Working as an Instacart Shopper or Driver in Canada is a great alternative to rideshare and meal delivery apps.

Maybe you’re tired of driving people around, or maybe you are tired of your car smelling like fast food and chicken wings. Instacart solves both of those problems by providing drivers with the opportunity to delivery groceries via their smartphone app.

Let’s take a look at what you need to sign up, how much you’ll make, and how it all works!

What is Instacart?

Instacart is a grocery delivery app much like UberEats or Skip the Dishes. Customers will log into the app, browse through their favourite grocery store, and pay for their order. From there, the Instacart Shoppers take over.

Shoppers will go to the grocery store, pick the customers order for them and deliver it to their front door. You will do everything from weighing produce to picking up small appliances.

If it can be done on a grocery run, it can be done on Instacart!

With Instacart you have three service levels you can choose from. You can either be an In-store Shopper, a Driver, or a Shopper-Driver. Since we are all about commercial driving, we are going to look at the options available to drivers.

Delivery Only and a Full Service Shopper, depending on what is available in your area.

What is the difference between Driver Only and Full Service Shopper

Driver Only duties are to pick up from grocery stores and to deliver to customers. They do not have to pick the actual batch (order) themselves. Very similar to UberEats, you are notified there is a pick up available and you deliver it.

A Full Service Shopper is a driver who also goes into the grocery store to pick the batch (order) for the customer. Once the batch is picked and paid for the Shopper will load the order into their car and deliver to the customer.

As a driver with Instacart you will be considered an independent contractor. This gives you the freedom of setting your own schedule, but also means you are responsible for paying your own taxes.

Instacart Shopper requirements:

  • Must be 18 years or older
  • Have a SIN and be eligible to work in Canada
  • A vehicle with insurance, registration, and drivers license
  • A newer smartphone with the ability to run the Shopper app
  • Be able to lift 25kg pounds of groceries while delivering
  • Pass a background check at time of application

Are Instacart jobs available in your city?

Instacart is currently operating in the following provinces and territories:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

The grocery delivery service does not currently operate in Quebec (although Provigo seems to deliver through Instacart) or in Nunavut.

For a complete list of cities Instacart is operating in you can refer to this list on the Instacart website. When you get there you will be able to enter your postal code to see if Instacart is available in your area.

How does Instacart work for drivers?

As an Instacart Shopper, you will be notified via the Shopper App that there is a batch available to deliver. The app will estimate your earnings if you decide to accept the batch.

If you do accept, you’re job is to deliver the groceries to the customer.

What is a batch?

An “Instacart Batch” is essentially an order for groceries. It is what Instacart and their drivers call a shopping/delivery request. There can be more than one order per batch, meaning more than one shopping order, location and/or customers.

You can choose to accept or decline a batch. If you decline multiple batches you will be put offline, however, you can just log back in again and hit “Ready to Shop”.

Picking your batch (otherwise known as “grocery shopping”)

Now that you have accepted your batch, it’s time to head to the grocery store to start shopping!

Your task here is to pick up all of the items on your customers grocery list. But what if an item the customer requests isn’t available?

Instacart connects shoppers and customers via the chat function in the app. Shoppers can ask customers if they have a specific substitution in mind or if they can skip the item altogether.

This can sometimes be a pain if the customer is not responding while you are shopping.

Once your batch is picked it’s time to head to the checkout lines to pay for the groceries.

How do you pay for the orders?

Once you are approved to be an Instacart Shopper, you will get an Instacart credit card to purchase the orders from the retailers. This should be sent to you within 5-10 business days of being approved in the mail.

Do not pay for the order with your own money. Some people have asked, what happens if the Instacart credit card isn’t working? Should I pay with my own funds?

It is recommended you contact support and wait for them to rectify the situation. If you pay with your own money, it could 2 weeks for Instacart to reimburse you.

Delivering the batch to the customer

After you have paid for the groceries with the Instacart Shopper card, you need to load the groceries into your car and deliver to the customers address.

Pretty straight forward right?

When you arrive at the customers address, bring the groceries to the front door. This is a good chance to create a personal connection with customers.

