Last Updated on 2023-06-15

Instacart’s Fuel Assistance Is Gone - But Here’s a Workaround

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

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Tadas Antanavicius

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

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Michael Vaness

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

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William Ross

10 years of experience working across Uber, Instacart, Shipt, GrubHub, and Uber Eats

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Oliver Kruetzmann

4 years of experience working across Instacart and Uber Eats

“Instacart fuel assistance” was a temporary gas reimbursement offered by Instacart in response to rising gas prices back in March 2022.

The “assistance” was controversial: Instacart was only providing shoppers 40 cents per grocery batch, regardless of how long their trip was or whether it was a multi-order batch.

The assistance no longer exists; Instacart does not pay shoppers directly for any of their gas expenses.

Other Options To Lower Gas Costs

Use Upside, Instacart’s partner for cashback on gas purchases

After you have signed up to be an Instacart shopper, you can download the Upside app to start getting cashback from certain gas stations - basically, a discount on your gas. Upside is an official partner of Instacart.

You can get $0.35 per gallon back on your first two fill-ups. After your first two fill-ups, your cashback amounts may vary. Upside partners with specific gas stations, so you may or may not be lucky enough to live near one that offers a good cashback deal on an ongoing basis.

Beyond the initial offer, you can also get an ongoing cashback boost via Upside if you are a Gold Shopper, Platinum Shopper, or above. Gold Shoppers can get up to 29 cents back per gallon, and Platinum+ Shoppers can get up to 33 cents back per gallon.

Be careful with accepting batches that require a long driving distance

Avoid taking long-distance orders that may not be worth both the gas expense, wear and tear on your vehicle, and increased risk of an accident. Focus on orders that are closer to your location and have a higher payout.

William Ross, an Instacart Shopper who’s been doing gig work since 2014, points out that your health and energy can be negatively impacted by long trips as well: “Shoppers should not only be concerned with gas expenses. Even if your vehicle is very fuel efficient, long-distance batches take a lot out of you energy wise. This, of course, affects your ability to earn throughout the day effectively as you may have to decide whether to nap in between trips or end the day early.”

That said, Instacart does consider “distance” in the way it prices batches. Larger distance should generally mean a bigger payout for a particular batch.

Michael Vaness, an Instacart shopper with over 3 years of experience, explains: “They used to pay (in Ohio at least) 60 cents per mile. Now they pay 60 cents per mile after the first 5. And with multi-order batches (2-3 customers) they pay less per customer. So on a single batch, base pay would normally be $7.00. But if it's a double order batch, the base pay might be 10-12 dollars. So instead of 7+7 for 2 customers, it would be more like 5 dollars per customer, and on a triple order batch, they might pay somewhere around 3-4 doors per customer, so a base pay for a triple would be something like 10-14 dollars.”

So you should do some math: figure out how much your fuel costs you per-hour, and then use that information to decide if a batch has a “good” or “bad” price attached to it when you choose to accept or decline it.

Do the little things to lower your gas cost

Even without Instacart’s help, doing the little things to lower your gas bill day after day can add a nice boost to your effective earnings:

  • Thoughtfully plan your route to and from the store: Don’t take unnecessary detours, use Google Maps so you don’t miss turns. A traffic app that offers real-time updates on traffic, such as Waze, can help you avoid getting stuck in traffic.
  • Drive efficiently: Avoid rapid acceleration and hard braking to conserve fuel.
  • Maintain your vehicle: Regular maintenance, such as oil changes and tire pressure checks, can help improve your vehicle's fuel efficiency.
  • Use a fuel-efficient vehicle: If you’ve been thinking about making that upgrade, maybe it’s a good time to invest in a hybrid or electric vehicle.

Consider going to independent gas stations, going to Costco, or filling up late at night

While it's easy to go to big brand names like Sunoco, Texaco, CITGO, Shell, or Petro Canada for your gas, it's worth noting that independent stations often offer lower gas rates. Oliver, an Instacart Shopper with over a year of experience, recommends using apps like to help find the best local place.

Costco and Sam’s Club tend to offer lower gas prices as incentive to shop in their stores - though shopping there is not a requirement. Do note that Costco gas stations are cashless, and don’t accept Mastercard in the US.

The major downside to using Costco and Sam’s Club for gas is the need for a membership, but the membership does pay off in time if gas is purchased at these locations regularly.

Finally, many gas stations tend to lower their prices late at night, so keeping an eye on gas price apps (like the aforementioned can help. Oliver has found that some locations offer drastic prices decreases after midnight. 

Only work in-store for Instacart

Purchasing your own gas per-batch is only required for Instacart’s “Full Service” shopper role. If you instead take on the “In-Store Only” role, you will minimize your gas expenses because you won’t be driving your car while on the job.

The In-Store Only role is not available in all locales (and is not at all available in Canada), so this may not be an option for you depending on where you are located. You can start stepping through the application process to find out for sure.

Do note that the In-Store Only role is a little different from the Full Service role: you get paid per-hour, and you choose your Instacart shifts in multi-hour chunks at the beginning of the week. The Full Service role sometimes allows for “shop only batches,” but those batches are also different from the In-Store Only role in that they require you to be signed up and working as a Full Service Shopper.

What not to do: using your Instacart card for gas

Shoppers cannot use their Instacart payment card for gas, as the card is strictly for purchasing groceries and items required for customer orders.

This is similar to Instacart’s policy on store membership/loyalty cards (like Krogers+) in general: don't use personal membership cards on customer orders. If you start collecting those fuel points for yourself, Instacart will know you didn’t use the customer’s card and issue a warning. Do it again, and you’re likely to be deactivated.

A history of “Instacart fuel assistance”

That temporary fuel assistance program mentioned earlier was introduced in March 2022 in response to rising gas prices. The program was funded by Instacart consumers: Instacart simply added a temporary “fuel surcharge” to the customers’ bills per order.

The fuel assistance wasn’t available for all orders - orders that customers were making directly through stores (instead of Instacart’s app) didn’t get the assistance.

Shoppers immediately balked at how small the assistance was - just 40 cents per batch, no matter how many miles the shopper drove or customers they served on that batch - and took to online forums to complain. They felt that the assistance was insufficient and did not adequately address their concerns about the nationally rising costs of fuel.

Soon thereafter, fuel assistance stopped showing up all together.

Ready to start working for Instacart? Read more about the shopper & delivery role, or take a look at the in-store only role.

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