The rise of the gig economy has transformed the way people work and earn money. In this era where entry level positions are getting harder to get and job hunting is slowly becoming such a miserable experience, many turn to food delivery platforms like Uber Eats for their flexibility and accessibility.
So I decided to challenge myself and embark on a one-month journey as an Uber Eats driver to see how much money I can make. Over the course of the month, I meticulously documented my earnings, expenses, and experiences to shed light on the reality of delivery apps and its impact on one’s financial well-being.
As part of any challenge, there has to be a set of rules to push myself in order to get the full experience. So here were five rules I decided to live and follow by over the course of this month:
- I must drive and deliver as much as humanly possible.
- Accept every delivery that pops up.
- Utilize as many of the features within reason.
- Explore different strategies to in order to optimize my earnings.
- Make as much money as possible.
With all of that in mind, here is the breakdown of what I went through this past month!
Before diving into the experiment, I went through the process of signing up as an Uber Eats driver. The onboarding process was relatively straightforward since it was literally just installing the Uber Drivers app, and putting in some info. Once I was approved, I eagerly started delivering food throughout Los Angeles.
I started delivering on Thursday, because I assume there are more deliveries occurring in the later half of the week. The first day went pretty well as I made about $90 delivering food throughout Encino, Burbank, Northridge, and North Hollywood.
However, when I tried to follow it up over the weekend by taking similar routes, I didn’t get as much activity as on Thursday and earned significantly less. It was then I learned that the app’s forecast and minute-by-minute surges meant nothing but educated guesses and nothing concrete.
Throughout the weekend, I did discover that my initial range of deliveries are wider than anticipated, because in addition to delivering for Uber Eats, I can also deliver for Postmates since the company was acquired by Uber in 2020.
Despite a rocky and uneven start, I made 34 deliveries, learned that surge spots are useless, discovered the boujeeiest supermarket in LA: Erewhon Market- a place where they sell $20 smoothies and don’t place any price tags, and even unlocked Uber Eats Pro which is pretty much a fancy way of saying you now have access to customer service and a bunch of discounts to things you might find useful.
Smallest Order: One venti from Starbucks
Largest Order: A box of pastries, a box of donuts, and four iced coffees
Most Frequented: Jack in the Box
Smallest Tip of the Week: $1
Largest Tip of the Week: $10.00
For week two, I set out to earn at least one hundred dollars in a single day to see how much time, effort, and luck is required to hit that kind of goal. However at the beginning of the week, I was suddenly given a $107 bonus for Prop 22.
Prop 22 is officially known as the “App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative” in California, and this proposition requires companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash to pay their contractors the following benefits:
- 120 percent of the local minimum wage for each hour a driver spends driving (with passenger/delivery or en route), but not for time spent waiting.
- $0.30/mile for expenses for each mile driven with passenger or en route.
- Health insurance stipend for drivers who average more than 15 hours per week driving.
- Requiring the companies to pay medical costs and some lost income for drivers hurt while driving or waiting.
- Prohibiting workplace discrimination and requiring that companies develop sexual harassment policies, conduct criminal background checks, and mandate safety training for drivers.
This meant that every two weeks, I would receive a supplemental bonus to the amount of hours I was actively delivering. After taking some time to really understand Prop 22, I eventually discovered that I need to optimize my active time by driving a lot in order to fully maximize my potential earnings.
So for week two, I tried delivering for Walmart through Uber Eats reservation system, and camped out at a plaza in Balboa where there was a Chipotle, Five Guys, Waba Grill, Jersey Mike’s, a Poki shop, and a boba shop in order to get as much active deliveries as possible. However, my first attempt at this was brutal as majority of the time I would either sit around or drive around for hours and receive very little action.
Despite the lack of deliveries, I hit my goal on Thursday and earned $107.36, but of course, the day I achieved that goal was also the day that it was a 107 degrees all across Northridge, Encino, and Burbank with a hint of humidity. On Friday, I hung out with some friends and when we all went home, I saw the opportunity to do some midnight deliveries around LAX and Inglewood.
Majority of the deliveries were from McDonald’s and ghost kitchens located in super shady areas underneath highways. During one of my deliveries to a ghost kitchen, I met a delivery driver named Walt while waiting for a order. Both our orders were taking so long to make that we eventually started exchanging stories of some of our worst and most absurd deliveries.
When I asked him for one piece of advice as a new driver, he told me that I should always keep working hard and always value my time, because I am are worth more than delivering a four dollar meal at 3AM in the morning. Enlightened by Walt’s piece of advice, I continued to deliver several more orders from McDonalds. However, I eventually followed Walt’s advice and called it a night, because it was getting late and I realized that nobody tips with these midnight orders.
By the end of week two, I felt that I was finally starting to find my groove. Just by hitting my goal and talking to drivers like Walt, I felt encouraged to continue on with the challenge with gusto. Some of the biggest highlights I also wanted to mention was that I got my first cash tip, understood the importance of Wi-Fi when delivering, and even unlocked Uber Eats Gold which just awards you with priority customer support and tuition coverage at ASU online, which is such an oddly specific thing to cover.
