Working for Instacart: Is it Worth it?
Gig economy jobs are all the rage these days. They offer flex schedules and can be picked up here and there in almost all decent-sized cities. One such gig job keeps cropping up in my email, my readers want to know… Can you make money with Instacart? If you pride yourself on being a fast and efficient grocery shopper and have some extra time on your hands, Instacart can be a great way to earn extra income.
What is Instacart?
Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of using Instacart for doing online shopping and scheduling delivery of groceries.
The customer shops for what they want online and pays for the groceries they’ve ordered through the Instacart app.
Workers have the opportunity to earn income by fetching those items from local stores affiliated with Instacart and delivering them to the customer at their home.
Instacart is still a growing company, and will likely become available throughout the vast majority of the US within a few years. Currently, the service is available in 38 states plus Washington, DC. If you are located within a large metropolitan area, the chances are good that Instacart services your area.
More and more small town stores are jumping on the Instacart bandwagon every day, so if you don’t see your location listed, check back often. Many rural areas independent contractor positions available even if they don’t yet have enough business for hourly in-store opportunities.
Search Instacart service areas near you to see if this is a viable employment option in your current location. The question of can you make money with Instacart will depend on the demand for it in your area.
There is a standard application process and background check in order to be hired by Instacart.
First, you need to decide whether you want to be a full-service shopper who shops and delivers groceries or just an in-store shopper. Both options allow you to set your own schedule and make changes to it as needed and offer a weekly payout.
Here is an overview of each position:
Seeing the full Instacart experience through from shopping to delivery makes you an independent contractor, meaning rather than being an employee of Instacart, you are in business for yourself.
You will need to have your own reliable transportation, but you can work as much or as little as you prefer. You are free to shop for and deliver orders on your own time when it works for you.
This means you work for Instacart as an hourly employee within a specific store. Their employees work on a part-time basis only, meaning you cannot work more than 29 hours in a given week.
As an employee, you have access to a 401K retirement plan and no vehicle is required for in-store shoppers. You also get what’s called a commuter benefit, which allots a certain amount of pre-tax dollars to be spent on public transportation.
The worker simply shops and scans the items ordered, checks out, and then labels the bags for the delivery service to transport to the customer.
You will need to meet a few basic work requirements to qualify for a position with Instacart, including:
- Being at least 18 years of age (21 to shop for or deliver alcohol)
- Possessing the ability to lift more than 40 pounds with or without assistance or reasonable accommodation
- Passing a background check
- Owning a reasonably up to date smartphone (Android 4.0, iPhone 4s or newer)
As an independent contractor, you will have the added requirements of two years driving experience plus passing a DMV vehicle check. These checks ensure your car is fully functional, meeting state requirements such as the insurance coverage minimum and granting access to any major driving record violations.If you are delivering orders, you will also need to purchase your own temperature-control insulated food containers. You can purchase these wherever you like, provided they meet the Instacart specifications. They are also available for purchase through Instacart at $20 per 3 bags.
Whereas independent contractors need to sign a contract agreement and W-9 tax form, employees will sign an offer letter and fill out a W-4 tax form.
Downloading and Setting Up the App
After you’ve downloaded the Instacart app, you can set your work availability and begin picking up your gigs. This app allows you to communicate with the Instacart help team should you encounter any issues as well as message customers directly regarding substitutions for out-of-stock items or produce preferences.
How Gigs Work
Once you've got all the requirements finishing up your ready to start. Delivery windows span one hour and typically run from 9am to midnight, but may vary depending on the location. You are free to choose which times within that allotment you are available to work and update it whenever you needed. There is no minimum hourly requirement.
When a customer places an order within your availability, you’ll receive a notification from the app 30 minutes prior to your period of availability. You can choose to accept or reject each offer, but It is important to stay on top of your notifications or the offer will go to another worker.
Once you accept a gig, go to the designated store and begin filling the shopping list. You’ll need to scan each item into your app and note any substitutions or refunded items.
After you have gathered all the items, you will check out using a pre-loaded Instacart debit card and either deliver it to the customer’s home or label the bags for delivery.
The Ultimate Question – Can You Make Money with Instacart?
Whereas Instacart in-store employees are paid a fixed hourly wage that varies by location, independent contractors earn a commission depending on the number of items in an individual order as well as the number of completed deliveries.
Contractor commissions are higher with larger orders as well as at peak ordering times, such as weekends and during popular events. Independent contractors also have the ability to earn tips.
As for pinning down an actual dollar amount, it can prove tricky as it all varies based on location, time of day, and the number of orders in the queue. Add in further variables for drivers such as the number of items, and it’s one of those things that can prove impossible to accurately predict.
Instacart provides no official data on contractor pay, but they do advertise that drivers can make up to $25 per hour at peak times.
In-store Instacart shoppers reported earning between $7 and $20 per hour on Glassdoor, with an $11 per hour average.
Unlike most other delivery and ride-sharing jobs, there is currently no minimum hourly guarantee for contractors, so be advised that you could be working for less than minimum wage at times.
Our Verdict: A Nice Side-Gig If You Have the Time
Though Instacart seems unreliable as a main or only source of income, it can be a profitable way to spend your down-time. As the cost of living keeps growing while worker wages remain stagnant, earning extra money on the fly has become a necessity for many people.
For college students trying to earn extra cash for living expenses or soccer moms making side money in between schlepping all the kids to and from all the activities, the Instacart setup is ideal.
So, the question of, “Can you make money with Instacart?” seems to be a resounding yes — but a path to riches, it's not.