Instacart vs. DoorDash – you might be wondering about the similarities and differences between these two gig economy apps. The quick rundown is that Instacart is a grocery delivery app while DoorDash focuses primarily on food delivery from local restaurants.
An even more important question you might have is which is better between Instacart and DoorDash. For me, I think the answer is clear – DoorDash is better than Instacart. There are a variety of reasons why I think this is the case, but mainly, it has to do with how fast I can complete orders with each app. With DoorDash, I’m simply able to complete more orders and do them faster because I don’t have to shop for the orders.
With that said, in this post, we’ll look at Instacart vs. DoorDash, consider the main differences between them, and discuss why I think DoorDash is better, but why one app could be better for you than the other.
Instacart vs. DoorDash
Instacart and DoorDash are both on-demand delivery apps that utilize gig workers. Workers on Instacart are known as Instacart Shoppers while delivery people on DoorDash are called DoorDash Dashers. Signing up to deliver for both apps is straightforward.
To deliver for Instacart, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be eligible to work in the U.S.
- Have a bank account
- Have consistent access to a vehicle and a recent smartphone
- Be able to lift 40 lb with or without accommodation
The requirements for DoorDash are similar:
- Dashers must be 18 years or older (in Delaware, Montana, and West Virginia, Dashers now need to be at least 19 years old)
- Any car, scooter, or bicycle (in select cities)
- Driver’s license or other form of ID (if dashing via bike only), Social Security number (for a background check only to determine contractor eligibility).
Both apps utilize independent contractors, which means workers aren’t employees. The benefit of this is that it gives you flexibility and you can generally choose where and when you want to work.
The Big Differences Between Instacart vs. DoorDash
Instacart and DoorDash are similar in that they’re both delivery apps. But there are some major differences that you need to understand between the two apps. Here are the big differences to consider between Instacart and DoorDash.
1. Shopping For Orders vs. Picking Up Orders
The biggest difference between Instacart and DoorDash is how you complete orders. Instacart uses what they call “full-service” shoppers, which means for the vast majority of orders, Instacart Shoppers have to shop for all the items in order, as well as deliver the order. While there are a few places where Shoppers only have to pick up and deliver prepared orders, most shops will require you to go to the store, shop for the items the customer ordered, pay for the items using the Instacart Payment Card, and then deliver the items to the customer.
In contrast, with DoorDash, Dashers pick up orders at the restaurant and very rarely have to shop for or place orders themselves. There are occasional grocery and convenience store orders from places like CVS and Walgreens which do require you to shop and pay for the orders using the DoorDash Red Card, but these aren’t quite so common. You can also receive the occasional order from restaurants that require you to place the order and pay for it with the Red Card, but again, these are generally exceptions.
The big difference between picking up vs. shopping for orders is the amount of time it takes to complete the order. DoorDash orders are always going to be faster because you don’t have to shop for them.
In my years of doing Instacart and DoorDash, I’ve never really been able to figure out how to make Instacart work well for me. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not a very fast shopper, since I often don’t know where items are in the store and I often have issues with items being out of stock (which means I have to speak with the shopper and figure out replacement items).
That’s not to say you can’t make good money with Instacart. It’s just for me, I prefer DoorDash because I don’t have to shop for the orders and can complete deliveries faster since I only need to pick up and deliver the orders.
2. Bike vs. Car
I like DoorDash a lot because, in most cities, you don’t need a car to deliver for them. I use a bike to do my DoorDash deliveries, which, in many cities, is often faster (and much easier) than using a car. While most people will opt to deliver for DoorDash with a car, the fact that you don’t need a car to deliver for DoorDash is nice, especially since you can save a lot of money if you opt to do DoorDash with an ebike or electric scooter.
Instacart, on the other hand, does technically require Shoppers to have a car. That means you’ll also need to have a driver’s license and appropriate insurance. Having to carry groceries also typically means most people will need a car to complete their deliveries
That being said, while you do need a car to sign up to be an Instacart Shopper, it is possible to sign up for Instacart, but still use a bike to do your deliveries. You’ll still need to have a license and car insurance, but after you’re signed up, Instacart can’t see what vehicle you’re using. That means instead of delivering in a car, you can just deliver using your bike.
The limiting factor will be how far you have to travel and how you’ll carry groceries. I use an electric cargo bike to do my grocery deliveries, which is amazing and saves me a lot of money. It can also carry just as much groceries as a car. Note that I got the cargo bike (the Urban Arrow) to be a car replacement and as a way to get my kids around, not specifically for delivering with Instacart.
Below is an Instagram reel of my electric cargo bike and the setup I use to carry groceries.
Even if you don’t have a cargo bike, you can still do smaller grocery deliveries using a bike trailer. Before I got my cargo bike, that’s how I picked up groceries.
