19 min read

    19 min read

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    Are you interested in driving for Instacart? If so, we’ll walk you through what it’s lpostmaike signing up and getting started with Instacart here. We’ll also cover how much you can make as an Instcart shopper and share tips and tricks for Instacart shoppers.

    Ready to sign up for Instacart? You can sign up here using our affiliate link.

    Instacart is a web-based service that allows you to order items from grocery or general merchandise stores and have them delivered to your door. It’s DoorDash for your weekly shopping. Instacart offers a list of participating stores depending on your delivery address.

    Most of these stores are of the big-box variety, including Safeway, Costco, Whole Foods and Target. Once you choose your store, you’re able to select your items from a very detailed list of all the products carried. Your Instacart shopper goes through the list, buys the items, and delivers them to your door.

    Working for Instacart is also similar to the other gig companies. You’re an independent contractor. You sign up online, get approved online, wait for some stuff in the mail and make your own hours. Once you’ve earned some money, your pay will be direct deposited into your account. It’s the usual routine.


    How to Get Your Instacart Driver Sign Up Bonus

    The criteria for becoming an Instacart driver is pretty straightforward. Depending on which state you’re driving in, you’ll need to be 18 to 21 years old minimum, have access to a reliable vehicle and access to a smartphone. It is also required that you be able to carry at least 30 pounds worth of groceries.

    There are a few options for working for Instacart. One option is to be a ‘full service shopper’, which means you shop for and deliver orders.

    The second option is an ‘in-store shopper’ which means you shop for the person in the store, but you don’t deliver for them (that’s another Instacart person’s job). You can tell Instacart which option you prefer (especially handy if you don’t have a car or don’t want to deliver groceries by car).

    Want to give working for Instacart a try? You can sign up for it here using our referral link!

    image of instacart delivery options

    Which type of Instacart shopper do you want to be?

    How Does Instacart Work?

    The first part of the onboarding process is very similar to what I’ve done before. You get a link to the app and download it:

    (*Palo Alto Delivery Inc. is DoorDash)

    When you download the Instacart shopper app, you get the usual Independent Contractor agreement and Background Check authorization:

    Even though the app says you’ve completed setup, there’s still a lot to do before you can start shopping.

    Next, I had to watch a video and answer several questions before I could move forward. This one was about alcohol delivery:

    You have to score a full 10/10 to pass. Of course, the app points out your wrong answers and coaches you up to get through, but you still need to concentrate. The difficulty was similar to a learner’s permit test.

    Then, I had to wait several days before this envelope arrived in the mail.

    Included were my Instacart employee payment card and a lanyard I could use for….actually I have no idea what that lanyard is for. I’ve never needed nor worn it. I put the 16-digit code into my phone like so…


    And then Ta Daaaaaaaa, I was ready to go!

    How to Contact Instacart Customer Service and Driver Support

    Having trouble signing up or otherwise contacting Instacart? There are several ways you can contact Instacart customer and driver support:

    1. In your app, go to the Contact Us section and start a live chat
    2. On their website, head over to the Contact Us section to chat with a live representative
    3. Call Instacart customer support at: (888) 317-8968

    Instacart Locations

    Want to drive for Instacart but aren’t sure if they’re in your city? You’d be surprised – we’ve found Instacart in small cities (looking at you, Waddell, AZ). You can find a full list of every city Instacart serves here, or take a quick look at the small list below:

    instacart locationsInstacart Shopper Pay

    Instacart shopper pay really depends on where and when you’re working. However, right now, everyone is looking for Instacart delivery, so chances are you can make $20-25+ delivering with Instacart.

    When we recently interviewed an Instacart shopper about working for Instacart, he estimated he’s averaging at least $25/hr working with Instacart. In one week, he earned over $2,000 delivering with Instacart! His top tips?

    • Don’t drive too far away from where you live
    • Focus on a few stores and get to know them really well – this will increase your pick speed and your hourly rate!
    • Play to your strengths – don’t know the spice aisle so well? Don’t accept orders that ask for a lot of spices!

    Your main expenses will be gas, auto insurance, and car maintenance, so it pays to shop close to home at stores you’re familiar with and make deliveries quickly (but safely!). You can even try to save some money on gas and groceries using these cash back apps.

    With Instacart, you can also take someone with you – your kids, spouse, even pet. This makes Instacart an awesome opportunity if you can’t leave your kids at home (plus it will teach them valuable grocery skills!).

    Read more about Instacart shopper pay

    Shopping for Instacart

    My first item is a 20 oz container of Welch’s Grape Jelly. I went to the jams & jellies aisle, found the item and pressed ‘found item’.

