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When you’d rather order fast food from your favorite local restaurant instead of running to the grocery store, what’s the cheapest food delivery service to use? Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats?
We did some research to find the answer.
But before we dive into that, we know some people aren’t looking for a deep dive on delivery prices, they just want a good deal on their next takeout order.
So here are a few to consider:
DoorDash is currently offering new customers a $0 delivery fee on their first order.
You can’t get much cheaper than that (although we encourage you to tip your delivery driver, especially during the coronavirus pandemic).
You can save $7 off your first order of $12 or more with code AFF7.
You can save $7 on your first order of $14 or more with code eats-haleyy303ue.
And with that, let’s go deeper into what’s the best food delivery app available.
Another quick note: We didn’t include Seamless in our experiment, however, you can view our list of tested and verified Seamless promo codes here.
In this post, you’ll find:
- Which food delivery apps we think are the cheapest
- A breakdown of how each food delivery service sets its prices so you can order smarter and get a good deal
- Coupons and promo codes to help you save money on your next meal delivery
- An experiment where we tested 5 popular services (available to both iOS and Android users) against each other
Basically, we’re going to give you the simplest answer possible and then offer you a more detailed breakdown in case you geek out on this stuff like we do.
What’s the Cheapest Food Delivery Service?
Rates depend on where you live, how much food you’re ordering, what time of day it is, and individual pricing at your local restaurants. Here’s how the leading companies approach those variables.
How 5 popular food delivery services set their prices
|Standard Delivery Fee||Surge Pricing? (Raising rates during busy hours)||Minimum Order?|
|GrubHub||Lets each restaurant decide.||No||Lets each restaurant decide.|
|Postmates||$0.99–$3.99 for Partner Merchants. All other merchants range between $5.99-$9.99.||Yes||Not for standard orders. $12 minimum to qualify for free delivery with Postmates Unlimited.|
|Uber Eats||Usually $2 – $8 (depending on your distance from the restaurant)||Yes||Small Order Fees vary by city. Typically $2 for subtotals less than $10 or $3 for subtotals less than $15.|
|Caviar||$1.99 – $8.99, (depending on your distance from the restaurant) +18% service fee.||No, but does increase minimum orders during busy hours.||$15 – $25|
|DoorDash||99 cents to $7.99 plus a service fee of 7% to 15% on every order.||Yes||No|
How to get a better deal with each delivery service
Grubhub’s pricing model is unique because in many cases, they simply process the online orders, leaving delivery to the actual restaurant.
I’ve asked the customer service team for a typical rate, or even a range, on multiple occasions — and they haven’t offered one.
According to their FAQ, minimum order amounts are also set by the restaurants — some have minimums, some don’t.
Grubhub for Work, a separate branch of the service that allows businesses to order food, has a standard $9.99 delivery fee and a $50 minimum.
A great thing about Grubhub is they don’t do surge pricing, which their customer service team recently confirmed for me.
How to get a better deal on GrubHub:
- Consider not using Grubhub for smaller orders to avoid the minimum order amounts set by some restaurants on the platform.
- Since Grubhub doesn’t use surge pricing, doesn’t have a % based fee, and the prices vary by restaurant, I don’t have a great tip for how to save money on Grubhub.
Caviar charges $1.99 to $8.99 for delivery, depending on your distance from the restaurant you selected. It also charges a flat 18% service fee, which, for high ticket orders, means it often won’t be the cheapest food delivery service.
The typical minimum order requirement is $15; however, according to their customer service team, during periods of unusually high demand, they may temporarily increase the minimum subtotal up to $25. They say that, “Typically, the minimum will return to normal in 10 to 30 minutes.”
Other than the added minimum, they do not have surge pricing, which is a nice perk. And Caviar will occasionally “offer $0 Delivery Fees to highlight select restaurant partners.”
How to get a better deal on Caviar:
- Consider keeping orders low to limit the effects of the 18% service fee
- Order from nearby restaurants
Uber Eats pricing
UberEats recently updated the way they set their prices.
Although they’ve described their fee as “variable” for a while, it usually came in at around $4.99 — a good deal for longer deliveries, but not so much if you were ordering from a restaurant just down the block.
Under the new sliding scale system, delivery fees typically range from $2 – $8, depending on how far you live from the restaurant. And thanks to a cool new feature, you can now filter restaurants based on how much it would cost to have them delivered. So, for example, you can choose to only see restaurants with a delivery fee of $5 or less.
Uber Eats does have surge pricing during busy hours, which can increase your rate (with the goal of incentivizing more delivery drivers to come online to speed up delivery times). One writer says, thanks to surge pricing, she was quoted $23 to get an $8 order of fried rice delivered.
Uber Eats used to not have minimum order amounts but has introduced “Small Order Fees” to their service. It varies by city but is typically $2 for subtotals less than $10 or $3 for subtotals less than $15.
How to get a better deal on UberEats:
- Schedule orders in advance to avoid surge pricing
- Look for restaurants close to your address, which should come with smaller delivery fees.
According to Quartz, Doordash charges 99 cents to $7.99 for each order it delivers along with a service fee of 7% to 15%.
Their customer service team says that, like Caviar, they also run free-delivery promotions with certain restaurants or in certain areas from time to time:
“At times, you may notice the delivery fee is waived if we’re running a promotion with the restaurant or in a particular area.”
Quartz also reports that Doordash is currently using surge pricing in select markets during busy times.
They do not set minimum order amounts.
