As a side hustle, delivering groceries for Instacart is very possible.
As an Instacart shopper, it’s possible to earn $15 to $25+ per hour. Plus, you get to set your own schedule, so you can work as much or as little as you like.
But, like any other gig job, it’s always important to consider the pros, cons, and opportunity cost of the gig you’re considering.
After all, while working as an Instacart shopper can be a lucrative side hustle, it definitely isn’t for everyone.
So, is working for Instacart worth it?
Let’s dive in!
Instacart Shopper Review
Description: Instacart is a grocery delivery service that lets shoppers make money in their spare time by assembling and delivering grocery orders directly to customer's doors!
Operating System: Android, iOS
Application Category: Gig Apps
Author: Tom Blake
Ease Of Use
Instacart is one of the most popular grocery delivery services that’s currently available in over 5,500 cities across the United States and Canada.
As an Instacart customer, you can order groceries and everyday essentials right to your doorstep from popular grocery stores and retailers like:
- Sam’s Club
When you work for Instacart as an Instacart shopper, you’re responsible for fulfilling these orders to customers.
That means assembling grocery orders, checking out, and delivering groceries to customers.
What Is It Like To Work For Instacart – A Day On The Job
Before we jump into if working for Instacart is worth it because of the pay, let’s break down what a typical day on the job looks like.
After all, while Instacart is similar to other driving gigs that pay, it still helps to have an idea of what you’re signing up for before starting to work for Instacart.
I’ll cover shopper requirements later in our Instacart shopper review, but here’s what to expect once you’re eligible to work:
1. Receive & Accept Instacart Batches
Once you go online and start working for Instacart, the app has a list of “batches” that are available for completion.
A batch is the same thing as an order. Tapping on a batch in the Instacart shopper app shows you:
- What products are in the batch
- The store you’re going to shop at
- How far the delivery distance is when you’re dropping off the order
- Your estimated earnings which factors in Instacart pay and the chance of a tip
If you see a batch you like, you can claim it and hit “start shopping” when you actually arrive at the store and are ready to shop.
This also lets the Instacart customer know you’re at the store and are starting to shop for their order.
One common Instacart shopper trick is to also text the customer to let them know you’re shopping and that they should message you through Instacart’s app if they have any questions or last-minute changes to their order.
Communication is a big part of being a successful Instacart shopper, so keep this in mind!
2. Assemble Grocery Orders
Once you’re in-store and are ready to shop, the Instacart shopper app is your best friend.
The app actually has a list of every product you need to shop for. Instacart also does an okay job of grouping products by sections you’d normally see in a grocery store, so you can use the app to guide you.
As you shop and find products, you mark them within the app as being found. Instacart lets you scan product barcodes or enter the product name manually to confirm you’ve added them to your shopping cart.
Do that for every product, and you’re getting the hang of being an Instacart shopper!
However, if products on your order are out of stock, you have a few options:
- Substitution Preferences: Customers can leave notes in the Instacart app about certain substitution preferences they have, like swapping out one brand of tomatoe sauce for another similar brand. If you’re shopping for something and it’s out of stock, check to see if the customer made notes about alternatives.
- Use Common Sense: Successful Instacart shoppers move quickly, so this means using your common sense and quickly finding obvious substitutions if the customer hasn’t noted an alternative.
- Message The Customer: If you’re ever in doubt about what to substitute, message the customer through the Instacart shopper app and ask for clarification.
In some cases, you can also offer a refund for a product if it was out of stock and no viable alternatives were available. All of this can be done through the app.
Ideally, you can complete a batch without too many substitutions or back and forth communication with the customer!
Once you gather every product in your order, you’re ready to checkout!
Instacart shoppers actually get an Instacart payment card to pay for orders. This is basically a prepaid debit card that’s only used for Instacart orders.
So, you don’t pay with your own credit card or debit card. But, this also means you can’t earn cash-back rewards or other perks from your own credit card.
Additionally, Instacart doesn’t pay for gas or any frills; your payment card is only to be used for paying for Instacart orders.
In some rare situations, your card can be low on funds if there’s been a mistake. If this happens, contact Instacart shopper support through the mobile app and get them to top-up your payment card.
4. Complete Deliveries & Get Paid
After you check out, load your vehicle with groceries.
Be sure to load grocery bags carefully to avoid spills or smushing things like produce and fruit.
Additionally, if you have temperature-sensitive foods like ice cream or hot-n-ready meals, store them in an insulated food delivery bag.
This is one common food delivery trick, and it shows the customer you care and ultimately helps you get more tips.
Anyway, once you load your car, use Instacart’s app to navigate to the drop-off point. You should also let the customer know you are on the way with their order.
