Instacart Cost: The Price of On-Demand Online Grocery Deliveries

Ask any shopper, and you’ll hear that traveling from store to store to find all of the products one needs can be a daunting task. Instacart was designed as a way to make shopping more convenient for busy people. Not only does it eliminate waiting in line, it also saves people from battling traffic. Disclosure:

Ask any shopper, and you’ll hear that traveling from store to store to find all of the products one needs can be a daunting task.

Instacart was designed as a way to make shopping more convenient for busy people. Not only does it eliminate waiting in line, it also saves people from battling traffic.

Disclosure: is supported by our users. We may recieve compensation from the companies whose products we write about, test, or review. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.

So, what exactly is Instacart? It is a platform that shines in two particular areas:

  • The staggering number of items available
  • The customer’s ability to schedule deliveries in as little as one hour

Instacart makes it easy for busy folks to order groceries during their lunch break at work and have them delivered at home later that day.

Here’s how it works:

Because Instacart has many delivery options, customers can prepare a shopping list days in advance. This can be a big help when planning parties or small events. Busy restaurants can also benefit from using Instacart as an urgent resupply service when drivers are otherwise indisposed.

Shopping through the app doesn’t require cash, making payment even more convenient. Even tipping can be done via the app and the Instacart shopper will receive the entire amount.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Instacart, from its inception to how to save money on your first delivery.

Let’s dive right in.

Jump to:

Instacart Founder

The company was founded in 2012 by Apoorva Mehta, Max Mullen, and Brandon Leonardo. Mehta, a former employee of Amazon, came up with the idea for Instacart as he was trying to figure out a way to solve his own day-to-day problems.

A cooking aficionado, Mehta often found himself having difficulties in finding the right products in stores close to his home. This, coupled with the fact that more and more people were using the internet to order almost everything online, sparked the idea of the Instacart grocery delivery service.

How Does Instacart Work for Customers?

Shopping through Instacart’s app (Android, iOS) is easy; you can do it from any smartphone or from your computer. You start by finding your favorite local stores such as Costco, Whole Foods, Publix, CVS Pharmacy, and many more. You can then proceed to add new items to your shopping list. You can choose products from more than one store.

Once you are done selecting products, you can schedule a delivery window. This will vary depending on how busy the drivers are. You can arrange to have the items delivered to wherever you want in as little as one hour.

There is also a pickup option available. This means that an in-store shopper will find the items and bag them for you. You will then be able to pick up the order from the store. This can come in handy if your favorite store is on your route home from work. You can go in and out without standing in lines and wasting precious free time.

Instacart also lets customers choose if they want to subscribe for one month or for an entire year. Of course, neither one is mandatory to shop with the app.

Don’t take our word for it though: Take a look at the video below to see an Instacart worker in action.

How Does Instacart Work for Shoppers and Drivers?

While Instacart does offer employment opportunities for people who want desk jobs, the shoppers and drivers are freelancers. Some requirements must be met in order to join the team, but it’s not like you have to pass interviews and punch in every morning.

Drivers and shoppers can choose their own schedules. They don’t have a dress code and they use their own vehicles for all deliveries and travels from store to store. Instacart pays them an hourly rate that can go as high as $25 per hour, depending on the state or area of operation.

The other financial bonuses consist of service fees and tips. Customers can tip shoppers and drivers in cash or via the app. Unlike service fees, all proceeds from the tips go entirely to the recipient. This happens regardless of which payment option is used by the customer.

General Feedback

Instacart reviews are mixed when it comes to on-the-ground employees. Most agree that the schedule freedom is the main attraction. What they don’t agree on is the amount of money they can make. Because of the rapid expansion and competition from other companies, becoming a driver or personal shopper on Instacart is becoming less reliable as a full-time job.

Drivers in highly-populated cities often complain that it can be hard to actually find Instacart orders. They feel that the hiring policy creates more competition than necessary. At the same time, customers are satisfied with having the luxury of receiving their goods as fast as possible.

How Does Instacart Stack Up Against Other Services?

