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How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Private Investigator?


How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Private Investigator?
So, how much does a private investigator cost to hire? This is always the first question people ask. Well the answer is not so simple, as it depends on what service you require, or what task you are hiring them for.

We could be flippant and say the rates are from $40 to $100 per hour, but that doesn't really help in understanding. In truth, the price of a private investigator's services will vary because of a number of factors. So to give you some idea of what the typical private investigator fees are we have included a general payment structure to help you understand.

If you don't want to read on and want to know now; the average cost for a private investigator in the United States is $80.58 an hour (based on 414 private investigation companies we checked across the country).

How Private Investigators Charge For Services

Some private investigators display their prices on their website, but generally it's calculated on an "hourly" or "set fee" basis. The cost to hire a private investigator varies but here are some considerations of how service prices are calculated:

Hourly Rate: Private investigators will generally charge an hourly rate for their services. This is because no two cases are exactly the same, and although similar investigative methods are used, the longevity of cases varies from case to case. Examples of hourly charged services would include:

  • Criminal investigations
  • Undercover work
  • Surveillance operations
  • Matrimonial cases e.g. proof of cohabitation
  • Evidence gathering for litigation / criminal defense
  • Records research
  • Some missing person cases


Set Fees: Some investigative services are charged with a standard set fee and these are usually the simpler services. Examples of set priced services would include:

  • Accident reports (taking photographs, statements, etc.)
  • Basic background checks (database, internet and phone calls only)
  • Process serving (serving of a legal court document)
  • Locating missing persons (database, internet and phone calls only)
  • Vehicle tracking (charged per day or per week)
  • Alive and well checks
  • Hidden camera installation (equipment installation and hire fee only)
  • Witness statements (per statement)
  • Status or pre-sue reports


Additional Costs and Expenses: Aside from the set or hourly charged fees, there will be additional costs and expenses. Examples of additional investigator costs would be:

  • Fuel charge per mile / km
  • Gaining access to special events / entry fees
  • Hotels / accommodation
  • Flights / travel expenses
  • Additional investigators
  • Special services such as forensics / TSCM (debugging)

The Average Hourly Private Investigator Cost by State

We checked with 414 private investigation companies across the country (State by State) as to what their hourly rates are and calculated the average hourly fee you can expect to pay by State. Bear in mind some companies may charge more and some less than these averages. Click on your home State link for more relevant information.

$77.00 an hour
$89.00 an hour
$75.00 an hour
$80.00 an hour
$85.00 an hour
$69.00 an hour
$77.00 an hour
$90.00 an hour
$73.00 an hour
$78.00 an hour
$84.00 an hour
$85.00 an hour
$85.00 an hour
$88.00 an hour
$88.00 an hour
$74.00 an hour
$80.00 an hour
$76.00 an hour
$82.00 an hour
$69.00 an hour
$78.00 an hour
$108.00 an hour
$92.00 an hour
$80.00 an hour
#82.00 an hour
$78.00 an hour
$73.00 an hour
$78.00 an hour
$69.00 an hour
$92.00 an hour
$75.00 an hour
$74.00 an hour
$75.00 an hour
$68.00 an hour
$93.00 an hour
$81.00 an hour
$87.00 an hour
$81.00 an hour
$72.00 an hour
$83.00 an hour
$73.00 an hour
$74.00 an hour
$91.00 an hour
$81.00 an hour
$70.00 an hour
$69.00 an hour
$103.00 an hour
$83.00 an hour
$76.00 an hour
$86.00 an hour

Private Investigator Price Changing Factors


Private Investigator Price Changing Factors


Quality, Skills and Experience Affect Private Investigator Rates

As with any profession you get what you pay for and hiring a private investigator is no different. You're hiring and paying a private investigator for their skills and experience and these skills and experience come at different levels and at different prices. You may pay a high price for a proficient investigator, but they will get the job done much faster (saving you money in the long-run) than a cheaper inexperienced one.

The Type of Service Required Can Add To Costs

You will pay more for specialist investigator services such as computer forensics, science based services, or TSCM (Technical Surveillance Counter Measures) debugging services. Specialist services will increase the rate, so bear that in mind. Also, if you require (or the case dictates) you need more than one investigator (hourly rates are usually charged for each investigator used on the case), who perhaps need to travel across State, stay in hotels, working night surveillance, etc. the bill will increase.

Location Also Varies the Price of a Private Investigator

Another factor when considering how much it is to hire a private investigator is the location. Prices vary from country to country, state to state, city to city; so be prepared to see varying prices. You may pay $100+ per hour for a New York City investigator but only $60.00 an hour for a New York State investigator operating from outside the city. Also, if the private investigator you have hired works in one state but needs to hire the services of another agent in another state or country - to continue your case - you may end up paying a higher or lower hourly rate.

How To Find Out The Prices Of A Local Private Investigator

Just as you would shop around for a plumber to get a quote, you can also shop around for private investigators near you to get quotes. But remember, cheaper is not always better, and expensive is not always the best. Do some searching online for private investigator costs for your area. Here's how:


  • Do an internet search for private investigators in your local area, type the search query with your home town or city, e.g. "private investigators new york city". Check all of the PI websites in the search results to see if they advertise their prices on their website.


  • Or, simply search for private investigator's costs or prices in your area, e.g. "private investigator costs new york city" or "private investigator prices new york city". Again, check the websites for advertised prices.

No luck online? If you have no luck in finding out your local investigator's prices then it's a case of emailing, or phoning around. Before you do though, make sure you have the specifics of what you want clearly in your head, or written down. Before an investigator can give you some idea of costs they will certainly need to know the details of your situation and what you need or want. So this needs to be clearly communicated. And with this in mind, they will be able to determine the complexity of the case and whether it will be priced on an hourly of set-fee basis.

Our Final Words Of Advice On Private Investigator Rates and Costs

When trying to get an exact figure of how much it costs to hire a private investigator; remember, that the type of service, location, experience and specialist skills needed, will affect the price. Also remember, an expensive investigator isn't always better than a cheaper one and a cheaper investigator may not provide a better service than a more expensive one. If you want to get some quotes you can search our private investigator directory.

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