The best for shopping local
Note: As of 12/14/20, Instacart has added thousands of shoppers to its community as well as “Fast & Flexible” & “Order Ahead” options to ensure more delivery windows amid fluctuating delivery slot availability and stock shortages. It recommends authorizing replacement products if your item is out of stock and staying by the phone while your order is being fulfilled to answer any questions your shopper may have. It has also introduced a Senior Support Service to provide seniors with extra help setting up an account, navigating the site, and placing an order. Instacart also has a contactless delivery option to allow your shopper to leave your order outside your door.
Pros: Shop via your local grocery store, no membership required, most widely available grocery delivery service
Cons: 5% service fee, delivery fees go up at more popular times
Instacart is the industry leader in grocery delivery, serving 85% of households in the United States and 70% in Canada. Its far reach is due to its strategy of partnering with local grocery stores for distribution, so you can shop local and get the food you need from the stores you already trust and patronize.
To start shopping, you simply enter your zip code and your email address. From there, you select the store you want to shop from — I had a whopping 29 options to shop from in my Brooklyn neighborhood including Fairway, Shop Rite, and even non-grocery stores like Petco, CVS, and Target.
You can browse through the store’s offerings based on categories like produce, snacks, drinks, etc., or you can search for the item you want using the search bar at the top of the page. If an item is low in stock, Instacart will prompt you with the opportunity to authorize a replacement product if your shopper can’t get their hands on the original item. You can also opt to not replace it, and the cost of the missing item will be deducted from your bill.
With Instacart, your order will be handled by one of their shoppers who goes to the store, shops for your items, and then delivers them to you rather than being fulfilled at a warehouse and then shipped to you via a postal service, so you can expect a bit more care to be taken with your fruits and vegetables.
The service fees are where the Instacart prices start to mount. There’s a baseline $3.99 delivery fee on each order, but if you choose a more popular delivery slot, the fee can jump up to either $5.99 or $9.99. You can get your groceries delivered in as little as an hour or you can schedule them to be delivered to you up to a week in advance. The more immediate slots often have higher delivery fees, so it might behoove you to plan ahead to save a couple of bucks.
On top of the delivery fee, you’ll see a 5% service fee added to your order, and it’s highly suggested that you tip your shopper for their service. If you’re putting in a big order and you pick a slot with a low delivery fee, the additional cost will likely be worth it, but it can be hard to justify the extra dollars on small orders.
If you want to eliminate delivery fees, you can sign up for Instacart Express for either $9.99 a month or $99 a year and you’ll receive unlimited free delivery for all orders over $35. If you shop frequently, this fee will pay for itself in no time, but unfortunately, you’re still on the hook for a service fee — but it will be a cheaper one, starting at 1.9% — and any gratuity you add to the order.