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It’s not hard to find a grocery delivery service gig nowadays, but that doesn’t mean you want to start driving with just any app. With drivers like you in high demand, you have the opportunity to represent a brand that offers the best driver experience all around. So when it comes down to Shipt vs. Instacart, which delivery platform should you choose?
Instacart and Shipt are two of the largest grocery delivery services in the United States, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that both are always equally great fits. By comparing the brands side by side, you can make a logical decision about which one is the best fit for your expectations as a delivery driver.
Keep reading as we break down how Shipt and Instacart stack up in five different categories, then describe why our winner is the ultimate platform for you to earn.
- Job Availability
- Shopper Requirements
- Shopping and Delivery Process
- Driver Support
- Shipt vs. Instacart: Which Is Best for Drivers?
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Job Availability
One of the first considerations that drivers need to make is whether a platform is available in their area at all.
Shipt is available in 260 cities across the United States, covering all states except` Alaska and West Virginia. While this may seem expansive, Instacart’s operations are even more so. Instacart is available in over 5,500 cities, with markets in all 50 states and Canada. This means that the majority (if not all) of Shipt’s operations are overlapping with Instacart’s, whereas Instacart has thousands of other markets for drivers to choose from.
Telling a similar story, Instacart gets over 700,000 app downloads each month, while Shipt only gets a little over 220,000 downloads. Because of its large customer base, Instacart will be more likely to take on more drivers (with some variation based on market) to meet higher demand.
Our Winner: Instacart
2. Shopper Requirements
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a valid U.S. driver’s license
- Have a vehicle that’s registered and insured in your state
- Be able to lift 40 pounds
- Submit an easy Shipt application form or Instacart application form
- Pass a background check
- Pass an interview
Shipt drivers may be required to have a slightly newer Android phones, as the Shipt Shopper app is only compatible with Android 5.1 and above, in comparison to Android 4.4 and above for the Instacart Shopper app. Both driver apps are compatible with iOS 10 or newer for iPhone users.
Shipt also clarifies that vehicles must be 1997 or newer, while Instacart doesn’t have a set requirement for your vehicle’s age. While we’ll focus on full-service shopper and driver requirements in this comparison, it’s worth mentioning that Instacart also offers jobs within select grocery stores that eliminate the need for a vehicle at all. In these roles, Instacart shoppers only shop and pack for pick-up orders.
Once you’re accepted on the job, Shipt drivers must wear a company-provided T-shirt during their shopping and delivery trips. Instacart shoppers have a much more flexible dress code, allowing for any appropriate casual attire, as long as you wear close-toed shoes. Both of these dress codes are similar to industry-leading package delivery service Amazon Flex.
While the differences are minimal, Instacart does provide slightly greater flexibility for its full-service shoppers than Shipt does.
Our Winner: Instacart
3. Shopping and Delivery Process
If you have preferences for where you want to shop, you may want to consider what retail brands are partnered with Shipt vs. Instacart. Both services work with national brands like Petco, Safeway, CVS Pharmacy, Costco, Meijer, and Kroger. However, with Instacart, you may be required to go to any of 190 retail partners all over your city, including chains like Publix and ALDI.
If you want a more familiar map to work off of, Shipt works with slightly fewer partners, which include Target (Shipt’s parent company) and H-E-B. This ensures that you won’t be traveling across the city and wasting more gas than you intend to use.
Beyond the stores you’ll shop from, the basic delivery process is pretty much the same. You’ll accept delivery requests ahead of time, then head to the grocery store on schedule. You’ll use your app to view your shopping list and find grab all requested items. Then, you’ll check out with a company-provided shopper card and take the groceries to your assigned drop-off location before the end of the requested delivery time frame.
One-hour delivery as the shortest delivery window customers can request, so you typically won’t have to worry about scrambling to get everything dropped off in time.
Our Winner: Shipt
The amount of money you can expect to earn is a big factor in any job, and grocery shopping and driving gigs are no different.
