What Does a Private Investigator Cost?

How do you prove your significant other is being unfaithful? How can you track down a lost friend or ex from your past?

If you’ve ever needed the help of an expert investigator, then you’ve likely considered a PI. But, how much does a private investigator cost? Is it even legal to hire an expert to investigate such situations? And, is it worth it to pay a PI to solve your personal mysteries?

We sure think so. Read on to discover everything you need to know about a PI’s services before you hire one.

Average Private Investigator Cost

When you’re facing a complicated problem, it’s difficult to know where to turn. You’re likely wondering — should I hire a private investigator?

Private investigators are civilians. They’re often hired by individuals, businesses, or even police departments. Their goal is to solve mysteries or problems through investigations. Here are a few types of scenarios in which you’d want to hire a private investigator:

  • Securing evidence to prove infidelity
  • Help finding a lost or missing person
  • Conducting in-depth research on a situation, group, or individual
  • Locating birth parents, adopted children
  • Find evidence of criminal activity

If your situation warrants one, then you’re next question is likely about the price. So, how much does a private investigator cost?

The cost of your services will hinge on several different factors. On average, you can expect to pay a couple hundred dollars to a good investigator. Learn more about what could impact the cost of your case below.

What Factors Impact the Cost of a PI?

So, what impacts the costs of a PI? As it turns out, quite a lot! The nature of your case, the PI’s fees, and the pandemic situation all make a difference. Your location and the PI’s qualifications impact the price you’ll pay, too.

We will get into each of those factors and what you should expect below.

The Nature of Your Case

The number one thing that will impact the cost of a PI’s services is the nature of your case. PI’s handle a variety of situations, and different scenarios mean different challenges.

If your case is as easy as securing data from a database, then it won’t cost as much as an infidelity case. Expect an infidelity case that means hours of surveillance to cost more. If you’re looking for a missing puppy, then those services would fall somewhere in between.

Consider what your investigator will need to do to crack your case. In general, your PI will charge more for cases that need more work and effort.

The Pandemic and Fuel Crisis

No one likes to admit it, but it’s true. The pandemic has had dire consequences on the price of practically everything.

Since 2020, the price of food has risen 3.7 percent. As 2021 goes on, the price of gas is skyrocketing before our eyes. Rent expenses are increasing, and property values are on the rise, too.

So, will your private investigator charge more, too? Most likely.

It makes sense, though. Gas prices impact a PI’s travel fees. The pandemic also makes it more expensive and difficult to conduct surveillance. So, you’ll want to take into account the current state of affairs before you think your PI is charging too much!

Rates and Fees

A private investigator has a right to charge what they want. Rates and fees vary significantly. Some PIs charge per hour, while others offer flat fees for specific services. For example, you might see a list of charges like:

  • $.45 per mile driving
  • $100 for social media research
  • $300 for in-depth reports
  • $50 per hour for surveillance

A private investigator might also charge a retainer fee. These fees are upfront down payments on your case. Your retainer fee will likely vary depending on the nature of your case.

Where to Find the Right PI

In 2018, there were only about 33,000 registered private investigators in the US. With that in mind, finding a qualified one is a challenge all on its own.

That’s why the internet is your best source for locating a skilled PI. Due to the limited number of PIs, you might have to settle for one that isn’t in your immediate geographical area.

How to Vet a Potential Private Investigator

Of course, you want the price you pay to be worth the results you get. To avoid overpaying or feeling disappointed, vet potential PI’s before you hire them. Here are a few steps you should take to vet a private investigator:

  • Do an online search for the PI or business
  • Check out the business’s or PI’s website
  • Look at previous customer’s reviews
  • Verify that the PI has their contact information listed
  • Inquire about experience and qualifications
  • Ask if your PI has their license

The final step in your vetting process should be a one-on-one meeting with your PI. During your meeting, get a feel for your PI’s personality. Make sure that they appear attentive and genuinely concerned about your case.

Did you notice any red flags during the process? If so, then consider checking out other PI’s in the area. Don’t settle until you find the best one for your case.

Is it Worth it to Hire a PI?

On average, how much does a private investigator cost? The long answer is that it depends on what you need. The short answer is that it will cost you about $100 per hour for their unique skill set.

While that seems hefty, it’s well-worth it. After all, you’ve already likely hit a wall attempting to solve your issues on your own.

So, use the tips above to help you find and vet private investigators in your area. Hire a good one, and watch your mysteries (or past) unfold before your eyes!

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