In the ever-evolving world of grocery delivery, industry leader Instacart has become a favorite among drivers nationwide. In a crowded world of gig opportunities, it takes a lot to stand out from the pack, and that’s what this company has done.
Simlar to the model used by Shipt, it’s largest competitor in the grocery delivery space, Instacart drivers make money by delivering groceries to customers. Instacart represents an opportunity to make extra money while enjoying flexible hours and tips. When compared to minimum wage, part-time jobs, this pay is comparable or even higher while offering more freedom and autonomy.
But how much does Instacart pay? And what costs should you be aware of? In this guide we’ll give you a thorough breakdown of how much Instacart Shoppers make and how much they can expect to spend on expenses related to their work.
Sound like something you want in on? You can apply as a shopper and start making money on your own terms.
- Delivery Industry Pay Overview
- Shopper vs Driver – Two Types of Instacart Jobs
- How Much Does Instacart Pay Drivers?
- Instacart Driver Expenses
- Instacart Payment Structure for Shoppers
- How Much Do Instacart In-Store Shoppers Make?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Two ways to earn: full-service shopper (grocery shopping and delivery) or in-store shopper (shopping only)
- Minimum average hourly wage across the country is $10 per hour
- Work on your own schedule with no minimum hours required
Delivery Industry Pay Overview
A major challenge of comparing the pay of various delivery platforms is that hourly wage information for independent contractors is very hard to come by. Not only is it hard to dig up, but the amount drivers are capable of making is largely dependent on how many hours of work they put in, where the grocery store they’re driving to is located, and at what times they drive. This is true of every grocery delivery service, even DoorDash and Shipt.
Sure, some platforms may come out and say you can make “X” amount of dollars per hour, but in many cases, delivery platforms avoid giving any hard numbers. It makes sense. Why would a delivery service throw out a subjective base pay number that many personal shoppers and drivers will find difficult to meet?
At one point Instacart advertised an hourly wage of $25 and it ended up backfiring as its shoppers expressed displeasure all across the web and in the media. We have a sneaky suspicion that other services took note and pulled any lofty claims from their site.
Shopper vs Driver – Instacart Shopper Job Types
Before we dive into how much Instacart Shoppers and drivers make, it’s important to distinguish between the two roles that fall under this title: Full-Service Shoppers and In-Store Shoppers.
These two roles can be filled by the same person, known as a Full Service Shopper. Full-Service Shoppers complete all aspects of Instacart orders. After accepting an order — also known as a batch — these Instacart Shoppers shop for requested items at their local grocery store, then deliver them straight to customers.
This is usually the case in markets with little demand and few orders. However, as time goes on and the company rapidly expands its number of orders and customers, these are becoming two distinctly different roles.
In-Store Shoppers, on the other hand, are only responsible for packing up orders. Shoppers in this role are assigned to specific partner stores, where they bag everything on a customer’s grocery list and have it ready for pick-up. Though In-Store Shoppers can work on their own schedules, they must select hourly shifts instead of working on a per-order basis.
Instacart jobs are very flexible as well. If an in-store shopper does not have orders that are being delivered by a driver, they can also expect to shop for and prepare orders for curbside pickup. This job is helpful to customers, as some do not like to wait for the driver to come all the way to their house, but instead they are able to quickly drop by the store without having to actually go in themselves.
Having two separate jobs for each person makes the delivery process from store to customer an efficient and easy one. The shoppers can spend more time shopping just as the drivers can spend more time driving.
As you may already see, the term “Instacart drivers” always refers to Full-Service Shoppers, as they’re the only ones who travel around the city to fulfill orders. Because of this, the Instacart driver role tends to be more intensive. However, this gig also allows for higher earnings and lets you take advantage of customer tipping.
How Much Does Instacart Pay Drivers?
Exact hourly pay for Instacart drivers is hard to predict. The company publishes no official data on contractor pay, though they do advertise that drivers can make up to $25 per hour during busy times.
On average, Instacart drivers make $15 per hour before tips, according to Glassdoor. This average is actually quite impressive when you compare it to what Uber drivers make, which is just short of $15 even after tips. This makes the grocery shopping gig a great alternative to rideshare apps (and you won’t have strangers in your car).
However, this average hourly pay shouldn’t be taken at face value. There are plenty of factors that go into a delivery driver’s, including location and demand. For example, the average driver in a big city like Los Angeles will typically make more than the average driver in a smaller Instacart market in Southern California, like La Mesa. Customer tips will also have a huge impact on your personal average hourly pay.
Plus, due to the fact that all Instacart drivers are independent contractors, you’ll never have guaranteed earnings or batches. Your earnings can actually fall below average if your fellow Instacart Shoppers have already claimed many of the batches in your area due to low grocery demand.
The silver lining here is there are no maximum earnings. If enough batches are available, there’s nothing stopping you from turning this delivery driver gig into a full-time job with flexible hours or putting your best customer service into action to earn extra tips.
Still, part of your earnings will go toward paying for your own gas, car maintenance, self-employment taxes, car payments, and other job-related expenses that the company doesn’t cover for independent contractors.
