Need extra money to pay your bills? App-driven side gigs like Instacart shopping make it easy to earn extra cash. Instacart shoppers do some or all of the following, depending on the job they apply for:
- Drive to a store
- Shop for items on the customer’s list
- Communicate with the customer while shopping regarding out-of-stock items and exchanges
- Check out in the store using their Instacart payment card
- Deliver the grocery orders to the customer’s car in the store parking lot or to their house
Instacart shoppers earn between $7 to $21 per hour before expenses. Reports of actual earnings vary significantly depending on where you shop, when you shop, and which job type you choose.
If getting paid to shop for other people is a job you’re interested in, continue reading to learn more about the two Instacart shopper jobs, how Instacart shoppers earn money, common Instacart expenses, and paying taxes as an independent contractor.
Instacart Shopper Job Types
Before we get further into the earnings, let’s explore the two different types of gigs available from Instacart—In-Store Shopper and Full-Service Shopper.
In-Store Shopper for Instacart
An in-store shopper is assigned to a partner store where they bag up orders (called batches) and bring them out to the customer’s car. In-store shoppers enjoy some flexibility, but they still must schedule hourly shifts instead of just picking up an order here and there.
Most importantly, in-store shoppers are Instacart employees, not independent contractors. In-store shoppers earn a guaranteed minimum wage and can qualify for paid time off. In-store shoppers cannot earn tips, so they typically make less per hour than full-service shoppers. However, in-store shoppers have no expenses because they do not need to spend money on vehicle maintenance or gas.
Full-Service Shopper for Instacart
Full-service shoppers, also called Instacart drivers, are independent contractors. They work when they want to by accepting jobs in the app. Full-service shoppers go into the store, shop for all of the items, check out, and then drive the list of items (called a batch) to the customer. A full-service shopper can also select delivery-only batches where they deliver an order prepared by an in-store shopper.
This job type pays more per hour, and you have the chance to earn tips. However, you are an independent contractor, which means you’re not guaranteed minimum wage, your taxes aren’t withheld, and you need to account for expenses like gas, car maintenance, and auto insurance.
Average Instacart Shopper Earnings
Hourly Earnings for Instacart Shoppers
In-Store Shopper Hourly Earnings
According to Glassdoor, in-store Instacart shoppers earn an average of $13 per hour. As of December 2020, 159 shoppers reported a range of earnings from $7 to $21 per hour. If you choose to become an in-store shopper, you’ll know ahead of time how much you can expect to make when you pick up a shift.
Full-Service Shopper Hourly Earnings
Glassdoor estimates that full-service Instacart shoppers earn an average base pay of $11 per hour before tips. With tips, shoppers earn an average of $12. Indeed.com reports an average of $16.74 per hour, including tips.
Full-Time Instacart Shopper Earnings
While researching Instacart shopper earnings, we learned that most Instacart shoppers only work part-time. In-store shoppers are only allowed to work 29 hours per week because Instacart doesn’t want to pay for full-time employees with benefits. Full-service shoppers can work as many hours as they want because they’re independent contractors and ineligible for benefits. However, many full-service shoppers report that it’s hard to find enough work to support full-time hours.
Based on the hourly estimates above, we calculated that a full-service shopper who was able to work a 40-hour workweek 52 weeks per year could earn an annual salary of $22,880 to $34,819.20.
Ways Instacart Shoppers and Drivers Make Money
According to Ridester.com, Instacart is one of the least transparent companies in the gig economy. How much shoppers earn isn’t widely known. We do know that in-store shoppers earn an hourly wage, which is detailed in the initial offer letter when you apply to work for Instacart. Instacart must pay you the minimum wage.
Instacart uses an algorithm to determine how much to pay full-service shoppers. Their pay is based on the following factors:
A batch incentive is simply the base pay per order. It’s affected by how many items the customer has requested, whether the order includes bulky or heavy items, and the effort involved in shopping and delivering. Batch payments for full-service batches are $7 to $10. Delivery-only batches are $5.
Instacart full-service shoppers receive a small mileage reimbursement for each trip. How much you earn per mile depends on the city you’re delivering in.
Peak Boost Bonus
During periods of high demand, Instacart charges peak hour pricing, which is similar to Uber’s surge pricing. Customers pay more to receive their groceries, so Instacart passes some of that money onto the drivers.
Select shoppers that earn 5-star ratings from customers can earn a $3 Quality Bonus incentive.
Full-service shoppers keep 100% of any tips. After placing an order, customers are encouraged to tip based on order size, but the customer can choose to tip (or not tip) whatever they want.
How Much Does Instacart Take From Your Pay?
Instacart doesn’t take a fixed amount of fixed percentage out of your pay as other gig economy companies do. Instead, Instacart charges customers a fee based on factors like order size, type of items, and mileage. Then, Instacart uses its algorithm to calculate pay for the full-service shopper.
When you accept an order, you will see an earnings estimate. Plus, you get to keep 100% of the tips you earn.
What Affects How Much You Can Earn by Driving for Instacart?
