There's nothing worse than getting home late at night from a weeklong family vacation only to find there's no food in the fridge. It's too late to go to the store and you've already been eating like garbage on the road, so what do you do?

If you would have subscribed to grocery delivery services like Instacart or Shipt, you probably wouldn't be in that tough spot — you could have simply placed an order in advance and scheduled it to show up at your door just minutes before you come home.

Over the better part of the past decade, grocery delivery services have made buying food easier and more efficient. But which is better — Shipt or Instacart?

Fed up woman at the grocery store

Instacart

Instacart has quickly become one of the most — if not the most — popular grocery delivery services since the company was founded in 2012. The San Francisco based company is valued at nearly $8 billion thanks in part to its rapid North American expansion to more than 4,000 cities, 15,000 stores, and partnership with more than 300 local, regional, and national partners.

Customers use Instacart through the company's proprietary app for iOS or Android or through the company's website to select from a variety of grocery stores in their local market. When a customer makes an order through Instacart, the company sends out "personal shoppers" in their area who then go to the selected stores to purchase the groceries. The groceries are then delivered to the customer's home and the transaction is complete.

Deliveries can be made in as little as an hour from national chains like Sam's Club, Costco, Aldi, and CVS, as well as smaller regional and local stores specific to the customer's zip code.

But how much does it cost? Well, we all knew that a service like Instacart (or any grocery delivery service) wouldn't be free or cheap, but we're buying for the convenience of the service.

An express delivery membership will cost you $99 a year, or $9.99 if paid monthly. All orders $35 and higher don't have a delivery fee for members with the express membership, and yes, that includes one hour delivery as well. Non-members can expect to pay a flat delivery fee of $3.99 ($5.99 in New York City and Canada; $7.99 for one hour delivery) plus an additional 5% on top of that.

With all of that being taken care of, let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of Instacart's service.

Pros

  • Deliveries can be made in a little as an hour
  • "New User" and "Existing User" coupon codes
  • Free delivery for first 14 days
  • Delivers alcohol in various locations

Cons

  • Customers cannot handpick fresh foods before purchasing
  • Does not honor in-store prices and sales
  • "Personal Shoppers" often complain about payment model
Delivered produce

Shipt

Shipt got its start in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2014 but don't let the small starting point fool you; the web-based delivery service (it delivers more than just groceries) was acquired by Target for $550 million in December 2017.

The company prides itself as the "fastest growing online grocery marketplace" in the United States. Since it made its first deliveries in neighboring Florida in 2015, Shipt has spread to over 150 markets throughout the United States where customers can order from national chains like CVS and Target as well local and regional stores.

Since it started five years ago, Shipt's "shoppers" have delivered tens of millions of orders to households throughout the United States. So how do these customers place orders?

Customers can place orders through the Shipt app for iOS or Android, as well as through the company's website on a computer. After logging in or creating an account, customers can then select items from stores in their local area that will then be delivered within a selected delivery window as soon as one hour.

To take advantage of Shipt's services, customers will have to pay an annual fee of $99. By purchasing a membership, customers are able to get unlimited grocery deliveries and all orders over $35 do not have a delivery fee. Orders under $35 (and alcohol sales) are subject to a flat delivery fee of $7.

Here are a few of the other pros and cons of Shipt's service.

Pros

  • Deliveries can be made in a little as an hour - even for stores that are open 24/7
  • "New User" and "Existing User" coupon codes
  • Free delivery for first 14 days
  • Delivers alcohol in various locations

Cons

  • Customers cannot handpick fresh foods before purchasing
  • Does not honor in-store prices and sales though "What's On Sale" category is an option
  • Additional fee for alcohol delivery; members have to pay $7 fee if order is under $35
A woman opens a box of delivered groceries

And The Winner Is...

Although Instacart and Shipt offer essentially the same thing for essentially the same price, and while Shipt does have a partnership with Target that gives its customers exclusive access to most stores, Instacart is the better option overall.

Thanks to its wide variety of national, regional, and local stores, free one-hour delivery (with a membership), and access through more cities in the United States (and Canada), Instacart just has more to offer its customers. Plus, customers don't have to commit to a membership in order to use the service, unlike Shipt which puts its services behind a paywall.

Regardless of whichever service you choose, you'll reap the benefits of not having to go to the grocery store in order to pick up groceries.

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