Instacart Driver Expenses
Working as an Instacart driver has a lot of benefits, including a flexible schedule, active job and the chance to earn tips. However, when logged into the shopper app, working for yourself also means that you’re responsible for additional expenses and considerations that you don’t have to worry about in a full-time job.
As an Instacart driver, you are an independent contractor. This means that you have to cover all your own expenses and pay your own taxes. Because of this, the hourly pay you earn from Instacart will not be the final amount you clear after taxes.
Let’s look at some common expenses you’ll have as an Instacart delivery driver:
- Gas — The price of gas varies greatly across the United States, averaging as low as $2.63 per gallon in Mississippi to as high as $3.72 per gallon in California, according to data from GasBuddy at the date of publication.
- Vehicle Insurance — The average annual cost of vehicle insurance is $907.38 per year according to a 2014 study by Quadrant Information Services. This number can vary widely, however, averaging as high as $2,500 per year in some states.
- Car Payment — As of 2017, the average car payment on a new vehicle was $479 per month. This can really cut into your earnings, though of course this amount can vary (or even be nothing if the car you’re using is paid off).
- Vehicle Maintenance — Need a new tire? Transmission fluid running low? Windshield wiper break? As an independent contractor, you’re responsible for covering these costs, just as you would if you were using your vehicle for regular driving. According to AAA, the average cost of repairs, maintenance and tires is $99 a month for a new car. You’ll likely need to drop a few hundred dollars all at once for a repair, so make sure to put aside some of what you make each week to cover that.
- Vehicle Registration and Fees — These vary from state to state, but are usually under $100. You’ll have to pay this fee as long as you own a car, but since you’re using your car for business, you should still consider it.
- Taxes — Taxes are an expense that many independent contractors overlook. This can make for a nasty surprise when tax time rolls around, as you’re responsible for paying the necessary state and federal income taxes on the money you make delivering for Instacart. The taxes on your Instacart income won’t be very high since most drivers are making around $11 per hour, but you still need to set aside some of the money you make each week to cover them. To learn more, check out our Complete Guide to Self-Employment Taxes in 2020.
While these expenses do add up, there is one consolation you should know about. As an independent contractor, you can write off certain business-related transportation expenses when you file your taxes.
In particular, you can write off miles you drive while making deliveries. For 2020, the rate is about $0.58 cents per mile driven for business purposes. The tax guide we mentioned above goes into more detail on deductions you can take.
Instacart Pay Structure for Full-Service Shoppers
With wide differences in Instacart driver earnings across the country, it can be helpful to break down the company’s pay structure and build an earning strategy accordingly.
Instacart Shoppers and drivers are compensated based on a number of factors, including how many items are in each order they fulfill, the distance between the store and the customer’s delivery address, incentives available during the time of delivery, and tips given to them by generous customers. The algorithm changes often, and nobody really knows exactly how it calculates payment.
While Instacart is one of the least transparent companies in the gig economy, here are some factors that go into how much you earn with their algorithm:
- Batch Incentive: This is the base pay you’ll receive for your order based on the items your customer has requested. This payment typically increases if there are particularly heavy or bulky items on their shopping list.
- Distance: A small mileage reimbursement is calculated into your pay, though the exact value varies by city.
- Current demand: Much like Uber and Lyft, Instacart offers peak hour pricing incentives when demand is high, so you can earn extra money on top of your standard fares.
- Tips: Instacart Shoppers keep 100% of the tips they earn.
You may get bonus offers directly from Instacart once in a while, but for the most part, the factors above will affect your overall income the most.
Minimum Batch Payment
Instacart shoppers are paid a minimum amount for every “batch”, or order, they complete. This amount was previously $3, but after a PR snafu when changing up their payment structure once again, the company increased the amount of the batch payments to between $7 and $10.
Full service batches are between $7 and $10, while delivery-only batches pay out $5. Tips are also not included in the minimum batch payment, allowing shoppers and delivery drivers to earn even more each time they decide to work.
Unlike many other delivery service workers, Instacart Shoppers get to keep 100% of the tips they earn when driving and delivery though the service. The company has fought workers on this in the past, but currently they play nice.
Instacart customers are encouraged to tip after every order. After checkout, they see a prompt that automatically calculates a tip for their driver based on the size of their order. They can change the amount up or down, but many customers simply keep it as is. The prompt also explains that drivers keep 100% of their tips.
After Instacart introduced the automatic tipping feature, we heard a lot of good feedback from shoppers and drivers. Overall, the feedback was positive, with many reporting that their tips increased as a result of the feature. Much of this was due to the virtual elimination of zero-tip orders, but any step in the right direction is good enough for us.
Instacart rewards its best shoppers in the form of bonuses that they refer to as Peak Boost and Quality Bonus. These incentives are a great way to attract, but most importantly, retain hard workers on the platform. The most satisfied hard-working shoppers on the platform, the better the service becomes for customers.
Quality Bonuses are a $3 incentive given to shoppers that earn 5 star ratings from customers. Many shoppers don’t meet this criteria, but the ones that do go above and beyond to earn it again.
