Instacart Shopper Review: Can You Make Money Shopping?

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One of the first side hustles I ever tried was driving for Uber.

As much as I enjoyed meeting new people and learning new areas in my city, there were many times I wished I could earn the same amount of money without having to drive strangers around in my car. After a long day of work, navigating small talk with strangers wasn’t always how I wanted to spend my evening.

If you can relate, then becoming an Instacart shopper might be a good side hustle for you.

What Is Instacart Shopping?

$11-$13/hour Pay According to Glassdoor. Pay varies.
DollarSprout Rating Easy, flexible way to earn

Instacart is a grocery delivery service. Shoppers can work as independent contractors fulfilling orders and delivering them to customers or part-time employees preparing orders for customer pick-up. You can choose your own hours and work times that fit your schedule.

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Pros

  • You can sign up and get started quickly
  • Flexibility; work times that fit your schedule
  • Can work as an independent contractor or part-time employee
  • Full-service shoppers keep 100% of tips
  • Earn extra for referring friends
  • Weekly pay

Cons

  • Need access to your own car to be an independent contractor
  • Must be able to lift and carry heavy groceries
  • Must pass a background check

Founded in 2012, Instacart makes it easy for people to get groceries, personal care items, and even pet products delivered to their door. And Instacart shoppers make it possible.

In-store shoppers work as part-time employees of Instacart. They work in one store at a time to prepare and stage orders for pick-up. Shifts are scheduled in advance, and you can work up to 29 hours per week. Full-service shoppers work as independent contractors. In this flexible role, you choose the orders you take. You’ll shop for the orders and deliver them directly to the customer’s house.

How Does Instacart Work?

Whether you decide to work as an in-store or full-service shopper, you’ll start by downloading the Instacart shopper app. You’ll need to create a profile, confirm your cell phone number, pass a background check, and verify that you meet the app’s minimum requirements (18 or older, able to life 40 pounds, and eligible to work in the U.S.).

After that, you’ll choose whether you want to work as a full-service or in-store shopper.

Full-service shopping

Requirements:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Eligibility to work in the U.S. or Canada
  • A smartphone with Android 5.0 or later, iOS 9 or later
  • A functioning, registered vehicle
  • Vehicle insurance, in accordance with local laws
  • Can lift 30+ pounds
  • Following Instacart’s food safety policies

how much does instacart payAs a full-service shopper, you’ll take orders from customers via the app, go to the grocery store, find and purchase the products, and then deliver them to the customer’s home.

Instacart will give you an estimate of how much you can expect to earn from each order. They’ll also provide a projected estimate of what they think you’ll earn for the week. Earnings for each order depend on the number and types of items, distance you have to drive, and effort involved.

To be eligible, you must have your own car or reliable access to a vehicle. You’ll be paid for each order you deliver and, unlike in-store shoppers, you can receive tips from customers. You get to keep 100% of the tips you earn.

With the opportunity to earn tips, working as a full-service shopper can be more lucrative that in-store shopping, but the income potential depends on the number of orders available in your area. Since this is an independent contractor role, you’ll also need to set aside some of your earnings for taxes.

Paying for your orders

When you sign up to be a full-service shopper, Instacart will send you a company debit card. You’ll use this to pay for your orders. The company pre-approves an amount based on each batch you accept, so you don’t have to worry about running out of funds or having to pay for anything out of pocket.

In-store shopping

Requirements:

  • 18 years of age or older
  • Eligibility to work in the U.S. or Canada
  • A smartphone with Android 5.0 or later, iOS 9 or later
  • Can lift 30+ pounds
  • Following Instacart’s food safety policies

In-store shoppers receive customer orders, locate all the products in the store, and bag them for the customer to pick up. You don’t have to deliver the groceries to the customer’s home, so you don’t need access to a vehicle.

As an in-store shopper, you’ll be a part-time employee of Instacart. This position requires an interview, and you’ll need to attend training sessions before you can start scheduling shifts. You’ll also need to be available to work at least 15 to 20 hours per week. Schedules are set weekly based on your availability, and you’ll be paid at the end of each week.

One benefit of in-store shopping is that you can take advantage of Instacart’s retirement and commuting benefits. You’re also paid a set hourly rate, which makes it easier to predict your income.

Getting Paid with Instacart

Instacart shoppers receive payment weekly via direct deposit. Full-service shoppers have the option to use Instant Cashout after completing their first five batches. Instant Cashout will transfer your earnings to a debit card so you don’t have to wait a week to receive payment. You need at least $5 in earnings to request Instant Cashout, and you can use it up to five times per day.

The amount you earn with Instacart depends on the role type you choose (in-store or full-service shopper), your location, and how many orders you complete.

In-store shoppers have a set hourly rate, which you’ll find in your offer letter when you first sign up. You’ll also have a set schedule each week based on your personal availability and can work up to 29 hours per week. According to Glassdoor, in-store shoppers make an average of $13 per hour. Assuming a minimum of 15 hours per week, that’s $195 per week, pre-tax.

