If you want to make money in the gig economy, working for food delivery apps is one of the most popular options.
After all, food delivery gigs are some of the best driving jobs that pay, and you can usually earn $10 to $20+ per hour and set your own schedule.
Two of the most popular food delivery companies are Instacart and DoorDash.
But, which side hustle pays more, and what’s the sign up process and life on the job like?
In our Instacart vs DoorDash breakdown, we’re covering everything you need to know so you can pick the right food delivery side hustle for you!
Want to start making money in the gig economy?
Instacart is a grocery delivery and pick-up service that allows customers to order groceries online.
The company began in 2012 and has since grown into a leading grocery delivery service, operating in over 5,500 cities in the U.S. and Canada.
The main difference between working for Instacart versus DoorDash is that Instacart mostly deals with groceries and everyday essentials, not fast food and restaurant meals.
This means you’re shopping for groceries, not just picking up food from a fast food joint.
In terms of what partners Instacart has, notable stores include:
- Big Lots
- Save A Lot
DoorDash began in 2013 and is an online food ordering and delivery platform that lets people order fast food and restaurant meals to their door.
The company is also the largest food delivery company in North America, operating in over 5,500 cities and having over 50% of the food delivery market share!
Unlike Instacart, DoorDash specializes in restaurant food delivery, although you can still find grocery orders from retailers like Walmart.
Some of the most popular DoorDash restaurant and fast food partners include:
- Burger King
- Jimmy John’s
- Krystal Burgers
- Taco Bell
Instacart vs DoorDash – What’s Best for Drivers?
So, is working for Instacart better than DoorDash?
Well, the answer largely depends on what sort of job you’re looking for, and even then, it’s a bit of a tricky question to answer.
To help you make the right decision, we’re covering the following criteria to decide which gig economy app is more worth it:
- Driver Requirements
- Driver Pay
- What Deliveries Are Like
- How You Get Paid
- Earning Potential
After examining the benefits of each app, you can make a better decision for yourself.
Let’s take a look!
As with most gig economy jobs, there are requirements you must meet before making your first dollar.
Because Instacart and DoorDash have different regulations, we’re going over each list and comparing the differences.
Instacart Shopper Requirements
The requirements to become an Instacart Shopper are:
- Being at least 18 years old
- Being eligible to work in the United States or Canada
- Having consistent access to a vehicle
- Having access to a recent smartphone (iPhone 6s / Android 5.0 or newer)
- Being able to lift 50 lbs with or without accommodation
- Consenting to a background check
When you sign up, you also provide proof of a valid driver’s license and auto insurance.
Also note that as an Instacart Shopper, you have to make deliveries with a car since you’re going to deliver entire grocery hauls to people’s houses.
This is a significant difference to delivering for DoorDash since DoorDash drivers can deliver via bike, scooter, or car.
As for Instacart’s background check, it looks for any major driving violations and any criminal record you might have.
DoorDash Driver Requirements
Here are the Doordash driver requirements:
- Must be at least 18 years old
- Must own a car, scooter, or bicycle (some cities only allow cars)
- Have a valid driver’s license number
- Have a data plan on your mobile device
- Have a valid social security number (only in the U.S.)
- Consent to a background check
As mentioned, one of the main differences between DoorDash vs Instacart is that you can deliver with a bike or scooter with DoorDash.
When you sign up for DoorDash, you also provide proof of a valid driver’s license and insurance, just like Instacart.
Winner: DoorDash is more flexible than Instacart and lets you deliver via bike, scooter, or car.
Figuring out if working for Instacart or DoorDash is better depends on driver pay.
After all, you obviously want to make as much money per hour as possible so you’re maximizing your monthly income.
So, let’s take a look at Instacart vs DoorDash pay and what the data says.
Instacart Shopper Pay
According to salary review websites like Glassdoor and Indeed, the average Instacart Shopper pay is approximately $16 per hour.
However, some salary review sites like PayScale state Instacart Shoppers earn as much as $18.84 per hour.
Instacart states that you can make up to $25 per hour, but this is a maximum.
On average, you’re probably looking at around $15 to $16 per hour with Instacart, although large Instacart batches and good tips can push you past $20 quite easily.
As for how Instacart calculates pay, factors that influence how much you earn per delivery include:
- The number of items in a batch (“batches” are the name for orders)
- Delivery distance
- How difficult deliveries are
- Base pay for shoppers, which varies by market
- A “heavy fee” for heavy products
The bottom line is you can earn around $15 to $20+ per hour by working as an Instacart Shopper.
DoorDash Driver Pay
DoorDash drivers earn $23 per hour on average according to data from DoorDash.