The Peak Boost bonus is another additional payout that drivers receive when they drive in times of high demand. It is the grocery equivalent to Uber’s Surge Pricing.
Aside from bonuses and incentives, tips make up the bulk of additional payments.
Change In Instacart Payment Structure
In the past, Instacart paid drivers and shoppers a flat delivery fee for their time, but when they decided to factor in large purchases and heavy items such as cases of water and soda, the company realized this would no longer work. Hence the change that focuses more on the variables above to improve payments and make them more fair to Shoppers.
In fact, last year Instacart changed up how much it paid entirely. The goal was to attract and retain shoppers and drivers by providing them with a payment structure that paid well, but that was also reasonable for the company. After the changes, we feel that the changes are good for both sides of the table.
The main changes to the new payment structure include:
- Instacart now pays shoppers 100% of the tips they earn during deliveries. This is separate from a Shopper’s base compensation
- Instacart increased the minimum a shopper will earn from a batch payment
Now let’s take a look at a few factors that heavily impact how Instacart pays contractors.
How Much Do Instacart In-Store Shoppers Make?
Now that you know how much Instacart drivers make, you may be curious about how much you’d make if you exclusively worked out of an Instacart partner store.
There are two key differences to be aware of regarding how In-Store and Full-Service Shoppers are paid.
First, In-Store Shoppers do not qualify for tips, which means the hourly wage you’re offered is what you’ll end up earning. You shouldn’t expect bonuses or promotions on top of this pay. Of course, the plus side of having a set wage is the fact that you’ll have an hourly guarantee every time you work.
Second, In-Store Shoppers are actually Instacart employees and not independent contractors. In this role, you’ll have a traditional part-time job that allows you to make minimum wage and qualify for paid time off. Though you’ll have to schedule your shifts in advance and will have lower pay than Full-Service Shoppers, you will have a more consistent schedule.
Instacart In-Store Shoppers make an average of $13 per hour, which is just a couple dollars lower than their full-service counterparts.
Indeed.com, another popular career and ratings site, reports that Instacart shoppers are paid around $17 per hour. Of that number, 45% publicly reported that they are not happy with the amount that they are paid when working with Instacart.
Keep in mind that this figured is from only 46 ratings, so it is not really statistically accurate. But.. it does give a good idea into compensation.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding how much Instacart drivers and in-store shoppers make can help you figure out if the gig is a match for your needs. Learn more about the earning opportunity with these frequently asked questions.
Can you make good money with Instacart?
If you are familiar with the best time to work with Instacart, you can certainly make good money by grocery shopping or driving with the app. Because of the process and technology Instacart uses, payments are seamless, automatic, and hit your account quickly. Some shoppers are
Who pays for groceries on Instacart?
Instacart Shoppers pay for grocery orders with a credit card or debit card issued by the company. They do not have to put up their own funds to pay for orders.
At time of checkout, the Shopper will swipe the card that was issued to them during orientation, then sign for the transaction once the payment goes through.
Does Instacart pay if there are no orders?
No. If there are no orders available, the company will not pay it’s contractors for the time spent waiting. The gig is a purely on-demand one, meaning they do not pay for idle time.
How often do Instacart Shoppers receive their payouts?
Instacart Shoppers receive payouts once per week via direct deposit. You must have a valid bank account connected to your Instacart Shopper account to receive weekly pay. If you’re strapped for cash, you also have the option of receiving an instant payout at any time with a service fee of 50 cents.
Do Instacart Full-Service Shoppers make more than Shipt Shoppers?
Instacart and Shipt drivers make about the same amount of money. Instacart workers tend to have an edge during times of high demand, thanks to busy time pricing on the platform. However, the pay structure for Shipt is far more consistent and clear, as Shipt Shoppers always earn $5 plus 7.5% of their current order’s total.
How does Instacart pay compare to what standard food delivery drivers make?
Compared to on-demand food delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash, Instacart tends to pay just slightly more. However, this usually just comes down to a $1 or $2 difference per hour. During high-demand times like lunch and dinner, food delivery drivers may make more than personal shoppers, though this is often reversed during off-hours.
Can Instacart drivers write off their job-related expenses?
Absolutely. Car maintenance costs, gas expenses, and more can all be considered tax-deductible job-related expenses when you’re a grocery delivery driver. Of course, we recommend contacting your accountant before claiming these deductions.
Earn What You Put In
No matter what gig you sign up for, knowing how much you can expect to make is critical for maximizing your time. With all the opportunities available to gig workers these days, you definitely want to make the wisest decision possible. With this guide, you can figure out if the average Instacart Full-Service or In-Store Shopper’s pay will help you meet your financial goals.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide if you want to deliver for Instacart. If you’re not satisfied with this pay rate, then you have additional part-time jobs within the delivery space you can choose from.
You could even look into other gig jobs like Uber and Lyft that also offer outlets for you to make extra money. Regardless, you’ll surely be able to make above the minimum wage level at nearly any gig economy job you pick up.
To learn more about how to get started driving for Instacart, check out our How to Become an Instacart Driver guide.