If there’s one thing the pandemic has shown us, it’s that courageous people are willing to go to the ends of the earth to bring you what you need. This is doubly true for the injured, the disabled, and the elderly. For those who need lunch or dinner delivered, perhaps you need something from the hardware store or Target, a pharmacy order, or even whole grocery orders, there’s an app for that.

When the driver brings those distinctive green bags to the porch, you might wonder how does Instacart work for drivers? Are there any Instacart driver jobs in your neck of the woods? Are the Instacart driver requirements and the Instacart shopper requirements the same thing? These are good questions, so we wrote this step-by-step tutorial to give you answers to these and a lot more questions (17, in fact.)

1. Know The Requirements

Instacart Driver Requirements

As with any job but especially with delivery jobs, you must:

  • Be 18 years old
  • Be capable of lifting 30 to 40 pounds numerous times per day
  • Be able to work legally in the U. S.
  • Have access to a vehicle that is properly registered and insured as well as having a valid driving license
  • Have a smartphone able to download the Instacart app such as an iPhone 5 or above or an Android 4.4 or above

Instacart Requirements For In-Store Shoppers

Instacart shopper requirements are a tad different because you won’t be driving:

  • You must be 17 or older
  • You must be capable of lifting 30 to 40 pounds many times per day
  • You must be capable of working in the U.S. legally
  • You must have a smartphone able to download the Instacart app such as an iPhone 5 or above or an Android 4.4 or above

How Does Instacart Work For Drivers? Instacart Rules For Drivers

You’ll be considered an independent contractor, which means you’ll have to keep records of payments, bonuses, and tips so you can do the tax thing every April. Keep records, too, on your car, gasoline, maintenance, and such because these can be written off on your taxes. Other rules include:

  • No one (no one) can ride along with you (it’s a safety thing)
  • Drivers are required by the company to carry insulated cold bags for cold and freezer items. The bags are not supplied by the company, but they’re not expensive
  • Drivers should make estimated tax payments each quarter. Instacart doesn’t withhold taxes. It’s either quarterly or wait until April to come up with your tax money
  • You must be 21 or older to deliver orders that include alcohol
  • You must follow all company and municipal safety rules and requirements in the pandemic.

2. Choose Your Batches

Making money on Instacart is all about ratings. You receive a point for every delivery. After 100 deliveries, the company divides the deliveries by the number of points, giving you your rating. This rating determines how many batches you’re shown.

The top rating is five stars or five points. The top 25 percentile is where you want to be with consistent five-point ratings. These are the drivers that are offered the bonuses along with the best paying batches.

The company’s algorithm automatically rewards those drivers with the highest ratings. It does, however, recognize that some negatives are beyond your control, such as:

  • The power goes out
  • Out of stock products
  • Violent weather
  • Your lowest rating is forgiven

With that having been said, drivers closest to the higher-requested stores and areas get more batches. You can increase your batches by being available to customers requiring special deliveries such as large items, working on Sundays when demand is high, and attending an alcohol certification class in order to deliver alcoholic products.

Accepting two orders is the quickest way to get more batches. Keep the orders in separate baskets, bag them in separate bags, and place them in your car in separate areas. Now just deliver the orders in the order in which they arrived, and you’ll get good ratings.

3. Instacart Bonuses

Most people wanting to know how does Instacart work for drivers want to hear about an Instacart driver signup bonus. They want to hear about any Instacart sign-up bonus, no matter for whom it’s offered. Here’s the skinny on bonuses:

  • You must be referred by an Instacart full-service driver in order to make an Instacart driver signup bonus
  • You must complete the hours and deliveries specified by the company for your shopping area to qualify for the Instacart driver signup bonus. For example, in some shopping areas, you will receive a guaranteed $750 bonus on your paycheck for completing 100 orders in 30 days
  • Referrals of friends and family are another type of bonus. When the referral you made signs up and completes whatever deliveries the company designates, then both of you get your referral bonus on your paychecks. Keep your referral code handy, because you can email it, message it, or social media it to get up to $1,000 of referral bonuses
  • Peak hour pay is a bonus paid to the driver during rush hour. The customer is charged just a little more, which mostly goes to the driver doing all the heavy lifting. Such pay can range between $8 and $12 an hour
  • Instacart shopper promotions are another way to earn a bonus. This is all about “earn $100 on June 11 by delivering six batches.” Should you fall short of the $100 amount, the company will make it up for you. For example, your six batches totaled $80. Instacart will make up the $20 for you to reach your promotion.

4. Keep Your Receipt Until You Get Paid

This should fall under Instacart rules for drivers but doesn’t. It’s a good idea to keep the paper receipts from deliveries lest a customer claim they didn’t receive an item. It’s also a good idea to keep paper receipts until you get paid for the delivery. Accidents and computer snafus do happen; better safe than sorry.

5. Reward Apps

This tip doesn’t fall under any Instacart shopper promotions that we’re aware of, but it’s great for picking up some free moolah. Consider this: the order you just delivered is paid for, but you’ve got a paper receipt that’s just prime for several rewards apps such as:

  • Ibotta. Download the app. They require you to choose offers for cashback, and then you just upload a picture of your receipts for cashback
  • Receipt Hog. Download the app. Set up your account. Upload pictures of your receipts to gain coins. The cashout amount is 1,000 coins for PayPal cash or an Amazon gift card.

6. Communication

The major part of how does Instacart work for drivers is connecting with your customers. They need to know if you received their order, so it’s a good idea to let them know you’re on it. Your customers also need to know if something is out of stock, is it alright to substitute it with a store brand or perhaps another or similar item?

Since lots of drivers work during peak hours, there will be lines at the checkout counter, trouble getting out of the parking lot, not to mention traffic jams. If the customer is more than ten miles from the store, then you might want to tell them about the delays you’re facing.