    Immediately, the app went into camera mode and instructed me to show the UPC code on the back. The camera found it right away, scanned and approved the item. Then, to ensure order integrity, it forced me to type that I placed TWO items in the cart.

    Making the shopper type in ‘2’, then pressing enter, is a smart way to confirm item totals. When I DoorDash, their app writes in the text, “Are you sure you have two items?” with ‘yes’ button. I’ve seen it so many times that now I consider it an annoyance and just half-glance/press ‘yes’ to move forward. Being an Instacart worker way is more effective.

    I picked up a few more items and quickly got the hang of it. I cruised to the personal hygiene section and picked up some whitening toothpaste, then over…


    …Whoops. The thing…uhhh…the thing doesn’t like the thing. The scanner paused while reading an item, then notified me that I picked up the wrong item. Apparently I concentrated so hard on specifically finding a 4.8 Oz Pack of 2 Crest 3D White Crest 3D White Whitening Toothpaste (it just rolls off the tongue!), I inadvertently picked up the 4.8 Oz Pack of 2 Crest 3D White Crest 3D White Whitening Toothpaste, Radiant Mint instead of the 4.8 Oz Pack of 2 Crest 3D White Crest 3D White Whitening Toothpaste, ARCTIC FRESH. ROOKIE MISTAKE! I replaced the Arctic Fresh, picked up Radiant Mint, scanned it, and moved on.

    While we can laugh about how trivial this error would be, it’s still an error. I imagine being an Instacart’s customer service team sees fulfillment integrity as a HUGE predictor of customer loyalty.

    My customer, Brian S., probably wouldn’t be on his 67th order if he received incorrect items every time. Furthermore, my side-hustle mantra is “it might be food delivery, but it’s still a job”, so I WANT to get the order right for my own satisfaction. And I did. So yay for everyone.


    What Happens When You Can’t Find Something?

    As you go through someone’s shopping list, you can quickly figure out why they’re shopping. If they’re picking up snack bars and Capri Sun, you know they’re making school lunches. If it’s fish and organic produce, they’re making dinner.


    I assumed this family had children, based on the request for a 20-pack of Cheez-Its. I went to the cracker section and….hmmm…it should be right…huh. Not here. Well maybe it’s in the kids’ lunch section with the granola bars and that stuff….nope.

    And then it dawned on me. They’re out.

    GAHHHHHHHHH! As a perfectionist who also freezes when faced with decisions (awesome combo, btw), I could feel my skin get hot with anxiety. I went back to the cracker section. Back to the lunch section. Not there.

    Finally, after spending probably 5-8 minutes looking high and low for this SKU, I defeatedly clicked on the ‘Can’t Find Item’ bar on the bottom of my phone.

    Instacart is well-prepared for such an event.

    The app immediately offered a list of replacement options. I found one and saw this screen when scanning it:

    Instacart notified me that it texted Brian S. with my replacement item. The default replacement setting is ‘approved’, but customers can confirm, return or offer alternate suggestions until I complete my shopping list. The app also offers direct texting so the customer can chat while I shop. It’s quite impressive.

    I didn’t hear from Brian S., so I completed my last item and went to checkout.

    Interested in signing up to deliver with Instacart? You can sign up with our referral link here!

    Paying with Instacart

    I went through checkout using my Instacart-provided credit card. The app then asked how many bags I used [in states where you are not charged for bags, you will not be asked this question]. Then it checked me out.

    I clicked the navigation button to get a route via Google Maps. I delivered without incident at 4:56pm, 55 minutes after I began.

    How did I do? The app breaks down your earnings for every order, doing it in real time so you can see how you’re doing mid-shift.


    I made over $19 in less than an hour. Considering this was my first order and I’m inexperienced, this is a huge win!

    Highlights of Working for Instacart

    In addition to Instacart’s excellent app layout, there were several aspects to the work for Instacart experience I enjoyed. First of all, I’m driving a lot less. Because I’m shopping for groceries instead of simply picking up meals, I spent far less time driving. I averaged 1.0 Instacart deliveries per hour vs. 1.8/hr with DoorDash.

    Although my driving distance is a bit farther per order, I’m completing half the deliveries. On an hourly basis, it’s only 8.5 miles/hr at IC vs. 14.4/hr at DoorDash. Instacart places less strain on my car. It’s something to consider when you drive a less-efficient vehicle or you have a financial situation that doesn’t take full advantage of the $0.58/mile federal tax deduction.

    Get started and sign up with Instacart here!

