Online food delivery service, Instacart, uses personal shoppers to deliver groceries to your door in as little as an hour, from any participating store.
The convenience of ordering online and not having to go to the store
You don’t have to sign up as a member to use Instacart (though becoming a member works out cheaper in the long run)
You can shop at warehouse stores without having a membership!
The mark up on some items seemed high
When you’re getting started, the fees and charges can be confusing
A lot of plastic bags
With a company as big as Instacart, there are a lot of mixed reviews out there on many different forums, from TrustPilot to Facebook. It can be hard to get a clear idea of whether Instacart is a service worth using.
Given the divided opinions about this food delivery service – it was time to take a closer look at what this company has to offer and decide for myself. Given the current circumstances, shopping with Instacart seemed like the way to go. Read on to find out if it passed the DeliveryRank test.
Instacart is a grocery delivery service that works with the stores you already know and use. It basically adds an invisible layer to your regular online shopping. Once you set up your account, you see all the stores in your area that work with Instacart. To get started, click on a store and start shopping.
Once you submit your order (more about that later), an Instacart “Shopper” goes to your grocer or store of choice and shops for, packs, and delivers your groceries to you. You choose your delivery time – anywhere from an hour to later in the week – then sit back and wait for your delivery.
To get started, sign up with your email or your Facebook account. Put in your zip code to see the list of shops that deliver (or offer pick up) in your area.
In the New York area, there was a wide range of retailers to choose from. I went with my regular, ALDI, but I was tempted to try out one of the stores I don’t usually go to.
I initially thought I’d be shopping on the regular ALDI site, but there was a totally different layout for Instacart. However, it was simple enough to navigate and I didn’t have trouble finding what I needed.
Once I’d finished my shopping and clicked Go to Checkout, I could see the breakdown of fees and my total to pay.
I thought that the $2.45 tip looked very measly for my shopper, especially since they’re facing so much exposure by being in stores these days, so I was glad to see you can easily change the amount and increase it.
At this point, I hadn’t taken out a membership and was intrigued by the promise of saving $1.45, so I clicked on “Get Instacart Express.”
This is a monthly or annual membership that provides savings on delivery and service fees, offering great value for anyone who regularly uses Instacart.
One of the big draws for Instacart Express is that you can order from more than one store in a single order, without incurring an extra fee. That means I can have someone pick up pet food, drugstore supplies, and office items along with my groceries at no extra cost. You really can’t beat that.
The two-week trial is a great way to see if Instacart Express is going to work for you, and it’s easy to cancel if you decide it’s not what you were looking for (more on that below).
Anyway, back to finalizing my delivery. It was really simple. I put in my address and chose my delivery time. I went with same-day delivery because it didn’t cost any extra and I had some big dinner plans.
I asked the shopper who would be bringing my order to leave it at my door if I wasn’t available.
This is an excellent option because it means you don’t always have to be home to receive your order. It’s flexible, too. For example, if you knew you were going to be out for a while, you could ask them to leave the delivery with a trusted neighbor instead.
After adding my mobile number and payment details, I was good to go. I was impressed by how smooth the whole process was.
There are a few things to take into account when it comes to Instacart pricing. None of it is complicated, but it might require you to do some back-of-envelope calculations to figure out what’s best for you!
You should bear in mind that most of the items you order will not be quite as cheap as if you bought them yourself in store. Instacart is very transparent about the fact you pay a little bit more for many items. The mark up can be anything from a few cents to more than 50 cents.
When you order through Instacart, you will incur a service fee, a delivery fee, and an (optional) shopper tip. If you don’t have a membership, you’ll pay higher delivery and service fees. So if you order regularly, it might be worth subscribing as you’ll make your fee back pretty fast.
Instacart Express starts from $99 a year, if you pay annually. Otherwise, it’s $9.99 a month. With membership, you get free delivery on orders over $35 and reduced service fees. You also get free “busy pricing” (Instacart’s surge pricing equivalent) and you’ll get free one-hour delivery.
On orders under $35, you’ll be charged anywhere from $3.99 to $9.99 without membership and less if you’re an Instacart Express member.
Then what about tipping? The tip isn’t part of the service charge or the delivery charge. If you look at your bill at checkout, you’ll see it’s set at 5%, and Instacart recommends leaving a tip that’s proportionate to your total bill.
Even taking into account the fees and mark-ups, I actually found I was spending less using Instacart. That’s because I was able to see exactly what I was spending, and I wasn’t tempted by the same things as I would have been in store (hello, potato chips!). I also saved a great deal of time not going back and forth to the grocery store.
