How To Make $1000 a Week with Instacart

It’s easy to find work to make extra money. What’s hard is finding a truly high-paying hustle, but these earning opportunities do exist.

Through the Instacart app, gig workers can make solid money with base pay and customer tips. In this guide, we’ll explore the best ways to maximize your earnings through practical tips and insider perspectives from our team of drivers and couriers at the Rideshare Guy.

It does require some extra effort to get your weekly Instacart earnings above $1,000, but if you get serious about the job, and create and execute an effective strategy, you can get there.

How Much Does Instacart Pay?

Most Instacart shoppers can earn $15 to $25 an hour, including any customer tips which typically range from 5% to 20% of the total order total. Extremely efficient Instacart shoppers in high-demand areas can earn as much as $45 an hour.

In terms of what Instacart pays you directly, as an independent contractor, it is not a set hourly wage. Instacart pays a base rate of at least $4 with each order. The more orders you complete per hour, the more money you can make.

For heavier orders, drivers earn an additional heavy pay of at least $2 per order. To qualify for heavy pay, one or more items must weigh at least 8 pounds or the total order must be at least 50 pounds. Instacart also has peak earning days to help you plan your work week and increase your wages. Working during peak hours can increase your pay by up to 10%.

Instacart pay also depends on whether you are an in-store shopper or a full-service shopper.

In-Store Shopper Pay

In-store shoppers average roughly $15 per hour. National job board, Indeed, says the earnings can range from $7.60 to $27.30 per hour, depending on local market conditions and how many orders you complete per hour.

Here, the shoppers are employees of Instacart, working up to 29 hours per week in featured retail stores. Full-time hours are not permitted. In-store shoppers do not receive any tip earnings, as there is no customer interaction and no driving required.

Full-Service Shopper Pay

Full-service shoppers average about $18 an hour in earnings, approximately 20% more than in-store shoppers. Additionally, there’s no limit to how many hours they can work each week. They can work a full-time load of 40 hours a week or more, although there is no sort of overtime compensation.

These shoppers earn tips on top of Instacart base pay. They shop for customer orders in stores and deliver the orders, by car, to customers’ homes.

How to Make $1,000 a Week with Instacart

Here are 10 helpful tips that you can use to earn $1,000 or more per week with Instacart:

1. Master Your Market: Use Local Insights for Bigger Earnings

Knowing your local market will go a long way. While everyone’s got Waze or Google Maps these days, nothing beats first hand familiarity. Find out where the new construction is and when it gets busy at stores near there. Where are the shortcuts to local gas stations that always have an open pump? Which stores are a nightmare to deal with for parking and which ones have dedicated spots?

Figuring out these details will go a huge way in making sure you spend less time waiting for red lights and open parking spots, and more time filling orders and making money.

In addition to knowing your local geography well, make sure you have a solid handle on other things that can impact customer demand and their buying patterns. When does demand increase or slow down due to people entertaining at home or traveling out of town? Are there local festivals or food events that could slow down grocery orders? Do you know which stores are most popular for which events?

Doing a little bit of research can go a long way. Also, think about other customer bases often overlooked. What about assisted living centers, temporary corporate housing units, or university dorms?

2. Fuel Profits, Cut Costs

An empty tank and an empty stomach are two major pitfalls to avoid when doing grocery delivery.

Delivering orders is hard work, and the lure of grabbing a quick bite from the stores you’re shopping in can be strong — especially when there’s a hot food counter just inches away. The adage, “Don’t shop on an empty stomach” to curb impulse buys holds true— whether you’re shopping for yourself or someone else.

To avoid this trap, eat a hearty meal before beginning your work shift. And pack some tasty snacks for when hunger sets in.

Beyond hot, ready-made food, filling your tank, and maintaining your vehicle are other major costs eating up a big chunk of your pay. Instacart offers many perks to its drivers so they can save money on fuel, healthcare, and other common expenses for independent contractors.

Apps like Google Maps, Gas Buddy, and Upside are also helpful in cutting costs. Gas Buddy and Upside can help you save up to $0.35 per gallon on gas and earn gas-back rewards for everyday shopping. Navigational apps can ensure you’re taking the most gas-efficient route.

3. Keep a Close Watch on Your Money and Your Miles

Beyond tracking your gas costs and drive time, you need to track other expenses too. You’ll need this info when tax time comes ‘round.

This means keeping track of your mileage (how many miles you drive per shift), oil changes, car repairs, and maintenance costs — along with any other work-related expenses like cooler bags or collapsible shopping wagons.

Many drivers find mileage tracker apps like Hurdlr, MileIQ, Stride, and Gridwise to be a big help. These apps help drivers track mileage, earnings, and work expenses. They can also offer assistance with tax calculations, finding tax deductions, or recommendations for the best times to work to maximize delivery service earnings.

4. Set Realistic Earning Targets

Earning $1,000 a week, while realistic, is not an easy amount of money to reach. To reach such a lofty goal, you need to have a plan of attack and break down one big goal into smaller goals.

Many new shoppers log into the Instacart shopping app with the goal of “making as much money as possible.” This is incredibly vague, and if you have a slow morning or a couple of cheapskates, you could quickly burn out.

Instead, successful Instacart drivers know it’s a long game and they have a more measured and tactical approach.