Most people aren’t going to go through the trouble of using a bike to deliver for Instacart and will stick with using a car, which is totally fine. Compared to delivering for DoorDash with a car, using a car for Instacart isn’t bad because most grocery stores have large parking lots and are located in car-centric areas that are easy to drive. This is in contrast to DoorDash where you often have to drive in high-traffic areas with little parking (and hence, why I think a bike is a much better way of delivering for DoorDash).
3. Indoors vs. Outdoors
This is a thing I sometimes think about because I do my deliveries using an ebike, but one difference between Instacart and DoorDash is how much time you spend outdoors between the different apps. With DoorDash, most of your time is spent traveling between restaurants and customers, and as a result, you’re going to be outside a lot. In the winter, it can be more grueling to deliver for DoorDash, especially if you’re on a bike. The same is true if it’s summer, although to a lesser extent.
With Instacart, it feels like more of your time is spent indoors since you need to shop for the customer’s order. During cold winter days or hot summer days, being able to spend more time indoors can be pretty nice.
For most people, this won’t be a very important factor, but I thought it was at least worth mentioning.
4. Location Differences Between Instacart and DoorDash – City vs. Suburbs
Another difference between Instacart and DoorDash is where you might end up working. DoorDash works best in dense neighborhoods where there are a lot of customers and restaurants. In most cities, the busiest areas are usually going to be these popular neighborhoods. If you’re delivering in a car, that means dealing with traffic and parking.
Instacart, on the other hand, is well-suited for people who live or work in the suburbs. The demand for Instacart is usually pretty good in the suburbs because that’s where a lot of grocery stores are located. Grocery stores also usually have large parking lots, which makes parking easy. The traffic in the suburbs is also lighter, making it easier to drive to customers.
All this to say, DoorDash tends to be best suited for city dwellers and people who want to work in the city, while Instacart can work better for people who live and work in the suburbs.
5. Which One Pays More?
In general, individual grocery orders on Instacart will pay more than individual DoorDash orders. This makes sense since Instacart Shoppers need to be compensated for the extra time it takes to shop for the order.
That being said, in my experience, I earn more on an hourly basis from DoorDash because of the time I save by not having to shop for orders. I’m admittedly not a very efficient Instacart Shopper and I often find myself having trouble finding items in the store, so part of the problem is on my end. Still, I’ve been signed up as an Instacart Shopper for over 8 years and I’ve never been able to figure out how to make Instacart work for me.
While DoorDash orders might not pay as much per order, I can complete them much faster since I’m only picking up and delivering orders. By multi-apping (i.e. delivering for multiple food delivery apps at the same time), I’m able to earn even more. (If you’re curious about how multi-apping works, check out my YouTube channel; here’s a YouTube short of me multi-apping):
If you’re someone who can shop quickly and efficiently, Instacart can make a lot of sense. For someone like me, DoorDash earns me more money because I can complete orders faster and more efficiently than I can with Instacart.
Which Is Better? Instacart Or DoorDash?
For me, the answer has always been clear – DoorDash is better than Instacart. I’ve been delivering for both DoorDash and Instacart for over 8 years and throughout that time, I’ve never been able to figure out how to make Instacart work for me. The main issue for me with Instacart is having to shop for orders. I’m simply not a good enough Shopper to make my earnings worthwhile.
It’s important to remember that gig economy apps like DoorDash and Instacart aren’t like your typical hourly jobs where you’re trading your time for money. Instead, with gig economy apps, you’re trading tasks for money. In the case of DoorDash and Instacart, the more deliveries you can complete, and the faster you complete them, the more you’ll earn.
With DoorDash, I’m able to complete a lot of deliveries in a short amount of time, especially since I use an ebike, work in dense neighborhoods, and multi-app. It means I get a lot of delivery requests, most of which aren’t going very far. During the prime lunch hours, I can often complete 4-6 deliveries in an hour. If I average $5 per delivery (which I think is very reasonable), I’m able to earn $20 to $30 per hour. If I’m lucky and increase my average earnings to $6 per delivery (which again, isn’t unreasonable), I’m able to earn $24 to $36 per hour. Remember, this all relies on working during the lunch or dinner rush and multi-apping, but it’s an important point to make.
With Instacart, I haven’t been able to figure out how to complete my deliveries quickly. If I take small Instacart orders, I don’t make much and I’m still using up more time shopping for the order. Large orders that pay well can be nice, but those orders often take a long time to shop, which again, makes it difficult for me to maximize my earnings.
That isn’t to say Instacart can’t be better for you than DoorDash. I’m admittedly not a good shopper, but if you’re someone who’s an expert at finding things in grocery stores and can work quickly and efficiently, Instacart could be a better moneymaker for you. For me, however, DoorDash is the clear winner.
Between DoorDash and Instacart, I always opt for DoorDash, primarily because I can complete deliveries faster and I don’t have to shop for customer orders.
However, my experience isn’t necessarily going to be your experience. This post went over the main differences between DoorDash and Instacart. Hopefully, this gives you the information you need to determine which app works better for you.
My advice is to sign up for both DoorDash and Instacart and try them both out. See which one works better for you, then plan your schedule around the app that you like more.