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Instacart vs Postmates: Driver Comparison Guide

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Move over Uber and Lyft.

Grocery delivery services are on the rise and grabbing the attention of gig workers and rideshare drivers looking to make some extra cash.

Delivering groceries, takeout orders, and alcohol could possibly be your next side hustle, but is the role right for you?

We’re here to help you figure that out and give you an inside peek at two of the hottest on-demand delivery services out there: Instacart and Postmates.

For current gig workers, driving for a delivery service can be a fantastic way to fill up your working schedule.

There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from enrolling in another service to try and maximize your earnings while you’re on the clock.

In fact, it’s actually encouraged by these two platforms.

Since you’re setting your own schedule, deciding when you want to work and how many hours you want to put in, it only makes sense to fit in as many jobs as you can.

So if you’re new to the gig economy and interested in some high-level information or you’re actively looking to add an extra shift to your schedule, you’ve definitely come to the right place.

You’ll take away some useful insights like what Instacart and Postmates are, what are some of the requirements to become a worker, and how much you can expect to earn.

What Are Instacart and Postmates?

Instacart vs Postmates: Driver Comparison Guide

Instacart and Postmates are both delivery services that each put their unique spin on delivery.

Instacart focuses solely on grocery delivery, while Postmates is a catch-all service that handles grocery, restaurant orders, alcohol delivery, and almost anything else you can think of. Instacart vs Postmates: Comparison Guide

Although their offerings are slightly different, these delivery apps work the same way.

Users log onto the app, order items they need, and then you receive their order and must fulfill it.

That’s a pretty high-level explanation, so let’s get into the weeds to explain further.


Postmates will literally deliver anything to your door (except for a few restricted items).

It offers the same grocery delivery service as Instacart, however, slightly less streamlined since Instacart specializes in only that space.

As a Postmates courier, you’ll be responsible for accepting orders from customers, driving to a local store or restaurant where their products are, purchasing with a pre-paid Postmates card, and then delivering them to wherever they are.

Delivering for Postmates means you’ll need to pick up and deliver anything from take-out restaurant orders to weekly groceries to office supplies.

This means you’ll be picking up orders from any store in town.

Instacart vs Postmates: Driver Comparison Guide - What is Postmates

Postmates does have some partner stores like Walmart, however, it enlists nearly every eligible store in town for their service without businesses’ consent.

This can sometimes lead to awkward situations for drivers who are picking up food from a disgruntled restaurant owner who feels as though his or her delivery drivers are more than capable of performing this job.

Another aspect that sets Postmates apart is that it operates 24/7 allowing you to work around the clock if you wanted to.

This is not the case for Instacart, which opens as early as 9:00 a.m. and closes as late as 12:00 a.m.

So how does the rest compare to Instacart?


Instacart is a grocery delivery platform that focuses its business model on only (you guessed it) groceries.

As an Instacart driver, you’ll accept orders from customers, hunt down every item up and down the grocery aisles, pay with an Instacart credit card, and then deliver the groceries to wherever they need to go.

Instacart vs Postmates: Driver Comparison Guide - What is Instacart

Unlike Postmates, Instacart creates partnerships with each of its participating grocery stores, like Costco.

This helps avoid those awkward encounters mentioned above, no need to worry here.

Instacart also has an additional work option if you aren’t keen on driving.

If it’s a better fit, you’re able to sign up to become an in-store shopper.

Not sure where you fit into this picture?

Becoming a Postmates or Instacart shopper have some requirements that may help you decide which is best.

What Are the Worker Requirements?

Between the two delivery companies, the requirements for becoming a driver or shopper are fairly similar.

Both services require contractors who have a clean background and are fully capable of handling all delivery duties.

For both Postmates and Instacart, drivers must be prepared to undergo a thorough background check that looks back up to seven years.

Serious offenses, like felonies, DUIs, violent crimes, drug-related offenses, and sexual misconduct are disqualifiers for employment.

It’s up to each of these companies to apply their own discretion during the hiring process.


One of the main differences of Postmates delivery is that it allows its drivers to operate several types of vehicles.

This frees up opportunities for eager drivers who may not have access to a vehicle.

A scooter, bicycle, or even walking will suffice in some Postmates markets.

The full requirements for becoming a Postmates driver are the following:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Own a car, truck, scooter, bicycle, or motorcycle to complete deliveries (Postmates allows you to walk in some cases)
  • Vehicle must be insured
  • Pass a background check
  • Own a smartphone capable of running the Postmates app


Since the job is nearly the same, the requirements are not all that much different.

The one thing that sticks out is that Instacart requires a vehicle (car) and not a motorcycle, scooter, or bicycle.

The driver requirements for Instacart are the following:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Able to lift 30–40 pounds, several times per day
  • Able to legally work in the United States
  • Have access to a functioning vehicle
  • Vehicle must be insured
  • Pass a background check
  • Own a smartphone capable of running the Instacart driver app

As mentioned above, besides being an Instacart delivery person, you can also choose to become an in-store shopper for Instacart.

Shopper requirements are a little more lenient since you won’t be needing a vehicle to deliver food with.

Instacart vs Postmates: Driver Comparison Guide - Instacart requirements

Also, since the shopper role is a part-time position, you’re limited to only being able to work a maximum of 29 hours per week.

