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Uber, DoorDash drivers spell out the new rules of tipping

Uber and Lyft stickers are seen through a car windshield.
A ride share car displays Lyft and Uber stickers on its front windshield in downtown Los Angeles. | Richard Vogel/AP Photo | Source: AP Photo/Richard Vogel

With inflation making everything from groceries to car repairs more expensive, rideshare and food delivery drivers are putting the message out there—you’ve gotta tip.

“Tips make the difference between whether a job is worth it or not,” said DoorDash driver Ben Magana. “Without a tip, sometimes I break even with just the gas it costs.”

Magana said demand is down for orders overall since the pandemic and as such, people need to be tipping more. “I’ll go weeks at a time when it’s quiet day after quiet day,” he said.

Ben Magana drives full-time for DoorDash in Los Angeles. | Courtesy Ben Magana

“As orders get bigger, I’d say 15-20%. There’s orders you have to carry with two hands, and there’s drinks to worry about,” Magana said. “As a personal rule, the bare minimum is at least $3. For those making the bigger orders and not tipping it’s like, you have enough money to treat yourself to a nice dinner, but maybe you don’t care about the drivers.”

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San Francisco Uber driver Marianna Porras said her profit margins are so thin after paying for gas she refuses to take passengers over bridges due to the toll. Porras, a single mom to four school-age kids, also said tips are essential so she can afford groceries.

“I think that we’re becoming more dependent on tips because of the costs not being covered by Uber. It helps me get paid out what I should be paid by Uber,” Porras said. “$5 goes a long way; it adds up,” Porras said.

An Uber spokesperson said customers cover drivers’ toll costs in full during rides, which is paid to drivers by the rideshare company.

Some of the costs not covered by Uber include car maintenance, as well as fuel, which can reduce drivers’ profits according to Nicole Moore, president of Rideshare Drivers United, an Uber and Lyft driver union.

“In order to get paid at all, you have to get a tip, 20% is fair for restaurants, and also for drivers,” Moore said.

Lyft allows passengers to tip drivers during their rides. Lyft did not respond to a request for comment. Uber Eats prompts customers to tip before their order arrives and says 100% of the tip goes to the courier.

Nicole Moore | Courtesy Nicole Moore

Ride costs have increased in recent years and many drivers are seeing smaller tips because of it, Moore said.

“When the rides were subsidized by investment money, tips were much better. Now these companies are charging as much as they can get away with,” Moore said.

Uber said that its pricing model is based on a variety of factors, including base fare, time and distance rates, and how high demand for rides at the passenger’s destination is. Uber also said Proposition 22, a California law passed in November 2020 that solidified rideshare and food delivery drivers’ status as independent contractors, provides a wage equivalent to 120% of the California minimum wage, which is $15.50 an hour.

An August 2020 study from the UC Berkeley Labor Center estimated that, when their expenses were taken into account, drivers would earn as low as $5.64 an hour if Proposition 22 passed.

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Moore pointed to a 2022 National Equity Atlas report, which found that due to the costs of gas and repairs, as well as unpaid time spent waiting for rides, full-time rideshare drivers earn an equivalent hourly rate of $6.20 on average in California.

Uber said that its use of upfront pricing, which tells drivers what they will earn before accepting a ride, gives drivers more control.

Doordash said drivers can see what they will get paid for an order before they decide to accept it and that drivers in California earned on average $34 an hour in 2022. Doordash said that a “vast majority” of customers leave tips.

“We empathize with the frustration of not receiving a tip or receiving a particularly low tip on an order, which is why tipping is one of three components that make up Dasher pay—base pay, tips and promotions,” Doordash said in an email.