Smallest Order: One large boba
Largest Order: Three large combo plates from Ono Hawaiian BBQ
Most Frequented: Starbucks
Smallest Tip of the Week: $1
Largest Tip of the Week: $14
By the beginning of week 3, I realized that the best way to make most of Uber Eats is by doing deliveries throughout the entire day. So I started off my mornings by doing Walmart deliveries, and follow that up with any brunch/lunch deliveries right after.
I would then take a two hour break to hit the gym and unwind during the afternoon slump, which is a period of time between lunch and dinner that is just dead. Towards the end of my workout, I go back online and await for the beginning of the dinner rush and once I get the first one, I am on the move and I keep grinding until I am done.
On Tuesday, I got free donuts while I was waiting for an order to be completed at a donut shop. The people behind the counter were swamped with big orders and I could tell that it was a family run business based on personal experience. So when I told them to take their time, they became super friendly to me and when I left with free donuts I was a little shook by this random act of kindness.
With a sudden boost of energy from free donuts, I continued this newfound routine, until I decided to deliver for a Walmart in Burbank. Just for context, every time I deliver for Walmart I always either get groceries or a bunch of small wrapped up packages to deliver. For the one in Burbank , they had me deliver literally everything but groceries and small packages.
From microwaves, printers, foldable chairs, brooms, to a plasma TV, they packed my car to the brim and on top of it all, they literally mislabeled a third of the items. I didn’t even notice this until I got to the very first stop, where the lady wanted to double check everything, but half her things were mislabeled with another person’s barcode sticker.
When I called Uber Eats Support to get specifics on what each customer ordered, I learned that they are literally the:
Most incapable waste of space that ever existed.
They couldn’t access any of the details for the Walmart orders, so I literally had to get double check every delivery personally by calling and meeting with a third of customers just to make sure they were getting the right things. I even had to double back to the first customer just drop off her mislabeled items.
The lady was super grateful for me for going the extra mile and eventually told me that this wasn’t the first time that the Burbank Walmart delivered the wrong items to her place. She even went as far and described that Walmart as:
“Kind of ghetto.”
The Walmart fiasco not only took up about fours to complete, but it also messed up my groove for the next couple of days, because I was tired, sweaty, frustrated, and just absolutely enraged. Despite this setback, I made up for it on Sunday where I hustled hard and made $166.53. Ironically enough, the only reason that I was able to achieve this was because of big orders from….. Walmart.
I was able to get a morning reservation from the Walmart by my house and that was a whooping $33 for delivering a bunch of small packages. Then a few hours later, I got a $40 delivery request from Walmart when I stopped by to buy something. The $40 delivery only had 3 stops and with one package for each stop and I was shook how easy it was. It was at that moment I learned that Walmart can either be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on the location.
Smallest Order: One large cold brew from Coffee Bean
Largest Order: A double delivery of Popeyes combo sets with 4 extra large drinks filled to the brim.
Most Frequented: Walmart
Smallest Tip of the week: $0.60
Largest tip of the week: $12.28
Every week since I have begun this challenge, I have made personal bests of most amount earned in a single day. Week 1 was $90, week 2 was $100, week 3 was $160, so week 4 I want to hit the ever magical $200 in a single day.
When I was looking through some other people’s experiences of this challenge, I noticed that a lot of people had deliveries from Tender Greens. So I actually wanted to try and deliver food from Tender Greens to see if I can get on a roll.
However, every time I am on my way to a Tender Greens I kept getting deliveries from other places and took me further away from Tender Greens. It happened so many times throughout this week that I came to the conclusion that the Uber Eats algorithm doesn’t want me to deliver Tender Greens.
Despite my attempts, some crazy shit happened on Tuesday. I was doing my usual route of deliveries, until one delivery took me from Northridge to Tujunga. A few more orders later, I am deep in Glendale and delivered a $4 order that eventually came with a $46 tip! I literally had to pull over and double check because this was by far the biggest tip I have ever received.
The crazy part was, all I delivered was some combo plates from a seafood restaurant that was by their home. I eventually hit $160 again, but a few hours later, Prop 22 kicked in and gave me an additional $441, making my total earning $605.41!
This big tip absolutely hyped me up to continue onwards and make as much money as possible this week and try to hit that $200 in a single day, however, for some reason the rest of the week was super difficult to do any sort of deliveries.
The morning Walmart deliveries suddenly disappeared and the amount of deliveries I did on my usual areas started popping up less. In fact, there were days where I would be online for about seven hours and would only be active for two of them. So safe to say, I failed at earning $200 in a single day, unless if you count Prop 22 coming in and shocking the hell out of me.
Some other big highlights I also wanted to mention was that I delivered one can of Diet Coke from a liquor store, went on a Starbucks delivery rampage, unlocked Uber Eats Platinum, and ran into some kids in Burbank who were playing with lighter fluid, garbage, and matches in a residential alleyway. Isn’t Burbank just great?
