Harry here. For drivers without a rideshare eligible vehicle, delivery has always been a great option. But what if you don’t have a car at all? Today, RSG guest poster Financial Panther shares what it’s like being a bike courier for Postmates.
One of the things I love about delivery apps like Postmates is how they give you the option to do deliveries without having to use a car. I’ve never been a car guy. My preferred mode of transportation has always been a bike. That’s why I was so intrigued when I first heard there were apps out there where I could basically get paid to bike around town.
For about two years now, I’ve been working in my spare time as a bike courier on these platforms. I always get weird looks when people find out that I deliver food in my spare time. I work as an attorney during the day and most people don’t expect someone like me to be doing work like this.
But doing bike deliveries always seemed like the perfect side hustle for me. I spend 8 hours or more per day sitting in front of a computer screen. I love that I’m able to get outside on my bike after work and get paid to do it!
I’ve now been a bike courier for all of the major delivery services that operate in my city, including Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar and UberEats. Most of my deliveries have been through Postmates, mainly because it’s the one that I’ve been signed up with for the longest. Since I’ve done most of my deliveries through Postmates, this article focuses primarily on that platform.
Even if you sign up for Postmates, I still recommend signing up to deliver on all of the other major delivery platforms available in your city as well. It’s always good to give yourself multiple options when you’re working. Check out our sign up bonuses page to see if any of the courier companies are offering sign up bonuses here.
Before I go any further, let me briefly explain why I prefer doing my deliveries via bike.
Advantages of Doing Deliveries On Your Bike
I’ve never been much of the driving type and even today, I don’t actually own a car (my fiance has a car, but it’s technically her car, and we’ll likely stay a one car household for the foreseeable future). Sure, there are some advantages with driving. You can do longer, more expensive deliveries. You don’t have to worry about the elements. And you won’t get physically tired.
But biking has its advantages too. Here are four advantages with biking that you can’t get from driving:
- You Get Exercise. Being a rideshare driver is inherently a sedentary activity and honestly, not all that healthy for you. Most of us already spend all day sitting at a desk. Being able to bike around a bit and get some exercise is a great way to stay in shape. A lot of people pay to go to the gym after work. I just turn on Postmates, hop on my bike, and make some deliveries. It’s like I’m getting paid to exercise!
- Low Expenses. The great thing about biking is that you’ll drastically reduce your overhead expenses. When you’re doing deliveries using your bike, you don’t have to worry about paying for gas or putting miles on your car. The cost to maintain a bike for an entire year is pretty minimal. Plus, you reduce your healthcare expenses by staying fit and healthy.
- You Don’t Have To Worry About Finding Parking. Anyone who has done deliveries in a car knows what a pain it is to find parking. Restaurants tend to be located in busy areas that aren’t particularly friendly to cars. I love being able to just bike up to the restaurant and walk right in without having to deal with parking.
- You’ll Avoid Getting Stuck In Traffic. Another great benefit! The delivery rush tends to happen around dinner time, right when people happen to be on the road. When you’re on a bike, you can just cruise right through all of that traffic. It’s a sweet feeling when you’re able to fly past all of those cars.
The Onboarding Process
The onboarding process may differ slightly depending on where you’re located. Back when I signed up for Postmates in 2015, the process was pretty similar to how Harry described it back when he signed up for Postmates. The key difference was that since I had signed up to deliver using a bike, I didn’t need to provide any insurance info.
Since 2015, the onboarding process seems to have been simplified even more, at least for in cities without a local Postmates office. Back in October of 2016, I had my fiance sign up to deliver for Postmates in order to take advantage of a referral bonus that Postmates was offering. This time around, the onboarding process was done entirely online. All she had to do was watch a few videos showing her how to use the app and then take a short quiz. Postmates then mailed her a pex card and delivery bag a few days later. After activating the card, she was on her way. We didn’t even have to leave our house in order to complete her onboarding!
Challenges As A Biker
Being a bike courier presents a few challenges that drivers don’t really face. There are basically two things you’ll need to think about when it comes to doing deliveries on your bike: (1) how are you going to carry the order and (2) and what type of orders should you avoid.
How Are You Going To Carry The Order?
When you’re doing deliveries on a bike, it’s really important to keep the customer’s order in an insulated bag. Otherwise, the food will be cold by the time you get it to the customer. This is especially true for anyone who’s brave enough to do bike deliveries in the winter.
You’ve basically got two choices when it comes to what type of bag to use – you can either use the standard delivery bag that Postmates gives you or you could deck yourself out and go with an insulated backpack.
For the vast majority of my delivery career, I’ve gone with the standard thermal delivery bag that Postmates gives us. It looks like this:
That’s a nice looking bag. But since I’m big on platform stacking, I opted to go with a random thermal delivery bag that I found in my house.
Biking with this type of bag isn’t all that hard. I just sling it over my shoulder while I bike.