Greet them with a friendly hello and offer to help take the groceries in for them. Some customers may be ok with this, others may prefer you drop them at the door.

Once you have delivered the order your job is done!

Do you have a regular schedule?

It depends on your city if you as an Instacart driver have a set schedule or just accept orders as you wish. The two ways to work as an Instacart driver are:

  1. Sign up for “shifts” in advance, which are blocks of time you expected to be available to accept batches (orders requests). This is similar to how Skip The Dishes works.
  2. Go “On Demand” during busy times and just wait for batches to come in. You will have 30 seconds to accept a batch. This is similar to how Uber Eats works.

How do you book shifts

To book a shift, head to your Instacart Shopper app and look for the “Select Hours” button or tab. This section will allow you to choose blocks of time that suit you best.

When you first start out, you automatically get early access to shifts for the first 3 weeks. If you are a casual Shopper you will likely only be able to book delivery blocks 1 or 2 days ahead.

Working more hours and meeting the minimum thresholds in your area means early access to shifts.

Early access to shift booking screenshot in the Instacart Shopper app

What is On-Demand (OD)

An On Demand (OD) order or batch is one that can be accepted in real time. The order will pop up in your notifications and you have a set amount of time to accept the order. If the time runs out the batch will be declined.

New batch available notification for Shoppers

Not all cities have the option for On Demand shopping, but if yours does, you may see an option to choose a region.

A region or zone is an area that you have selected to work in. Toronto for example has many different zones to choose from. A helpful Reddit user has put together a Google Map which displays all of the current Toronto zones.

When you are within your zone and online in the Shopper app, you will begin to receive OD pick up requests as they become available. Once you select a batch you approach the order just like you would while working on a shift.

How much do Instacart drivers make?

This is a loaded question depending on who you ask. There are many factors at play when it comes to Instacart Driver Pay.

Here are a few of the factors that contribute to your take home pay.

  • The city you deliver in (determines your rate structure)
  • How many hours you are online
  • The number of batches/items in a run
  • Distance travelled to deliver
  • Customer tips!

Instacart Driver Pay Structure

Instacart, like many other gig platforms, is not very upfront with the way it calculates driver pay. Variables like, Instacart Pay, Promos, and Tips can be used to represent the driver pay structure. To simplify, we use the following formula:

Total Earnings = Instacart Payment + Promos + Tips

Let’s take a look at what each of these variables means.

Instacart Payments

This is what Instacart pays you as a driver for your services, sometimes also called the Batch Payment. This portion of your Total Earnings is made up of a few factors like:

  • Store type (grocery store, box store, liquor store)
  • Number of batches
  • Quantity of items
  • Weight of items (called the Heavy Pay)
  • Distance travelled for delivery ($0.40CAD/km)

Instacart guarantees you a batch minimum of $5 for delivery only drivers and $7-10 full service shoppers.

Peak Boost and Promotions

Peak Boost is a separate category of pay that is used to incentivize drivers to accept an order by adding $2 the longer it remains unaccepted. It will continue to go up by $2 increments until it maxes out between an additional $12 – $16 in peak pay.

Some other promotions that may contribute to this would be driver referrals. A driver referral is when a new driver (or shopper) signs up using your referral code. When the driver signs up, you get a bonus for referring them to Instacart. The bonus amount varies by city but is usually around $50.

Tips

Customers can tip you in the app or in cash upon your arrival at the door? Customers are prompted to enter a tip when they finalize their order in the app but they actually have 3 days after the date of delivery to increase, decrease, add or remove a tip. By default, when the customer checkouts the tip will be set to 5% (which is way too low).

Here are a few things you can do to help ensure awesome tips!

  • Offer the customer the best possible service
  • Follow customer instructions closely
  • Be fast, but safe!
  • Be friendly
  • Look professional
  • Speak professionally

What is Heavy Pay?

Instacart “Heavy Pay” is an additional pay structure in place for drivers who have to deliver heavy or very large items. Heavy pay is added to the standard Instacart shopper pay.