Instacart is not the only game in town. They might be one of the industry’s leaders, but some of the other companies have some perks, too.

Although quite often prices and remunerations vary from one service to another, the main differences can usually be spotted on the service’s app and job application forms.

This is how Instacart compares to other popular online grocery delivery companies as an employer and as a service.

Instacart vs Shipt

The first significant differences between Instacart and Shipt are related to their hiring process.

Would-be Shipt drivers are required to own a vehicle that is not more than 15 years old. Unlike with Instacart where you can choose whether or not to handle deliveries, Shipt workers do both shopping and deliveries.

Knowledge of product selection is also required by Shipt. All employees must also own smartphones, a requirement made by both companies. Usually, any iOS 8 or newer model is accepted. Android devices have to be 4.4.2 or newer which means that Shipt asks for more modern smartphones.

Shipt employees must also supply their own insulated cooler bag. They should also be fit enough to lift at least 25 pounds. The physical fitness requirements are similar to those of Instacart.

What both companies have in common is that employees can earn up to $25 per hour. Both companies offer flexible work schedules. The Shipt app also lets the customer rate shoppers which can increase their chances of receiving future orders and tips. Shipt also gives all its employees a free grocery delivery membership.

Wearing the green T-shirt with the Shipt logo may not be the most attractive requirement. In contrast, Instacart doesn’t have a specific dress code which gives more freedom to employees when setting their schedules.

There are also some differences in fees between the two companies. Shipt charges $7 for orders under $35 and they may charge an additional $7 fee for transactions involving alcohol. On the bright side, the annual membership with Shipt only costs $99 and doesn’t increase in the following year. The monthly subscription to Shipt is also slightly lower at just $14.

Both companies offer unlimited free deliveries for all orders over $35 for members that choose the full year subscription.

Instacart vs Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh’s delivery service can take at least 8 hours for requests made on the same day. Instacart works faster than this, since you can get your groceries delivered in as little as one hour after placing the order. The reason for this is Instacart’s direct partnership with supermarkets.

In terms of availability, Instacart is clearly on top. They provide shopping and delivery services in over 40 metropolitan areas, twice as many locations as Amazon Fresh.

Amazon Fresh offers employees more benefits than Instacart. While the industry’s leading delivery service lets people work on their own schedule, Amazon Fresh hires people based on a contract. They offer 401k, holidays, paid time off, health care, and other employee benefits and discounts.

Working for Amazon Fresh is more like having an actual job. You still need to be 18 and over and have at least a high school diploma. You also have to be fit enough to lift up to 49 pounds and work for up to 10–12 hours, depending on how long the shift is.

What isn’t in the requirements for Amazon Fresh is the mandatory ownership of a personal vehicle or smartphone. If you wind up being responsible for deliveries you will do so in a company car.

Although the partnership with many retailers gives the edge to Instacart, Amazon Fresh does have access to more than 400 billion dollars should they ever want to expand more rapidly. They also have begun offering delivery of many staples via Amazon Prime Pantry, offering competition to many items Instacart might otherwise deliver.

Instacart vs Peapod

Peapod has a good design on their shopping app. The filters you can apply to your searches and the ability to use past orders as a guideline makes placing an order much easier. You can also compare price points for all items.

Unlike Instacart, Peapod doesn’t deal in memberships and they also don’t accept orders under $60. They charge a $10 fee for orders between $60 and $100 and $7 for orders that exceed $100, which is more than the Instacart delivery fee. There is also a $3 fee for pickup orders. Additional fuel costs might also find their way on to the client’s bill in some service areas.

For all its investments into making the online shopping experience easier on the customer, Peapod falls a bit short on delivery times. Unlike Instacart which can bring groceries to your doorstep in as little as one hour, Peapod only delivers on the following day. This doesn’t make them all that great for emergency situations.

Peapod offers drivers $12.50 per hour. Bonuses are given for late shifts and there is always a chance that customers will tip. No special licenses are required but drivers should be able to drive trucks. Experience is not mandatory, but it is valued. Driver positions can be full-time, part-time, or seasonal depending on the service area.

