Instacart Needs Shoppers. Here’s How to Get Started

An Instacart employee shops in the fresh produce isle for a customer at a grocery store.
Photo courtesy of Instacart

While people are sheltering at home during the coronavirus outbreak, they still need food and household supplies. And instead of venturing to stores and touching germy shopping cart handles and violating the six-foot rule with other shoppers, they’re turning in huge numbers to grocery delivery services like Instacart. 

Instacart, as well as competitors such as Shipt and TaskRabbit, use an app where customers order items from their store of choice and a shopper buys the haul and delivers it the same day. Jobs with these delivery apps are plentiful — Instacart wants to bring on 300,000 additional full-service shoppers to meet the demand from coronavirus — even as other parts of the economy shed tens of thousands of jobs.

Here’s all of our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, which we will be updating every day.

A grocery delivery gig could help you weather the financial perils of this public health crisis. Here’s how to become an Instacart shopper.

What is Instacart?

Created in 2012, Instacart is the brain-child of a former Amazon employee. Apoorva Mehta saw how Amazon was delivering goods to people’s homes and thought he could apply the concept to grocery shopping.

Customers can download the Instacart app, choose their favorite store and start shopping. Once they have their list done, they choose when they want it delivered and for a delivery fee, their grocery order will show up on their doorstep. 

Like working as a ride-share driver, Instacart shoppers can work as much or as little as they like and make their own hours. 

How to Apply to Be an Instacart Shopper

On the Instacart mobile site, a banner across the top of the homepage asks: “Want to earn extra money? Become a shopper.” Tap on this link and it will ask you to put in your phone number. You’ll receive a text message with a link to download the “Shopper app.”

Once you download the app to your phone, you’re ready to fill out the application with your first and last name, email, phone number (again), zip code, and optional referral code.

The next thing to decide is if you want to be a full-service shopper or an in-store shopper. A full-service shopper does the shopping and then delivers the order to the customer’s home. An in-store shopper fulfills the shopping list, but the customer comes to the store to pick up their order.

To be an Instacart full-service shopper, you must:

  • Be 18 or 21 years old (depending on your state)
  • Have an iOs 9 or later or Android 5.0 or later smartphone
  • Be able to lift 30-plus pounds of groceries
  • Understand and follow Instacart’s Food Safety Policy
  • Own your own car that is insured

Instacart’s car requirements are not as strict as Uber or Lyft, which require drivers to have newer-model cars.

To be an in-store shopper you must:

  • Be 17 years old or older 
  • Have an iOs 9 or later or Android 5.0 or later smartphone
  • Be able to lift 30-plus pounds of groceries
  • Understand and follow Instacart’s Food Safety Policy

Like most gig workers, Instacart shoppers are considered independent contractors, not employees. Once you’ve signed up to work as an Instacart shopper, you’ll have a few standard forms to fill out such as:

  • Contractor agreement
  • W-9
  • Privacy policy

What Does Instacart Pay?

Instacart does not reveal the specifics of how it calculates shoppers’ pay. Shoppers get paid by “batch fares.” Each batch takes into account are variables including: 

  • Delivery distance — a per-mile rate is applied.
  • Batch incentive. This factors in the number of items in an order, the difficulty such as weight and bulkiness, and quality bonuses, a perk for getting 5-star reviews.
  • Peak boost — bonus for working during times of high demand.
  • Customer tips

Shoppers get paid weekly on Mondays, but the money doesn’t arrive in your account until Wednesday. However, for a $.50 fee, you can cash out every day with the exception of your tips, which are held until the next payday.

The average shopper for Instacart makes between $10 and $15 per hour, though the rate can vary greatly depending on where you live and the times that you work.

Maximize Your Instacart Income

Here are some tips for enhancing your take-home pay as an Instacart shopper:

Get that Quality Bonus. Be friendly. Pay attention to the details of your orders. Be quick.

Work During Peak Times. If you can work during the busiest times, you’ll automatically add a few bucks to each batch. 

Become an Efficient Shopper. As you shop, try to memorize the layout of each store so you know right where to find everything. Then, as orders come in, shop strategically instead of just going down the list so you’re backtracking all over the store. Rewrite the list and create a route.

Tyler Omoth is a freelance writer covering topics from personal finance to career advice and even lawn care. His work has been featured on, and more. He is also the author of over 70 educational books for children and a proud parent of twin toddlers.