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How to DoorDash for the First Time (2024 Guide)

Don't Work Another Day is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own.
  By Forrest McCall | Last Updated:  March 5, 2022

DoorDash is a company that has pushed its way to the top over the past few years. Many people utilize the delivery service as a side hustle, while others take it on as a full-time career. However, if you're starting, it can be a little overwhelming. How do you DoorDash for the first time?

If you're attempting to complete delivery as a DoorDash driver for the first time and need a little advice, you've come to the right place.

In this post, I'll explore how to Doordash for the first time, how to make money in the gig economy, and much more. Let's get started!

How to Doordash for the First Time

How to DoorDash for the First Time

Unless you have experience as a delivery driver with other companies, it will take a bit of practice to master being a DoorDash driver. The dasher app isn't hard to handle once you know what you're doing. However, it can take a second to begin delivering as a first-time dasher.

There are several steps you can follow if you want to succeed. Let's talk about how you can have a successful first delivery all by yourself. You can deliver your first order and accept payment right away.

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Ensure You Have a Car and a Phone

First, ensure you have the technology needed to handle multiple orders. For DoorDash, these are a car and a phone. Some may use a bicycle as a delivery method for their first dash, which will save you money on gas in the long haul.

It's best if you select a used, fuel-efficient vehicle for your DoorDash deliveries. Some of the best include:

  • Honda Civic

  • Toyota Prius

  • Kia Hybrid

  • Toyota Corolla

These will save money and improve your actual earnings over time. It's best to find a car on its last limbs. Many DoorDash drivers recommend a vehicle that you can drive into the ground if possible.

You'll need a phone with access to the DoorDash driver app at all times. Between the car and the phone, you have the basics you need to complete your first DoorDash delivery. You're ready to get going right away.

Related Resources:

Doordash Tips

Learn How to Work With the DoorDash Driver App

The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the app before committing to a DoorDash order. Ensure your profile is in order. Explore all the features available, and determine the most popular zones near you. Making a game plan before you begin is an excellent course of action.

If you don't have an account, you should make one at this time. You will need to complete a background check and put in basic information before you start dashing. DoorDash is much more secure than many other apps like it.

Look for Busy Zones

Next, look at the zones around you. Search for a zone that appears busy – these are where most of the orders come in and where you'll make more money. The base pay is also typically higher in these locations.

Zones are separated by color. Grey areas aren't busy at all and should be avoided. Light red zones are considered more active than grey, but dark red zones are the best. These will pay the most and provide excellent opportunities for their first DoorDash delivery.

If you live in a small town, there may only be one busy area. If you live in a big city, there might be more available for DoorDash drivers to take advantage of for their life. Examine these and note how close they are to you. Pick a space that won't take too much effort to get to during your time. Remember back roads and highways that might be busy during rush hours.

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Select a Zone

Once you've examined the zones in your area, you need to select the one you can work inside. Shifts are scheduled at 30-minute intervals. Once you choose a zone, all of your assignments will be in that particular DoorDash zone. You can't switch back and forth between zones once you settle on one.

It's best to select a zone close to you so you don't waste gas. Pick the nearest dark red area for peak pay as an independent contractor. You want to pick a place bustling with people for the best results.

Once you've landed on an area, you can specify how long you want to dash for – such as 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. This time slot will allow you to accept an order in that zone for that period. You will receive orders every thirty minutes for that time unless you designate otherwise on the app.

Related: How to Become Wealthy in 5 Years

How to Doordash

Start Working Like Other DoorDash Drivers

Now that you have your time and zone selected, it's time to be like other delivery drivers on the app. Drive to the area and get ready to begin accepting orders. You shouldn't wait for too long.

Once you're in the area, hit the “Dash Now” button. This action indicates that you're in the location and ready to begin the delivery process.

At this point, the DoorDash app will double-check that you have:

  • A Red Card

  • A delivery hot bag

  • Gas in your vehicle

  • A phone for orders and directions

You will need to confirm all of these items.

Once you inform the app that you're ready to go, it's time to embark on your first DoorDash delivery. Press the “Start Your Dash” button to being your shift in the DoorDash zone.

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Accept a Delivery

When you hit this button, the driver app will examine the area for delivery requests. You don't need to do anything during this process. Find a place to park your car and wait for a customer to appear on your screen.

It's best to park near a hot spot during this time – these will be marked with a flame on the map. You're more likely to find high-paying orders and the most customers here. The further you are from restaurants, the fewer orders you will receive. This proximity shouldn't be too much of a concern with your first order unless no delivery offers appear.

