If you’re wondering how much a private investigator costs, it depends on the scope of the job and the credentials of the detective. If you hired a landscaper, their price would vary greatly depending on whether you wanted your hedges trimmed, trees planted, or weekly lawn mowing. Private investigators can crack a case in under an hour, but some jobs take days or weeks to complete. When you’re suffering from betrayal, loss, or fear, you are already in a vulnerable state. Hiring a private investigator with the right experience to solve your case efficiently will minimize further distress. Here’s how to determine the cost of hiring a private investigator and find the right one for you.
How Private Investigator Pricing Works
There are three primary ways that private investigators structure their pricing. First, some charge a retainer fee upfront, which is considered a deposit to cover their expenses. Secondly, with or without a retainer fee, most private investigators charge an hourly rate which depends on the type of service. Often, they will charge a discounted rate for jobs they anticipate will be lengthy. This is one reason the price can vary greatly. A third option investigators may offer is a flat rate price for specific types of services. These usually include quick jobs like background checks, document retrieval, or locating a recent missing person.
In addition to the flat rate or hourly rate they charge, investigators may incur travel expenses, such as plane flights, hotel stays, and mileage and gas expenses. It’s important to discuss your expectations with the investigator before you begin the process, so you are aware of potential costs. If you are booking time in advance, it helps to book a little more time than you think it will take, so they can stay on your case if the trail leads in a different direction.
Often, there are options for pricing, and investigators work to suit your budget. Remember that some investigators will charge against your retainer and refund the balance, while others keep the retainer regardless of expenses. Some charge a lower hourly rate but don’t focus much time on your job. Make sure to do your due diligence on the pricing and timeline of service before you commit to a plan.
Factors that Impact Cost of a PI
No two cases are the same, nor do they take the same amount of time or resources to resolve. Jurisdiction is the first thing to consider, because larger cities are more costly to operate in. However, the larger the city, the less likely you are to solve the case on your own, which increases the value of an investigator. Complexity also weighs into the cost, since tracking down an estranged loved one is simpler than compiling substantial evidence for a court case. Likewise, the resources necessary to solve the case can vary greatly. Here are a few of the services private investigators provide.
Some cases will require search fees, surveillance fees, and special equipment, while others follow more basic protocols. One investigator may be all that’s needed to solve your problem, but in some cases, a team needs to be called in. The level of expertise can affect price as well, but you will get what you pay for. An experienced investigator has a proven track record of delivering results. If you go with a less experienced service, the price may be lower, but it might just be money down the drain.
How to Control Costs of an Investigation
While every case moves at its own pace, there are some things you can do to speed it along.
- Purchase hours in bulk– You might be tempted to purchase one hour at a time, if you think your case will be easy to solve. But cases can take unexpected twists and turns, so it’s more cost-effective to have your investigator honed in on your case. Hiring in snippets means they’ll take other cases in between yours, which might divide their focus. Plus, some companies offer discounts for longer jobs, so you benefit from lower pricing.
- Trust your investigator- Hopefully this is the first and only time you will need an investigator, but that means you’re a rookie. If your investigator thinks a lead is worth following, let them follow the trail. If you divert them with your own ideas, you might deter the process.
- Be transparent- Some things are uncomfortable to disclose, or you may even fear personal implications. But withholding information will only slow the process and make it more difficult to catch a perpetrator, abductor, or philanderer in the act. Give your investigator all the evidence you have, and update them if new information develops.
- Choose wisely- While it’s tempting to save a few bucks up front by hiring a less savvy team, the money is essentially wasted if they aren’t able to solve your case. Less experienced private investigators often lack a clear payment plan, so you could also wind up with hidden costs. You may face the burden of extensive hourly fees if they have trouble acquiring evidence. Often, people find themselves paying double to hire a second company when the first one didn’t work out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
First things first, qualifications and experience trump everything. PI work is very specific in nature and requires time in the trenches, not just a website with unproven claims. Look for an investigator with a solid track record and experience in law enforcement, detective work, or security. Beau Dietl & Associates is the premiere private investigation company in NYC, founded by one of the most highly decorated detectives in NYPD’s history. We have over 30 years of experience providing consulting services, security services, and investigative expertise to public and private clients in NYC and beyond. Our hand-selected staff of former senior law enforcement, military, and security professionals is highly trained to provide customized solutions and state-of-the-art countermeasures employed by major firms and institutions worldwide.