According to salary review websites like Indeed and Glassdoor, the average hourly pay is just under $17.
But if you look on websites like ZipRecruiter, DoorDash driver pay is $18 per hour.
Overall, choosing a winner in the DoorDash vs Instacart pay debate is hard since the averages are basically the same.
Plus, factors such as location play a huge role, but you can get a general idea for what the pay is like.
DoorDash drivers keep 100% of their tips as well, just like Instacart. Here are the other factors DoorDash uses when calculating driver pay.
- Base pay + Promotions + Tips = Earnings
- Base pay = Time + Distance + Desirability
- Promotions = Peak Pay + Challenges
Overall, DoorDash driver pay is often a bit steadier since you largely get similar orders consisting of fast food deliveries and restaurant takeout.
This stability means the odds of getting massive tips is lower than Instacart, but your pay is probably a bit more stable.
Winner: The average pay for DoorDash and Instacart is very close. DoorDash provides steadier earnings but Instacart has a higher potential for large tips.
What Deliveries Are Like
Part of picking the right food delivery app to work for involves picking what sort of work you like doing.
With Instacart, you’re shopping for groceries and delivering them to people. This means you’re doing more walking and actually have to shop.
In contrast, DoorDash involves more driving around and you don’t have to shop for stuff.
Instacart lets you go online anytime you want just by opening the app, so you don’t need to schedule shifts in advance.
When you open your Instacart app as a driver, you start getting batch requests for nearby orders you can accept.
Batch requests include information like:
- Estimated pay (Instacart’s base pay and a potential tip)
- How many items are in the order
- Total delivery distance
- The store you’re shopping at
- If you get peak pay or not
Now, Instacart actually has a few types of orders you can complete on Instacart:
- Full-Service Order: shop and deliver the groceries.
- Delivery Order: Pick up groceries and deliver them.
- Batch Order: Shop for two customers at once and then make two separate deliveries.
The delivery order is easiest since you just have to pick up the prepacked groceries and drop them off at the customer’s house.
A batch order is much more difficult and confusing to get the hang of, but you get paid a lot more!
Anyway, once you accept an order, the Instacart app helps you navigate to the store you have to shop at.
You mark items as “found” as you add them to your grocery cart and work through your shopping list.
After checking out with your Instacart payment card, the app helps you navigate to the customer’s house.
Customers usually request leaving the food at the door, but you can offer to bring them inside. Some customers want you to hand them off to them or ensure they know you’ve dropped off the groceries.
Once you’re done, you mark your batch as being “complete” and Instacart shows you how much money you made, including any potential tips.
Extra Reading – Instacart Shopper Tips & Tricks.
With DoorDash, you can schedule delivery shifts in advance or simply open your Dasher app and begin working in a busy zone.
DoorDash highlights zones in red that are busy and zones in gray that aren’t busy enough for you to work in.
Once you’re online, order requests pop up on your screen just like Instacart. Here’s the information order requests include:
- Minimum guaranteed earnings
- Distance to travel
- Time to travel
- Completion time
- The amount of items
- The name of the restaurant/fast food place
DoorDash also has different order types like Instacart, but it mostly relates to if you pay for food with your DoorDash Red Card or if the customer prepaid for the food.
Once you accept an order, the Dasher app helps you navigate to the pickup location.
From there, you probably have to wait for the food a little bit. Once you get the order, the Dasher app asks you to confirm everything is correct and that you’re good to go.
A common DoorDash driver tip is to also grab extra for the customer, like additional sauces and napkins, to provide better service.
After confirming the order is right, the app helps you navigate to the customer’s address for dropoff.
Like Instacart, DoorDash customers can request delivery options like leaving the food at the door for contactless delivery. Just follow delivery prompts and you’ll be good to go.
After you confirm the delivery is complete, DoorDash shows you how much you made for the delivery plus any tips.
Winner: The DoorDash and Instacart apps are very similar. Instacart Shoppers have a more in-depth shopping task and batches usually take longer, but you get paid more per batch than DoorDash. In contrast, DoorDash has speedier deliveries and is a simpler driving gig.
How You Get Paid
Although the payment process for both companies are similar, you might prefer to get paid on a specific day.
You might also want the option to use instant payout to receive your money faster than usual.
Instacart Shoppers get paid every Wednesday via direct deposit. Some banks can take up to 3 business days to deposit the money into your account.
The money you get is for your prior week of deliveries, meaning the previous Monday through Sunday.
You can also use the Instant Cashout feature to withdraw earnings instantly for $0.50 per use.
To cashout, go to the “Earnings” page where you’ll see a “cashout” button.
