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How to Make $50k/year with Instacart: 25 Pro Tips for Shoppers

Being an Instacart driver is a great way to make some extra cash in your spare time. The Instacart shopper app is a grocery delivery service that lets customers place grocery orders that Instacart shoppers then complete for them. You can earn as little as you like or up to $1000 a week or more!

A lot of popular stories about being an Instacart delivery driver are old, and things have changed. Here are 25 top tips to help new shoppers maximize their Instacart earnings for extra income.

1. Get a Head Start

This is simply learning the peak times for your area and being logged into the mobile app, ready and waiting before everyone else.

2. Be a Full-Service Instacart Shopper (Not an In-Store Shopper)

When you are a full-service shopper for Instacart, you are a contractor. This means you set your own hours and deliver Instacart orders to customers’ doors.

The other option is to be an in-store shopper for Instacart. In-store shoppers are part-time employees of Instacart, and they have set hours at given retail locations. They are paid an hourly wage, so being an in-store shopper is more stable than being a full-service shopper, but is less flexible and has a limited earning capacity.

For more information about the difference between a full-service shopper and an in-store shopper, see the Frequently Asked Questions in the next section below.

3. Walk Fast

To increase the effective hourly rate that you are making, you need to get more orders completed faster. The simplest way to be faster is to move fast. This doesn’t mean racing, but if you have gotten your few specific items from one aisle and the rest of the aisle is clear, get to the next one asap. Don’t linger.

4. Be Efficient and Focused

When you accept an order, you will see an estimated minimum batch payment. This minimum batch payment does not get bigger if your shopping takes longer. So, the best way to earn more per hour is to take as little time as possible on each order. One way to be efficient is to scroll through the shopping list carefully before you enter the store.

Another way is to check your list more than once in each aisle and store section. You will have to be mentally focused while you are doing this to do it quickly. The little bit of extra time you spend on (quickly) checking your list and making sure you have everything is going to be faster than doubling back for an item you missed the first time. What they say is true: haste makes waste.

5. Know Your Local Stores

Related to #4, memorize the layout of your local grocery stores. The better you know the stores and where everything is, the faster you can move from item to item. You won’t need to double back to an aisle you have already been through to get another item off the list or waste time looking for out-of-stock products.

6. Try to Stay Local

Knowing the store layout will help you to be fast and complete more orders, so it is a good idea to try and only accept batches for stores you know well. Plus, it will cost you a lot less in gas if you stay near the same few stores and only deliver in that local area when possible.

7. Decline Bad Batches

Instacart puts you in control of the jobs you accept, and this is your best tool. Get to know what a good price for a batch in your area is. If you see a batch that is too small or has too many items that will slow you down, decline it. Save your energy for a better batch.

If the day is slow, you might choose to do lower-value batches, but don’t do batches that you lose money on because of gas prices or the time required.

8. Mark Items Out of Stock

It is tempting to try to always find an item. Learn to look for the missing spaces on shelves if an item is not on the shelf where you expected it. If you see that a product is missing from where it should be, check the very top of the shelves, as this is where spare items are usually kept.

If the item is not on the shelf or on the top of the shelves, quickly mark the item as out of stock and follow the customer’s replacement instructions.

9. Be Decisive

If you have found where a product should be and it is out-of-stock, mark it unavailable. Customers may specify “do not replace,” and if this is the case, move on. If the customer has left the decision to the shopper, or asked for another replacement option, be fast. You can’t afford to spend much time on executing the substitution.

For example, if one gallon of milk is requested and it is out of stock, grab two ½ gallon cartons and keep moving.

10. Don’t Waste Time Scanning Difficult Items

Some grocery items can be very difficult to scan. Pre-packaged produce, and bread and bakery items are prime examples. If a product doesn’t scan easily, immediately force “mark as found.” Take the photo as quickly as possible (many experienced shoppers report you don’t even need the photo to be very clear) and then move on to the next item.

