The options keep growing. Who does grocery delivery best, Amazon Prime Now, Instacart, Walmart or Shipt?

An Instacart shopper makes a delivery. The app works in Tampa Bay with Publix and new addition Aldi. [Courtesy of Instacart]
An Instacart shopper makes a delivery. The app works in Tampa Bay with Publix and new addition Aldi. [Courtesy of Instacart]
Published October 11
Updated October 12

 

I wasn’t sure I’d ever be the type of person to have my groceries delivered

Then, I sprained my ankle. Hobbling around grocery store aisles rather than icing my foot last weekend seemed like a bad idea.

I’m a single 26-year-old and my shopping trips aren’t excessive to begin with. I love a good deal, a great coupon and picking out my own produce — so I was never drawn to delivery because it seemed like an unnecessary (and costly) luxury.

But now I’m armed with a lot of knowledge, Tampa Bay.

I’ve spent the time comparing each service and dissecting the pros and cons so you don’t have to. Ultimately, I went with Amazon’s Prime Now — but I don’t think that’s the right choice for everyone. It depends on your needs and budget. Walmart, Instacart and Shipt all have merits, too.

My grocery list: five bananas, Skinny Pop popcorn, 6 ounces of blueberries, Silk Almond Milk, a 3-pound bag of Fuji apples, a pack of whole carrots, La Croix Curate sparkling water, a bag of frozen pineapple chunks, a bottle of organic honey, romaine lettuce hearts, and fresh spinach.

A screen grab of Prime Now's interface, which includes Whole Foods brand pineapple chunks.

AMAZON PRIME NOW (with Whole Foods groceries)

The new-to-Tampa Bay Prime Now grocery delivery service with Whole Foods items seemed like the best deal for me, because I was already paying the annual membership fee. I have been an Amazon Prime member for years and use it to order everything from bath mats to dog treats and pay no shipping fees. The fact I can now get more fresh produce and meats is an added bonus to a service I already enjoy.

My total: $43.59 (with tip)

What are the extra costs?

Amazon Prime now costs an annual fee of $119 (it used to be $90) or a monthly fee of $12.99. Students get a hefty discount at either $59 for a year or $6.49 per month. If you spend more than $35, there is no delivery fee. (But you can pay extra $7.99 to rush the order.) Amazon requires a $5 tip.

What I liked:

Prices seemed about the same I would pay for the items in-store at Whole Foods or inside of Publix. Silk almond was $3.29; blueberries $3.49 a bundle of carrots 99 cents. I put my order in at 4 p.m. on a Sunday and selected a window between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., which the driver had to me in time.

What I didn’t like:

While thousands of grocery items are available, there isn’t a wider inventory you find with some of the other apps. I have a dairy allergy, for example, and only found one dairy-free ice cream available.

When my groceries arrived, they came in five bags (a lot, considering I ordered 11 things). But the bags are designed to keep cold items cold, etc.

A Walmart personal shopper picks out produce to fulfill pick-up and delivery orders. [Courtesy of Walmart]

WALMART

Like Amazon, Walmart provides its delivery service with an in-house team. A lot of delivery relies on third parties. (We’ll get into those later.)

Similar to the shoppers picking up items in Whole Foods for Amazon, Walmart's personal shoppers are picking your items out at a regular store. I mimicked my Amazon order to compare costs and show how the services can differ. It doesn’t require membership fees, but its delivery fees range in price depending on time of day.My total: $43.48 (including $7.95 delivery fee)

What are the extra costs?

Walmart has a range of delivery fees based off the time of day. From what I saw, peak times were $12.95 then tiered down to $9.95, $7.95 and $6.95. The minimum order price is $30. Drivers do not accept tips.

What I liked:

Walmart’s biggest perk is that you can schedule to pick up your groceries for free in the same app for ordering delivery. No one else has mastered the pick-up system quite as seamless as Walmart so far.

Prices compared to Amazon were similar. While my almond milk was just over $2 (cheaper than on Amazon), the blueberries and a 3-pound bag of apples via Walmart were more. In the end, the totals were about the same. The big difference here is the membership fee.

What I didn’t like:

I decided late in the day I wanted my groceries delivered that night. Walmart seems to require more planning than Amazon. (Which makes sense when you consider Walmart isn’t charging membership fees.)

Walmart had no same-day deliveries available when I looked. If I had opted to use Walmart for delivery, I would have had to wait until the next day for groceries.

