You’ve likely rubbed elbows with Instacart shoppers before at the grocery store, in green and black T-shirts, picking batches to be delivered or collected in-store.
Maybe you’ve thought about working for Instacart too and wondered what it entails.
This article will explain what it’s like to work for Instacart — how to sign up, job requirements, and what it’s like doing grocery shopping or grocery delivery for the app.
What It’s Like Working for Instacart
Instacart shoppers and drivers work to fill grocery orders for pick-up at the store or delivery at your doorstep. Technically, Instacart does not hire any delivery drivers.
Instead, Instacart hires 2 different kinds of shoppers: full-service shoppers and in-store shoppers.
1. Full-Service Shopper (Delivery Driver)
Full-service Instacart drivers shop for a customer’s order in-store, and then package and deliver it. A full-service shopper is similar to a Shipt delivery driver or an Uber Eats delivery driver.
These shoppers are independent contractors and earn $5 to $10 per order batch plus any additional customer tips. The batch pay factors in driving distance ($0.60 per mile) and any Peak Boost or Quality Bonus incentives. For some batches, the delivery may be pre-assembled.
There are no set hours. You can set your own schedule, provided it’s aligned with the hours stores of business and orders are coming in.
Earnings for a full-service shopper are comparable to what Shipt drivers make. Most Instacart full-service shoppers earn $15 to $25 an hour, but ultra-efficient shoppers can see up to $45 an hour.
2. In-Store Shopper (No Driving)
In-store Instacart shoppers don’t do any driving or order delivery. They assemble customer orders for in-store pick-up. Literally, they are getting paid to shop.
In-store shoppers are considered part-time employees and will work assigned, scheduled shifts with the option of getting up to 29 hours of work each week. Nationwide, Instacart store shoppers earn an average of $15.25 an hour.
The role is ideal for individuals who do not drive or have a car.
Since you shop and deliver orders, each order will take longer – but this also means you’ll earn more per order! Plus, you may be able to take advantage of Instacart's guaranteed earnings promotions that rotates through regions.
Full-Service Shopper vs. In-Store Shopper
Here’s a summary of the key similarities and differences.
- Shoppers must be 18 years old, eligible to work in the U.S. (or Canada for Canadian stores), able to lift 30 pounds, and have a newer iPhone or Android phone in order to access the Instacart app and related updates. All shoppers must also pass a background check.
- In-store shoppers do not need a driver’s license — but a valid state I.D. is required.
- Instacart app is needed to complete the work — viewing and filling the orders.
- You must check out the orders: ring up, bag, and pay for the orders. An Instacart-specific credit card is issued for use at checkout.
- You can skip the line. There will be dedicated self-checkout stations or the ability to cut ahead in some stores.
- Full-service shoppers are gig workers. They are independent contractors, not direct employees of Instacart. In-store shoppers are direct employees.
- Full-service shoppers deliver a customer’s order to their home or specified address. In-store shoppers do not have to drive.
- Full-service shoppers have greater earning potential. They commonly earn $15 to $25 an hour, and in some markets, extremely efficient shoppers can make up to $45 an hour.
- There’s a minimum wage guarantee for in-store shoppers. As direct employees, they earn an hourly wage. (However in some markets, like California, there is also a minimum guaranteed wage for Instacart full-service shoppers and other gig economy)
- No-full time earning potential for in-store shoppers. Hours are capped at 29 per week. Full-service shoppers could work 40 hours a week or more for this grocery delivery service.
Being an in-store shopper is a good option if you want the ability to earn extra money at a guaranteed rate without having to drive.
Being a full-service shopper is a good option to earn extra income — part-time or full-time. You do have to drive, but you have a more flexible schedule (choose your hours) and can earn $10 or more per hour.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is an Instacart shift?
At a minimum, a shift is two hours long (or two consecutive one-hour shifts). Each hour is selected separately in the Instacart delivery app. With blocks of three or four shifts, shoppers get a 20-minute break.
In-store shoppers (ISS) work scheduled shifts with hours set by the employer based on store needs and shopper availability. Shifts are not longer than 8 hours. On Instacart forums, workers state employees must be available for at least 16 hours per week, with 8 of those hours falling on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.
How do Instacart shoppers get paid?
Instacart shoppers are paid weekly via direct deposit to your linked bank account. Instant cashout is available for a $0.50 fee up to five times per day. This feature is available for balances of $5 or greater. Tips are not available for cashout until 24 hours after the order has been completed.