DoorDash pays out every Monday via direct deposit. Most banks take about 2-3 days to process the payment.
Many DoorDash drivers claim to see the money in their account by Wednesday night.
You can cash out instantly through Fast Pay. However, unlike Instacart, DoorDash Fast Pay costs $1.99 per use.
Winner: Both companies have similar payment schedules but Instacart has cheaper instant cash outs than DoorDash.
The earning potential of Instacart and DoorDash is a tricky thing to figure out. Why? Because it really depends on a few factors.
For one, the amount of hours you work will determine how much you can make in a given time period.
Things like location, competition, how fast you complete orders, and the times you work all have an impact on your earning potential.
To understand Instacart’s true earning potential, let’s take a deeper dive into the average salary.
The average salary for full-service Instacart shoppers is $41k – $96k according to Glassdoor.
This number is pretty high for a gig economy job; most users don’t make more than $40,000 per year.
Realistically, you can probably make $100 to $200 on a good day with Instacart, and that’s if you put in serious hours behind the wheel.
Many Reddit users claimed to have made an average of $1,000 – $1,200 per week. But this includes working around 40 hours per week.
In short, Instacart has a high earning potential in the world of gig apps, but again, your hourly wage is probably between $15 to $25.
Extra Reading – How Much Can You Make A Week Doing Instacart?
Similar to Instacart, the average salary is a good base to start with, but keep in mind that your effort makes a difference.
The average salary for DoorDash drivers is between $25k – $55k per year. I think this estimate is much more accurate compared to Instacart.
The higher end shows drivers who make a bit over $1,000 per week while more casual dashers make around $500.
Again, this salary is also an estimate of people who use DoorDash as their full-time employment.
If you just want to make a bit of extra cash on the side, both DoorDash and Instacart are great side hustles.
You can clear $1,000 a week in the right market with both delivery gigs if you put in serious hours, but again, you’re usually making around $15 to $20 per hour.
Winner: Instacart and DoorDash have similar earning potentials.
Most food delivery gigs assign a driver rating that’s based off of scores customers give you.
And, on platforms like Instacart and DoorDash, a higher rating means potentially getting more order requests and ultimately making more money.
Therefore, it’s critical to understand how driver ratings work with both companies so you don’t accidentally get a lower rating and miss out on orders.
Instacart Shopper Ratings
A low rating on Instacart can be tough to recover from. Some shoppers have basically considered themselves fired.
Even after dropping below a 4.95 star rating (out of 5), shoppers noticed a massive decrease in high-paying orders.
The reason for that is because Instacart gives dibs to the highest rated shoppers before going to the lower rated ones.
If your rating is suddenly under everyone else’s in your area, you can seriously miss out on the real cash.
If you’re new to Instacart, you might notice a “thumbs up, thumbs down” rating system that replaced the old one. This is a test run for Instacart at the moment to see which system is better.
To avoid dropping your rating, deliver in a timely manner, communicate clearly with the shopper, and accept batches with large tips.
DoorDash Driver Ratings
DoorDash is more lenient than Instacart when it comes to their rating system.
They have a 5 star rating interface (like Instacart), but there’s one key difference that can help you out.
DoorDash uses a rolling system. Meaning, newer reviews will replace older ones. Your most recent 100 reviews average out to be your rating.
This can be much more advantageous for you in case you get a bad review here and there.
Plus, DoorDash immediately rules out ratings that are related to the taste of the food, restaurant wait times, and other issues that are not related to the driver.
Now, if you want to qualify for Top Dasher, which basically lets you dash whenever even if you’re in a gray zone that’s not busy and to get priority for large orders, you need a customer rating of at least 4.7 stars.
But going for Top Dasher isn’t normally worth it since you also need an acceptance rate of 70% or higher, which requires accepting a lot of low-paying orders.
Winner: DoorDash has a much more lenient rating system than Instacart!
What Do Real Delivery Drivers Say?
One of the best ways to decide if working for DoorDash or Instacart is better for you is to see what other food delivery couriers think about both platforms.
In a recent Reddit thread, here’s what several DoorDash and Instacart drivers are saying about each company:
- RuruSzu says: “I realized you make a lot more just doing deliveries than actually shopping. In my market during peak 5-8pm I can make 30-40 an hour on DD but with IC I’ll be lucky if I average $20 an hour.”
- ShopppeGirl says: “Do both. Put more effort towards DD and work IC as a supplement.”
- OrbedXD says: “Mornings are instacart nights are DoorDash.”
