Instacart Shopper: Legit Side Hustle or Waste of Time?

These days, you can get everything delivered. Whether its clothes, household items, or even groceries, there is someone out there willing to deliver it for a price.

Of course, these services need people to do the work that they advertise. If you have a lot of free time on your hands, you can earn extra cash by picking up a side hustle. Rideshare services and food delivery are popular side hustles for people on the go. Now, you can get paid to grocery shop.

Instacart is a service that allows people to build a grocery list from an app and have it delivered to their doorstep. You can create a grocery list from your favorite grocery store and have someone shop for and deliver your groceries—usually in two hours or less.

From a customer point of view, this can be pretty enticing. However, we wanted to examine Instacart from the perspective of a shopper.

How much money can you actually earn from being an Instacart Shopper? Find out below.

What is Instacart?

Instacart allows you to shop for groceries online and have them delivered to your home.

You can also choose to pick up groceries from the store, and an Instacart shopper will prepare your order for you.

It was founded in 2012 by Apoorva Mehta, and it is one of the fastest-growing tech companies in North America.

They currently operate in North America and Canada. Instacart has great availability across both countries. Their scope extends beyond major cities, and many small towns are serviced through Instacart.

They are constantly expanding their market, so reach out to their team if you believe that your city is a good fit for Instacart.

Instacart Shopper Options

Through Instacart, you have two options when it comes to working for them.

You can either work as a full-service shopper or an in-store shopper. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s dive into the details of each type of Instacart employment.

Instacart Full-Service Shopper

The most popular way to earn through Instacart is as a full-service shopper.

As a full-service shopper, you can shop on your own schedule. You would shop for and deliver customers’ orders to their homes based on their specified delivery time. This means that you need access to your own vehicle to get to the store and to a customer’s residence.

People that are already involved in personal shopping and transportation industries are welcomed. Instacart encourages anyone that has access to a vehicle and the ability to shop and make orders to be a professional shopper.

Instacart Full-Service Shopper Requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years or older
  • Eligible to work in the United States
  • Access to a vehicle
  • Access to a smartphone (iPhone 5 or Android 4.4 or newer models)
  • Ability to lift 50 pounds with or without accommodation

Instacart In-Store Shopper

If you don’t have consistent access to a vehicle, Instacart has other options to make money. You can be an instore shopper with Instacart as well.

As an in-store shopper, you will put together customers’ orders to be ready for pickup. Rather than having Instacart deliverers bring the groceries to them, customers can come to the store and have the groceries brought out and loaded into their car. The in-store Instacart employee will handle this task from start to finish.

Unlike a full-service shopper, in-store shoppers are not independent contractors. Instead, they are considered part-time employees. You still have the capability to create a schedule that is flexible for you. Instacart allows you to work up to 29 hours per week.

If you are looking for seasonal, entry-level, weekend, or weekday work, working as an in-store shopper is a solid option.

Instacart In-Store Shopper Requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years or older
  • Eligible to work in the United States
  • Access to a smartphone (iPhone 5 or Android 4.4 or newer models)
  • Ability to lift 50 pounds with or without accommodation

How Much Do Instacart Shoppers Make?

The Instacart app shows you how much you are making per week in the Earnings tab. They advertise that shoppers can make up to $25 per hour, but most shoppers report earnings of about $14 to $18 per hour.

Like other forms of gig-based work, how much you make depends on how much time you invest in it. Your earning is dependent on the number of hours you work, the number of orders you complete, and the type of orders you complete.

If you work the max number of hours per week, you will obviously earn more than someone who works an hour or two a day.

Again, your earning rate is variable, but that isn’t bad for part-time contract work.

Instacart shoppers can also receive tips and get to keep 100% of tips. A customer has the option to add (or lower) a tip for up to three days after the order. Keep this in mind as you complete Instacart orders.

How Can I Maximize My Instacart Shopper Earnings?

There are a few ways to make sure that you’re making the most that you can through Instacart.

For starters, be eager and available. Set any downtime that you have as available through Instacart, and this will ensure that you have orders rolling in.

