DoorDash vs. Postmates vs. Instacart: Which One is Right for You?

There’s no question about it — the delivery app business is booming. No matter what we’re watching or what we’re listening to, it seems like we’re bombarded with ads for new delivery apps.

But what exactly are all these new services? What do they have to offer? Are they really all just versions of the same thing?

Today we’re breaking down the details of the three biggest delivery apps out there. DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart … what’s the difference? For drivers looking for a side hustle delivery gig, we’ll talk about what it’s like to work for these different platforms. For customers wondering who to order from, we’ll point out the main differences and let you know what you can expect from each.

DoorDash vs. Postmates vs. Instacart: which one is right for you?

What Drivers Need To Know About DoorDash

As a “Dasher” you’ll deliver meals from fast food places, chain restaurants, and local eateries. You can make your own schedule, work when you want, and enjoy the flexibility of being your own boss. Just know that there are lots of requirements you’ll need to meet to get the job.

Driver Requirements for DoorDash

To become a Dasher, you must be at least 18 years old. The vehicle requirements are flexible (pretty much any car will do), and in some cities, you can even deliver by bike. You’ll need to have two years of driving experience, have an insurance policy in your own name, and be able to pass a background check. You’ll need a clean driving record to pass the background check. You’ll also need a clean criminal record. If you have any record of violent crime, theft, or sexual offenses, you can forget about driving for DoorDash.

If you pass the background check and meet the other requirements, DoorDash will invite you to attend an orientation program. In most cases, this is an in-person orientation. But if your city doesn’t have a DoorDash outpost, they will allow you to do your orientation online.

During the orientation process, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to use the app, pick up orders, and pay for orders.

Dashers are not employees of the company – they’re independent contractors that are given a DoorDash Red Card to pay for customer orders. You’ll never have to pay for anything out of pocket or worry about reimbursement.

How Much Do Dashers Earn?

Drivers usually earn about $5 per delivery, but it all depends on the size of the order. It also depends on whether you have to place the order in person or just pick it up when it’s ready.

There are other factors that determine your rate for an order.

The driving distance between the restaurant and the customer drop-off point is a big factor. The size and total price of the order also help to determine how much you’ll earn. The wait time at the restaurant also comes into play.

Looking to make even more money as a Dasher?

Here’s a bonus tip: Work when the more expensive restaurants are open.

If you work late at night, you’re more likely to see orders from McDonald’s and fast food joints. Drive during the evening between 5 and 10 to get orders from better restaurants (which means more money in your pocket).

Driving for Postmates

As a Postmates courier, you’ll deliver everything from meals to groceries to alcohol. In some markets, you may even deliver shoes, clothing, or electronics from Postmates’ merchant partners.

Here’s how it works:

Postmates couriers accept an order through the app, pick up the order, and drop it off to the customer.

Easy, right?

The job is relatively simple, but you’ll need to meet some basic requirements to get hired.

To work as a Postmates courier, you must be at least 18 years old. You need to have a valid driver’s license for at least one year and have an insured vehicle to make deliveries. In some cities, you can even do deliveries by bicycle. You also need to be able to pass a background check, so you’ll need a clean criminal record to get the job.

How Much Do Postmates Couriers Earn?

Postmates claims that drivers can make up to $25 per hour plus tips. But that all depends on where you work when you work, and what sort of orders you fulfill. The good news is that there’s a base pay of $4 per order – so for each delivery run you do, you’ll make at least that much, plus tips. Couriers can earn more money by taking advantage of sign-on bonuses for driver referrals. Keep in mind, couriers are independent contractors, so you’ll be responsible for your own expenses as well as paying your own taxes.

Working for Instacart

Instacart drivers deliver groceries, personal products, household items, and even pet supplies. Instacart works with a large network of big retailers such as major grocery retailers, Petco, CVA, Costco, and Sam’s Club. There are two ways to work for Instacart: as an in-store shopper or as a full-service shopper.

What’s the difference?

An in-store shopper is an employee position that works within a specific store to shop and pack orders. In-store shoppers can work a maximum of 29 hours per week (though there is no guarantee that you’ll get that many hours).

Full-service shoppers, on the other hand, are independent contractors. They shop for items in-store AND deliver them. As an independent contractor, you can make your own schedule and work as much or as little as you want.

As with all delivery apps, you’ll need to meet some basic requirements to work for Instacart. Shoppers must be at least 18 years old and, if you want to be a full-service shopper, you’ll need to have a car in order to make deliveries. You also need to be able to lift 30+ pounds.

How Much Do Instacart Shoppers Earn?

Instacart claims that drivers can make up to $25 per hour during busy times. Yet most full-service shoppers report average earnings of $11 per hour, with a low of $7 and a high of $20 per hour.  And while full-service shoppers tend to make more, they also have to pay for their own expenses. That includes gas, vehicle maintenance, and monthly vehicle payments. As an independent contractor, you’ll also have to pay your own taxes.

