How To Make The Most Money with Instacart

Driving for Instacart can be a great side hustle, but how do you maximize how much you make? Even though you are your own boss, some factors can affect how much you make. I’ve disclosed the top secrets for how to make the most money with Instacart below.

How to Make the Most Money With Instacart Tips

You can’t control how much Instacart pays per batch, but you can increase your earnings with some planning:

  1. Strategize
  2. Aim for Top Customer Ratings
  3. Know the Best Days and Times to Work
  4. Choose a Relatively Close Radius
  5. Become a Professional Check-Out Line Chooser
  6. Save Gas With Multiple Orders
  7. Track Your Tax Deductions
  8. Seek Out Bonuses

1. Strategize

It pays to start your Instacart gig with a plan each day you log into the app. Set your boundaries, and know what you will and will not accept so you don’t get caught up in the excitement of making money and end up with orders that waste your time and lower your per-hour rate.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Know how many orders you can handle in a day – Don’t overwhelm yourself with more than you can handle, but also set parameters so you meet your financial goals.
  • Don’t accept every order – Don’t feel like you must take every order. Before accepting, take the time to ensure they’re worth the time and mileage.
  • Communicate with your customer – Let your customer know when the store is out of items or if you’re running behind because lines are long. The more you communicate, the better the tips.
  • Keep track of the items – Check items off the list as you shop so you don’t miss anything.
  • Bag the groceries carefully – Bag your customer’s groceries as if they were your own to ensure everything gets to them in one piece.

2. Aim for Top Customer Ratings

Top customer ratings help you get more orders sent to you, and you’ll get better tips. Learn how to provide excellent customer service to increase your earnings.

Be Timely to Deliver

When customers place an order, they expect it to be delivered within the time promised. So do everything you can to meet that window. If you can’t, be sure to contact your customer and let them know you’re running behind and why.

Some situations can’t be controlled, like long lines at the grocery store, traffic, or having difficulty finding certain products. Staying in communication with your customer is the key to keeping them happy.

Follow All Specified Instructions

Some customers are picky about their groceries. Read the instructions carefully to ensure you know what they want, and if you’re unsure, ask questions. Don’t assume because you might get it wrong and risk upsetting the customer.

Offer Quality Substitutions

If the store is out of an item the customer requested, offer quality substitutions. But, again, never assume a substitution is acceptable; always ask. Sometimes customers would rather delete the item from their list than take a substitution.

Practice Strong Communication

Communication is the key to succeeding as an Instacart driver. Customers love hearing when you accept their order, are at the store, and are finished shopping. So while you shouldn’t overwhelm them with messages, the more information you can provide, the happier they’ll be.

3. Know the Best Days and Times to Work

Each area has days and times that are the busiest, so get to know your area. You can find out how many orders are in the app by logging on and checking the number of orders.

While each area is different, expect weekends to be the busiest, but during the week, you may see rushes in the morning and evening hours. However, you won’t see too many orders during the day because most people are at work.

Figure out which days and times are the busiest in your area, and make yourself available during those times to maximize your earnings.

4. Choose a Relatively Close Radius

Time is money, but so is distance when you’re using gas and putting wear and tear on your car. So don’t drive all over the place. Instead, choose a radius and stick to it.

If you take orders too far away, you’ll decrease your per-hour rate because you’ll spend more time driving and delivering the order. This doesn’t consider any traffic or obstacles you’ll encounter. In addition, delays in getting the order to the customer reduce your hourly rate.

So sticking with a close radius is key to help you you make the most of your time.

5. Become a Professional Check-Out Line Chooser

Try to avoid being the person that always picks the wrong line. You know the lines that don’t move because either the cashier moves slowly or there’s a difficult customer at the checkout.

Get used to assessing the lines and determining which will move the fastest. If your store allows you to do self-checkout, you’ll put yourself in a better situation. You control how fast or slow you check out and bag the groceries. The better you get at it, the more money you’ll make per hour by not wasting time in line.

6. Save Gas With Multiple Orders

If you are organized enough, you can pick up a couple of orders at once and deliver them. This works best if the orders are within the same vicinity and from the same store. Remember, you still have the customer’s window to adhere to, so you get the best tips.