    In addition, Instacart stirs my competitive nature with stats of my own shopping performance.

    Here are a couple of IC-generated speed reports following each of my shifts, followed by a regional leaderboard. Unfortunately, compared to the rest of the shoppers in the greater San Jose area, I’m average-to-below average. Still, it’s motivating! I looked at my ranking every week.

    It seems as though getting a sign up bonus with Instacart depends on the time of year in which they’re hiring. Some seasons they offer sign up bonuses, whereas others (like the summer, when college students are getting out of school) have no sign up bonus offers.

    We still recommend you sign up with Instacart using a referral code, just in case you live in a city that is still offering sign up bonuses.

    What is it Like Delivering with Instacart?

    The short answer is it’s like doing your grocery shopping and dropping it off at someone else’s house. The long answer is a bit more involved, of course, because as with anything, things can go wrong. And what do you do when something that someone wants is not available? When shopping for yourself, you can instantly change your plans to include a different ingredient or focus on an alternate that will work in an item’s place. When you’re shopping for someone else, your options are much more limited.

    The onboarding process with Instacart helps you out a little bit, allowing you to get some practice in before you jump right into the job. You’ll go through tutorials and videos and you’ll have all the tools and materials you need to get started sent to your door with the exception of insulated bags. Those you’ll have to provide on your own. In the mail, you’ll receive the card you’ll use to make purchases up front before dropping off the groceries to the customer.

    Once you’re ready to go, you can go online and start earning. Much like Uber and Lyft, you’ll see hot zones if there are busy patches throughout your city that should steer you toward some prime earning spots. Like with any service, you’ll learn with experience when the hottest times are for you to be out and about doing your Instacart thing.

    Before going online officially, you can schedule shifts that you’re willing to go online for. You’ll be notified within the app where you need to go for your first order. Your training guides you through the rest — what to buy, how to make swaps for items that are unavailable, and more.

    Want to give working for Instacart a try? You can sign up for it here using our referral link!

    Browsing through some forums about driving for Instacart, it becomes evident that like many other delivery-type services, it’s not the most gratifying job, but if you do it well, you’ll hear praise from your customers. From several screenshots I came across, the tips are going to make up a good chunk of your earnings, so delivery quality service to help your earnings.

    Also similar to Uber and Lyft, you have the option of getting paid on a weekly basis as a direct deposit into your bank account or you can choose the instant pay option by linking a debit card.

    Instacart Sign Up Bonus

    Above are three versions of referral bonuses: Instacart in February, Instacart today and DoorDash today.

    To be honest, all three are tall orders. Both of the work for Instacart bonuses must be earned in 30 days. In the first example, someone needs to commit to 10 hours per week to qualify. If you’re doing this as a side job, that’s a solid commitment.

    In the second example, Instacart calls out batches, not hours. Batches are the pre-shopped pickups that you scan and pack into your car. Shoppers don’t necessarily get batches. They’re mixed in with other shopping orders. You might get one or two per 4 hour shift. So if you need 30 batches in 30 days, you’re going to work a lot more than the 40 required hours in example #1. Obviously the incentive is higher, but again, you may need to work twice as long to qualify.

    The DoorDash referral bonus is clearly the worst. At around 2 orders per hour, a driver would need to work at least 75 hours (in two months) to earn $300. The lack of incentive is understandable. As we begin summer, orders will decrease as customers go on vacation and a ton of students will Dash as a summer job, flooding the Dasher pool. DoorDash doesn’t particularly need drivers for the next few months.

    Make sure to sign up with a referral code to deliver with Instacart. You can sign up for it here using our referral link!

    Can I Drive for Instacart While Working for Other Companies?

    Much like driving for Uber and Lyft somewhat simultaneously, you can do the same with Instacart and other delivery services. While you’re actively running around for Instacart, it isn’t advisable to be active on any other app, but as soon as you finish your delivery, if you don’t have another order waiting, feel free to supplement with using DoorDash, Postmates or any other delivery service you can think of.

    You could also go the intense route and try juggling multiple apps at once, but keep in mind, this can get tricky and confusing. If you are interested in working for other companies while driving for Instacart, we highly recommend these delivery companies

    Instacart vs Postmates

    In the battle between Instacart vs Postmates, it really comes down to availability in your city and how you plan on getting around. If you prefer doing delivery via bike or walking, Postmates will be your best bet – it’s tough to shop and deliver groceries on a bike!

    But if Postmates and Instacart are available in your city and you’re driving, then your choices get more interesting.

    With Postmates, you have the option of delivering grocery-store-ish items, like items from convenience stores, for example. However, for the most part, you’ll be delivering food from restaurants.

