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Grocery shopping was once one of the most time-consuming chores, but since the advent of Instacart, it’s become an easy online process that customers love. If you know your way around a grocery store and need some cash, you can apply to drive for Instacart to start making money off this demand.
Founded in 2012, Instacart is now one of the largest grocery delivery services in the United States, spanning hundreds of cities across North America. To keep the service running, the company is almost always looking for independent contractors — known as Instacart Shoppers — to fulfill the constant orders rolling in.
In this article, we’ll explain what Instacart driver do, how much they make, and how you can start driving for the company.
Keep reading to learn about the criteria required to become an Instacart delivery driver, and receive additional information about the gig. If you find that you meet the requirements, be sure to apply at this sign-up link.
- City-specific incentives for applying and driving
- Payments for food are processed through the app — not using your own money
- There’s no set hours with Instacart. Just
open the app and shop whenever it works
What Do Instacart Drivers Do?
There are two types of Instacart Shopper gigs you can apply for, each with its own responsibilities.
First, you can apply to be an in-store Instacart Shopper. Instacart Shoppers who take on this role are assigned to a specific partner grocery store where they’re responsible for packing orders for drivers or customers to pick up. In-store shoppers work behind the scenes to help speed up the delivery process. No vehicle is required for this gig, and you can work on your own schedule (though you will be required to schedule shifts).
Your second option is to become a full-service shopper. If you want to drive for Instacart, this is the role for you. Full-service shoppers are delivery drivers who shop for (or pick up) orders at local stores, then deliver them straight to customers’ doors. Shoppers in this role don’t just work behind the scenes. They play more of a customer service role.
The full-service shopper job is what most people refer to when they say “Instacart Shopper” or “Instacart driver,” and this is the role we’ll focus on for the remainder of the article.
How Much Does Instacart Pay?
A precise guarantee of salary is hard to establish for Instacart drivers, as shoppers are paid based on a highly variable pay structure that isn’t widely publicized.
Instacart can sometimes pay drivers a fixed hourly rate or based on the orders completed, but pay may fluctuate based on heaviness, distance, limited-time bonuses, tips, and more. The actual numbers will only be available to the driver at the end of the week.
The variation in Instacart’s hourly pay for drivers also comes in the form of “busy pricing.” This extra delivery fee is used by Instacart during certain peak hours. When the client demands cannot be easily met, the busy pricing fee kicks in.
This allows Instacart to charge extra for urgent grocery deliveries during rush hours and use part of the money to compensate drivers for the extra work they have to put in. This, of course, only works to the driver’s benefit if they manage to complete the order on time.
When busy pricing applies, clients are entitled to a refund on any extra fee if the delivery is late. This means that if the order is not delivered in time, Instacart doesn’t have extra cash to work with to increase the driver’s payment for that order.
Another contributing factor to the variation in driver salary can be attributed to the service fee. This 10% optional fee for orders works similarly to a tip. The customer can choose to pay 10% of the order to the company which in turn splits the profits among all drivers in the area.
This is why actual monthly earnings from salary are hard to estimate; there are too many variables that determine the final rate.
Instacart Hourly Wage
Instacart promotes an hourly wage of up to $25. As previously explained, this is not an average. However, it is an achievable goal if the circumstances allow for it to happen.
Typically, drivers make at least $10 per hour. Even if they aren’t finding sufficient orders during their schedule of choice, they should still be able to pull in at least $10 per hour, and $11 per hour an average. Rush hours present the right circumstances for Instacart to implement the busy pricing fee, which can raise the hourly wage for drivers, especially in big cities like San Francisco and New York City.
It’s possible to go even higher if enough customers use the service fee during a whole week. That may be enough to raise the hourly wage average by a few dollars. However, the exact algorithm that determines how profits are split is uncertain, so it’s plausible to assume that not much, if anything, is being redirected towards the drivers.
Because of these undisclosed formulas, it is possible to go under $10 per hour once in a while.
Finally, there are the tips. Whether clients tip via the app or in cash, all the proceeds go to the driver. Instacart doesn’t take a penny from them. Depending on how many deliveries a driver makes in an hour, it is conceivable that with enough generous clients the hourly income can be even greater than $25. This, of course, is more often than not based on pure luck and meeting grateful people.
Considering how much of a discrepancy there is between salaries for different drivers, one would assume that it’s possible to make more from tips than actual payment. While that may be true for waiters, it’s not the case for Instacart drivers.
Because clients end up paying more for items through Instacart than they would by buying them in-store, not all of them will be inclined to tip. It’s understandable, since besides paying more for the items, they may also have to pay a delivery fee.