  • Are you working seven days a week? You could take $1,000/7 to reach a daily earning target of $143. With a five-day workweek, that’s $200 per shift.
  • Figure out how many batches you are doing per hour, and make a list of some different ways that you could increase that number.
  • Dig into the details. What retailers have the best tippers? The largest orders? The shortest drive times? The most convenient check-outs and closest parking?
  • Look at your customer ratings. Successful drivers have high average scores. Could you increase your score from 4.3 stars to 4.5 stars? Would an insulated food bag keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot, and up your overall rating?
  • Change up your workdays. Instead of working eight (8) hours a day five (5) days a week, key in on your best days. Commonly, the best Instacart delivery days are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday and the worst days are Tuesday and Friday. Knowing this, it may make sense to work as many hours as possible during those three (3) days and not work or work at a different side hustle on the slowest ones.

5. Plan Ahead the Night Before

Just like with school, work, or the big game, you need to plan ahead. You’ll have a better day at school if you wake up with everything ready: outfit, homework done and in the backpack, gym shoes, and jacket and mittens laid out by the door.

The same goes for Instacart shopping. You don’t want to spend a lot of time scurrying around for all of your gear just before work — or have to buy something you forgot at home while working.

Make sure that you prep everything you’ll need for the work shift:

  • Clothing, including comfortable shoes
  • Boxes and insulated bags
  • Trunk divider bin — for accepting and keeping straight multiple orders
  • Fully charged phone and an extra battery charger
  • Sunglasses
  • Bag of snacks or lunch and a water bottle
  • Full tank of gas

6. Shop the Stores You Know Well

While it’s tempting to go for any high-paying order, you’re best off sticking to stores that you know well. This means shopping at stores where you regularly shop.

Doing so means you’ll be more efficient and be able to complete more orders and increase your overall pay. Many successful shoppers stick with just a handful of stores when picking batches, and if no order is available at one of those stores, they’ll wait until one comes in.

There are many advantages to this approach. You know where to park and the quickest way to check out. You know where everything is — and where things are commonly “hidden.” The employees are familiar with you (and may nod you back to the stockroom to quickly grab something). This familiarity means that you could complete an order in half the time that Instacart estimates for the batch, or double your pay.

If you don’t know the best stores to shop in yet, you may already know some stores you want to avoid because merchandise is stocked on high shelves that are out of reach, parking is a nightmare, or they have regular product outages.

7. Keep Customers in the Loop

Shopping for Instacart requires flexibility and thinking on your feet. This comes in handy when you need to manage an order with items out of stock and you need to suggest back-ups, or if you’re trying to stack orders and fill multiple batches at once.

But make sure to keep the customers in the loop. Customers appreciate being kept up-to-date and asked for their substitution preferences. They’ll be more likely to give you a better tip if you show them that you are trying — even if they wind up not getting the exact item requested.

This also goes for weather or road conditions that could delay your delivery. If it’s beyond your control, customers will understand — as long as you let them know what’s going on.

8. Dress Like You Take Your Job Seriously

I’m generally very happy to tip my rideshare or delivery driver. But when the courier dropping off my order is cursing at someone on their phone, reeks of cigarette smoke, and has curlers in their hair (true story!), I’m inclined to think they didn’t put a lot of tip-worthy care into filling my order.

Dress like you take your job seriously. You don’t need to wear a collared shirt and slacks, but you should wear neat, clean-smelling clothing that is free of wrinkles or holes. Assume your customers don’t want you to smoke on or near their groceries. Wear comfortable, close-toed shoes. Instacart is very active work, with lots of lifting and walking, and often through snow, mud, puddles, or ice.

Beyond presenting a professional appearance, you’ll be more comfortable. If you’re physically uncomfortable at work, you’re going to be less efficient.

9. Take Advantage of Referral Bonuses

Make sure you take advantage of any referral bonuses that Instacart has going. Instacart doesn’t say an exact reward amount but it does state that they will pay shoppers for referring their friends.

Reward amounts will vary based on the local market, increased demand, or Instacart’s promotional budget. Figures that we’ve seen — from our drivers and other driver forums — can range from $250 to $750.

For a higher figure, generally, the newly-referred shopper will need to complete more steps — like signing up for the app and completing X orders in the first 100 days versus just signing up and making your first delivery.

10. Invite Customers to Sign Up for Instacart

Invite your Instacart delivery customers to sign up with your referral code. You can invite people to join Instacart, as a subscribing customer, and earn a free $10 reward. The referred customer is getting $40 free to spend on Instacart.

Not every customer order comes from a subscribing Instacart member. Some may be paying a per-order fee just to try the service. An invitation to join Instacart and get $40 free, after you’ve provided excellent service, may be just the push they need.

Share your referral code by text and as a note (pre-written) with each order. Remind them that they’ll get the same convenient service all year round with free deliveries for $35+, and with access to orders from Walmart, Costo, national chain stores, co-ops, department stores, dollar stores, and more.

You could also tell them to share it with their friends and give them $40 free for Instacart if they are already a subscriber themself.

To get your referral code in the app:

  • Tap the hamburger menu (three horizontal lines) in the upper left corner
  • Tap “Invite friends, earn money”
  • Then share your referral link — you can copy and paste it, or share it via email, social, text, or other channels

The $10 reward you’ll earn is in the form of an Instacart credit, but since the odds are 100% that you are going to eat and buy groceries again, that $10 is really as good as cash.

Driver’s Take

Reaching $1,000 a week by shopping for Instacart is doable with a strategic and realistic outlook, using the right strategies.

  • Master Your Market: Know your delivery area — roads, events, weather, housing, and local stores — inside and out.
  • Manage Expenses: Keep gas and vehicle maintenance costs low.
  • Professionalism Pays: Dress well and communicate clearly. It improves your reputation and tips.
  • Use Smart Tools: Use apps to track earnings, miles, and expenses.

Success on Instacart is part planning, part mindset, and part execution. By applying our tips, you can transform your Instacart gig into a successful part-time or full-time job.