As promised, my shopper brought my delivery to my door by 5.30 pm. They were very friendly and polite and did an excellent job picking out my groceries. I couldn’t believe how much time and effort I had saved by not having to go to the store myself.
With the Instacart app, I was able to communicate directly with the shopper. The app also let me know when the shopping was done and when it was on its way to me. That’s better communication than when my partner goes to the store!
My main criticism of the delivery was that I hated the number of plastic bags the groceries were delivered in. I always use reusable bags, so the sheer amount of extra plastic was a real turnoff. However, since you’re handing over responsibility to someone else, I’m not sure there’s much to be done about it.
The stores that work with Instacart vary depending on where you live. You can use Instacart with a lot of well-known big-box retailers including ALDI, CVS, Publix, Sam’s Club, Costco, Sprouts, and Wegmans. You may also find that some local favorites have partnered with Instacart, too.
Given that Instacart operates in more than 5,500 cities across the U.S., you should be able to find at least one store that suits your needs.
To check out some differences in geographical locations, I played a little game and searched for stores in different cities, which was really easy to do by inputting different zip codes and hitting search.
In the Chicago area, for example, I could order groceries from stores I was familiar with, and places I had never heard of:
As well as neighborhood favorites:
And natural and organic online food delivery options:
There were also wine, beer, and spirits options, general merchandise (like Staples), and a “New on Instacart” category that included Sephora and buybuy Baby.
To put Instacart to the test, I tried a less urban area – Terre Haute, Indiana – to see what was on offer.
While the selection of stores was nowhere near as comprehensive as the Chicago area, I was pleasantly surprised by the choice. Delivery was available from Kroger, ALDI, Sam’s Club, Staples, CVS pharmacy, and a few others.
I thought that Instacart had good customer service and I really liked the range of options for getting in touch with customer support.
You can email through the website and get a reply within 24 hours, you can call the customer service number, or you can use live chat. Live chat is my personal preference because it means I can get my problem sorted without having to sit on the phone with someone. And it really was instantaneous.
I also liked that Instacart has a dedicated Senior Support Service offering telephone-only help from 8 am to 11 pm Eastern.
To find out more about the process of canceling your Instacart membership, take a look at this full-length blog that goes into more detail.
While Instacart is one of the better-known delivery companies on the market, it’s not the only one. Depending on what you need, some of the other options might work better for you and your lifestyle.
Hungryroot is somewhere in between a meal delivery service and a grocery delivery service and helps you to eat (and cook) more healthily.
Once you’ve filled out a profile, Hungryroot sends you a “curated” grocery delivery each week and also shows you how best to use the ingredients with a wide selection of recipes. Charges start at $59 per delivery.
Shipt is probably the most similar to Instacart. It operates in more than 260 cities and also uses a personal shopper system. It works with big box stores and local retailers and offers same-day delivery. Like Instacart, it also offers a $99 annual membership giving free delivery on orders over $35.
It also offers a Shipt Pass, which is a one-time fee for delivery from any participating retailer. They cost $10 for one and there’s a discount on multiple purchases.
While Instacart may cost a little extra than going to the grocery store yourself, the main benefit is that you can do everything from the comfort of your own home, and these days that definitely has a lot of advantages.
Depending on where you live, which stores you have access to, and how strict you are with your grocery budget, using Instacart may make more sense for some than others.
Keep in mind, though, that the amount of time and hassle saved, not to mention the benefit of having groceries magically appear at your front door, makes this a really useful service for those with hectic lifestyles, or for those who may struggle to physically get out to the store otherwise.
There are quite a few costs associated with Instacart, but once you get the hang of them it’s really straightforward. First off, there’s a $3.99 charge for same-day orders over $35. Then there are different fees for one-hour and club-store deliveries and deliveries valued under $35 ($10 minimum order value). If you’re an Instacart Express member, you’ll enjoy free delivery on orders over $35.
You can also incur a service fee, a “heavy” fee for weighty deliveries, a bottle deposit, bag fees, and local taxes and fees.
Instacart delivery starts at 9 am and runs until midnight in some areas. When you set up your account and input your location, you’ll be able to see exactly what stores serve your area and what hours they keep.
Instacart makes it really easy to cancel your Instacart Express membership directly from the website or app. To find out more, and to see some alternatives, take a look at this article in which I give you all the info you need.
Instacart encourages tipping and 100% of the tip goes to the shopper delivering your order. The default tip is set at either 5% or the figure you chose from your most recent order, depending on which one is higher. Instacart suggests $2 per individual store delivery. Don’t worry if you forget to do it before the delivery arrives. Tips can be adjusted up to 24 hours after you receive your delivery.