We rated four online grocery stores for customer satisfaction, based on 1,721 reader responses.* Each operates a little differently. AmazonFresh, FreshDirect, and Peapod deliver from their own regional fulfillment warehouses. Peapod has exclusive relationships with regional supermarkets Giant Food and Stop & Shop but fulfills your order at its own warehouses. Instacart teams up with a number of stores in your vicinity and hires a shopper to go to those places and shop; you can have everything delivered at once, but orders from each store must cost at least $10.

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Convenience and saving time are—no surprise—a major appeal of online grocery stores. Judith Freed, a CR subscriber who lives in a Brooklyn, N.Y., high-rise, loves that she can schedule a FreshDirect delivery to her apartment door within a day. AnnMarie Henry, who lives in southeastern Pennsylvania, appreciates the AmazonFresh website’s features. “You can create specific grocery lists like ‘taco night’ or ‘dairy products,’ which helps with meal planning,” she says.

Marla Ballenger of Chicago, who uses Instacart, likes that she can text with the shopper who’s picking out her groceries and specify substitute items if the store is out of what she wants. But, she notes, if you’re the kind of shopper who needs to squeeze the melons, don’t use these services for produce. “No one picks out fresh fruit and veggies like you do yourself.”

AmazonFresh, Reader Score: 74

Delivery Area
Baltimore; Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; Md.; New York City; northern Va.; Philadelphia; Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif.; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; and others.

Food-Retailer Affiliations
Not affiliated with another retailer, but customers may be able shop for items from local merchants through the company’s Local Market program.

Minimum Order, Delivery Charges, and Other Fees
Required $99 Amazon Prime subscription. AmazonFresh $15 monthly fee covers unlimited orders of $40 or more. For orders of less than $40, there is a $10 delivery fee.

Substitution Policy
Substitutions are made at the company’s discretion. You pay only if the substitution is almost identical to what you ordered, at the lower of the two prices.


Instacart, Reader Score: 70

Delivery Area
Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Indianapolis; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee; New York City; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Diego; San Francisco Bay Area; Seattle; St. Louis; south Fla.; Tampa, Fla.; Twin Cities; Washington, D.C.; and others.

Food-Retailer Affiliations
Acme, Andronico’s, Bi-Rite, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, Cub Foods, Fairway, Food Lion, Giant Food, Good Grocer, Harris Teeter, H-E-B, H mart, Jewel-Osco, Key Food, Kroger, Lakewinds Food Co-op, Mariano’s, Market Basket, Mollie Stone’s, Publix, Ralph’s, Safeway, Smart & Final, Target, Wedge Community Co-op, Whole Foods, and others.

Minimum Order, Delivery Charges, and Other Fees
Delivery free on first order of $35 or more. Normal minimum order $10. Variable delivery fee. “Busy Pricing” charged during peak delivery times raises delivery price. There's a 10% optional “service fee” to provide “high guaranteed commissions” to its shoppers, but the fee isn’t a tip and doesn’t go directly to an individual shopper.

Substitution Policy
The Instacart shopper contacts you if what you ordered is out of stock and tries to replace it with the next best option. Items that can’t be replaced will be removed from your bill.


Peapod, Reader Score: 69

Delivery Area
Conn.; Indianapolis; Mass.; Md.; metro Chicago; Milwaukee; N.J.; N.Y.; Philadelphia, and southeast and central Pa.; R.I.; southeast Wis.; southern N.H.; Va.; Washington, D.C.

Food-Retailer Affiliations
Giant Food, Stop & Shop

Minimum Order, Delivery Charges, and Other Fees
Minimum order $60. Delivery fee: $9 to $10 on orders of $60 to $100, $7 to $8 on orders
 of more than $100. Available discounts can lower delivery fee to $3 per order.

Substitution Policy
You indicate whether to allow substitutions. Peapod delivers a comparable product at no extra cost to you. Or you can return the substitution to the Peapod driver for a full refund.


FreshDirect, Reader Score: 69

Delivery Area
Fairfield, Conn.; Hamptons, N.Y., in the summer; Jersey shore; metro New York 
City; New Castle, Del.; N.J.; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.

Food-Retailer Affiliations
Not affiliated with another retailer.

Minimum Order, Delivery Charges, and Other Fees
Minimum order $40; $99 in Hamptons. Delivery: $7 to $10; $16 to Hamptons.

Substitution Policy
Substitutions are made at the company’s discretion. Customers who aren’t happy can email FreshDirect, “so we can make it right,” in the company’s words.

*How We Survey
A total of 57,805 Consumer Reports subscribers completed the 2016 Supermarkets Survey; 6 percent told us they have used an online grocery. Online grocery stores Reader Scores are based on 1,721 ratings of online grocery stores. Reader Score refers to how respondents rated overall satisfaction with the online grocery. A score of 100 would mean all respondents were completely satisfied; 80 would mean very satisfied, on average; 60, fairly well satisfied. Differences of fewer than 5 points aren’t meaningful.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the July 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.