Numbers don’t lie — the food delivery market is expected to grow from $28 billion in 2021 to $42 billion by 2025. And the growing popularity of online food ordering and delivery has led to an increased demand for Instacart and DoorDash drivers.
Both food delivery services have extensive market coverage, competitive pay, and can help you boost your monthly income with the endless demand for home delivery drivers. But between Instacart and DoorDash, which company is better for drivers?
In this guide, we’ll help you determine which company is better when it comes to pay, safety, and flexibility.
Over 5,500 cities across the U.S. and Canada
At least 18 years old
Schedule flexibility, availability for shoppers who don't have a car, ability to decline and accept orders
About Instacart vs. DoorDash
While Instacart and DoorDash are among the two most popular food delivery companies, there are several differences between them; most notably what they deliver. Here is an overview of these two giant food delivery services:
Founded in 2013 as an on-demand food delivery service, DoorDash is now available in over 4,000 cities in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The company has a nearly 65% market share in the U.S. and has partnered with more than 340,000 restaurants and merchants, including Wingstop, Five Guys, Chick-Fil-A, Wendy's, and Dig Inn.
In 2021, DoorDash partnered with Albertsons to start delivering groceries from leading local stores, including Wawa, Safeway, 7-Eleven, Smart & Final, CircleK, and Casey's General Store. As of 2022, customers can also order from Tractor Supply Co. and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Dashers (what DoorDash calls its delivery couriers) can use a scooter, bicycle, motorcycle, or car to do deliveries.
Dashers can log in to the DoorDash app at any time to check on available orders, or they can schedule blocks of time to work up to a week in advance. You can earn money by shopping for products in the stores and picking up takeout, and delivering orders to customers. Due to its success and huge customer base, DoorDash encourages drivers from other services like Instacart, Uber Eats, Postmates, and more to deliver for them.
Instacart is an on-demand grocery demand service established in 2012, and it went public in 2022. It is available in over 5,500 cities across the United States, and Canada has amassed a broad customer base of 9.6 million active users. Instacart works with over 600 partners, including Kroger, Costco, Petco, Safeway, Target, H-E-B, and Aldi.
In 2023, Instacart began rolling out a new Scan & Pay check out feature to make shopping time even faster for shoppers.
Customers can order online or through their app and pick up their packaged orders from the store or deliver them directly to their homes.
Based on these purchase options, if you want to be an Instacart driver, you have two options for work:
- Full-Service Shopper: You'll be shopping for and delivering orders to customers. Full-service shoppers are considered independent contractors, and you can pick the hours you are comfortable working. However, you need a car to make the deliveries, and you must be well-versed with your local area and its grocery stores.
- In-store Shopper: These shoppers shop for the orders and package them for customer pick-up from the store. Unlike a full-service shopper, an in-store shopper is considered a part-time Instacart employee, and their working hours are limited to 29 hours per week. In addition, you don't need a car to become an in-store shopper.
You can't work as both a full-service and an in-store shopper — you have to pick one. However, if you have great reviews and excellent standing with Instacart, you can switch after six months.
Instacart vs. DoorDash: Driver Requirements
Before you consider working for either of the two delivery companies, it's crucial to understand the job requirements.
Instacart Shopper Requirements
Here are the requirements to become an Instacart shopper/driver:
- At least 18 years old (21 to accept orders with alcohol)
- Eligible to work in the United States
- Full-service shoppers need consistent access to a vehicle, in-store shoppers just need a way to get to and from work
- Consistent access to and be able to effectively use a recent smartphone (iPhone 6s / Android 5.0 or newer)
- Ability to lift 50 lbs with or without accommodation
- Consent to a background check
To sign up as an Instacart driver, provide your name, phone number, email, photo of your driver's license, and ZIP code. You need to also download the Instacart shopper app on android or iOS and complete a questionnaire.
