How much does a private investigator cost?

Average cost in 20149: $100 See National


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The average cost for a private investigator is $100. You are likely to spend between $40 and $255 total. Exact price may vary depending on your area and project details.

Updated May 1st, 2017

Next Step: Find out exactly how much your project will cost.

Private investigators are hired to gather evidence around issues of adultery, hidden assets, child custody, missing persons, surveillance, background checks, debugging, and theft or crime. Some private investigators perform background investigation on people, interview people and provide notes to their clients, take surveillance video and photos, monitor activity at designated locations, track a person’s activity and movement, locate people, and more. Many factors affect the cost of private investigation services.

Variable rates

Some private investigation firms provide quotes for services, depending on the complexity of the case. Potential danger, equipment required, travel fees and administrative concerns are all included in an estimate rate for a job. Variable rates can range from less than $100 to tens of thousands of dollars for an extensive job.

Hourly rate

Many private investigators offer hourly rates that cover all of their investigative services. Other firms offer one hourly rate for some services (surveillance) and a higher rate for other services (interviews, etc.). Here are two companies' examples of hourly rates:

Flat rates

Some services are offered at a flat rate every time. These tasks are generally straightforward, one-time efforts that the professional can confidently set a rate for. For example, Sky Investigations offers comprehensive background investigation services for a flat fee of $100.


Private investigators often require a retainer for services. A retainer is typically a nonrefundable deposit toward future work to be done. By paying the retainer, the client is putting a down payment on services to be rendered. For example, both Krollpfeifer & Co. and Pennington Elite Investigations each require a $1,500 retainer before beginning investigative services.

Pro tips:

  • Always watch for businesses that offer package deals such as surveillance with photos and videos. These items should be included at no extra cost.

  • Be sure to confirm that any investigator you hire is current with the state licensing authority.

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Recent reviews

Sidestreet Investigations

I just wanted to say thank you for helping me find out what I needed. I just want people on here to know that sidestreet investigations did a great job and when I could no longer afford any more they continued at no cost to me. I will never forget that and Joe was a fantastic investigator who took the time to help me. I visited other sites on here that said former cops can't do this job. Well I now know from experience they can and will do a great job. Jean


Outstanding. Got the job done quickly. Provided more information than I requested without additional cost.

Sky Investigations LLC

Prompt, professional and cost effective. highly recommend.