But if you can limit the amount you must drive your car, you reduce the wear and tear and save money on gas, not to mention increasing your hourly rate.

7. Track Your Tax Deductions

Instacart drivers are independent contractors. This means you’re responsible for your own taxes, but you may also be eligible for certain tax deductions, especially milage.

Keep track of the miles you drive for Instacart and any other expenses, such as car repairs, gas, parking, and tolls. If you buy any other supplies to make you successful at driving for Instacart, you may also be able to write the expenses off. Keep receipts for everything and talk to your tax advisor about what you can deduct.

8. Seek Out Bonuses

Instacart pays bonuses periodically, which can help you earn more money. So always look for new promotions to see if you can bump up your earnings like the following:

Sign-Up Bonus

When Instacart needs more shoppers, they offer a sign-up bonus. The amount they offer changes periodically, so check back often to see what you can make as a new driver.

Shopper Bumps

Instacart also offers promotions to motivate drivers to take orders or to provide quality service. For example, sometimes they have peak pay which means they pay higher rates to get more drivers to pick up orders. They may also pay quality bonuses for drivers who get a 5-star rating within a certain window.

Other instances when you may get a ‘bump’ include if you have special circumstances, such as delivering in bad weather or being bitten by a dog.

Pay attention to the latest promotions to take advantage of the higher-paying opportunities. So, for example, if there’s a window, they pay more per batch because of the higher demand, and you can work it, go ahead and take advantage of the higher pay.

Don’t Forget to Bring These Items With You

It’s important to be prepared as an Instacart driver. You are your own boss, and it’s up to you to find ways to keep customers happy. To do this, be sure you have the following:

  • Your Phone Charger: Your phone is your money maker. Without it, you can’t see the customer’s order, where to deliver it, or communicate with your customer. Don’t get caught without a phone charger because you never know when your battery might die.
  • Freezer Bags to Store Groceries: Freezer bags can help keep your customer’s groceries fresh. You can store frozen, dairy, or meat items in the bag to keep them cooler for longer. Going that extra step shows your customers that you care, which might get you higher tips. Keep in mind you must buy insulated bags yourself. You can buy them from Instacart or provide your own; however, Instacart must approve them before you can use them for your orders.

What Is It Like to Shop for Instacart?

Instacart shoppers shop for a customer’s groceries and deliver them to their doorstep. You’re provided with the customer’s information and their entire grocery list that you pick up at the chosen store.

You can choose which orders you want and pass on those you don’t. If the store is out of an item or if you have a question about a product, you can communicate with the customer via the app.

You don’t have to pay for the order; instead, you check out with your Instacart payment card. Then you load the order in your car and deliver it to the customer.

The better customer service you provide, the higher tips you’ll receive. So it’s important to stay in contact with your customers, letting them know when you’ve arrived at the store and when you’re leaving to head to their house.

It can be fun but also demanding to be an Instacart shopper. You’ll deal with unruly customers and have difficult orders like any gig or job. The nice thing, however, is you choose which orders you take, and if you don’t like an order, you aren’t obligated to accept it.

Who Can Be a Shopper?

To be an Instacart shopper, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have access to a reliable vehicle
  • Be able to lift up to 40 pounds
  • Have access to a smartphone

Of course, it helps if Instacart is active in your community. Instacart is currently located in 5,500 cities but is always trying to expand.

Shopper Pay Scale

Many factors affect your pay as an Instacart shopper, including the location, demand, time of day, and order size. On average, Instacart guarantees drivers $7 to $10 per batch plus customer tips.

You may also make more if you deliver during peak times or qualify for a quality bonus, which means the customer gave you five stars.

On average, Instacart shoppers make $15 an hour, but it varies based on where you’re located, how much you work, and the type of service you provide.

Difference Between Full-Service and In-Store Shoppers

Instacart offers two ways to shop for them. Independent contractors are full-service shoppers, but you may also be an in-store shopper. Here’s the difference.

Details About Full-Service Shopping

Full-service shoppers are independent contractors that choose orders from the app and shop for the items at the store. They then deliver them to the customer’s house. You handle the entire process and earn an average of $7 to $10 per batch, plus tips.

