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How Much Does Instacart Pay Drivers And Shoppers In 2021?

Last updated: August 31, 2021
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vector graphic of an instacart shopper shopping in store - header image for how much does instacart pay

In the ever-evolving world of grocery delivery services, 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.

Instacart represents an opportunity to make extra money while enjoying flexible hours and tips.

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.

Become an Instacart Shopper and Start Driving in Your City Now

Applying as an Instacart Shopper is a legitimate way to earn extra money. Sign up as a full-service or in-store shopper today!

Concepts to Understand About Instacart Shopper Pay

Before we dive into how much Instacart Shoppers and drivers make, it’s important to cover a few quick points that are critical to understanding Instacart Shopper pay.

1. Pay Varies by Shopper Type

First, it’s important to distinguish between the two roles that fall under this title.

There are two types of shoppers at Instacart:

  1. Full-Service Instacart Shoppers
  2. In-Store Instacart Shoppers

These personal shoppers are independent contractors who shop for and deliver customer orders.

vector graphic showing the two types of instacart shoppers side by side

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.

Full-Service Shoppers complete all aspects of Instacart orders.

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.

In-Store Instacart Shoppers are only responsible for packing up orders.

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.

2. Pay Varies by City & Region

Pay for both roles varies by city and region, but they make at least minimum wage.

Full-service shoppers have greater earning potential because of tips.

Some even double their pay.

It takes a go-getter to thrive in this role, but some workers prefer a more relaxed employee experience.

The advantages of in-store shopping are a steady pay rate and fewer travel expenses.

Working in the same store allows them to learn how products are organized and gain efficiency.

How Does Instacart Calculate Pay?

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.

vecgot graphic showing the instacart pay

Instacart Shoppers and drivers are compensated based on a number of factors.

These include:

  • 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
  • Tips given to them by generous customers

The algorithm changes often, and nobody really knows exactly how it calculates payment.

Factors That Go Into Shopper Earnings

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: When people tip Instacart, the 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.

Instacart Bonuses

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.

Want a bonus? Sign up using an Instacart referral code at signup to get one.
Tipping

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. As a result, 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 Pay Structure for Full-Service Shoppers

As independent contractors, delivery drivers have a lot of influence over how much they make.

A big selling feature of this position is that they get to set their own schedule.

As long as there are jobs available, they can make as much as they’d like.

Full-service shoppers get paid every week.

Many like this pay schedule because it motivates them to keep working.

Instacart Pay Structure for In-Store Shoppers

In-store shoppers are part-time employees who work up to 29 hrs/week.

They’re paid hourly, and their wage is outlined in their initial offer letter.

Unfortunately, customers don’t have the option to tip these shoppers, but at least they don’t have to worry about making deliveries.

A lot of these shoppers also enjoy the steady pay week to week. Instacart offers referral bonuses.

Each shopper gets a unique referral code that they can share with friends and family.

Referral codes can’t be shared or social media because that disqualifies employees from bonus payments.

There is some variation in the requirements to use referral codes, but generally the referral has a set amount of time to use the code and must remain in good standing with Instacart.

The amount of the bonus varies by role and location.

Change In Instacart Payment Structure

In the past, Instacart paid drivers and shoppers a flat delivery fee for their time.

However, 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 Does Instacart Pay?

vector graphic showing instacart driver

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.

How Much Does Instacart Pay Per Delivery?

Instacart’s payment structure has a lot of moving parts, which is why payment fluctuates.

Delivery charges range from $15 to $20.

How Much Do Instacart Shoppers Make on Tips?

The app also takes into account how heavy the customer’s order is.

Customers tip at their own discretion, but the app forces them to opt out of tipping.

The checkout screen auto-populates with a five percent tip or $2 tip for delivery.

How Much Does Instacart Pay Per Hour?

The amount shoppers make per hour depends on where they work, so 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.

Cost of living affects hourly wages and rates, but according to Glassdoor, shoppers can expect to make $13/hr before tips.

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.

How Much Do Instacart In-Store Shoppers Make?

How Much Do Instacart Drivers 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.

Don’t Forget About Instacart Shopper 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.

Common Instacart Shopper Expenses

Let’s look at some common expenses you’ll have as an Instacart delivery driver:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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).

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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 2021, 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.

Does Instacart Pay for Gas?

Because Instacart drivers are independent contractors, they’re required to pay for their own gas.

Savvy shoppers take advantage of cash-back apps like Fetch Rewards and GetUpside to recoup some of their losses.

Does Instacart Reiumburse Mileage?

Instacart doesn’t really do mileage reimbursement.

Distance is one factor that is considered in shopper’s earning estimates, but it’s lumped in with other aspects like the type and number of items in the customer’s order.

People who are thinking about becoming a shopper may be disappointed that mileage isn’t a clear line item in their earning estimates for each order.

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.

Highest-Paying Cities for Instacart Shoppers & Drivers

Some cities have a better profit margin than others for Instacart shopping.

Here’s a sampling based on Salary data from Glassdoor.

vector graphic showing instacart waitlist shoppers outside a grocery store waiting in a line to be approved to shop

Sacramento, California

In Sacramento, California, shoppers make an average of $26/hr.

