Security guards provide more services than you might imagine. From screening out wedding crashers at your outdoor reception to preventing theft at your small business, trained security professionals provide safety and support in a variety of settings. In addition to peace of mind, security guards provide trained responses and solutions in the case of a crime or dangerous incident. Typically, security companies charge based on the hourly rate of the personnel dispatched to a site or event. In the case of vehicle patrols — such as patrols for event parking lots or housing communities — there may be additional fees to account for fuel and business overhead. Rates vary based on whether the security guards are armed, how risky the particular job is, and what type of field experience the security guard has. Nationwide, the average hourly rate for a security guard is $15-$25 per hour, but costs can be much higher based on a variety of factors.
Here are just a few of the services a security provider can offer:
- Theft prevention (from both shoplifters and employees) in your small business
- Crowd control for large events such as festivals or concerts
- A physical presence to deter crime at social or business gatherings
- Ongoing security presence at an apartment building or paid parking lot
- Evening escort for guests or employees walking to cars
- Adherence to venue regulations if alcohol is being served
- Personal protection in times of business or personal need
- Executive protection for a company
Each state has its own laws and regulations governing private security services. When hiring, you'll want to find a full-service company that offers security-related safety services, and also ask about licensing, liability insurance and compliance with state regulations. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.
Here are the factors that affect the average cost to hire a security guard company.
Armed or unarmed security guard
Security guard company rates will depend on the guard's level of training and experience, as well as the risk level of the job. Unarmed security guards typically incur lower hourly rates than armed guards. Unarmed guards are not able to carry a lethal weapon, but wear a uniform and a communication device. The presence of an unarmed officer can be enough to deter crime. Unarmed security guards are trained to interview witnesses and report crimes that have occurred. For many security guards, their job is not to enter into combat with criminals but to provide a physical presence that maintains the peace. If you want to hire someone who will physically engage a suspect if necessary, be sure to ask about company policy as well as state requirements. Some states require security guards to obtain training and certification to carry a baton, handcuffs and other means of debilitating or detaining a suspect, such as a stun gun, taser pepper spray, etc.
Armed security officers may cost on average $3-$5 more than unarmed guards, per hour per guard. Prices can go much higher depending on the risk level of the job and the experience of the guard, as well as the location. Expect armed guards in New York City, for example, to cost more than armed guards in smaller cities or rural areas. Armed guards must have the training required by their state as well as a license to carry firearms. Often an armed guard is unnecessary unless you have a high-risk situation that demands top-level security. The presence of lethal weapons means more liability, so it pays to find a reputable company with the appropriate liability insurance, experience and licensing.
Experience and insurance
A guard's experience level affects the average hourly rate they charge. An entry-level, unarmed guard will likely charge lower rates than a former Marine with special weapons and combat training. In some cases, independent security guards charge lower rates than those employed by a licensed, insured firm, because companies generally have more overhead. Not all states permit clients to hire independent security guards directly — they must be contracted through a licensed security company — so know your state laws before hiring a freelance operator. Whether you hire an independent security guard or work through a company, be sure they have liability insurance. This protects you, your guests and your assets. Here are average hourly rates for security guards from a full-service security company:
- Basic unarmed guard: $15-$20 per hour
- Basic armed guard: $20-$25 per hour
- Unarmed guard with advanced skills and experience: $30-$35 per hour
- Armed guard with advanced skills and experience: $35-$45 per hour
- Most experienced armed guard (off-duty police officers, ex-military): $60-$100 per hour or more
You don't need to be organizing a massive festival to need security guards. Event security can look like anything from a uniformed security guard checking names at the door of your high school reunion to a reassuring presence at your fundraising auction for potential clients held at a local gallery. If you don't like the idea of a uniform, you can request plainclothes security who can provide emergency response as needed. However, many people find that the presence of a uniformed security guard at an event prevents problems before they start.
Most security companies provide quotes for event security services based on the type of event, size of venue, number of hours and number of guards needed, as well as what they'll be doing at the event and other factors. Since these factors vary widely, the cost per hour can range anywhere from $15 to $100 per hour, on average.
Some retail businesses selling luxury or high-cost goods such as jewelry hire a security guard to protect against theft and provide greater security for employees and customers. You may only need site security for a one-time event or during high season. The cost for one guard to stand near the door or in a visible location in the store typically averages $15-$45 per hour nationally, depending on whether the guard is armed.
Some guards specialize in helping retailers prevent shoplifting or theft by employees. These services typically cost $15-$20 per hour on average. Security guards can actively monitor cameras, act as theft deterrent by their mere presence, and ensure all entry points remain secured.
Roving patrol or gate guard
Some homeowners' associations hire a gate guard to check the credentials of residents and guests upon entry, or a security guard to patrol the property on foot or in a vehicle. Roving patrol is also helpful for construction sites or similar places that could be vandalized or robbed during the night. A gate guard usually costs about the same as a stationary guard used for business security or loss prevention, but a guard patrolling in a vehicle usually costs more to cover fuel and vehicle upkeep. Having a guard on duty 24/7 costs even more.
Full-service bodyguard protection can be customized to fit your needs. Typically, the security company will meet with you in person to assess the threat and offer safety solutions based on your needs. Bodyguards and trained pros who transport clients in an armored vehicle usually start at a minimum rate of $200 and go up from there, often working from retainers. Some services specialize in this area. Bodyguards can be for a one-time event, for protection of VIP visitors to your establishment, or for any time you may need additional personal safety.
Security companies can provide more than security guards. Before taking on new clients or employees, you may want a background investigation done that requires more extensive research than is available to you in an online search. You can also hire a security company to provide a security assessment for your residential or business sites. Depending on the company, the security personnel may visit your site, have an intake session where they learn your security needs and concerns, take a complete inventory of your current security practices and your structure, identify where any potential weaknesses may be, and help provide solutions.
Unarmed guards are less expensive than armed guards because they require less training, and the working environments for unarmed guards are usually lower-risk. Consider why you need a security guard at your event or establishment. In many cases, the physical presence of a uniformed guard with a visible communication device may be all that's needed to deter unwanted and unlawful behavior at a business or special event.
Hiring a security service
Before hiring someone to keep your event, property or family protected, it's wise to ensure the security guard is properly licensed and trained and has a clean background. If you're working with a private security company, find one that does background investigations and performs routine drug tests on their security personnel. Research their hiring protocol before signing on with a company, especially if it will be an ongoing working relationship. Ask what type of employee training and continuing education they provide. Many independent security guards will provide proof of their background investigations as well, if your state allows security guards to operate freelance. Verify that the company you're working with is compliant with state and regional licensing requirements and has sufficient liability insurance coverage.
It's also important to do your homework if you choose to hire an armed security guard. Experts recommend only selecting armed security guards who are highly trained and have extensive experience working with firearms in high-risk situations. In many cases, a security guard who is trained to "observe and report" is just as effective as an armed guard, but charges a lower hourly rate and incurs a lower risk of liability.
- Research your local laws to make sure your company is compliant with regulations. Laws in several states, including California and New Mexico, require individuals, groups or companies to hire security guards through a private patrol operator (PPO). In these states it's illegal to hire an independent security guard directly.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right security guard company for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.