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Instacart vs. DoorDash: Which Gig Is Best for Drivers?

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Key Takeaways

  • DoorDash offers more delivery variety and a forgiving rating system.
  • Instacart may provide higher earnings but has a stricter rating system.
  • Both prioritize driver safety, but DoorDash includes extra security features.
  • Choose DoorDash for flexibility and Instacart for potential higher pay.

Instacart vs. DoorDash: A Quick Overview

Before moving on to the comparison, here’s a quick overview of both companies.

What is Instacart?

Founded in 2012, Instacart is an on-demand grocery delivery service with over 13.7 million users, as per the latest statistics.

The company partners with over 1,000 local, regional, and national retail banners, and is available in more than 14,000 cities, both in the United States and Canada.

Some of Instacart’s partners include:

  • Kroger
  • CVS
  • Albertsons
  • Costco
  • Sam’s Club
  • Publix
  • Sprouts

Instacart users order their groceries through the app and then choose to either pick up their packaged order from a nearby store or have it delivered directly to their doorstep.

What is DoorDash?

DoorDash was founded almost a year after Instacart as an on-demand food delivery service, with the latest stats indicating that the company has over a whopping 32 million users!

Please note that when it first started, DoorDash only delivered food. It didn’t deliver groceries. Back then, most of the company’s partners were restaurants and fast-food chains.

It wasn’t until 2021 that DoorDash started delivering groceries — fresh produce, snacks, meat, drinks; you name it. This came about as a result of the company partnering with Albertsons.

Some of the grocers DoorDash delivers from include:

  • Walmart
  • 7-Eleven
  • Sprouts
  • EG America
  • Big Lots
  • Weis Markets
  • Giant Eagle

Today, DoorDash supports over 500,000 merchants and retail partners, operating in thousands of cities across the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Instacart vs. DoorDash: The Breakdown

Now that you know a little bit about Instacart and DoorDash, it’s time to put the two delivery companies against each other and figure out which one is best for drivers.

Job Review

First things first, let’s talk about what working for Instacart or DoorDash is all about.

Instacart

As an Instacart full-service shopper (not to be confused with an in-store shopper), your primary job is to shop for and deliver groceries to customers.

You have complete freedom when it comes to scheduling your work hours. After all, you’re part of a large fleet of independent contractors.

Note: Most Instacart deliveries are made between 9 a.m. and 12 a.m.

Typically, you’ll receive notifications about available orders in your area 30 minutes before your shift starts. From there, you’ll pick the order that suits you the most, based on pay and the distance you need to travel.

Did you find an order you like?

The next step is to head to the store and shop for the order. You won’t have to use any of your personal money, as you’ll be handed an Instacart debit card once you’re accepted for the job.

Using the Instacart app, you’ll be able to communicate with the customer you’re doing the shopping for. You’ll need to keep them posted on the status of their order and the expected delivery time.

DoorDash

Similar to Instacart shoppers, DoorDash drivers, also known as Dashers, are required to shop for and deliver food or groceries to customers.

Once you’ve been accepted as a Dasher and completed your first delivery, you’ll receive the Welcome Kit, which contains a prepaid card (Red Card) that you’ll use to shop for items, an insulated food delivery bag (Hot Bag) for carrying said items, and a starting manual.

The great thing about DoorDash is that it enables you to book orders presently or a week in advance. Furthermore, DoorDash limits the number of delivery couriers working at once in a given area. This ensures a healthy stream of orders.

Once you’ve reached the “Top Dasher” status, you’ll gain unlimited access to the Dash Now feature, which spares you the hassle of having to schedule your orders.

As a Top Dasher, you can Dash anywhere at any given time, and you can accept or reject orders immediately after they pop up. This is particularly useful in areas with high demand.

Note: Dash Now orders show up in red or pink on the app.

Verdict: With an emphasis on ensuring a steady stream of orders, and by giving Dashers the option to book their orders a whole week in advance, DoorDash is the clear winner in this round.

Winner: DoorDash  

Requirements and Signing Up

Before signing up for Instacart or DoorDash, make sure you understand the job requirements.

Instacart

To become an Instacart shopper, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • At least 18 years of age.
  • Eligible to work in the United States.
  • Consistent access to a vehicle.
  • Valid driver’s license.
  • Valid bank account.
  • Access to a recent smartphone.
  • Ability to lift up to 40 pounds.

The process of signing up as an Instacart shopper involves (in no particular order):

  1. Submitting your name, phone number, email address, photo of your driver’s license, and ZIP code.
  2. Downloading the Instacart shopper app—available for iOS and Android.
  3. Completing a short questionnaire.
  4. Signing an independent contractor agreement and submitting a W-9 form.
  5. Consenting to and passing a background check.
  6. Receiving your prepaid debit card so you can start delivering.

DoorDash

To become a Dasher, you need to fulfill the following requirements:

  • At least 18 years of age.
  • Social Security number — for a background check.
  • Valid driver’s license and auto insurance.
  • Access to a car, scooter, or bicycle — the latter is for select cities only.
  • Access to a recent smartphone.