When a request comes to life, you will also see several other items. These include:

  • The delivery distance

  • The restaurant

  • The number of items in the order

  • The time goal for the delivery

  • The pay for the delivery without the customer tips

These are all you will need to deliver and complete your first customer order.

You can decline to deliver the order, or you can tap ‘Accept'. It's critical to note that hitting ‘Decline' will impact your acceptance rate. This factor doesn't matter much as a new driver, but it will once you get going.

One of the best DoorDash tips you can remember is to accept orders that pay at least a dollar per mile. Keep this in mind once you take on and complete your first customer order in your location.

Travel to the Pickup Spot

Now that you have all the information you need, it's time to physically travel to the pickup location. If you have one, take your hot bag to ensure the food stays warm. You might not have this item on your first dash.

Once at the place, DoorDash and the restaurant will provide pickup instructions. If there's an issue, press the ‘Issue' button instead of wasting time waiting.

If it's taking a while to gain access to the order, you can hit ‘Waiting for an Order'. You can then specify why you think the order is taking so long based on the prompts DoorDash offers.

Once you have the food in hand, you can confirm the order. Get all the extra items needed like napkins, silverware, and condiments. Hit the ‘Confirm' button and get back in your car to get ready to finish the process. There is little time to wait.

Related: How to Make Quick Money in One Day

Deliver the Food

Now that you have the meal, it's time to complete the delivery. DoorDash will bring up another navigation window, like Google Maps, to help you get to the place you need to go. They should specify if there are additional delivery requirements, such as if they're in a hotel or apartment.

Once at the place, there are three ways you can deliver the food. They should specify their preference in the app. You can:

  • Hand the food directly to the customer

  • Drop the food off

  • Leave the food at the door

The customer will specify their preference so you can be ready to go right away.

If they want you to hand it to them and you can't, tap the designated button to specify this issue in the app. DoorDash will allow you to get in contact with them. If nothing works, you can leave the food near the location, take a picture, and move on to your next order. Now, it's time to receive compensation for your work.

Get Paid for the DoorDash Order

Once you complete the order, it's time to get paid. Take a picture of the delivered food to confirm the job is done. DoorDash doesn't operate on hourly pay like other companies. Rather, you can expect your income to come in based on the DoorDash driver app pay formula.

If you're curious, here are the factors that go into your payment amount for each DoorDash delivery:

  • Base Pay: The base pay is the amount that comes with every order. No matter what, you will receive a base payment. This amount includes the time it takes to complete the order, the total distance driven, and the desirability of the location.

  • Promotions: DoorDash will occasionally have promotions to consider, such as hot spots and other incentives. These can increase the value of the payment and add to the base payment.

  • Tips: All DoorDash drivers get 100% of the tips from customers in a location, whether it's the first DoorDash delivery or last.

These will vary by the order placed.

Average dasher payouts tend to range from $15-$25 an hour. If you're wondering if this payment includes compensation for gas and repairs, it doesn't. You will need to cover these costs on your time, which can take away from the total income.

Check out the video below for a few helpful Doordash tips.

What Types of Orders Are There?

Once you get past your first order, you can wait for more. There are several different types of DoorDash orders based on the customers and the location. Let's save time during your delivery process and cover the types of orders you will encounter while accepting and declining orders.

The three main types of orders you will find on the DoorDash app include:

  • Standard Order: A standard order is the traditional way of dashing. You'll get pickup location and customer information, special instructions, a countdown timer, and a way to collect the order.

  • Place Order: This type requires you to physically travel to the location and place the order. You might need to pay with your DoorDash Red Card.

  • Red Card Order: These are orders that have been placed and paid for on the DoorDash app. However, they haven't been paid for yet. You will need to cover the cost with the restaurant staff for the customer with your DoorDash Red Card.

These aren't too different except in the way they require you to interact with people at the food locations.

You can accept or decline orders based on the type of communication you prefer. Once you settle on something you like, you can dive in. Happy dashing!

Related: Is Doordash Worth It?

Are There Any Orders You Should Avoid?

If you're just getting started, it's critical to know what orders to avoid. You want to make as much money as possible, and that might mean saying no to orders that could be a waste of time.

As mentioned above, an excellent rule of thumb is to only go with orders that pay at least a dollar per mile. These will save you time and money in the long run. You have to pay for gas, so you want to make the driving worth it.

Another thing you should do is look at DoorDash driver reviews in the area. Some restaurants might have a history of getting orders wrong or taking a long time to get the food out to the dasher. If possible, steer clear of any location or order type other dasher have had poor experiences with in their life.

What Are the Best Times to DoorDash?