Instacart is the most expensive of the delivery options, charging users $149 a year to be an express member. (Courtesy of Instacart)

INSTACART (which includes Publix and Aldi)

For the sake of this experiment, I used Publix items in my shopping list to come up with a price comparison. But as of last week, Instacart started offering Aldi items in Tampa Bay. It’s such a new perk, Aldi wouldn’t even comment on it yet.

Instacart is like Uber for groceries. Your personal shoppers are not employees of Publix or Aldi, but of the app.

Publix is upfront that some Instacart prices are slightly higher than inside the store. Other fees and a difference of 50 cents to $1 on a couple items hiked up my bill fast.

My total: $57.60 (including elivery fee and small tip)

Unlike Amazon and Shipt, you can use Instacart even if you are not a member. If you’re a first-time user, you can start a trial for two weeks. That knocks out the $5.99 delivery fee (which can be increased at peak times) and allows you to receive goods from more than one store in the same order. (Instacart also works at PetCo and CostCo in Tampa Bay.)

Extra costs: The annual fee for InstaCart Express is $149. Without a contract, the fee is $14.99 per month. There’s no delivery fee with the membership. Had I not already used the free trial last year, I would have been able to get the groceries for roughly $51. The automated tip was only $2.33, which I would have been tempted hike up at least a bit had I gone through with the order. There was also a $2.33 service fee.

What I liked:

I love that Aldi is now available and that inventory through the app is so massive in general. If my life ever got chaotic enough where I needed to rely heavily on grocery delivery, I could see Instacart as my go-to. You can get everything.

With Amazon, you’re not given access to all of Whole Foods, but some of its private label and more popular items. Walmart, though with a a lot of items, can’t equal the inventory of several stores under one app. In some areas, Instacart is in Whole Foods the way it’s in Publix. So, I imagine it’s just a matter of time before it’s added to Tampa Bay’s offerings.

What I didn’t like:

I won’t use Instacart enough to make it worth the big annual fee. If you see yourself relying on grocery delivery more often than not, then it probably makes sense to go this route because of the access to numerous products.

SHIPT (Target and Winn-Dixie)

Shipt has a formal partnerships with Target and Winn-Dixie. For this experiment, I decided to shop Target’s items. (Target bought Shipt last year). Shipt says it’s also compatible with Publix, but not through a formal partnership — making shopping Publix via Shipt a gray area. Shipt works similar to Instacart, but with a cheaper annual fee. With Shipt, you have to be a member to use the service at all. There’s also two-week free trial.

My total: $41.70 (including tip)

Shopping at Target with Shipt was my cheapest trip. I also had to grab an extra bag of frozen fruit to meet the $35 free-delivery threshold (my total then became $36.70) to avoid a $7 delivery fee.

Extra costs: Shipt charges $99 for a year-long member ship, or $8.25 a month. Without a yearly contract, it’s $14 a month. Tipping isn’t required and is not calculated automatically as it is with Instacart, but I highly recommend you still tip.

What I liked:

The prices seemed lower, on average, per item. The $99 annual fee makes it more appealing than Instcart, though there are some nice perks its competitor is offering for the increased cost.

I’d say if you are looking to rely more on grocery delivery, but are on the slightly frugal side, Shipt is a cheaper option with similar results.

What I didn’t like:

Unlike with an Instacart membership, you can’t include different stores under one order. Target did not have frozen pineapple or whole carrots. When I tried to get those items from Winn-Dixie, it created a second order that would have also needed to reach $35 to bypass a $7 delivery fee. (The substitutes I found at Target were fine: baby carrots instead of whole carrots, frozen mango and peach chunks instead of pineapple.)

Final thoughts: While all of the apps offer “sales” or in-app coupons, the big savings you can have with old-fashioned paper coupons isn’t something I’m ready to give up. So, no, I won’t be foregoing weekly shopping trips just yet. So for me, Prime Now serves as a valuable complement to traditional shopping.

If you want to completely replace shopping by yourself, Instacart provides a seamless transition. Shipt, however, is a slightly cheaper and solid alternative.

If you’re weary to make any pricey commitments with membership fees, start with Walmart to see if delivery is worth it for you at all.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected]. Follow @sara_dinatale.

Clarification: Amazon Prime has shoppers inside Whole Foods to pick out items.

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