People worldwide have turned to home delivery services to handle their everyday needs.
For companies like Amazon, DoorDash, and Instacart, business is booming.
It’s gotten to the point where even retail giants like Best Buy have had to improve their online storefronts to compete and break even.
There are still benefits and drawbacks to using Instacart that people haven’t considered.
So here’s a guide to Instacart for those who aren’t sure whether they want to try it.
Table Of Contents
What Is Instacart?
At its core, Instacart is an app that connects people to the service they need while offering service providers a platform, so they work quickly and efficiently.
Yes, this is the same model Uber uses to justify not calling its workers employees.
And yes, Instacart also calls its drivers independent contractors.
That’s just how the gig economy works these days.
But Instacart, in particular, adds extra layers to the app-based transaction, making it invaluable to those who use it frequently.
It allows the user to communicate with the Instacart shopper in real-time, making item replacement quick and easy instead of stress-inducing.
And if the user isn’t available to babysit the shopping process, they can set up replacements in advance.
Instacart also allows for on-the-spot item refunds in case an item can’t be found or replaced by the shopper.
And at several points in the process, the user is even reminded to tip their Instacart shopper by the app, especially if their shopper did well.
While this is a far cry from the company paying for good wages and benefits, it’s still a nice touch.
How Does Instacart Work?
Once an account is made and details are put into the system, using the Instacart app or online storefront is a breeze.
Instacart keeps a relatively accurate inventory of what local stores have in stock so users can easily see what they’re getting, making orders easy to arrange.
After all the items are picked out, Instacart offers the ability to get some last-minute things based on what was in the rest of the order.
This can include snacks, condiments, plastic utensils, or whatever the algorithm decides you might want.
Once you have what you need, you move on to the payment phase.
Fees are calculated automatically, with an option for the user to adjust the tip as they see fit.
The user can also set up multiple cards and payment sources to be used for orders depending on who’s paying for groceries.
Once the total is calculated, Instacart also adds ten dollars or so to pay for potential item replacements before sending the in store shopper on their way.
The user has until shopping begins to play around with what’s in their order.
Once that shopping starts, nothing else can be added through the app; the changes will have to be made by communicating with the shopper.
Sometimes the in store shopper will need input on a replacement or refund, but that can usually be accounted for in advance.
When the shopping is complete, you cannot make any more changes beyond that point.
The most the shopper will need input on after that will be how to get to the app user’s house.
This can be more of a sticking point than many realize, but it’s one that’s easily navigated around in most cases.
Apartment complexes are the biggest sore spot here.
After the order’s received—or not received—Instacart asks for input from the user on how the shopper did.
If the shopper did well, they offer a prompt to give a bigger tip.
If the shopper did poorly, or something went wrong with the order, this is the stage where the user can report it.
The app accounts for order mix-ups, missing items, and extra items.
Where Can You Use Instacart?
Instacart has a help page on where and how to use it, and this is because Instacart can be one of the fussiest apps to use in some locations.
For example, if Instacart hasn’t partnered with any stores in your area, you can’t use the app.
Or, if stores are too far from where you live, you can’t use the app.
It can’t account for a food desert, after all.
However, if you live in the United States, the best way to know whether you can use Instacart is to look up what’s available in your location.
How Much Does Instacart Cost?
For users of the app, Instacart is an investment in one’s time and health, but it still costs money.
Let’s look at the breakdown of just how much that cost can add up.
For orders over $35, the delivery fee is $3.99 if you choose standard delivery service and $5.99 if you want it in under an hour.
The fee for orders under $35 starts at $7.99 for standard delivery and $9.99 for fast delivery.
You must also spend at least $10 to make an Instacart order.
This is meant to discourage people from flooding the app with orders of a single item.
There is also a 5% service fee on every order.
If your order is smaller, the fee is a minimum of $2, which doesn’t include sales tax.
Your tip is an additional cost on top of all that, and during especially busy times, Instacart may add yet another fee just to compensate drivers for the added workload.
Instacart Express Fees
Instacart Express is essentially Instacart’s premium service.
For a small monthly fee, an Instacart Express member can waive a good portion of the charges normally associated with using the service.
The monthly cost is $9.99, but if you pay for an entire year at once, it drops to $99 (or $8.25 per month overall).
With an Instacart Express membership, you get free delivery on orders over $35 and can waive the service fees.
This makes Instacart Express well worth the up-front cost if online shopping is the primary method you have of getting groceries.
How Does Instacart Compare With Other Delivery Services?
With the market being so lucrative, it’s no surprise that other companies have decided they want in on the grocery delivery app game.
Instacart vs. Shipt
Shipt and Instacart have largely similar business models.
But Instacart offers more pricing flexibility, more ways to communicate with your in store shopper, and more retail partnerships.
Unlike Instacart, Shipt only offers a $99 annual membership, and its flat fee for non-member deliveries is $9.99.
It’s not available in Canada either and has less coverage in the rural United States.
Instacart vs. Amazon Fresh
While Amazon Fresh membership being free with Amazon Prime is nice, you can’t use coupons at all.
Its range is also far more limited than Instacart’s, and it’s been known to shut down service in cities it used to operate in before.
On top of that, it only works with Whole Foods, and you have to have a membership to use it in the first place.
Is Instacart Worth It?
People who get their groceries through Instacart regularly already know how valuable it is as a service, but for those who are still on the fence, here’s the short version.
Is Instacart Worth the Cost?
Here are a few benefits and drawbacks of using Instacart for your shopping needs.
For disabled people, people without cars, and people who just don’t have the time to go to the grocery store, Instacart is a great tool that enables its users to have agency over what they eat.
A lot of money is saved over getting fast food or DoorDash if you can just have all the things you need to make your own meals already in the cupboard.
Like many companies exploiting the gig economy, Instacart relies heavily on tips to keep its workers going.
Instacart also doesn’t care much about worker’s rights, and how the fees tend to add up can get downright exploitative for non-members.
How item replacements work can also be limiting if you have food allergies or specific dietary needs.
For users of the app, Instacart isn’t just worth it.
For some people, it changes lives.
But the app can be frustrating, and plenty of horror stories exist about how it can go wrong.
Is Working for Instacart Worth It?
Consider these factors if you’re looking to make a little extra money on the side.
Set your own hours!
Be your own boss!
As an Instacart full service shopper, you’re an independent contractor and don’t need a manager.
The app gives you a job to do, and it’s your call whether you want to do it or not.
Instacart jobs do not pay for gas.
Instacart jobs do not offer benefits.
Instacart won’t even try to help you out if your auto insurance goes up.
Instacart pay is only around $7 to $10 for a full service batch order.
An in store shopper makes wages but gets no tips.
Is Instacart worth it as a worker?
Very few gig economy jobs are.
The Final Answer
An evil corporation or invaluable asset?
These days, it’s hard to distinguish between the two.
There’s plenty of evidence suggesting Instacart exploits its workers and customers.
But there’s just as much evidence in favor of what this app offers regarding agency and convenience.
In the end, the answer is based on personal situations.
Is Instacart worth it as a full service shopper?
Is it worth it as a health-conscious, disabled, or overworked person?