How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Private Investigator? 3 Things To Consider

I get tons of calls and messages throughout the week asking, “How much does it cost to hire a private investigator?” Most of the time these well-meaning folks do not know what they actually need. I start the conversation by asking them, “What is going on in your life?” This solicits a story from the caller and we eventually get to the price. Depending on your need, you could be looking at a range between $55 – $10,000.   There are things you need to know to determine how much your costs are going to be.  


The thing you are paying for when hiring a private investigator is time. If you are only looking for someone to run a license plate for you, this takes my firm about a half hour so you will pay $55.  

If you are looking for 2-3 week’s of surveillance of a cheating spouse, then you will pay significantly more. For me, it’s $115 per hour. I do charge 24 hours in advance plus an administrative fee. Twenty-four hours of investigating, that typically lasts 2-3 weeks, will cost you $2,800.   Why do you charge so much? I don’t think this is that much. My team will watch what you want and will not quit until everything that can be uncovered, is uncovered. Our reports are extremely detailed and we take a lot of time to build a full case for clients. We do not “run out and grab a pic” with our cell phones. You will need to establish a pattern for the subject, and we do that for you. Also consider, good investigators gather evidence during the night and in sometimes horrific conditions.   They do this so you don’t have to.   When I first started out, I took cases at $55 per hour, and would conduct short cases, running around town for anyone that would call. This very quickly burned me out. I find it better to have the client invest upfront and work together to get the best results.  


Expertise is one part you should look into when hiring a private investigator. Investigators new to the field will have rock bottom prices. Although the low prices are appealing, look a little deeper. If they just started in the field because they watched a lot of YouTube videos, I would be skeptical.   The last thing you want is to give an inexperienced investigator money and one of the following happens:

  1. The investigator does something illegal. Because you hired the investigator, you may be held liable for their actions.
  2. Getting burned early. Investigators getting “burned” or discovered by the subject happens occasionally. In my experience, new investigators with little to no training get too close to subjects and are careless with social media. These bad practices kill the case early and kill relationships with paying clients and attorneys.
  3. Boasting about their cases. Some young investigators like to boast about their cases on social media. This is not acceptable. The key word in private investigator is “private”. You do not want your business in the open.

  Look into the background of the investigator you are considering. Ensure they have a successful track record in the type of case you are looking into. Do not fall for low prices. This is a red flag.  

“The level of expertise can affect price as well, but you will get what you pay for. An experienced investigator has a proven track record of delivering results. If you go with a less experienced service, the price may be lower, but it might just be money down the drain.”


Look at  what it will cost you if the truth is not found out. If you have millions of dollars in assets, and your spouse is already in a relationship with another person, should they get half “just because”? If proving that another relationship is established, then the upfront cost of proving this will be justified over your lifetime with the money you save. Look at the investigator’s retainer as an investment in protecting your assets.   Many times children are exposed to harmful situations while in a shared custody situation. These situations can cause a lifetime of emotional damage. Judges require proof before modifying a custody agreement. Is it worth a retainer to get evidence of illegal behavior in the presence of your child? This is another investment.   If you have the cash, it is worth the well-being of your children to pay a professional to look into what is happening with the other parent. Remember, allegations have to be proven before action can happen.  

“Private investigators are often an integral part of a family law case, and they can assist in numerous ways to strengthen a court proceeding and help the parties find out the truth. They provide both a legal and emotional service to people in the throes of a very painful situation.”– Rosen Law Firm

Bottom Line

Hiring a private investigator to look into domestic situations can be very expensive. More qualified investigators will charge from $85-$200 per hour depending on the location and the scope of work. Look at the investigator’s retainer as an investment to protect assets or as an investment into the future of your children. The most important thing is to research the investigator to ensure they have the expertise to handle what you are asking for.  

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