Customers can leave drop-off instructions that include leaving groceries at the door for contactless delivery or actually ringing the door. They can also leave notes about things like building door codes or specific doors to drop groceries off at.
Follow your instructions, drop-off the batch, and take a photo of the groceries on the doorstep once you’re done.
Once you mark the batch as being complete, you’re ready to accept more Instacart batches to keep on earning!
You also get paid roughly 30 minutes to an hour after completing a batch, although tips can take a while to trickle in sometimes, so keep this delay in mind!
Note: Instacart customers also rate you and the entire ordering experience after you complete a delivery. This contributes towards your Instacart shopper score.
You can have a maximum of 5 stars as an Instacart shopper.
And, this isn’t just some trivial rating system either; highly-rated shoppers get to see batch requests before lower-rated shoppers do.
This means that, the higher your Instacart rating, the more picky you can be with batches and only accept the high-paying ones that are worth doing.
When you’re a new Instacart shopper, you automatically start with high batch priority to give you a chance to actually complete orders.
But, if your rating declines over time, it can become more difficult to get a steady stream of batches.
Extra Reading – Peak Times To Do Instacart.
Is Working For Instacart Worth It? – How Much Do Shoppers Get Paid?
Alright, time to dig into the numbers behind the question: is Instacart worth working for?
Now, Instacart is unfortunately a bit vague in terms of how its payment model works for shoppers.
In other words, while companies like DoorDash and Postmates have clear formulas for the factors that go into driver pay, Instacart doesn’t include this information.
In fact, Instacart’s payment model is rather complex, and factors in:
- Number of products in a batch
- Delivery distance
- Delivery difficulty
- Base pay for shoppers
- A “heavy fee” that’s added for heavy products
- Customer tips, which you keep 100% of
All of this means that how much Instacart pays varies per batch, with larger, more complex batches typically paying more.
But, this also means you can sometimes find Instacart batches that pay $30 to $50+, so the hourly earning potential is higher than something like DoorDash where you earn a more stable hourly rate.
That being said, let’s dig into some more data about how much Instacart pays shoppers to help you decide if working for Instacart is worth it or not.
Instacart Pay Data – What Salary Review Websites Say
One useful source for finding out how much Instacart pays is to look at salary review websites where Instacart shoppers can share their experiences.
For starters, Payscale states that Instacart pays shoppers approximately $18.84 per hour.
This is a pretty solid hourly wage for gig work, but other salary review websites are a tad lower.
For example, according to Glassdoor, Instacart shoppers earn around $11 to $13 per hour:
All in all, I’d say the average Instacart hourly pay is around $15 based on this data.
But, from everything I’ve heard from couriers, you can make more than $20+ per hour with Instacart depending on your market and how fast you shop.
Let’s look at some more data!
Instacart Pay Data – What Real Couriers Say
Another excellent source of data to find out what it’s like to work for Instacart and how much you earn is to check Reddit to see what couriers are saying.
Instacart shoppers share their earnings and thoughts all the time on Reddit or other forums, so this is a goldmine of info if you’re thinking about working for Instacart.
As we can see from this Instacart shopper, they can earn around $20 and pull in $100 to $120 per day by working for Instacart.
But, this shopper also notes that gas, vehicle depreciation, and taxes cut into your earnings; a super important consideration to keep in mind.
Plus, another complaint Instacart shoppers have relates to “batch priority.”
As mentioned, Instacart shows batches to shoppers with higher shopper ratings first. If these shoppers don’t accept the batch, the batches appear for lower-rated shoppers, and so on.
When you’re a new Instacart shopper, you get batch priority with higher-rated shoppers to give you a chance to complete orders in the first place:
But, over time, you might find you get fewer batches per hour if you get a few bad ratings or just have some bad luck.
This is probably the main complaint people have about working for Instacart. It’s also why many Instacart shoppers work for multiple food delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub on the side.
In any case, the consensus seems to be that while making a full-time income with Instacart is unlikely, you can still use it to supplement your monthly income.
Here’s another Reddit Instacart shopper who states the same thing and is able to earn around $800 to $1,100 if they work 40 hours a week (and another user states earning $500 per week):
So, the bottom line is that Instacart can pay around $10 to $25 per hour for most shoppers.
But, your market, shopper rating, and overall experience greatly influence how much money you can make doing Instacart.
Instacart Shopper Pros & Cons
So, it looks like Instacart shoppers can earn around $15 to $25 per hour, with the latter coming in the best markets and after some experience.
But, what are the advantages and disadvantages of working for Instacart?
