Costco In-Store vs. Costco Same-Day vs. Costco on Instacart: An Investigative Price Comparison Review

I’ve written about how you can shop at Costco without a membership in the past. One of the few ways to do so is through Instacart. Costco has taken their Instacart partnership very seriously – even going so far as to host Costco’s Instacart platform offerings on a subdomain of the Costco website and branding it as “Costco Same-Day” with the endorsement “Powered by Instacart“. In fact, they’ve abandoned most food item sales on the rest of the website – turning things over to their Instacart partnership – focusing instead on electronics, furniture, appliances, and other high-margin product categories on the Costco site.

Food samples aside, I don’t love the experience of shopping at Costco. So, naturally, having recently found a number of ways to save on Instacart purchases, I decided to investigate whether it might make sense to forego some or all Costco in-store shopping for the convenience of Instacart and maybe even if it makes sense to get rid of the Costco membership entirely. So, I decided to do a Costco Same-Day versus Costco warehouse versus Instacart price comparison investigation to see what the price premiums are and where Costco shoppers should purchase Costco items. Let’s break it down by starting with some basics.

Costco In-Store vs Costco Same-Day vs Costco Instacart Prices

Do You Need a Costco Membership to Shop at Costco Same-Day (Powered by Instacart)?

You need a Costco membership to shop for items on Costco Same-Day (Powered by Instacart). Costco states:

Costco Same-Day Delivery is only offered to members. If you’re not a member, you can shop directly from, but you’ll pay a higher price than members shopping on Costco Same-Day Delivery.

As I discover below, you’re also paying a premium for shopping on Costco Same-Day versus at a Costco store. One interesting note is the following statement on Costco Same-Day:

Instacart+ members receive up to 7% savings on every Same-Day order.

You can link your Instacart+ membership to Costco Same-Day, and my research below found that there is actually roughly a 7.7% premium savings versus Costco Same-Day alone when you do. It appears that Costco Same-Day, which does not outline Instacart service fees, builds the ~7.7% service fee into unlinked Costco Same-Day per item pricing.

Do You Need a Costco Membership to Shop for Costco Items on Instacart?

As noted above, you do not need a Costco membership to shop for Costco items on You will, however, pay a price premium over what you would pay for the same item in a Costco warehouse or on the Costco Same-Day site (more on the specifics of that below – but it’s hefty).

If you link your Costco membership number to your Instacart account, you will pay a lower price markup for Costco purchases on Instacart than if you do not link.

Costco Vs Instacart Membership Costs

Next, let’s look at membership costs at Costco and Instacart.

Costco has 2 membership levels:

  • Gold Star: $60/year
  • Executive: $120/year

There is no per item savings between the 2 membership levels, but there is a 2% annual membership reward bonus (up to $1,000) that can be redeemed at Costco. I’ve previously looked at the break-even point for Costco executive membership for those who are interested.

Meanwhile, Instacart has 2 membership cost options via Instacart+:

  • Monthly: $9.99/month
  • Annual: $99.99/year ($8.33/month)

Instacart+ membership results in free delivery on orders over $35. What if you don’t have Instacart+? There’s a delivery fee:

Instacart delivery starts at $3.99 for same-day orders over $35. Fees vary for one-hour deliveries, club store deliveries, and deliveries under $35. You see the delivery fee when choosing your delivery window at checkout.

There are also higher services fees if you do not have Instacart+. My Instacart usage found a total average savings of $7.68 per order with Instacart+ versus non-Instacart+ purchases.

Additionally, there are shopper delivery tips:

Shopper tips (for your delivery person) are separate from any service fees.

And, if you’re ordering a 40 lb. bag of Kirkland Signature pet food – as just 1 example – you shouldn’t get stingy on a tip. So, you’ll have to factor in those additional costs to your Costco versus Instacart comparisons. Consider tipping as a convenience fee, because it is.

The only other factor worth mentioning is that if someone is dropping off your order there are cost savings in not driving to/from a Costco store. YMMV.

Price Comparison: Costco In-Store vs. Costco Same-Day vs. Costco Instacart Prices & Markups

Costco and Instacart are up-front about there being a price premium for Costco Same-Day (Powered by Instacart) and Costco items on But what exactly is that price premium? I decided to do some shopping to find out. Here’s a breakdown of what I found for 12 Costco items.

