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How Much Private Detective Cost?

The cost-effective services that private investigators offer enable ordinary citizens, businesses and large corporations to benefit from investigative services without having to call in actual police officers.

There are many services that private investigators are able to offer you and these include:

  • Background checks
  • Vehicle tracking
  • Process serving
  • Fraud investigations
  • Digital forensics
  • Lie detector tests
  • Employee theft investigations etc.

When people hire private investigators, it can be either because they suspect there is something subversive taking place or it may simply be part of normal company policy. For example, people working in sensitive areas of law enforcement may be required to submit to a lie detector test regularly. However, these services come at a cost and there are certain factors that affect the private investigator costs in any given situation.

Factors Affecting Private Investigator Costs

Before delving into the actual private investigator costs, it is important to understand the factors that affect the cost of services in this field.

When you need investigative services, the private investigator fees will be determined by:

  • Nature of the case: A simple missing person investigation will not cost you as much as a digital forensics investigation. This is because the latter investigation will require special skills. The private investigators may need to work with consultants from other agency as well and this will raise the cost of services.
  • Type of equipment needed: If your case is going to demand the use of complex and specialised investigative equipment, you can be sure there will be additional investigator fees. The equipment may require special skills to handle or may need to be hired from another company.
  • Location: There are two ways that location can play a role when you hire private investigators. London private detectives will likely charge you a higher fee than private detectives in another town or city. This is due to the higher operating costs. The location might also be a factor if the private investigator has to travel to other locations over the course of the investigation.
  • The reputation of the agency: A reputable agency that hires licensed private investigators with a history of success will likely have higher costs. This higher fee is because the quality of the work is likely to be better and cost of services can be offset by faster results.
  • Time: Many agencies have different private investigator costs depending on the time of day when the investigation will be carried out. Investigations being carried out after normal working hours will attract a higher fee.
  • No. of investigators needed: If the job requires more than one person to complete, it will cost you extra.

Private Investigator Fees For Specific Services

Private investigators offer different services and they come with different costs. There are services that will only be charged a one-time cost-effective fee while others will be charged an hourly rate.

For fixed rate services, this is some of what you can expect:

  • Tracing missing persons: Many companies will charge a one-time fee. The fees range from £150 - £350 for most cases. The rate will be determined by whether you're just trying to locate someone with whom you lost contact or someone is intentionally making it hard to locate them. The location i.e. UK or overseas is also a factor.
  • Process Serving: The normal cost for this service ranges from £85 to £150. Preparation of an affidavit of service may incur additional service. If the process needs to be served urgently, you may be charged an hourly rate to have the papers served ASAP. The cost of service may also vary depending on whether it's a company or individual being served.
  • RTA and incident plans: If you need photographs and plans from the scene of an incident to be used in court, £160 - £220 is the most cost-effective range. This usually includes sketches, measurements and photographs of Locus. It may also include witnesses' handwritten statements.
  • GPS Tracking: There are different types of devices that can be used for this purpose and this affects the cost. If you need historical tracking data, the cost of the service ranges from £200 - £300. Live tracking is more expensive and can cost £500 - £750 even at the most cost-effective agencies.

For services that are charged an hourly rate, the private investigator fees are usually as follows:

  • Surveillance: Many investigations will require surveillance. The cost of hiring private investigators for this service will be determined by location, complexity, number of persons required and the type of surveillance. This can easily cost you between £45 and £75 per hour. Many firms will also have a minimum number of hours that can be charged. For the fee, you'll get a written report and photographic or video evidence.
  • Background Checks: This is now a common practice during recruitment processes and can cost between £55 and £95 per hour. A straightforward check such as an asset trace can be charged a more cost-effective one-time fee which usually starts at £200.
  • Other Services: There are many other services that private investigators perform e.g. attending court sessions, investigating internal theft, due diligence, serving as professional witnesses, investigating insurance fraud, repossessions, polygraph testing etc. The costs of these can vary quite a bit depending on the case. However, according to the charging structures of various companies, you can expect to pay £55 - £95 per hour for these services at a cost-friendly agency.

Additional Costs

Unless expressly stated in the contract, don't assume that the fixed or hourly rates stated are the only investigator costs you need to think about.

There could be other charges that will be added on later such as:

  • The travel time of the agent to and from the location
  • Reporting costs (written, verbal, digital etc.)
  • Mileage
  • Set-up fees
  • Liaison fees
  • Minor disbursements etc.

Companies have different policies regarding these incidental costs. Be sure to know the policy of the agency you're hiring regarding these costs before you sign the contract. These charges can quickly mount up.