If you are looking into hiring a private investigator for any reason, it is important that you understand how much a private investigator costs. 

There are a few different factors that will play a role in the cost of a private investigator including; whether they charge a flat or hourly rate, the type of service, the case you need them to work on, and whether or not they require a retainer. 

Hiring a private investigator is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It is important that you do your research to find someone that is knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy while remaining in your budget. 

This article will help give you an idea of how much it costs to hire a private investigator. 

Flat Fees Vs. Hourly Rate 

When it comes to private investigators, there are a couple of different ways they charge their clients based on the type of service they are performing. 

Some common jobs that typically warrant a flat fee for service include: 

Background checks

-Phone number identification 

-Criminal records search

-GPS monitoring

-Vehicle license and registration searches 

-Surveillance or “bug” sweeps 

It is common for investigators to charge a flat fee for these services because they are routine and seldom require additional leg work. Most experienced investigators have completed these tasks a number of times and have a good idea of how long it takes them and how much to charge their clients for the service.

For bigger, more in-depth investigation jobs, you can expect to be charged an hourly rate. For jobs like locating a missing person, around the clock surveillance, or infidelity cases, most private investigators will charge you by the hour. 

The hourly rate that you can expect to pay will vary greatly based on the individual PI and the task. Hourly prices range from $40-$200 per hour, with the average being around $75 per hour. 

If you have a large case that requires many hours of investigative work, many PI’s will reduce their hourly rate to accommodate your budget.  

It is important to keep in mind that the cost does not include additional expenses such as equipment, travel fees and hotel stays. These may be additional fees on top of your flat rate or hourly fee. 

Type of Service 

How much a private investigator costs will be largely dependent on the type of investigative work you need. The more time, research and surveillance that your PI needs to be into your case, the quicker your cost will rise. 

Some investigations require some simple research work that can be done from behind a computer screen while others will require around the clock surveillance and are riddled with complications. 


Some private investigators will require you to pay them a retainer, similar to a lawyer. This is money that is paid up front and held until the end of the investigation. 

If your retainer cost is more than what the job ends up costing, they should refund you the rest of the retainer. If you’re required to pay additional, you will be required to pay that at the end of service. 

The cost to hire a private investigator is highly variable, but with a little research and knowledge, you will be able to find a high quality professional who’s fees work within your budget.