Instacart claims that its drivers can make as much as $25 per hour in their gigs, but user-reported data shows that Instacart drivers make an average of only $11 per hour. Shipt, on the other hand, claims that experienced drivers make between $16 and $22 per hour. Again, drivers report that the real-world average is also closer to $11 per hour.
Drivers for both Shipt and Instacart are independent contractors who are required to manage their own self-employment taxes on top of their income taxes. Shoppers for both platforms receive 100% of tips.
The bigger difference lies in how earnings are calculated. Shipt shoppers consistently receive $5 plus 7.5% of their order total (before delivery fees and service fees and based on in-store prices). Instacart has a more complex algorithm that frequently changes, but what’s known is that factors like number of units, types of items (heavier items pay more), and store locations are all taken into account. This helps Instacart pay drivers according to the time and effort they put in. Instacart shoppers also frequently offers bonuses for five-star ratings and peak hours.
While Shipt shoppers get the benefit of a transparent fee structure, Instacart shoppers can put more strategy into how they earn by taking advantage of bonus payments. It’s a little difference that can lead to significant earnings differences for the most dedicated drivers.
Our Winner: Instacart
5. Driver Support
When you experience any issues with your driver app or orders, you’ll want great customer service options to offer support.
Instacart offers 24/7 support when you give them a call at 1-888-246-7822. The company also allows you to reach Community Support members via email at email@example.com (turnaround is unclear). If you prefer social media support, Instacart does actively reply to inquiries on its Twitter page and Facebook page, though these aren’t official support channels.
Ship also offers 24/7 support via phone call, as well as email support through firstname.lastname@example.org — with both options accessible through the Shipt Shopper app. The company also actively replies to inquiries on Twitter and Facebook, which again are not official support channels that guarantee a response.
Where Shipt actually differentiates itself is its 24/7 Shipt Live Chat option, which is accessible on the bottom right corner of any page of its website. This is a convenient way to get a hold of customer service representatives just through messages, so you don’t have to stay on hold with a phone call or wait for an email response.
Our Winner: Shipt
Shipt vs. Instacart: Which Is Best for Drivers?
From our breakdown, Instacart is a clear winner that allows you to more easily start your gig from pretty much any major city in the United States, in addition to Canada. While the average pay of the two companies are tied, Instacart does make it easier for you to earn on top of your commission and tips, with bonuses that are fairly easy to achieve. However, Shipt does allow you to keep the tips you earn, so that is plus that shouldn’t be disregarded.
In general, Instacart is a much better-known brand that can connect you to more consistent requests in more locations.
However, if Shipt is available in your city, we recommend weighing the importance of each factor yourself. If the amount of stores you may have to visit or the channels of driver support you have access to are critical to your experience, the winner might be Shipt for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
With Shipt vs. Instacart broken down, you can start signing up for the service you prefer. Here are some frequently asked questions to make your decision even easier:
What cities are Shipt and Instacart located in?
Both services are available in most major U.S. cities. You can view a full list of locations on Instacart.com and Shipt.com, or simply search your zip code on either linked page to see if they’re available in your area.
What grocery delivery options are there for drivers, outside of Shipt and Instacart?
If Shipt and Instacart aren’t particularly appealing to you, you can consider delivering with Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh as an Amazon Flex driver. You can also consider driving with a local or regional grocery delivery service like Peapod.
Can I be a full-time driver when I work with Shipt and Instacart?
It’s definitely possible to work part-time or full-time with either service. As an independent contractor, your hours are fully set by you. However, be aware that demand in your market may not always allow for full-time earnings. Shipt and Instacart drivers also do not qualify for any benefits, even if you are working full-time.
Shop to Earn
With thousands of consumers using the Shipt app and Instacart app to get groceries delivered to their doors each day, this is a great opportunity for drivers to make money. While Instacart may be a better option for drivers, both services allow for enormous flexibility. Plus, unlike Uber drivers, you’ll get more opportunities to stretch your legs and stay healthy on the job.
If you’d prefer to skip the shopping, but still deliver food, check out our Uber Eats vs. DoorDash breakdown to see which one you should be driving for.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. 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 Ridester.com 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.