One of the first questions that follow when you decide to engage a private investigator is how much are private investigator fees. As you can imagine, there aren’t any standard prices in the business of private investigator agencies. The final cost will always depend on the level of service provided and include any additional expenses, such as mileage expenses, hotel stays, travel expenses, etc.
However, there are several factors that determine the fees you’ll have to pay if you want to benefit from the services of an experienced investigator. So, let’s find out what is the cost of hiring a private investigator and what you should do to be sure you’re paying the right price for the type of service you’re receiving.
The cost depends on your needs from the private investigator
Some clients need private investigators for the usual types of investigations, like surveillance, pre-matrimonial investigation, bug sweeps, or background checks. These are among the essential types of services provided by a private investigator. You can expect to pay less to find answers to more common questions than for more complicated matters, like financial fraud investigations, asset investigations, or customized investigations that involve creative solutions to your problems and the use of state-of-the-art equipment.
Private investigators offer a wide range of private investigation services for both individuals and companies, so it’s only natural for them to have a wide range of fees.
They usually charge hourly fees…
Most private investigators charge an hourly rate; after all, they are consultants. Hourly prices are common, especially for basic services such as surveillance assignments that can run for hours, days, or even weeks. The private investigator will be paid for the number of hours worked.
However, it’s recommended to agree upon a budget for the private investigator to work within that range.
To give you an idea of the hourly rates, private investigators in the US can ask from $40/hour to $400-$500/hour if they provide specialized services like computer forensics. However, you could probably access a professional private investigator’s services with more than five years of experience in the field for an hourly fee of about $100-$150. This would be the average cost for a private investigator.
…but flat rates and contingency fees can be an option
Flat rates are usually established for simple and well-defined assignments like an annual tax return, bankruptcy filing, or finding missing persons. Their flat rates will usually include all expenses and taxes too. Flat fees can start from anywhere around $250 for finding a person to $1500 for asset investigation.
Of course, the prices vary depending on your location. While finding a person might cost you $250 in a medium-sized town in the US, you can expect to pay around $750 for the same service in a big city like Chicago. Their prices usually depend on the cost of living in the area.
Contingency fees are somewhat uncommon for private investigators, but they can choose to work on a contingency basis if the state where they reside allows this. However, there are states like New York where these types of fees are not allowed.
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Others require a retainer.
Some private investigators require an initial payment, known as the retainer. The retainer fee is previously established based on the amount of work needed by the investigator.
If the retainer is consumed before finishing the job, the monthly fee may be an option until the job is done. In case the retainer isn’t consumed fully, the private investigator typically issues a refund.
The amount required for the retainer upfront varies according to the case and investigative services provided by the private investigator.
Hiring a PI is Well Worth the Cost
Many Americans don’t trust the police to carry out full and fair investigations.
That’s why more and more people are turning to private investigators. Even though many times, private investigators work alongside law enforcement. If you were wondering about the cost of a private investigator, but are still not sure if you need one, continue reading.
Here are three main reasons why hiring a PI is a worthwhile investment.
1. Run Background Checks
When you bring a new person into your life, whether for personal or professional reasons, it pays to be cautious.
Hiring a PI allows you to know exactly who they are and whether you can trust them. A PI will perform advanced background checks to find out their history, reputation, and current status.
Background check services include screenings of criminal history, financial records, employment, personal relationships, and business dealings. A PI will use all of this information to give you an accurate representation of the person you’re investigating.
This can help you to avoid fraud and protect your business by identifying anyone who may not be trustworthy. These checks will provide you peace of mind before you allow anyone into your inner circle.
2. Carry Out Surveillance
In cases where someone believes or suspects that their partner is cheating, a PI can provide surveillance services and find out the truth.
Using the latest technology, they can carry out surveillance to track your spouse. Infidelity investigations include the use of video surveillance, GPS tracking, financial checks, and in-person investigation.
The information an infidelity investigator gathers can help you make an informed decision about your relationship. It can also be incredibly valuable when you’re trying to build a case for divorce or attempting to get child custody.
3. Locate Missing Persons
When a person close to you goes missing, it’s devastating for those left behind. Not knowing where they are or if they’re alive means that there is no closure, and families continue to search desperately, often for many years.
Unfortunately, police searches and investigations don’t perform in-depth research. With so many cases to handle, many are often dropped or closed, leaving families without hope. In these instances, missing persons are often forgotten about by authorities.
This isn’t the case when hiring an investigator. They’ll prioritize your case, continuing to work vigilantly for as long as you want them to. They can dedicate all of their time and resources to your missing person investigation.
Do some investigation of your own and choose wisely.
Since private investigators don’t have a higher forum that regulates their prices, you have to make sure you don’t fall into any traps. Yes, you can find cheap private investigators for any type of investigation, but they have small fees for a reason: they’re not that good. Most of them will fail to provide the information you need, or it will take them twice the amount of time as a professional investigator to get to it.
Looking for the cheapest private investigator in town is a terrible idea. If you are trying to save money by hiring the cheapest PI, you will probably end up paying more and wasting your time in the long run. Investigate your investigator first and make sure they’re a licensed private investigator who knows what they’re doing. An excellent investigator may be more expensive, but it will provide a variety of services and save you money in the long run. Editor’s Note: The article was updated on September 30th, 2022, and originally published on September 17th, 2018. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.