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The growing demand for grocery delivery has opened new possibilities for gig workers. Indeed, becoming a grocery delivery driver has become one of the best side gig options. And leading this new era of grocery delivery drivers is Instacart.
Instacart is a grocery delivery service that allows buyers to select items from a wide array of stores and get them delivered by anInstacart shopper, often in less than an hour. The whole service is fast, efficient, and incredibly convenient. It also holds several benefits for the driver, such as flexible scheduling or receiving customer tips.
Most importantly, becoming an Instacart shopper is a fantastic opportunity to earn quite a significant amount of money. How much? Depending on numerous factors Instacart shoppers can make anything between a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month.
However, as said, that amount isn’t carved in stone. Today, we’d like to dive deeper into how much Instacart pays its shoppers and what kind of wages you can count on when delivering groceries. Is becoming an Instacart shopper the right career choice for you? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
What Is Instacart?
Established in 2012, Instacart is a grocery delivery service where the bulk of interactions between customers and shoppers is contained within the Instacart app. Unfortunately, it currently only operates in the United States and Canada, so if you’re not based in either one of these regions, you may want to look into other gigs.
While its primary function is grocery shopping, Instacart customers can also use the app to buy items from stores like Sephora, The Body Shop, or Staples. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the full array of stores an Instacart customer can choose from depends on their location.
When it comes to shoppers, Instacart operates similarly to well-established ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft. Customers and workers download different versions of the service’s mobile app. This means thatInstacart drivers are allowed to create their own schedule, increasing or decreasing their workload per their needs and other responsibilities. The shoppers also get rated by users.
Until 2021, the rating system was identical to most other app-based delivery or ridesharing jobs, i.e., a 5-star system. However, in the fall of 2022, the company changed its approach toward shopper ratings and opted for a “thumbs-up/thumbs-down” interface. This evened out the playing field between shoppers and made it easier for new drivers to get more orders much quicker.
Instacart Full-Service Shoppers vs. In-Store Shoppers
One major difference that separates Instacart from other gig economy jobs is the distinction between full-service shoppers (personal shoppers) and in-store shoppers.
As afull-service shopper, more commonly referred to as an “Instacart driver,” you’re responsible for carrying out the order from start to finish: driving to the store, picking up the items, packing them up, and delivering them to their final destination. In-store shoppers, on the other hand, are based in a single store, where their only responsibility is to pack up the orders and get them ready for pick up.
These two jobs are very different in nature. Full-service shoppers can create their own schedules and need to have a valid driver’s license to fulfill orders. In-store workers are assigned shifts at specific grocery stores every week and don’t have as much flexibility in terms of choosing their work hours.
The role will also impact the final pay. Since full-service shoppers perform more duties and their services are more comprehensive, they can make more money than in-store shoppers. On the other hand, their job also includes much more responsibilities, which some might find overwhelming.
Instacart Pay Structure: How Does Instacart Calculate Pay?
As mentioned, numerous factors come into play when calculating Instacart pay. Essentially, your pay as an Instacart Shopper will depend on the complexity of an order, the distance between the store and the customer’s delivery address, tips, and available bonuses.
Doesn’t seem overly complicated, right? Well, the problem is that Instacart tends to change its algorithms relatively often, making it incredibly challenging to understand how it calculates its pay. Instacart doesn’t explain much either, making it one of the least transparent pay structures in the delivery industry.
Of course, it doesn’t mean we know nothing about its pay structure. There are several key factors that impact how much Instacart pays shoppers. These include:
a minimum batch payment (the base pay for each order),
type of services,
and the city or area.
Minimum Batch Payment
A minimum batch payment is nothing else than a base pay a shopper receives for every order. It currently ranges between $7 and $10 for full-service batches. If you complete a delivery-only order, the minimum batch payment is $5.
That is a significant raise to what Instacart shoppers earned a while back. Not that long ago, Instacart paid its delivery drivers a minimum batch payment of a mere $3. Unsurprisingly, such an amount caused outrage among Instacart shoppers. To avoid a PR scandal, Instacart was forced to introduce a new pay structure, raising the guaranteed minimum pay of $7 per order.