Details About In-Store Shopping

In-store Instacart shoppers are part-time shoppers that are employees of Instacart. You can work up to 29 hours a week and must choose shifts to work. So unlike a full-service shopper, you must predetermine your schedule rather than turning the app on and working when you want.

The requirements to be an in-store shopper are the same as a full-service shopper. The largest difference is instead of delivering the orders; you shop, check out, and bag the orders and stage them for customer pickup at the store.

Which Should You Choose?

A full-service shopper is the better option if you like your freedom, want to work whenever you want, and like customer tips. You’ll likely earn more per hour and have more control over when you work.

However, if you like a preset schedule and knowing how much you’ll make per hour, working as an Instacart employee isn’t bad, but know that you’ll have less control.

Cities That Have the Most Instacart Opportunities

Each city has a different demand for Instacart, which can change anytime. However, these are the cities with the greatest demand for Instacart currently:

  • New York City, NY
  • Denver, CO
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Washington, DC
  • San Francisco, CA

Deciding Where to Work as a Shopper

You should try to stick as close to home as possible when shopping for Instacart, but if you live in a less populated area or an area with low demand for Instacart, you may want to position yourself elsewhere.

If you find another area that’s a longer drive but is better, set aside a few hours to work the area. Don’t leave the area until you’re done working, and then head back home. Consider it your commuting time, just like when you work in an office. While you’ll drive more miles, if the pay is higher and there are more orders, it’s likely worth it.

Pros & Cons of Delivering for Instacart

All side hustles have pros and cons, and not every side hustle will be right for you. Here’s what to consider when deciding if Instacart is right for you.


  • You work when you want, working as little or as much as you desire
  • You keep 100% of the customer tips
  • You don’t have to deal with people in your car like Uber or Lyft
  • You get to move around a lot and get to know different grocery store products
  • You can get paid instantly for a small fee if you need the cash


  • There’s no guarantee there will be orders during the times you can work
  • You might have a lot of downtimes
  • It puts a lot of wear and tear on your car
  • Your car insurance premiums will increase
  • There’s a lot of physical labor involved
  • You may have to deal with cranky customers

Frequently Asked Questions

Making money with Instacart is easy, but there are downsides to consider. Consider all aspects of driving for Instacart before starting.

What Is the Total of Instacart’s Retail Partnerships Where Shoppers Can Field Orders?

Instacart works with over 750 retail brands locally and nationwide in over 70,000 stores and 5,500 cities.

How Do You Become an Instacart Shopper?

It’s easy to become an Instacart shopper. As long as you have a valid license, are 18 or older, have a reliable car, and can lift groceries, you can be an Instacart shopper. Download the app and click ‘sign up’ to start your journey.

How Do You Create a Work Schedule With Instacart?

Instacart shoppers can log on and off the app as they please. In many areas, though, shoppers must create their schedule in the app a week before it starts. You’re still in control of when you work, but you must request the shifts in the app to ensure you get orders.

During your shift, you’ll receive available orders, but you have the right to turn them down; you don’t have to take every order that comes through on your shift.

Can You Drive Outside of Your Instacart Schedule?

In some areas, you can pick up shifts whenever you want. It depends on the area and the normal practice there. Instacart will tell you the normal practice in your area when you apply.

How Do Instacart Shoppers Pay for the Groceries at the Store?

Instacart provides drivers with a card to pay for the groceries at checkout. As a result, drivers never have to use their own funds.

What Is Instacart+ and How Does It Work?

Instacart+, formerly Instacart Express, is an optional membership. Customers don’t have to be members, but if they do, they get the following benefits:

  • No delivery fee on orders of $35 or more
  • Lower service fees

Do You Have to Have a License and Car Insurance as an Instacart Shopper?

To be a full-service Instacart shopper, you must have a license and a reliable car. However, you can be an in-store shopper if you don’t have a license or car.

Do You Have to Have a Background Check to Shop for Instacart?

Yes, Instacart checks backgrounds to ensure their drivers are fit to work with customers.

How Do You Claim Batches With Instacart?

You’ll see batches in your Instacart app up to 30 minutes before your scheduled shift. After that, you can choose to accept or pass on the batches. To increase the number of batches you receive, provide great customer service, so you get five-star reviews. Instacart gives priority to the best drivers first.

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