Instacart is an excellent grocery delivery service for most people in North America.
Getting your groceries or other goods delivered right to your doorstep without having to deal with traffic and long lines is fantastic.
What else could you want?
Because Instacart relies on grocery store hours and delivery drivers, you have to know how the Instacart service works before you place your order.
There’s nothing worse than placing an order expecting it to show up today, only for it to not come until tomorrow.
Read on to find out the Instacart hours of operation, when the service is available, and how to plan ahead to avoid any problems.
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Is Instacart Instant Delivery?
For the most part, yes, it is!
Instacart advertises that deliveries can happen within an hour.
That might be a little bit ambitious for most orders (especially in bigger cities like New York, Washington DC, or San Francisco).
Still, it’s an available option depending on where you are and when you order.
Instacart operates in five-hour delivery windows.
For almost any order, you can place the order and expect to receive it within about five hours.
Of course, that’s subject to things like Instacart shopper availability, time of day, traffic, and item availability, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
If you keep your expectations about what “instant” means in check, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress.
Understanding Instacart Hours
Instacart used to have pretty regular delivery hours, but as needs have changed, so has Instacart.
The service is continually evolving to make things better for its customers.
So what does that mean for you?
It’s all good news for you!
Does Instacart Deliver All Day?
Regular Instacart delivery hours start at 9 AM for most stores.
That means you can schedule delivery as early as 9 AM or other times throughout the day.
Does Instacart Deliver at Night?
If you’re like most people and not home during the day, Instacart workers still have you covered.
So set up your delivery for the evening or nighttime hours with no concerns.
What Time Does Instacart Stop Delivering?
In many cases, Instacart stops delivering at midnight local time.
However, because many stores close well before midnight, they’ll stop accepting orders sometime in the evening a few hours before that.
If you’re not sure, check the Instacart page of the store you want to shop from, and you’ll get all the timing information you need.
The Instacart app does a great job explaining when ordering hours stop for the day.
Before you make any orders, spend some time browsing.
Does Instacart Deliver 24/7?
As of September 2021, they do!
Stores that are open 24/7 are available for Instacart orders and deliveries 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
This flexible schedule is a newer feature for Instacart, so it may not be available everywhere – especially in more rural areas.
You can also expect that store selection during the night will be limited compared to other times of the day, but if your local grocery store is open, there’s a chance you can get that 3 AM grocery delivery if you want it.
Check it out!
Typical Instacart Delivery Hours for Most Cities
Instacart delivery windows are available between 9 AM and 12 AM in most areas.
Availability will vary depending on where you are.
Cities are likely to have many more available Instacart shoppers – but also many more orders.
Suburban and rural areas will have fewer shoppers but also comparatively fewer orders.
If you can be patient and flexible, you’ll usually find a time that works for you without much of an issue.
Store hours will also impact availability.
Always check ahead before making an order.
Use either the Instacart app or their website, and you should be covered.
When Does Instacart Not Deliver?
The answer depends on when stores are open and when Instacart workers are available.
Instacart is available seven days per week and 365 days per year, so Instacart shoppers are almost always available.
If stores aren’t open, though, you can’t schedule a grocery delivery.
So keep that in mind when planning your scheduled delivery.
Can You Schedule an Instacart Order?
You absolutely can, and, depending on where you live, it might even save you some headaches.
Here are a couple of different options to consider.
If there’s a holiday coming up and you have a big order to place, consider putting it in with Instacart for up to two weeks ahead.
That will get you right into the queue and help you avoid the mass of people placing orders a day or two before or even the same day.
That way requires a little bit more planning, but isn’t that worth it to avoid having issues with your scheduled delivery?
Another recent new feature from Instacart is Fast and Flexible delivery.
Rather than continually refreshing to find your desired window, Fast and Flexible will sign you up for the next available window after you place your order.
If you work from home or will be around, this is an excellent way to make Instacart work to your best advantage.
It’s super convenient and saves you time.
Troubleshooting: Instacart Not Delivering
Like any service, Instacart users may run into issues from time to time.
But don’t panic!
Here are a few of the common problems you might run into and what you can do to get around them and get your pickup back on track.
Meaning of “Instacart Shopper Can’t Complete Order”
In most cases, this error means that there aren’t enough full-service shoppers available to complete your order within a reasonable time of your grocery delivery window.
For example, an Instacart employee might think your order is too big, or you might be ordering at hectic times.
If you are outside of any major cities, there just might be no free shoppers.
If this happens to you, consider trying any or a combination of the following:
- Make your order smaller: Smaller orders are easier to complete and more enticing to Instacart shoppers.