Smallest Order: One 16oz can of Diet Coke
Largest Order: A $135 order of food from California Pizza Kitchen
Most Frequented: Starbucks
Smallest Tip of the Week: $1.00
Largest tip of the Week: $46.24
This was the last week of the month long challenge and I was determined to hit the $200 mark in a single day without the help of Prop 22. I started off this week pretty strong, and was able to get back into the groove with my go to strategies and routes.
The Uber Eats algorithm blessed me this week by giving me $20–$25 Walmart delivery routes. However, they gave me a ridiculous order in one of them where I had to deliver 13 glass vases. Best part was that the guys at Walmart didn’t had any paper or wrapping to offer, so I literally had to use everything in my car to prevent these vases from shattering. I am seriously starting to wonder if Walmart doesn’t see the problem or if they don’t care.
The rest of week went by smoothly and consistently, but I haven’t been able to hit the $200 mark. That was until I heard of an incoming hurricane to Los Angeles, and while some people are freaking out about it, I knew that it was just going to be another rainy day. I read some reddit forums that rainy days are a perfect opportunity to deliver, because nobody wants to go out. So I decided to do as much deliveries as humanely possible to hit my personal goal.
When I started delivering on Saturday, I was receiving a lot of requests and was popping off on deliveries. Every time I completed a delivery, another one went off and I spent the day delivering food all over Northridge, Encino, North Hills, Sherman Oaks, and even Simi Valley. It was at this point, I knew that people wanted to treat themselves since Hurricane Hillary was on her way.
On Sunday, when Hurricane Hillary hit Los Angeles, I started off my day doing a $30 Walmart delivery, but the hurricane made these deliveries so much harder. Not because it was super windy or dangerous, but because so many of the people I had to deliver to were at apartments and houses that had locked gates with no instructions on how to get in.
Meaning I had to get out and walk around in the rain in order to find a way to deliver their packages. I had to do this for about 14 stops and I was eventually drenched from head-to-toe and was absolutely exhausted. I eventually went home to get changed, but the overall fatigue from this week and the storm suddenly hit me and I knocked out for the rest of the day. I should have prepared better for this, but living in Los Angeles has made me doubt how heavy rain can be.
Smallest Order: One large Diet Coke from Jack in the Box (Why?)
Largest Order: 2 big bags of food from Katsu-ya
Most Frequented: Walmart
Smallest Tip of the Week: $1.00
Largest tip of the Week: $15.00
There you have it. Throughout this past month delivering for Uber Eats, I have earned a total of $2,684.62 which on average is about $537 per week. After taking in costs like gas, the total earned amount is whittled down to $2,079.42 which on average is about $416 per week.
If not for Proposition 22, this amount would have been considerably lower, making Uber Eats more of a detrimental side hustle than a productive one. However, with the Proposition and using some sound strategies, Uber Eats can definitely be viable option for those living in California.
My one-month journey as an Uber Eats courier offered an intimate view into the pros and cons of gig work. The flexibility and potential for extra income are enticing, but the financial realities are more difficult than one would think.
I definitely have gained a newfound appreciation for app based delivery drivers, because the things they go through can be downright annoying and challenging. Hopefully this article also gave you some insight on what would being Uber Eats driver would look like and if you want to try it out yourselves, you are more than welcome to. Hopefully, by reading what I went through you can use that knowledge to make more than what I made!
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Total Trips Delivered: 328
Smallest Order: One 16oz can of diet coke
Largest Order: An entire dinner course from California Pizza Kitchen.
Most Stressful Order: 12 Venti’s and 6 pastries from Starbucks, all in paper bags.
Most Chill Order: Anything from Chipotle/Jersey Mike’s Sub
Weirdest Order: One plain burger from 5 Guys delivered to a gated mansion in the mountains of Chatsworth
Most Absurd: Delivered a McDonalds order at 1:30 AM to a hotel room at the Holiday Inn by LAX. However, the McDonald’s was literally right in front of the hotel, like it was literally 58 steps away from the entrance. (I actually counted, because I was that curious!)
Biggest Tip Received: $46.24
Smallest Tip Received: 60 cents
Most Frequented: Starbucks
Best Packaged: McDonalds
Worst Packaged: Starbucks- Because they package their drinks in paper bags, and oddly shaped portable cup holders, and use super weak tape to seal it.
Hours Online: 171 Hours and 28 Minutes
Hours Active: 96 Hours and 7 Minutes
Most Trips done in a Single Day: 25
Least Trips done in a Single Day: 3
Total Earned: $2684.62
Total Spent on Gas: $605.20
Earnings before Taxes: $2079.42
Earnings after Taxes: $1663.53
About the Creator
A starving writer from LA who aspires to be plagiarized one day. I like to write about academic pieces that identifies philosophy and psychology in pop culture, and sometimes random fun pieces that interests me or the algorithm!