Well, like other gig jobs, a lot of the pros and cons boil down to earning potential, hourly pay, and opportunity cost:
Instacart Shopper Pros:
- High hourly pay on average
- Potential for large batches and tips
- Flexible schedule
- Not as much driving involved as gig jobs like DoorDash
- Wide market availability
Instacart Shopper Cons:
- Can be hard to get batches if your shopper rating declines
- Not always possible or as high-paying in small cities
- Hourly pay can vary
- You still put mileage on your vehicle and have to factor in fuel costs and vehicle depreciation
- Tax implications as an independent contractor
Ultimately, I think becoming an Instacart shopper is a realistic way to make a few hundred dollars per month in extra income.
Can you do Instacart full-time?
Yes, but that’s highly unlikely for most shoppers, and Instacart is really a decent-paying side hustle for most people.
Just be sure to be on time and be friendly to help keep your shopper rating high so you get more batches!
Extra Reading – How To Make $50 Per Day.
How To Become An Instacart Shopper
If you think working for Instacart is worth it and want to get started, the process is quite simple.
But first, you need to know the Instacart shopper requirements:
- You need regular access to a car (no bikes or scooters)
- Be 18 or older
- Have legal authorization to work in the country you’re in (Canada or the United States)
- Consent to a background check
- Be able to lift 40lbs without help
- Have a smartphone that can run the Instacart shopper app
Instacart’s background check can take up to 10 business days to complete. This check examines your criminal record and driving record to basically look for any major violations within the last 7 years.
As for signing up, all you have to do is download the Instacart shopper app and input the necessary information to begin your application.
Make sure you have your driver’s license and social security number on hand when applying since you need this info.
You also enter your direct deposit/banking information so Instacart can pay you for the batches you complete.
Now, keep in mind, if your area has a lot of shoppers, you might get placed on the Instacart waitlist and will have to wait a few weeks or months before you can begin shopping!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re still wondering if Instacart is worth working for, this list of answers to common questions will provide some more clarity.
1. Is Instacart Safe To Work For?
Instacart is a safe company to work for in the sense that it doesn’t scam shoppers and puts measures in place, like contactless delivery, to keep people happy.
But, Instacart works with stores and lets you deliver groceries from the early morning to late at night depending on when grocery stores close.
So, while Instacart is safe, shoppers need to be sensible about the areas of town they deliver to and at what time they deliver.
For example, if you get a batch request for a sketchy part of town and it’s for 9:00pm, you might want to think twice before accepting the batch.
This is the nature of food delivery gigs, so never do anything that makes you feel unsafe while on the job.
2. How Does Instacart Pay Shoppers?
Instacart pays full-service shoppers weekly through direct deposit into a checking or savings account.
Again, how much you earn per batch depends on a variety of factors, like number of items, delivery distance, and tips.
You should see earnings for your previous week of Instacart work hit your bank account around Wednesday. This payment includes all of your earnings for the previous Monday to Sunday of work.
3. Is Instacart Good To Work For?
This question is fairly subjective, but here are some of the main factors to consider when deciding if Instacart is a good company to work for:
- Do you like your hourly pay?
- Are your expenses reasonable?
- Do you like the work or is it stressful?
- Does working for Instacart help you reach your financial goals faster?
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” I’d say Instacart is a good company to work for.
Really, the main complaint from Instacart shoppers is that they can’t get enough batches or that hourly pay is too low, but both these factors can be greatly influenced by your market.
Extra Reading – How Much Can You Make A Week With Instacart?
4. Is Working For Instacart Hard?
I think being an Instacart shopper is slightly harder than working for companies like DoorDash or Postmates since in-store shopping is more complex than just picking up food orders.
Additionally, you typically communicate with the customer more and have to make some judgement calls for product substitutions.
You can also do things like accept double Instacart batches, which involve shopping for two customers at once in the same store and then making two separate deliveries, so that can take some getting used to.
But, once you get the hang of Instacart, it’s a fairly steady delivery gig that pays well and isn’t too stressful.
Is Instacart Worth Working For?
So, is becoming an Instacart shopper worth it?
Well, I think working for Instacart is worth it if:
- You want a reliable way to increase your monthly income
- You want a job that doesn’t involve working with people
- You don’t mind driving around town and have regular access to a vehicle
- You’re willing to learn the ropes to become a more efficient shopper and earn more
In contrast, if you don’t want a driving gig and prefer making money online, Instacart isn’t for you.
Additionally, I want to highlight the “learn the ropes” part; it will take a couple of Instacart shifts for you to become a faster shopper, and there’s always ways to improve.
Plus, you need to test how much money you can make with Instacart in your area since every market is different.
If you give Instacart an honest try, you can always try alternative delivery jobs like driving for DoorDash or any food delivery company.
Hopefully, this guide helps you decide if Instacart is worth working for and helps you hit the ground running if you decide to become a shopper.
Thanks for reading, and happy shopping!
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Tom is a 24 year old recent college graduate from Canada with a passion for side hustling, passive income, and marketing. 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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