If you want to be fancier, you can go with an insulated backpack. I hadn’t gone with that option before because I didn’t want to spend the money. However, a few months ago, I signed up with UberEats and, as part of the onboarding process with them, I was able to snag the below bag for $10:
You can find similar insulated backpacks on Amazon. Honestly, I could probably do deliveries with either type of bag. If you want to make deliveries easier on yourself, I’d probably recommend going with the insulated backpack. It’s really made my biking so much easier.
What Type Of Orders Can You Carry?
One factor that every biker has to consider is whether they can actually carry the stuff the customer ordered. With a car, you can just put the order on your passenger seat and be on your way. With a bike, you need to consider whether you can actually transport the order without making a mess. The last thing you want to do is show up to the customer’s door with their order spilled or squashed.
I actually had to learn this fact the hard way. Early on in my delivery career, I accepted an order to deliver four lattes from Caribou Coffee. I figured it’d be easy enough for me to just bike with one hand and hold the coffees in my other hand (I had them in a drink holder). Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. I ended up having the most frustrating bike ride of my life and spilled coffee everywhere. To top it all off, I also got dinged with a bad review and no tip. Today, I almost always reject coffee orders unless it’s something like a frozen drink that won’t really spill.
As a biker, you’ll also need to consider whether you have the ability to deliver fountain drinks. Orders from fast food places, for example, will almost always have a fountain drink with it. I typically don’t have too much trouble delivering those since I find that I can just hold the drinks in one hand. If you put a cover on them, they won’t really spill.
Pizzas are another potential problem area. You can do them if you have a bike rack and some bungee cords, but I find that’s just a bit too much hassle for me.
So what’s the best food to deliver on a bike? In my opinion, it’s food from Chinese restaurants. They just always seem to package everything up really nicely.
What Does The Postmates Courier App Look Like As A Bike Courier?
The Postmates courier app basically looks the same on the bike courier side except that bikers get to see what the order is before accepting it. Remember, as a biker, you’re naturally limited in what you can carry, so it’s important to look at the order first to see if it’s something that you can take.
When an order comes in, it’ll look like this:
Since this was a coffee order, I turned it down. It’s just not worth the hassle, especially since I have no clue where it’s going. Postmates does say that it limits the distance that you’ll have to travel on a bike to a few miles at most, but I’ve had situations where orders were going pretty far away. You definitely want to be carrying something pretty easy if it’s going to be a long ride.
One thing to note is that Postmates recently changed how the courier app works. Before, when you accepted an order, you were immediately shown the delivery location. Sometimes, when the order was to a location that I didn’t really want to bike to, I’d cancel the order.
In the latest update, Postmates now doesn’t tell you the location until you’ve actually picked up the order from the restaurant. For bikers, this can be a problem since there’s always a possibility that the delivery is going to a location you don’t really want to go to or to a spot that isn’t easily reached by bike.
How Much Have I Made With Postmates?
I’ve done over 350 deliveries during my Postmates career, all in my spare time after work or on the weekends. Below is a screenshot of what I’ve earned during my Postmates career.
As you can see, I’m averaging about $9.50 per delivery. Typically, I’m able to do about two deliveries per hour during the lunch or dinner rush. If I had to guess, I’d say I’m probably averaging about $15 per hour. I’m also able to maximize my earnings by platform stacking Postmates with other delivery apps such as DoorDash or Uber Eats.
As most of you have probably seen, your earnings can fluctuate a ton depending on whether people actually tip or not. Take a look at some of my recent deliveries.
As a biker, you’ll get a lot of short distance orders where you’re getting paid around $4 or $5 for the delivery (without blitz pricing). I prefer the short orders since I can do them really fast, but if you’re not getting tips, it can get a little frustrating.
If you’re trying to maximize your earnings, make sure you also consider distance to the restaurant. You don’t want to accept orders for a restaurant that’s really far away from where you are unless it’s really slow. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting valuable time biking to the restaurant.
One thing to remember is that, as a bike courier, your expenses will be minimal, which means more money in your pocket. Drivers are going to have to deal with gas and putting miles on their car. Maintaining your bike, on the other hand, doesn’t have to cost very much. I also like to think that I’m getting a financial benefit from biking by keeping myself in shape and healthy. Your health is priceless, right?
One suggestion I have to further reduce your potential expenses is to make use of your city’s bike share system. Most cities with bike share systems allow you to purchase a cost-effective yearly membership. Usually, it won’t cost more than $10 a month. The great thing is that, by using your city’s bike share system, you can avoid all of the potential maintenance costs and wear and tear on your own bike. I’d say 95% of the time, I make my deliveries using a bike share bike. The only time I really opt to use my own bike is if I plan to do deliveries all day.
To sum things up, there are a lot of advantages to doing deliveries via bike. It’s probably my favorite side hustle and aligns perfectly with what I like doing. If you’re the type of person who likes staying active and essentially getting paid to exercise, then being a bike courier is something that you should definitely consider.
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Bio: Financial Panther is a lawyer who paid off $87,000 worth of student loans in just 2.5 years by choosing not to live like a big shot lawyer. He blogs over at Financial Panther, where he writes about personal finance, crushing debt, and side hustling using the sharing economy. He also loves biking and, when he’s not working, he delivers food on his bike using Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar, and UberEats.