Why is Instacart so Slow? (and how to get orders faster!)


Using an online grocery delivery service is incredibly convenient with how much time and hassle it can save you. But when it comes to one of the US’s largest grocery delivery services, people often ask why is Instacart so slow?

So I did some research, and here’s what I discovered:

Why is Instacart so slow? Supply and demand. As more people use the service, it gets harder to find enough Instacart Shoppers to accommodate the increase. However, Instacart is still able to deliver on time for 90% of orders. Scheduling off-peak delivery times can also help with on-time arrivals.

In this article, we’re diving deep into Instacart.

I’ll help you understand how Instacart delivery works, if they give you set delivery slots, and what to do when no delivery time is available. But we’ll also look at average delivery times, and what steps you can take to ensure your order is delivered on time.

Just keep reading to know more about Instacart deliveries. 

Ready to order from Instacart? CLICK HERE to get started with your order!

How long does Instacart usually take?

The company advertises same-day delivery and states “in as fast as an hour”. You can also specify when you’ll like your grocery delivered. But like any business, it’s all about supply (of drivers) and demand (orders coming in). Peak delivery times can sometimes mean up to a 5-hour wait.

However, at off-peak times, you can also have your deliveries in two hours or less.

You may also place orders ahead of time, which is a great option, especially if you’re the type who likes to plan in advance. That way, you could ensure that you never run out of stuff, instead of waiting to order at the last minute!

Instacart is one of the biggest and best online grocery delivery services out there, but in some cases, its delivery time leaves a lot to be desired.

One of the main reasons is they don’t have enough shoppers to cope with the surge in demand as more and more people switch to grocery delivery and pickup.

If you’re considering other options, DoorDash is a good platform.

You can find out about its alliance with Walmart in a recent article of mine. Just click the link to read it on my site.

In the article, I explored how it works with Walmart, the states it operates in, the few where it doesn’t operate in, how to get your groceries from Walmart, whether you’re supposed to tip the drivers, and even the markup it adds to the store price.

So, now, we know the average delivery time, let’s understand how Instacart works, in a nutshell.

How does Instacart delivery work?

With Instacart, you order, set a delivery window, and pay & tip all from the app. You decide which store(s) to order from & add specific items to your cart. Instacart employees, known as Shoppers, shop the order, pay on your behalf, and then deliver it, or stage it for pickup depending on which option you select.

Instacart is available in over 5000 cities in the US

So, using its mobile app or website, you can buy groceries online. Then the Instacart Shoppers go to the grocery stores, pick each item, pay, and drive (in their own car) to deliver the items to you.

A Shopper may have to visit more than one store if they can’t find everything on your grocery list.

And, there are a few items it doesn’t deliver, such as tobacco (but click to read my recent article on who DOES deliver tobacco products). Just click that link to read it on my site.

Essentially, the platform allows you to create a virtual shopping cart – a common way of ordering most products and services we buy these days. And, because the products can’t be delivered digitally, a human being brings all you’ve ordered to your door.

Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of using Instacart:

  • Visit the website or download the app.
  • Choose a store and enter your location.
  • Fill the virtual shopping cart (with what you’ll like to order).
  • Select your item substitutes and delivery time.
  • Pay and place your order.
  • You can track the progress of your order.
  • Ensure that you’re available to collect your order

In most cases, the prices of the products are higher than those in the stores. You’ll also pay a delivery charge (and it’s cool to tip the Shoppers).

Most people tip on the app, but you can tip in cash in person if you wish. But how much to tip?

In a recent article of mine, I provided a guide on what to tip Instacart shoppers. While Instacart suggests a 5% tip, it’s probably a better idea to tip a lot more than that. But I’ll get into those details in the article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does the platform promise a set delivery time? That’s just what I was about to write about.

When I order from Instacart, do they give you a set delivery time?

Instacart customers are given a set delivery window, mostly within five-hours. Their delivery windows start at 9 am and runs to midnight. While they advertise “as fast as an hour”, that’s not always true during peak hours. But the earlier you place your order, the more likely you are to receive an on-time delivery.

Because of the demand increase of 2020, and probably complaints about slow service, the company has launched two new features.

The company also announced that it was going to employ more shoppers. I’ll explain how both new features work.

In another recent article of mine, I wrote about everything you need to know about Instacart pick up. It works similarly to grocery delivery with 1 key difference!

Just click the link to read it on my site.

And before I forget, you can also use Instacart to order and pay for groceries to be delivered to other people.

But why is Instacart slow? Keep reading!

Does Instacart take longer to deliver than promised?

Most of the time, Instacart deliveries are made on time. Demand for Instacart orders has soared by over 300% this year, and that the average order has grown by 35%. Yet the company is still able to deliver on time 90% of the time.

This surge in demand is the highest it has ever experienced.

This is apt to affect any company’s efficiency, but they only miss their appointed time about 10% of the time.

Instacart has employed more people to cope with the astronomical increase in demand, and it introduced two new features aimed at ensuring that groceries are delivered when promised.

In mid-2020, when demand was at its highest, delivery times were as long as five days!

It has normalized now. Yet, the company has planned to employ 500,000 more shoppers. A substantial fraction may have been engaged since it’s rare to see a large number of people complaining about slow delivery times anymore.

The platform naturally charges you more than what you’ll pay at the store (the price of convenience, if you like).

This is a standard business practice since it incurs costs in delivering its service. I showed that it doesn’t always charge more.

But how much are you actually being charged?

I researched it, and in a recent article of mine, I shared all you need to know. Just click the link to read it on my site. I even showed the stores whose prices it doesn’t markup, and I compared Instacart and Aldi’s prices.

But can you always place your order at any time?

What does it mean when the app says Instacart delivery time not available?

When the Instacart app says no delivery times available, it means there are no shoppers currently available to take and deliver your orders. They would rather tell you no than take your order knowing it would not be handled promptly.

In effect, the system is overwhelmed!

This happens, though infrequently when the demand outstrips the number of shoppers who are free to serve you.

As you probably know, Instacart does not have its own store. Its shoppers have to go from store to store picking and delivering others to different parts of the city.

For additional help, you may visit the Instacart Help Center. Just click on the link and search for your query on Instacart’s website. 

Or perhaps, try again later!

How can I speed up my Instacart order?

In spring 2020, Instacart introduced 2 new services designed to speed up the order & delivery process for customers. Their “Fast & Flexible” program allows customers to have their order delivered by the first available Shopper, instead of just scheduling it for a set window. 

Then their “Order Ahead” program allows customers to place orders up to 2 weeks ahead of time.

That effectively doubles the previous delivery window of 7 days. You can also build your delivery cart of products well in advance too which didn’t use to be an option.

Checking the “Leave at My Door” delivery option also allows for faster delivery as they don’t have to wait for someone to be home.

Lastly, if you’re a regular Instacart user, consider joining Instacart Express.

You’ll avoid the per shop delivery fees and get faster deliveries. The program does come with an annual fee of $99 though. But if you order from Instacart regularly, it’s totally worth it. 

Did I cover all you wanted to know about why is Instacart so slow?

In the preceding paragraphs, we checked out:

  • How Instacart operates
  • Its delivery time
  • The reliability of the service
  • How to use the platform
  • And what is meant when the app shows “delivery time not available” and what to do about it

We learned that the platform is one of the best and that there are some occasions that explain why Instacart is so slow.

This is probably caused the uptick in demand this year, but they are still doing just great. 

Ready to order from Instacart? CLICK HERE to get started with your order!


Photo which requires attribution:

Instacart_PwG_anim_02 by 姿穎 呂 is licensed under Public Domain

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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