Amazon Fresh, Instacart or Target Shipt: Which Same-Day Delivery Service is Best?

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The heavy hitters of same-day grocery delivery services all seem very similar on the surface. We tested Amazon Fresh, Instacart, and Shipt to see which one came out on top.

Gone are the days when you have to make a weekly journey to the grocery store and then perfect your technique for carrying 20 lbs of plastic bags in one go (I am firmly team "I Will Die Before Making Two Trips"). Now, your groceries can be delivered straight to your home within hours of ordering.

As the World's Laziest Human, this frankly sounds too good to be true. Our office decided to try out the top players in the game to see which one really is the best. 

The three contenders battling it out for grocery delivery supremacy? Instacart, Amazon Fresh, and Shipt. We also wanted to include Walmart's same-day service, but at 17 miles away, our office was out of delivery range. 

For those who saw the article title and wanted a fast answer, here's the TL;DR: 

Best for deals: Shipt

Best for "I need it now": Instacart

Best for dependability: Amazon Fresh 

Overall winner: Instacart

The challenge

I signed up for each service and purchased three similar items from each, so we could see how the shopper's selection was:

  • A bread item
  • A fruit
  • A plastic or paper item

For each, I chose the shortest standard shipping time and bought the traditional plan (if offered). All orders were placed in close succession around 10:30 am and were done on a desktop.

Instacart

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Instacart is thought of as the original same-day grocery delivery service, as it was founded back in 2012 by Apoorva Meta. It connects you with personal shoppers in your area, who will select and deliver your groceries. You are able to shop from a variety of stores nearby, from both national chains like Whole Foods and Costco and local specialities such as Ralph's and Pavilions (for the California folks). 

I placed an order from Whole Foods for:

  • Dave's Killer Bread Epic Everything Dave's Killer Bread Epic Everything Organic Bagels
  • A Pineapple
  • World Centric Paper Cups, 12 oz

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Cost

Instacart has a delivery fee of $3.99 for orders of $35+ and $7.99 for orders under $35 (with a minimum of $10). There is also a service fee of 5% of your item subtotal, with the minimum being $2 per individual store delivery. However, New York has a service fee of 7.5%.

If you get a subscription to Instacart Express however, you get unlimited free grocery deliver for orders of $35+ and no service fee. A yearlong subscription is $99, and a monthly subscription is $9.99, but you can save with Instacart promo codes.

My groceries were $13.77, but I paid $26.22 total, including a $2 tip (optional). 

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Website

I thought that their website is easily navigable. 

Do they have an app?

Yes, and it has some minor differences than the website. A Business Insider review showed how the app adjusts your bill in real time as your shopper shops.

Alternatives

Instacart lets you specify possible replacements, in case what you want is out of stock. You can choose to approve specific products or say you don't want a replacement at all. 

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Delivery time

I chose the fastest delivery included with the standard delivery fee, so within 2 hours. I placed the order at 11:08 and got my groceries at 12:55. For those who need more specific time frames, Instacart lets you choose a specific hour, although these time slots were all later than the 2 hour delivery window. 

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(Side note: We originally wanted to order from Costco, but the first delivery time available for us was the next morning, which defeated the purpose of a same-day delivery service.) 

Communication

I got text messages from Instacart keeping me updated on every step of the shopping experience, from order confirmation to driving progress. 

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You can also easily track your order's progress on the website, and it looks like this:

best same day grocery delivery services

Delivery Experience

Our pleasant shopper, Raenetta, arrived with our groceries at 12:55 All items were the right brand and quantity. The bagels were in good condition and the pineapple chosen was ripe.

best same day grocery delivery services

Alcohol availability

Alcohol availability depends on your location and retailers available. If you order alcohol, there is an additional proportional alcohol service fee:

  • $0-$35 of alcohol: $2.00 fee
  • $35.01-$75 of alcohol: $4.00 fee
  • $75.01-$110 of alcohol: $8.00 fee
  • $110.01 or more of alcohol: $10.00 fee

Cool features

I really enjoyed how Instacart allowed you to pick specific substitutes for each item, as it really streamlines the process and helps shoppers to get exactly what they want. Their tracking features are very detailed, and definitely the most advanced out of the bunch. 

Overall Impression

Instacart made a good impression on us. Our groceries came exactly as ordered and we were able to easily track their progress. I do wish there had been an hour long delivery time available earlier, and that all stores available on the site had same day delivery

Amazon Fresh

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Amazon Fresh, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, is a grocery delivery service available to Amazon Prime members that serves both the U.S and select international countries. Unlike other grocery services, the products available are not through grocery stores, but through Amazon itself. 

I bought:

  • Dixie Paper Plates 10 1/16"
  • Oroweat, Country Buttermilk Bread, 24 oz
  • Blueberries, 1 pint

best same day grocery delivery services

Cost

In order to use Amazon Fresh, you need to have an Amazon Prime membership, which costs either $99 per year, or $12.99 monthly. For Prime members, a subscription to Amazon Fresh is $14.99/month, but you can save with Amazon Fresh promo codes. Orders over $50 have free delivery, but those under $50 have an extra $9.99 delivery fee. Tip is optional, and added in before purchasing. 

I spent $13.65 on the items, and with the delivery charge, tax, and tip (the photo shows $5 but I edited it to $2), the total was $28.43.

