Has the COVID-19 pandemic caused you to pivot your business to do more home deliveries?
Are you manually planning routes for your drivers and looking for ways to make your life easier with a route mapping software, but not sure where to start?
Since March, we've talked to hundreds of small businesses who are either starting up a home delivery operation for the very first time or expanding their home delivery options. (Note: We're also offering our software free of charge to non-profits delivering essential supplies like food and medicine to those who need it most during this pandemic. Contact us if this is you.)
It can take a lot of time to understand what route mapping software is out there for you, and we know time is a luxury a lot of you don't have. So we've gone ahead and done the research for you by reviewing the best route optimization apps in 2021 to help you find the right software for your home delivery business.
This review gives you an overview of some of the top route mapping software solutions – some free, some paid, roughly ordered by complexity.
We'll be reviewing the following:
- Google Maps route planner
- Mapquest route planner
- WorkWave Route Manager
“So… why are you writing about your competitors if you also sell delivery route planning software?”
A little bit about us: Our mission at Routific is to make route optimization accessible to every delivery business. We strongly believe that manual route planning leads to a lot of wasted driving time and fuel. Research has even shown that adopting route optimization algorithms is the equivalent of planting 86 trees for every driver you employ. I know it's hard to be thinking about the climate these days, but think about it this way:
Being green means being efficient with your resources, and that makes a big difference on your bottom line and whether your business survives or dies.
That’s why we want everyone to transition away from manual route planning tools like spreadsheets and pen and paper to using route mapping software. Even if that means using one of our competitors. That’s how passionate we are about this. We honestly just want to help you in the process of adopting routing software, and we know that you would have done the painful research yourself anyways.
For this guide to be useful to you, it needs to be as unbiased and factual as possible. For that reason, we’ve decided to take ourselves off the list and tried as much as possible to stay objective. The goal of this review is to arm you with the data to help you navigate your options so that you can make up your own mind. It is not sorted by rating – that would be subjective – but roughly ordered in complexity and capabilities.
Let's get started.
Free multi stop route planners
For businesses that:
1) Are just launching a home delivery service
2) Only deliver about a dozen stops per day or less
Everyone loves free tools! So if you're just starting up your home delivery business, you can go ahead and try some of the apps below. Free tools are a good way to get started, but if you have multiple drivers and larger volumes with more complex customer needs, you might want to skip ahead to the next section.
Google Maps route planner
Many delivery businesses will try and use Google Maps as a route planner for multiple stops before they delve into more sophisticated delivery route planner apps. This tool is really great when you need to navigate from point A to point B, but it won’t optimize the sequence of stops for you. You can read more about the difference between Google Maps and Route Optimization here.
Pros: It's easy to use, and you'll get very accurate ETAs because Google Maps leverages a lot of traffic data.
Cons: Used only for simple scenarios – limited to 1 driver and 10 addresses. You'll need to manually type each address and then manually drag to reorder the sequence while eyeballing the route.
Related post: How to use Google Maps Route Planner for deliveries
Mapquest route planner
When you hit the limitations of Google Maps – which might happen quicker than you’d expect – you can give Mapquest a try. They have a free route planner that works really when you have multiple stops to make. This tool is more geared for business use.
Pros: The app allows you to mass upload of your addresses (with copy/paste or spreadsheet upload). It also offers a free route optimization option to re-order stops in the optimal sequence. One of the options is to set it as a round trip, which is good for delivery businesses that have a central depot or warehouse that the driver needs to return to. You can send your optimized route to your driver via SMS.
Cons: The limitations are that you can only use it for a single driver and up to 26 locations. Also: pop-up ads.
Freemium multi stop route planners
The following are route optimization apps that have both free and paid versions. These are best for businesses that deliver to more than a dozen stops per day or more, and have multiple routes or drivers to plan for.
RouteXL is free to use up to 20 addresses. There is an option to pay € 35 EUR/month to increase that limit to 100 addresses.
Pros: You can mass upload a list of addresses simply by copying and pasting. Also, RouteXL will help you split up your stops across multiple routes or multiple drivers – unlike Google Maps and Mapquest.
Cons: RouteXL does not support uploading spreadsheets which comes in handy when you're looking to sort and organize a large number of addresses. Spreadsheets also allow you to import and export data into different software programs a little more easily.
While you can plan multiple routes at once, the route settings apply to all routes. For example, you cannot set up individual drivers with different shift times or starting locations.
Flightmap is another basic route planning tool that offers a free tier of up to 200 stops per month for 2 vehicles. Beyond that, you can increase the limits by paying $0.04 per stop or $5/vehicle/month.