What Customers Need to Know About DoorDash

DoorDash is a meal delivery service that operates in over 300 cities throughout the United States and Canada. Customers have access to a variety of different foods from local restaurants, chain restaurants, and fast-food chains. The standard delivery fee is $5.99 per order, but it can go as high as $8 for certain restaurants in certain locations. There is also a service fee added to each order, but this varies depending on the restaurant and city.

Hours of availability vary depending on when local restaurants open and close. In some markets, DoorDash makes deliveries as early as 5:30 am and as late as 4 am.

Hungry now? Place an order for immediate delivery.

Planning ahead? DoorDash allows you to schedule your next lunch or dinner in advance.

For customers that use the service regularly, DoorDash offers a “Dash Pass” for $9.99 per month. With a Dash Pass, you can get free delivery on any order over $15.

Customers find the platform very easy to use. You can search by restaurant, price, or the type of cuisine you’re looking for. Whether you’re in the mood for a burger and fries or a sushi platter, you’ll find plenty of options to suit your appetite.

DoorDash also runs promotions from featured restaurant partners. With these promos, you can enjoy free delivery or take advantage of discounted prices. You also have the option of ordering online or ordering through the app, whichever you prefer.

What Customers Need to Know About Postmates

Postmates makes it easy to have a variety of different items delivered straight to your door. You can order groceries, alcohol, meals, clothing, sneakers, electronics, and all sorts of other essentials.

Delivery fees per order range from $0.99 to $9.99, depending on the store, restaurant, and merchant. There’s also a variable service fee. Postmates has over 25,000 retail partners, but not all items are available for delivery in all markets. To see what stores and restaurants are available in your area, just enter your delivery zip code on the website or app. Available in 50 states and hundreds of cities, Postmates makes it easy to place an order through their app or through their website. You can schedule an immediate delivery or select a date and time window to place an order for future delivery.

Know what you want to eat for dinner tomorrow? Log on now and specify the day and time you want your order to arrive. 

For customers who use the service on a regular basis, there’s a way to save on those delivery fees: Postmates Unlimited.

Postmates Unlimited costs $9.99 per month and guarantees free delivery on all orders over $15.

Don’t like to wait around for your goodies to be delivered?

Postmates also offers a pick-up option. Just place your order through the app and you’ll be given a time at which the order will be ready for pick-up. 

What Customers Need to Know About Instacart

Need groceries? Dog food? Personal items? Household supplies?

With Instacart, you can order a variety of items from multiple stores and have them all delivered at the same time. The standard delivery fee is $3.99 per order, plus a 5% service fee. You can order through the app or website, and you can place an immediate order or schedule an order for future delivery. For a future delivery, choose the specific day and time frame that you want your order to arrive.

One thing that we love about ordering with Instacart is that you can view your order status on the app in real-time. That feature allows you to see when your shopper is fulfilling your order and gives you a chance to text or chat with them regarding any issues. If something you want is sold out, your shopper may text you and ask if you want them to make a substitution. It’s kind of like having someone you know do your shopping for you.

So is there really that much of a difference between ordering from DoorDash, Postmates, or Instacart?

All three services provide convenience. The delivery fees vary slightly, but they’re all competitive. And they all offer promotions and ways to save money. Save by signing up for a subscription service or earn credits through referral programs by enlisting new customers. As a customer placing an order, which service you choose depends on what you want to order and what city you live in. If you’re looking to order a meal for lunch or dinner, check out DoorDash. If you need a new shirt or a case of beer, check out Postmates. And if you need groceries and pet supplies delivered to your door, look into Instacart.

As a driver looking for a new gig or side hustle, the main difference in working for these three services is in the products you’ll deliver.

If you love grocery shopping, check out Instacart. If you want to deliver meals from fast food places or local restaurants, apply at DoorDash. And if you’re open to delivering anything from anywhere, you may want to drive for Postmates. The beauty of these delivery services is that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. These companies, and many of their competitors are growing and expanding every day.

Maybe you’re looking for some part-time work.

Maybe you’re looking for someone to deliver the things you don’t feel like shopping for.

Either way, DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart are all worth a try.


Brett Helling
Brett Helling
I’m a serial entrepreneur who specializes in building, growing, and maintaining successful websites. I’m probably best known as the owner of Ridester - a rideshare information site that provides expert insights on the gig economy to over 900,000 readers each month. When I'm not overseeing my team of writers, I spend as much time as possible reading, working out, or playing with my dog Baxter (insert Anchorman reference here). Looking to partner up to grow your website traffic or work on a new venture? Send me a message and we'll see how we can work together.

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