Last Updated on 2024-01-14

How to Choose Between Shipt and Instacart (or Both) in 2024

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

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Phil Grossman

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

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Catherine Meyers

5 years of experience working across Shipt and Instacart

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James Tuliano

4 years of experience working across Shipt and DoorDash

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Joshua Merritt

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

The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, tax, or insurance advice. The content contains general information and may not reflect current legal developments or insurance changes. Any reader should consult with an insurance professional to obtain insurance advice tailored to their specific circumstances.

Before we dig in, let's be clear: you should probably sign up to be both a Shipt Shopper (apply here) and an Instacart Shopper (apply here). Depending on where you live, one or the other may pay better and have more demand. The only way for you to know “which is better” is to try both yourself. But we'll do our best to tell you the details of how they differ in this post. Spoiler: they're very similar.



Shipt and Instacart are two of the most popular gig apps in today’s gig economy, so if you’ve been thinking about getting in on the new world of flexible work, chances are that you’ve been considering signing up for one or the other. 

You can work for Shipt and Instacart at the same time, so as a prospective Shopper, you don’t have to choose between one or the other. Working for both (frequently referred to as “multi-apping”) is a popular way to boost your income and make more money than you could if you only did one or the other. 

One more note before we get started: Shipt and Instacart both offer two different roles each. With Instacart, you can either become a Full-service Shopper or an In-store Shopper, and with Shipt you can sign up to be a Shopper or Driver. In this post, we’re only going to be talking about Instacart Full-service Shoppers and Shipt Shoppers — Instacart In-store Shoppers are very rare, and the Shipt Driver role isn’t comparable to anything Instacart offers. So, from now on, whenever you see us referring to a “Shopper,” just know we’re referring to one of those two roles. 

Shipt and Instacart aren’t the same, but the work is similar

Let’s clear up any confusion right off the bat: Shipt and Instacart are not the same. Instacart is so popular that you may have heard someone refer to working for Shipt as working for Instacart, but that’s just their mistake. 

That said, the work is very similar: in both cases, you’ll accept orders, shop for customers’ items, and deliver them. The difference is in the details, not the big picture. 

More stores use Instacart than Shipt

One of the main differences you’ll find is that you’ll shop at a more diverse array of stores as an Instacart shopper. For example, when entering a Chicago address on the Shipt site, delivery is only available from nine stores:



However, when entering that same address on the Instacart site, 79 stores were offering delivery:



The wider selection isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing though. As a Shopper, you might find it easier to learn the directions to and pick-up processes of only a few different stores, which may make your shopping more efficient. On the other hand, you could end up finding that there simply aren’t enough orders coming through on Shipt — and maybe you just like the variety of shopping at different places.

Shipt isn’t only for Target

One thing you should be clear about: Shipt isn’t only for Target. Shipt does, however, have a special relationship with Target — Shipt has been owned by Target since 2017. Instacart, on the other hand, isn’t owned by a retailer.  

Due to Target’s ownership, if you need to complete an order at Target, your Shipt app will tell you which aisles you can find each product in. James Tuliano, who has been working with Shipt since 2020, says that this feature “can save Shoppers a significant amount of time searching around. Instacart has this feature for some stores, but not for Target.”

The main area that the Target relationship comes into play is if you’re considering being a Shipt Driver, which we’re not covering here. For more information on that, check out our post on the differences between Shipt Shoppers and Drivers

Does Shipt or Instacart pay more? Here’s what Shoppers have to say

Since there are no official statistics on average earnings for either, there’s no way to know for sure. Instead, we can look to the experiences of Shoppers who have worked for both. But, as you’ll see, experiences vary, and there’s no way to know how yours will turn out - you're better off giving both a try (apply for Instacart, and apply for Shipt).

James’s take

James Tuliano has been working for Shipt and Instacart for several years. Here’s his take on the differences:

“I've worked both Shipt and Instacart in three different states for at least 6 months at a time and it was very region-dependent as far as which made more money — but the main difference is Shipt's Preferred Shoppers program, which is how most serious Shipt Shoppers make their money.”

“Shipt is more of a long-game, but Instacart may allow you to make more money quicker. I've found that Shipt makes much more money than Instacart after you've accepted enough preferred Shoppers that tip significantly well. Instacart has a similar program, but the Shopper doesn't get to agree to be someone's preferred (Instacart calls it favorite) — it just happens automatically if the customer decides it. This is a major disadvantage to Instacart compared to Shipt.”

Catherine’s take

Catherine Meyers, who has two years of experience working with Shipt and five years of experience working with Instacart, says that, in her experience, “base pay on Shipt has always been significantly better. Shipt is also much better about distance from the store, so less mileage, less gas, less money spent on our end.”

