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25 min read

    25 min read

    How Much Do Instacart Shoppers Make?

    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 Link:

    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?

    Check out our video below on Instacart Earnings: $2000 in one week!

     

    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.

    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 it’s 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 Chris from Minneapolis, 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.

    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! 

    Learn how to earn more with Instacart by batch shopping with the video below: Instacart Shopper App Tutorial | Let’s Batch Together

     

    Tipping

    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? 

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Learn how to sign up to be an Instacart shopper at our video here: How to sign up for Instacart in 2020

     

    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.

    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 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.

    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

    span style=”font-weight: 400;”>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 locations

    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 Chris from Minneapolis (above) 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 Chris 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.

    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.

    You can sign up to start delivering for Shipt here

    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. 

    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.

    Sign up to deliver for Postmates here. 

    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 M. 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.”

    Heather makes $330 per week with 20 hours of work with Instacart, 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 some of these best gas apps, including 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.

    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. I

    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. 

    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.

    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.

    Watch our video on earning more with Instacart here: 10 Tips that make you more $$$ on Instacart!

     

    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! Here are the big ones you should know about: Instacart Shopper Training: 7 Mistakes Beginners Make with Instacart

     

     

    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!

    Are you interested in getting a discount on your first Instacart order? If you haven’t signed up for Instacart yet, sign up with a referral code from a friend so both of you can get a little extra.

    If you don’t know anyone with an Instacart account, feel free to use our referral link when signing up: Instacart promo code for new customers referral link. It’ll give you $10 off your first order.

    You can download the app here:

    Once you have your account, you can share your Instacart promo code for new customers code with your friends and family by simply going into your profile and clicking on “Refer Friends”. From there you’ll see this page:

    refer friends instacart

    From here, you can share your link however you like. Whatever the current offer is for referring, it’ll show at the top banner.

    As you can see from the image above, the current referral code will get you $10 for signing up, but depending on promotions Instacart is running, it can be more! Make sure you sign up for Instacart using our referral link! 

    Where Do I Put in the Promo Code for Instacart?

    Applying your Instacart promo code for new customers is easy!

    Step 1: Open your app and click on the settings/icon button in the upper left-hand corner.

    Step 2: Click on Add Promo Code.

    Step 3: From there, click Redeem (if you already have a Promo Code attached to your account, it will show up on this screen).

    Step 4: Enter the Promo Code you have and then click Save.

    Step 5: Do your shopping and save! If your promo code is invalid, a warning will appear after clicking on Save in the above step. If you get an error messaage, it could be that your promo code has expired. 

    Save More with Instacart Express

    If you plan on doing most, if not all, of your grocery shopping through Instacart, consider using Instacart Express.

    For a monthly or yearly fee, you can get free delivery from any participating store near you as long as your order is $35 or more. They can even deliver your order right to your door in as little as one hour.

    Simply open your app, go to settings and check “Instacart Express”.

    What’s the cost? For a year subscription of Instacart Express, you’ll pay $99. Otherwise, you can go month-by-month and pay $9.99 each month.

    Without Instacart Express, you’re looking at paying at minimum $3.99 per delivery. The cost goes up during peak shopping hours. With Express, it’s free delivery during any hours as long as you order at least $35.

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

    -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.

    Get started as a gig worker today! Learn more:
    - Is driving for Doordash worth it?
    - Postmates Driver Pay
    - Instacart Shopper Pay
    - Uber Eats Driver Review
    - Best food delivery service to work for

    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.