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How to Become an Instacart Driver

Owning a car is expensive with the average car payment being about $480 per month. It would be great to have an extra job to help offset that expense or to make extra cash on the side to help pay any other bills you might have.

Applying as an independent contractor at Instacart is a great way to make some cash.  Customers order groceries and independent drivers deliver these groceries.

If you meet the following criteria, be sure to apply as an Instacart driver:

  • Valid U.S. drivers license and an auto insurance policy
  • Be prepared to submit to a criminal background check
  • Have a newer smartphone that’s compatible with the Instacart app
  • Be at least 18-21 years old (depending on the stated you reside in)
  • You should be able to lift at least 30 pounds
  • You’re eligible to work in the U.S.

How Much does Instacart Pay?

Instacart can sometimes pay drivers a fixed hourly rate or based on the orders completed. The actual numbers will only be available to the driver at the end of the week. An actual guarantee on salary is hard to establish.

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 deliveries during rush hours and use part of the money to compensate drivers for the 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 hourly 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, no driver makes less than $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 the $10. Rush hours present the right circumstances for Instacart to implement the busy pricing fee which can raise the hourly wage for drivers.

It is 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 is plausible to assume that nothing is being redirected towards the drivers.

Because of these undisclosed formulas, it is possible to go under $10 per hour. You may even go as low as zero income as some reports claimed.

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 is possible to make more from tips than actual payment. While that may be true for waiters, it is not the case for Instacart drivers.

Because clients end up paying more for items through Instacart than they would by buying them from the store, not many of them may 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 FAQ

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.

Instacart Driver Requirements

First and foremost, you have to be 18 years or older to apply. You can’t really lie about your age since you will have to provide documentation.

You have to prove that you don’t have a criminal record or pay a fee for a background check. It is important for the company as they need to ensure their clients’ safety. Since there is also some competition among with drivers, it also makes it a safer “working” environment if no drivers have a violent past.

No special licenses are requested by Instacart. However, you have to have at least two years of driving experience and a valid license for the state you want to work in. You also have to be eligible to work in the US or Canada since Instacart operates in some areas in the north as well.

Drivers should also own their own vehicle. Instacart does not provide transportation for drivers or shoppers, which means that all deliveries are carried out with a personal vehicle.

Much like in-store shoppers, drivers also have to be physically fit and able to lift 30 or 40 pounds without any problems. This ensures that customers can receive their products intact and that drivers don’t suffer injuries on the job.

As a driver, you also need a smartphone. The minimum requirements are iPhone 4S or an Android 4.0 device. It’s usually better to have more recent models as the app may change over time and become harder to use on old devices.

Last but not least, if you want to be able to shop or deliver orders involving alcohol you need to be 21 or older. It is recommended in all states regardless of whether the legal drinking age is 18 or 21 years old.

Does Instacart Pay for Gas?

Working as a driver for Instacart doesn’t mean that you are an employee under contract and with company benefits. 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. It is also important that you be 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.

How to Become an Instacart Driver

To join the company and become an Instacart driver you have to sign in through their website. The registration form is simple enough as it asks for your name, phone number, email address and area code for a start. From there you have to check questions about your car and smartphone.

The final stage of the form asks whether you want to be a full-service shopper or an in-store shopper. You should choose the first option which will allow you to handle both shopping and deliveries. It’s important to understand that once you choose the first option you cannot take an order and refuse to deliver. The only choice you will have is whether or not you want to do the shopping too.

After submitting the form, the final paperwork can be completed and you will be asked a series of questions, similar to an interview. After that, you need to provide proof of your driver’s license and background information.

You also have to register a payment method. If you don’t own a credit card or you simply don’t want to share your information you can choose PayPal as your payment method.

Working for Instacart

As a freelance contractor, you have a lot of freedom from Instacart regarding your schedule. You can work unlimited hours and there’s no mandatory minimum required. If you’re looking for alternative ways to make money while driving, Instacart is worth a try.

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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 a good special awareness in stores and previous experience working in supermarkets can go a long way.

Usually, the main problem you will face as an Instacart driver is traffic. Sometimes arriving on time is out of your hands and refunds may come out of your pocket. Because you are freelancing, you are operating without a safety net. This means that you should be careful of which orders to go for.

Although you will be working alone, you may develop relationships with store employees. Shopping often in certain locations may offer you the opportunity to engage store employees. This can sometimes work to your advantage as they will probably be more inclined to help you locate hard-to-find products.

You should also work with Instacart only if you don’t expect a fixed income. Since their hourly wage varies from one location to another and weekly payments can fluctuate significantly, try to view it more as a side-job opportunity.

If you don’t appreciate inconsistencies in pay, Instacart may not be your best choice. Considering how you have to use your personal vehicle and can’t always turn a profit each hour, it can be a gamble at times.

Wear and tear on your personal vehicle is something you have to deal with on your own. This can take an extra toll on Instacart drivers who have other obligations to meet with the same car. Although there is some risk to your personal vehicle, it is not recommended that you purchase a secondary vehicle just for Instacart deliveries.

Keep in mind you have no real benefits to speak of as an Instacart driver. You get no paid time-off and no medical care. Of course, you shouldn’t be surprised seeing how these are costly to offer and Instacart doesn’t even bother to compensate for vehicle maintenance.

As a freelance contractor, you are also responsible for any damages you cause to the products you transport. If you damage your customer’s car when you pull in the driveway, you will pay for it. If the customer causes you harm or damages your vehicle, you have to deal with them personally.

Instacart’s policy is very clear in this regard. They offer you an opportunity to earn some extra cash but nothing else. Even order-related questions you may have are usually solved faster if you address the customer directly.

Instacart Driver Reviews

Reviews on 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, but maybe just inexperienced.

Some recent changes made to the 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 quite often 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 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 is dependent 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 always 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.

Instacart Career

Because shoppers and drivers are freelancers, it’s hard to call the service they provide a career maker. Not only is there not enough reliability, but the interaction with customers can also determine future incomes.

You can have a career with Instacart if you apply for one of their office jobs. They employ quite a lot of people for app development, customer service, strategy, and marketing. These are full-time jobs that are also found in similar companies. The main difference being that Instacart shoppers and drivers are not employees but freelance contractors.

Conclusion

As you can see, applying as an Instacart driver is a legitimate way to earn money to offset your car payments or make money for any other financial goals you have in mind. As an Instacart driver, you can also choose which time frame you prefer to work in, so it doesn’t conflict with any other side jobs you might have.

Just sign-up for a time frame and area to work in and you will be assigned jobs through the Instacart app. You will get a notification which store you will need to pick the groceries up at.

Who doesn’t want to make extra cash? If this appeals to you, sign-up to start earning!

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