How Much Does a Private Investigator Cost? The Ultimate Guide

by angel

There are several reasons you might need to engage a private investigator. Whether it’s to do an employee background check, provide surveillance, locate missing relatives or reveal infidelity, the overall fees can vary substantially.

Before you engage a private investigator for whatever reason, it’s crucial to have an estimate of how much a private investigator costs. There are a couple of things that might affect the private investigator cost such as: whether they charge a flat or hourly rate, the sort of service, and whether they ask for a retainer. Before engaging an investigator, it is necessary to be aware of price and expectations.

Private Investigator Rates: Flat or Hourly

Certain private investigators charge flat prices for their basic services, which may include the following:

  • Background checks
  • Phone number identification
  • Vehicle registration searches
  • Criminal record searches
  • Bug sweeps
  • GPS tracking

For these types of services, investigators charge fixed prices because they are straightforward and rarely deviate from normal protocol. The investigator has most likely calculated the time required to accomplish these services, resulting in a set, flat rate.

Most private investigators charge an hourly rate for larger projects such as locating people, investigating adultery, or anything else that requires extensive study or observation. Hourly rates range from $40 to $200 per hour, with an average of $50 to $75. Your inquiry may run between 2 and 8 hours (or possibly longer), depending on your situation and requirements. Certain investigators will cut their hourly rate if you hire them for a longer time.

This figure does not include the cost of additional equipment or travel expenses such as gas or hotel accommodations. Mileage costs are typically approximately $.45 per mile. Renting a GPS tracker often costs between $50 and $75 a day, and frequently, photos and videos are also included. Additionally, difficulties in the field could potentially result in an increase in fees. If this is the case, your investigator should inform you of the adjustments and the rationale for them. Often, the cost of equipment is already included in their hourly rate, so be sure to inquire about any additional charges you may be unaware of.

Types of Private Investigator Services

The amount you pay a private investigator is mostly determined by the sort of investigation you require and the location of the investigation. In general, expenses climb in direct proportion to the amount of time and resources an investigator devotes to research, surveillance, and other investigative procedures. While some investigations can be completed with only basic research done from behind a computer, others necessitate the use of surveillance equipment and are more prone to difficulties.

The following are examples of common types of investigations and their associated costs:

  • Locating a person – $300-$600
  • Infidelity monitoring ranging from $300 to $1000; locating birth parents or children ranging from $100 to $700
  • In-depth investigation – $300-$600


Private investigators, like lawyers, will frequently want a retainer, or a lump sum payment in advance of their services. The majority of private investigators that request retainers will charge against your retainer and reimburse any excess money. Retainers might range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, a data study may necessitate a $500 deposit, whereas an infidelity case may want a deposit of more than $5,000. A fee of $1,000 to $3,500 may be required for criminal defense work.

If you hire a private investigator through an attorney, the private investigator will almost never ask for a retainer as long as the attorney agrees to be responsible for making sure the private investigator’s invoices are paid on a timely basis.

Is a professional private investigator worth it?

However, while it may be tempting to employ a more affordable and inexperienced investigator, remember that an inexperienced investigator may take longer to complete the same case that a professional could accomplish in half the time. It is also possible that the results will not be of good quality, or will not be admissible in court – as the case may be. By employing a professional investigator who is knowledgeable about all aspects of the investigation from legislation to equipment, you will save time, money, and avoid stress.

Inquire with a private investigator about their fees and how long they expect your case to last based on the answers you require before making your hiring decision. These initial consultations are frequently provided at no charge. Also, make certain that you have a precise contract and that you complete the case with an itemized list of expenses and records of actions so that the associated charges are understandable and transparent. Your investigator should also advise you of any additional costs that may be incurred throughout the investigation.

A quality investigation can successfully answer your questions, even if the prospect of engaging a private investigator is intimidating and the private investigator cost appears to be prohibitive. The benefits of having peace of mind and uncovering the truth generally outweigh the cost of engaging a skilled private investigator in most cases.

How to save money on private investigator services

How much you spend on an investigation comes down to how much time and work it involves. In many cases, a reputable private investigator can uncover information and evidence that most people can’t. But you might be able to save some money on PI services if you can do some of the research yourself.

You can also save money by providing the private eye with as much information in advance as necessary, so the work goes more quickly. Limiting the scope of the investigation is another good way to keep the private investigator cost down.

How to Pay?

Another question I frequently receive is, “How do I pay a private investigator for their services?” The majority of agencies will accept payments in a variety of forms. Cash, cheque, and money order are just a few examples of acceptable payment methods. Credit cards such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard, and Discover can also be used to make a payment. Some agencies can also give you an electronic invoice, which you can pay online through an automatic deduction from your checking account. Of course, the kind of payment you accept will differ depending on who you choose to work for you. Make certain to inquire about the sorts of payment they accept upfront.

Final Words

Private investigators provide a wide variety of services that range from very simple to extremely complex. So, the first step in hiring a private investigator and assessing the private investigator cost is to have a clear understanding of why you need their services. The clearer and more specific you can be regarding your needs, the better you will be able to nail down the actual private investigator cost. 

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