How to get a better deal on Doordash:
- Schedule orders in advance to avoid surge pricing
- Consider keeping orders low to take advantage of the no-minimums policy and to limit the effects of the % based service fee
Postmates has a delivery fee that is currently $0.99 – $3.99 for Partner Merchants and somewhere between $5.99 – $9.99 for all other merchants.
They use blitz pricing during busy hours which can drive up your rate.
Postmates also has a subscription, Postmates Unlimited, that offers “free delivery on orders from all merchants on the Postmates platform when the cart size is over $12.” It’s $9.99/month, which means you can save money after just 3 orders. Postmates Unlimited customers also never have to deal with surge pricing, which can lead to further savings.
How to get a better deal on Postmates:
- Sign up for Postmates Unlimited
- Schedule orders in advance to avoid surge pricing
The Experiment: Who has the cheapest food delivery option?
To test out these pricing models on an actual order, we focused on Griddler’s Burgers and Dogs in Boston, Massachusetts.
Griddler’s partners with 5 delivery apps, Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, Caviar, and Postmates, making it the perfect test subject for our little experiment.
To keep things simple (and delicious), we added 10 orders of waffle fries to our cart for each of the services mentioned.
We set a delivery address that was 1.1 miles away from the restaurant. (And we conducted this experiment in the late afternoon on a weekday.)
The price of the food was always the same ($39.50), but the delivery costs changed at checkout depending on the app.
In this particular case…
Caviar was offering free delivery from Griddler’s, so their only charge was the 18% service fee they build into orders — $7.11 for this order.
Doordash was also offering free delivery for this order. So the only special charge was their 10% service fee of $3.95.
Postmates started with $4.99 for delivery, but thanks to surge pricing, the cost was increased to $6.24, bringing the total to $48.51
Grubhub wanted $4.99 to deliver our waffle fries, for a total of $47.26.
And Uber Eats wanted the exact same thing — a $4.99 booking fee for a total of $46.27.
So who won?
In this case, the cheapest food delivery service was…
Doordash at $46.22
Followed narrowly by…
Uber Eats and Grubhub both at $46.27
And trailing behind in this experiment were…
Since DoorDash was waiving its delivery fee, it’s likely that Grubhub or Uber Eats would normally beat the DoorDash price. And without surge pricing, Postmates would have been right there with them at $47.26.
For individual orders, as much as we’d like to give you one simple answer on which delivery app is the cheapest, you’ve probably noticed it’s a bit more complicated than that.
BUT, you can get a better deal from any food delivery service if you know the pros and cons of each pricing model — so you can order more intelligently.
Food Delivery Subscription!
In our experiment above, we didn’t take into account subscription options that potentially can save you even more if you’re a frequent takeout customer.
Below we’ll break down each of the services, how much they cost, and what savings potential they offer.
If you get food delivered frequently, your cheapest option is probably Postmates Unlimited, a subscription that offers “free delivery on every order over $12, every single time.”
It’s only $9.99 per month—or 99.99 paid annually—which means you could be saving money after just 3 orders since Postmates’ flat rate delivery fee is currently $3.99 for orders from partner merchants. Postmates Unlimited customers are also never subjected to surge pricing, which can amplify your savings.
Back in 2016, Postmates revealed that Unlimited customers tend to use the service 8.6 times more than non-subscribers. So if you’re a casual food orderer looking for a one-time deal, the subscription probably isn’t right for you.
Fun fact: If you happen to live in one of the participating U.S. cities that offer Amazon Go (ie. Chicago, New York, San Francisco, or Seattle), you can order directly from the Postmates app (just note that you can’t pay with Amazon Prime or Amazon Pay. I know, Big Tech right?).
If Postmates isn’t offered in your area, chances are DoorDash is, which is great news because their subscription service DashPass is almost identical, except for a few differences.
DashPass too is $9.99 per month (there is no annual option) and “offers unlimited deliveries from thousands of eligible restaurants with $0 delivery fee on orders over $12.”
DoorDash claims that you’ll “save an average of $4-5 per order,” which seems about right looking at our experiment above.
New DashPass members are eligible for a 30-day free trial and can cancel at any time. Also, here’s the best part of all DashPass also applies to Caviar orders as well which can really rack up the savings.
Fun fact: Certain credit card providers, such as Chase, are offering a year of DashPass free for their members.
Grubhub offers its own version of unlimited free delivery with Grubhub+ (sometimes abbreviated as GH+).
Again, the pricing structure is very similar to the other subscription options: $9.99 per month, free delivery on orders over $12.
However, Grubhub+ comes with its own unique set of perks such as 10% cashback on orders and in-app perks found at your local restaurants displaying the “GH+” badge.
The only downside is their free trial is 14-days long.
Finally, Uber Eats offers Eats Pass, a $9.99 per month subscription to receive $0 delivery fees and 5% off orders over $15 and a one-month free trial.
However, Eats Pass members have taken to the internet to express their frustrations with the program.
“The way it is advertised is in no way how it works. The wording sounds like you get free delivery all the time and then 5% off when you spend over $15. When in actuality you have to spend at least $15 for any benefit to kick in AND THEN THE 5% IS ONLY OFF THE SERVICE FEES,” says one Reddit member.
The Uber Eats website is vague on the details as well.
Conclusion: Who has the best food delivery service?
Although there’s no perfect answer to the question “what’s the cheapest food delivery service,” we hope you’ll use the strategies in this post to score cheaper delivery food from the 5 apps we covered.
NOTE: Looking for the cheapest meal kits (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, etc)? Click here to read our review.