Full-service shopper pay is more difficult to predict. Instacart guarantees a minimum of $5 per delivery-only batch and $7 for shop and deliver batches. Glassdoor lists an average hourly pay of $11. However, experienced shoppers suggest you can increase your Instacart earnings by working during peak hours and being selective about the batches you choose. One shopper used these tips to earn $4,500 in just two months of using the app.

Downsides to Shopping with Instacart

Instacart receives largely positive reviews from shoppers. However, there are a few downsides to consider.

Limited direction for beginners. Some users report not knowing how to use the prepaid debit card for their first order. This may result in a lower hourly rate until you get used to the app and payment process.

Unrealistic customer expectations. As with any job that involves working with people, you will have the occasional difficult customer. Some Instacart shopper reviews note receiving negative feedback for things out of their control, like out of stock items. The app allows you to communicate with customers about substitutions, but not all users are responsive.

Low tips. According to some shoppers, Instacart’s suggested tip starts at 5%. So if you have a larger order of $100, you may only receive a $5 tip for shopping, bagging, and delivering that order unless the user chooses to increase the default amount. 

Some orders simply aren’t worth it. It’s important to do your due diligence before accepting a batch. A $20 order that requires you to drive 30 miles round-trip may not be worth the time and gas required.

Instacart Shopper Review in Summary: A Legitimate Side Hustle

Shopping for Instacart is one of the best gig economy jobs out there. 

Working as a full-service shopper is a great option if you want to earn some extra money, need the flexibility, and can’t dedicate a minimum of 15 hours each week to the role. If you’re looking for more steady work, then in-store shopping is probably your better option.

Either way, Instacart is a legitimate way to earn extra money to put toward your goals, whether you’re paying off debt, saving toward your emergency fund, or just looking for extra spending cash.

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Author
Megan Robinson

Hi! I'm Megan. I'm a personal finance enthusiast on a mission to help millennial men and women understand and make more money. Along with writing and editing content, I work one-on-one with individuals as a financial and behavioral money coach.

16 comments
Mindy Carter
Mindy Carter

I have Instacart installed but I don’t know how I can get people’s orders so I can start delivering (it only let’s me order stuff); I want to make money not spend it.

Youa Vue
Youa Vue

You will have to be referred by a shopper (which I can do if you want, I am a full-time shopper) you will click on the link and sign up. It will automatically take you to the signup link and everything.

Therefore you will get access to downloading the Instacart shopper app and not the regular Instacart app for the customers. After you finish signing up, you will wait till they run a brief background check on you, and send you a debit card to do the shopping for members.

Once everything about your background is cleared and you received your card then you can start shopping for customers.

Kenny
Kenny

You dont have to be referred. This person is trying to make $ off you.

Tiffany
Tiffany

Hey Mindy, you’ll actually need to register on the “shopper” app. It doesn’t seem to show up in a search on the App Store but you can google it & it should be one of the first two that appear. 🙂 Hope that helps!

Janet
Janet

Are shoppers allowed to write off their mileage, a percentage of their phone, etc.?

Hey Janet,

As a 1099 contractor you can deduct your miles (and percentage of your phone bill used for work) so long as you keep an accurate record of each.

In fact, they’re both pretty important in terms of reducing your overall tax burden.

You can read more about travel and car expenses here.

Bobbie Dunn
Bobbie Dunn

I tried signing up on the form the website brings me too. However, it constantly says Instacart server error and it won’t do anything.

I try going to several websites and I keep getting the runaround.

I would like to sign up – does anyone know how to actually sign up?

Also, I searched everywhere but it does not tell me anywhere how the groceries you shop for are paid for? Does the customer pay for the groceries on the app or does the shopper have to pay for the groceries and then get reimbursed?

Please let me know so I can sign up, please.
Thanks,
Bobbie

Hmm — I’ve tried all the links and were able to reach and push through an application — what device are you trying to access their site from?

Re: the payment question. Instacart shoppers are mailed a company provided credit/debit card so they’re not stuck footing the bill and trying to collect payment.

pat
pat

Is there a problem working at/for Instacart and moving around the country, every 3-4 months? Does one need to “quit” then sign up when moving to another area?

I don’t think you need to sign up again. You should be able to just log into the app wherever you are and see if gigs are available near you.

AJ
AJ

What about car insurance? Do you need special insurance to use your car to deliver groceries?

They do ask for proof of insurance before hiring (and it has to be in your name).

Kylie Pillars
Kylie Pillars

Does Instacart send you a credit card as Postmates and DoorDash do?

They do. Once you pass the background check they mail one automatically. 🙂

Alina
Alina

I was charged for my background check, and I have a clean record. I thought it was free?

Instacart appears to have changed their position here as they used to be free. I recently tried to sign up to verify this/see how much it costs but it appears they’ve temporarily stopped accepting new shopper applications. Do you mind me asking how much it cost for the background check? I’d like to update the content to reflect the correct amount!

Thanks,

Ben

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