How Much Money Should You Tip Your Food Delivery App Driver?

As America's tipping culture grows ever more pervasive, some consumers are getting weary of the constant request. Still, tipping for food delivery does seem like one situation where tipping people is genuinely appropriate. But how big of a tip is enough? When dining in a restaurant setting, everyone knows the norm is to tip 15% to 20% of the bill, but when it comes to food delivery, the guidelines are less clear.

In 2023, a video from a DoorDash user's doorbell cam went viral after showing a delivery driver cursing the customer for under-tipping; that is, in the opinion of the delivery driver. How much was the offensively low tip? It was $5 on a $20 order, which comes out to a very respectable 25%. That driver was subsequently fired, but the incident did open up a lasting dialogue about how much is considered a reasonable tip for food delivery app drivers.

As it turns out, that controversial $5 tip was right on the money (pun intended). Delivery service Grubhub recommends a tip of 20% of the meal price or $5, whichever amount is more. However, there are certain instances where you might consider giving your driver a little extra.

Large orders or foul weather may command bigger tips

It only makes sense that the first situation where an outsized tip for a food delivery driver would be warranted is for large orders. For example, purchasing dozens of pizzas for an office party. In those instances, Grubhub recommends adding an additional 3% to 5% to its baseline suggestion of 20% of the meal price. Besides the logistics of physically handling such a supersized order, it might also fill the entire space within a vehicle, preventing the driver from adding other orders to the trip.

Similarly, if it's snowing or raining heavily — the very reasons you probably didn't want to leave home to begin with — Grubhub suggests customers consider adding an extra $3 to $5 to compensate the driver for keeping you warm and dry at their expense. The same advice applies if you live on the upper floors of a building without elevator access. Though stairs are a way of life for city dwellers, there's a big difference between carrying a meal up to the second floor versus the fifth floor. Tip accordingly.

It's okay to tip delivery drivers through the app

A 2022 Newsweek survey found that a full 64% of Americans report tipping based on the value of the meal or grocery order, which can leave drivers of small or inexpensive orders with the proverbial short end of the stick. A case in point: A bag from the grocery store that's filled with ramen noodle packets is the same size and requires the same time and effort as one filled with expensive gourmet items, yet the values of the orders will be wildly different.

Therefore, keep in mind the earlier recommendation of a $5 gratuity, regardless of the value of an order. Maintaining this practice will also incentivize and condition food delivery drivers to accept smaller orders, too, which might otherwise go ignored. To wit, some drivers report that their income is so dependent on tips that when expenses such as gas are factored in, they'd actually lose money making deliveries without receiving tips.

Finally, remember that the delivery fees aren't the same as gratuities. Delivery fees, which typically range from $1.99 to $7.99 per order, are fully retained by third-party delivery companies to offset their operating costs, including the incredibly modest base salaries of their drivers. Gratuities, on the other hand, go directly to drivers. Consumers are certainly welcome to tip their drivers in cash at the time of delivery, but shouldn't shy away from tipping in-app. All major players in the food delivery space pass along 100% of tips earned via apps to drivers, so in effect, it's as good as giving cash.