Instacart vs Amazon Prime Now: Differences, Similarities, and Which I Prefer

I'm a regular online grocery shopper. Although I do occasionally shop in the store, I'd say the majority of my monthly grocery budget goes towards online grocery shopping sites. There are two major websites - Instacart and Amazon Prime Now. Thanks to my recent free trial of Amazon Prime Now, I now can say I've tried both. They seem similar and I've heard rave reviews of both. Now it's my turn to add in my two cents:


Instacart is a grocery delivery service where it can deliver to you in an hour. I've been using them for a couple of years now and except for a few snafus in service, I've generally been really happy with their service.

Amazon Prime Now

Amazon Prime Now offers up the same - two hour grocery delivery. They offer delivery services through Amazon itself and local grocery stores who have partnered with them.

First Major Difference - Departments

First, the website. At homepage, when you've logged in, you have a variety of things you can do. Change what store you are looking at, look for food based on department, search coupons, and view which last items you've purchased to add them to a list.

Here's one major difference. At Amazon Prime Now, you don't just need to shop for food to get things within two hour. A coworker told me she shopped for a window air conditioner via Amazon Prime Now and got it within two hours. You can tell when they listed the departments:

Second Major Difference: Replacement Items

This is the most noticeable difference between the two sites. As you shop on Instacart, you build your list. As you select which items you want to buy, if it comes across something usually low in stock, it will give you this pop up window -

And let's say you are all done shopping and are on the order page. Once you select the delivery time, you also suggest which items you want replaced and what your replacement choice is or you can also choose to not replace the item at all (if the store doesn't have it). Check this out -

So I ordered bacon -

And I have three options - pick best match, pick specific replacements, or don't replace. Of the three, I recommend pick specific replacement or don't replace it at all. Even the most seasoned Instacart shopper can get the best match wrong, unless you are REALLY sure you don't care about alternative choices. If you specify, you get this screen and then you select which food item you want if they don't have this specific brand -

This aspect of Instacart is far superior to Amazon, in my opinion. You can do this with each item you buy (and I highly recommend it) and even add notes specifying details of the item you've selected to purchase -

Check out the note I added regarding the garlic -

Now for Amazon, you don't get as many item specific options. When you get to the end of the shopping experience, I found I could either ask them to choose the best option if they don't hear from me or not replace it at all, and then I could specify certain items I didn't want replaced -

Major downside to me! I like being able to specify alternative options because I don't want to assume the shopper will choose the alternative I would like. 

Third Major Difference - Personal Shopper Experience

I don't want to criticize this too much. There is one major difference that sets Instacart ahead in my book over Amazon. That is the chat with shopper feature on Instacart -

You can access this on their website as well as their app.and while their shopper is shopping, you can request items, discuss the alternatives they selected, and even add things to your list that you forgot. Of course, humanity itself is imperfect and this isn't always a problem free process. However, this is a perk I enjoy and missed out on with Amazon prime.

Amazon prime primarily doesn't have this feature. If you do request them to select alternatives, you will get a text and you will only have a couple of minutes to respond (don't have that screen shot of the text communication right now). I responded a few minutes too late for the shopper who was shopping for me and they ended up just choosing an alternate. Sadly, it wasn't quite what I wanted, but that's when I decided to just tell Amazon to not replace things for me.

Major Difference Number Four - Wine.

Unfortunately right now, Instacart will not give you wine in two hours. Amazon Prime Now does (based on your area). I wonder if this is area specific though. I just live in Portland, Oregon and that is not the case for Instacart (and is for Amazon). 

Major Similarities Number One - Shipping Price

Both sites charge for shipping and both sites ask for a tip. There are minor differences in the both of them and Amazon wins out ahead by just a little bit here. For orders less than $35, Instacart offers up a $9.99 shipping fee. For Amazon, for orders less than $70, they charge $4.99 (if you order more than $70, shipping is free - at least with the local grocery store I shopped through). 

The confusing aspect to Instacart is their end service charge. This CAN be waived and instead you can add on a tip -

And here's Amazon's site (you can customize the tip and the shipping fee is obvious too) -

Amazon is a bit better here. The tip area is obvious and the shipping fee is too. However, not enough of a difference to me and overall, the cost turns out to be the same in my opinion.

Major Similarities Number Two - The App

I found the apps for the two to be the same for the most part. At least in terms of building the list. Any differences I found to just be existing within the difference in the websites itself. I'll add some screen shots later for visual aids. 

Which I Prefer -

In case you can't figure it out, I obviously prefer Instacart. For their interactive shopper experience and ability to add specific replacement items is what makes them stand out to me. Also, for Amazon Prime Now, you need to be a prime member to use it. For Instacart, you sign up for free and use it right away (they have an Instacart Express subscription which gives you free shipping over $35 and the cost of that isn't worth what you are getting). 

The biggest downside to Instacart is that you don't get the in store deals that you would get if you were shopping yourself. Also, if you want same day delivery, I'd recommend putting in your order before 4 pm. Overall, I've been using them for a couple of years and they have been a saving grace in the winter days when it's icy. 

Sign up for Instacart and get $10 off (I couldn't resist using my referral code here!) with my link and use the code NPYLES125.

I still like Amazon Prime Now. They do have some better pricing I noticed for a few products I shopped for yesterday. Most items turned out to be competitive with Instacart and practically the same. And I do plan on using both, especially since Amazon Prime comes with it's own perks and plus the whole getting wine in two hour thing is a major perk. 

Have you used either Instacart or Amazon Prime Now? What are your thoughts on the differences or similarities?Which do you prefer?

This post includes a referral link and I'll receive a small bonus if you sign up with my link.

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