She also mentions that “Instacart goes up to triple batches that they automatically bundle and offer together, while Shipt only offers double orders. In my experience, sometimes Instacart batches are an insane distance apart, sometimes 10-30 miles from batch a, batch b, and batch c. Shipt is typically MUCH better about this and their base pay reflects that.”

“Another pro for me is that you can access all of your selected shopping areas within your metro while you're still completing an order for Shipt. Instacart has to OFFER you a batch, Shipt has a centralized home screen where I can see my specific offers, as well as open orders across my metro. This is another area of flexibility for me to plan out picking up another Shipt order close to my drop off point(s).”

She also agrees with James in regards to Shipt’s Preferred Shopper program being superior to Instacart’s. “Customers favorite a shopper on the platform that they prefer to use for their orders/batches. This gives you first access to their orders. Instacart's hiccup is that I don't get a first look at these orders UNLESS I have my availability submitted and open during the time their order is scheduled for. Shipt sort of works the same way, but I do occasionally get notifications from my Preferred Shopper customers when I'm offline, and that's obviously an incentive to hop on and grab their order really quick because they're basically a guaranteed tip.”

Joshua’s take

Joshua Merritt, who has over three years of experience working with Shipt and Instacart, doesn’t fully agree with Catherine’s assessment when it comes to order distances: “The distance from stores definitely will depend on your region and luck. I receive Shipt orders in my metros that are anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes from the store. In my area, Instacart usually has the shorter drives.”

But he does agree with Catherine about how Shipt handles offers: “this is a big pro for Shipt. Even if I am in the middle of shopping an order for Shipt, I can look and see if there are any offers for the store I currently am shopping at or any nearby ones to increase my daily/hourly earnings.”

He also says that the fact that Instacart Shoppers can see tips before they accept an order makes “placing an order on Instacart as a customer into more like placing a bid, which is why Shoppers report having higher tips on Instacart. Customers know that the higher the tip, the more likely they are to get a speedy/high-quality Shopper.”

“Another pro, in my experience at least, is that Instacart is used far more often for smaller orders (1-10 items), while Shipt orders are typically between 20-50 (but go far higher). These smaller orders can be helpful when aiming to complete Instacart bonuses, and often can lead to higher hourly average earnings.”

On the negative side, he mentions that, in his experience, “Instacart has a higher rate of fraudulent customers attempting to scam shoppers, either through hacking a legitimate customers accounts or using stolen/bought credit cards to sign up for a new account and often requesting the shopper purchase gift cards (against Instacart policy) or other high-value items, or by posing as Instacart support.”

“They often threaten Shoppers on the platform to fulfill their demands leading to a very unsafe and stressful experience for the Shopper, and, if the Shopper unknowingly falls for these scams, they could have their Shopper account banned by support. There are countless stories of these scams on the Instacart Reddit page. I have encountered these scammers many times on Instacart myself but have never yet heard or come across one myself on Shipt.”

Key takeaways from our Shoppers’ experiences

It’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions about which pays better — it depends on where you are, how skilled you are as a Shopper, and (to some extent) pure luck. 

There are two main differences between Shipt and Instacart when it comes to pay:

  1. Pay can vary wildly between regions: Shipt may pay better in some cities, and Instacart may pay better in others. Much of this comes down to supply and demand: if there’s a lot of demand in one area, you’ll likely make more money, but if there are a lot of Shoppers competing with you for those orders, you’ll likely earn less. 
  2. The Preferred Shopper program makes a big difference: Shipt has greater earning potential, but you may not see those returns for a long time (if ever).

Since Shipt and Instacart Shoppers don’t have set hourly rates, earnings can vary wildly from day to day even within the same city: one Instacart Shopper on Reddit reported earning $60/hour on some days and $3/hour on others. The situation is similar with Shipt: another Shopper on Reddit reported making approximately $77 an hour one day, but noted that was unusual and surprising for them. 

A lot of this variation comes down to differences in markets, demand, skill (e.g., knowing which orders to accept and which to decline, being good enough to become a preferred Shopper), and pure luck (getting several orders that are geographically close to each other in a row will allow you to earn more per hour). 

You can probably expect to make an average of around $15-$20/hour working for either of them. But again, this is an extremely rough estimate, and your results will vary.

You can’t predict whether Shipt or Instacart is better in your area 

Before signing up for Shipt or Instacart, lots of people try to find out how many Shipt or Instacart shoppers are in their city, whether Shipt or Instacart is popular in their area, and when Shipt and Instacart are most active there. 