    Postmates drivers can earn $13-15 an hour based on our experience, although right now that number appears to be going up ($20 an hour due to increased tips and lower competition). Postmates also offers incentives and other bonuses, making it different from Instacart.

    With Instacart, there aren’t really any bonuses to strive for, but you can view orders ahead of time and make decisions based on your location and your knowledge of the grocery store. For instance, we interviewed one driver who is making $25+ driving for Instacart.

    One of his best tips is to know your grocery store – if you’re a whiz at quickly picking spices and produce, and an order comes in heavy on spices + produce – go for it! You’ll be able to accomplish the shopping task a lot faster, boosting your per hour earnings. When this reader is on a roll with orders, he said he can earn up to $45/hour.

    With both Instacart and Postmates, you can stack orders, but drivers we’ve spoken to say stacking orders with Instacart is easier and more profitable than stacking orders with Postmates.

    DoorDash vs Instacart

    Driving for DoorDash vs Instacart is very similar to driving for Postmates vs Instacart. DoorDash is entirely restaurant orders, making a it a little different from Postmates and very different in terms of time spent than Instacart.

    Visit our article here for a complete review of Instacart vs DoorDash.

    What Are the Best Gadgets for Delivery and Instacart Drivers?

    While you really just need your phone and a car to deliver for Instacart, there’s more to it than that overall and some extra gadgets can help you get through your day easier.

    The first thing that will help you with efficiency, especially since you’ll be using your phone for the shopping, delivery and confirmation, is a magnetic phone mount. This way you can just snap your phone on the mount and take it off with ease.

    If you don’t have a way to rig up a charger in your car, you can keep a battery bank in your car for use when you’re out and about. This way your phone is always ready to go when you need it most.

    Another handy item would be Bluetooth headphones so you can listen to the directions as you go while remaining hands-free — several states have hands-free laws for cellphone use while operating a motor vehicle.


    Something that not everyone thinks of is an air freshener for your car. Whether you’re delivering hot foods from restaurants through DoorDash or you’re delivering groceries, they can sometimes have a funky smell to them and that will get all over your car. The last thing you want is to sit in a smelly car for the rest of the day or subject your passengers to a stinky car if you decide to switch gears and go online for Uber or Lyft after a food delivery.

    You’ll also want to keep paper towels and/or wet wipes around for any spills that may happen. You never know when milk is going to tip over and spill in your trunk or backseat, or meat juices escape. You’ll be grateful to have a quick and easy way to clean up.

    Depending on the size of the order, it might be handy to keep a foldable cart on hand. Some places you’ll need to carry the food upstairs for the customer or other obstacles. Make it easier on yourself with a cart so you don’t have to make 20 trips.

    For more tips for gadgets that could help you, take a look at this video:

    What if I Don’t Have a Car to Drive for Instacart?

    If you don’t have a car to drive for Instacart, you may be able to sign up to just do in-store shopping. It wasn’t immediately clear when signing up for the app if this was something you could specify being interested in, so keep that in mind before moving forward.

    If you want a mode of transportation there are options for renting cars for delivery driving. One such company is HyreCar where you rent a car from an individual as opposed to renting from a company. You can rent the car on an as-needed basis. For more car options, check our marketplace link.

    Want to give working for Instacart a try? You can sign up for it here using our referral link!

    There are also other delivery options, such as for Postmates, where you can use a bicycle instead of a car since it’s typically for smaller deliveries instead of a full grocery order.

    Make Sure to Drive for Instacart Using a Driver Sign Up Bonus!

    To sign up, you can click on our link, go to or create a login through the Instacart Shopper app. Follow the sign-up process and wait for your materials to arrive in the mail and you’ll be ready to get started.

    Just remember to keep a few things in mind:

    • knowing the stores and different kinds of foods can be beneficial
    • shopping efficiently can lead to earning more
    • If you’re quick, you’ll likely earn a decent chunk in tips

    Overall, adding Instacart to your delivery apps is a great way to add extra cash to your pocket. Have you signed up to drive for Instacart yet?

    Want More Tips? Deliver With DoorDash

    ddlgoDashers receive tips on 97% of their deliveries. DoorDash has a tip button and encourages customers to setup "automatic" tips. Become a dasher here.

    -Dash @ RSG

    Dash Bridges

    Dash Bridges

    Hey! I'm an independent contractor in Silicon Valley working Door Dash as a side hustle to my day job. I sincerely enjoy my work as a Dasher, but let there be no doubt, I am here to maximize earnings!