Singing up as a DoorDash delivery driver involves (in no particular order):

  1. Submitting your name, phone number, email, and vehicle details.
  2. Uploading a photo of your driver’s license, registration, and insurance.
  3. Consenting to a background screening.
  4. Completing your first delivery and receiving your Welcome Kit.

Note: It can take weeks or even months to get off the DoorDash waitlist.

Verdict: Though the eligibility requirements and sign-up process are pretty similar for both services, DoorDash secures the win by a slight margin because it has fewer requirements and lets you deliver via car, scooter, or bike.

Winner: DoorDash  

Pay Structure

Which delivery service offers the highest earning potential? Let’s find out!

Instacart

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for Instacart drivers is $18/hour as of January 2024.

That being said, ZipRecruiter is seeing hourly wages as low as $8.17 and as high as $25.24, with the vast majority of drivers making between $16.11 and $20.19.

Note: Large batches and tipping clients can have you earning over $20 per hour with ease.

Keep in mind that several factors influence how Instacart calculates pay. This includes the number of batches you deliver, the distance you travel, and the base pay in your area — the base pay always varies by market.

You can easily keep track of your earnings on the Instacart app, and you can expect to get paid each week via direct deposit. If you want to get paid sooner, you can use the Instant Cashout feature on the Instacart app to immediately transfer funds to your debit card.

The Instant Cashout feature can be used up to five times a day, with a daily limit of $3,000 and a $0.50 transaction fee for every time you use it.

DoorDash

The national average for Dashers, according to ZipRecruiter, is approximately $16/hour as of January 2024.

This salary review website indicates that most DoorDash drivers earn between $14.42 and $18.03 per hour, with top performers earning as high as $19.47/hour.

Just like with Instacart, Dashers can accept tips from customers and get to keep 100% of their tips, which can easily push their pay beyond the $20/hour range.

As a DoorDash driver, your base pay is calculated based on factors like time, distance, and order availability.

It’s worth noting that DoorDash’s pay and order availability is generally steadier than Instacart’s. This is because DoorDash isn’t just a grocery delivery service; it’s also a food delivery service.

Dashers get paid every week, and payments are transferred into your bank account via direct deposit. Just like Instacart, DoorDash has a convenient feature for cashing out quickly called Fast Pay. Unfortunately, every time you use Fast Pay, you’re charged a steep transaction fee of $1.99.

Verdict: Though DoorDash offers more consistent work, Instacart has more going for it, from the higher average hourly wage to the lower transaction fee when opting for an instant cashout.

Winner: Instacart

Driver Support

Now let’s talk about how each service supports and protects its delivery drivers.

Instacart

Instacart has a few features and policies in place that are dedicated to protecting delivery drivers. For instance, the service has in-app shopper safety alerts that notify drivers of unsafe conditions.

There’s also a dedicated team — the Trust & Safety Team — for investigating reports/complaints of unsafe conditions and situations, whether issued by customers or drivers.

As an Instacart driver, you can also request emergency assistance using the app.

DoorDash

DoorDash has an occupational accident insurance policy in place for its drivers. It covers any injury suffered while delivering via the DoorDash platform, at no cost.

DoorDash drivers also have access to SafeDash, a safety toolkit developed by ADT security professionals. This feature is accessible through the DoorDash app, offering you fast, on-demand help whenever you need it. It can also connect you with ADT or 911 services if necessary.

Verdict: No loser in this round. Both Instacart and DoorDash prioritize driver safety and support, which comes as no surprise considering they’re two of the most popular food delivery companies out there.

Winner: Tie

Rating System

Your driver rating directly impacts your ability to receive orders, which in turn impacts how much money you can make. This section highlights how each service’s rating system works.

Instacart

Instacart has a 5-star rating system, where customers rate drivers based on overall satisfaction.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to secure high-paying orders with Instacart if you have a low driver rating. The slightest drop can lead to a notable decrease in orders because Instacart prioritizes the highest-rated shoppers.

To achieve and maintain a healthy driver rating (4.7 or higher) that will give you access to high-paying orders, you should prioritize clear communication with customers and delivering orders on time.

DoorDash

DoorDash also uses a 5-star rating method, but it’s not as unforgiving as Instacart’s, because it uses a rolling system that calculates your rating based on your most recent 100 reviews.

Also, DoorDash automatically rules out any negative reviews that have to do with issues unrelated to the driver, such as the taste of food or restaurant waiting time.

As long as you maintain a driver rating of 4.2 and a completion rate of 80%, you should be good. And don’t worry, your order acceptance rate doesn’t factor in the way your driver rating is calculated.

Verdict: Even though Instacart’s rating system is more favorable from a customer’s point of view, DoorDash’s rating system is more lenient and less stressful for drivers.  

Winner: DoorDash

Choose Your Route

If we’re basing this comparison solely on who won each round, DoorDash is the clear winner. It offers steady work and pay, has a low-stress rating system, and is more lenient with its eligibility requirements.

Having said that, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Instacart’s average hourly wage is higher than DoorDash’s. So the bottom line is this:

  • Go with DoorDash if you value flexibility the most and prioritize access to a steady flow of orders.
  • Go with Instacart if you value earning potential and don’t mind the challenge of maintaining a high rating.

Drive safely!

Also Read: Shipt vs Instacart: Which Is Best For Customers In 2024?

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