Costco Item:Costco In-Store (Warehouse) Prices:Instacart w/ Costco linked or Costco Same-Day w/ Instacart+ Linked Prices:Instacart w/ Costco linked or Costco Same-Day w/ Instacart+ Linked Markups:Costco Same-Day Prices (no Instacart+ Link):Costco Same-Day Price Markup: (no Instacart+ Link)Costco Instacart Prices (no Costco membership)Costco Instacart Price Markup (no Costco membership):
Kirkland Signature Healthy Weight Dog Food - 40 lb$30.99$33.889.33%$36.2617.01%$38.9925.81%
Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chicken$4.99$5.469.42%$5.8417.03%$5.9920.04%
S&W Organic Black Beans - 8 pack$8.49$9.289.31%$9.9316.96%$10.5924.73%
Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes - 8 pack$8.899.729.34%$10.4016.99%$10.9923.62%
Tasty Bite Organic Madras Lentils - 8 pack$15.4916.939.30%$18.1216.98%$18.9922.60%
Kirkland Signature Organic Cage-Free Eggs - 24 ct$7.498.199.35%$8.7616.96%$8.9920.03%
Kirkland Signature Walnuts - 3 lb$7.998.739.26%$9.3517.02%$9.9925.03%
Limmi Organic Lemon Juice - 2 L$9.4910.379.27%$11.1016.97%$11.9926.34%
Kirkland Signature Organic Greek Yogurt - 48 oz$5.996.559.35%$7.0117.03%$7.4925.04%
Kirkland Signature Organic Frozen Broccoli - 4 lb$8.999.839.34%$10.5217.02%$10.9922.25%
Kirkland Signature Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 2 L$21.9924.049.32%$25.7317.01%$26.9922.74%
Kirkland Signature Forzen Normandy Vegetables - 5.5 lb$8.499.289.31%$9.9316.96%$10.5924.73%
Average Price Markup:9.32%16.99%23.58%

Summary of the Data:

  1. There is a flat ~17% markup for Costco Same-Day items versus Costco in-store, if you do not have Instacart+ membership linked to your Costco Same-Day account.
  2. That drops to a flat ~9.3% markup for Costco Same-Day items versus Costco in-store, if you do have Instacart+ membership linked to your Costco Same-Day account (it appears that Costco Same-Day adds a ~7.7% price markup for Instacart service fees if you do not have an Instacart+ membership linked).
  3. There is similarly a flat ~9.3% markup for Costco purchases on Instacart versus Costco in-store, if you do have a linked Costco membership in your Instacart account. Separately, if you have Instacart+ you will pay lower delivery/service fees than if you do not.
  4. I found an average 23.58% markup for Costco purchases on Instacart versus Costco in-store, if you do not have a linked Costco membership in your Instacart account (the price markup was not flat, instead ranging from 20% to 26%).
  5. You must link your Instacart+ membership in your Costco Same-Day account and your Costco membership in your Instacart account separately to get the discounted pricing on each platform (one does not lead to the other being linked automatically).
  6. All 12 items purchased at Costco in-store were found on Costco Same-Day and on Instacart, but only 4 of the 12 items were found on and prices exceeded in-store.

Costco Frequently Runs Promotional Discounts on Instacart and Costco Same Day

Promotions are one big variable to consider when weighing whether to make purchases at a Costco Warehouse versus Costco Same Day versus Costco on In just the last few months, I’ve used $20 off $50+ promos 3 times on and 1 time on Costco Same Day. Here’s an example of what the discount looks like in Instacart’s interface (“Offers” tab):

Costco Instacart Discount Promotion

That’s a significant 40% discount on a $50 order that any Costco shopper should take advantage of, even if they are paying a per-item markup premium versus in a Costco Warehouse. My experience has been that Costco Same Day and Instacart have run these promotions separately and frequently. I’ve even seen the website promote the $20 off $50 promotion at Costco Same Day (but not Instacart).

You Can Get Discounted Instacart Gift Cards to Use on Costco Purchases

To throw yet another variable into the equation, you can get discounted Instacart gift cards, which can then be used to purchase from Costco or other retailers on Instacart or Costco Same Day. A number of retailers periodically sell discounted Instacart gift cards from time-to-time, including Costco itself. Here are 2 recent examples:

Discounted Instacart Gift Cards at Costco

Costco In-Store vs. Costco Same-Day vs. Costco Instacart Conclusions

This analysis led to a lot of unexpected discoveries for me and a number of different conclusions that will definitely impact my Costco shopping habits:

There are 5 Pricing Tiers for Costco Items!

