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What is Instacart and why do some say it’s better than Uber?

For those who may be unfamiliar, Instacart is an app designed for quick and easy grocery delivery. People with the normal app order groceries. And then people with the “shoppers” app see their orders, shop for the items, and deliver them. As with the popular food delivery apps such as Doordash and Uber Eats, pretty much anyone can sign up, but many people see Instacart as far preferable.

You must pass a background check, and have your own car to get approved, but most people are approved to start delivering the same day they sign up.

Last year, Instacart’s popularity boomed

Instacart enjoyed a popularity explosion during the Covid-19 pandemic. The demand for grocery delivery apps skyrocketed, with many people afraid to leave their houses and be in public. Although fewer people are scared to go shopping now, Instacart has established itself as a forefront option in the rapidly expanding gig economy.

The gig economy refers to the wave of flexible, freelance jobs that are employing new people every day. Popular jobs that fall into this category are rideshare drivers, delivery drivers, and even renting rooms with Air B&B.

I deliver for Instacart, and it has been the perfect college job. The flexibility presented by Instacart is excellent, and it allows me to make money in a short period of time. It is the most laid-back, stress-free job I have ever had. Despite its increased popularity, I think it is still underappreciated within the vastness of the gig economy.

There are some things about Instacart that are more flexible than other gigs. There are some things that are more frustrating. I would like to share the benefits, and disadvantages of choosing Instacart for your side hustle. We will use Uber and Doordash as a reference since they are the most popular apps in their fields.

Advantages of Instacart

Schedule control

The level of control that Instacart drivers have over their work schedule is unmatched. This is because… there is no schedule. Anybody who works for Instacart can choose to work whenever they want, and for however long they want. This is due in part to the fact that Instacart drivers are paid based on deliveries completed, rather than hours worked.

This is a common theme in the car-based gig economy and is more or less the same for Uber and Doordash drivers. Uber drivers do have a 12 consecutive hour limit. But is unlikely that anyone would Instacart for that long anyway. As presently constituted, A driver could not deliver for Instacart for years, then log back in and start up again like they never left.


Instacart offers an incredibly high amount of driver autonomy. Instacart drivers have no bosses, operate under relaxed time restraints, and also rarely even have to deal with customers.

There are no bosses for all three of our companies. However, due to the nature and urgency of Doordash orders, drivers have stiffer time restraints to live by.

Also, Uber obviously has a lot of customer interaction. You may directly deal with unruly, offensive, or even dangerous customers as an Uber driver. This is never something you have to deal with delivering for Instacart, given that face-to-face customer interaction is uncommon.

The pay

It is difficult to predict how much you will make delivering for Instacart because you work by delivery instead of hours, and every delivery is a different amount of money.

However, The pay is mostly on par with other jobs in the Gig economy. It is estimated that Instacart driver makes 15 dollars an hour before tips. This is pretty good, and keep in mind it will vary dramatically based on what orders you accept, and how long they take to complete.

You could take deliveries (Batches as they call them) for as little as 5 dollars without a tip, but it can also be as much as someone is willing to tip. Although highly uncommon, you could earn over 100 dollars for a single delivery. However, a “good” batch would typically be anything over 20 dollars depending on how many items are in the order, and how far one must drive.

Doordash drivers are also difficult to slap an hourly average on. In 2019, it was reported that drivers earn an average of $18.54 per hour. This is comparable to Instacart drivers for the reason that the volume of deliveries you can make in an hour is much higher. On average, you can take more Doordash deliveries in an hour than you can take Instacart batches.

Before tips, Uber drivers make around 17 dollars an hour before tips, and about 19 dollars an hour after tips. Most Uber riders don’t tip, and when they do, the average tip is only 3 dollars. On the other hand, most Instacart customers tip relatively generously.

This is partially due to the fact that Instacart drivers know how much a customer tips, as it is part of the total pay for a batch. If an Instacart customer gives a bad tip, or doesn’t tip, its unlikely that their batch will be taken by a shopper. Uber riders tip after the ride, meaning drivers don’t get to decide if who they work for will tip them.

In short, you will likely make the same money, if not more using Instacart instead of other services.

Great weekend job

Instacarts demand is highest during weekend days. You will make more money, and have access to the most batches on the weekend. If you are looking for a job to do all day during your weekend, Instacart is a great option.

This is not too much different from the other two apps. Weekends are almost always the busiest times for gig economy jobs.

Disadvantages of Instacart

Instacart is not without its frustrations. There are some limitations that will get in your way that you must know about.

5pm crash

Any Instacart driver will tell you that the best time to deliver is in the morning and early afternoon. At around 4-5 o’clock pm on most days, there is a sometimes dramatic drop-off in the number of available batches. Most driver’s days are done by 6 o’clock pm.

For Doordash, demand is peeking at the same time that Instacart’s demand is falling off. Uber is in demand all day in some respect. If you want a side hustle after your 9-5, and aren’t interested in working weekends, you should look elsewhere.

Store hour limitations

Similar to the last segment, the hours you can work are limited to the hours that Instacart-enabled stores are open. This means that you basically can never Instacart late at night, or early in the morning. Also, since some stores are closed on certain holidays, you must obey those restrictions as well.

Doordash is somewhat limited by the majority of restaurants having a closing time, but there are restaurants open 24 hours that people can order from whenever. Uber is 24/7 regardless of all factors. Its greatest advantage is that it is always needed, and always available. If you are looking for a true “nightshift” job, Instacart is definitely not for you.

You decide which grocery app is your favorite

As the gig economy continues expanding, people pursuing grocery delivery app jobs will become even more common. At the end of the day, it is up to you what to pursue as a side hustle. Instacart is a great option if you fit the necessary criteria.

Let’s run through the benefits one last time. Extremely flexible hours, high amounts of autonomy, very good and comparable pay, and excellent for a weekend hustler. The only issues with Instacart are the limitations associated with the hours of store operation compared to the lack of limitations other options provide.

We encourage you to do some more research on Instacart, and other Gig-based jobs, then make a decision for yourself. If shopping for and delivering groceries sounds like your speed than other more intense options, we assure you that you will not be worse off.