15 min read

    15 min read

    Wondering how busy delivery companies like Instacart or Shipt are for drivers? RSG contributor Paula Gibbins interviewed a driver below about his experience working for Instacart. He shares his top tips on working for Instacart – including how he earned $2,000 during one week of driving.

    In this unprecedented time of COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders implemented across most of the country, rideshare drivers are switching gears from Uber and Lyft to delivery services.


    With people staying home and trying to avoid people in general, more orders are being placed for delivery.

    I spoke with Chris from Minneapolis about what it’s like working for Instacart during this time.

    Quick links:

    How Much Can You Make Working for Instacart?

    Chris has been driving for Uber and Lyft since 2018 and has around 6,000 rides under his belt. When the coronavirus first started showing up in the U.S., he started seeing a rapid decrease in demand on those platforms. So, he switched gears and started working for Instacart and now is doing that as his main job.

    Need to pivot from driving? Check out the best options for food delivery.

    He estimates that he’s averaging at least $25/hr working with Instacart as a shopper and driver, or what they call “Full Service”. Chris is loving the fact that he’s not putting nearly as many miles on his car and has become very familiar with local stores, increasing his ability to shop and therefore earn more money.

    One downside he said is that he realizes he won’t be able to take as large of a deduction at tax time since he’s not putting as many miles on his car. But, the earnings he’s making and the rhythm he’s gotten into is pushing him toward sticking with Instacart even after things get back to “normal” on the other platforms.

    You still can (and should!) track your miles while driving delivery. Take a look at our top mileage tracking apps.

    Chris has also found that the customers are a bit more appreciative than the average rider. Granted, part of that could be because of the fact he’s getting people groceries during a very questionable time. Either way, Chris is enjoying that positivity around each delivery he makes versus what he’d come to know from Uber and Lyft passengers. He’s also glad not to have to clean up after passengers, as well.

    In one week of working for Instacart, he earned over $2,000. In the Minneapolis market, that’s a pretty big deal, and on other platforms only really achievable if you’re willing to work nights and weekends.


    In addition, almost half of those earnings were in tips, because people tend to tip for this kind of service, especially during these times.

    Right now, Chris says, “There’s never a time when there’s not a shop to do. I’m making as much, if not more than I was making with rideshare. But I’m able to do that working normal business hours.”

    Earnings from the week of March 30-April 5, 2020

    Chris is crushing it with Instacart! Earnings from the week of March 30-April 5, 2020

    Chris has also realized that shopping/delivering for a living suits his personality better than driving passengers did. “It’s more of a game than it is a job,” he said.

    You can go online when you want to and start working, just like any other rideshare service. Working for Instacart is not based on a schedule.

    Read more about becoming an Instacart driver and how much money Instacart drivers make.

    Download our list of the top delivery tips!

    These tips are tried and tested by delivery drivers just like you. Learn how to earn more while on the road!



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    Staying Healthy During COVID-19/Coronavirus

    One thing Chris mentioned is that there has been a bit of a cultural shift within the grocery stores themselves. Not only are some stores placing markers at the checkouts that are at least 6 feet apart, some even have directional arrows so that people only go down the aisles in one direction, limiting your chance of contact with another person.

    Also, the grocery shoppers themselves are being very conscious of each other, allowing more room and not crossing in front of each other to grab items, but instead waiting until the area is clear to grab what they need.

    “I always keep hand sanitizer in the car,” said Chris. “One thing I really admire that Instacart is doing now is next week they are starting to send out safety kits to their drivers. So that includes a mask, hand sanitizer, even a thermometer to make sure you don’t have a temperature before going and doing work.”

    Is Instacart Legit? Tips for Improving Your Instacart Earnings

    During his experience with Instacart, Chris has learned a few things about what works for Instacart and what doesn’t work for Instacart. Here are some tips he has if you’re interested in working for Instacart or if you want to try to improve your time and therefore earnings as a Full Service Instacart driver.

    Don’t Drive Too Far

    “If I have an order that comes up and the delivery is 8 miles or more, I don’t take that job,” said Chris.

    For one thing, it’s not worth it for how long it will take to drop off the order and then drive to your next one after that. For another, it’s likely taking you to a store you’re not as familiar with, meaning it might take you longer to shop there in the first place.

    Focus on a Few Stores and Get to Know Them

    Chris advised, “When you first start working for Instacart, pick about a couple of stores around your home that you can just focus on. Do some orders at those stores first because then you’ll know the layout of the store really well.

    It takes the most time when you have those three or four items that you just have no idea where in the store that they are and you can either lie to the customer and say that they are out of stock, or you could take your time to go find it.

    If you can take that first week or two weeks of doing Instacart to really learn those store layouts, you’re going to increase your efficiency.”

    Play to Your Strengths

    Chris explained, that while working for Instacart, “The app lets you track your ‘pick speed’—the amount of time it takes you to pick a single item—or find it, scan it, load it in the cart, etc. This can vary depending on the store and items you shop.

    For me, I know some stores really well, so my pick speed there can be as low as 35 seconds. A store that is completely foreign might be over 150 seconds. Knowing this, I can work to accept more orders from my faster stores to get in and out quicker, keeping my hourly wage higher.”

    Example of his “Pick Speed”

    Example of his “Pick Speed”

    He continued, “From there, I simply use math to determine if a shop will be worth my time; i.e. order 1 has 30 items from one of my fast stores, and the pay estimate is $30.

    I know based on my pick speed, it should take me about 20 minutes to collect 30 items, plus 10 minutes to drive the 3 miles to the customer’s house, and 10 minutes to get to my next order. That means I make about $45/active hour on that shop.

    Chris also explained, “The other way I do this is I know one of my weaknesses is the meat department. I struggle telling the difference between say a round tip roast and beef top roast.

    This means if there is an order with lots of items from the meat department, the order will take me longer.

    Before I accept an order, I quickly glance at the items. If there are a lot of meat department items, I do not accept that order.”

    Find a Network of Drivers for Added Support

    “One thing that is pretty universally known is a downside to working for Instacart is their support line is really poor,” said Chris. “The service that they offer there when drivers are in a pinch or need help, not only is the wait time really long to talk to somebody, but the service is pretty poor to provide that instant feedback or support to drivers. So, having a network of folks where you can message a friend and say, ‘Hey, I ran into this, what do I do?’ can be a big help during this time.”

    One way Chris is actively trying to help out with this kind of network is a text/help line that he started:

    “I’ve been using this as a tool to connect with other shoppers so we can help one another when we run into a problem. If folks want advice and tips, or if someone is questioning starting Instacart, I’m happy to help! I use a short code in order to weed out spam and bots. Folks simply text “instashop” to 31996, and provide me their name and city so I know they’re a real person.”

    Is Instacart Worth It?

    As of right now, it definitely appears that delivering with Instacart is worth it. Drivers are earning a ton of money right now simply because demand is so high, but not everyone is out there wanting to deliver right now.

    Chris shared some great tips for drivers looking to earn more while working for Instacart. One of the best is to shop close by at stores you know for items you’re familiar with. This sounds like a lot, but it’s not.

    If you’re a savvy, quick shopper (say, the primary shopper for your household), Instacart or Shipt grocery delivery could be a great way to earn money right now. Get started with Instacart here.

    Have you tried out Instacart yet? What earnings are you seeing in your area for delivery services versus rideshare driving?

    -Paula @ RSG


    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.


    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins

    Paula Gibbins, a graduate of Augustana University, Sioux Falls, is a part-time rideshare driver and a full-time proofreader. She is based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In her free time, Paula enjoys reading, playing board games and participating in trivia nights.