11. Avoid Excessive Bagging

The policy of Instacart is to bag all produce items. Some large items, like bulk water, dog food etc., are not expected to be bagged. So don’t. It ends up being wasteful and can be very time-consuming. Many customers prefer fewer bags, and sometimes you will see this in their instructions. So unless it is more efficient or makes sense to bag items (for example, multiple large loose items), just place them in the cart unbagged.

12. Be Quick at the Checkout

The checkout can be a very slow part of the buying process, do everything you can to speed it up. As soon as you find the last item, mark your shop as complete, take screenshots of the barcodes to scan and then finish it. This improves your shopping times which gives you a higher rating in the app.

When you are at the register, scan the screenshots of the barcodes immediately and then swipe your Instacart debit card. This way, payment is already taken care of and you can focus on bagging and placing items in your cart to get back to your car quickly.

13. Don’t Wait for Customers

Unless you have perishables in cooler bags, never wait for customers who are not home. Most of the time, customer service will tell you to stage the order and take a photo to prove the delivery. Save yourself time by simply staging the delivery as soon as you realize a customer is not home, take a photo and go to your next batch.

14. Get the Best Batches First

The highest-rated shoppers get to choose their batches first, this means they can take the closes and the best-paid Instacart jobs. Your rating includes your customer feedback score, but also the time it takes you from accepting an order to completing the checkout, your delivery time, and other factors.

In addition, Instacart pays a $3 bonus for each 5-star review. If you spend an extra 15 minutes during your day to get all 5-star reviews on ten batches, that’s a very easy extra $30. With Instacart it literally pays to provide great service.

15. Work the Best Paid Days

The best time to work as a personal shopper is during periods of high demand and peak hours. Watch your app for which days of the week and what times of day are best. Plus, if you can dedicate several full days to shopping in the week leading up to the holidays such as Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, you can make considerable money in a very short time.

16. Work for the Tips

Instacart fees only come out of your base pay, that is, the batch payments and delivery fees that you receive. Shoppers keep 100% of the tips that they earn. Offering great service is a good way to earn larger tips, do this by delivering efficiently, and going above and beyond to put the customer first.

17. Drive an Efficient and Reliable Vehicle

Gas prices have always been a big part of the cost of delivery services. This is even more true now. If you can, choose a small and efficient vehicle to reduce your gas consumption. Another advantage to smaller vehicles is that you can park in more places more easily and zip around cities.

Regardless of your vehicle, monitor the miles per gallon you get with your current vehicle and factor this into what batches you accept. Also, make sure that your vehicle is going to get you to the customer’s house when they are expecting their delivery. If your car breaks down, you are not going to get a good review.

18. Buy Your Own Bags

Having many grocery bags can cause you to make multiple additional trips to and from your vehicle. Buy good quality, purpose-made cooler bags that can carry all the cold goods for a typical shop. Do the same with reusable green bags too. This allows you to move an entire load of groceries in just 1-2 trips, rather than 3 or 4. Also, don’t be afraid to take multiple carts when needed. If you know a shop will be very large, grab a second cart at the start.

19. Choose Good Parking Spots

Choosing a good parking spot can save you a lot of time. Things to consider are being close to the door of the store where you are going to check out. Try to choose the closest parking spot to the store exit to save time bringing the cart to your car, too. Be mindful of parking lots that are close to the main thoroughfare, as these can be very difficult to pull out of.

20. Avoid Getting Ticketed

Tickets, whether parking or speeding, can eat into your earnings. To save money on parking, avoid metered parking when you can, also carry plenty of small change, using a dime instead of a quarter for a parking meter will save a lot of money in the long run. And avoid paying meters with credit cards, as these will usually round to the nearest dollar and can also attract fees.

Speeding fines are just lost money. Aside from speeding being both illegal and dangerous, speeding by 5 or 10 mph for even a 10-mile delivery won’t save you more than 1 or 2 minutes at best. But being caught out will cost you 10 or 20 minutes at the side of the road, plus the cost of a ticket.

