Instacart is an industry leader when it comes to the world of grocery delivery. For both independent contractors looking for work and customers looking for help with their groceries, Instacart is one of the top gig economy companies leading the market.
Instacart is preferred for self-employed workers because of flexible hours and schedules, but delivery drivers for Instacart also enjoy relatively high wages, especially when compared to minimum wage or other kinds of part-time jobs.
One of the biggest benefits for Instacart drivers and other types of freelance workers is the ability to earn as much as you are willing to work. By being your own boss, you can set your own hours and work as much or little as you want. Overall, Instacart drivers report that based on how many hours they drive, the location where they are delivering, and the times that they deliver during, drivers are typically happy with the wages they earn.
As the gig economy continues to expand, self-employed workers are looking for the best opportunities to earn more money. Whether shopping for Instacart is a full-time job, a part-time gig or side hustle, temporary work, or just a job for additional income, many consider how much Instacart pays their shoppers. In this article we will explore how to maximize earnings if you shop and deliver for Instacart.
What is Instacart?
Instacart is a gig economy company that offers grocery delivery service. By providing a range of functions on the service-end, Instacart provides workers with more options than some other delivery service companies. The roles of Instacart drivers ranges from Full-Service Shoppers to In-Store Shoppers.
Full-service shoppers, just like the name explains, complete the full-service process for Instacart. From receiving the order (or “batch”) full-service shoppers pick up the items from the local grocery stores and complete the delivery to the customers. Full-service shoppers have the flexibility of working on an order-by-order basis – accepting orders as they wish, picking up the customers’ order, and delivering the items.
In-store shoppers make life easier for drivers or customers who opt to pick up their orders curbside. Some customers don’t like to wait for the driver to travel to their residence, and only want to stop by the store, where their orders are ready for them.
In-store shoppers spend all their time shopping inside of the grocery stores, which makes their scheduling process a little different compared to the full-service shoppers. Instead of being paid on an order-by-order rate, in-store shoppers work hourly shifts. This makes the hiring situation a little bit different for In-Store shoppers, who are technically part-time employees of Instacart – which offers these employees benefits, including 401(k) packages.
How to Drive for Instacart
Starting the process of becoming an Instacart driver is as simple as downloading the Instacart Shopper app. On the app, you will provide basic personal information, and approve permission for a background check. Depending on whether you sign up to be a full-service shopper or an in-store shopper, you’ll need to fill out the appropriate paperwork. In-store shoppers are technically part-time employees and need to fill out a W-4 form for taxes, and an offer letter for Instacart. Full-service shoppers are independent contractors and fill out a W-9 and contract agreement.
If you want to be an In-Store shopper, you’ll have to sign up for an in-person onboarding orientation. You can select your session in the app and attend in-store for your training.
The next step to becoming an Instacart worker is to register for the preloaded payment card. Shoppers use this cart to check out the orders for their customers, so you’ll need to get the card before you can start to accept Instacart orders.
Most people with a smartphone can work for Instacart. If you don’t have a vehicle, you can still work for Instacart as an In-Store shopper, but if you have a valid driver’s license, access to a car, and the minimum level of insurance coverage to drive in your state, you can drive and deliver as a full-service shopper.
Instacart functions in over 5,000 U.S. and Canadian cities – if you want to check if there are openings to work in your area, download the Instacart Shopper app and check for availability in your area. Drivers must be 18 years of age or older, but if you want to be able to deliver alcohol, you typically must be over 21 years old.
Workers that want to deliver for Instacart should usually be able to lift at least 30 pounds, or as much as 50 pounds, with relative ease. Think about the weight of a large load of groceries, then think about lifting that load over-and-over during a work shift. If that sounds uncomfortable for you, delivering for Instacart might not be the right job for you.
Tips for Instacart Drivers
The best tip for Instacart drivers is to be deliberate about choosing batches to accept. If the order is too far away, or the order has too many items in it, you might want to consider rejecting that order. Orders that require you to travel further and run around the store to find more items are going to take longer to complete, which will take too much of your time and won’t be worth it.
As a self-employed worker, it is important to understand the tax benefits and write-offs available to you. In addition to self-employment taxes, there are a number of tax deductions and write-offs available for independent contractors.
As a self-employed worker, you most likely need to report quarterly taxes. To maximize earnings as an Instacart driver, make sure to take full advantage of those tax deductions available for self-employed workers and independent contractors. For example, as an independent contractor, you can deduct all business expenses from business income, which increases your bottom line. Make sure to keep track of all your miles, gas purchases, and car maintenance expenses.
By using an app to track your mileage (like Stride, or MileIQ), you can easily manage logs of your miles to have ready for tax season. In addition to mileage logs, you should also keep receipts for all business-related expenses – such as car maintenance costs, gas, cell phones, phone bills, and any other business expenses.
Finding busy areas to work in will also result in higher numbers of batch requests when you clock in for work. By identifying hot spots (red areas) with peak pay on the map in the Instacart Shopper app, you can find the areas where you will have the best chances of picking up orders.
Keeping your ratings up will increase the likelihood of receiving orders – providing high quality customer service will increase your ratings. Keep track of your rating and be mindful of how you interact with customers when you drop off orders. Fast and friendly service will result in higher ratings, which will increase the number of orders accepted and also increase the number and size of your tips.
How Much Does Instacart Pay?
There are several factors that go into the hourly pay that Instacart drivers make. The hours of delivery will likely determine the demand for orders, which will influence the number of orders available to pick up. In addition to the hours worked, the location that drivers are working in also governs the level of demand and number of orders there are available to pick up. For the most part, more heavily populated areas, like large cities, are more popular for Instacart orders.
Another major factor that contributes to the hourly pay for Instacart drivers is the customer tips received on shift. By going the extra mile to provide exceptional customer service, full-service shoppers can make an impression on customers and earn tips during deliveries. Instacart drivers keep 100% of their tips.
In-store shoppers get paid based on fixed, hourly wages. Those wages vary based on the location that the shoppers are working in.
Full-service shoppers get paid on an order-by-order basis. An estimate, provided by Instacart, guarantees at least $5 for every delivery-only batch order, and between $7-10 for every full-service batch order, which includes pick-up/shopping, and delivering the order. The amount paid for each order delivered depends on the total number of items in the order, the type of items being picked up, the driving distance traveled during the order, and the overall effort involved for the shopper to pick up and deliver the order.
Based on the rates for orders, a large grocery order with heavy items will result in higher pay for the shopper compared to a smaller shopping job with light items. Additionally, the rates for pay are increased during busier times. A tip for earning more is to work during holidays or during popular events.
On average, across the country, Instacart drivers typically report earning around $20 per hour, which includes tips (about 5-20% of most orders). However, the most efficient drivers in busy areas report earning as much as $45 per hour.