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Whether you’re considering trying out a new grocery delivery service or want to do the shopping as a side hustle, you may be wondering: Is Instacart worth it?
Instacart first burst onto the scene way back in 2012, but the service grew in popularity during the COVID-19 lockdowns. During this time, people were looking for a safe way to keep their pantries and refrigerators stocked. Plus, it was also an excellent way to earn some extra cash in the growing gig economy.
Fast forward to now — is signing up for Instacart worth your time and money? To help you weigh the options, we did all the research for you. Whether you want to avoid the grocery stores or are interested in becoming an Instacart Shopper, we’ll cover the pros and cons of both options. We’ll go over how it works, what it costs, and how much you can earn as an Instacart Shopper.
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1. Here’s your quick refresher on how Instacart works.
Instacart is a grocery delivery service in which you place an order online, someone shops for you (the “Shopper”), and then your order gets delivered within a chosen time window.
The platform is hooked up with all of the major grocery stores, big-box stores, warehouse stores, pharmacies, and other retailers. You can get just about anything you need without ever leaving your house. In other words, it offers customers a huge convenience. But this convenience is one that you’ll pay extra for.
So now that you know the basics, let’s talk money — aka the deciding factor for answering your question, is Instacart worth it?
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2. You’ll pay for Instacart’s convenience as a customer — both in fees and inflated prices.
If you want to try Instacart without getting a full membership, each order will come with a $3.99 shipping fee (and a $35 minimum per order). If the per-order fee gives you pause, you could also pony up for a paid Instacart membership ($99 per year), which gets you unlimited free grocery deliveries.
While unlimited free deliveries may sound great, the fees don’t end there. You’ll also get charged a 2% to 5% service fee, plus extra fees for heavy orders, alcohol, or long-distance travel from the store to your delivery address.
The biggest cost, however, is the markup on the grocery items themselves. Our research revealed that the prices are as much as 20% higher, but prices can vary by store and item. (Some stores like Walmart and CVS don’t mark up prices for Instacart at all.)
Lastly, you’ll need to leave a tip for your Instacart Shopper because they rely on tips to earn a decent wage.
All that said, Instacart will almost certainly cost more than a shopping trip you make on your own. But that may very well be worth it from a convenience and time-saving point of view. Maybe you’re homebound because of illness or car trouble. Or perhaps you work from home, or you have small kids. Getting someone to shop and deliver your groceries can be a blessing. (Plus, you’ll avoid those impulse buys that cause your bill to shoot up, so you may even come out ahead!)
But if you’re on a budget and like to shop the weekly sales and coupons, it’ll be hard to justify the extra expense of using Instacart.
Related: Save your way to financial freedom this year with our free budget printables.
Is there any way to get around the fees?
Of course, there are some ways to save on your Instacart orders. We already recommend looking for promo codes, choosing less expensive delivery windows, and adding manufacturer’s coupons within the app.
3. You have two options for making money with Instacart.
Deciding if being an Instacart Shopper or driver is worth it for you really depends on your goals. Instacart shoppers are paid by the hour, and that can range from $10 to $25, depending on your location. You also get to keep 100% of the tips. Savvy shoppers learn to develop strategies to work quickly and efficiently and maximize their earnings.
There are two main choices if you want to work for Instacart. You can either be an independent contractor who handles both the shopping and the delivery, or you can be an in-store shopper. Here’s how the two compare:
Option 1: Shop & Deliver with Instacart
The vast majority of Instacart workers fall into this bucket. You’ll be an independent contractor who handles both the shopping and the delivery of Instacart, and you can set your own hours and work as many hours as you want. This option requires you to have a car.
Option 2: In-store Shopping Only
If you’re an in-store Instacart Shopper, you can make your own schedule, but you won’t make any deliveries. This option is great if you don’t have a car, as you’ll be shopping and packaging up the items within one store. You can work up to 29 hours a week.
What are the downsides of working for Instacart?
Like most of these types of gig jobs, working for Instacart is a good way to earn extra cash on the side and have an additional income stream. But it’s difficult to make a living doing only that.
Because you’re an independent contractor, you are responsible for paying your own gas and car maintenance, as well as your own taxes. This all requires you to be organized and keep good financial records.
4. Instacart vs. DoorDash: Which side hustle is better?
Though both Instacart and DoorDash are similar in that they involve taking jobs via an app and making deliveries, there are some key differences.
Instacart shoppers may deal with bigger, more expensive orders, but it also requires more heavy lifting since you’ll be doing the shopping along with the schlepping. You’ll also engage more with customers while you shop if you find that items are not in stock. As an Instacart Shopper, you can work whenever orders are available, so it might be a good option if you have an unpredictable schedule and just want to pick up a couple of hours here or there.
DoorDash on the other hand involves picking up orders from restaurants and delivering them to homes. Only a certain number of drivers are allowed in a given area during specific times, so you may have to get more disciplined about scheduling yourself to work. Pay is slightly higher during peak hours, though.
Determining which gig is better really depends on what you prefer to do — and when you prefer to work. If you’re all-in on gig work, you could sign up to work with both platforms so you can boost your income even more.
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5. Is Instacart worth it for customers?
There’s a reason why Instacart delivers from over 75,000 retail locations across the country. It’s serving a real need for people who can’t (or just don’t want to) shop for groceries on their own. As a mom who works from home, I can definitely relate to the appeal of outsourcing some of my household tasks like grocery shopping.
Deciding if Instacart is worth it for you comes down to how much value you place on the time and effort it’ll save you. It will cost you more than a regular shopping trip, but if you’re OK with that, then give it a try. If you end up loving it and find yourself making frequent orders, then it may be worth it to pay up for the yearly Instacart membership.
6. Is Instacart worth it for shoppers?
As far as signing up to be an Instacart Shopper, again, it really depends on your earnings goals and personal situation. If you understand that earnings fluctuate with a mix of good days and not–so–good ones, then it could be worth exploring. However, if you’re in need of full-time work and benefits, then gig work probably won’t cut it.