For many Americans, keeping grocery bills in check is an important part of the monthly or weekly budget. It’s all too easy to go crazy on snacks, fancy cheeses and the like.
Grocery delivery service Instacart can be helpful in that you watch your total change in real time as you add items to the cart; and it can be enough to put certain unnecessaries back.
But is Instacart cheaper overall? Is it a good option for those of us who have to stick to a strict grocery budget? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Is Instacart Cheaper In 2023?
Grocery shopping with Instacart is not cheaper in general, as many retailers markup prices around 15 percent (or more), and Instacart itself adds on delivery and service fees of $3.99 + five percent of the total. Instacart has never positioned itself as a money-saver, however; the company instead bills itself as a time-saver.
To learn more about ways you can use Instacart without breaking the bank, how you can tell if the retailer has marked up prices on Instacart, if you can save money by picking up your groceries and even if other delivery services are cheaper, keep going!
Can You Save Money Using Instacart?
If there is one way that Instacart saves people money, it’s by helping to curb impulse purchases.
I experience this firsthand every time I put together my weekly grocery cart at Aldi, especially for Wednesdays.
The number of times I have taken an unnecessary candy or a treat (or five) out of my cart because I saw it was making me go way over budget is pretty high.
It’s a lot easier to monitor your cart when the total changes right before your eyes!
Another way that Instacart helps its customers save money is by offering the Instacart Express membership.
This membership program can help work Instacart’s services into many budgets by giving members unlimited free delivery and pick up, plus reduced service fees.
And it does this for $10 a month or $99 annually.
So basically if your household uses Instacart three times per month or more, you can save by signing up for Instacart Express.
(That is, a $3.99 delivery fee x 3 orders = $12 in delivery fees, whereas you’re only paying $10 month for Instacart Express.)
One thing I personally love as an Instacart Express member is that if you’re signed up for the monthly membership, you can cancel at any time, no penalties.
So if your budget changes a little and you need to cut out online grocery shopping, you can cancel it without any issues.
And if you’ve cancelled but want it back, it’s a breeze to sign up again. Instacart doesn’t make you jump through hoops either way.
Are Instacart Prices Same As In Store?
Sometimes Instacart prices are the same as in store, and sometimes they are not.
You should be aware that the retailers actually set the prices on their marketplace, not Instacart.
They may choose to do so in order to offset the costs on their end, which they incur through their partnership with Instacart.
If you visit any retailer’s storefront on Instacart, under their logo you will either see:
- Higher than in-store prices
- View pricing policy
- Everyday store prices
The first speaks for itself; the second means that some items, not all, are marked up; and the third means that the prices are the same as you would find in the store.
However, the latter also means that they’re similar to store prices in your particular area.
So in cities with a higher cost of living, like NYC or LA, the in-store prices could be different than in a rural areas – much higher.
An NYC CVS on Instacart, therefore, isn’t going to have the same prices as it would in-store at a Lakewood, NY location.
There are also delivery fees and different service fees that you must pay to use Instacart, and which you obviously do not incur when shopping in-store.
The base delivery fee tends to be $3.99 (though some retailers might be higher for various reasons), and the base pick-up fee is $1.99.
The service fees come to five percent of your order total, so the bigger your order, the bigger the service fees.
What Instacart provides for its prices, though, is priceless to some people.
That might be a few hectic hours back every weekend for some families or convenient access to groceries for a differently abled individual.
Or it could be an alternative to a very uncomfortable ride on a busy public transit system for a city-dweller with five grocery bags, who lives in a fifth-floor walk-up.
Are Instacart prices normally higher than in-store? Yes.
But for some, the trade-off between that and the service the app provides is worth every penny.
How Much Is The Instacart Markup?
If the retailer you have chosen on Instacart has a markup on prices, you can expect to pay between 15 to 24 percent more.
However, some retailers on the app have special partnerships with Instacart and have no need to upcharge.
Drugstores like Walgreens and CVS are an example, as well as Dollar Tree and Petco.
Look for the phrase “Everyday low prices” under the retailer’s logo at their main marketplace page on the Instacart app.
Is Instacart Cheaper If You Pick Up?
Instacart is cheaper if you opt for pick-up!
Not only is the service itself cheaper ($1.99 vs. $3.99 normally), there are no service fees for pickup orders.
I think Instacart pickup is a terrific money-saving alternative to delivery, because someone else still does the shopping but you don’t have to get out of your car in the parking lot.
And don’t forget, pickup is free with Instacart Express, sometimes even for orders as small as $10.
What’s Cheaper Than Instacart?
Let’s compare Instacart to two of its biggest grocery delivery rivals: Amazon and Walmart.
Amazon Fresh is included with Amazon Prime memberships (which cost $139 per year, as of 2022), and offers free delivery with orders over $35.
You can also pay for Prime monthly at $14.99.
Walmart’s delivery program costs between $7.95 to $9.95 per order or is free for orders over $35 with Walmart+.
With Walmart+, you pay $12.95 per month or $98 per year.
I would say that Instacart is actually the cheapest out of the three grocery delivery services.
To use Amazon Fresh you have to shell out $139 per year (or $14.99 per month) for free delivery, whereas with Instacart Express you only pay $10/month or $99/year.
And even Walmart’s delivery fees are more expensive on a base level than Instacart’s; the latter starts at just $3.99, after all.
In all, if your household sees itself using online grocery order and delivery on a regular, weekly basis, in my opinion your best value is Instacart with the Express membership.
To know more, you can also read our posts on whether or not Instacart markup prices, if Instacart takes out taxes, and is Instacart legit.
Instacart’s prices may be marked up, and the delivery service itself (plus service fees) an additional expense, but ultimately it’s among the most cost-friendly.
You can save money in a few different ways using Instacart, but you might find that saving time makes Instacart an invaluable service.