The cost of hiring a private investigator
If you are considering using the services of a private investigator, you may be wondering what the costs of hiring an investigator will be. Within the country, these fees vary by location and type of services. For investigators with extensive experience and training, expect to pay higher fees.
Before you hire an investigator, find out all the costs and fees for the services you need. Most professionals offer a free initial consultation. Here are some questions to ask a prospective private investigator about fees:
1. Does the private investigator charge a flat fee for the services?
Some professionals may offer a flat fee for certain basic services such as background checks, research work and specialized equipment such as GPS devices. Other services that are usually charged a flat fee include:
- cell phone number identification (approx $90)
- vehicle registration search (approximately $20)
- criminal record search (approximately $40)
- home or car “bug cleaning” (approximately $350)
- GPS monitoring (approximately $250 per week)
2. What are the hourly rates?
Hourly rates vary depending on where the detective is located, the difficulty of the investigation, and whether the private investigator will need the help of other private investigators.
Across the country, fees range from $40-100 per hour. The average hourly rate is around $50-55 per hour. Note that there may be additional charges associated with the hourly rate. A common addition is mileage charges, usually around $0.45 per mile.
This hourly rate can increase significantly if the services of another private investigator are needed to complete your case. For example, if your PI needs the help of an overseas associate, the hourly rate may be high. In some parts of the world, investigators charge up to $300 an hour.
3. Does the private investigator require a deposit or bond in addition to the private investigator’s fees?
Many investigators require a retainer or deposit to be applied against fees for services rendered and expenses. Some professionals may set retainer fees depending on specific services. For example, a data survey may require a deposit of $500, while a cheating case may require a deposit of up to $5,000. Criminal defense work can command a fee of $1,000-$3,500. The following factors determine the amount of deposits required:
- travel included
- flight/hotel expenses
- estimated number of hours of observation
If you use the services of an investigator through a lawyer, the private investigator will usually not ask for a fee as long as the lawyer accepts responsibility for ensuring the invoices are paid.
Once you hire a PI, make sure the investigator keeps a record of his/her activities and ask for detailed lists of the work that was completed. Be sure to sign a contract with the researcher to specify in writing the services to be performed.
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