DoorDash vs Instacart: What Are Their Differences

Published: September 18, 2023
Last updated: September 27, 2023

Whether it's a craving for your favorite restaurant dish or the need for last-minute grocery items, platforms like DoorDash and Instacart have emerged as frontrunners in bridging the gap between consumers and their desires. But while both these giants operate in the delivery realm, they offer distinct services, cater to different needs, and have unique operational models. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve deep into the differences and services of Door Dash vs Instacart, highlighting their differences and helping you understand which platform aligns best with your requirements.

What Is Door Dash?

DoorDash is a technology company that connects local consumers with local restaurants, facilitating delivery through independent contractors. Founded in San Francisco, DoorDash operates an online food ordering and delivery platform. The company allows users to order food from a variety of local restaurants and have it delivered to their doorstep. The service is made possible by independent contractors, often referred to as "Dashers", who pick up and deliver the orders. 

This platform not only offers a convenient way for consumers to get their favorite meals delivered but also provides an opportunity for individuals to earn money by making deliveries on their own schedule. The company has grown significantly since its inception and has expanded its services to various locations in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

What Is Instacart?

Instacart, officially known as Maplebear Inc., is an American-based company that provides a grocery delivery and pick-up service in the United States and Canada. The company operates both through a website and a mobile app, allowing users to order groceries and other essential items from a selection of more than 500 retailers and trusted local grocers. Once a user selects and pays for their items, Instacart sends personal shoppers to pick up the items and deliver them during a chosen delivery slot. 

This service offers a convenient way for consumers to get their groceries without having to visit the store, especially beneficial for those who may not have the time or means to do so. Instacart partners with a range of national and regional grocers, ensuring a wide variety of products are available for delivery.

Delivery Drivers: Door Dash vs. Instacart 

Door Dash and Instacart are both popular delivery service companies that hire independent contractors to deliver food and grocery items to customers. However, there are some key differences between the two. 

Independent Contractors For Both Platforms

Both DoorDash and Instacart rely heavily on independent contractors to fulfill their delivery services. These contractors, often referred to as "Dashers" for DoorDash and "Shoppers" for Instacart, are responsible for picking up and delivering orders to customers. As independent contractors, these individuals have the flexibility to choose their working hours and can decide when and where they want to work. 

This model provides a level of autonomy, allowing drivers to work around their schedules and other commitments. However, it's essential to note that being an independent contractor also means that they are responsible for their expenses, such as gas and vehicle maintenance.

Hours Per Week And Driving Distance

The flexibility offered by both platforms means that drivers can choose how many hours they want to work each week. However, there are some differences in potential earnings and driving distances. For instance, DoorDash offers bonuses for drivers who cover a certain number of miles per week. On the other hand, Instacart deliveries might take longer due to the nature of grocery shopping, potentially affecting the number of deliveries a driver can complete in a given timeframe. 

While the exact hours and distances can vary based on the driver's location and the platform's demand, both services provide opportunities for drivers to earn based on their availability and willingness to drive.

Select Cities, Business Days, And Activation Kit Requirements

Both DoorDash and Instacart operate in numerous cities across the United States and Canada. However, the availability of services can vary based on the demand and partnerships in specific locations. Before starting with either platform, potential drivers need to check if their city is listed for deliveries.

Once approved as a driver, DoorDash sends out an "Activation Kit" to its drivers. This kit typically includes essential items like the DoorDash Red Card (used to pay for orders) and a hot bag to keep food warm during deliveries. The process from application to receiving the activation kit and starting deliveries can vary, but it generally takes a few business days.

Instacart, on the other hand, focuses more on the grocery delivery aspect. While they might not have a similar "activation kit" as DoorDash, they do have specific requirements and guidelines for their shoppers to ensure the groceries are handled and delivered with care.

Background Checks: Door Dash vs. Instacart 

Both DoorDash and Instacart require background checks for their workers as a safety measure. However, slight differences exist in how each company conducts its checks. 

Criminal Record Checks For Drivers On Both Platforms

Ensuring the safety and trustworthiness of delivery drivers is paramount for both DoorDash and Instacart. As a result, both companies have implemented rigorous background check procedures for potential drivers.


Before becoming a "Dasher" (a DoorDash driver), applicants must undergo a comprehensive background check. This check includes a review of the applicant's criminal history. Factors that might disqualify a potential Dasher include violent crimes, sexual offenses, theft, property damage, and certain driving offenses. The exact criteria can vary based on local laws and regulations, but the primary goal is to ensure that Dashers are reliable and safe to interact with customers.


Similarly, Instacart also conducts thorough background checks on potential "Shoppers" (Instacart drivers). The company reviews the applicant's criminal record to ensure they have no disqualifying offenses. Like DoorDash, Instacart aims to ensure that its Shoppers are trustworthy and pose no risk to customers. The background check process can take up to a week or more, and applicants must have a clean driving record, valid insurance, and a valid driver's license to be considered.

Both companies use third-party services to conduct these background checks, ensuring an unbiased review of the applicant's history. It's worth noting that while these checks are comprehensive, they are also fair. Not all criminal offenses will automatically disqualify an applicant, but those that might pose a risk to customers or indicate unreliability are taken seriously.

Payment Structure: Door Dash vs Instacart

DoorDash and Instacart have different payment structures due to the nature of their business models. 

Delivery Fees & Delivery Distance For Both Platforms


DoorDash's payment structure is primarily based on the delivery distance and the complexity of the order. They charge a delivery fee, which can vary depending on the distance and the agreement they have with the restaurant. The standard delivery fee can be around $5.99, but it can go as high as $8 or more. Additionally, DoorDash may also charge a service fee, which is a percentage of the total order value. This fee helps support the platform and ensures that customers get a reliable service.


