25 min read

    25 min read

    Do you like grocery shopping? If you ever wished you could get paid to be part of Supermarket Sweep, you might make an excellent Instacart shopper! RSG contributor Chonce Maddox Rhea shares how much Instacart pays, and strategies to make more money with Instacart, below. Click here to sign up for Instacart.

    Quick Links:

    Instacart Pay: How Much Does Instacart Pay?

    Instacart is currently paying shoppers $20+ per hour, thanks to more people ordering their groceries online. Most of us can admit that grocery shopping isn’t our top choice for errands, but what if you were getting paid to do it?

    Instacart is one of the most popular grocery delivery apps, and they rely on everyday people like you and me to operate. Instacart hires in-store shoppers who grab customer’s items off the shelves and deliver the items off to a person’s home.

    Curious about what it’s like shopping with Instacart? Learn more here: Delivering with Instacart.

    Like rideshare driving, Instacart is a flexible way to earn extra money because you can choose your own schedule and get paid weekly. But how much does Instacart pay drivers? If you’re wondering how much Instacart shoppers get paid and whether or not its a good alternative to Uber or Lyft, we’ll break it down for you below.

    Quick Tips: 

    • How much do Instacart shoppers make? Current Instacart drivers are earning $20+/hour
    • Three main driver expenses: gas, auto insurance, car maintenance
    • #1 tip to earn more as an Instacart shopper? Shop during peak hours!
    • Sign up to become an Instacart shopper here

    Recently, we interviewed an Instacart shopper about working for Instacart during the coronavirus pandemic, and 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 – keep your distance short to minimize your time driving. This will help you earn more per hour!
    • Focus on a few stores and get to know them really well – this will increase your pick speed and your hourly rate. Not every store is laid out the same way!
    • Play to your strengths – don’t know the spice aisle so well? Don’t accept orders that ask for a lot of spices, as this will cause you to spend more time searching and less time throwing things in your basket and heading out!

    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 actually save money on things like gas and groceries by using these cash back apps.

    Read more about Instacart shopper pay

    How Much Does Instacart Pay Per Delivery?

    According to a recent guest poster who compared Shipt shopper pay to Instacart’s pay scale, an average batch for Instacart pay per delivery is between $15-20.

    In addition, Instacart has a very complex pay schedule and structure that includes pay per item, pay per mileage, base pay, heavy order pay, customer tip and more. This accounts for the large fluctuation in payouts. In some instances, an Instacart payday could be $30-40, but that often means double batches, when can be more challenging for newbies.

    Instacart Driver vs Instacart Shopper: what’s the difference?

    There has been some confusion about what an Instacart driver is compared to the role of an Instacart shopper. The thing is, both terms generally mean the same thing and can actually be used interchangeably. Instacart calls the role a ‘Full-Service Shopper’ on their website and that’s because it involves both shopping for items at the store then using your car to deliver the order to customers. 

    When you get an order request through the app and accept it, you’ll head to the store and grab everything on your list. Then, deliver it to the correct address and repeat the process again.

    Instacart also occasionally employs In-store Shoppers, but this is a part-time W-2 position where you’d work mainly in a store and won’t deliver orders.

    If you want to work as a contractor and have the flexibility of setting your own schedule, you’ll have to sign up as a Full-Service Instacart Shopper, which is the same as an Instacart driver.


    Becoming a Full-Service Instacart Shopper

    A full-service Instacart shopper is someone who gets paid to shop for groceries and delivers them with Instacart. You’ll be an independent contractor and can set your own schedule by selecting hours a week in advance. You must be 18 or older to apply. Some other requirements include:

    • Be eligible to work in the United States
    • Have consistent access to a vehicle
    • Have consistent access to and be able to effectively use a recent smartphone (iPhone 5 / Android 4.4 or newer)
    • Be able to lift between 30-40 lbs with or without an accommodation

    If you’d rather just deliver groceries and skip the shopping part, you can do that too. Instacart has in-store only shopping positions, but this is a part-time job and not an independent contractor role. If you don’t own a vehicle and want to try shopping or delivering for Instacart, the process is pretty simple.