Instacart then sends you a prepaid debit card that you will use to pay for the groceries. Finally, you sign an independent contractor agreement, submit a W-9 form, and consent to a background check.
DoorDash Driver Requirements
To become a Dasher, you need to fulfill the following requirements:
- At least 18 years old (21 to accept orders with alcohol)
- Have an iPhone or Android smartphone
- Any car, scooter, or bicycle (in select cities)
- Valid driver’s license
- Auto insurance if driving
- Social Security number if delivering in the U.S.
- Consent to a DoorDash background check
Similar to Instacart, to sign up for DoorDash, provide your name, phone number, email, and vehicle type. Then, upload a photo of your driver's license, registration, and insurance, then consent to a background check. A criminal record within the last seven years disqualifies you outright.
After passing the background check, DoorDash will send you an Activation Kit with a DoorDash Red Card to pay for the orders and a food delivery bag.
You can start accepting and delivering orders as soon as you're approved to drive; you don't have to wait for the Activation Kit.
The winner is...
DoorDash just barely wins here because Instacart requires that shoppers are capable of lifting 50 lbs.
Instacart vs. DoorDash: Pay
Instacart and DoorDash have different payment amounts affected by various factors, including location and working hours.
Instacart Shopper Pay
Instacart's payouts are based on several factors like the type of shopper you are, how many orders you complete, and your location.
Unlike an in-store shopper, a full-service shopper will see an estimate of the expected payout before they deliver it. The pay per order is based on how many items are in the order, type of items, driving distance, and the effort it takes to shop and deliver the order. You get to keep 100% of your tips. As a full-service driver, you are responsible for withholding taxes and the wear and tear of your car.
In-store shoppers are paid a flat hourly wage, ranging from $9-$16/hour. This is based on where you're working, and you'll see the rate in the offer letter you get from Instacart when you sign up to shop.
After clocking 40 hours of service in the past six months, Instacart gives you a unique code that allows you to earn referral bonuses after your friends sign up. The bonus and requirements vary by zone and role.
DoorDash Driver Pay
Dashers get paid for each delivery they make, not a flat hourly rate, and your earnings are based on the Dasher Pay Model. Here's what it looks like:
The Base Pay ranges from $2-$10. This amount increases if you need to drive a longer distance to complete an order, if the order will take more time overall, and if it's less popular with other Dashers.
Promotions allow you to make more, and there are three options:
- Peak Pay: These are the busiest delivery hours in your area, and you'll see a Peak Pay alert pop up in the app. Peak Pay is usually around $1-$4 more per delivery.
- Challenges: These are incentives to complete a given number of orders in a set amount of time. Challenges show up in the app, and you can also track your progress. In addition, you can combine Peak Pay and Challenges to earn even more.
- Drive: These are large orders that you're paid extra for.
Customers can leave a tip for their Dasher in the app either when they check out or when the order is completed. You get 100% of that amount. Just like Instacart, Dashers are responsible for taxes and wear and tear on their vehicles.
Learn more in How Much Can You Make From DoorDash in 2023?
In 2022, DoorDash released Time Earnings Mode, which allowed drivers to opt-in for a flat hourly rate. This helps you budget your side gig pay better, but most drivers report that their hourly rate went down with Time Earnings Mode.
The winner is...
DoorDash edges ahead a little because drivers make slightly more per hour on average.
Instacart vs. DoorDash: Payments
After making your deliveries, how and when do you get paid by Instacart or DoorDash?
Instacart pays its shoppers each week via direct deposit. If you're an in-store shopper, you can request a check be mailed to your house. You can keep track of all of your earnings in the app.
Full-service shoppers can also use the Instant Cashout feature and immediately transfer funds to their debit card up to five times per day. There is a $0.50 transaction fee each time you use Instant Cashout and a daily $3,000 limit.
Dashers get paid every week, and payments are transferred directly into your bank account using direct deposit. Most Dashers see payments show up in their accounts by Wednesday.