Here are the Instacart shopper requirements:

  • Must be at least 17 years old
  • Able to legally work in the United States
  • Own a smartphone capable of running the Instacart app
  • Able to lift 30–40 pounds, several times per day

Now that you know what the requirements are, let’s see if the pay is up your alley.

How Is the Pay Calculated?

Instacart and Postmates reward their drivers through a calculated pay rate that varies from order to order.

Both of these platforms pay drivers on a per order basis instead of an hourly wage.

According to our research, Instacart shoppers should expect to earn between $10–$17 per hour, and Postmates drivers should earn around $11 per hour, plus tips.

These rates will vary depending on the city, time of day, amount of tips, and how a driver utilizes bonuses while driving.

For Postmates, the fare accounts for the time spent and distance traveled during the delivery.

On the other hand, Instacart rewards you with a flat delivery fee and an additional fee per order item.

It’s important to remember that neither of these platforms will compensate for your personal expenses, like car insurance, depreciation of your vehicle, or fuel consumption.

Let’s take a look at what a Postmates fare will look like.


Postmates rates reward you for how much time you put into the order and how far you need to travel.

On each of your Postmates fares you will see the following service fees:

  • Pickup
  • Drop-off
  • Per minute rate (includes wait time while at the pickup location)
  • Per mile rate (between the pickup and drop-off point)
  • Bonuses
  • Tips (you keep 100 percent)

On very small orders you should not need to worry since there is a minimum delivery amount depending on which city you are working in.

This minimum is usually around $3.00–$4.00.


Instacart has a payment structure that compensates drivers based on the size of each order.

Since one of the main difficulties of this job is searching around the grocery store for order items, Instacart rewards shoppers for the pains the large orders cause.

The Instacart payment will vary from city to city but a typical fare will be laid out as follows:

  • Delivery Fee: This flat rate can be around $5.99 per order
  • Per Item: Shoppers receive $0.30 per “unique” item.
  • Tip (you keep 100 percent)

You may be thinking, what does a unique item mean?

What this means is that if an order has duplicates of the same item, the driver is only paid for one.

For instance, looking at the example below you’ll notice that if someone were to order duplicates of a very large item, it can only be counted as one.

Then compare that to three very light items.

You can be the judge.

  • 1 orange juice + 1 package of paper towels + 1 candy bar = $0.90
  • 10 cases of water = $0.30

This could prove to be quite annoying if you receive an order like the one above.

Are There Bonuses and Incentives for Each Platform?

In order to make the most of every minute and hour you drive, you should try to take advantage of bonuses and incentives as much as possible.

Bonuses and incentives are a great way to boost your income and get paid much more for the same work.

Both Instacart and Postmates have their own take on incentives, with Postmates offering a much wider range of opportunities.


Postmates offers a range of bonuses and guaranteed earnings opportunities for you to take advantage of.

Postmates rewards drivers with things like day-to-day bonuses that incentivize you to drive more during peak hours, to weekly goals that encourage you to drive more consistently throughout the week.

Here are a few examples of actual Bonuses and Guaranteed Earnings from Postmates:

  • Per delivery: Earn $4 extra for each delivery you make between 4:00–7:00 p.m.
  • For sum of deliveries: Earn $15 for completing six rides between 6:00–8:00 p.m.
  • Simple guaranteed earning: Complete 30 deliveries in the next four days and earn a guaranteed $400 (excluding tips)
  • Tiered guarantee earning: Complete 5 deliveries during dinner hours (5:00–9:00 p.m.) on Friday


Compared to Postmates, the bonus and incentive opportunities are lacking quite a bit with Instacart.

There are of course new courier referral codes to sign up with, but after being approved as a courier there isn’t much.

The only incentive that we were able to dig up was a Busy Pay opportunity that rewards drivers during peak hours.

When Instacart is at its busiest times and does not have enough drivers to fill orders, it will offer Busy Pay.

For those of you familiar with “surge pricing,” it’s pretty much the same thing.

Customers will be charged a little extra for the service, which is then passed on to the driver completing the order.

Therefore, it’s to your benefit to drive whenever you see a Busy Pay notification come through on your phone.

Are you leaning toward one or the other yet?

Perhaps knowing which on-demand services are available in your city will help.

Which Platform Is in My Hometown?

We’re going to shoot from the hip here and say that there’s a better chance that Instacart will be in your hometown.

This isn’t to say that Postmates small, but Instacart is just that big.

Both of these services are offered in hundreds of cities across the nation.

Postmates is in over 385 active cities and adding more every day.

If it isn’t offered in your city, then head over to Instacart for their city availability because we’re sure they probably have you covered.

Instacart serves a whopping 1,200 cities currently.

By the time you read this, the number will have likely increased since they add more and more cities every week.

The More the Merrier

When it comes to deciding between Instacart vs Postmates, it may be a personal judgment call as to which one is a better fit for you.

Both services offer a comparable pay rate, leaving it up to you to determine how much energy you want to put in to bring home an income you’re happy with.

If you’re already an Uber driver, Lyft driver, or Grubhub courier, it never hurts to give yourself another delivery option by picking up another gig.

The beauty of the gig economy is that your personal hustle determines what you will take home.

So get to hustling!

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