How much do Instacart shoppers make? (2021 Update)

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How much do Instacart shoppers make? 

That’s a question we didn’t think much about in the past—but the pandemic changed everything. Like all delivery services, Instacart surged throughout 2020, due to COVID-19 shutdowns and the new work-from-home culture that emerged as a result. 

Looking back on 2020 and into the first months of 2021, we analyzed anonymized data from over 250K gig workers to see what the average Instacart shopper has been earning. In this article, we’ll address that question in the context of what it’s like to be an Instacart shopper, and why you might want to consider signing up with this dynamic company. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • How does Instacart work, and what is its pay structure like?
  • How much do Instacart shoppers make?
  • What are the Instacart earning trends of 2021?
  • What costs do Instacart gig workers have to consider?
  • What does the future of Instacart look like?

(If you’re curious about what drivers for other services are earning, check out these Gridwise blog posts on Uber Eats, DoorDash, Uber and Lyft, and other delivery services.)

How does Instacart work, and what is its pay structure like?

Instacart was founded in June 2012. It’s an app that facilitates shopping and delivery services throughout the United States and Canada by connecting customers and shoppers. Customers order their goods online from local stores, and Instacart shoppers shop for the items and deliver them to the shoppers’ doors.

Customers can purchase a variety of essentials through Instacart. In addition to groceries, they can order prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, medical supplies, and pet supplies. 

But customers aren’t limited to essential products. Instacart shoppers often deliver junk food, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages. Also, Instacart serves the large warehouse stores, and those places sell just about everything.

The variety of stores served, and the extraordinary number of available items, translates into great opportunities for Instacart shoppers. The two kinds of available work opportunities are:

1. Shopper only. These workers are part-time employees of Instacart (as opposed to gig workers). They work scheduled shifts inside a store of their choosing, selecting and packaging items for pickup by Instacart full-service shoppers. 

2. Full-service shopper. This is a gig-worker position and entails shopping for and delivering items. The advantage of being a full-service shopper is that you have a totally flexible schedule, and you are likely to earn a higher average hourly pay, and you’ll get tips. The independent contractor status that comes with gig work leaves you without company benefits and the expenses that come with using your car for business, but as you’ll see, this can be a rather rich gig.

To see just how much Instacart shoppers make when they serve as full-service shoppers, let’s look at some Gridwise data.

How much do Instacart full-service shoppers make?

The answer to that is, more than you probably think. Take a look at these anonymized Gridwise numbers from January 2020 through early April 2021.

Instacart Shopper Earnings: January 2020–April 2021

2020Earnings per tripEarnings per hour
January 2020$16.97$12.31
February 2020$15.97$10.88
March 2020$21.67$16.71
April 2020$23.43$16.65
May 2020$21.23$15.93
June 2020$19.18$14.54
July 2020$18.54$16.14
August 2020$18.72$14.66
September 2020$20.00$16.10
October 2020$19.97$14.63
November 2020$20.52$15.51
December 2020$20.50$15.69
January 2021$22.38$17.08
February 2021$24.33$16.81
March 2021$23.20$16.71

These numbers should erase any doubt you might have that Instacart is here to stay. Not only did earnings take off at the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns, they continued to grow throughout the year and into 2021. 

The April 2021 rate of $17.18 per hour represents a whopping 39.56% jump in earnings from $12.31 in January 2020. Over the same time frame, earnings per trip grew by 31%, from $16.97 to $24.80. The graph below depicts a pattern that tells us Instacart continues to grow, even as many cities and states are reopening after COVID.

With earnings on such a dramatic upswing, we can’t help but wonder what plans Instacart has for the future. As it turns out, there are strong indications that the full-service shopper gig for Instacart will retain its super-sweet status.

What are Instacart’s earning trends in 2021?

Back at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was widely believed that the delivery boom would go bust once stores and other businesses began to reopen. But as the actual numbers demonstrate, this isn’t what we’re seeing. Instacart has pulled one major coup after another, cornering the delivery market for many major chains, and this has sent driver earnings through the roof.

Instacart is growing remarkably fast. It’s doing so well, in fact, that Instacart will likely go public this year. The company has hired two high-powered executives from Silicon Valley to join its board of directors, and according to this CNBC article has secured the services of Goldman Sachs to do the Initial Public Offering (IPO). 

At this writing, Instacart’s valuation is $30 billion. Man, that’s a lot of delivery trips.

What might this mean for Instacart full-service shoppers? When Uber and Lyft went public in 2019, they offered some rewards to loyal drivers, including bonuses and options to buy stock in the companies at IPO prices. Although we can’t be certain, the same thing could happen with Instacart. So … if you haven’t done so yet, you might want to sign up now to get in on the potential bag of IPO benefits.

