If you’re wondering how much a private investigator costs, it depends on the scope of the job and the credentials of the detective.
One of the most common questions asked about hiring a private investigator is ‘How much will it cost me”?
Prices in 2022 are influenced by several factors such as the type of service, how long the service is needed for and the resources an investigation requires.
Before starting work, a private investigator will consult with you to understand exactly what is expected of them before providing a quote and advise an appropriate payment option.
An initial consultation is usually free.
In terms of billing, a private investigator usually charges an hourly rate on the understanding each piece of work must be tailored to a client’s needs and will use different resources.
It is worth asking in advance how you will be invoiced, highlighting any preferences you have.
“A telephone consultation with one of Insights investigators will guide you straight to the most cost effective option tailored to your needs” to get the results you need.
How will I be charged for a private investigator’s services?
Private investigators often charge a ‘flat fee’ for some services, which will be discussed during an initial consultation. Some ask for that method to pay for all their services.
However, a majority prefer to charge by the hour for jobs, in most circumstances quoting a fee for an agreed number of hours to achieve the desired results.
Factors Involved in the Cost to Hire a Private Investigator
Private investigators provide a wide variety of services that range from very simple to extremely complex.
The Following is an overview of the costs that may be involved in hiring a private investigator. It is important to understand that not all of these expenditures will be included in every case.
Some private investigators will charge an upfront fee called a retainer. A retainer fee is similar to a deposit, which can be applied toward future work. The amount of the retainer will vary depending on the agency, market, and the type of case. Make sure you clearly understand whether a retainer fee is required, and how the money will be applied toward future investigative work
Most private investigators charge an hourly rate for services such as surveillance or investigating a cheating spouse. The total cost is then determined by the hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours worked. Hourly rates are often negotiable, so be sure to agree on a price before hiring the PI to do the work. Following are some examples of hourly rates from various hiring sources:
• According to a study conducted by Angie’s List, the average cost to hire a private investigator in the United States is $50 per hour.
• According to a study conducted by Thumbtack in 2017, the average cost to hire a private investigator was $70 per hour.
• According to other industry experts, the average cost ranges between $40 and $200 per hour, depending on the complexity of the job.
Flat Rates and Fees
Private Investigators also charge a flat rate or flat fee for services such as a background check, missing person locates, court document retrieval, or processing serving. With flat fee pricing, the total price is the same regardless of the number of hours the investigator spends working on the case.
Market Differences May Affect the Cost to Hire a Private Investigator
The cost to hire a private investigator will vary depending on the market or geographic area being served. Prices will tend to be higher in metropolitan areas due to such factors as licensing, insurance, transportation, office space, etc. You should expect to pay more for a private investigator in markets where the cost of living is expensive
Investigation Experience and Expertise
The cost of hiring a private investigator can vary widely based on the experience level of the private investigator. A private Investigator with an extensive career involving military or government intelligence, or a career in law enforcement will tend to be more expensive than someone just getting into the business. In theory, those with more experience are more likely to solve your case, and more likely to solve it in less time.
Depending on your individual agreement and the needs of your case, a private investigator may ask you to cover any expenses associated with the case. Expenses associated with an investigation case may include supplies, court dues, postage, and communication charges (phone calls, text messages, etc.).
If travel is involved during the case, most investigators will charge these expenses back to you. Depending on where the case leads, investigators may have to travel within the local area, to other states, and even internationally. Examples of travel expenses include:
• Mileage, gas and parking fees
• Tickets for travel via plane, bus, train, boat, etc.
• Lodging expenditures for hotel rooms
Travel expenses can add up quickly, so be sure to have a very clear understanding of what you’re going to pay for.
Many private investigators have access to online databases to run background checks and look up information about people. Investigation agencies pay either subscription fees or search fees to access the database and run reports. If your case involves an online database search, it is likely they will pass some of those costs along to you. The charges for these reports will vary.
Other Factors that May Affect Price
Other factors that may affect the price are the number of investigators assigned to the case, the risk involved, the need for specialized equipment, etc.
How to Pay
Another common question I receive is, how do I pay a private investigator for their services? Most agencies will allow you to pay in a variety of ways. For example, you can pay by cash, check, or money order. Also, you can pay by credit cards such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard, and Discover. In addition, some agencies can send you an electronic invoice that you can pay online using an automatic debit from your checking account. Of course, these forms of payment will vary depending on who you hire. Be sure to ask upfront about the types of payment they accept