private investigator cost

One of the first questions we get asked by someone who is interested in our services is how much everything’s going to cost.

And we understand that – people have budgets to work to, and they need to weigh up whether it’s right for them to hire a private detective, and what kind of financial impact that’s going to have.

Unfortunately, there’s no set fee that would make it really easy for us to advertise our prices. That’s not how it works. If you find any private detective offering a fixed price then we’d see red flags immediately.

So, what goes into determining the cost of a private investigator’s services, and what could you do, as a client, to help manage those costs and bring them down as much as possible?

Let’s take a look.

The Factors That Impact Private Investigator Costs

Each of these factors can impact the cost of hiring a PI:

Expected Workload

The complexity and depth of the investigation play a significant role in determining the overall cost. Investigations that require extensive time, resources, and manpower naturally incur higher expenses.

Before engaging a private investigator, it’s beneficial to have a clear understanding of the expected workload to estimate costs more accurately. If you aren’t sure what it will involve, then that’s fine – but be absolutely clear on what the expected results are, so that the PI can give an accurate estimate on the workload.

Type of Work

Private investigators offer a wide range of services, from background checks to surveillance and legal investigations. The type of work required greatly influences the cost.

More specialized or intricate tasks may demand additional expertise and resources, impacting the overall expense. There may be some jobs which can be done remotely, purely using the PI’s expertise of online services, and these could be much more cost effective.

Information Provided by the Client

The quality and quantity of information provided by the client can directly affect the investigation’s efficiency and cost. A well-informed client who provides pertinent details from the outset can contribute to a smoother process and potentially lower costs.

Put it this way – if you ask a private investigator to find someone from your past, but all you have is their name, it’s going to take a lot of work to track them down. If you can provide old social media accounts, or previous addresses, then suddenly the job should become much easier.

Not always – it depends on how much effort the person is putting into disappearing. But generally, the more information you can provide, the less work is involved and the lower the costs.

Necessary Equipment for the Job

Private investigators often utilize specialized equipment tailored to the nature of the investigation. Whether it’s advanced surveillance tools, forensic equipment, or data analysis software, the need for specific tools can contribute significantly to the overall cost.

A great example is with vehicle tracking. At EJM Investigations, we use two types of tracker – one which records data only, and must be retrieved in order to be checked, and another which broadcasts the location live.

Unsurprisingly, it’s cheaper for us to use the more basic tracker, and if that’s all the job requires then that’s what we’ll do. But if a client came to use stating that they needed live tracking updates, then we’d have to increase costs to cover the expense of using the automatic tracker tools.

Location & Travel Costs

The geographical scope of the investigation also plays a pivotal role. If the investigator needs to travel extensively or operate in a high-cost area, it can escalate expenses. Local investigations may prove more cost-effective than those spanning across multiple jurisdictions.

If you ask us to carry out surveillance in a different town, we’re going to charge for getting there – we have to be reasonable with our costs. But, any good PI will work to make sure they only travel when needed, and using the most cost-effective methods.

Risk Involved

Some investigations inherently involve more risk than others. A private investigator may need to employ additional safety measures or work discreetly, which can impact costs. Assessing and communicating potential risks with the investigator beforehand can help manage expectations and expenses.

After all, we have to keep our team safe – that’s always going to be a top priority.

Experience Required

Experienced private investigators often command higher fees due to their seasoned skills and proven track record. While their expertise can be invaluable, clients may need to balance the benefits of experience against their budget constraints.

Remember that a more experienced PI is more likely to get results quickly though, and so what you pay extra for expertise, you could save on time. There’s a balance.

Avoiding PI Scams

Unfortunately, the regulation of private investigators in the UK is very much lacking. It can be hard to know who you can trust. So here are some top tips on making sure you work with a reputable investigator:

  • Check how long they have been working in the industry – anyone new should be viewed with a skeptical eye
  • Read reviews – a good private investigator will have past reviews that you can read. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t many – unsurprisingly, a lot of clients don’t like to leave a trail that they’ve used a PI! (Here are some of our reviews)
  • Be wary of set costs – like we say, it’s impossible to have a set fee when each job is unique. A good PI will openly discuss costs and budgets with you
  • Make sure any potential extra costs are agreed upfront! Don’t leave yourself open to a PI coming back and asking for extras later, when you haven’t discussed it. And in the rare case that it’s necessary, a PI should be extremely clear on what the justification for those costs is.

Obviously, we would recommend that you give us a call on 01772 334700 if you want help with any PI tasks. We’re always as flexible as we can be on budgets, and will work with you to find an option that suits.