Instacart vs Postmates

Postmates delivery drivers are free to use whatever means of transportation they want. They can use motorcycles, cars, trucks, scooters, or bikes as long as they can pick up the order and deliver it safely to the client.

An interesting feature of the Postmates app is that it lets customers place custom orders. This means that if the specific product the client wants is not on the Postmates list, it can still be added manually. Doing this might sometimes incur an additional delivery fee.

Both Instacart and Postmates offer drivers the ability to receive tips via the app. The fixed fee of $5 that Postmates asks for makes them a strong competitor to any subscription online delivery service.

They also allow customers to place orders 24/7. The customers will be notified if there are no available drivers to fulfill orders at late hours.

Although Postmates also requires would-be drivers to have a personal vehicle, they are less demanding on the amount of experience. They also don’t care about what type of transportation the driver uses. Instacart has more demanding guidelines in this regard.

Instacart vs FreshDirect

The first similarity between Instacart and FreshDirect is their subscription-based model. Both companies present an opportunity to save money on deliveries as long as you use them often. FreshDirect also has two different subscription plans. One is for six months and one is for a full year.

FreshDirect has some stricter hiring policies. The minimum required age is 21 and applicants must also have at least 3 years of experience driving a commercial truck.

FreshDirect employees have medical benefits and they also receive on-the-job training. Both training and vacations are paid. There are other financial incentives to consider too. Job referrals can pay up to $1,000 upon hiring the person referred and there is also a 20 percent discount on FreshDirect food items for employees.

Instacart vs Major Grocery Chains

While Instacart is a very convenient service and has been smart in its partnerships, some major grocery chains have decided to offer their own grocery pickup services direct to the customer. With these services, the customer can place an order online and then pick it up in a special area in or outside the store.

The most notable examples are Walmart and Kroger, although other chains do offer this and it will likely become more common in the future.

For now, Instacart still offers a greater convenience factor in that you can get home delivery, but Walmart and Kroger could decide to offer this in the future as well, which would make Instacart a lot less appealing.

Instacart Pricing

How much does Instacart cost? There is rarely a fixed price on anything they offer. Because oftentimes schedules or locations can influence the delivery time, Instacart offers multiple delivery fees. Orders that have a short deadline will usually have the highest fee.

Orders over a certain price point will benefit from lower delivery fees. There is also a free delivery feature available to customers who purchase the express membership.

Instacart Delivery Cost

The price of Instacart depends on what items a customer purchases, and the time in which they expect those items to be delivered. The price of a delivery can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Prices
  2. Fees
  3. Membership cost

Instacart Prices

Instacart charges $7.99 for one-hour deliveries and $5.99 for deliveries that take more than two hours. These prices apply for regular customers.

Certain discounts may also be offered to orders placed a few days in advance. These are not the same across the country; the location and partner stores in the area play a major role in every potential discount.

Related: Instacart Promo Code: What It’s Worth And How To Claim

Instacart Fees

Instacart may add additional fees during busy times. These vary depending on the area of service and how many shoppers are available. However, the busy pricing fee is refunded if the driver fails to deliver the order on time.

Instacart Express Membership Fee

For the first year, customers can join Instacart for $99. This reflects a discount for the first year, so future yearly membership will cost more. Starting with the second year, the Instacart Express membership is $149 for a full year of service.

This membership plan does come with an Instacart free delivery service for orders over $35. Busy pricing fees may still apply under certain circumstances.

You can cancel Instacart express and continue to benefit from no Instacart delivery charge. If you do this after the first two weeks of membership, you will not receive a refund.

The cost of this membership is not the cheapest or the priciest when compared to other online on-demand grocery delivery services. In some areas of operation, you are required to be an express member to use the service. In this sense, this may be viewed as a drawback when compared to other companies.

Instacart FAQ

Now let’s take a look at some of the most commonly-searched questions about Instacart.

What Is the Instacart Minimum Order?