While doing market research is generally a good idea, it doesn’t quite work when it comes to choosing between Shipt and Instacart — there isn’t enough data to go off of, and any data you do find will likely either be anecdotal or otherwise unreliable. Practically the only reliable data out there is straight from Instacart itself: Instacart is busiest (nationwide) on Sundays and slowest on Wednesday. But that’s not enough to go off when deciding between Shipt and Instacart. 

The only way to gauge the viability of either option in your area is to sign up and see how each of them pan out (apply for Instacart, and apply for Shipt). The Instacart app actually lets you see what areas and times are busiest and best to work in, but once again, you’ll have to sign up first to view that. 

Are Shipt and Instacart still worth it?

Whether something is worthwhile is a very personal question — there’s no clear, objective answer. 

In 2024, there are still lots of Shipt Shoppers and Instacart Shoppers, which indicates that many people find both of them worthwhile. 

One of the main benefits of both gigs is that you are self-employed, which means you get near complete control over your schedule and process: you get to work when, how, and where you want. 

For many, that flexibility is worth weathering through some low-paying days. Plus, many prefer to use Shipt and Instacart as side hustles, in which case pay takes a backseat to flexibility. 

Once again, Shipt and Instacart pay depends a lot on the area you’ll be working in, so they may be worth it for you in some places but not others. Remember: there’s no way to know in advance whether Shipt or Instacart will be worth it in your area without signing up, so the best strategy is to sign up for Shipt and/or Instacart (apply for Instacart, and apply for Shipt), give it a try, and evaluate after that. 

Shipt Shopper vs Instacart Shopper point by point

Now that we have a bird’s eye view of the differences, let’s take a look at some of the finer details.

Employment status

Shoppers for both Shipt and Instacart are considered self-employed — no difference between the two here. 

Self-employment comes with its own pros and cons. Read about how being self-employed and working for Shipt works


Since Shipt and Instacart Shoppers are both self-employed, taxes function exactly the same way for both of them. If you’ve never been self-employed before, this can take a bit of getting used to: you’ll need to pay self-employment tax and make quarterly estimated tax payments. However, you can also take advantage of write-offs to lower your tax burden.  

Take a look at our full post on how taxes work for Shipt.

Payment process

Shipt and Instacart have nearly identical payment processes. You can either receive your earnings on a weekly basis via direct deposit or you can cash out instantly after deliveries. 

There are only minor differences between them: Shipt instant pay can only be done once every 24 hour cycle, and it costs $0.49. Instacart instant cash out, on the other hand, costs $0.50, and you need to wait 2 hours after completing a delivery to receive full payment for it (you can cash out base pay immediately, but tips require a two-hour wait), but you can do it as many times a day as you want. 

Learn more about how Shipt payment works in our full post

Health insurance

Neither Shipt nor Instacart offer health insurance to their Shoppers. 

However, Shipt partners with HealthSherpa to help Shoppers find coverage, and Instacart partners with Stride, which does the same thing. 

Shipt also partners with River, which offers some low-priced health benefits, and BetterHelp, which offers remote therapy. 

Read more about getting health insurance with Shipt in our post

Benefits and perks

Neither Shipt nor Instacart provide traditional employee benefits (that’s because Shipt and Instacart Shoppers are self-employed). However, both of them offer perks and rewards programs to their Shoppers. 

Shipt offers significantly more perks than Instacart does. So, in this area, Shipt is the winner: it offers 16 perks, while Instacart only offers discounts through Perkspot

Sign-up bonus

Neither Shipt nor Instacart offer sign up bonuses on a regular basis. Shipt has offered sign up bonuses in the past, so it’s possible they’ll return, but it’s unlikely. 

Both Instacart and Shipt run referral programs, but Instacart offers them almost constantly, and they’re very rare for Shipt. For Instacart, the referral program doesn’t usually offer a traditional bonus, but it offers guaranteed minimum earnings, meaning that you’re guaranteed a minimum amount of money if you complete a set number of deliveries within a specified time period. 

For Shipt, the referral program typically offers a small cash bonus. 

Don’t wait around for a sign up or referral bonus to pop up for either of these gigs — it’s highly unlikely it will happen. 

Sign-up requirements

Shipt and Instacart both have very similar sign up requirements. The main differences are:

  • Shipt requires you to be able to lift up to 45 lbs, but Instacart only requires you to lift up to 40 lbs.
  • Shipt says you need knowledge of produce selection, but Instacart does not (though, you probably want that skill for both). 
  • Both say that you need access to a reliable vehicle, but Shipt specifies that it must be no older than 1997, while Instacart doesn’t have any specific requirements in that regard. This also means that you can do Instacart on a bike, scooter, or motorcycle, but you can’t use a bike or scooter for Shipt. Keep in mind that using one of the alternative vehicles will greatly reduce the amount of orders you can take, and, as a result, your earnings.
  • Since Shipt requires the use of a car, you need to have a valid driver’s license and at least your state’s minimum car insurance coverage. If you do Instacart with a car, you’ll need those too. 

