We priced out orders from Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats to see which one offers the best deal on delivery.
Ordering takeout or delivery is an easy habit to fall into. It's also an expensive one, but you can shave a little money off your monthly total by choosing the cheapest food delivery app. Food delivery apps are plentiful in 2023, but each has its own pricing, fees and other nuances that make some cheaper than others. As it turns out, how large or small an order you place might dictate which app is cheapest between the three biggest players: Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.
If you want the absolute cheapest takeout, your best bet is to call the restaurant directly and pick up your order and avoid service and delivery fees altogether. Or use the restaurant's dedicated delivery platform, if they have one. As a bonus, when you go direct through the restaurant, you'll be giving more of your money directly to the business since most delivery apps charge significant fees to use their platforms and marketing. But many restaurants have left delivery logistics to the major apps, and for some, it's the only way to order food without dining in.
To find the cheapest food delivery app, I compared three of the biggest players: Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. It turns out that some delivery apps are better (cheaper) for small orders while others make more sense if you're ordering a bigger meal with more total items.
Here's what I learned.
For three food orders between $20 and $80, Grubhub had the cheapest average totals. For orders of around $50, it was the lowest cost by a healthy margin. For smaller midsized orders of around $25 or $30, Uber Eats was typically less, but only by a dollar or so. If you're consistently ordering for two or three people, your bill is probably in the range that would make Grubhub the cheapest option.
Another consistency that emerged after calculating these delivery bills is that DoorDash is the cheapest if you're placing a small order. For all three orders under $20, DoorDash had the cheapest total cost, sometimes by a significant margin. In total, DoorDash was nearly $10 cheaper than Grubhub and about $6 cheaper than Uber Eats.
Conversely, Grubhub offered the best bottom-line prices for large orders. In every instance when the food costs topped $75, Grubhub was either the cheapest or essentially tied with Uber Eats, and both Uber Eats and Grubhub were cheaper than DoorDash. This is likely due to DoorDash's fixed 15% service charge that climbs in congruence with your bill. (More on that later.)
Because the charges and fees vary from restaurant to restaurant, and no single app is completely transparent about exactly how those fees and rates are set, there isn't a scientific method for determining which app is cheaper. The best system at my disposal is simply logging several orders from the same restaurant with each platform -- so that's exactly what I did.
To find out which delivery app had the lowest total cost for delivery in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I built 10 orders from 10 different restaurants using all three apps, and logged the fees and charges along with the total cost for each. I used restaurants of varying distances from my apartment and also orders of varying sizes to see if there were any trends for large or small orders. I built the carts for each order between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on a Tuesday evening to keep things fair.
I didn't include the driver tip in these figures, since it's up to the customer and would be a wash depending on what percentage you decide to tip. None of the apps require a driver tip but, please, always tip your delivery driver.
|Small order fee||N/A||$2.00||N/A|
When you order from Grubhub, you'll see two charges in addition to the food itself and tax.
The delivery fee is set by the restaurant and goes to them if it provides delivery and is set by Grubhub if the restaurant uses Grubhub drivers. It can be anywhere from $1 to $12, but is typically between $2 and $5. If you subscribe to Grubhub Plus, you can pay $10 a month to get free delivery on orders over $12 from participating restaurants. Some restaurants don't charge a delivery fee at all, whether or not you subscribe, to entice customers to choose them over a competitor.
The service fee varies but is typically a percentage of the order that goes to Grubhub to "help cover operating costs." This fee in my area of Brooklyn is typically around $2.50 per order but can jump as high as $7 or $8 for some restaurants.
The total cost of a Grubhub order will be the cost of your food, plus taxes, plus the service fee, plus the delivery fee, plus a tip. If you spend less than $10, there may also be an additional $2 minimum charge fee.
Why Grubhub can be more expensive is that restaurants set the delivery fee, since it's variable from establishment to establishment. Some restaurants charge as much as $10, but as mentioned, most charge around $2 to $5. This is to offset the service fee that Grubhub charges the restaurants themselves (15% to 30%) in addition to the 10% delivery fee it takes if restaurants use Grubhub drivers.
In total, Grubhub nabs anywhere from 15% to 40% of each order depending on what plan the restaurant has signed up for, but those figures are not made available to the customer.
Uber Eats operates with a similar model to Grubhub and DoorDash but with some slight differences. When ordering from Uber Eats, you'll see a delivery fee which is set by the restaurant as well as "taxes and other fees." Within that second bucket lies the Uber Eats service fee which varies, sometimes dramatically, depending on the restaurant you're ordering from. While Uber Eats doesn't disclose exactly how this fee is calculated, factors such as the distance from the restaurant to your home, the size of your order and the time of day your order is placed are part of the equation.
The Uber Eats delivery fee can range from $0 to $8. In my neighborhood, the delivery fee set by restaurants is typically between 49 cents and $2.49. The total cost of an Uber Eats order will be the cost of your food, plus taxes, plus the service fee, plus the delivery fee, plus a tip.
For really hungry customers, Uber Eats offers priority delivery, a small charge to ensure that your driver comes directly to you first without making other stops or deliveries along the way.
Uber Eats also takes up to 30% of each order from the restaurant. But those figures are also not made available to the customer.
Like Uber Eats and GrubHub, DoorDash also charges a delivery fee set by restaurants and a service fee that goes to the app in addition to the cost of your food. According to the app and website, the delivery fee "varies by restaurant and may be determined by your location," among other factors.
Unlike GrubHub and Uber Eats, DoorDash charges a flat service fee of 15% of your total bill, with a minimum charge of $3. This is good for transparency, since the service fee is easily quantified, but means the fees can also get pretty high, especially as your bill goes up.
Similar to GrubHub and Uber Eats, DoorDash takes anywhere from 15% to 30% of each order depending on which tier the restaurant has signed up for. Again, these percentages are not made available to the public.
If you're a habitual delivery orderer, those fees can add up in the course of the month. All three services mentioned here now offer a monthly subscription for $10 that gives you free delivery on all orders. Uber Eats has Eats Pass, Grubhub has Grubhub Plus and DoorDash has DashPass. Keep in mind, this will eliminate the delivery fee but not the service fee. You can give each one a free 30-day trial.
For more price comparison, see how much meal kits cost versus buying groceries, and how much you can save shopping at Trader Joe's or Costco.