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Does Instacart Charge More Than a Local Store?

By Ferdi Vol
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If you’ve chosen Instacart as your go-to grocery delivery service company, then your primary concern might be; does Instacart charge more than a local store? And what is the justification behind this extra cost?

Instacart does not charge you more than your local stores for products. But they do charge you 4$ to 8$ for home delivery. If you’re ordering from one of the partnered stores you will have to pay the regular in-store prices for those products. But, ordering products from other stores that are not partnered with Instacart, will charge you an average of 15% markup fee.

Sounds like favoritism at its best, eh? Nevertheless, there’s more to be left uncovered as there are so many specifics involved in terms of charging and pricing information of Instacart. Thus, in this article, I’ll discuss the complications and the questions that may arise if you’re willing to learn more about Instacart’s charging system and policies. Hence, stay tuned and keep reading.

Is It Worth the Extra Cost?

For the price of having your groceries shopped by your shopper and having it delivered right in front of your doorstep, I would say the price of convenience and tackling hard labor will have you ready to pay some extra bucks more than you would normally require.

Let’s review how the delivery system works again. You simply order your groceries from their app or website from your own selected stores and have them delivered to you or pick-up from the address of your choice. Your order is accepted by an appointed personal shopper who drives to the stores, collects it, pays the products on behalf of you, and delivers them right to you.

How Much does Instacart Charge for Delivery?

Faster delivery within a short time will always cost you more. However, there are multiple options for delivery charges in Instacart. Usually, delivery within an hour will cost you $7.99 and for delivery within the same day will cost you $3.99, these are the newly updated fixed prices. According to the opinions and reviews of users, these are very reasonable for their convenience.

Many customers claim that the gas taken to get to a store usually costs more than the delivery charge that they need to pay when using the delivery service of Instacart. Thus, at the end of the day, you might be saving yourself both a little time, labor, and money by using Instacart.

Sometimes there may be additional prices behind the heavy weighted items you may order. So, it’s always best to precisely measure and decide how much of a product you want to be delivered.

Does Instacart Charge Money for Pickup?

Yes, Instacart does charge their non-member users a small pickup fee. The amount varies from store to store. The minimum charge for Instacart pickup is $4.99. Different store owners may charge you different amounts for curbside pickups. But Instacart ensures that about 70% of their partnered stores charge the same $4.99. 

But if you are an Instacart express member then you do not have to worry about pickup fees. It is included in your subscription package.

You do not have to pay a service fee if you go for Instacart pickup. So, you are saving money that way compared to delivery.

What are Markup Fees?

There are some stores that you will be able to shop from and are available to buy products from in the Instacart app or website but aren’t exclusively affiliated with Instacart as one of their partnered stores. In simple words, they do not allow Instacart shoppers nor the customer's any additional benefits that partnered stores usually do. Thus, there’s always an additional fee called a markup fee.

An average of 15% of the usual fee of the orders is to be paid additionally if you order groceries from a store that has a markup. If the amount of order is small, then usually it does not matter much, however, as the size of your order increases, so does the overall price. Sometimes this percentage can exceed as high as 23% in some stores in particular cities.

This markup fee is susceptible to change and rise depending on Instacart’s policies as well as the chosen Retailer’s will. At the end of the day, it’s a marketing strategy that helps them promote their partners.

Don’t be too stressed off if the high percentages scare you off, because you are always free to not order from a store that is not affiliated if you want to avoid the need of paying extra.

Complications with Partnered Stores

Here comes the more complicated situation that sometimes may arise, depending on which store you are shopping from. Sometimes you will be charged higher on your products more than you would normally expect even if it’s from a partnered store.

According to the pricing information page of Instacart, the partnered retailers are the shot callers of prices on products charged through Instacart. So, a particular partnered store can always up the prices depending on their will. Though it may seem frustrating, the additional pricing isn’t always over the top either and pretty affordable.

Nevertheless, across many cities in different States where the service of Instacart’s grocery delivery and pick-up service thrives, many local and large-scale retailers are available with no increase in prices. This means some genuine partnered stores will not cost you more than it would cost you when you bought them in-stores yourself.

Ranging from the most common familiar ones to those you’ve never come across before. Some of these common partnered stores with no additional fees include

  • Petco
  • Publix
  • Kroger
  • Safeway
  • Albertsons
  • Smart & Final
  • Whole Foods

Most of these stores are directly affiliated with Instacart and thus provide additional benefits that help grow the business of everyone together. The lack of additional fee has been present exclusively to attract customers into ordering products from partnered stores to not only save money but promote their partners as well, which in turn helps Instacart grow more.