The minimum order you can place on Instacart is $10. Rarely is this worth it as the fees alone could be as much as half the cost. Even express membership customers don’t benefit from free deliveries on such low orders.

Is Instacart Legit?

Instacart is a legit company that offers a much-needed service. They also provide many job opportunities both on the ground and at their offices. They are partnered with five of the biggest grocery store chains in the country.

All payments can be tracked by Instacart and employees; this makes it hard for the company to make late payments or withhold them without good reason.

Where Is Instacart Available?

Instacart is available in over 25 states including select cities in Canada. New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Texas have particularly high numbers of Instacart cities. Part of the expansion plan is to operate in more locations across Canada.

What Is the Instacart Phone Number?

The Instacart number for customer support is 1-888-246-7822. The line is available 24/7. As an alternative, you can also send an email from their website’s help page. Usually, it takes around two hours to get a response.

Does Instacart Deliver Alcohol?

Instacart’s policy regarding alcohol is simple: They always stay within the laws of the state they are operating in.

This means that if the customer is of legal age and the state law allows grocery stores to sell alcoholic beverages, the order can be placed. Like most grocery delivery services, Instacart partners with a wine store for delivery of wine. The driver will also ask for proper identification upon delivery and he or she may refuse to complete the order if the identification is not satisfactory.

Instacart also reserves the right to remove alcoholic products from the order instead of canceling it entirely. This can happen when the customer fails to provide evidence of legal age or if the law does not allow alcohol purchases, but the order still went through.

Does Instacart Accept PayPal?

PayPal is one of the accepted payment methods on Instacart. People who are not comfortable with sharing credit card information can use PayPal as their main payment method. Instacart will deduct the money for the order from the provided PayPal account.

Does Instacart Take EBT?

Instacart doesn’t accept EBT cards, partly because the benefits don’t include deliveries, but also because authenticating an EBT card online requires you to input more information. To eliminate security risks, Instacart has decided not to allow EBT cards as a payment method.

Why Does Instacart Have a Service Fee?

The optional service fee on Instacart allows the company to distribute additional earnings to more than just one delivery person. While all tips go towards the shopper, the money from service fees is used to increase the hourly income of all shoppers.

What Is the Instacart Tipping Option? How Much Should I Tip?

Instacart has three tip options. To start with, you can use the default tip (a 10 percent service charge based on your order total). With this, your tip will contribute to the wages of more than one shopper. Meanwhile, you also have the option to tip with cash or from within the Instacart app. In these cases, the specific shopper gets 100 percent of the tip amount.

There is no minimum or maximum amount you can tip. Something is always better than nothing for the shopper. It’s a common consensus that tips should mirror the value of the service. This means that excellent timing and deliveries without incidents should be tipped more than the average deliveries.

It also makes sense to tip more if your order included lots of heavy items. Instacart shoppers are independent contractors, so tips can help them cover expenses like gas and vehicle maintenance (for which Instacart doesn’t reimburse them).

It’s by no means mandatory, but it does give Instacart delivery people an incentive to always provide excellent service. While you’re leaving a tip, you can also take a moment to leave an Instacart shopper review. These star ratings and other feedback help Instacart shoppers know how they can improve.

So, Is Instacart Worth It?

Is Instacart worth it? In terms of convenience, Instacart is definitely making things easier. Instacart provides a service for busy people and for people who are unable to do their own grocery shopping. Their prices are affordable if the order is large enough.

Instacart can list items at a price up to 20 percent higher than you would find in the store. If you plan on using them often, then getting the express membership for free deliveries will make Instacart a bit more worth it.

At the same time, Instacart offers would-be shoppers the opportunity to work on their own schedule. There are no imposed minimum work hours on shoppers or drivers. As an equal opportunity employer, Instacart can be a good alternative for people that own cars and have a few hours to spare.

If you want to get everything you want without stepping out of the house, Instacart is the service for you. While it might not be the most cost-effective option, they certainly do make up for that in terms of convenience and fast delivery.

Brett Helling

Brett Helling is the owner of 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 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.

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