It doesn't matter what time of day you dash for your first order. All you need to do is get that first one under your belt so you're an established part of the system. Once this action is out of the way, however, you need to be smart about the time you dash on the app.

Two good times to Doordash include:

  • At any point in the week during meal times in the morning, afternoon, and night

  • On the weekends, from Thursday night to Sunday night during peak hours

These are typically when the most people order food, and when larger orders might occur.

It's critical to be smart about the orders you accept here. They might pay more, but traffic can be heavier depending on where you live. Ensure you stick with the dollar a mile rule for optimal payment opportunities as you pick up orders and deliver them to hungry customers.

Doordash Red Card

Can You Be A DoorDash Delivery Driver Without a Red Bag?

When you start dashing for the first time, you can send in your information to get a welcome kit from the company. These items are a must in the DoorDash world. They let you keep food warm and accept deliveries that require payment at the eatery.

Although you don't need these items to work for DoorDash, not having them can severely limit your options. It's best to get the welcome kit as soon as possible for optimal deliveries.

When you first start, DoorDash is aware that you may not have the red bag and card. They will only send you delivery options that can happen without these so you don't get stuck with an order you can't complete.

Once you finish your order, DoorDash will send the kit out to you. They'll keep you updated until it arrives. When the kit comes, you'll have access to orders that pay significantly more than the basic ones a first-time individual has access to as a driver.

How Long Does it Take to Get Your First Doordash Order

How Long Does It Take To Get Your First DoorDash Driver Order?

You shouldn't have to wait for too long to get access to your first DoorDash order. Pick your zone, travel to it, and find a hot spot on the map. Take your car or bicycle and find a place to park near a group of popular eating locations.

Most dashers don't have to wait much longer than a few minutes for delivery options to appear. As mentioned above, if it takes a long time for one to appear, you can ask the app for help. Be sure you're driving during peak hours to ensure deliveries are available.

Another way to improve your chances of getting an order is to move to a different group of restaurants. Once you've worked in the app for a while, you will have a better idea of what eating places are popular at different times. Some get more orders during the week, while others get business on the weekend. Eventually, you'll get in the swing of things and snag orders in no time at all.

Do You Have To Pay for Your First DoorDash Delivery?

You do not need to pay for your first DoorDash delivery unless you need gas or a mechanical repair on your vehicle. The signup process and background check for the company are free. You should be able to dive in right away without trouble.

If you're being asked for payment to deliver on DoorDash, ensure you're in the right place. Don't get scammed out of money if you're looking to work for DoorDash. Be careful not to give up any private information unless you're certain.

Related: Best Apps That Give You Free Money

Do You Have to Have an Activation Kit to Dash?

Although it comes in handy, you don't need an activation kit to dash. However, you will find yourself limited in what you can do. An activation kit has a manual to help you get started, a hot bag, and a Red Card. These will help you feel more comfortable being a dasher, keep food hot, and accept orders where you need to pay for the food at the eating location.

You don't have to have an activation kit to dash. DoorDash will not offer you orders that need anything that comes in this kit if you don't have it on hand.

It might seem easier to avoid the activation kit, but you'll find your delivery experience is much better if you decide to get these items. After your first order, take you time to send in your information for the kit.

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Can You Stop a Dash?

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, you might accept a dash and realize it's not worth your time. Or, you might run into an emergency that prevents you from traveling to the area. Whatever the case, you might wonder – is it possible to stop a dash once you've accepted, or is it too late at this point?

Although you can't stop a dash in progress, you can pause your orders. Complete the latest one you've accepted, and then hit the ‘Pause Orders' button. This action will stop the requests in your work period for thirty minutes. DoorDash will not send you orders while you are on pause.

You can also hit ‘End Dash' if you're not currently delivering to stop getting orders for the day. If you're in the middle of a delivery, you can hit ‘End Dash After this Order'. Once you complete the process, you will stop receiving delivery requests for the day.

Don't abandon an order in the middle of delivery. It doesn't bode well for your reputation on the app, and it causes trouble for everyone involved.

Final Thoughts on Your First Doordash Delivery

Using the Doordash app to make food deliveries can seem overwhelming, but it's actually quite simple.

By following the directions in the app you can easily make your first delivery without issues.

Doordash is a great summer side hustle for many people to make extra money. So what're you waiting for!?

Forrest is a personal finance, entrepreneurship, and investing expert dedicated to helping others obtain life long wealth. He has a Bachelor's degree in business and has been featured in many popular publications including Forbes, Business Insider, Bankrate, CNET Money, and many others. To learn more about Forrest, visit the About Us Page for more info.
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