Another way to earn more is by following instructions closely, making deliveries on time, and being friendly.

Tips can account for a large amount of your earnings, and it’s best to do everything that you can to secure a good tip.

Instacart Shopper Hours

You will still need to indicate when you are available to take orders.

Instacart does not operate like rideshare apps where you can hop on when you feel like it. Instacart wants its shoppers to be more consistent than that.

After all, people tend to have specific days that they buy their groceries. Instacart wants to match people’s shopping patterns.

You will need to select hour blocks throughout the week that you are available. If you become unavailable, you can adjust your availability. However, this can make it a difficult side hustle for people that have everchanging schedules.

Signing Up For Instacart Shopper Jobs

So how do you get started as an Instacart shopper?

First, you go to their website. You must initially provide basic personal information, such as you name, email, and telephone number.From there, they will ask you about your phone. They have specific requirements regarding what model your phone is and how reliable it is.

After you submit this information, you will be asked to complete a detailed registration page. This will include questions similar to that you might be asked if you were interviewing for a part time job. After all, they want quality shoppers representing Instacart.

They will also ask you to provide a driver’s license and a preferred method of payment.

The last step is the background check. Instacart will perform a background check on you to make sure that you don’t have anything nefarious on your record. This usually takes a week or two. After you are cleared, you should be approved and ready to build your schedule.

Pros and Cons

As with any job, there are things to love and things to hate. Working as an Instacart Shopper is no different.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of Instacart jobs.


  • Flexible Schedule: There’s nothing better than making money on your own time. With Instacart, you are able to select the hours that work for you and adjust your schedule as you go. This goes for both full-service and in-store shoppers.
  • No Special Skills Needed: Everyone has to go grocery shopping, which means that there is nothing you need to learn to get started! As long as you are adept reading customer instructions and can make deliveries on time, you should have success
  • Easy To Get Started: Getting started on Instacart is as simple as filling out some documents online. If you decide to work as an in-store shopper, you will have to attend an in-person orientation. Otherwise, everything can be done from the comfort of your home!


  • Low-Paying Orders: Not every order is going to pay you well. You may have a customer that only needs two items and lives 20 miles away. This is not a lucrative trip, but you may run into trouble if you pass on every low paying opportunity. Instacart will kick you out of the app if you reject too many orders in a day.
  • Bad Customers: Don’t forget, this is a service job. You are bound to have some customers that aren’t polite or appreciative, no matter how good of a job you do.
  • Tech Trouble: Like all technology, the Instacart app isn’t perfect. The app has a bad habit of allowing two shoppers to accept the same order. This means that you may go to the store, purchase the groceries, and deliver them to the customer only to find out that someone else made it there first. The silver lining? Instacart lets you keep the groceries for free.

Instacart Shopper FAQs

How Does Instacart Make Money?

The first way that Instacart makes money is through delivery fees. Instacart charges $5.99 on orders over $35 and $7.99 on orders under $35.

Instacart also charges optional membership fees. They have a unique subscription service called Instacart Express. Customers pay an annual fee of $149 and receive free delivery on all orders over $35.

Grocery partnerships are also an important source of revenue for Instacart. Grocery delivery has become more popular, and grocery stores know that this will impact their business. Instacart teams up with grocery stores to offer services through the store. The companies are able to share the revenue from the purchases.

Lastly, Instacart partners with specific brands to drive revenue. Instacart offers special deals and discounts through their app. This is a way for brands to drive sales and an opportunity for customers to save when they shop through Instacart.

Are There Any Hidden Costs?

Unfortunately, yes. There are a number of costs to take into account before you begin working with Instacart.

The first is that they do not reimburse you for gas. This can make a huge difference if you’re making deliveries to customers who live far away. However, you are able to write off the miles that you drive when you file your taxes. This can help you earn some of that money back in your refund.

Another cost is that you are depreciating your vehicle the more that you drive. You also may see the miles creep up in maintenance costs.

Finally, you should be saving some of the money you make for taxes. Instacart does not withdraw taxes from your pay, which means that you will need to make quarterly tax payments to the IRS.