If you read the requirements for each, you’ll see a few more differences, but those are mainly due to how the companies choose to write their requirements. For example, even though Instacart says explicitly that you need to have a bank account and Shipt doesn’t, you can’t get paid by Shipt without a bank account. Shipt also notes you need to have a smartphone even though Instacart doesn’t explicitly say so, but you won’t be able to accept Instacart orders without one. 

For the most part, the requirements for the two are the same: you need to be at least 18, have access to a vehicle and the required licensing/insurance to operate that vehicle, the ability to lift 40-45 lbs, a smartphone, and a way to get paid. 

You’ll also need to submit to a background check for both, which we’ll cover in the next section.

To learn more, read our full post on Shipt sign-up requirements.

Background check

Both Instacart and Shipt require prospective Shoppers to submit to a background check. The process is essentially the same in both cases — it’s a standard background check that looks into your criminal history.

Check out our full post on Shipt’s background check process

Drug test

Neither Instacart nor Shipt drug test as part of their application process or as a normal part of their operations. However, both companies expect their Shoppers to comply with all their local drug laws and to abstain from driving while under the influence of any substances. Drug tests aren’t required, but if you get caught for another reason, you could land yourself in trouble. 

Check out our full post on Shipt’s drug test policy

Gas assistance and reimbursement

Neither Shipt nor Instacart directly reimburse Shoppers for gas expenses, but both of them offer some form of fuel assistance. For a while, Instacart had a better program: in 2022, Instacart temporarily added a $0.40 fuel surcharge onto customer orders, but Shipt never did. This program is no longer running, however, and now Shipt’s fuel assistance program is superior. 

As far as current offerings go, both companies offer fuel savings through the Upside app and their individual rewards programs. Shipt also offers savings through the GasBuddy app. 

Both companies offer gas savings rewards to top-performing Shoppers. Shipt offers up to $1/gallon cash back on gas purchases, while Instacart offers up to $0.33/gallon cashback. Instacart also offers up to 50% off oil changes in addition to gas savings through CarAdvise

Be sure to check out our full posts on Shipt’s gas assistance and Instacart’s fuel assistance plans for more info. 

Rating forgiveness

Both companies offer some form of forgiveness for low customer ratings. 

If you work for Shipt, you can fill out the rating forgiveness request form to have low-ratings evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If Shipt finds that the rating in question is unfair, it will remove it. 

Instacart will also remove low ratings, but it doesn’t evaluate them individually. Instead, Instacart will remove low ratings from any customers that consistently rate their Shoppers below five stars. Instacart will also auto-remove ratings if its system suspects the customer of fraud, if there was severe weather, and if there was low inventory at the store. After you’ve completed 100 orders, your lowest two ratings are removed as well. 


The safety profiles of Shipt and Instacart are essentially identical — any safety differences come down to where you shop, when you shop, and what vehicle you use. 

Since Instacart allows bikes, motorcycles, and scooters, it has the potential to be more dangerous than Shipt. However, if you use the same car for both platforms, there will be no difference. 

Bikes, scooters, motorcycles, and walking

Shipt does not allow Shoppers to use bikes, scooters, or motorcycles, but Instacart does. 

Both companies do not allow Shoppers to complete their orders on foot. 

Learn more about doing Instacart without a car in our full post. 


Neither Shipt nor Instacart require their Shoppers to wear uniforms. Luckily, no, you don’t have to wear the Shipt or Instacart shirt while shopping. 

The bottom line: pros and cons of Shipt vs Instacart

Overall, Shipt and Instacart offer very similar experiences to their Shoppers. If you want to enter the gig economy, you can’t go wrong with either of them. 

That said, here’s a summary of the most important and clear-cut differences you’ll find between the two:

Instacart pros:

  • Allows Shoppers to use bikes, motorcycles, and scooters
  • Wider variety of stores can keep things more interesting and may lead to more orders
  • Shoppers can view tips before accepting orders

Instacart cons:

  • Wider variety of stores may lead to less efficient shopping
  • Fewer perks than Shipt
  • Fuel assistance program doesn’t offer as much help as Shipt’s 

Shipt pros:

  • Superior Preferred Shopper program helps you earn more long term 
  • Fewer stores helps keep shopping efficient
  • Offers Shoppers 16 different perks
  • Superior fuel assistance program

Shipt cons: 

  • Fewer stores may mean fewer orders
  • Fewer bonuses than Instacart
  • Doesn’t allow Shoppers to use bikes, motorcycles, or scooters
  • Shoppers can’t view tips before accepting orders

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