It’s understandable that cities in California would be the most profitable because that state generally has a high cost of living.

Instacart shopping helps residents make ends meet.

Atlanta, Georgia

Shoppers in Atlanta clear $16/hr.

This southern city has a moderate cost of living, so the earnings go a bit father than they would in other parts of the country.

A challenge for shoppers in Atlanta is traffic.

Traffic is a hurdle for many shoppers across the country, but many parts of Atlanta aren’t densely populated, which means more driving.

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is another great city to be a shopper.

Instacart shoppers in Washington, D.C. make $15/hr.

The city center has a robust public transportation system, but shoppers may also need a vehicle to service outlying areas and suburbs.

Albany, New York

Earnings are a bit lower for those in Albany, New York.

Shoppers there make an average of $13/hr.

Like D.C., having a vehicle is option, but it helps to expand your delivery radius.

Shoppers with a car can easily accept a job in Saratoga if they so choose.

Boston, Massachusetts

Shoppers in Boston, Massachusetts make over $15/hr.

The city is very walkable.

Cars may help for some deliveries, but parking is pricy.

Street parking is only free for people who live on that street.

Shoppers in this city will likely have to pay at a meter if they’re making a residential delivery.

Caveat: Instacart Tip Baiting

What is Tip Baiting?

Tip baiting is when a customer promises a large tip and then reduces or eliminates it after the order has been delivered.

Some customers tip bait to get deliveries faster.

Tipping is a way to reward and motivate efficient shoppers, and adjusting tip amounts feels like Lucy picking up the football before Charlie Brown gets a chance to kick it.

Instacart employees complained about the practice, and the company responded with recent changes in 2020.

How Does it Impact Earnings Figures?

Delivery apps need a happy, motivated workforce so that customers remain on the platform.

To curb tip baiting, Instacart revised their tipping system.

The time window customers have to adjust tips went from three days to just 24 hours.

Customers who change the tip after their order has been delivered must now explain their reasoning in a feedback form.

Tip baiting too much will get users removed from the app.

The new tipping system discourages customers from tip baiting.

Prior to the new policy, drivers were at risk of losing a significant portion of their income.

Many relied on tips to double their pay.

The practice was especially bad for moderately successful shoppers because a tip can make the difference between making minimum wage or better.

Tip baiting makes shoppers feel used, and when their employee experience is bad, they’re not going to continue working.

How Do Instacart Shoppers Get Paid?

vector graphic showing an instacart refund - money going into a phone running the instacart app

When does Instacart Pay Shoppers?

One of the first questions new hires have after they get the job is what’s the payment schedule.

Instacart shoppers are paid every week.

In-store shoppers have an hourly wage, and full-service shoppers get base pay plus tips.

Both classes of employee get a financial boost that the same time.

How do Instacart Shopper Payments Work?

Instacart shoppers are paid via direct deposit.

Drivers also have the option of using Instant Cashout, which sends their earnings to a debit card.

First-time drivers have to complete five batches before they can cash out, and after that they can do it immediately after a job.

The only requirement is that they earn at least $5.

Fees Associated with Those Payments

Using Instant Cashout does have a small fee associated with it.

Drivers are charged $0.50 to get their money immediately.

Sometimes money transfers take a few extra minutes depending on how quickly the shopper’s back can process the payment.

Instant Cashout is a great option for those who need quick access to their money.

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.

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.

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.

Is Instacart offering incentives for workers to get the vaccine?

Instacart does have a Vaccine Support Stipend to encourage shoppers to get the vaccine.

The stipend is modest, but it can be helpful for shoppers who get the vaccine and need to take time off while their immune system builds up its defenses.

The company’s Covid response plan also includes a face mask policy and health and safety kits.

The shopper platform also has in-app wellness checks that helps identify Covid symptoms.

Can I use an Instacart car for personal use?

Instacart does not have company vehicles.

Shoppers who want to make deliveries need to have their own car.

The company discourages using a friend or relative’s car because conflicting schedules and availability can prevent shoppers from working.

Drivers are also fully responsible for gas, insurance, and vehicle maintenance.

Shoppers who work in walkable cities or areas with good public transportation may be able to get away with not having a vehicle.

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.

View All Comments (1) Add A Comment

  1. Susan Hopwood Says:

    This is old information. For full shoppers, Instacart pays under minimum wage now with a base pay of $7.00 per batch regardless of whether the batch has one or multiple orders. It also does not pay by item so you can get a batch of 8 items for $7.00 or 88 items and more for $7.00. The gas and maintenance on your vehicle is part of the base amount of $7.00. They do still pay for heavy items as of today but I expect that will go away as well. The typical job one sees now is between $7.00 and $15.00 and on average 40 to 100 items. They take approximately an hour to shop plus delivery time. In my zone delivery time is on average 15 minutes to 30 minutes. They are basically paying for you to get there in your car and a minimal amount which is WELL under minimum pay. The tips change throughout the order even going up by a dollar or less which indicates they are playing with the tips. I worked for them full time for 3 years and maintained a very high rating. I really enjoyed this company but as of this time I do not work for them except very occasionally since they have clearly changed their policies and their ethics have taken a back seat for profits.

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