Home Business How Much Does a Private Investigator Really Cost?

How Much Does a Private Investigator Really Cost?

by Olufisayo
Private Investigator

The world of private investigation is shrouded in mystery, but the plain truth is that it’s a career choice like any other. Private investigators work long hours, make a decent living, and can be a true asset for a lot of people who need help finding someone or something.

It’s also a great second career for those who have spent some time in law enforcement as well. Private investigators don’t skulk around in the shadows like they are sometimes portrayed on the big or small screen. They do, however, meet the needs of their clients who:

  • Suspect a spouse is cheating on them
  • Help lawyers find witnesses or perform case research
  • Investigate insurance fraud
  • find lost family members when an Internet trail goes cold
  • Find lost or stolen property when the police can’t
  • Perform background checks for employers or individuals
  • Investigate crimes such as theft or home invasions

The biggest question most people have is how much does a private investigator cost to hire? And like a lot of professions, the answer is: it depends.

In general, the hourly rate to hire a private investigator will vary from $40 to $200 an hour. The amount will vary depending on what your request is, what area of the country you live in, and what tasks you are wanting the investigator to do.

Performing surveillance on someone for multiple days will entail more hours and more charges than simply finding a document for a lawyer that can be used in a court proceeding. Keep in mind that although these professionals may quote you an hourly rate, they may also quote it by the job, by a retainer, or even flat rates for certain tasks.

       

Some jobs are more comprehensive or complicated and will take more time and more involved in investigative work. Keep in mind that there are often business expenses that are incurred in the course of an investigation that the PI might charge back to the client.

These expenses can range from reimbursing him or her for mileage, airline fare, hotel fees, and even some administrative costs. Most reputable investigators will specify what these expenses are in their written contracts so be sure to ask if they are not mentioned.

The cost of hiring a private investigator will also vary depending on what kind of specialty the individual or practice focuses on. There are general investigators, government investigators, legal investigators, corporate or financial fraud investigators, insurance fraud investigators, and computer forensic investigators. Each specialty focuses on something different.

General investigators typically take on infidelity, child custody and missing persons cases, while government investigators work for either state or federal government offices and conduct background checks, fraud, and financial investigations. Legal investigators work with lawyers and are often called as witnesses in the courtroom.

Corporate or financial fraud investigators are often hired by investors or large companies to inspect other businesses or even employees within the company – their role is sometimes accounting investigations, which means an accounting background will be needed.

       

Insurance fraud investigators are often employed by insurance companies or government agencies to investigate claims and look for signs of insurance fraud. One of the fastest growing specialties is in computer forensic investigation. This is where investigators spend time digging into computer records to find evidence of crimes such as fraud, identity theft, or hacking. Technical expertise with computers is a requirement for performing this kind of investigation.

The U.S. national average rates will differ by state and specialty of course. Below is a chart to show you how much a private investigator may charge you in five different states.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported these hourly mean wages for 2017 and are useful when trying to find out how much hiring a private investigator will cost. (You may want to adjust the amount by a 4% cost of living increase per year as this information is from 2017.) These are only the mean averages, which means you could be paying depending on the years of experience of the investigator and what the assignment is.

U.S. STATE HOURLY MEAN WAGE (2017)
New York $42/hour
New Jersey $32/hour
California $49/hour
Connecticut $43/hour
Rhode Island $41/hour

Other factors that play into how much it costs to hire a private investigator includes the years of experience, the size of the local market, and the type of case. Like most professions, you get what you pay for.

You might find an investigator willing to take your case for half the price, but he or she may not have the qualifications, certifications, and years of experience on the job that a higher priced investigator may charge. It will also depend on the size of the local market – some areas of the country may have more PIs than others, so the cost may be reflected by that fact.

       

The BLS predicts that the employment of private investigators is projected to grow at least by 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average for most occupations. Part of this foreseeable growth is due to the ever-expanding number of lawsuits, fraud cases, crimes, and background checks that are expected to continue to grow into the next century. It’s a good time to be a private investigator if you are good at your job.

Another area to consider when you are looking at how much it costs to hire a private investigator is what their customer reviews look like. If you are checking out their website, there should be a section that contains reviews or testimonials from actual customers. If it doesn’t, then ask the investigator for his or her references and be sure to check them. Word of mouth is just as important for hiring an investigator as it is for any other business referral. Online reviews are also critically important when researching the value of an investigator.

For example, a high Google review rating on someone with 20 years of experience may demand a higher price than someone with 1-3 years of experience because an experienced individual will offer more value to their client. Take all of this into account when looking to hire an investigator, not just their initial cost estimate.

For example, North American Investigations is one private investigation agency that has been in business for more than 40 years and uses a combination of surveillance, research, and investigation to gather the necessary evidence.

Manhattan private investigator Darrin Giglio said of his company, “All of our investigators are specialists who possess the highest training, expertise, ethical standards, and professional backgrounds in the industry, including federal and local law enforcement experience. We combine state-of-the-art technology and training with old world investigative techniques to ensure accurate and complete results.”

       

For companies such as Giglio’s, the private investigator cost, price, or rate is often available upfront by requesting the information (often they will offer a free consultation). Giglio said that your budget and needs are often considered when deciding what the best course of action would be, so be sure to talk to several private investigators before you decide on which one to hire.

Hopefully, the information in this article will give you an idea of how much it costs to hire a private investigator. When hiring a private eye, be sure to do your research. Check their references and have a clear idea of what exactly you are tasking them with so they can give you an accurate estimate to help solve whatever mystery you bring to their doorstep.

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1 comment

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