These Cities Are the Most (and Least) Expensive for Using Food Delivery Apps

A recent study placed the exact same McDonald's order in 100 cities, some with major markups.

A food delivery including pizza

Oscar Wong / Getty Images

We've all heard large chain restaurants offer the disclaimers that "prices may vary" or "only at participating locations." But when ordering food through a delivery app, another variable comes into play: the costs charged by the service can differ depending on where you live, too.

With this in mind, the credit building site Self undertook some interesting research: They ordered the exact same meal from McDonald's in the 100 biggest cities in the U.S. through three delivery apps — DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub — and not only looked at how much those meals cost on the apps, but also how much they would have cost if you ordered them in the restaurant. They then calculated the markup. Their findings showed the prices varied significantly by location.

The price for a Quarter Pounder regular meal, a regular 10-piece McNugget meal, a regular Coca-Cola, and a side of regular fries — which Self said was the same order placed every time — was highest in Seattle, Washington, where the average price came to $55.35. That’s $23.95 more than the cheapest city — Lubbock, Texas — where the same McDonald's meal was just $28.65.

At 57%, Seattle had one of the higher markups of any city, but it still only ranked 24th. The city that had the highest markup was Virginia Beach, Virginia, where a $13.75 meal suddenly cost $39.12 after a huge 65% markup from the in-store price.

Other cities with a markup of over 60% included Riverside, California; Sacramento, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Stockton City, California; Corpus Christi, Texas; Oakland, California; Santa Ana, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Meanwhile, the only city where the markup came to less than 20% was Lincoln, Nebraska, where the cost of delivery was just a 19% increase.

Across all three apps, the average markup proved to be relatively similar: Uber Eats was 51.3%, DoorDash was 48.8%, and Grubhub was 48.7%.

One factor that might also affect your delivery fee is how far you live from the restaurant. Uber Eats openly states that their delivery fees vary by distance, and Grubhub allows restaurants to set different fees for different delivery zones. DoorDash's policy, meanwhile, was less clear. But a Self spokesperson explained that, to perform this study, "on average the [distance] was kept to 2.5 miles from restaurant to destination, this varied by a margin of 0.3 miles where it was not possible to achieve 2.5 miles."

But in general, Self seemed to conclude that the biggest difference in price was based on the city itself. After Seattle, the five most expensive orders were found in San Francisco ($50.81); Chula Vista, California ($50.68); New York, New York ($48.66); and Washington, DC ($48.23).

Meanwhile, beyond Lubbock, the five cheapest meals were ordered from Albuquerque, New Mexico ($32.25); Toledo, Ohio ($33.13); Laredo, Texas ($33.37); and Milwaukee, Wisconsin ($33.46).

You can see all of Self's findings at

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