Note: This communication, especially polite communication, increases your rating, meaning more batches.

7. Replacement

Before you call the customer, check the app for notes. Sometimes customers will allow you to choose similar or store brands as replacements for an item. It’s rare to find a requested item with no similar or store brand with which to replace it. At any rate, ask the customer for their preference.

8. Insulated Bags For Hot/Cold Items

You can order them from Amazon or eBay. Lots of grocery stores carry them. Walmart has them. Hot/cold bags are an absolute must if you want to know how does Instacart work for drivers. It’s a good idea to have two, one for hot and one for cold items. No one wants their ice cream to melt beside a hot package of rotisserie chicken.

9. Collapsible Grocery Cart

Let’s say your customer lives on a street with street parking only. You find an empty space a half-mile from your delivery address. You’re going to be schlepping those 30 to 40 pounds of groceries a half-mile. Wouldn’t it be nicer, not to mention easier on your back, if you pulled a collapsible grocery basket to the address? They’re available on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Target, and sometimes even in grocery stores.

10. Keep Your Phone Charged

If you have a newer car with communications technology, then all you have to do is set your phone into the slot and it charges. If not, then you’ll have to go old-school with a plug-in charger. Either way, you don’t want to miss promotions, bonus opportunities, or double or triple batches, so keep that phone charged.

11. Store Associates Are There To Help

Can’t find lime juice? Is a specific brand of barbecue sauce eluding you? Ask store associates. They know where everything is, and their job is to help you.

12. Smile!

A customer can “see” your smile through the phone. Be polite and make sure to ask if you can assist your customer in any way.

13. Keep Track Of Your Mileage

We mentioned in one of the tips above that mileage is tax-deductible. Using a mileage app such as Everlance or TripLog will help you keep better track of it than a notebook.

14. Request Double Batch Orders

We also covered double batch orders in the tip above. When you open the app, you’ll see the orders for each store. You’ll be eligible for double batches after completing 60 orders. Accept a double batch in the app and go shopping. This lifts your rating so that you’ll be offered more double batches and/or multiple batches.

15. Take It A Step Further

Customers appreciate drivers who appreciate them. Show them you care by adding little notes or cards in their order. Most grocery stores have baskets at the doors containing flyers or free magazines. Tuck one or two in your customers’ orders. Tossing in a couple of mints makes them smile, too.

16. Speed Tips

  • To get through your orders fast, place deli orders first. They take the longest to fill, and you’ll be half done with your shopping by the time they call your number
  • Parking near the cart corral saves you a minute or so
  • Mark off items as found as you place them in the cart
  • Grab a handful of produce bags. Bag your produce as you’re standing in line instead of doing it while you’re shopping. It will save you a couple of extra minutes.

17. Bring Change!

Your customer might live on a street with parking meters. You’ll find this in cities with rehabbed warehouses turned into apartments or renovated business buildings turned into apartments. Keep a cup in your car with change in it, so you won’t be ticketed for an expired meter.

How Does Instacart Work For Drivers: Applying For A Job

Now that you know all these cool tips for being an Instacart driver, how about becoming one? As with all jobs, you have to fill out an application. Also with all jobs, you’ll go online to fill out an Instacart driver application. It only takes a few minutes, but you’ll need:

  • Your name, address, phone number, and email address
  • Your Social Security number
  • Some applications ask for your driving license and/or passport number
  • You’ll describe your car and your insurance arrangements
  • You’ll schedule an in-person onboarding session or orientation
  • Agree to the criminal background check

That’s pretty much it. Additionally, part of how Instacart works for drivers is having all your paperwork with you when you go to the onboarding session. You may have uploaded it online, but they’ll want hard copies of it all. This is where you’ll fill out the tax paperwork and federal employment authorization forms, and such. You’ll fill out a contractor agreement as well. The onboarding session usually lasts about two hours.

How Much Do Instacart Shoppers Make?

Now for the most important part of our tutorial. You’re not working for your health, and money is necessary to buy everything. Instacart drivers make more money than in-store shoppers due to tips and bonuses. Pay differs by region and city.

With that having been said, Instacart pays its drivers, and this is the latest information we’ve been able to find, from $15 to $20 per delivery based on criteria like the number of items in the order, distance to the delivery address, and time to reach the destination. We were also able to research that Instacart pays its drivers $13 per hour. This is before tips, bonuses, and extra pay for working peak hours.

Tips differ from job to job. The platform forces customers to tip or opt-out. Most customers do tip, with the minimum being two dollars. Most customers tip more, which adds up quickly. All things taken into consideration, you can make some respectable money being an Instacart driver.

How Does Instacart Work For Drivers FAQ

What Are The Delivery Hours?

Delivery hours are generally between 9 am and 10 pm. Some service areas might be different, so check the website for delivery hours in those areas. Holiday hours vary by city and region, so check the website for those, too.

Can I Place An Order In Advance?

Customers can place orders seven days in advance or as little as an hour or two hours in advance, depending on Instacart driver availability in that area at that time.

How Much Does It Cost To Use Instacart?

The platform charges a delivery fee for having your groceries delivered. On the other hand, your pizza delivery, DoorDash, and other delivery services charge you a delivery fee, so that’s perfectly normal. Sometimes the Instacart parent company, TOPS, will add a ten percent shopper fee to order. You can take that off at the end before checkout, though. Other than that, there’s your tip for the driver, and you’re done.

Final Thoughts

How does Instacart work for drivers is no different than working with DoorDash, Lyft, or delivering pizza. In a gig economy, the independent contractor makes the most lucrative use of his time. He drives for one of the major delivery companies, sets his own schedule, and makes the utmost of the opportunities given him.

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