Drivers will qualify for an Heavy Pay bump if the order is over 49 pounds and contains at least one item that is over 8 pounds. The pay structure is currently:

  • 49lbs – 73lbs = +$5.00
  • 74lbs – 98lbs = +$7.50
  • 99lbs – 123lbs = +$10.00
  • 124lbs – 148lbs = +$12.50
  • 149lbs and above = +$15.00

All of these variables contribute to your Total Earnings. You do need to remember that this is all before any expenses.

Does Instacart reimburse you for my gas?

No, Instacart does not reimburse you for your gas or any other expenses related to your services. Expenses like gas, cell phone charges, parking, vehicle insurance, and maintenance are all your responsibility.

Does instacart have an hourly wage?

While Instacart does not actually pay you a minimum wage, we have noticed that driver can make between $18 and $25 dollars an hour. Seasoned shoppers are likely scoffing at those numbers right now but let us explain.

Our estimates are based on actual data from real Instacart shoppers who shared their experience with the Reddit community r/InstacartShoppers.

The calculations do not include:

  • Time spent waiting for orders
  • Tax deductions
  • Gas
  • Wear and tear

This study is purely based on what Instacart pays you.

Case study

As mentioned above, our data was sourced from real world Instacart shoppers. We choose to analyze 10 completed orders and 10 estimated orders. All orders were Full Service Shopper batches and all were based in the USA (but in different locations).

Data points from Reddit

  • Earnings
  • Instacart Pay
  • Tips
  • Peak Boosts/Promotions
  • Batches
  • Items
  • Units
  • Miles

Estimate data points

  • Load / Unload Time – 5 minutes for each
  • Pick Time – 1 minute per item times # of items
  • Drive Time – 2 minutes per mile time # of miles
  • Total Time – Sum of the above

Calculated data points

  • $ Per Item
  • $ Per Unit
  • Distance $ (Distance Pay)
  • $ / Hour
  • $ / Hour w/ Tips
What do these numbers mean?

The tip data in this study is highly unreliable as the data source we used was primarily to showcase awesome tippers. We are, however, still able to calculate a meaningful $/Hour estimate with the rest of the data.

Using the batch data and the distance data we are able to estimate time per order. The order time includes loading/unloading, driving, and shopping. No between order waiting time was included in this data set.

Once the time was calculated we divided the sum of the Instacart Pay + Peaks/Promotion Pay by the total order time (hours). This gave us an estimated hourly wage before tips. We also estimated the hourly wage with tips included by using the earnings column, this produced some wild results.

Case Study Google Sheet

Case Study Spreadsheet Download

Instacart Shopper Salary

Using the data above, we can estimate a Instacart Shopper Salary.

Let’s lean on the conservative side and say that we make roughly $18 an hour with Instacart.

Here is what our annual gross income from Instacart would be if we worked

10 hours a week = $9,360/year
20 hours a week = $18,720/year
40 hours a week = $37,440/year
60 hours a week = $56,160/year

Now keep in mind, this is all before taxes and expenses, still not too shabby!

How to become an Instacart Shopper?

For drivers it all starts with downloading the Instacart Shopper App (Android and iPhone) and signing up. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Install and open the Instacart Shopper app
  2. Sign Up and Account Set Up
  3. Meet the Driver and Car requirements
  4. Select your Shopping Role
  5. Answer the Questionnaire
  6. Verify Driver’s License and Submit Selfie
  7. Sign Paperwork and Background Check

Install and open the Instacart Shopper app

You can begin by starting to register online or through the Instacart app for either Android or iPhone which you can get to using the buttons below.

Android
iPhone
Online Registration

Downloading and installing the Instacart Shopper app

Sign Up and Account Set Up

This step is pretty straight forward. Enter your profile information like names, phone numbers, location…

The home screen and the sign up page of the Shopper app

Meet the Driver and Car requirements

Here you will need to make sure you meet the basic requirements to deliver with Instacart. Check your insurance policy to make sure you are covered while working for a delivery service.

Meeting the requirements to become a Shopper

Select your Shopping Role

Here is where you can tell Instacart what type of shopper you will be. Full Service Shopper and Drive Only are the options available to drivers.

