How much do Instacart shoppers make?

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How much can you expect to make as an Instacart shopper?

We analyzed the anonymized earnings data from over 150,000 gig workers to understand just how much Instacart shoppers are making, and in this blog post we’re going to let you know.

We’ll also cover:

  • How Instacart works and what is it’s pay structure?
  • How much Instacart shoppers make?
  • How will Instacart shopping change as the pandemic passes?
  • What costs do Instacart shoppers/drivers incur?
  • How can Instacart shoppers maximize their earnings?

Oh, and if you want to know how much drivers of other services make, check the links below!

How does Instacart work and what is it’s pay structure?

Founded in June 2012, Instacart is a grocery and drugstore shopping and delivery service that operates in the United States and Canada. Customers order their goods online and shoppers deliver it right to their door.

They might be shopping for food, or looking to get prescriptions and medical supplies delivered. Just as easily, they may be looking to satisfy their cravings for junk food, soft drinks, or adult beverages.

Once the order is placed, a representative of Instacart (a shopper) picks out the goods and sets them up to be delivered. 

There are three ways you can work for Instacart. You can be a part-time employee, and simply do the shopping. You can also become an Instacart driver, or go all-in to be a Full-service shopper.

Instacart drivers merely arrive at the store, pick up the orders, and deliver them to their final destinations. Full-service shoppers drive to the store, shop for the order, and then deliver the goods. 

As you might imagine, there are different levels of pay for the three separate roles. According to Indeed.com, the shopper pulls in around $13.50 per hour; the driver earns around $15.00 per hour, and the full-service shopper’s take is about $17.00 per hour. The rates, even for the basic shopper, will vary from one region to the next.

How do these numbers compare with the data we collected? We’ll get into that. 

How much do Instacart shoppers make?

Before we start here are a few things we want you to know about our data. 

The numbers we show here reflect the amount the driver gets after Instacart takes its portion, but before expenses such as vehicle fuel, maintenance, taxes, and insurance. Some tips may be included in the numbers, but not all. Many Instacart customers tip after the delivery, in cash.

Here’s a list of our Gridwise markets, and the median earnings for Instacart drivers by hour, mile, and trip for the period (in 2020) starting April 1 and ending August 31.

Instacart Driver Earnings April – August 2020

Market NameMedian Earnings Per HourMedian Earnings Per HourMedian Earnings Per Trip
Pittsburgh17.411.9120.25
Los Angeles15.561.6923.26
Dallas-Ft. Worth13.690.9416.05
Phoenix16.881.518.88
New York City18.52.7228.53
Washington, D.C.12.721.217.37
Boston14.271.6721.78
Chicago15.052.221.64
Baltimore16.091.1621.94
Atlanta13.76117.15
Miami13.191.417.86
Austin19.51.5517
Detroit11.681.6221.3
New Jersey14.571.6122.25
Houston11.160.9311.1
Philadelphia14.821.2322.14
Bay Area14.991.8520.32
San Jose13.923.3619.7
Seattle20.112.1324.79
San Diego22.351.8529.37
San Antonio17.531.0815.02
Columbus13.681.3220.41
Indianapolis13.081.3418.7
Denver16.471.8623.37
Jacksonville12.641.2819.44
Charlotte13.411.218.42
Las Vegas11.781.616.44
Oklahoma City14.631.4621.37
Nashville16.831.1922.43
Kansas City16.211.2722.02
New Orleans23.313.0223.61
Tampa Bay14.231.4119.74
Orlando13.711.3721.31
Sacramento12.751.6220.51
Portland19.852.9221.45
St. Louis10.790.9820.19
Cincinnati12.521.0914.34
Minneapolis12.352.1326.09
Salt Lake City11.20.9716.55
Milwaukee10.771.6119.17
Cleveland12.111.3218.96

The average earnings across all markets came in as follows:

$11.96 per trip

$14.86 per hour

$01.62 per mile

That’s not bad at all. Considering the usual disparity between rideshare and delivery hourly earnings, we notice that delivery seems to be catching up to rideshare while nobody’s watching … except us, of course.

Now, let’s look at what’s been happening with Instacart earnings over the course of that same April to August time period:

At the start of the pandemic, customers flocked to Instacart in droves, including many who had never used delivery services before. Instacart made it possible for them to avoid going to stores, and they could even get contact-free delivery, both of which were extremely appealing to the COVID-fearing masses.

While there was a slight dip in summer, overall earnings have remained much higher than they ever were before delivery became a huge thing, and they probably will continue to rise. Customers that might have been enjoying doing their own shopping over the summer are very likely to go to back delivery in a big way when the weather turns cooler.  

How will Instacart shopping change as the pandemic passes?

The insidious COVID-19 is behind just about everything this year, and as previously mentioned, Instacart drivers saw a boom in business when the lock-downs first went into effect. As remedies and possible vaccines come into view, and the restrictions are lifted at last, will there still be a lot of Instacart business?. 

It surely does seem that way.

Here’s why:

The work from home wave will continue.
Large companies that normally have people traveling to and from a place of work, allowing people to pass by the grocery store on the way home, are changing the way they do business. Work from home practices are growing exponentially. Some large corporations have even extended their work from home options indefinitely, and most aren’t even considering a return to the office until January or June of 2021.