    Looking for more delivery jobs? Check out our list of best food delivery jobs

    Driving for Instacart in Chicago

    Chicago Instacart drivers get a special bonus when they sign up to drive for Instacart. Right now, new Instcart drivers in Chicago can earn $1,500.

    These terms are subject to change and you have to make a certain number of deliveries, so when you’re ready, make sure to sign up with our Instacart referral link.

    Instacart Driver Requirements

    There surprisingly aren’t a ton of Instacart driver requirements! The only thing you really need is to have consistent access to a vehicle and be able to lift (and transport) 50 lbs. with or without accommodation.

    How to Accept Instacart Jobs and Get Paid

    Instacart requires shoppers to schedule shifts through the app in advance. Once it’s time for your shift and you log into the app, you can start receiving order requests. You’ll generally have 2-3 minutes to accept an order when it comes up on the app.  The order preview will you show you things like:

    • Where the grocery store is
    • What items you’d have to grab
    • A general idea of how far away the delivery location is from the store
    • The amount you’ll be earning from Instacart
    • The customer’s tip

    Once you accept an order, start heading to the store so you can shop. When you get to the store, you can pull up your list for that particular shopping trip in the app and check off each item as you put it in your cart. The app helps you shop efficiently because it may tell you which aisle certain products are in If you can’t find an item or it’s not in stock at the store, you can suggest a replacement item that the customer can approve via the app. Or, you can report that the item wasn’t found in the store.

    Instacart pays shoppers a fee per order which includes mileage along with the customer’s tip. Instacart shoppers get paid weekly but in 2019 Instacart also launched their Instant Cash Out feature which allows you to get paid instantly for a $0.50 fee.

    Instacart Shopper Average Earnings

    When it comes to average pay for Instacart shoppers, you’ll get a lot of conflicting information. We could quote Glassdoor, which says the average Instacart driver makes around $11 an hour. We could compare that to Indeed, which says Instacart drivers earn about $10 an hour.

    However, here at The Rideshare Guy, we actually drive for these companies ourselves and we get the real story from drivers. We’ve found that right now, Instacart drivers can earn anywhere from $13 to $25 an hour, depending on when, where and how often they drive.

    Last year, RSG contributor Dash Bridges wrote all about his experiences using apps like DoorDash and Instacart. He averaged about $13.48 per hour while working with Instacart, but some RSG readers seemed to have fared a little better, like John and Jeff below:

    Instacart doesn’t currently have any pay guarantees like Uber offers new drivers.

    Additionally, you may have read on other sites that Instacart offers bonuses for drivers. This is no longer true – Instacart removed most bonuses at the end of 2019. However, Instacart drivers do get referral bonuses for referring new drivers, as long as your referral makes sure to apply your code during the sign up process!



    Instacart allows all shoppers to keep their 100% of their tips, which is why we always recommend Instacart shoppers stay in touch with their customers and communicate if you have to make any substitutions. In general, we’ve found that the more you communicate with your customer about substitutions, the more likely you are to get tips because the customer feels like you’ve listened and made an effort to find their (potentially now out of stock!) item.

    One thing new Instacart drivers should pay attention to: tip-baiting! Unfortunately, with more people using Instacart for delivery orders, people are getting desperate to get their grocery deliveries quickly. In order to beat out other orders, some unscrupulous customers will offer a large tip (the ‘bait’) to get you to accept their order first, then remove the tip after the delivery has been completed.

    Unfortunately, if a tip looks too good to be true (for example, an $100 tip on a $20 order), you may want to pass or at least wait for a better order to come along. Instacart drivers we’ve spoken to say you’ll get better at identifying tip baits the more shops you take, but at the beginning, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

    Instacart Tip Baiting

    Instacart has been plagued by accusations of tip-baiting. It’s been such a big topic that the Senate has now launched an inquiry into the problem – and now it looks like Instacart is listening.

