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You may have heard of or used Instacart before, especially now that grocery delivery is more popular than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grocery delivery service offers several benefits, the main one being the convenience of having your groceries delivered right to your door. However, the service may also have some downsides.

This article reviews the pros and cons of Instacart, whether it’s worth the price, and how it measures up to other popular grocery delivery services.

Instacart is a grocery delivery service that employs personal shoppers to shop for you and then deliver the groceries to your home.

It partners with several large grocery store chains and offers same-day delivery in a number of cities.

The service is one of the largest and most widely available in North America, providing service to metro areas in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and all Canadian provinces except Quebec.

Instacart Express

Instacart Express is an optional subscription service that provides access to unlimited free deliveries on orders over $35 for $99 per year, or $9.99 per month.

It also reduces the service fees on your orders.

If you regularly use grocery delivery services, you may find Instacart Express worthwhile, especially if Instacart is available where you regularly shop.

Instacart orders have a delivery fee starting at $3.99, as well as an additional service fee starting at 5% of your grocery total. If you order alcohol, Instacart will charge you a separate service fee.

Additionally, certain items may be more expensive through Instacart than at the store. This is common practice for grocery delivery services that partner with multiple stores.

Finally, it’s also customary to tip your shopper for each order, so you should plan for this in your grocery budget.

Instacart Express, which costs $99 per year, waives the delivery fee for all orders over $35 and reduces the minimum service fee to 1.9% of your grocery total.

According to Instacart, Express members save about $7 on each order.

Therefore, if you expect to use Instacart more than 14 times a year, you may save money by joining Instacart Express.

Ordering items on Instacart is a relatively straightforward process.

Getting started

To get started with Instacart, you can sign up and create an account on the website or app using your email, phone number, or Google or Facebook account.

Once you input your address or zip code, you can select from an assortment of stores in your area.

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Screenshot of available New York grocery stores on Instacart

Some examples of stores that are available include:

  • Target
  • ALDI
  • Price Chopper
  • Costco
  • Dollar Tree
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Sephora
  • The Vitamin Shoppe
  • 7-Eleven

You can also filter retailers by categories, such as:

  • grocery
  • convenience
  • alcohol
  • beauty
  • bulk
  • retail
  • pharmacy
  • pets

Selecting items

After you’ve chosen a specific store, you can begin browsing through items, which are sorted into categories, such as household items, beverages, produce, healthcare, or kitchen supplies.

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Shopping for products from Target using Instacart

The price is displayed, along with other details about the product, such as its ingredients and nutritional information.

To add an item to your cart, simply press the plus button next to each item. You can also easily delete or order more of an item from your shopping cart.

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Instacart shopping cart view

Additionally, you can view the available delivery times for the store you selected, along with the specific price for different time slots throughout the day.

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Delivery time options using Instacart

Checkout

When you’re ready to check out, you can choose a delivery time, add your mobile number, and include specific delivery instructions, if needed.

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Screenshot of Instacart’s checkout process

You can also choose whether you’d like your delivery driver to leave your order at your door for a no-contact delivery.

Next, you’re able to input your payment method, which can be a credit card, debit card, or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, if accepted by the specific store.

Delivery

Once your order has been received, your Instacart shopper will begin picking your items and packing your order.

You can view their progress, send messages, and approve replacements for unavailable items on the Instacart app.

If you want to add any items or make any changes to your order, you can also let them know using the chat feature.

After your order has been packed, your personal shopper will pick it up and begin the delivery process. If there are any issues with finding your address, they will contact you by calling or sending a text message.

Keep in mind that delivery drivers are unable to leave orders unattended unless the customer instructs them to do so. Additionally, you must be available to receive orders containing alcohol or certain high value items that require a certified delivery.

Order issues

You can report any problems with your order, such as damaged, missing, or incorrect items, directly on the Instacart app or website.

You have up to 14 days to report any issues and will receive either a refund or credit to your account.

You can also cancel or reschedule on the website or app, as well as contact customer service via phone, email, or online chat.

There are several advantages to Instacart, including the convenience it provides.

Some of the other benefits include:

  • offers an easy way to get groceries for those otherwise unable to shop in-person, including older adults, people with physical disabilities, and those with limited access to transportation
  • multiple delivery options available, including same-day delivery and scheduled deliveries up to 2 weeks in advance
  • has a dedicated customer service line just for order assistance for older adults
  • provides a safe, socially distanced grocery shopping experience
  • widely available, with grocery delivery in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and 9 Canadian provinces
  • offers optional Instacart Express membership, which can save members an average of $7 per grocery order

Although there are many benefits of using Instacart, there are a few downsides to consider as well:

  • currently unavailable in many rural areas, which may be due to a lack of grocery stores or Instacart shoppers
  • may be more expensive than in-store shopping due to higher priced items and delivery and service fees
  • could be difficult to use for those who have limited experience using technology or lack access to the internet or a smartphone

This table compares Instacart with three other popular grocery delivery services: Walmart Delivery, Shipt, and Amazon Fresh.

InstacartWalmart DeliveryShiptAmazon Fresh
Participating storesseveral chain retailers and local grocersWalmart onlyseveral chain retailers and local grocersAmazon and Whole Foods
Same-day delivery availablityavailableavailableavailableavailable
Regions coveredmost major metro areas in the United States and Canadamost major metro areas in the United Statesmost major metro areas in the United Statescertain large metro areas in the United States, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Japan
Fees$3.99+ delivery fee, 5%+ service fee$7.95–9.95 delivery feeone-time Shipt pass: $10 per order (can purchase multiple Shipt passes at a discount)• Amazon Prime membership required
• delivery fee for 1-hour delivery and orders under $35 for Amazon Fresh
• $9.95 delivery fee for Whole Foods orders
Price of itemsmay be higher than in-store pricessame as in-store pricesmay be higher than in-store pricessame as in-store prices (for Whole Foods)
Membership serviceInstacart Express (optional): $99/year or $9.99/month for unlimited free delivery on orders over $35, reduced service feesWalmart+ (optional): $98/year or $12.95/month for unlimited free delivery on orders over $35Shipt membership (optional): $99/ year for unlimited free delivery on orders over $35Amazon Prime (required): $119/year or $12.99/month for unlimited free Amazon Fresh delivery on orders over $35

If Instacart is available in your area, it’s a solid choice for grocery delivery, especially if the stores you regularly shop at participate in the service.

If you only use grocery delivery occasionally, the regular Instacart service should be sufficient for your needs.

However, expect to pay at least $10–15 more than you would at the store after factoring in delivery and service fees, higher prices, and a tip for the delivery person.

If you think you’ll order grocery delivery more than 14 times a year, it’s worth paying for the annual Instacart Express membership for free delivery and a reduced service fee.

Make sure that all of your orders are over $35 to qualify for free delivery.

Instacart is a grocery delivery service operating in most metro areas in the United States and Canada. It offers delivery from many large grocery chains, as well as smaller local grocery stores.

Instacart Express is a subscription option that waives delivery fees and lowers service fees, and it’s ideal for people who order grocery delivery regularly.

If you’re interested in grocery delivery and live in an urban or suburban area, Instacart is a promising option that’s probably available where you live.