Hiring a private investigator is the same as hiring any other type of professional. However, because hiring private detectives is something most people have not done in the past, knowledge of the fees that are often charged is somewhat lacking. This article looks at some of the questions consumers may want to ask before hiring a private investigator and some of the fees that may be charged.
To begin, it must be said that costs for hiring a local private investigator vary according to location and to the level of experience and expertise of the individual or the investigating firm. The cost of hiring a PI in a large city is often higher than hiring a PI from a smaller city. Also, the more services that are requested (or needed) will cause the cost to go up as well.
Some questions to ask your private investigator:
Are services charged on a flat-fee basis?
It is a good idea to ask your private investigator what services (if any) are charged as a flat-fee. Some of the services that often fall into this group include: background checks, basic document research such as criminal records checks or vehicle registration checks, identifying cell phone numbers, and GPS monitoring.
What charges are based on an hourly rate?
There are many tasks that the private investigator has to charge by the hour. This is common. You may also find a private investigator that works by the day, with a day being an 8-hour shift. As mentioned above, rates vary a great deal but generally run between $40 and $100 an hour with the average being about $50 an hour.
What are common added expenses?
Your private investigator may also charge for expenses such as mileage, certain phone calls, use of additional investigators, document retrieval costs, and copying costs to name a few.
Does the private investigator charge a retainer fee?
It is not uncommon for a private investigator to ask for a retainer (deposit). The amount of the retainer often varies depending on the type of case the private investigator will be handling. For instance, a simple document search may have a much lower retainer cost than working on an infidelity case.
The amount of the retainer or deposit can also depend on expected costs such as travel, hotel costs, amount of hours needed for surveillance, and the urgency of the case.
How are charges recorded?
Do not be shy about asking how the private investigator keeps track of expenses or charges that you will have to pay. The vast majority of professional private investigators know that they need to provide their clients with clear and accurate records of expenses. The old days of the private investigator simply spitting out some number for his or her services are just about over, and truly are over in most places. The professional private investigator will always be happy to prove (in writing or invoices) what was spent on the case.
The above are just some general question you can ask the private investigator. Make sure that you understand all of the terms and conditions before you sign the contract.