How much you can make working for or with Instacart depends on the following:
Which Job You Choose
In general, in-store shoppers earn less per hour than full-service shoppers. However, in-store shoppers are part-time employees and do not have any expenses like gas, car maintenance, or self-employment taxes. In-store shoppers earn a guaranteed hourly wage and can earn paid time off.
Instacart full-service shoppers have a higher earning potential because Instacart allows customers to tip. However, full-service shoppers do not receive paid time off and must cover expenses like car maintenance and gas.
How Fast You Shop
The faster you fulfill orders in the store, the more orders you can fulfill per hour. Familiarizing yourself with local stores will help you improve your speed and increase your earnings.
When You’re Working
Full-service shoppers can earn bonuses for working during peak periods. Schedule your driving time during periods of high demand to increase your earnings.
Instacart lets full-service shoppers keep 100% of customer tips. Being timely, courteous, and accurate can help you secure higher tips.
What are Some Common Expenses for Full-Service Instacart Shoppers?
Full-service shoppers are independent contractors, so shopping and driving for Instacart is a business, not just a job. Drivers need to track and account for different expenses, none of which are reimbursed by Instacart.
Let’s take a look at a few common expenses Instacart full-service shoppers may face:
Driving for Instacart will put more miles and wear and tear on your vehicle. You will need to pay for car maintenance more frequently than if you just used your vehicle for personal use. Be prepared to put money aside to cover tires, oil changes, refilling fluids, new windshield wipers, etc.
Instacart does not extend any commercial coverage to its full-service shoppers. Full-service shoppers just need an auto insurance policy that meets their state’s minimum requirements. However, most personal policies do not provide coverage when you use your car for business use. That means that if you get into an accident while delivering for Instacart, your insurance company might just cancel your policy and refuse to pay for any damages. To protect yourself and your vehicle, you will need a business policy.
We found that purchasing business and personal coverage for your vehicle could cost 180% more than just a personal auto policy. For example, Progressive offers personal insurance for $105.83 per month and business personal combination policies for $296.83 per month.
Talk to your insurance company to find out how much it will cost you to add coverage if you become an Instacart full-service shopper.
Instacart calculates a portion of your pay based on how far you’re driving, but it’s not a full reimbursement for gas expenses. You will need to use your own money to fill your gas tank. Gas prices vary significantly across the U.S. but expect to pay anywhere from $1.903 to $3.235 per gallon based on current average prices.
Instacart does not offer medical insurance to any of its part-time in-store shoppers or full-service shoppers. If you need health insurance, you will need to find your own policy. One option available to Instacart workers is Stride Health. Stride offers affordable health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and life insurance plans to independent contractors and part-time workers.
According to Stride Health, the average member pays $150 per month for health insurance. Instacart does not contribute to the cost of the plan.
What Taxes Do Instacart Shoppers Need to Pay?
Since in-store shoppers are traditional part-time employees, Instacart handles withholding money for taxes. But, if you choose to work as an Instacart full-service shopper, you will need to withhold and pay your own taxes as well as self-employment taxes. For specific tax advice about working as an independent contractor, consult a tax professional in your area.
Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments
Full-service shoppers who earn above a certain amount per year need to make quarterly estimated tax payments for federal, state, and local taxes. These payments cover what you expect to owe in income taxes for the year. You should keep track of your tax burden so that you have enough money available each quarter to make the payment.
Thankfully, you won’t need to pay taxes on everything you earn from Instacart. Independent contractors can claim business expenses to reduce their taxable income. For example, you can deduct the cost of using your vehicle for business by claiming actual expenses (business auto insurance, gas, car maintenance, etc.) or using the standard mileage deduction. In 2020, the standard mileage deduction was 57.5 cents.
Instacart full-service shoppers also need to pay full Social Security and Medicare taxes, also called self-employment taxes. When you’re an employee, your employer contributes 7.65% toward those taxes and withholds the other 7.65% from your pay. When you’re an independent contractor, you’re responsible for paying the full 15.3%. Fortunately, you can deduct the employer portion (7.65%) as a business expense.
Is Becoming an Instacart Shopper Worth It?
Instacart is a unique gig economy company because they have two very different types of jobs available—one for those who want to be traditional part-time employees and one for those who want the freedom of being an independent contractor.
Deciding to become an in-store shopper for Instacart is similar to picking up any part-time job in that you’ll earn a set hourly wage. The biggest difference is that you have control over your schedule. You just open the app and choose a shift to work. Work as much or as little as you want up to 29 hours per week.
Deciding to become a full-service shopper requires a little more thought because you’re not guaranteed to make a set hourly wage. You’ll also need to account for expenses associated with working as an independent contractor. Before deciding whether or not the full-service shopper job is right for you, do the following:
- Research average Instacart earnings in your area; Sites like Reddit can help
- Estimate your per-mile expenses
- Talk to a tax professional about tax deductions and self-employment taxes
- Research the cost of health insurance and other benefits you want
- Compare your estimated earnings to what you could make from another job or side hustle