    Instacart sent out an email letting drivers know they’re making changes to their platform. Is Instacart tip-baiting really over? You can read more about Instacart tip-baiting, or continue reading below for a quick summary.

    Watch the view below and at YouTube here: Is Instacart tip baiting over?! Instacart changes tipping policy!


    Instacart tip-baiting is when customers offer a big tip for shoppers to accept their order. The Instacart shopper would get excited – sometimes these tips were quite substantial!

    However, unfortunately, with tip-baiting, the shopper would deliver the order and leave and the customer would go into the app and completely remove the tip.

    The email from Instacart announces that customers will now have to provide feedback if they decide to change our tip after we have delivered their groceries.

    They also announced potentially deactivating customers who are abusing the platform. It appears from the email that Instacart will take a look at the reason why the customer removed the tip and if it becomes a habit, they could be deactivated.

    Instacart vs DoorDash

    In the battle between Instacart vs DoorDash, 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, DoorDash will be your best bet – it’s tough to shop and deliver groceries on a bike!

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

    With DoorDash, all of your orders will be restaurant deliveries. This means you’ll likely have smaller orders, but more frequent, than Instacart.

    DoorDash couriers can earn $15-20 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). DoorDash 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 DoorDash, you can stack orders, but drivers we’ve spoken to say stacking orders with Instacart is easier and more profitable than stacking orders with DoorDash.

    Instacart vs Shipt

    When it comes to Shipt vs Instacart, it also comes down to availability in your city, but given Shipt’s consistently higher than average earnings for shoppers, you will definitely want to sign up for both companies.

    You can read our full review of Shipt vs. Instacart.

    Shipt is another grocery delivery service, similar to Instacart, but also allows people to order for home projects. You’ll want a car to drive for Shipt, as you’ll be hauling grocery orders and home products around. Like Instacart, Shipt operates in major cities and hires independent contractors to make same-day deliveries.

    Shipt shoppers can earn up to $22 per hour, and Shipt shoppers we’ve talked to say what you can earn depends on your market and when you’re able to work, plus how large your orders are.

    Interestingly, Shipt shoppers get to keep 100% of their tips but in case the customer tip amount is low, Ship also offers to pay a percentage of the order total. Shipt also offers shoppers bonuses.

    Learn more about Shipt at our Shipt shopper review.

    Experience Driving with Instacart

    I recently interviewed an Instacart full-service shopper who’s working in the Chicago suburbs getting paid around $16.50 per hour. Heather Mitchell started working for Instacart back in May of this year. She usually picks up the 10 am – 2 pm shift Mondays through Fridays and may pick up a weekend shift here and there.

    “I started to work for Instacart because I work for the school district and we were off for 3 months, so I’m able to have a flexible schedule with my kids,” Heather said.

    “I only work around 20 hours per week and only accept orders that are local with less than 5 miles of travel distance for drop off, so for me it’s worth it.”

    Instacart pays Heather  around $330 per week with 20 hours of work but this can differ if she works more or fewer hours. Still, this is a solid $16.50 per hour for shopping and delivering groceries in her area with Instacart.

    Tips do play a big role in Instacart shoppers pay. Instacart offers a 5% tip option for customers to add to the shopper/deliverer’s payment, but Heather says she’s learned to carefully weigh her costs and only accept Instacart orders that would be worth the time and effort. In most cases, assume shoppers won’t tip and only accept orders that work with your schedule and are worth the effort.

    Instacart Driver Expenses

    While Instacart full-service shoppers and deliverers like Heather are getting paid more than minimum wage, it’s important to realize this is an independent contractor role and your earnings will decline due to your expenses and taxes.

