BY ANDY KAY
The Basics of How Much an Private Investigation Will Cost You
How much does it cost to hire a private investigator? That depends. Before considering a product or service, you first need to have an idea of how much it is going to cost. Most people have an idea of how much something is going to cost before they buy it or schedule an appointment.
In my industry, though, so many of my clients are “first time callers,” meaning they have never called anyone to discuss private investigation services. People calling in will say “I have no idea how this goes,” and they have never gotten a quote for a surveillance, background check, or any other professional investigation service. I always tell them not to feel silly, it’s not like your parents give you advice growing up on hiring private investigators. So, let me step in and help you out with some solid guidance how much it costs to hire a good private investigator.
Cost Depends on Details of a Case
How much it will cost you will vary, depending on a number of factors
There are many things that factor into how much it will cost to handle your investigation and get the answers you need. It depends on things like how complex your case is and how much information you already have about your problem. For example, if you need us to do a background check on a new employee you are hiring, you probably already have a lot of information about that proposed new hire that they willingly submitted to you, such as their full name, home address, social security number, previous place of employment, etc. This makes our investigation much easier, faster and with a greater amount of accurate results.
If You Are Starting From Below Ground Zero, It Will Cost More
Then there’s the case where less information is known about the subject, so more preliminary investigation and searches may need to be conducted before getting to your desired results. For example, say you just met a new person on a dating app and a few dates into the courtship you want us to do a background search on them. You may want to make sure they are who they are supposed to be and aren’t a known criminal or scammer who has marked you as a victim in a romance scam.
There are many who claim to be a “Nigerian Prince” trying to just get a ticket to the US so that he can withdraw funds from a forgotten bank account. Obviously this is a scam, but it still fools some people. The thing is, when people’s emotions get involved it can cloud their judgement. Hence, it is even more important to choose the right private detective for your case and not get scammed by a bad investigator as well.
Any information this person has given you may be used in the investigation, but don’t give us information that you found online because info you found on public databases is very unreliable. This guy could have given you totally false information, or he might not be giving much information at all. In such a case, it could cost more money because more extensive research for basic facts may need to be conducted to reliably verify information so that more in-depth information can be found and verified. This would be a combination data search and direct investigation.
Breakdown of Services and Costs
There are popular services that I can give an idea of about how much they may cost. Remember that even though we work private investigations globally, we are based in LA and prices vary according to town/country. I am giving you an estimate for service prices in my part of the world.
Background searches may be flat-rated for data searches, plus an hourly rate for other information that needs to be investigated. Cost may vary depending on what sort of search it is and how in-depth is must be. You may just need an address search which is the least expensive. Or you may need an in-depth background search and a focused investigation into financial fraud which would cost more money.
Basic background searches vary amongst good investigators and should be no lower than $350.00 and no more than $900.00 for a basic data only background search. If someone offers you lower rates, keep looking.
Surveillances are generally charged per hour. Photos and video footage should be included in the service. However, drive time and mileage may be charged extra. In Los Angeles, good private investigators should be at least $100.00 per hour.
The more established investigation firms will have higher prices. Most legitimate private investigators charge a minimum amount of consecutive hours per day. So, talk with the agency to find out their individual minimums for surveillance investigations.
General Investigations are most often charged hourly. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100.00 at the low end to $200.00 with minimum charges applying. If the Investigation requires specialized knowledge or equipment, it could climb over $500.00 per hour because the higher level of expertise tends to cost more.
Asset searches and asset location services may cost a flat rate for some parts of the investigation, while other aspects of the searches may be charged on hourly rates. Whether it is an issue with finding other parts to an inheritance or discovery for a child support case, prices may vary because time involved and expertise will vary.
Expert testimony is almost always hourly, and often with a minimum of hours. Rates can vary from $150 p/hr to $550 p/hr depending on the specialization and experience. Usually a minimum of 10 hours is necessary because courts are unpredictable as to when one will actually be testifying and for how long. At K&A we offer such expert testimony services, and it can be incredibly useful in court.
BEFORE YOU PICK UP THE PHONE
Before you go ahead and start dialing phone numbers that you found online for “best private investigator near me” there are a few things you should have in order:
- Know your end goal(s)
- Do your research
- Choose specialists: Make sure the investigation
company you call specializes in your needs. Many investigation agencies are
only one-man operations, lack ability to step out of their comfort zone or only
do surveillances, while others are more focused on serving corporate clients or
large businesses and don’t work with individual clients.
My advice is, don’t try to find a “deal” when hiring an investigator; find the best person/company for the job.
BEWARE FEES NOT SIGNED OFF ON
Make sure they do not charge you without authorization. And make sure they don’t tack on fees without discussing them with you first. It is very common to add on services or continue deeper into an investigation depending on what you find, but it should always be made clear to the client which services are separate costs.
At Kay and Associates, we do this through written clarification for our clients (even if it’s a text!)—I do not want my clients to feel taken advantage of or for them to feel that they were charged unknowingly.
IT WILL COST MORE TO DO IT TWICE
Hire right the first time and avoid having to go somewhere else to get it done again. If a private detective is not good at what he does, he may waste your time and money while yielding weak results. My advice is, don’t try to find a “deal” when hiring an investigator; find the best person/company for the job.
BEWARE OF UNBELIEVABLY LOW PRICES
If you price out a few different investigators and one is way cheaper than the other two, beware. In this industry, it takes money to run a good investigations company, and it costs more to hire licensed investigators. Unlicensed “investigators” are not held to the same professional standards.
How much it costs you to hire a private investigator will vary, depending on the services, company, depth of investigation, and locations. But hopefully this blog will give you enough guidance to help you avoid losing money on bad investigators, or from having wrong expectations regarding your investigation from lack of knowledge.