As for earnings, there’s every indication they will continue to rise as the company receives an influx of funding, from both private investors and the public. 

Now that we’ve explored what a potentially lucrative gig Instacart can be for drivers, let’s look at some of the costs involved so you can see how much Instacart full-service shoppers make after expenses.

What costs do Instacart gig workers have to consider?

In order to be a full-service shopper for Instacart, you have to have your own vehicle. That means, of course, that it’s up to you to cover all costs that come with owning and maintaining it. 

For those who lease a car, be mindful of the legal ramifications of violating the terms of the lease when using the vehicle for commercial purposes. It’s possible to rent a car to work for Instacart, but there are limitations. This car rental blog will give you an idea of how that works, and how much renting would potentially cost.

For gig drivers (including full-service shoppers), vehicle-related expenses include:

Extra insurance

If you don’t have commercial insurance for your vehicle, you’ll want to get it when you drive for a delivery app. This use of your car takes it beyond the realm of “personal,” and your insurance company will want you to pay for the risks that come along with that.

If you don’t have a commercial policy or add-on, the claims for any accident you might have while you’re working—and even when you’re not—could be denied. It’s your responsibility to tell your company that you’re using your vehicle for commercial purposes, and to pay a little more to ensure that you’re fully covered. You can learn more about it in this Gridwise blog post.

You will have to shop around for the best policies and prices in your area. You can also contact a trustworthy insurance broker.

Fuel

As anyone who drives knows, gasoline prices go up and down all the time, which means your fuel costs for being a full-service Instacart shopper will vary too. There’s no way to come up with just one number; besides general fuel fluctuations, prices also vary depending on your state’s gas tax and your proximity to fuel supplies.

Currently, the IRS allows a fuel deduction of $0.56 per mile (down 1.5 cents from 2020) when your vehicle is used for business purposes. 

You can track your mileage easily with Gridwise to estimate how much money you’re spending on fuel while you deliver. Also, you can estimate how much gas you’re using while performing deliveries, and enter the amounts as expenses on the Gridwise app.

Depreciation

When you drive for a living, depreciation is an important consideration. The value of your car declines the more you use it, so keep that in mind when you evaluate the expenses you’ll incur as a full-service shopper for Instacart. 

If you want to know the current value of your car, check out the Kelley Blue Book website. It has a feature that tells you how much extra your vehicle might depreciate when you’re using it for delivery driving. 

Maintenance and repairs

When you depend on your vehicle to make a living, maintenance is an essential consideration. If your car breaks down due to neglect, or for any reason, you won’t be able to work. That’s why getting regular maintenance makes good sense.

You’ll need to factor in the costs of maintaining your vehicle, and make sure you stick to the schedule recommended by your manufacturer. Check out this Gridwise post to get a more in-depth idea of what kinds of services your vehicle will need, and how you can save money by doing some of the tasks yourself.

If you’re wondering how much you should set aside for maintenance, check out this online estimator from the Edmunds website. This same site will also help you figure out what your actual depreciation rate might be.

Even when you total all these costs, working for Instacart is a good bet. It’s producing nice earnings, it’s a growing business, and seems to be on track to become even more lucrative for drivers in the future.

One last thing: Taxes

As you already know (but we’ll remind you anyway), as an independent contractor you are self-employed. No one is going to withhold your taxes from your earnings, so you have to make sure you do that. It’s a good idea to pay the IRS on a quarterly basis.

You can find the forms on the IRS website, but it’s a good idea to consult with a CPA or another professional who can give you tax advice. Although this may sound like an extravagance, it could save you from making a mistake that costs you more taxes and penalties than if you’d paid for advice in the first place.    

We have one more piece of good advice for you, and here it is…

Track your earnings, mileage, and expenses the easy way, with Gridwise 

As you’ve seen from all that we covered in this article, keeping track of what you’re earning, and your expenses, is crucial to the proper management of your gig driving business. And that’s why you need Gridwise

You can track your earnings for Instacart and all the companies you drive for, merely by syncing your apps to Gridwise. When you start your shift, go online with Gridwise and all your mileage and earnings will be recorded—automatically. Enter your expenses as they come up, and when you’re ready, you can see the results in slick graphs like these:

Whether you’re driving for rideshare, or delivery, or both, Gridwise is your ultimate assistant. So make sure you take advantage of all the great features we’ve stuffed into this app. Airport and event information can help you schedule your driving times, and our Perks tab takes you to deals and discounts for drivers. Plus, you get easy access to our information-packed blog and the always entertaining Gridwise YouTube Channel. Join our Facebook group for fun conversations and gas card giveaways.

With all this great stuff happening at Gridwise, can you think of a reason why you shouldn’t download the app? Neither can we—so do it now! 

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