    1. Mileage Expenses

    Instacart full-service shoppers need to consider mileage as one of their biggest expense factors. You have to pay for your own fuel, auto insurance, and maintenance which can add up. You can use an app like Stride to track your mileage, as this will be crucial at tax time.

    2. Gas Costs

    In Illinois where Heather is from, the tax on gas just increased, so this can have a huge effect on people who work jobs that require frequent driving. Many drivers have been saving on gas by using the GetUpside app. If you have a car payment, that’s another expense you might want to tack on.

    3. Insulated Bags

    Plus, you may want to invest in some insulated delivery bags so you can keep certain foods chilled while you transport them to the customer. Quality versions of these bags can cost $35+ to order on Amazon.

    Due to the expenses associated with working for Instacart, Heather admitted she doesn’t accept every order throughout her shift. “I generally only accept orders that are $25 or more and ones that I know will take me less than an hour to complete.”

    Since you are working as an independent contractor, you can write off the miles you drive when delivering groceries for Instacart. Currently, the rate is 57.5 cents per mile driven for business purposes.

    How to Earn More With Instacart

    There are a few things you can do to increase your overall Instacart pay, including your hourly rate.

    1. Become a Faster Shopper

    If you’re a full-service shopper, start learning how grocery stores in your designated shopping area are set up. Also, learn where certain popular items are located so you can work more efficiently. If the deli is located near the produce section, grab a number and grab some of the fruits and vegetables on the list while you wait.

    Shop in sections so you can grab everything you need and if an item isn’t available, use Instacart’s replacement suggestion without overthinking it. While you can’t control much regarding how Instacart’s algorithm works, you can control your own efficiency so you can get more orders completed in less time.

    Of course, you can always pick up some of the best efficient shopping tips from veteran Instacart shoppers. 

    A Bon Appetit article shared some great insider tips: 

     “A veteran Instacarter named Mo noticed me struggling throughout my shift and offered a few tips: Don’t bag your produce until you’re at the register, weigh all your produce at the same time to avoid running back and forth, and multitask by parking your cart and grabbing a bunch of things at once. My biggest takeaway was to never bag produce. Ever. It’s a waste of plastic and time, even if four mushrooms rolling around the cart might drive me insane.”

    I think the important thing to realize is that you don’t have to shop for Instacart orders just as you would for your own personal groceries. In fact, you shouldn’t do this if you want to work more efficiently. 

    This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t pay close attention to detail. Definitely make sure you’re getting the right items and communicating clearly with the customer as needed, but realize that they don’t want you to spend all day on the order. As you gain experience and learn the layout of each store, you’ll probably find that it just makes more sense to do some of these things so you can get in and out quickly, then on your way to the next order.

    2. Go After Bigger Orders

    Sure, bigger orders may mean more time in the store, but if you’re an efficient shopper or simply delivering the food, it won’t really matter. Bigger orders that pay well are worth the extra work compared to a small 8-item order that may only pay a couple of dollars.

    3. Select Hours During Peak Times of the Day

    Test out different times to work for Instacart to see which hours are the most profitable for you. You may not even need to do much testing since last year Instacart announced that they’d be showing shoppers which shifts contain peak hours where they could possibly earn bonuses.

    These ‘Peak Boosts’ are only available at select times and in select places.

    Interested in signing up with Instacart? You can sign up to work for Instacart using our affiliate link.

    If you find it easy to shop and want a change of pace from regular rideshare driving, Instacart may still be a way to help you earn a few extra hundred dollars per week. There are also several other delivery services like Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Shipt.

    With all of these, you will have vehicle expenses that you’ll need to consider and be able to examine compensation estimates to determine what works for you. The best way to narrow down your options is to give it a try and see how well it works for you.

