How Much Does A Private Investigator Cost?

You can never be discreet enough in the eyes of a private investigator.

Private investigators, or more popularly known as detectives, are hired professionals specializing in all kinds of surveillance, research, and investigations. They are usually employed by private individuals and companies, as well as attorneys who might be in need of certain information about a case they handle.

But before you get all too excited to hire one, it is important to find out all the costs and fees that the service entails. Most initial consultations with a detective are free, but the actual work might be pricey unless money is out of the question to you.

Average Cost of Private Investigator

For simple tasks such as background checks, looking up a vehicle registration or identifying a cell phone number, bug sweeps of home or car, GPS monitoring, among others, Detective companies may charge a flat rate. But most often, private investigator fees are charged per hour.

The private investigator prices range from $40 to $100 per hour throughout the country. The average hourly rate is around $50 to $55 for various investigation services throughout the United States.

Additional Costs

Like most of the professional services, there may be extra charges to consider on top of the private investigator fees depending on the scope of the work being undertaken. Expect to pay additional expenses to cover the following if you want a thorough work to be done in your case:

  • Travel expenses – these include going to and from the location of the subject under investigation.
  • Airline and hotel costs – if the task entails flying to different places to do the surveillance.
  • Surveillance hours – most of the time, monitoring rate is distinct from the regular price of the private investigator.
  • Long-distance phone calls – these kinds of calls are also chargeable if related to the case.
  • Location – these include charges when the investigator needs to relocate to fulfill the job.
  • Urgency – this requires the detective to work double time to meet your deadline. There are times that investigators are also handling a different case but needed to set them aside due to your urgency. In which case, you need to increase your fee to compensate for the inconvenience.
  • Equipment costs – special equipment might be required in undertaking your case. Hence these are charged.
  • Gas mileage – this usually costs around $0.45 per mile.
  • Deposit or retainer fee – This depends on the kind of work involved. Data research requires a $500 deposit; infidelity case is $5,000 while criminal defense may need a retainer fee of around $1,000 to $3,500. But if you are using the service through an attorney, the retainer will usually be waived as the attorney acknowledges the responsibility of ensuring payment of the private investigator’s bill.
  • If another private investigator’s services are needed to complete your case. If the other investigator is from another country, sometimes, they charge around $300 per hour.

What Does a Private Investigator Do?

If you think private investigators are limited to the work they do as seen in television and movies, think again. Detectives cover a broad range of work and not all of them do or are qualified to do these things. It is, therefore, important to know if an investigator is fit to do the job you require. Some of these standard works they do, but not limited to, are the following:

  • Investigating an individual
  • Finding an individual
  • Matrimonial Surveillance
  • Tracing birth mother
  • Suspected sickness fraud
  • Locating objects
  • Crime investigation
  • Background checks
  • Surveillance set up
  • Case research for attorneys
investigating bunch of images

Factors Affecting Cost of Hiring a Private Investigator

Every case is different, and every investigation varies depending on the circumstances. Therefore several factors affect the private investigator prices.

  • The hourly rate varies based on private investigator’s location
  • The number of detectives required
  • The time the investigation should take place (daytime, evening or graveyard have different rates)
  • Special equipment needed
  • Difficulty of the investigation

Steps in Hiring a Private Investigator

With so much going on in the bureaucracy, it ‘s hard to distinguish the good investigators from the bad ones.

One way to ensure this is by referral. If you know someone who has hired detectives in the past and was satisfied with the service, ask for help in contacting them. If not, these sources are the excellent starting point:

  • Your lawyer, or any other lawyer if you do not have one yet
  • Your state’s association of private investigators
  • Sheriff’s department
  • Duty agency of your local FBI
  • Clerk at your county’s police department
  • Investigators working at the District Attorney’s office

Other considerations to take into account:

Hiring a detective could sometimes be a very intimidating task and finding an honest and reliable one could be a challenge. It is not as simple as knowing how much does a private investigator cost. Before you could, there are some important things to consider when hiring a private investigator. These include:

  • Before hiring an investigator, discuss the matter first with a lawyer. He can discuss the legal implications of your move and can give you advice on how to limit your exposure. And since he is always around investigators, he can refer you to a reliable one.
  • Always check on the background of the private investigation companies or the detective itself for any complaints that have been filed with the state agency that regulates investigators in your area. Check the license, experience, and education of the private investigator if possible.
  • Make sure that the private investigator keeps a record of his activities and ask for itemized lists of the completed tasks.
  • It is better to hire an insured private investigator. You do not want to be held liable in case something happens to him or her in the course of doing his job for you.
  • You should feel comfortable with the private investigator you hire. You should trust him well enough to handle sensitive information with extreme confidentiality.
  • Be prepared to uncover your worst fear. Deep inside you may want to be proven wrong when it involves a loved one but be sure you can handle when the truth comes out.
  • Put everything in writing. It is your protection against fees that should not be included and were not discussed before the start of the investigation.

In the end, hiring a private investigator can bring emotional turmoil to you. Current undertaking and subsequent uncovering of the truth can be upsetting. But if knowing the truth weighs more than the potential heartbreak, it is worth taking the plunge. After all, they say, “the truth shall set you free.”

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