You can, of course, earn much more than that, depending on the complexity of the order and traveled distance. The base pay also doesn’t include tips, which can significantly increase your pay.
Instacart Shopper Bonuses
Another that impacts the Instacart shoppers’ pay structure is the platform’s bonus system. As an Instacart shopper, you can take advantage of the Quality Bonus or Peak Boost:
Quality Bonus rewards shoppers who receive high customer reviews. Essentially, for every five-star review left by a satisfied customer, Instacart will reward you with a $3 bonus.
Peak Boost works similarly to Uber’s Surge Pricing. In essence, delivering groceries during peak hours of high demand comes with higher payments and bonuses. Peak boosts aren’t static and can range between the areas and periods. In most cases, you can expect to earn at least a few bucks more than you would during standard demand hours.
Instacart customers can leave shoppers tips. The platform even encourages its customers to tip Instacart drivers by enabling the automatic tip option in the Instacart app, which automatically calculates a driver’s tip based on the order’s size. That, of course, can be changed to a larger or smaller amount, further enhancing the tipping experience.
Usually, you can expect to receive a tip of 5% of the order’s value. And the best thing is, Instacart shoppers keep 100% of their tips. Therefore, if you frequently complete large orders, tips might become a significant part of your Instacart pay.
Full-Service Shopper vs. In-Store Shopper Pay Structure
What’s important to note here is that all the factors mentioned apply to Instacart full-service shoppers and delivery drivers. If you become an Instacart in-store shopper, your pay structure will be entirely different. That’s because in-store shoppers are part-time employees who work a minimum of 29 hours a week.
Therefore, they receive hourly pay on a steady wage written in their contract. They also can’t receive tips and aren’t eligible for Instacart bonuses, such as Peak Boost or Quality Bonus. This means their earning opportunities are more limited compared to Instacart pay drivers.
On the other hand, in-store shoppers earn a steady income, meaning they don’t have to worry about changes in demand, customer tips, reviews, or completing deliveries.
So yes, there are a lot of moving parts involved when calculating an Instacart shopper pay. But how much does Instacart pay its shoppers? Well, the average pay is $17 per hour, according toGlassdoor. However, based on our research and experience, that amount can be much higher than that, often ranging up to $25-30 an hour during peak hours plus tips.
Of course, it will also depend on how many orders you complete. For example, typically, full-service shoppers complete fewer orders per hour, as they need to drive to complete the shopping list themselves. Their base pay is higher, though. On average, a full-service shopper receives $15-20 per delivery. However, once you calculate tips and bonuses, that amount can be higher by about 3-5 bucks.
That said, your Instacart earnings can be relatively high if you deliver frequently. Even if you treat your Instacart gig as a weekend job, you can significantly boost your monthly income by several hundred dollars.
Instacart Tip Baiting
When discussing Instacart pays, it’s impossible to avoid the tip-baiting problem. It’s one of the most common and annoying issues with Instacart deliveries, especially with the growing demand for grocery deliveries.
Essentially, tip baiting occurs when a customer includes a lucrative tip within the order to get it completed faster and then lowers or cancels it once the delivery is completed. In other words, they use the tip as a ‘bait’ for Instacart personal shoppers to accept and complete their orders faster.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing one can do about it, as Instacart customers can adjust their tips within 24 hours of placing an order. If you think that’s too long, it used to be 3 days, but Instacart listened to its shoppers and shortened that period to 24 hours in 2020.
Is it as bad, though? After all, even without a tip, you’ll still receive your base pay. It is. First, many Instacart shoppers rely heavily on the tips they receive. Secondly, if you’re promised a lucrative tip, it’s natural you’ll perform your duties better. If that tip is taken away once you deliver the order, it would feel as if you were used and scammed. That’s not the best feeling in the world and can significantly hurt your morale and desire to continue delivering with Instacart.
How Are Instacart Shoppers Paid?
Once you understand how much you can earn as an Instacart personal shopper, let’s discuss when and how your hard-earned money lands in your bank account.
When Are Instacart Shoppers Paid?
Instacart shoppers are paid every week, although an instant cashout option is available, coming with a $0.50 fee. If you opt for an instant cashout, you can expect the money in your bank account within a few minutes, making it an excellent option for those who want to access their earnings immediately.
