Last Updated on 2024-02-23

How to Do Instacart on a Bike: Pros, Cons, and Tips

We worked with these active, experienced gig-workers to write this article and bring you first-hand knowledge.

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Faith McLaughlin

8 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, Uber, and Lyft

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Michael Vaness

6 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, and Spark

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Joshua Merritt

4 years of experience working across DoorDash, Instacart, Shipt, and UberEats

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Phil Grossman

Experienced writer/researcher in the gig industry working alongside our gig-workers

Instacart allows shoppers to deliver on e-bikes, but non-motorized bikes aren’t allowed. There are some trade-offs to using an e-bike compared to using a car: it's less expensive, and it’s good for the environment, but it also limits your ability to take on big, lucrative orders — you're only allowed to deliver what fits in a backpack.

Here, we’ll go over all the considerations you need to keep in mind when considering whether or not to Instacart on an e-bike. So, let’s learn how to do gig work with no car.

You can use an e-bike for Instacart…

While Instacart does not allow non-motorized bikes for deliveries, it does allow e-bikes. In a press release from 2022, the company noted that it wants "to support individuals who may not have access to a car…These batches [e-bike orders] will be limited to shorter distances and fewer item counts, to make sure they can be easily fulfilled without a car.”

There’s a lot of literature out there to help Instacart shoppers navigate car requirements, as that’s simply how most shoppers move around, and it tends to be easier when handling large deliveries. 

Don’t let this deter you: North America and its economies are designed for cars, but rest assured that you can definitely do Instacart on an e-bike (even though it’s a bit more challenging).

…but you still need a driver’s license

Instacart requires you to submit a valid driver’s license to work as a Shopper. There’s no way around this. For e-bikes, motorcycles, and scooters, you need a Class C license.

If you have a license, you’re all set. 

If you don’t have one, but want to get one, you’ll need to spend anywhere from roughly $10 to $100 in fees and pass the DMV tests. While that’s not a huge monetary investment compared to potential earnings, it’s up to you whether it’s worth the time and effort.

The pros and cons of doing Instacart on an e-bike

Let’s be upfront: the easiest way to score big Instacart payouts is to own a car and take on big, lucrative orders. These are much harder to pull off without a car.

However, there are plenty of reasons to do Instacart on an e-bike instead:


  • It’s cheaper. Although car deliveries earn more money, consider that owning a car costs between $0.69-$1.05/mile — a composite of gas (which Instacart used to help cover), maintenance, insurance, registration, and depreciation costs. Then there’s the cost of parking and tolls to contend with. While there aren’t any conclusive studies on e-bike mileage costs, cyclists anecdotally report costs around $0.40-$0.60 for a full battery charge, which can take you roughly 15–60 miles depending on the model and how you drive. 
  • It can be faster. How often have you been stopped in gridlocked traffic only to see bikers blazing by in their protected bike lanes?
  • You can make a decent amount of money. Small orders can be completed quickly, allowing you to pack in more jobs in a day. Small orders also get you closer to earning Instacart’s lucrative incentive bonuses.
  • It’s the best option for the environment. E-biking is one of the greenest modes of travel. Even taking into account the e-bike’s manufacturing emissions and the CO2 you breathe out through all that huffing and puffing, your carbon footprint is far less than driving a car. 
  • You can work while traveling. The ability to work anywhere in the US is a huge perk for Instacart shoppers. Shopping by e-bike makes this even easier. If you’re in another city and want to top off your traveling fund, rent an e-bike or hop on your own and start taking Instacart orders.
  • It’s easier to borrow or rent an e-bike. Cars can be exorbitantly expensive, and lending or renting them out is an exercise in risk management. E-bikes are easier and cheaper to get a hold of.