  • Lowest: Costco in-store
  • 9.3% markup: Costco Same-Day with Instacart+ linked OR Costco purchases on Instacart with Instacart+ and Costco membership linked. Note that ordering on Instacart with Instacart+ comes with a small (~2%) service fee. There is no service fee on Costco Same Day, but you cannot get the $2 3-hour window discount on Costco Same-Day.
  • 17% markup: Costco Same-Day without Instacart+ linked
  • 20-26% markup: Costco purchases on Instacart (no Costco membership linked)
  • Varies (and with limited availability): purchases is Not a Good Option for Purchasing Costco Food

With limited availability and items that are shipped (versus delivered from store), is simply is not a good option for purchasing Costco food unless you find an item you want, there are no Costco warehouses nearby, and Costco Same-Day/Instacart are not options.

Instacart+ Membership is Worth the Cost

Instacart+ membership is worth the cost if you are frequently making Costco purchases on Instacart or on Costco Same-Day. I have found an average savings of $7.68 per order on Instacart+ versus non+ purchases. That’s a break-even of ~13 orders per year (across multiple retailers). With an 7.7% cost savings for Instacart+ purchases on Costco Same-Day, you’d be at a break-even with $1,299 in purchases per year if you did not gain any additional benefit from Instacart+ membership (e.g. purchases at other retailers). For the record, it’s been reported that the average Costco shopper spends about $3,000 per year at Costco over 30 trips.

Costco Membership is Worth the Cost

You can only shop at Costco Same-Day with a Costco membership and you’ll get roughly 11-17% savings on Costco Instacart purchases if you have a Costco membership to link in your Instacart account – so foregoing your Costco membership really isn’t an option, setting all other Costco membership benefits aside.

Always Link your Membership Accounts

Link your Instacart+ membership to your Costco Same-Day account to get a ~7.7% savings per Costco item. Link your Costco membership to your Instacart account to get between an 11-17% savings per Costco item. They must separately be linked.

Take advantage of Instacart and Costco Same-Day Promos When Available

You can’t go wrong with $20 off $50 Costco promos, for example, regardless of platform or membership level.

Take Advantage of Discounted Instacart Gift Cards

If you can get 20% off discounted Instacart gift cards, stock up.

Even Costco Purchases on Instacart Without a Costco Membership Can Make Sense

If you take advantage of Instacart promotions and/or discounted gift cards, even purchases on Instacart without a Costco membership could make financial sense in some cases. However, Instacart+ and Costco membership (with linked accounts) can result in significant savings.

There are Some Downsides to Not Shopping at Costco Warehouses

  • Those who were to go the non-membership route with would not have access to potentially the best value at Costco: Costco gasoline. I’ve done the math, and Costco gas can be worth the price of membership alone. The cost of a Costco membership looks pretty minuscule to the price premiums. And, remember, you can always ask for a Costco membership fee refund if you’re not happy with your membership.
  • Costco food court items are not available for purchase on Costco Same Day or Costco on Instacart. I’m on team pizza slice.
  • Prescription/Pharmacy purchases are not available for purchase on Costco Same Day or Costco on Instacart.
  • Costco’s alcohol, wine, and beer offerings are not currently available for sale on either the Costco Same-Day platform or You do not need a Costco membership to purchase alcohol at Costco in many states, but it is one of the better Costco values (if you partake).

Costco In-Store vs. Costco Same-Day vs. Costco on Instacart Summary

For Costco members, either Instacart+ with Costco membership linked or Costco Same-Day with Instacart+ membership linked results in a 9.3% price markup versus Costco in-store. However, it’s very possible to save money with both options versus shopping at Costco in-store with discounted Instacart gift cards and/or Costco promotions – even with delivery tipping. That also comes with the benefit of not having to drive to/from and shopping in a Costco warehouse. Shopping at Costco on Instacart without a Costco membership results in a hefty premium that is harder to justify without promos and discounted gift cards.

Personally, I’ve linked my accounts and will shift some, but not all, purchases to Costco Same Day and Instacart. Where I make Costco purchases on a given day will depend on a number of variables: if we need to gas up, if we have discounted gift cards/promos, if we need dog meds from the pharmacy, and how much time we have to make a Costco run (or not). In other words, Instacart and Costco Same-Day provide reasonably priced flexibility.

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  1. Seerat Kaur

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