What Are the Available Payment Methods?
While Instacart customers can choose from a wide variety of payment methods, shoppers can only get paid via direct deposit. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to get paid via PayPal or a similar financial service. It is definitely a limitation, but it is not without its reasons. Using a single method to pay all the salaries ensures that all workers get paid on time.
Instacart Shopper Expenses
As covered, becoming an Instacart driver can be pretty lucrative if everything goes your way. It also offers a lot of flexibility and freedom. However, since Instacart shoppers are independent contractors, it means they are responsible for their work-related expenses. These can put a significant dent in your final Instacart earnings, so it’s a good idea to have them in mind when calculating your final pay.
Generally speaking, when driving for Instacart, you will be responsible for:
Paying vehicle-related costs. These include gas, vehicle insurance, maintenance, repairs, registration fees, etc. These can accumulate to a significant amount, so it might be a good idea to rent a car instead of using your own. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
Paying taxes. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying your taxes yourself. The tax amount for delivery drivers isn’t overly high, but it’s still something you need to consider and, more importantly, remember to avoid paying additional penalties and tax-related fees.
Getting Started as an Instacart Shopper
Although it is fairly easy tobecome an Instacart shopper, there is still a set of conditions you need to meet in order to start working. Once again, these don’t differ much from the requirements set by other delivery apps or ridesharing services, so if you worked for one of these in the past, chances are that you’re all set to join Instacart. If this is your first shot at this type of job, you can find Instacart’s requirements below.
Own a smartphone. Without a phone, you’re not going to be able to download the shopper app, sign up for the job, or pick up orders.
Pass a background check. This process usually takes up to 10 business days, but depending on your location and background, it may take a while longer. On the other hand, some shoppers have reported getting their clearance within a week.
Be 18 or older. Minors can’t drive for Instacart. Additionally, in order to be able to deliver alcohol, you need to be at least 21 years old.
Have a bank account. As an Instacart shopper, you’ll be paid by direct deposit, which requires you to have a checking or savings account.
Be able to lift at least 30 pounds. Some batches can get really heavy. Being physically capable of lifting bags full of groceries during your work hours is absolutely necessary.
Once you fulfill these conditions, you will have to sign the contractor agreement and pick up your Instacart payment card. It is a debit card used by Instacart employees to pay for the customer’s order.
Delivering Instacart orders is not rocket science. You accept the order in your shopper app, go to the store, complete the shopping list yourself or pick up the packed order, and deliver it to the customer. A walk in the park.
So why do some Instacart shoppers earn so much more than others? That’s because how you complete orders matters. With the right strategy, you can significantly boost your Instacart earnings. Here’s how you can get the most out of your grocery delivery gig.
Learn Where and When to Deliver
If you deliver in a larger city, there are areas where the demand for grocery delivery services is higher. More delivery orders mean better earning opportunities, so be sure to take your time and find the best spots for your deliveries.
Besides where it’s also vital to know when to deliver. Peak times offer the best opportunities for delivery drivers, often coming with peak-hour bonuses (like Instacart’s Peak Boost), more orders, and higher possible fees from customers wanting their groceries delivered fast.
Become a Faster Shopper
How fast you complete your Instacart delivery plays a significant part in your overall earnings. By completing your orders quicker, you boost your chance for a tip or positive review, which, as discussed, directly impacts your pay through the Quality Bonus.
How to complete your orders more efficiently? The best way to do that is to create a shopping pattern. For instance, you can group your orders into sections and complete them based on that instead of going back and forth between the store’s sections. As you complete more orders, you will start learning about each store’s layout, helping you shop more efficiently and complete customer orders faster.
Hustle for Tips
The new Instacart tip policy is designed to eliminate tip-baiting practices and encourage customers to tip shoppers adequately. However, if you want to receive that tip, you need to earn it. The best way is to complete your orders efficiently, but that is not the only thing you should practice.
Show the customer that you care about their order. Stay with them in direct contact and inform them about any delays or problems with completing the shopping list. Besides that, invest in equipment that will make your deliveries better, such as cooling bags or in-bag partitions. And don’t forget to be friendly when delivering the order. All these practices should be more than enough to increase the chance of a tip and its amount.