Selecting a role in the Instacart Shopper sign up process

Answer the Questionnaire

The questionnaire is sort of like a mini job interview. You will be asked some basic questions about previous experience and some real world situation questions. The answers to these will help Instacart determine whether or not you would be a good fit for the platform.

Verify Driver’s License and Submit Selfie

After you complete the questionnaire you will be asked to provide a copy of the front and back of your driver’s license. Instacart will also ask you to take a selfie so they can compare you to the image on your driver’s license.

Screenshots of Instacarts drivers license verification in the sign up portion of the app

Sign Paperwork and Background Check

Next you will need to review the agreements and policies that Instacart has in place with their shopper partners. After reading through the agreements you will need to submit you background checks.

Instacart sign up screenshots of the agreements and the background check portal

Instacart Background Checks and Driving Records

You will need to provide Instacart with a background check and a driving record. The background check is done by a third party called Checkr who is contracted by Instacart.

The way you submit your driving record varies depending on the province you are in.

Instructions for Background Checks by Province

Some provinces require you to pay a fee for your driving record.

Customer Privacy Information

Although it is helpful to discuss issues you are having with fellow drivers regarding your experiences on social media, blogs, online groups, and forums, you must be very careful. You are not allowed to post any of the following sensitive customer information:

  • Identity (name)
  • Contact information (phone number)
  • Address

Read Instacarts Full Service Account Access Guidelines

Instacart Arbitration

Most app-based companies have an Arbitration clause built in the agreement you sign when you take the gig. This basically means if you have a dispute, you can’t sue them but rather go to arbitration instead. Arbitration involves an independent third party hearing both sides and making a legally binding determination or award. It is a way of resolving disputes outside of the Courts.

Whenever you sign up for Instacart you can choose to opt-out of this provision. The contract will typically state that you have 30 days to opt-out of the agreement to arbitrate provision.

Click here to see the Instacart Driver Contracts

How do you opt-out of arbitration with Instacart?

In order to opt-out of the arbitration clause with Instacart, you need to send an e-mail to contractor-opt-out@instacart.com within 30 days of signing up. In the e-mail include your first and last name as well as a statement that says something like “I wish to opt-out of the Arbitration Provision”. You should get a generic auto-reply that looks something like this.

Instacarts arbitration opt out email example

There is a way to opt-out using mail as well but why go through the time and expense when a simple e-mail will do the trick. Make sure you save your e-mail to them and their auto-reply to you somewhere safe, in case you delete it by accident when cleaning out your inbox.

Should you opt-out of the Instacart Arbitration Provision?

Most professionals and drivers agree that yes, you should opt-out of the arbitration provision as an Instacart driver. This is because agreeing to arbitration means you waive your right to go to Court against Instacart and also can not join a class-action lawsuit. It is better to keep your options open.

* This is not to be construed as legal advice and we recommend you speak with a lawyer before making any decisions.

Essential Instacart Driver Gear

There are no mandatory start-up costs for Instacart drivers but, some drivers like to use a few tools to make the job easier.

When a customer orders a shopping cart full of ice cream, you’re going to need something to keep it all from melting in your back seat. Some delivery services want drivers to purchase an approved insulated thermal bags, however, Instacart lets you choose what you use. We suggest a cooler for cold foods and a thermal bag for warm foods.

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Thermal bags for hot and warm foods

Heavy Duty

Medium Duty

Light Duty

Coolers for cold and frozen foods

Heavy Duty

Medium Duty

Light Duty

Carts and dollys for delivery

What happens if your customer orders a particularly large batch? Sure you can use a cart in the store, however, that won’t help you much for a big order that you may need to take through a parking garage, into a lobby, up an elevator, and to the customer at their apartment door. Try a cart or dolly instead, makes the job easier and safer!

Heavy Duty

Medium Duty

Light Duty

Portable scales, chargers and phone mounts

Many drivers purchase their own gear to make the job faster, safer and easier on themselves. Here are a couple of items we recommend to make your job as an Instacart driver more profitable.