Instacart Driver Requirements
Although you’re not applying for a 9-to-5 Instacart job and you are allowed to pick whatever orders you want to work on, you still need to meet some requirements before you can join Instacart as a driver.
Before you begin the driver application process, make sure that you qualify. In order to drive for Instacart, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Have a valid driver’s license.
- Be eligible to work in the United States.
- Have reliable car access.
- Have valid auto insurance and proof of vehicle registration.
- Have a smartphone that’s compatible with the Instacart Shopper app (iPhone 5, Android 4.4, or newer)
- Be able to pass a comprehensive background check.
- Be able to lift 50 pounds.
You also have to pay a fee for a background check to prove you don’t have a criminal record. It’s important for the company as they need to ensure their customers’ safety. Since there is also some competition among drivers, it also makes it a safer working environment if no drivers have a violent past.
If you meet these simple requirements, you can apply to drive for Instacart.
How to Apply to Drive for Instacart
Applying to drive for Instacart is a very simple process and only takes a few minutes to complete.
1. To join the company and become an Instacart driver, first click our referral link that will take you to the driver sign up page on the Instacart website
Once there, enter your first name, last name, email address, zip code, and referral code if you have one.
2. From there, the application will prompt you to download the Instacart Shopper app. Enter your phone number in the box and appears, and a download link will be sent to your mobile device.
3. Fill in the form with your first name, last name, email, cell phone number, and ZIP code. You can also enter a referral code if another Instacart Shopper referred you to drive for Instacart. Then, tap “Create account.”
4. You’ll then receive a verification code via text. Enter the code in your app. Enter that into the screen that says “Enter SMS Code”
5. Confirm you meet the Instacart Shopper requirements.
6. Confirm you have a car.
7. Select the “Shop & Drive” gig, read through the details about the gig, and tap “Choose this role.”
8. Tap “Start” to begin the questionnaire. It will ask you about your experience working at grocery stores or in customer service roles and what you would do in relevant situations.
9. Once you’ve finished the questionnaire, tap “Take photo” to submit images of the front and back of your driver’s license.
10. Follow the remaining prompts to submit the required personal information and authorize a background check.
Once your documents and questionnaire answers are accepted and your background check comes back clean (usually in about a week), Instacart will mail you a prepaid debit card. Once you receive your card, which you’ll use every time you check out at the store, you can start your first delivery.
Getting Started as an Instacart Driver
Whenever you’re ready to start earning extra money, you can open up your Instacart app and accept batch requests in your area. Before you accept, you can view each customer’s location, the assigned local grocery store for each order, and how much you’re guaranteed to earn.
When it’s time to complete a batch order, you can use your app to navigate to the store, confirm you’ve started shopping, view your customer’s shopping list, and confirm when you find each item. If anything needs to be replaced, you can contact your customer about substitutions or item removals through the app.
Once you have everything, you can use your prepaid card at checkout. This card will be loaded up with enough funds — plus a little extra in case of substitutions or pricing differences — for you to check out during the requested time frame.
After you check out, you’ll simply scan your receipt, start your delivery, and complete the delivery once your customer receives your item.
As a full-service shopper, you can either pick up orders that involve shopping and deliveries, or just pick up the grocery bag and deliver it to the client. Although it’s not on the list of requirements, having confidence navigating grocery stores and previous experience working in supermarkets can go a long way.
Instacart Driver Reviews
Understanding what customers can say about Instacart drivers and what drivers have to say about working for the company can help you grasp the realities of the job. In this section, we’ll describe how reviews are impacting the shopper experience today.
Reviews About Drivers
Bad reviews from a customer can cost you money on future orders, and eventually your ability to receive any orders. Whether you focus on deliveries or you are a full-service shopper, clients can rate you in multiple categories.
Obviously, the delivery speed and accuracy of shopping are the most important. High ratings in these two categories can go a long way towards increasing your hourly wage and your chances of getting tipped.
Customers can also comment on your overall behavior and personality. This is why Instacart prefers freelancers who can mold to the personality of their clients. You should be able to answer inquiries upon delivery without overstepping.
Being able to handle yourself with minimal instructions is also important. Most clients don’t appreciate shoppers and drivers who can’t shop on their own or follow directions without constantly asking for more information. The main reason why customers use Instacart is because they are busy doing something else. Distracting them too often won’t make it seem like you’re thoughtful — just inexperienced.
Some changes made to the Instacart app have also made it harder for clients to find the tips option. Instacart’s plan of promoting the 10% service fee over the personal tip has irritated most workers. Apart from making it harder for drivers to earn good money, it has caused confusion for clients, too.