Renowned Partnered Stores That Charge You Extra

Big brands like Costco have their membership subscriptions which cost about $60 to $120 a year for individual customers. However, whenever you order products from Costco through Instacart, your shoppers that already have their memberships purchased can shop freely on behalf of you. This, however, raises a few complications.

So far there’s no confirmation about an amicable deal being made between Costco and Instacart. Thus, each time a shopper shops for a customer through Instacart, Costco loses a potential subscriber to their membership. As mentioned most of the revenue Costco makes comes through their membership, they try to even this loss out by adding markup charges.

Once you are shopping from Costco through Instacart, you will no longer have to worry about the membership costs. However, you will not be immune to markup fees that can rise from about 10% to as high as 23% averaging out on the way to 15% on the total price of your orders.

Another similar large scale grocery brand called Aldi also has a reputation of marking up prices when products are ordered from them through Instacart. However, it is not always the case as sometimes Aldi will almost charge the regular in-store fee as they usually do. Most of the time, the rise in markup prices are situational and you can always look out for them when you need to.

With Instacart’s new added feature, you can easily look at your orders in your virtual cart where any price increase will be visibly highlighted. You won’t ever have to worry about overpaying unknowingly as Instacart’s feature will alert you before you even confirm your order.

Aldi has a high prohibition of usage of gift cards or ordering of heavier items through Instacart as well. These are just some of the few examples of restrictions that may come when you decide to order from partnered stores through Instacart.

What Can Be Done to Minimize These Charges?

If you are an avid user of Instacart and you want to avoid high delivery charges each time you order from your local designated stores, then you should consider getting yourself an annual Instacart Express membership starting from $149 a year. This will help you save tons of money per order and be your getaway to a much more efficient and faster delivery experience.

On the other hand, you can always try to order your groceries before using the scheduled or “Order Ahead” feature. This will save you from any sudden peak time price markups when unforeseen situations rise.

You can also try not ordering during peak times or opt for slower 2-3 hour delivery window options. As for tips, you shouldn’t compromise much but try to maintain a minimum of 5% standard.

Nonetheless, you are always free to order from partnered stores that have no additional markups. You can minimize any increase in price on each product by ordering products from stores that keep the pricing fair. You can also cut down on the weight of the products you order and constantly look out for coupons or offers that may pop up for Instacart.

If for special reasons, you have no other option but to order from an unaffiliated store, do so in small amounts so that the markup percentage increase does not blow out of proportion. Remember, a 15% increase in markup fee can cause a bill of $250 to turn into a $287.5 bill from stores that are not affiliated.

Should you Tip the Delivery Man?

All the deliveries are done entirely by individual Instacart employees who do this as a means of earning. Most of the time, they have to drive to the places of the customers, driving their very own cars. At times multiple orders are to be delivered by a single shopper to multiple homes.

The journey from stores to addresses isn’t always easy for them because of this.

They have to spend sufficient time and provide service for the sake of the customer’s convenience. Thus, to some extent, not only does Instacart charge for delivery fees, but you are also expected to tip. As a service industry, both of this fee for delivery and tipping is somewhat necessary for Instacart’s profit system to work.

Even if you’re using their pick-up service, which is picking up your ordered products yourself from your desired store, you are still supposed to tip your shopper. As you see, they ensure you get the freshest and best deals on groceries with a reasonable expiration date. Thus, to some extent, they do earn your tip for the service they provide and the time they save.

Instacart recommends you pay at least a 5% tip of the total price to your shoppers who drive to your home alongside the delivery fee. Sometimes, the cost might be a little bit higher during peak times in certain areas or when you want fast delivery. All these extra fees may tip you off, but do remember, in the end, the service they provide costs them as well.

It is only reasonable for them to charge additional fees for the service they provide. On the other hand, in the service industry, tipping accounts for most of the income these personal employees make through their work, so it’s only supposed to be considered a basic courtesy to provide these tips. Besides, the tips will always be received and stay with the shopper.

You can always take the 5% pay per tip or maybe up it down a notch to about 10% if you are feeling like giving and rewarding your shopper a bit more for their service. You can also always make yourself comfortable to tip drivers in cash if that makes it easier.

And that’s everything about Instacart fees. So, does Instacart charge more than a local store? As you have learned now it varies a lot based on which stores you order from and which method of ordering you do. Hope this article was helpful to you. Thanks for stopping by.

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About the Grocery Store Academy
The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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