    Avoid Beginner Mistakes When Shopping for Instacart

    Beginners often make a lot of mistakes when driving for Instacart! You can read all about the mistakes (and how to avoid them) at our article: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make With Instacart, but here are the big ones you should know about: Instacart Shopper Training: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make with Instacart


    beginner instacart shopper mistakes to avoid

    1. Accepting huge wholesale store orders

    Shopping at places like Costco and Sam’s Club can be trouble if not done right. My limit is only 8 items and 10-15 units (so they can get 8 items, and 3 or so of each item).

    Why? It’s hard to shop for a ton of items in multiple quantities efficiently, and sometimes it’s hard to fit in your car!

    2. Delivering to a different delivery address

    On the one hand, it’s great that people use their app to shop for their grandma or others who can’t leave the house. The problem happens when they make an order for themselves and forget to change the delivery address to their own home address.

    One time, I ended up spending an hour and a half in the store and driving an extra 20 miles, only to receive $12 for all of that… and no tip. Here’s where I went wrong: I saw the customer had gone back and forth with customer service about a new delivery destination. The customer had originally forgot to update their destination (they had been making orders for someone else).

    They demanded the new delivery be brought to a new location after I already was on my way to the original location. All this shopping and back and forth… for $12. It was ridiculous.

    Be careful if you see a lot of back and forth between the customer and customer service – it’s probably trouble and you should just cancel the order.

    3. Shopping for businesses

    90% of veteran Instacart shoppers refuse to do it – and there’s a good reason why. Businesses don’t tip and they treat you like an unpaid intern. They’ll demand you bring everything up, put it in a certain location, ignore you and not tip.

    Just avoid them! You’ll know it’s a business because it looks like a monopoly hotel piece on your app (watch the video above to see what this looks like).

    4. Parking in a tow zone

    Just do not park in a tow zone! Personally, I like parking next to a shopping cart corral so you can drop off your cart and go. That’s the ideal scenario. But parking in a tow zone? No way.

    Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to avoid these situations in downtown areas. It’s virtually impossible to find parking, pay for parking, get reimbursed for parking, etc.

    And no, don’t park in a disabled parking spot. That’s just wrong – make the customer come and get their stuff.

    5. Wearing Instacart’s ‘uniform’

    In the beginning, Instacart would hand out shirts to shoppers (or necklaces). You do not have to wear them, and I definitely don’t. I’ve found cashiers and even customers at the store seem to treat you poorly.

    6. Accepting triple or large double batches

    I personally don’t like triple batches or even large double batches. I like to get groceries one at a time and make deliveries one at a time. It can be stressful to organize and even deliver large, multiple batches and watch out if you have frozen food!

    Just avoid it altogether.

    7. Getting more than 3 cases of water

    This seems really weird, but people seem to enjoy buying tons and tons of cases of water. Why they just don’t have Sparkletts deliver, I don’t know.

    In the beginning, I would accept orders that asked for tons of cases of water (8+!). I learned quickly and the hard way that most people do not help you bring these cases of water in.

    I once had a man bring me a dolly and watched me deliver case after case of water – not helping, not tipping – and I was 5 months pregnant! I guarantee you most people will not help you with the cases of water and they will not tip.

    Just let people know you won’t deliver more than 3 cases – some will get mad but that’s not your problem!

    Readers, have you thought of driving for Instacart? How much did Instacart pay you? Let us know in the comments below.

    Instacart Lawsuit

    Instacart has been plagued by accusations of tip-baiting. It’s been such a big topic that the Senate has now launched an inquiry into the problem – and now it looks like Instacart is listening.

    Watch the view below and at YouTube here: Is Instacart tip baiting over?! Instacart changes tipping policy!

    Instacart is listening to us! The latest email from Instacart announces that customers will now have to provide feedback if they decide to change our tip after we have delivered their groceries.

    Instacart has said tip-baiting happens infrequently, but we have heard from many Instacart shoppers – it definitely doesn’t seem like isolated incidents. Unfortunately, this announcement from Instacart does not address when customers lower the tip by a lot – which happens more frequently.