Like other freelancers, you will receive a 1099 form that lets you know how much you made and how much you owe. Ideally, you should be putting about 25% away to pay back at the end of each quarter.

How Do I Complete Orders?

Orders come through about 30 minutes before a scheduled start time. This gives you some time to decide if you want to take the order or pass on it.

Keep in mind that, much like rideshare apps, you can only pass on a number of orders per session before the app boots you out.

If you choose to accept an order, you would head to the specified grocery store and begin shopping like you normally would.

The app will display the shopping list, and you can check off items as you pick them up. If an item is not available, you can note this as well. The customer will either be refunded for the item, or you can communicate with them about a substitute item. Wash, rinse, and repeat until you have all of the items on the list.

How Do I Pay For Orders?

If you’re worried about having to front the cost for other people’s groceries, Instacart has you covered.

They issue each shopper a special debit card that is used specifically for Instacart orders. The debit card is loaded with funds as you pick up orders. It knows exactly how much each order should cost, so it will decline your order if you go over that amount.

This means that you don’t have to use your own cards or bank account to front the money for customers.

Alternatives to Instacart Shopper Jobs

In the same way that rideshare drivers may have two apps open at once, you can deliver for more than one grocery delivery app.

If you are serious about maximizing on grocery delivery as a side gig, here are some other apps you should consider.


Shipt is another popular grocery delivery app that lets you work on your own schedule.

As a Shipt shopper, you make 7.5% of the total order cost, $5 for delivery, and any tips added. They claim that you can make up to $22 per hour, but this pay projection factors in tips, which are not guaranteed.

Shipt allows you to shop more than one order at a time, which makes it easy to boost your earnings through the app. They also offer bonuses to new workers who excel.

One of the major complaints about Shipt is that shoppers often spend much of their time texting with customers regarding substitute items on their order. This can drag out the process and irritate customers leading to poor tips.

Learn More:


Deliv is an app that pays drivers to deliver goods beyond just groceries.

Available in major US cities, Deliv promises a maximum pay of $22 per hour. However, the reported pay is much lower than this.

Deliv drivers report making about $10 to $12 per hour, which is about half of their advertised rate. Drivers work within contracted hourly blocks, but those blocks may not be compensated if you don’t have any orders during that time. A plus of working with Deliv is that they offer supplemental

insurance in case your insurance company doesn’t cover something. While it’s not the best choice for delivery apps, it is an option for those in major cities.

Amazon Flex

As a part of the largest online retailer, Amazon Flex is able to compensate more than any other delivery app.
Drivers for Amazon Flex earn a minimum of $18 per hour and can earn a max of $25 per hour. This is one of the few delivery apps whose minimum pay is above minimum wage.

However, it is not a perfect app. Some drivers complain that they have to drive an hour or more to get to a warehouse. Gas is not compensated, and you have to return the packages if the customer isn’t home.

All things considered, Amazon Flex is a great opportunity for freelancers who live in close proximity to an Amazon warehouse.

Should You Become an Instacart Shopper?

Instacart is one of the better grocery delivery apps out there.

Other apps have specific requirements regarding what kind of car you drive, and many don’t offer options for people that don’t own a car.

If you have large chunks of free time, have a depreciated vehicle, and are looking to earn around $300 per week, Instacart is a great option for you.

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  • Comment Author image blank
    Some of your Instacart information is incorrect. I can get on and off the app whenever i feel like working. You don't sign up for specific times. I don't get booted out if I don't accept an order. Other people just pick the orders up if you wait too long. There are several other bits of misinformation but that's all I'll mention tonight.
  • Comment Author image blank
    Instacart is a multi-billion dollar company for a reason. IC pays the shoppers sometimes as low as $3 per order. Not enough to compensate for gas/wear & tear on your vehicle let alone your time, energy, and effort to carefully grocery shop the order. It's only gotten worse with covid19. IC has no shame, apparently, in gaining huge profits off the backs of poorly compensated shoppers. I don't recommend working for IC at all. I understand in these times $3 or $7 or, if you're lucky, $9-$11 per order is better than $0 income. IF you have ANY other income opportunity, take it before signing up with IC.