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How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Private Investigator?

private investigator costIf you are thinking of using the services of a private investigator, you may be wondering what the cost of hiring private investigators will be. Around the country, private investigator fees vary by location and type of services. For investigators with extensive experience and training, expect to pay higher fees. The numbers quoted in this article are estimated cost ranges based on average pricing offered by private investigators across the United States.

Before you hire a private investigator, find out all costs and fees for the services you require. Most private investigators offer a free initial consultation. Here are some questions to ask a prospective private investigator regarding fees:

1. Does the private investigator charge a flat fee for services?
Some private investigators can quote a flat fee for certain basic services such as background checks, research work, and specialized equipment such as GPS units. Other services that commonly are charged a flat fee include:

  • identifying a cell phone number
  • vehicle registration search
  • criminal record search
  • "bug sweeps" of home or car
  • GPS monitoring

2. What are the private investigator's hourly fees?
Hourly rates vary based on where the private investigator is located, the difficulty of the investigation, and whether the private investigator will need the assistance of other private investigators.

Throughout the country, fees range from approximately $40-100 per hour. The average hourly rate is around $50-55 per hour. Keep in mind that there may be additional fees attached to the hourly rate. A common addition is mileage expenses, usually around $0.45 per mile.

That hourly rate may increase significantly if another private investigator's services are needed in order to complete your case. For example, if your private investigator needs the assistance of an associate overseas, the hourly rate may be high. In some parts of the world, private investigators charge as much as $300 per hour.

3. Does the private investigator require a deposit or retainer in addition to the private investigator fees?
Many private investigators require a retainer or deposit to be applied against fees for services rendered and expenses. Some private investigators may set retainer fees depending on specific services. For example, data research may require a deposit of $500 while an infidelity case may require a deposit of up to $5,000. Criminal defense work may require a retainer of  $1,000-3,500. The following factors help to determine the deposit amount:

  • travel involved
  • airline/hotel costs
  • estimated number of surveillance hours
  • location
  • urgency

If you are using a private investigator's services through an attorney, the private investigator will usually not ask for a retainer as long as the attorney acknowledges responsibility for ensuring payment of the private investigator's invoices.

Once you hire a private investigator, make sure that the private investigator keeps a record of his/her activities and ask for itemized lists of the work that has been completed. Don't forget to sign a contract with the private investigator detailing in writing the services to be performed.

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