With so many grocery delivery services available, it can be hard to decide where you should place your next order. In this article, I’ll look at the similarities and differences between two of the most popular grocery delivery services nationwide: Shipt and Instacart.
I placed an order with each company and compared the fees, pricing markup policies, online order processes and the stores with which each service partners.
Shipt vs. Instacart Comparison
Shipt and Instacart are both grocery delivery services that you can use online or by downloading an app. Both are available on iOS and Android devices. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, you’ll can order groceries and other household essentials for delivery. In some locations, you can opt to pick up your order at the store instead.
Both Shipt and Instacart allow you to choose from a selection of stores in your area. Once you’ve added all of your groceries to your cart, a personal shopper will complete and deliver your order.
If you’re ready to place an online grocery order, here are a few things to consider before deciding which service you should use:
- How Much Do They Cost?
- What Stores Do They Shop?
- Which Has the Best Availability?
- Which Service Offers the Best Deals?
- How Is the Service?
How Much Do They Cost?
While the annual membership costs the same for Shipt and Instacart, there’s a big difference in price for people who don’t want to pay $99 upfront.
Shipt offers “Shipt Passes” beginning at $10 each. A Shipt Pass allows you to place a delivery order without a membership. With a membership, you’ll get free delivery on all orders over $35. Orders under $35 will have a $7 delivery fee. If you’re using a Shipt Pass, the $7 delivery fee is waived.
The prices of individual items on Shipt vary slightly from in-store pricing to cover convenience costs. You can expect to pay about $5 more on a $35 order using Shipt. Some retailers also include a small service fee but not all of them. When I placed my order from Meijer through Shipt, no service fee was charged.
Instacart also doesn’t require you to purchase a membership. The optional Express membership costs $99 annually or $9.99 monthly and includes free delivery on orders over $35. Without it, the typical delivery fee is $3.99. During peak times, this may be higher.
Stores set their own prices on Instacart, and the pricing policy varies depending on where you shop. That means that some stores set higher prices for items purchased through Instacart than in-store, while others don’t mark things up. Instacart also charges a 5% service fee ($2 minimum).
To see which stores charged the highest markups, I compared the prices of several products available from Meijer through Shipt, Instacart and Meijer.com in June 2022. Here’s what I found:
Shipt Instacart Meijer
Red Delicious Apples $5.69 $5.09 $4.79
Carnation Evaporated Milk (x2) $3.38 $3.18 $2.70
Meijer All Natural Pork Loin Center Cut Chops Bone-In $8.98 $6.44 $7.48
Meijer Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets $5.89 $7.19 $5.99
Creamette Angel Hair Pasta $1.49 $1.49 $1.25
Smithfield Hometown Original Smoked Bacon $4.79 $5.69 $3.99
Gold Medal All Purpose Flour $3.49 $3.09 $2.79
Total: $33.71 $32.17 $28.99
While both Shipt and Instacart’s prices are more expensive than those on Meijer’s website, the difference in the two subtotals is around $2.
If you’re ordering at least $35 worth of items, you’ll need to factor in your membership fee or Shipt Pass cost and potentially add a small service charge with Shipt. Even if you do have a membership, if your order is under $35, Shipt will charge a $7 delivery fee on top of your membership costs, and that makes Instacart the cheaper option. With Instacart, you won’t necessarily have to purchase a membership or delivery pass, but you will pay $5.99 in delivery and service fees per order.
What Stores Do They Shop?
You’ll be able to choose from a selection of stores in your area that partner with either Shipt or Instacart. In my area, you can use Instacart at 12 major, regional and local stores, while Shipt offers only four. Of course, this will vary depending on where you live.
Shipt is owned by Target, but you can use it to buy groceries and household essentials from a variety of participating stores. According to the website, Shipt’s partners include H-E-B, Meijer, LIDL, Target, Winn Dixie, Costco, Lowes Foods, Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, King Soopers, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and more.
Instacart partners with the most popular national and regional retailers including Albertsons, Aldi, Costco, CVS, Kroger, Loblaw, Publix, Sam’s Club, Sprouts, Wegmans, BJ’s Wholesale and Safeway.
In general, you’ll find a bigger selection of stores shopping through Instacart. Still, it’s important to compare prices between stores (and even between apps) to ensure you’re getting the lowest prices available.