Track Your Expenses
We already covered that as an independent contractor driving with Instacart, you will be responsible for paying your job-related expenses. Things like gas, maintenance, or car mileage will all play a part in calculating your earnings. But it’s not just about knowing how much you will earn, but how much you can deduct from your tax.
Indeed, independent contractors are eligible for tax deductibles from mileage, fuel, or special equipment bought and used to perform their jobs. By tracking your expenses, you will be able to calculate whether you are eligible for a tax deduction and how much money you can deduct. However, there’s an efficient way to cut your ongoing expenses.
Make Your Job Easier with HyreCar
If you’re determined to become a full-service Instacart shopper, but you don’t own a car, don’t worry! Head over toHyreCar to rent a car for delivery services quickly and on fair terms. You can rent a car on a per-day basis or take it out for a longer period.
Full-service Instacart shoppers frequently take up this job as a short-term way of making extra money. By renting from HyreCar, you won’t have to worry about vehicle maintenance and taking too much cash out of your paycheck for a hefty car payment. It’s also an excellent way for new shoppers to try out the job without tying themselves down to a long-term car lease.
Whatever your reason may be, renting cars with HyreCar to drive for Instacart or other similar services is a good way to familiarize yourself with the gig economy and see if this way of making some extra cash on the side is a good fit for you.
Instacart Shoppers FAQs
How much does Instacart pay its shoppers?
Instacart employs a fairly complicated pay structure, incorporating numerous factors when calculating one’s pay. In general, as an Instacart driver, you can earn anything between $10-20 per average delivery. That amount can be higher if an order is complex and requires driving larger distances.
And once you apply customer tips and in-app bonuses, that amount can increase to around $25-30 per delivery, which, given the complexity of grocery delivery orders, equals your hourly pay. That said, you can expect to earn anything between several hundred to several thousand dollars a month through Instacart deliveries, depending on how often you deliver and how many orders you complete.
What is the difference between an Instacart in-store and full-service shopper?
In-store shoppers are part-time employees working in a single store and earning steady hourly pay. They don’t deliver groceries to Instacart customers, their responsibility is to do the in-store shopping and prepare the order for a delivery driver to pick up.
A full-service shopper does both the shopping and delivering, carrying out the order from start to finish. Their pay consists of a batch payment, tips, and bonuses, as they operate as independent contractors instead of being actual Instacart workers.
Can I cash out my pay instantly?
Yes, if you don’t want to wait a week for Instacart to send your payment, you can take advantage of the instant cashout option and get your money immediately. It’s a fantastic option if you need to pay any ongoing expenses fast, although mind that every cashout comes with a $0.50 fee.
What are the highest-paying cities for Instacart shoppers?
Some cities offer better profit margins than others. Based on Glassdoor research, we were able to compile the list of four highest-paying cities for Intacart shoppers. These are:
Sacramento, California – an average of $26 per hour;
Atlanta, Georgia – an average of $16 per hour;
Boston, Massachusetts – an average of $15 per hour;
Washington, D.C. – an average of $15 per hour.
How can shoppers pay for groceries?
Once you join the ranks of shoppers, Instacart will provide you with your dedicated Instacart payment card. Don’t use your credit card, as there’s no guarantee Instacart will reimburse you for your spending.
Key Takeaways – Is Instacart Worth It?
So, based on what we discussed above, is becoming an Instacart shopper worth it? That depends on how you look at it.
On the one hand, Instacart shoppers can take advantage of such benefits as flexible scheduling and freedom of how they perform their services. The average pay is also relatively competitive compared to other grocery and food delivery apps, such as Uber Eats or Grubhub. The tipping system works fine and there are several incentives to take advantage of.
On the other hand, how Instacart calculates its pay remains a mystery, with the whole system being one of the least transparent ones among delivery platforms. Instacart also has a rather unpleasant history with its shoppers, as it used to offer much smaller pay. There’s also the case of tip baiting, which still remains an issue despite Instacart’s preventive actions.
However, despite problems, Instacart remains one of the best gig apps available. If you play your cards right, create an efficient shopping system, and take advantage of in-app bonuses and tips, Instacart can become a significant source of income. So yes, it’s definitely worth giving a try.