More drivers. As the pandemic continues to drag on, and the flow of unemployment compensation has dwindled down to a trickle, a greater number of drivers could be going to work for Instacart. If that’s the case, deliveries will be completed more quickly and efficiently than before, making the service even more appealing.

Less desire to do one’s own shopping. Even with plexiglass barriers, distancing circles on floors, mask requirements, and plentiful hand sanitizer, people are still slightly reluctant to go out to do their own shopping. As long as there is some fear of contracting coronavirus, many will continue to favor delivery. Also, as people get used to having the time they used to spend at the store back into their cache of “free time,” delivery will easily be worth the extra few dollars it costs.

Will this continue? No one can say, but it’s very likely business will heat up even more when the weather cools down. Picture it. You’re getting ready to go grocery shopping, and then you look outside and the weather landscape is just, well, not at all appealing. Snow, sleet, and howling winds might conjure up a lot more business for Instacart as the weather deteriorates.

Even though drivers will continue to rake in surprisingly high earnings, there are some costs associated with driving that are worth noting.

What costs do Instacart shoppers/drivers incur?

All gig workers know there’s a cost for the freedom of working when and where you want. You have to pay for your vehicle, and cover all the costs associated with ownership, unless you’re forking out major financial fodder for a lease from your rideshare or delivery company.

Now, if you choose the option to stay in the store and be an Instacart shopper, your transportation costs will amount to whatever it takes for you to commute to the store and back.

If, however, you elect to drive, either as a shopper/driver or driver only, you will incur costs and they can be considerable.

Fuel
It’s not possible to know exactly how much gasoline prices will go up and down, but one thing you can count on is that they will. Some of the variables (besides price itself) include your location, your state’s fuel tax, and the fuel needs of the vehicle you drive. If you want to deliver groceries on a regular basis, you’ll probably need a car that’s on the larger side. Keep that in mind when you see the average amount most drivers pay for their gas.

Also, delivery driving involves at least two rides for each order. You must go from your home to the store, and then your home to the customer’s location.

A Gridwise blog post from January 2020, which drew on a report by MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, cited a figure from 2018 that stated rideshare drivers spend between $0.05 and $0.27 per mile on fuel.

Insurance
Commercial policies are available for delivery drivers, and if you don’t already have this coverage, you’ll want to get it. When you’re driving for delivery (or rideshare), this is considered business use of your vehicle, rather than personal use. Without a commercial policy, if you have an accident while you’re on the job, your regular policy probably won’t cover it. As Jason Metz writes in Forbes: “If you start driving as a job (whether full-time or as a side hustle) and don’t tell your auto insurance company, you could face a claim denial in the future if you cause an accident.”

So … the extra money you invest in insurance to ensure you’re covered at all times is well worth it. Shop around for the best price you can find. There’s a lot of good information about this issue in the Forbes article cited above.

Maintenance and repairs
Let’s face it, nobody wants to deal with car problems. But they can be especially stressful for professional drivers because when your car’s in the shop, you can’t work. That’s why regular maintenance is so important, and well worth the cost.

If you’re not sure how much you should set aside for maintenance, don’t worry. There’s a way to get a pretty accurate number on the Edmunds website. Type the make, model, and year of your vehicle, and you’ll get an estimate.

With all that said, the MIT study estimates the average cost for insurance, maintenance, and repairs to be about $0.13 per mile.

Depreciation
We all love that new car smell, but we also know it won’t last forever. Chances are it’s been a while since that aroma filled your vehicle, so there’s another cost factor you have to think about. Depreciation happens just from putting time, wear, and tear into your car. If you want to know the current value of your car (so you can figure out how much value it has lost), check out the Kelley Blue Book website. 

The site even has a feature that tells you how much extra your vehicle might depreciate because you’re using it for delivery driving. According to the MIT study, the average cost of depreciation is $0.05 per mile.

Putting it all together
The bottom line is this: When you take into account the costs of fuel, maintenance, repairs, and depreciation, you’re looking at about $0.30 per mile. Subtract that from $1.62, which is the average per-mile earnings figure across all our markets, and you’ll net an average of $1.30 per mile.

There are costs with every job, of course, and you need to know what they are. In the case of delivering for Instacart, you’re not doing too bad—and most projections indicate an increasing demand for delivery.

One last thing to consider: taxes. Because you’re self-employed, you’re in charge of putting money aside to pay them. It’s a good idea to get help from a CPA or another professional who can give you tax advice. It might sound extravagant to hire a tax professional, but if you make a slip, it could end up costing you more than you’d pay for some solid advice.

How can Instacart shoppers maximize their earnings?

Hopefully, the information we’ve provided in this article will be helpful to you. For even MORE help, download the Gridwise app. You’ll be able to track your earnings and see what you’re making with just a few taps on your screen. 

Gridwise also gives you a window on the world around you, including traffic conditions, weather, and special deals for drivers. Our blog with news for drivers is right there on the Perks tab, along with easy access to podcasts by gig industry experts on the Gridwise YouTube channel.

You’ll also want to join us on Facebook to get in touch with the rest of the community and get in on great Gridwise gas card giveaways. Your driving business only gets better when you ride with Gridwise.

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