Be sure to keep in mind that you can order from only one store at a time through each app unless you’re an Instacart Express member.
Which Has the Best Availability?
Both Shipt and Instacart are available in a variety of cities across several states. When it comes to which company has a bigger geographic presence, the hands-down answer is Instacart.
According to Shipt’s website, the company serves select cities in 48 states. Meanwhile, Instacart is available in thousands of cities across the U.S. and Canada. In my home state, Shipt offers grocery delivery services in five areas, whereas I could place an Instacart order in more than 180 cities and towns. For most states, this pattern seems to be the norm.
To see if Shipt or Instacart are available in your area, visit each company’s website and enter your ZIP code.
Which Service Offers the Best Deals?
Both Shipt and Instacart offer instant savings and exclusive in-app deals. On the flip side, neither service will typically accept paper coupons or honor in-store offers.
If you have a store rewards card, both services will let you enter your account information before you place your order with select retailers. This is new for Instacart, and you can learn more about connecting your loyalty account on the company’s website.
Shipt and Instacart both offer rewards for referrals. If you invite friends to try the service and they meet the order requirements, you’ll each earn a $10 discount.
Whether you’re shopping through Shipt or Instacart, be sure to click on the savings tab to see the current sales. Both services offer a big selection of discounts on individual products, so take the time to check prices and make sure you’re getting the best deals.
Shipt vs. Instacart: How Is the Service?
I had a great experience ordering groceries through both Shipt and Instacart. The apps and websites were easy to navigate, and the process was relatively straightforward on each platform. It was also easy to get in contact with the personal shoppers while they were in the store.
I interacted with one Shipt shopper and one Instacart shopper. They each provided great service. They both picked quality products and delivered my groceries within the time frame I’d selected.
Only one of my selected products was substituted, and my shopper made a logical choice that I approved. Shipt and Instacart both allow you to select your substitution preferences before placing your order. With Shipt, you can choose “no substitutions,” “substitute for me” or “contact me about substitutions.” Instacart also offers three options: “no substitutions,” “substitute with a specific product” or “substitute for me.”
After I received each order, I checked out the selected products. Everything was in great shape, and nothing stood out to me as something I wouldn’t have chosen myself.
I later reached out to customer service at both Shipt and Instacart to ask a simple follow-up question. Each company’s online help center provides a phone number and a live chat feature. Using the online chat, I was connected to a knowledgeable representative relatively quickly on each website.
To read more about the ordering process (including how to contact your personal shopper) and what you can expect from each of these grocery delivery services, be sure to check out the full Shipt review and Instacart review.
Ultimately, if you’re going to be placing more than one order per month that costs at least $35, Shipt’s annual membership is going to be worth the initial price. On the other hand, if you’ll be ordering groceries online only to fill in the gaps from your bigger in-store shopping trips, Instacart is a more commitment-free, affordable option.
Both services are incredibly convenient and help you save time grocery shopping. You can place your order, track its progress online and receive updates from your phone or laptop. Then, you’ll get your delivery without ever having to leave your home.
When it comes to availability and store selection, Instacart definitely has the advantage. Still, you may be able to save more money and earn more discounts through referrals with Shipt. This is especially true if you plan on regularly ordering your groceries online.
Should You Order From Shipt or Instacart?
If you still aren’t sure which service is best for you, follow these steps to decide whether you should sign up for Shipt or Instacart:
- Check to see which one is available in your area. Visit the Shipt and Instacart websites and enter your ZIP code.
- Decide which store to order from. Shipt and Instacart may partner with different stores in your area, which means you may need to take some time and compare prices between the stores.
- Figure out how much you’ll pay in membership, delivery and service fees. For Shipt, you can estimate how many grocery delivery orders you expect to place in a month, divide the monthly cost of your membership and add that number to your order total before checking out to see how much you’re actually spending per order. Otherwise, Shipt Passes cost $10 per delivery. For Instacart, you can typically expect a $3.99 delivery fee and a 5% service fee.
- Choose the cheapest available option. Since there are no major differences in the overall experience, use the total price to make your decision.
No matter where you end up shopping, ensure you’re getting the best prices available by checking the prices across stores, brands and sizes. Also, be sure to browse the available sales in the savings tab. And it never hurts to do a quick Google search for Shipt or Instacart promo codes.