Reviews by Drivers
More and more drivers are becoming increasingly vocal about Instacart’s inconsistent payments. Although the company gives plenty of reasons why the wages differ based on location, ratings, and more, some drivers still feel misled.
A few drivers report that Instacart calculates the hourly wage based on the order. This means that the pay can be significantly lower than the minimum $10 average. Other drivers also claim that Instacart doesn’t actually offer any hourly guarantee.
There are mixed reviews about the availability of orders too. Drivers complain that it is impossible to keep up with demands because the company is making them fulfill up to four deliveries per hour at times. Those deliveries can also include shopping at more than one store.
While there is some validity to statements like these, there are other drivers that complain that they can’t find enough orders to make it worthwhile. To be fair, it is hard to judge Instacart just by driver reviews considering how the platform is used in over 25 states and each area comes with its own set of challenges. Also, people can be quicker to voice grievances than issue praise.
Because different legislation and infrastructure can affect orders and deliveries, some negativity is bound to be targeted at the company. Some say that you need nerves of steel to make it as a driver on Instacart. It makes sense that the company wouldn’t specify this in their advertising, but they do offer enough information that drivers should be able to draw these conclusions before joining.
Instacart’s over-hiring policy also seems to bother drivers. This, however, cannot be substantiated considering how many drivers complain they can’t keep up with fulfilling orders on time. The over-hiring policy more than likely only affects specific locations that register fewer orders.
When drivers don’t complain about payments, they complain about the Instacart Shopper app itself. It’s not a flawless design and it does freeze at times. However, no reports have been made so far that suggest a link between app failures and missing payments.
The worst-case scenarios seem to be related to missing or delayed orders. These can be quite harsh on their own if the company doesn’t take responsibility for the errors. Although refunds to customers only apply when a delivery is overdue during busy pricing, Instacart can choose to cut a driver’s pay for missing a deadline.
Payment reviews seem to be split among drivers. This is partly because some drivers simply have different expectations and because of how the salary structure depends on the area of operation. There is, however, one thing that most of them agree on.
The schedule freedom was and still is the main attraction for all drivers and full-service shoppers. Although the schedule may not be easy, the fact that no one is obligated to put in a certain number of hours per week or work specific hours is what separates Instacart from other companies of its kind.
Frequently Asked Questions
Starting your career as an Instacart driver is simple, especially when you’re confident you meet all the requirements for the role. Read our answers to these frequently asked questions for additional information about the Instacart Shopper gig.
1. Can I drive for Instacart full-time?
Absolutely. If you’re looking for a full-time opportunity rather than a part-time job, Instacart can definitely be an option. The company doesn’t limit the hours you work, so you can potentially pick up a 40-hour equivalent of batches per week if enough demand is present.
However, as an independent contractor, you won’t qualify for any benefits or be guaranteed a specific amount of orders.
2. Can I become a full-service shopper if I have a standard bike or electric scooter?
Unfortunately, Instacart does not allow bike or scooter deliveries. All full-service shoppers must have access to a car that can transport groceries safely. We recommend at least having a standard sedan with a roomy trunk, as grocery delivery orders tend to be larger than your typical food delivery requests.
3. Are there any other driving gigs like Instacart I can apply for?
If you’re interested in signing up for a different on-demand grocery delivery service or maximizing your income with multiple services, two of the most common alternatives are Amazon Flex and Shipt.
Amazon Flex allows you to fulfill orders for the e-commerce brand, including grocery deliveries where Amazon Fresh and Prime Now are available. Shipt is a membership-based grocery delivery service that works similarly to Instacart for drivers.
4. Does Instacart Pay for Gas?
Working as a shopper for Instacart means you’re not considered an employee with company benefits. Under your independent contractor agreement, you use your own vehicle to handle deliveries and you pay for your own maintenance and fuel.
This is one of the reasons why Instacart recommends that you have a good car that can handle many deliveries in a day. Become familiar with your car’s fuel consumption rate. Sometimes taking long trips for deliveries and working in a low pay area of operation might not make the job profitable enough.
Begin Your Instacart Delivery Gig
Are you ready to become an Instacart driver?
Whether you’re looking for a side hustle or a full-time job, Instacart can connect you with flexible delivery requests from customers in your area. It’s easy to apply to drive for Instacart, as opportunities are available throughout the United States. Plus, the grocery delivery app offers a great alternative to rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft.
If you’re looking for a simpler on-demand delivery gig that doesn’t commonly require large batch orders, standard food delivery apps may be a better fit for you. Learn how to become a DoorDash driver and complete orders with a car, SUV, motorcycle, bike, or even just your own two feet.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.