Forget Uber and Lyft — Be an Instacart Driver Instead

If you’ve been thinking about joining the gig economy but aren’t excited about transporting strangers in your car or being stuck in your car for an entire shift, just driving back and forth between local restaurants and customer’s houses, consider signing up for Instacart. Yes, you’ll still be driving, but you’ll be able to get...

If you’ve been thinking about joining the gig economy but aren’t excited about transporting strangers in your car or being stuck in your car for an entire shift, just driving back and forth between local restaurants and customer’s houses, consider signing up for Instacart.

Yes, you’ll still be driving, but you’ll be able to get out of your car and walk through the grocery store. If you enjoy grocery shopping, want a flexible and lucrative side hustle, and are ready to get started, keep reading.

This article will walk you through everything you need to know about being an Instacart driver and what you can earn, including how to maximize your earnings and the most frequently asked questions regarding being an Instacart driver.

What It’s Like to Be an Instacart Driver

If you like grocery shopping, being an Instacart personal shopper and driver might be a great gig economy option for you. Customers will give you a shopping list and tell you which of their favorite local stores they want you to shop at.

You’ll go to the store, purchase everything on the shopping list with your Instacart payment card, and deliver the entire order to your customer’s door. It’s a fairly straightforward job with a nice mix of activity walking around the grocery store and relaxing in your car en route to the customer’s door.

Being an Instacart driver is not a full-time job or even a part-time one. Instead, you will be an independent contractor. This means you’ll have a lot more control and be able to set your own schedule but you’ll also be responsible for things like remembering to pay taxes on your income, as they won’t automatically be deducted for you.

What You Can Earn as an Instacart Driver

Instacart Driver cash closeup

What your Instacart pay will be like depends on several different factors, starting with which city you’re working in. Each city and region in the United States has its own payment structure, which will be explained to you when you sign up to work for Instacart.

Some universal factors that determine your pay for delivering an order are:

  • Number of items: The bigger the order, the more you’ll earn for that order. This is reasonable as picking out 20 items takes longer than picking out five.
  • Per mile rate: Drivers are paid per mile driven between the store and the customer.
  • Peak boosts: These are bonuses shoppers and drivers receive for working during peak hours.
  • Customer tips: Shoppers and drivers get to keep 100 percent of the tips they receive.

One nice thing about Instacart is that you can preview an order prior to accepting it. This means you’ll be able to see an estimate of what you’ll earn from any given order before taking it so you can decide if it’s worth your time. You shouldn’t be super picky about the orders you accept, especially when starting out, but it’s always good to know what you’ll be earning up front.

Instacart claims its drivers earn substantially more than minimum wage. While your hourly earnings will fluctuate based on several factors, working for Instacart can be a good way to earn great money while having control of your own schedule.

How to Maximize Your Earnings as an Instacart Driver

Instacart Driver cash in wallet

Instacart advertises that its drivers can earn up to $25 per hour. While this is not what the average driver earns for every single hour worked, it is achievable in certain circumstances.

The typical Instacart driver should never earn less than $10 per hour, even if they are working during very slow times and there aren’t many orders to be delivered. Rush hours are the best times to work if you’re hoping to earn $25 per hour, as the peak boosts and generous tips from appreciative customers should help you hit that hourly rate.

And let’s talk about those tips for a second longer. Customer tips are 100 percent yours and can be substantial, as many people are used to tipping 10 to 20 percent for delivery services. They know they’re paying for the convenience and that tipping is a substantial part of your income as a delivery driver.

Some of what you earn in tips will be set by the customer before you have a chance to be timely and friendly, but as Instacart allows you to accept cash tips, you may just get another couple dollars handed to you by an especially grateful customer or one who recognizes and wants to reward your great service with extra money.

Another important thing you can do to increase your Instacart earnings is to make sure your order completion rate and driver reviews are as close to perfect as possible. Messing up orders and the resulting bad reviews mean you won’t be offered the higher ticket orders, which means a lower per order pay rate and smaller percentage-based tips. By ensuring you have access to the high ticket orders, you boost your earning potential.

Frequently Asked Questions

While many people have heard of Instacart as a grocery delivery service, there are a few questions that usually come up when someone is considering working for Instacart. We’ve addressed them below.

Where Does Instacart Operate?

Instacart operates in hundreds of cities across the United States and Canada with some of the most popular cities being Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto.

You can check the full list of where Instacart currently operates by clicking here.

When Will Instacart Be Coming to My City?

While Instacart is rapidly expanding, there is no official timeline for expansion into any given city.

If and when Instacart launches in your area, you’ll see ads for drivers appearing on websites like Craigslist. You can choose to be informed directly by Instacart by setting up a customer account on Instacart.com using the ZIP code you’d like to work in.

When Instacart starts offering shopping and delivery services in that ZIP code, you’ll be informed.

What Are the Requirements to Be an Instacart Delivery Driver?

Instacart Driver full-service shopper requirements

In order to become an Instacart delivery driver (also known as a “Full-Service Shopper”), you must meet certain basic requirements and have your own vehicle to deliver orders. To be an Instacart delivery driver you must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Be eligible to work in the United States
  • Have consistent access to a vehicle with appropriate insurance
  • Have a smartphone that is compatible with the Instacart driver app (iPhone 5 or newer or Android 4.4 or newer)
  • Be able to lift 30–40 pounds with or without accommodation
  • Be able to pass a background check

What Are the Requirements to Be an Instacart In-Store Shopper?

If you aren’t eligible to be an Instacart delivery driver, you may still meet the requirements to be an Instacart In-Store Shopper. To be an Instacart In-Store Shopper, you must:

  • Be 17 years or older
  • Be eligible to work in the United States
  • Have a smartphone that is compatible with the Instacart shopper app (iPhone 5 or newer or Android 4.4 or newer)
  • Be able to lift 30–40 pounds, on average, several times per day
  • Be able to pass a background check

In-Store Shoppers gather, purchase, and bag items at the grocery store based on a customer’s shopping list. They then hand off the delivery to someone else or the customer picks up their prepared order at the grocery store. Because In-Store Shoppers are not operating motor vehicles or entirely responsible for the safety of the food items at any point, the requirements are not as strict.

Give Instacart a Try

Instacart highly encourages people who are already working for other gig economy companies such as Uber, DoorDash, Lyft, or Postmates to join the Instacart family. So you can use Instacart to fill in the quiet gaps in your rideshare driver or restaurant food delivery schedule (like a Tuesday afternoon) by providing grocery delivery with Instacart.

As an independent contractor, quitting is easy if you decide the gig isn’t for you, but many Instacart drivers end up sticking around for a long time. Don’t be surprised if you do too.

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Owner of Gigworker.com 

Brett Helling is the owner of Gigworker.com. Since an early age, he has started business ventures and worked various side hustles in many different niches. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber and Lyft. In 2014 he started a website to share his experiences with other drivers, which has now become Ridester.com. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche by building and growing Gigworker.com. As the site grows, his insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more.

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