21. Work in High-Demand Areas

You do not want to waste time sitting with no orders, and you do not want to drive a long way for each order. It is easier to earn money with Instacart in major cities and populated or wealthy areas. It may be worth driving to another zip code, especially during peak hours to access higher value batches and more stable demand.

22. Master Multi-Tasking

When you find the item you are looking for and are walking back to your cart, use this time to scan the item off your list. Many shoppers find the item, stand stationary, scan the item, and then walk back to the cart. This leaves a lot of time wasted that could be used to find the next item.

23. Bring Your Own Food

If you plan to work long shifts of several hours, then it’s important to eat and drink throughout your day. Buying takeout costs a lot of money and also delays you while you wait in the drive-thru. Pack snacks and drinks so you can eat and drink while you drive to deliveries.

24. Don’t Accept Unreasonable Requests

Besides not accepting batches that will take too long, are too complicated, or involve driving a long distance. Keep an eye out for any batches with unreasonable additional requests or instructions, it is usually best to avoid these as they will take additional time.

25. Work in California

This is not a possibility for many people, but if you live close enough to California to work across the border it’s worth considering. California requires Instacart to guarantee a legal minimum wage to all Instacart employees, which includes full-service shoppers.


1. Who can sign up to shop with Instacart?
Anyone who is over the age of 18 and has the legal right to work in the United States can sign up to be an Instacart shopper. You should be physically fit and able to lift a minimum of 40lbs. If you want to be a full-service shopper, you will need access to your own vehicle.

2. How does someone get started with Instacart?
If you are eligible to work with Instacart and you want to give it a try, the application process is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

  • Download the Instacart app from the Apple store or Google Play store.
  • Create your account and apply to be an Instacart shopper.
  • Once your background check is complete, attend orientation and start shopping.

3. What is the difference between an In-Store Shopper and a Full-Service Shopper?
Instacart in-store shopping is a part-time job, and shoppers are employed by Instacart. Part-time workers are assigned shifts at specific stores based on personal availability and the company’s needs. How much money you earn is directly linked to how many hours you work. Instacart limits in-store shoppers to 29-hours per week.

Instacart full-service shoppers are employed as independent contractors, you set your own schedule and can travel to almost anywhere you like and browse available orders called “batches.” Each batch will tell you the store it is for, the number of items, the delivery distance, and the minimum payment based on the number of items, difficulty, distance, tip offered, and other factors.

4. What do you need to sign up?
You will need to be able to provide basic information such as your identity and address. You will also require your social security number and proof of legal right to work in the United States. You will also have to consent to a background check which can take up to 10 business days.

5. How do you get paid?
Instacart will track your earnings, and you will be paid by direct deposit into your nominated bank account every Wednesday with no payment fee. You can request early payments. However, additional fees may apply.

6. Who pays for grocery purchases?
Grocery orders are paid for by the customer who makes their payment directly to Instacart. Instacart shoppers are provided with an Instacart payment card which they can use at the checkout to pay for grocery orders.

7. How do you get more batches with Instacart?
Batches are offered to shoppers by preference. Highly rated shoppers get early access to batches when they are created by customers. These shoppers can choose the best batches that pay the most and have short delivery distances. This rating is a combination of your customer feedback score as well as your metrics such as speed from accepting a batch to completing checkout, delivery times, and accuracy.

8. How do you get bigger tips?
Customer tips are not the only contributor to Instacart income, but they can be a big help. One of the best ways to get more tips is to provide great service. It’s the little things that count. If a customer has multiple avocados, message them and ask if they want some of different ripenesses for the coming days. Or, if you see they have baby products on their grocery list, message them when you are a few minutes away so that you don’t knock on the door and wake up their baby.


A side hustle in the gig economy is a great way to earn additional income. There are a lot of delivery services in North America that let you be your own boss, but grocery shopping with Instacart is one of the best gig jobs for earning good money.

How much Instacart shoppers can earn comes down to hard work and good service. Follow the tips in this blog post to control how much you make, and whether you are after a little extra money or replacing a full-time job, Instacart is a good option to consider.

About The Author
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