Pros: They support uploading address data via spreadsheets and gives you a few route optimization controls such as “max tasks per vehicle” and “trip duration limit”.
Cons: They have the same limitation as RouteXL in that you cannot have different settings for each driver.
Route mapping software with more features than free tools
For larger delivery operations with multiple drivers and more than 25 stops per day.
If your home delivery business is growing, you're probably going to need more unique capabilities like planning for delivery time-windows and service durations. The route mapping software options reviewed in the list below have at least these capabilities, and more.
Headline from their website: “Perfect the last mile. Provide delightful customer experiences, increase on-time deliveries and scale operations efficiently with the world’s most advanced fleet management platform.”
Onfleet offers both route planning and delivery management together. Delivery management has been their primary focus since 2012, but they added route optimization as a paid add-on in 2016.
- You can create your individual driver profiles with their own start and/or end locations, shift schedules, and capacities.
- For each delivery, you can specify a single time-window, service duration, and quantity.
- Once you’ve optimized the routes, you can dispatch them to the OnFleet app for drivers, and track the progress from the dashboard.
The Basic package with route optimization costs $349/mo:
Headline from their website: “Organizing the Mobile Workforce. Plan your day instantly. Optimize for top productivity. Smart technology for real world operations.”
OptimoRoute offers you more flexibility and control for you to set up your routes exactly as you might want. It does require some time to learn and understand.
- You can set up individual driver profiles with their own shift schedules (including breaks and overtime), start/end locations, skills (if you’re in the service industry), vehicle types, service areas you want them to stay in, and even cost and speed settings.
- You can also set up multiple capacity constraints (e.g. weight & volume).
- There's a mobile app for the drivers. You can dispatch routes, and you can track your drivers' progress live from the dashboard.
- One limitation is that you can’t adjust the routes easily with a drag and drop interface.
WorkWave Route Manager
Headline from the website: “The Most Powerful Service Solutions to Transform Your Business”
WorkWave Route Manager is the only software in this review that doesn’t offer a free trial. They also don’t publish their pricing transparently – the website says plans start at $49/vehicle/month, but you to book a demo or talk to sales to find out more.
WorkWave focuses their products for the pest control and field services industries primarily, but can also be used for delivery routes.
- WorkWave has all the basic route planning functionality such as drag and drop, multiple time-windows, multiple capacities, etc.
- Supports more advanced routing needs such as paired pickup and drop-offs, and driver territories.
- Different cost structures for your drivers and ability to optimize based on minimizing total cost.
- A surprising limitation: you don’t see the route lines drawn on the map, only coloured dots on a map with numbers on them, which makes it hard to see which roads your drivers are actually taking.
- Mobile app for the drivers which can also be used to monitor things like speeding and hard braking incidents.
Headline from their website: “Route Planning for Your Business. Our Easy-to-Use Optimization Software Puts Route Planning On Auto-Pilot So You Can Grow Your Business”
If you read Route4Me’s homepage, you’ll see that they claim to do everything under the sun for any type of business. I count 92 business types listed there and one more called “Other”.
- Supports a wide variety of use-cases; a ton of bells and whistles to discover.
- Offers a wide array of features, many of which are paid add-ons, allowing you to customize your own subscription.
- Multiple ways to view your routes. e.g. together on a map, broken out with single route views, or in a matrix overview.
- Mobile app for drivers with live progress tracking as well as the ability to trace the driver’s routes after the fact.
- One limitation you’ll note is that the routes are assumed to all start and end at the same location and with the same shift times.
Pricing with route optimization feature for a fleet starts at $299/month. The cheaper $199/mo option allows only single-person routes. Note that these prices don’t include any of the modular add-on features, some of which can be quite pricey.
Optimized routes for your home delivery business
If you’ve read this far, hopefully you feel better informed about the various route planning options.
This review covered 8 of the best route mapping software applications on the market, roughly ordered in increasing complexity and capabilities. This list is not meant to be exhaustive! There are many other options on the market that weren’t included in the list, but we just wanted to highlight some of the apps we hear often about to speed up your search.
Our goal for publishing this guide is to help you in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you're able to pivot your business successfully and grow your home delivery operations as quickly and seamlessly as possible. We also hope to encourage you to stay away from manual route planning, and to work as efficiently as possible especially at a time when resources are so scarce.
Small businesses are the heart of soul of every local community and economy. If you have any questions about starting up or expanding your home delivery service, please don't hesitate to get in touch.