    In the email, Instacart also mentions potentially deactivating customers who are abusing the platform. It appears from the email that Instacart will take a look at the reason why the customer removed the tip and if it becomes a habit, they could be deactivated.

    What is Instacart Tip-Baiting?

    Instacart tip-baiting is when customers offer a big tip for shoppers to accept their order. The Instacart shopper would get excited – sometimes these tips were quite substantial!

    However, unfortunately, with tip-baiting, the shopper would deliver the order and leave and the customer would go into the app and completely remove the tip.

    In most cases, this is completely unfair to the shopper. If customers are mad something was out of stock, or it took longer than expected, it’s not fair to take it out on shoppers who frequently do not have any control about what the line is like for the store or what the store has in stock.

    More Instacart Changes Coming

    In addition to the (potential) reduction in tip-baiting, Instacart is also reducing the tipping window from three days to 24 hours.

    According to the email Instacart sent us shoppers, only .25% of customers adjust their tip after 24 hours, so we’ll see how big of a change this is.

    Instacart is also changing the cash out experience. Instacart is going to let shoppers cash out tips pretty much right away, so if you want a paycheck every day, you can.

    Instacart will also be waiving cash out fees (50 cents) throughout the month of July only.

    My Instacart Tip-Baiting Experience

    I had to make several trips (7-8 trips back and forth) with heavy items like soda. The tip wasn’t huge – $7 – but it would have made a difference!

    A few hours later, I noticed the tip was completely gone.

    Why would people do this when they know you know where they live? Not that RSG condones this behavior at all, but wouldn’t you be concerned about that as a customer? All for a relatively inexpensive tip? Crazy!

    It’s good to see Instacart doing something about some of these problems affecting shoppers. Instacart shoppers are frequently shopping for people who want to remain indoors, healthy for themselves and/or their family members, or for people who can’t go out and shop.

    It makes sense to pay them fairly and not let customers remove tips just so they can get a ‘faster’ order from shoppers who rely on those tips to balance their earnings.

    Is Instacart Tricking Customers, Too?

    Recently, it was announced that Washington D.C. is suing Instacart for unfair and deceptive practices. According to the District Attorney General, Karl Racine, “Instacart tricked D.C. consumers.” 

    What’s the trick? Instacart made it seem like the 10% service fee consumers were paying would actually be the tips going to the shoppers. Instead, this fee went to Instacart directly. Another issue is that the company did not pay D.C. tax on that money. 

    “It [Instacart] was lying to consumers,” said Racine. “And indeed monies that consumers believed were going to workers were instead going to the company’s bottom line.”

    This left drivers wondering why they were not receiving tips, while consumers thought tips were already being handled within the app. 

    The 10% service fee is no longer listed on their app, removing that confusion. However, drivers do complain of reduced earnings per order, likely meaning the company is taking more money to make up for the lack of the service fee. 

    D.C. is looking to recoup those service fees for the time period affected, namely 2016 to 2018, and have it paid out to active drivers on the platform during that time period in D.C. 

    -Chonce @ RSG with additional reporting from RSG contributors Paula Gibbins, Katie Heflin and Melissa Berry

    Earn up to $25 an Hour with Instacart!

    instacart-1Instacart is hiring like crazy right now and offering many perks to drivers, including no under 5 star ratings and more. Sign up here.

    Quick Tips: 

    • How much can Instacart drivers earn? Instacart shoppers can earn $11 – $16 per hour on average
    • Three main driver expenses: gas, auto insurance, car maintenance
    • #1 tip to earn more as an Instacart shopper? Shop during peak hours!
    • Sign up to become an Instacart shopper here
    Chonce Maddox Rhea

    Chonce Maddox Rhea

    Choncé is a freelance writer who’s obsessed with living well on a budget and loves encouraging people to make extra money so they can meet their financial goals. She is happily married to one of the best Uber drivers in the Chicago metro area, who currently has 2,800+ trips under his belt.