DoorDash offers something called Fast Pay if you want to cash out your earnings the day you deliver. However, you are charged $1.99 each time you use Fast Pay. If you've set up DasherDirect — DoorDash's business prepaid Visa card and subject to approval — you can transfer money into your bank account up to 3x per day without an additional charge.
The winner is...
Instacart's Instant Cashout feature is less expensive that DoorDash's Fast Pay, but DoorDash shoppers using DasherDirect (subject to approval) don't pay anything for daily transfers.
Instacart vs. DoorDash: Job Review
What is it like to work for either of the delivery service companies?
Instacart pays you to shop for and deliver groceries to customers. You can schedule all your hours through the Instacart app, and you can make deliveries between 9 am and 12 am.
Thirty minutes before your shift begins, you receive notifications of orders coming through. Depending on the distance and pay, you decide on which orders you want to accept.
After choosing an order, you head out to the store and shop with your Instacart debit card. The card is loaded with cash so that you won't use any of your money.
Through the app, you can keep in contact with the customers while delivering their groceries. Ensure they are happy with substitutions and keep them updated on the expected delivery time.
After successful registration to work as a Dasher, you receive an Activation Kit with a red card and an insulated bag to carry the items.
To ensure a nice stream of orders, DoorDash limits the number of delivery couriers working at once. You can book to work on the same day or a week in advance. Alternatively, you can use Dash Now that allows you to accept or reject orders after they pop up. These orders show up in red or pink color on the DoorDash app; however, only particular areas offer this.
The winner is...
By allowing you to schedule time in advance and allowing you to take on extra deliveries, DoorDash is a better option here.
Instacart vs. DoorDash: Driver Support
Here's how both services are aiding drivers amid crises:
- Instacart protects its shoppers when they fall sick by allowing them to accrue sick pay. For every 30 hours you work, you get one hour of sick pay. So the maximum you can amass is 40 hours annually.
- In the wake of Covid-19 and the high need for social distancing, Instacart offered contactless delivery that allowed customers to choose the option of having their order left at the door.
- Instacart implemented a temporary surcharge of $0.40 that's charged to customers to offset rising fuel costs. They also have a partnership with Upside, a cashback gas app, so drivers can earn up to $0.35/gallon of gas.
- As Covid-19 brought uncertainties, DoorDash provided up to two weeks of financial assistance. However, you must have completed at least 30 deliveries and actively worked with DoorDash in the last month to qualify for this.
- All deliveries have defaulted to no-contact drop-offs, and moving forward, Dashers can request no-contact delivery at any time. This can help you feel safe while out delivering groceries.
- There is a temporary weekly gas bonus aimed at Dashers who drive the most. It pays a $5, $10, or $15 bonus if you drive at least 100-225 miles per week.
- For DoorDash drivers who sign up and use the free DasherDirect prepaid business Visa debit card, they can earn 10% cashback on all gas purchases. All Dashers qualify for the card, and there's no credit check.
Instacart vs. DoorDash: The Final Word
While DoorDash takes a slight lead in several areas, there is no significant difference between Instacart vs. DoorDash. Driver requirements and pay have subtle differences, and both companies are doing their part to ensure driver safety and support.
Both food delivery services are solid side hustles if you're looking for a way to supplement your income, pay off debt, save for retirement, and more. And, you have the flexibility to work for both if you want to boost your income even more.
Instacart and DoorDash have similar pay structures for drivers, resulting in pay that varies based on each delivery you complete.
They are two of the most popular food delivery services, and they offer similar key benefits for drivers, like decent hourly pay, flexibility, and a low barrier to entry.
DoorDash is a service that delivers takeout from restaurants, convenience store items, pet food, flowers, gourmet cakes, office supplies, and more. While Instacart specializes in grocery delivery only.
Many Instacart shoppers like the flexibility of working when they want and making $15-$25/hour, which is a good way to supplement your income.