Note that your Instacart payment card is only for purchasing customer orders and is in no way related to your own earnings.
What is Heavy Pay on Instacart?
Heavy pay is additional pay you earn — on top of base pay — for order batches that contain “several heavy items.” You will see a “heavy pay” tag on the orders batch screen, so you can choose to avoid heavy orders or accept them to maximize your pay.
According to Instacart’s shopper earnings FAQs, a heavy pay order must weigh at least 50 pounds. Items that contribute to the total weight must weigh 8 pounds or more.
Does Instacart Pay more for bigger orders?
Kind of. Instacart does offer Heavy Pay for orders with heavier and bulkier items. According to workers on shopper forums, heavy pay can increase the batch order base pay by $3 to $5.
Shoppers don’t necessarily get paid more for bigger orders (more items), but the total dollar amount can drive up the tip. Delivery tips typically range from 5% to 20%.
Older orders will pay more, however. Older orders — batches that have remained unclaimed for a prolonged period — offer higher batch pay. Shoppers have observed that the payout for these batches may increase incrementally by $2 until the order is eventually claimed.
Does Instacart pay for gas?
No, Instacart does not pay for gas. As with other food delivery and driving apps, Instacart drivers — full-service shoppers — are independent contractors. This means drivers are responsible for vehicle fuel, maintenance, repairs, and other related costs.
Instacart does provide fuel assistance though. During times of price hikes, the app has added a fuel surcharge. The upcharge is paid for by the customer and gets added to the batch order base pay.
Additionally, Instacart has partnered with Upside to offer its drivers up to offer cash-back rebates for fuel charges — up to $0.35 per gallon.
Does Instacart give me a shirt?
Instacart does provide shirts in its onboarding package, but they are frequently forgotten or not included. A lanyard is more consistently included and worn by shoppers. You can choose to wear (or not wear) any garments that Instacart sends you.
There’s no real dress code. Instacart recommends wearing comfortable clothing and close-toed shoes.
What is the busiest day for Instacart?
The busiest days for Instacart are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Instacart requires its in-stores shoppers to work at least 8 hours per week during those three days.
When reviewing other blog articles and reviews, most sources agree that Sunday is the busiest day of the week. However, some drivers have the most success with Mondays and Wednesdays.
The busiest day for Instacart will vary by area. But universally slow days seem to be Fridays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.
Is Instacart a good side hustle?
Yes, we recommend Instacart as a good side hustle for those looking for a flexible way to make money. Earnings are paid weekly, with the option to cash out immediately up to five times per day.
For full-service shoppers (drivers), Instacart can scale up to be a nice full-time job that pays $1K a week or more — along with some nice perks like discounted oil changes and car maintenance, cash-back rebates for gas, and discounts for travel, entertainment, dining out, and local area attractions.
It can also be a solid part-time job for drivers or in-store shoppers (ISS). If you worked in-store for 29 hours a week (maximum working hours for ISS workers) at the average hourly rate of $15.25, that would be an extra $442.50 a week or a yearly figure just shy of $23K.
Getting paid $23K a year just to shop isn’t a bad gig.
Can I bring my child with me to Instacart?
There’s no explicit answer in the shopper terms and conditions, but within Instacart Shopper guidelines it states, “Bringing anyone along (including minors) who does not have an Instacart Shopper account while providing services on the platform” falls under the category of “failing to maintain a safe environment.”
This guideline is not commonly known. In forums, many drivers state that Instacart terms allow them to have assistants or “personnel.” Other parents who are aware may choose to disregard it. Countless parents speak of bringing their kids with them on Instacart because they have no childcare or to increase their tips.
If you do get caught (likely turned in by another Instacart shopper or grocery store employee), you could get terminated. And, many parents say they have tried this and their kids are way too much hassle.
We recommend to leave the kids at home and comply with Instacart’s guidelines and maximize your earnings.
Should You Become an Instacart Shopper?
Instacart is a great hustle, whether you’re looking for a one-off gig, part-time work, or a regular full-time job. The app pays you to shop, filling grocery orders when it’s convenient for your schedule.
There are two options when it comes to working for Instacart — either as an in-store shopper who doesn’t drive, or a full-service shopper who shops for the order and then drops it off. Each role comes with different pros and cons.
If you’re interested in full-time hours though, you’d need to be a full-service shopper since that offers uncapped hours. And it also comes with more pay, more tips, and more bonus earning options.