- Reschedule your order: You might run into some issues if you’re placing a big order the day before Thanksgiving. If you can, order during quieter times or days. Any major holiday is more likely to cause delivery delays.
- Add tips: Just like in many other services, adding tips for your Instacart worker is a sign of goodwill and will help entice them to grab your order over many of the other available ones. A little extra for a gig worker like an Instacart shopper never hurts!
If Instacart Is Temporarily Closed
Similar to the above, if there aren’t enough shoppers available to complete orders, Instacart will occasionally stop taking orders.
If you see this, try to find a similar store in another town that may have more available shoppers.
The Instacart app and service are pretty stable, but if the service goes down, they’d have to stop taking orders as well.
In this case, there’s not much you can do but wait.
Thankfully, any outages are generally pretty brief, so not much more than a minor headache.
Why Is Instacart Closed?
In theory, Instacart is never closed!
The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The limiting factor is stores.
If a grocery store isn’t open, Instacart being available doesn’t really do you much good.
If a store is open and part of Instacart’s service, though, you should be able to make an order and get your delivery at your convenience.
Late Instacart Orders
One of the best parts of making orders with Instacart is the convenience of putting in your order and getting it delivered to your home fast.
In almost 90% of cases, your order comes on time, which is impressive given the amount of orders Instacart processes per year.
Sometimes, though, orders come late, which can be very frustrating.
Why do orders come late, and what can you do?
Let’s take a look.
Why Is My Instacart Order Taking So Long?
The answer is almost always supply and demand.
You might be placing your order at a particularly busy time, or you might be placing your order at a store or in an area where there simply aren’t a lot of available Instacart shoppers.
Instacart’s service is generally reliable, so shopper availability is almost always the reason for late delivery.
What Happens If My Instacart Order Is Late?
“Late” here can mean either that no personal shopper picked up your order at all or that your order is scheduled to arrive well outside of your scheduled window.
If your order shows up a few minutes late, that’s generally not a big deal.
But if it’s hours late?
That’s a big problem.
If that happens to you, contact Instacart support and give them all the relevant details.
There are multiple Instacart Shopper customer service methods including email, chat, and phone, so you have plenty of options.
Instacart will review the details and then determine the next steps.
For late orders, you can generally (but not always) expect to receive some kind of refund or credit towards your next order.
In any case, if your delivery isn’t what you expected, Instacart support is always your best bet.
When reporting an order, try to provide proof the order was late.
Reporting late orders is a common Instacart scam that customer service looks out for, so the more documentation you can provide, the better.
How to Avoid Late Deliveries From Instacart
There’s no 100% foolproof solution to avoid late Instacart deliveries, but there are a few things you can do to better your odds for on-time delivery.
Schedule a Delivery
Instacart’s Order Ahead feature lets you schedule a delivery time up to two weeks in advance either through the website or the Instacart app, which is great if you’re a planner.
Ordering ahead allows your scheduled delivery to get toward the top of the queue for that particular day.
Everyone ordering for same-day delivery will be battling for spots while you’re sitting cozy at the top!
Another scheduling option is Instacart’s Fast and Flexible.
With this, you should end up with same-day delivery but the time slot will be filled as a Shopper is available.
It’s still subject to peak hours but is another way to schedule a bit ahead.
Avoid Peak Hours for Shoppers
Instacart doesn’t have official set peak hours, but the busiest times are typically between 4 PM and 8 PM Monday thru Friday, then all day on the weekends.
That makes sense since it lines up with when people are coming home from work and school.
More orders in that timeframe mean a higher chance that you’re going to face a delay.
Placing an order for morning or late-night delivery, especially on non-weekend days, is a great way to help ensure that your order comes on time.
There are usually Instacart shoppers available for pickup during that time, and the stores will be less crowded.
Avoiding peak hours can also save you a bit of money.
Instacart can institute Peak Boost pricing during busy times, which means deliveries will cost more.
Avoiding these times can be a faster and cheaper option.
Sign up for Instacart Express
Instacart Express is Instacart’s premium option.
Signing up for a monthly or annual membership will give you a better selection of stores and free delivery on any order that’s over $35.
Despite its name, Instacart Express doesn’t actually offer or guarantee faster delivery.
The free delivery, though, does give you a lot more flexibility when it comes to breaking up your orders at different times.
More manageable orders on non-peak hours are much more likely to arrive right on time.
Instacart is a fantastic service.
Its shoppers work around the clock to get your groceries and other goods right to your front door as quickly as possible.
The flexibility is an amazing benefit to you.
If you’re willing to be a little bit patient and creative with how you order, you should face minimal problems getting your stuff to your house on the timetable you need.