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Instacart is a personal grocery shopping service that allows users to select products from a store of their choice and have them delivered to their door.

For many people, Instacart is a convenient and time-saving option that reduces the need to go to the grocery store. Home delivery services also offer a safer alternative to in-store shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article describes what Instacart is and how to use it. It also outlines who may benefit most from using the service and lists alternative providers.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these services. All information is purely research-based.

Instacart is a personal shopping service available online and through Apple and Android devices. It allows people to view, select, and purchase products from a store of their choice. Once a user pays for their items and chooses a delivery slot, an independent contractor, known as a shopper, will select the order, pick up the items, and deliver them.

The stores a person can purchase from depend on where they live. In general, Instacart provides access to a range of retailers, including:

  • grocery stores
  • pharmacies
  • big box stores
  • pet supply chains
  • office supply retailers

Instacart also offers a free delivery service for new members. After this period, delivery fees start from $3.99, which vary according to the following factors:

  • time of day
  • a person’s location
  • size of the order

The delivery fee does not include a tip for the shopper.

To place an order on Instacart:

  1. Sign up for an account on Instacart.com.
  2. Log into the account via the web or by downloading the app.
  3. Select a store.
  4. Begin shopping: select the desired items, indicate the required quantity, and add them to the shopping cart. Select any preferences for substitutions.
  5. Choose a delivery slot.
  6. Pay for the order. Instacart places a hold on a debit or credit card, then charges the full amount after completing the order.
  7. Message the shopper through the Instacart app with additional questions or concerns.
  8. Tip the shopper before or after they fulfill the order.

Participating locations

Instacart offers its services to all 50 states of America. It also offers services in many other locations worldwide.

People can check to see if the company serves their town or country by entering their zip code on the Instacart homepage.

Instacart has partnered with over 650 retailers. The availability of these retailers may vary depending on a person’s location.

The company can offer same-day pick-up and delivery from grocers, pharmacies, and retailers. A nonexhaustive list of partners include:

  • Publix
  • Kroger
  • Aldi
  • Wegmans
  • Costco
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Best Buy
  • Petco
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond

A person can check which partners are available according to their location on Instacart’s website.

Instacart has several fees:

  • Delivery fee: Instacart delivery fees start from $3.99 for same-day orders of $35 or more. Fees will vary on orders that are less than $35 and on 1-hour deliveries.
  • Heavy fee: Instacart charges a heavy fee for any order with a combined weight of 50 pounds or more. However, the company does not define the cost of this charge.
  • Service fee: Instacart charges a service fee to cover operational costs. This fee will vary according to location and whether a person has ordered any alcohol.
  • Long-distance service fee: Instacart charges an additional long-distance service fee for people who order from retailers that are 30–60 miles away from their residence.
  • Priority fee: A priority fee of $2–4 allows a person to receive their order in 60 minutes or less.
  • Pickup fee: Certain retailers may charge a pickup fee if a person chooses to collect their order in-store.
  • Bottle deposit and bag fee: Local city laws and state laws may require a bottle deposit and bag fee.

Additionally, Instacart will charge a sales tax on all orders. And depending on a person’s location, they may have to pay fees for ordering sugar-sweetened beverages.

People in San Francisco will also need to pay an additional health charge.

Instacart Express

People can purchase an Instacart Express membership for a flat annual fee or a monthly cost. Instacart does not state the cost of this membership.

Instacart Express members can save an average of $7 per order, pay lower service fees, and receive free delivery on orders of $35 or more.

Grocery delivery is a convenient and potentially safer option for many people, including:

  • People concerned about COVID-19 or other infectious diseases: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend ordering groceries to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. Grocery delivery services can reduce people physically going to stores, making shopping safer, even for those who choose to shop in-person.
  • People with certain health conditions: Certain health conditions may make in-store shopping difficult or stressful for some people. Those who struggle to shop due to mobility impairments, chronic fatigue, or other health issues may benefit from a home delivery service.
  • People making healthful dietary choices: Instacart makes it easier to plan recipes and stick to a specific shopping list without distraction or temptation. This may be helpful for people trying to maintain a moderate weight or follow a nutritious eating plan.
  • People who want to avoid impulse buys: Purchasing groceries online eliminates the temptation to shop for items a person does not need.
  • People on a budget: Although grocery delivery costs extra, sticking to a specified list can help an individual stay within their budget.
  • Busy people: Instacart may be helpful for those who work long hours or have caring responsibilities.

For some people, Instacart is a convenient and time-saving way to shop. For others, it may seem like an unnecessary luxury.

Below are some factors to consider in determining whether Instacart is right for a person:

  • Do they enjoy grocery shopping?
  • Can they get everything they need with Instacart?
  • Can the service save them time?
  • Does using Instacart improve health, such as reducing coronavirus exposure in high-risk areas?
  • How much does tipping shoppers add to budgets?
  • How do they view their paying policies for shoppers?

Some advantages and disadvantages of Instacart include:

Pros

  • offers a physically distanced form of shopping
  • offers an accessible shopping experience for those who cannot go to physical stores
  • offers a range of delivery options, such as pick-up, same-day delivery, and scheduled delivery
  • provides services globally
  • has a wide range of partners

Cons

  • may be unavailable in more rural areas
  • may be more expensive than shopping in-store or online due to service fees
  • may not provide an easy-to-use service for people who have difficulty using the internet

Instacart is one of many grocery delivery services, with other options including:

  • Shipt: Operates using a similar model to Instacart, delivering products from a variety of retailers.
  • Walmart: A delivery service providing unlimited groceries for a small monthly fee.
  • Amazon Fresh: A grocery delivery service available to Amazon Prime members, offering fresh foods from the company’s warehouses.

Instacart is a personal shopping service that allows people to purchase products from a store of their choice and have them delivered to their door.

For many users, the service greatly reduces the stress and hassle of grocery shopping. It may be particularly beneficial for people who are shielding during the COVID-19 pandemic or for those with underlying health conditions that limit their ability to shop in-store.

Instacart is one of many personal shopping and delivery services. People can try researching different delivery apps to find the right one for them.