Instacart's delivery fees are influenced by the size of the order and the delivery time chosen by the customer. For same-day orders of $35 or more, the delivery fee starts at $3.99. However, fees can vary for club store deliveries, one-hour deliveries, and orders below the $35 threshold. Instacart also offers a membership called "Instacart Express," where members can get free deliveries on orders over a certain amount.

Both platforms also consider peak times, where delivery fees might be slightly higher due to increased demand. It's also worth noting that both DoorDash and Instacart allow customers to tip their drivers, which can significantly impact the driver's earnings.

Grocery Stores Utilized By Door Dash & Instacart


While DoorDash is primarily known for its restaurant deliveries, it has been making strides in the grocery delivery sector. They have formed partnerships with various grocery chains to provide delivery services. For instance, DoorDash announced a partnership with the grocery chain Albertsons Companies to provide one-hour grocery deliveries. They have also partnered with other retailers like Sprouts, EG America, and Giant Eagle to expand their grocery delivery offerings.


Instacart is a dedicated grocery delivery service and has partnerships with over 3,300 stores across more than 30 states. They deliver from a wide range of national and regional grocery chains, ensuring customers have access to a diverse selection of products.

Full-Service Shoppers Versus In-Store Shoppers

Instacart offers two primary roles for its shoppers: Full-Service Shoppers and In-Store Shoppers.

Full-Service Shoppers:

These are independent contractors who manage the entire order process, from shopping to delivering to the customer. They use their vehicles to pick up and deliver groceries. Full-Service Shoppers see the earnings upfront before accepting a batch and have the potential to earn more due to the inclusion of tips and the payment for driving.

In-Store Shoppers:

These shoppers are part-time employees of Instacart and are responsible for shopping and bagging the groceries but do not handle deliveries. They earn an hourly wage and can work up to 29 hours a week. In-Store Shoppers focus solely on the shopping aspect, ensuring that orders are accurately picked and prepared for either customer pickup or delivery by a Full-Service Shopper.

In general, Full-Service Shoppers have the potential to earn more due to the combined shopping and delivery tasks and the inclusion of tips. However, the role requires more work, including driving and managing deliveries. On the other hand, In-Store Shoppers have a more consistent workflow, focusing only on shopping within the store.

Food Delivery Apps & Services Offered By Each Platform 

Both platforms offer different services, some of which are:

Food Delivery Service Offered By DoorDash

DoorDash is primarily known for its restaurant delivery services. The platform connects users with a wide range of local restaurants, allowing them to order breakfast, lunch, dinner, and more. Once an order is placed, a Dasher picks it up from the restaurant and delivers it safely to the user's doorstep. DoorDash offers both pickup and no-contact delivery options to cater to different customer preferences.

In addition to restaurant meals, DoorDash has expanded its services to include the delivery of other items. For instance, through their convenience store platform, DashMart, DoorDash offers household essentials and local restaurant favorites. This expansion means that users can now order not just meals but also everyday items, making DoorDash a versatile platform for various delivery needs.

Food Delivery Service Offered By Instacart

While Instacart is primarily recognized for its grocery delivery services, it has also ventured into the realm of ready-to-eat food deliveries. Users can order from a selection of prepared meals and have them delivered in as fast as one hour. This service is especially convenient for those who want a quick meal without the hassle of cooking.

Instacart's main strength lies in its partnerships with over 300 retailers and grocers. This extensive network allows users to order a wide variety of products, from fresh produce to household essentials. Furthermore, Instacart offers both delivery and curbside pickup options, giving users the flexibility to choose the method that best suits their needs.

In recent times, Instacart has also dabbled in on-demand food delivery, such as the launch of a pre-made meals delivery service in Florida. This move indicates Instacart's intention to diversify its offerings and cater to a broader range of customer needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

To help you better understand Door Dash vs Instacart, we've answered some of the most frequently asked questions.

Is DoorDash only for restaurant food delivery?

No, DoorDash has expanded its services to include DashMart, which delivers household essentials and local restaurant favorites.

How quickly can I expect my groceries to be delivered with Instacart?

Instacart offers same-day delivery, and in many cases, you can receive your groceries in as fast as one hour.

Do both DoorDash and Instacart conduct background checks on their drivers?

Yes, both companies conduct comprehensive background checks on their drivers to ensure the safety and trustworthiness of their service.

How are the payment structures different between DoorDash and Instacart for drivers?

While both platforms offer payment based on delivery distance and order complexity, DoorDash drivers earn primarily from restaurant deliveries, whereas Instacart drivers earn from grocery deliveries. Tips also play a significant role in the earnings of drivers on both platforms.

Can I order ready-to-eat meals through Instacart?

Yes, Instacart has ventured into the realm of ready-to-eat food deliveries, allowing users to order pre-made meals.

Are DoorDash and Instacart services available nationwide?

Both DoorDash and Instacart operate in numerous cities across the United States and Canada. However, the availability of specific services might vary based on location.

Door Dash vs Instacart: Understanding The Difference

While both DoorDash and Instacart began with distinct focuses—DoorDash on restaurant deliveries and Instacart on grocery deliveries—they've expanded their horizons to cater to the diverse needs of their user base. Whether you're a consumer looking for convenience or an aspiring driver seeking a flexible earning opportunity, understanding each platform can help you make informed decisions between Door Dash vs Instacart. As the world continues to shift towards a more digital and on-demand economy, services like DoorDash and Instacart will undoubtedly play pivotal roles in shaping the future of deliveries.

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Sales Development Lead Scott spearheaded a collective blog site before expanding his automotive knowledge and joining the team. Now he leads our team of experts by building ideas on our Sales Development department.
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