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Website

Amazon's website is extremely straightforward. Additionally, their site lets you browse the available groceries before signing up, a feature that both Instacart and Shipt don't offer. 

Do they have an app

Yes, there's an app for Amazon Fresh, and you can read a more detailed review here

Alternatives

Amazon Fresh doesn't let you chose alternatives for your orders, or rather, they don't need to, as all of the available results you see are in stock .

Delivery time

The soonest I could have my order be delivered was 7-9 pm, at least 8 hours away from when I placed the order. The long space between ordering and delivery could be inconvenient to some. Additionally, the 2-hour window might be a while to wait for those who can't do doorstep delivery for safety or food quality reasons. 

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I placed the order at and it arrived at 7:38 pm. 

Communication

After the order is placed, I received a confirmation email. However, unlike Shipt or Instacart, there's no live communication between you and the delivery person. You know the time window for delivery, but aren't notified when it's out for delivery or the driver has left. 

Delivery experience

I forgot to take pictures of the contents inside the bread, but all items were in good condition. The blueberries were ripe and the bread wasn't squished or old. The delivery man was nice and helpful, and not at all surprised to hear Friends blasting in the background (but hey, it was past 7:30 and I was still in the office). I also appreciated that the fruit was put in a fresh produce bag, and marked to be handed with care. 

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Alcohol availability

Amazon Fresh doesn't sell alcohol. However, if you already have an Amazon Prime subscription and you live in one of the 30 cities that offers Amazon Prime Now, you can buy alcoholic drinks. 

Cool features

Amazon Fresh gives you access to well-reviewed Wickedly Fresh products, Amazon's private label. They
also will take great care of perishable and frozen items-- adding ice packs or dried ice to refrigerated bags.

Overall impression

Will a baby boomer write a mean comment about my entitled millennial frustration at waiting 8 hours for grocery delivery? Probably. But in an evaluation of same-day services, Amazon Fresh's is a little slow in comparison to its competitors.

However, it does make up for that in consistency, as the other shopper-geared sites are affected by what's in or out of stock at the store. All our items were delivered on schedule and in good shape. 

Shipt

best same day grocery delivery services

Shipt was founded in Birmingham Alabama in 2014, acquired by Target in 2018, and is now available in 250 cities. Their grocery delivery service works by partnering with local shoppers 

I chose Target as my desired store and ordered:

  • Thomas' Light Multi-Grain English Muffins
  • up & up Heavy Duty Disposable Paper Plates 6.5
  • Bananas

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Cost

A membership to Shipt costs $99 for a yearly subscription or $14 if you pay month to month, but you can save with Shipt promo codes. You do need a membership in order to use their services. Delivery is free for orders of $35 or more, and orders under that have a flat $7 delivery fee.

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While my original sub-total was $6.89, due to product unavailability, it was only $2.89 and then the $7 delivery fee on top of that. 

best same day grocery delivery services

Unlike Instacart or Amazon Fresh, you add a tip after the order. I tipped $2, bringing my order total to $11.89.

best same day grocery delivery services

Website

I found the website design to be sleek and easy to use. For both Shipt and Instacart, I wish it was possible to browse their products before creating an account. 

Do they have an app?

Yes, and you read a full review of the app experience here. 

Alternatives

If an item you asked for is not in stock, your Shipt shopper will reach out via text to ask about suitable replacements. 

best same day grocery delivery services

Unfortunately, Target was completely out of bananas of any kind, so I didn't get them. Because Shipt shoppers are on a tight schedule to get you your groceries within a short window, if they don't get a timely response from you when asking about a substitute, they won't buy one.

I stupidly left my phone on silent, so I didn't get back to Kimberly in time about a good substitute for plates.

best same day grocery delivery services

Delivery time

Shipt lets you choose delivery times in one hour increments that run as late as 12 am. I placed my order at 11:02 and choose the 1 pm to 2 pm time slot. My groceries were delivered at 1:15.

best same day grocery delivery services

Communication 

As you can see from the text messages above, Shipt and its shoppers are in constant communication with you. I appreciated that the shoppers text you directly to ask questions and let you know their status. 

Delivery experience

Kimberly delivered my Target order at 1:15, well within the desired time, and was cheerful and polite. 

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The English muffins were in good condition and the right brand.

best same day grocery delivery services

Alcohol availability

Shipt offers alcohol delivery in select cities, and a $7 delivery fee may be applied to alcohol orders from select retailers.

Cool features

If an item is not available in the app, customers can use the special request feature within the app to request an item for their Shopper to locate in the store. Also, Shipt is the only grocery delivery service with access to Target, which routinely has some of the best deals, price-wise. 

Overall impression

A hazard of using grocery delivery services is not getting all the products that you want due to what's in stock at stores. It's not a reflection on the shopper or service, as the same thing would have happened were I to go into the store myself. However, since I didn't get all of my items, it was harder to evaluate Shipt and the shopping quality as a whole. 

The service was pleasant, the delivery was prompt, and I enjoyed the personal communication between Kimberly and myself. Price-wise, I liked how there were no extra service fees attached.

And the winner is....

Instacart! We felt that its convenience, cost, delivery time, shopping quality, and use of ease made for a great all around shopping experience. When it comes to same-day grocery delivery, Instacart's features are hard to beat. 

If you're interested in trying out a same-day service like one of these, our grocery delivery promo codes can help you save some major cash.

1 comment

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Posted on Jan 23, 2019

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Giselle Krachenfels
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