Here are some of the things you should know before jumping down the Instacart rabbit hole.

On the surface, getting your groceries delivered right to your door sounds like a dream come true. In actuality, it is pretty great, with a few caveats.

1. The service isn't cheap.

Sure, some of the in-store sales will apply, but the majority of the product pricing is going to be higher than if you had shopped yourself in the store. Part of this is to make sure that your estimate actually covers the cost of your goods, but it's also one of the ways that Instacart makes their money.

Each order incurs a service charge which is based on the size of your order, as well as a delivery fee that can range from $2.99 to $9.99. On top of THAT, you still need to tip. The way things are now, with grocery stores as the front lines, you need to tip well in order to attract a shopper to pick up your order.

Instacart shopper

2. Things may not be in stock.

Even though you can put something in your virtual cart, there's no guarantee that the shopper will be able to snag it for you. If you take the time to choose suitable replacements, you can be reasonably sure that you can make do with what you end up with, but it's still up in the air until your bags arrive at your doorstep.

Don't be fooled by all the toilet paper and Lysol products that your store says are available!

3. You don't really know what you're going to get.

Let's just say you might not get the pristine produce you would normally pick out for yourself. Shoppers are incentivized to complete orders as quickly as possible, so they may be grabbing the first tomato they see, so to speak. If you're particular about your fruit and veggies, you probably want to shop for produce yourself.

Instacart, cart

4. Things can happen.

As a seasoned Instacart customer, I was flabbergasted to receive nine pounds of bananas instead of the bunch that I ordered, but hey, stuff happens. You should always be available once your shopper starts collecting your order in the store, to answer any questions that could come up. There is a refund process, but in my case, it was a cheap enough mistake that I just made a ton of banana bread.

5. The process is pretty complicated.

Once you've signed up for an Instacart account, you can start shopping online for groceries from your nearest stores. You fill your virtual cart and hopefully have the time to pick out suitable replacements for each item. Then the waiting game starts. It can be hours before someone accepts your order, so be sure to put in a big tip to make it more attractive. 

When your shopper starts working, be on the lookout for Instacart texts or have the app open to chat and watch their progress. If refunds are given or replacements are made, you may need to review the final order before the shopper can check out. Finally, you can follow along on an interactive map and watch as your delivery is made.

From start to finish, getting your groceries from Instacart will take hours, or even more than a day if your region is really busy.

For more information, check out the Instacart website and give them a try before making your own mind up about the service.


*The photos in this article are courtesy of Instacart.

What Instacart tips do you have for first-timers? Would you recommend it to friends and family? Sound off in the comments!