If you can travel to them and away from busy metro areas where there are also likely plenty of Dashers, you'll find it much more worth your while than trying to fish in saturated seas.
2. Avoid Rush Hour Traffic
This is a challenge I find new Dashers getting up in more often than not.
Most experienced Dashers already know rush hour Dashing isn't efficient or pragmatic in most major metro areas. It's more likely you'll have to wait in longer lines at merchants and will be navigating long scenic routes around heavy traffic, or you'll be stuck in traffic, trying to keep food warm or hot and getting texts from hungry customers.
DoorDash does offer higher pay during rush hours, especially dinner rush, though unless you're in an area where you've already mapped out fast pragmatic routes around thick traffic, then it's not worth your time plus costs of gas and how little DoorDash pays drivers these days.
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So don't be fooled by that $1–3 extra pay in major metro areas, especially if the designated area you're Dashing in butts up right against other large metro areas. Any assignments to deliveries outside of your area will cost you extra time when the app says you're "out of area."
Lunch rushes are often just as complicated, though breakfast rushes tend to be easier on Dashers in heavily urban areas and usually pay just as well as other rushes.
Regardless, the best practice I've utilized and helped new Dashers learn to use is to Dash in the areas that are usually very heavy when it's NOT a rush-hour moment. Those areas are often very busy most of the day and have plenty of orders to fulfill when you won't be caught up in logjams and bottlenecks.
You'll also feel much less drained energetically from not sitting in an idling vehicle so much for such long periods, which also cuts down on wear and tear to your engine.
3. Accept the Order, Then Unassign It (Instead of Declining)
There will be plenty of times you'll get the opportunity to deliver from one area to another that isn't geographically feasible or that you know will cost you precious time while Dashing. Rather than declining the order every time, which knocks down your extra important approval rating, accept the order and then go in and unassign it.
When it asks you for a reason for unassigning the order, choose "other" at the bottom and list in the feedback section the reason you're declining the order.
I am often Dashing in Snohomish County in Washington state; ever since DoorDash left behind access to in-person offices and local driver support, it's been a challenge to get them to update maps and boundaries. The tech support is still fairly cool, although without first-hand knowledge of the area you deliver in, they cannot know how inefficient the maps are unless you report them.
It's also helpful, whenever possible, to accept the order and then initiate driver tech support and request that they update the maps. I've done this before with fairly positive results by letting them know that travel between, say, north Everett and Lake Stevens, WA, isn't feasible because of the trestle between the two and the traffic that tends to trap you in during busy Dash shifts. It can take a few times of requesting these changes, though it helps when more drivers kindly report the complications of current map boundaries and Dash assignments.
Though, at the very least, when you accept half the orders you'd normally decline, it affects your completion rating rather than your acceptance rating. This is important, as DoorDash currently places a higher priority on an 80% or higher acceptance rating than they do on the completion rating.
Not by a lot. Though enough that this has saved me and other Dashers valuable time and money when Dashing in areas where the maps are poorly organized for the geography and traffic of the area.
4. Plan Some Exercise
If you're new to Dashing, just going into and out of merchants and then dropping off orders can be a fair amount of exercise on its own. Though, after a while, your body will get used to that, and you'll find the extra time spent sitting while driving can cause back and neck aches that slow you down.
Whether you're in a new area or an old area, it's intelligent to plan out areas where you can go for a slow walk and stretch out without being timed. It'll save you visits to the doctor later and help you be more efficient when you're on the Dashing clock.
5. Map Out Public Restrooms
Many merchants don't have public restrooms or are too busy to get access to them. This is why one of the first things I do in a new Dashing area is to figure out where the local public restrooms are.
And in the case of some cities across the US that don't have unlocked public restrooms year-round, then find quiet parks, rest stops, and areas where you can relieve yourself outside without offending anyone. Also, be sure to carry extra hand sanitizer.
By figuring this out before you get too deep into Dashing, you'll save yourself lots of precious time and delay.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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