  • Orders are smaller. If you're using an e-bike, Instacart only allows you to deliver what can fit in a backpack, which makes it tricky to cash in on larger orders. "Instacart will not give you a batch over what they determine you are able to put on a bike," says Faith McLaughlin, who has been working for Instacart for three years. This can reduce your income unless you can compensate in some other way.
  • Weather can more easily hinder you. Joshua Merritt, who has over three years of experience working on multiple apps, including Instacart, cautions, "you may not be able to use your bike for many months of the year depending on your location and seasonal weather severity. You also need to be more conscious of the weather at all times to ensure you don’t get stuck on your bike in a storm."
  • Long-distance orders can be impractical. Groceries get warm, and customers get impatient with too much transit time. 
  • Biking can be more dangerous. While certain cities in the US are trying to “Europify” their bikeability, many are still lagging behind. According to the NHTSA, Tucson, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville have the most bicycle fatalities per capita. If you do ride, make sure you wear a helmet — it can save your life.
  • Bike theft is rampant. According to the latest US crime report by the FBI, there were close to 160,000 bicycle thefts in 2019. When you leave your e-bike in public, you’re vulnerable, and as an Instacart Shopper, you’ll be doing just that when you go into stores to shop for orders — which is a great argument for investing in a rugged bike lock.

E-bike hacks for Instacart Shoppers

To make Instacarting on an e-bike worthwhile, try these tips. Remember: you can only take orders that can fit in a backpack, but these tips can help you stay more comfortable while delivering and enable you to take simultaneous bike deliveries if you're multi-apping. 

  1. Get a good backpack

Instacart's main stipulation for delivering orders on an e-bike is that the groceries must fit in a backpack. However, there are many different types of backpacks on the market — so get a large, solid one. Hiking/camping backpacks, for example, provide a ton of space. They also  strap around your waist so you aren’t putting too much strain on your shoulders and back.

  1. Consider modifying your e-bike for more comfort and capacity

If you’ve got a regular e-bike, adding a cargo rack on the back can make delivering for Instacart much more comfortable — you can simply store the backpack there instead of carrying it on your back. These racks are easy to install and can allow you to make further modifications to potentially carry more groceries than you would be able to haul on your back.

Pay attention to the weight limit. The goal is to over-engineer, so don’t put 30 pounds of groceries on a rack rated for up to 30 pounds — give yourself some room between the maximum rating and your actual payload. It’s worth it to splurge on the strongest bike rack you can afford. 

  1. With an e-bike cargo rack, you can add more carrying options

A rear rack allows you to expand your bike’s cargo-carrying abilities. A low-budget option is to get a large milk crate and attach it to the top of your rack with zip ties or even screws and washers. 

You can also create more cargo space with panniers, which will allow you to carry bags on either side of the rear wheel, keeping your center of gravity low. If you're trying to optimize your deliveries by taking orders from multiple apps at the same time, this will give you space to store multiple backpacks on your e-bike.

Check out the availability of large, rigid, insulated carrying boxes as well. They’re perfect for making sure frozen foods are still frozen when they reach your customer. 

  1. Get a cargo e-bike.

Cargo e-bikes aren’t terribly cheap, but they’re made for carrying large loads — often up to three kids, or their equivalent in backpacks full of groceries. You can look for used cargo bikes as well to save a bit. 

Consider using an e-bike as a supplemental vehicle

If you have a car available to you, you can also split your time between driving and biking. If you want to take on some big orders by car and smaller orders by bike, you can optimize by selecting different orders at different times. 

Best cities for bike infrastructure

It’s no secret that certain cities are better set up for biking — and certainly for grocery shopping by bike — than others. According to People for Bikes , the best cities in the US for biking are:

  • Portland, OR
  • Tuscon, AZ
  • Madison, WI
  • Washington, DC
  • San Diego, CA
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Boulder, CO
  • Providence, RI
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Alexandria, VA

If you happen to live in a bike-friendly city, the time and energy you’ll save might make it more worthwhile. Bike-friendly cities tend to have protected, dedicated bike lanes, bike stands, and other infrastructure to make bikers’ lives easier.

Other ways to Instacart without a car

If biking simply isn’t in the cards for you, fear not: there are other ways to do Instacart without a car :

  • Walking: If you live in New York City, you can do Instacart as a walker. Walking isn't allowed in any other city. This one’s very challenging, but if you’re really dedicated, you can select nearby jobs and simply walk groceries to their destination. 
  • Motorized Scooter: While you won’t be able to take on big jobs, you can cover some serious ground on an e-scooter. Like with e-bikes, you can only deliver what you can carry in a backpack.
  • Motorcycle: A motorcycle is another two-wheel vehicle you can use if you don't have or don't want to use a car to deliver for Instacart.

There are many wonderful reasons to get on your e-bike, and getting paid to deliver for Instacart is a great one. Use these tips and create a system that works for you.

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