First and foremost, good private investigators follow laws. Unlike on TV, they don’t break in windows or hack into hospital computer systems to get you intel. When you hire a private investigator, you’re hiring a professional to gather facts and find information for you. Although they can’t obtain certain information (such as health records), they do have access to information that most civilians do not. Often private investigators are hired to perform surveillance or background checks or investigate cases such as adultery, child custody, missing persons, hidden assets, or debugging, and theft or other crimes.
Private investigators can be hired to interview people and provide that information to the client, perform photo or video surveillance, monitor activity at a location where you suspect criminal activities or questionable behavior, track a person’s movements, find missing people, do deep-dive background checks, and more. Private investigation can be helpful if you’re trying to get a court order but need evidence. Private investigators can also help find birth parents. Nationally, the average price range for private investigation is $70-$210 per hour.
Private investigation isn’t just for blockbuster action movies. Hiring a private investigator can help in all kinds of situations ranging from finding a birth parent to improving personal security. Nationally, the average price range for private investigation is $70-$210, although pricing often hovers between $40 and $100 depending on the complexity of the services you need. Where you live in the country will affect your costs for private investigation; larger cities have higher business overhead and a higher cost of living, which in turn means higher service rates. The complexity of your case can also affect cost. A basic background check may have a flat rate, while hiring a private investigator to help with your child custody case may require more legwork and research, and therefore cost more. Some private investigators work on retainer. A retainer is essentially a nonrefundable deposit you pay to the professional — meaning you have retained their services — who then works against that amount. Here are some examples of average private investigation costs:
- Hourly rate: $60-$70; costs can vary based on current fuel prices.
- Flat rate: $100 for comprehensive background investigation services.
- Retainer: $1,500 minimum retainer required by some pros before starting work.
Not sure if you should hire a private investigator (PI) for your situation? Here are some common reasons why people hire PIs:
- To perform background checks
- To conduct surveillance
- To investigate and confirm infidelity
- To locate assets
- To gather evidence for trials
- And more
To find out if hiring a private investigator is the right route to take, contact a few local PIs. Ask them about the services they offer (and how much they charge).
You can find a private investigator on Thumbtack. Use the filtering tool to identify a PI who offers the services you need (e.g., background checks, surveillance, etc.), and you’ll see a list of top-rated PIs in your area.