Portable Scale

Battery Charger

Car Phone Mounts

Do you need additional insurance?

To work as an Instacart driver you need to make sure you have insurance coverage as outlined by local laws. Generally this is your basic liability coverage that you should already have.

In some locations or depending on your current covereage, you may be required to include a delivery insurance coverage.

Taxes, HST, Deductions

In your typical job, your employer gives you your net pay which is the amount left over after they deduct income taxes you owe, CPP (Canada Pension Plan contributions) and EI (Employment Insurance). As an Instacart driver, you are responsible for paying these deductions yourself.

You do not need to pay the government every week though. Instead, you will pay at the end of the year when you do your taxes.

If you want to do a rough calculation, you can visit the government website and use their payroll deductions calculator.

You will owe the federal and provincial taxes and both the employer and employee portions of CPP. Paying Employment Insurance is optional but if you don’t pay into it, you don’t get any entitlement to it.

For more detailed information on income taxes, you can refer to our article on income tax for rideshare drivers, which largely applies to delivery contractors like Instacart drivers.

You should talk with your accounting professional to estimate how much money you should save throughout the year so you don’t get surprised by a big bill when you file your taxes.

HST

Instacart drivers need to collect and pay HST (or GST / PST depending on your province) if you make more than $30,000 over the course of a year (technically, 4 consecutive quarters).

If this applies to you, you will need to register for an HST number. You will then need to give your number to Instacart in the app so they can pay you the HST on your earnings. You can refer to this page on their website for step by step instructions on how to do it.

For more information on how HST works, you can refer to our rideshare HST article. Even though it is directed to rideshare drivers, all the information applies to delivery drivers like Instacart drivers as well.

Deductions

As you are an independent contractor, you can deduct your expenses from the amount of earnings you make, which will lower the amount of taxes you have to pay at the end of the year. Some examples of things you can deduct as expenses are:

  • Gas
  • Bags and carts used for shopping
  • Vehicle maintenance and repairs
  • Cell phone expenses

Also, if you are collecting HST you can deduct the amount of HST you pay on these expenses from the amount you have to give to their government.

For more things that you can deduct and information, you can refer to our article for rideshare drivers, although this information largely applies to delivery drivers like Instacart drivers as well.

Contact Information

It’s not always easy to get through, but here is a list of ways to contact Instacart

Support Phone Number: 1-888-246-7822
Twitter Support: @Instacart
Online Support
Email: help@instacart.com

If you really can’t get connect with Instacart using the methods below, you can try the in-app chat method.

First, log in to your Instacart Shopper dashboard, then tap the “?” icon in the top right corner of the app. This will bring you to the help menu. Your screen might look slightly different than the one below, but you need to look for a section that shows the Instacart chat icon.

Tap the chat icon and a messenger style window will open up and begin connecting you with an Instacart support member.

How to connect to Instacarts in-app chat feature

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the other questions a new Instacart Shopper may ask:

Can I bring someone with me to shop and deliver?

This is a bit of a muddy area in terms of the law and Instacart’s policies. According to your contract, as an independent contractor, you have the right to hire subcontractors, employees, etc.

However, Instacart’s policy on “co-shopping” doesn’t allow others to shop with you unless they are also an Insacart shopper.

Even though the policy allows co-shopping, there have been some reports of drivers being deactivated for this when they were reported. There are equally a number of reports of couples who shop together and never have an issue.

The one thing that does seem clear though is you are not allowed to bring a minor with you while working.

You should avoid bringing with you to shop so you avoid any issues or reports. In any case, there isn’t enough money to be made to split between two Instacart shoppers to make it worth it.

What if the customer isn’t home when I arrive with their Instacart delivery?

If you don’t have instructions to leave the order at the door and the Instacart customer is not answering the door, try calling them first. Maybe they just didn’t hear the doorbell or knocking. If you do not reach them on the phone,

If the customer has left instructions for you to leave the order at the door, make sure you take a picture before you leave to defend yourself from any accusations of theft or that you didn’t complete the delivery.

For safety and liability reasons, DO NOT go into a customer’s house. Just hand them their groceries at the door.


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