- BustinDieber says: “Instacart by itself would mean you do a lot less driving (less gas/expenses) and a lot more walking to pick the grocery order. Good if you want the exercise. As far as money goes, IC can be good but there’s a lot of competition for orders so there’s a learning curve before you get good at grabbing the good ones. With DoorDash you get an offer and decide yes/no so it’s not depending on how fast your fingers are like with Instacart.”
- Alex26785 says: “Depends on your area. In general you’ll make more doing door dash evenings/nights and more with Instacart mornings though.”
I think this ultimately highlights the importance of testing your market and also leveraging both delivery platforms for what they’re best for.
For example, if you deliver at peak Instacart hours like weekend mornings, you can probably make more money than doing DoorDash.
In contrast, if you deliver during the best DoorDash times like dinner or late-nights on Fridays and weekends, you’re probably making more than Instacart.
Pros & Cons
For a quick summary of Instacart vs DoorDash, check out this pro & cons list for each company:
Instacart Pros & Cons
These are the Instacart pros and cons shoppers should consider:
- High potential for large batches and high tips
- Start working whenever you want
- You drive less than DoorDash so there’s less wear-and-tear and gas costs
- Cheap instant cash outs
- Easy sign up process
- Available in U.S. and Canada
- Slightly more volatile pay than DoorDash
- Less forgiving driver rating system
- Competition for orders is usually higher than with DoorDash
- You can’t deliver with a bike or scooter
DoorDash Pro & Cons
These are the DoorDash pros and cons drivers should consider:
- You can deliver via bike, scooter, or car
- Usually more stable orders and hourly pay than Instacart
- A more forgiving driver rating system than Instacart
- Completing deliveries is easier since you’re just picking up food
- A $1.99 Fast Pay fee
- Lower potential for high-paying orders and large tips than Instacart
- DoorDash has higher gas costs and puts more mileage on your vehicle than Instacart
Verdict: Is Working for Instacart Better Than DoorDash?
Alright, so which food delivery company is the right pick for you?
It can be a tricky decision to make, so here are some of the final factors you can consider before making your choice.
Work For Instacart If…
If you have a car and would rather grocery shop than drive around town, becoming an Instacart Shopper is better than DoorDash.
Plus, Instacart also has higher-paying batches and a higher potential for large tips than DoorDash, which is the main perk.
Work For DoorDash If…
Many food delivery couriers prefer DoorDash over Instacart because you get more order requests per hour and there isn’t as much competition between drivers.
Plus, if your driver rating goes down, it isn’t the end of the world.
Ultimately, you should drive for DoorDash instead of Instacart if you want a steadier number of orders, stable hourly pay, and don’t mind doing more driving.
Work For Both Food Delivery Apps If…
Most people actually work for Instacart and DoorDash, and there’s a few reasons it makes sense to sign up for both companies.
For one, there are Instacart waitlists and DoorDash waitlists, so if your market has a high supply of drivers, you might have to wait a while to be able to drive (so signing up ASAP and getting on the list is important.)
Additionally, being an eligible driver for both platforms gives you more choice so you can ultimately make more money.
If Instacart is slow one day or week, you can switch to DoorDash. On the flip side, you could do Instacart in the mornings and then Dash at night.
It’s free to apply and work for both apps, so there’s no harm in trying each one to see which gig job you prefer and what pays the most in your market.
I hope this DoorDash vs Instacart breakdown helps you understand more about the unique features of each company and which gig job is right for you.
As mentioned, working for DoorDash and Instacart at the same time is what a lot of couriers do, and you don’t have to stop there either.
There are plenty of other delivery gigs you can try, like delivering for Uber Eats or Shipt.
Ultimately, you should test a few options to see what pays the most in your market. Just remember to track your expenses so you can potentially claim them when filing taxes!
Best of luck!
Looking for more delivery jobs that pay? Checkout:
- DoorDash vs Uber Eats – What’s Best For Drivers.
- GoShare Review – Make Money Delivering Packages.
- Roadie Review – Make Money With Peer-to-Peer Deliveries.
- 12 Best Jobs Like Instacart To Make Money.
DoorDash disclaimer: Actual earnings may differ and depend on factors like number of deliveries completed, time of day, location, and expenses. Hourly pay is calculated using average Dasher payouts while on a delivery (from the time you accept an order until the time you drop it off) over a 90 day period and includes compensation from peak pay, tips, and other incentives.
Tom is a full-time blogger and freelance writer with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and the gig economy. His work has appeared on dozens of personal finance websites like Money Crashers, The College Investor, Investor Junkie, and more. This Online World is all about providing people with honest ways to make and save more money by using technology. To learn more about Tom, read his About Page!
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