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How Do Private Investigators Get Paid for Their Services?

Private Investigators seek evidence on behalf of a variety of clientele for different purposes like infidelity, theft, or even insurance claims. Investigators are critical to these types of investigative projects because they have special skills and training to find this evidence quickly and legally. These skills make them invaluable to individuals and companies alike, which makes their fees for services worth every penny. 

Circumstances of a Case Affects the Price

When trying to determine the cost of an investigation, numerous factors can affect the overall rate that a Private Investigator may charge for services rendered. From week-long surveillance involving the cost of transportation and meals to photo and audio recording development, every investigation is unique.

Flat-Rate Projects

When a client needs a one-time service, many Private Investigators offer a flat rate. Typical investigative services that they offer include:

  • Background checks
  • Vehicle registration searches
  • Cell phone forensics
  • Social media investigations
  • Checking for bugs on a property

Paying Hourly Fees

Paying a Private Investigator on an hourly basis is very common because of the complexity of a case and the tasks involved to complete the case requirements. One can expect the actual hourly rate to vary, particularly if they need a team of Investigators to perform the job. If a significant amount of time gets spent tailing a target for cases involving infidelity or worker’s compensation surveillance, expect to see an increase in the hourly cost.

Use of Retainers

A retainer is a type of deposit that Private Investigators require their client to pay before starting a contract for services. The estimated cost to perform all the duties necessary to complete the case will determine the deposit amount. This could vary based on the type of service being requested by the client as investigative work demands can vary in difficulty. Any costs accrued during the course of the investigation will get deducted from that initial retainer fee. If the balance gets used before the work is complete, many Investigators will then start a monthly billing cycle. Any funds that remain unused get refunded back to the client at the conclusion of the contract.

Contract of Billable Services

When hiring a Private Investigator, make sure you sign a contract that has a detailed explanation of what services you requested or are necessary to complete the job. Also, make sure that this agreement spells out any specific charges and any minimum fees that are in the price. Billable services like testifying in court or writing a letter could come with their own costs, so understand what those are before signing the contract. 

Time Auditing

Clients may require that a Private Investigator keep track and later account for any time or tasks used to complete the job. Commonly found in a retainer agreement, this audit helps to create a detailed bill to show justification for the associated costs billed to the customer. Many times this is part of the monthly statement that goes to the client. 

Experience and Risk Affects the Cost of Investigations

There are two very essential elements that Private Investigators must incorporate into any pricing for their services: experience and the risk involved. Investigators with an established history in this field will often command a higher rate as their experience almost guarantees results. They have established connections, can get the job done more efficiently, and possibly have a history with the military or law enforcement that adds additional resources or knowledge to your case.   

The other factor is the risk surrounding the investigation. Does the Investigator have to perform surveillance in a dangerous neighborhood? Is the target connected with gangs? There are a host of dangers Private Investigators may face when undertaking an assignment, so keep this in mind when you receive your quote.

Launch Your Private Investigative Career

The increasing need for Private Investigators continues to grow rapidly during this digital age. Professionals with savvy technological skills make up a large portion of the demand in this competitive career field. NITA helps our students meet this demand through our Private Investigator continuing education courses that are State-and-Board approved. These courses help you stand out from the rest of the pack. Find out more about advancing your professional development by contacting the National Investigative Training Academy, Inc. (NITA) at 1-800-730-NITA or completing our contact form.

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